April Gone By

Hello and happy hump day!  It’s definitely been a while since I’ve posted here and I’ve been feeling neglectful.  The month of April didn’t turn out exactly the way I had planned.  It was a Camp NaNoWriMo month and I planned to write a series of short stories during this event.  I love the motivation NaNo brings.  I also wanted to get back on track with writing regularly.  Well, that didn’t quite work out for me.  I started getting horrible headaches by the second week of the month.  They’re the kind that send you into a dark corner to hide from all light.  It had me avoiding my computer and other screens when I was home because I can’t avoid them at work.  I don’t think I need to tell you that this was quite counter intuitive to writing.  So there was very little writing in April for me.

The headaches are lessened now so we’ll see what happens.  I am still planning to write those short stories I mentioned.  They’re to be around several different roguish characters in a fantasy setting.  They might or might not be brought together later.  We shall see.

With medication making things bearable, we managed to do some spring cleaning the last week of April.  I knew I wouldn’t reach my word goal in one week so I decided the best way to spend my week of vacation was to try to get a handle on organizing my world.  My close friends and family know that I have a hard time parting with things.  I know that this could be labeled as a tendency for “hoarding” but I am aware of my difficulty and have great support when it comes to needing to let something go that just is no longer needed or is broken beyond use.  I also love books.  No big surprise there, right?  I have a habit of bring more home and now have many books and no place to put them.  We went through books, clothes, old VHS tapes, cassettes, video games (of all sorts), and more.  We ended up with a bunch of stuff to take to Half Price Books and a bunch for donation to Goodwill as well.

In case you aren’t familiar with Half Price Books, it’s a wonderful place.  If you have one of these stores near you and you haven’t visited it, you definitely should.  Take along a box or bag of old books, movies, music, and games that you no longer want.  When you first enter the store, you’ll see a counter where you can sell your stuff.  That’s right, they will buy your stuff.  A lot of stuff isn’t worth a lot of money but they are pretty fair considering they are going to try to resell the stuff and if it doesn’t sell, it gets donated.  Stuff that isn’t in a condition to sell or donate gets recycled.  Now, while they are working on preparing your offer, you get to walk around their wonderful store.  This store is full of amazing things.  There are books, games, movies, music, and so much more.  They have media in formats you won’t see often in other places anymore.  For example, our store has a rack of laser discs.  Click the words if you don’t know what those are.  The kids’ section is great too.  I’m planning to do some shopping for gifts there.  You’ll have an armful of great new stuff by the time they call your name on the loudspeaker and you go to get your offer.  You’ll need to provide an ID and sign a receipt then they give you a copy to take to the register.  They can apply the money for your stuff to your new stuff.  If there’s anything left over, you get cash.  The first time we went, I spent almost every bit of the $17.XX we got for our stuff.  This time, I was determined not to add since we’re trying to subtract stuff from our house.  We walked out with a tidy sum that was quite unexpected.  Of course, we spent up a lot of that but it was a nice bonus nonetheless.  I definitely recommend checking them out if you are looking to buy some stuff or especially if you have some stuff you want to get out of your house.

Of course, a spring cleaning isn’t complete without stops at Goodwill stores.  We actually donated twice last week.  We had some small furniture pieces and random stuff the first time and then two kitchen size trash bags filled with clothes the second time.  Of course, I love shopping at the Goodwill stores too.  I find some great stuff there.  I didn’t do any shopping this week but that will come.  There are some things I could definitely use to get the house all organized.  You never know what you’ll find at these stores.  I have a few Goodwill locations that are favorites for me and my sisters and I love doing a run on the thrift stores together.  It’s fun to drive all around to thrift stores in multiple towns and see what we can find.  Now, when you donate, don’t forget to ask for a receipt.  This little piece of paper is a tax deduction and, if you itemize, you can use every deduction you can get.

As a final step for the week, I changed insurance providers for our home and auto.  We’ve been with the same provider for many years, at least 8 but I think more like 10.  They have increased my rates every year on the auto insurance and I should have left them years ago.  But, it’s easier to stay because it automatically renews and the payment comes directly out of my checking account for the car insurance.  The home insurance is paid through escrow so it was all automatic too.  As a first step, I did some quotes online to get some idea of what we could get elsewhere and learned that I could have auto insurance for less than half of our current rates.  We’re talking about similar coverage with big name providers.  I called Liberty Mutual first.  I wanted to give them the chance to save my business.  But they chose to let me go.  I was told that I have the best rate possible (with a discount from my employer) and that I should stay because the company is over 100 years old and very stable.  Well, that’s nice to know.  But it isn’t enough to keep me.  We ended up going with Allstate because they offered a great rate (less than half on the car and less for the house too) for more coverage and the agent was so friendly and helpful.  Other providers offer similar but higher rates or denied us coverage for the house because we have a chow chow (an aggressive breed of dog apparently).  We’re happy with this decision and we’ll see how things go with Allstate now that we’re switching.  Interestingly, Liberty Mutual sent a survey to me in my email about my call to them.  I was careful how I rated the rep but I was very honest when they let me type responses.  I hope they actually read them.  But, big thanks to our rep, Steve Latimer, here at Allstate in Sycamore, IL.  He was great.

We really opened up some space here in our house, took steps to save money, and, although there’s a lot of work to do, I’m quite happy with our accomplishments.  Normally a week of vacation at home would be a lot of napping and binge video gaming.  Although I did play some games, it was normally at the end of the day and was only a couple of hours each day if at all.  It was definitely a week well spent and I felt truly satisfied with that as I returned to the daily grind on Monday.

I just have one last thing to leave you with.  Although I was very unhappy with the way I was treated by Liberty Mutual in general, I was very careful with how I scored the rep on the survey.  You would be surprised how important those survey numbers can be to a customer service representative.  So, when you are faced with a survey, please consider if the representative is to blame or the company.  Sometimes they can’t say yes to you because of company policy and giving them a low score only hurts them.  Keep your feelings for the company separate from what the rep did.  If they were rude, then by all means, score them down.  But, if they were polite, professional, and answered your questions to the best of their capability with what the company allows, give them a high score.  There’s usually a separate rating for the company.  Let your feeling for the company reflect there and not on the individual.  Trust me.  It’s important.

Have a wonderful rest of the week and don’t forget to call someone you love and tell them you’re thinking of them!