Tag Archives: Family

The Power of Expressing “Willingness”

not because you must, but because you are willing
1 Peter 5:2 (NIV)

My company measures service quality (e.g. “Your call may be monitored for quality assurance and training purposes“) and then we train and coach agents how to provide a better customer experience when talking on the phone or other mediums of communication.

I’ve always taught my clients that Rule #1 of Customer Service is “do the best you can with what you have” because every team member at every level of the organization is limited in some way. The problem is that we tend to get mired in the excuses and frustrations of what we can’t do instead of what we can. Front line agents may not be empowered to functionally do everything for the customer they would like to do, but they often underestimate the power they have to positively impact the customer experience simply by what they say and how they say it.

One of the most under utilized skills in customer service is expressing a willingness to help, to listen, to take responsibility, and to serve. In the business world we call it an “ownership statement.”

Here’s what I hear on about 95 percent of the calls I assess:

Customer: I have a question about my account.
Agent: Account number?

That’s an agent doing what they are obligated to do. But when you simply and consistently communicate a positive, willing attitude you improve the customer experience:

Customer: I have a question about my account.
Agent: Sure, Mr. Vander Well. I’ll be happy to help. May I have your account number, please?”

There is so much power in simply communicating a positive, willing spirit. And it goes so much further than customer service business transactions. This is what Peter was getting at in this morning’s chapter when he told the leaders among Jesus’ followers to carry out their responsibilities “not out of obligation but because you are willing.” I can improve how I relate with my friends, family, and loved ones simply by learning to consistently communicate willingness:

Friend: Hey Tom, are you available to help me move a piano?
Me: Happy to help. When do you need me to be there?

Wendy: Tom? Will you carry the laundry to the laundry room?
Me: You got it, my love. Laundry Man is on his way.

Madison: Dad? Can you get me a new insurance card?
Me: I’d love to, sweetie. Let me call our agent and arrange it.

I know it sounds simple because it is. We can positively impact every one of our interpersonal relationship experiences by simply and consistently communicating a little positive willingness. And, my experience is that “what goes around, comes around.” Give a little positive willingness and you just might find that “it will be given unto you.”

I’m going to focus on expressing willingness with every opportunity I’m given today. Will you join me?

Dean Vander Well Turns 80!

We had a lot of fun yesterday as my siblings gathered to host an open house for our dad who celebrates his 80th birthday this coming Tuesday. Dad’s brother, Bud, traveled to Des Moines with his entire brood. Friends past and present joined us in the community room at the folk’s apartment to enjoy a bite of cake and share in celebrating our dad. Thanks to everyone for coming out and making it a special day.

When the open house was over the family headed to Noah’s Ark Restaurant, an old family favorite, to share some time together. Happy Birthday, Deano.

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New Years 2016

New Years is always a whirlwind and a time of celebration for Wendy and me. This year was no different, and the holidays were stretched out more than normal for us.

New Year’s Eve was our 11th wedding anniversary. Wendy and I gathered here at VW Manor with a small group of friends. Last year was a bit of a blowout as we celebrated our 10th. This year was a low-key affair. We told everyone to wear sweats or pajamas if they wanted to do so. We snacked, we chatted, we played a few rounds of Head’s Up, and we laughed. It was a laid-back way to say good-bye to a very strange 2016 and welcome 2017 with all its possibilities.

Madison could not get home from South Carolina until late last week. So New Year’s Day was the first we got to see her since she joined us at the lake this past summer.  Wendy and I drove to Ankeny for a New Year’s Day gathering of the Hall clan. Taylor and Madison drove up from Des Moines to join us. It was a chance to see Becky, Court, and Lydia one more time before they flew back to Colorado and a chance for the girls to hang out with the family.

We returned to Pella in the afternoon and had our Christmas celebration with the four of us. It was fun to sit together in front of the fireplace ad enjoy opening gifts between the four of us. We then settled in for a relaxing evening together on the family room couch. Supper was a hodgepodge of leftovers on the counter to snack on. We watched the recorded Vikings/Bears game and then watched Cinderella together. It was really a lot of fun.

Yesterday was the only full day we had with Maddy Kate. Wendy made a fabulous breakfast for us. The entire morning was spent eating, drinking coffee, and great conversation around the dining room table. The afternoon was an equally laid-back affair. We opted for a Sherlock binge. We watched. Taylor knitted. Madison and I worked on editing a video for a little project she wanted to do together. Wendy scoured Pinterest and we discussed house ideas. And, in true family fashion, we baptized the living room rug with two spills that necessitated moving of the couch and cleaning up.

Wendy made a wonderful evening meal of tilapia, sweet potato wedges, and rice. We then capped our evening by planning our wardrobe for family pictures we’re taking this morning, and watching the newest episode of Sherlock which premiered on New Year’s Day.

It feels like a bit of a stretched out holiday this year. With Christmas and New Year’s on Sundays, it feels like we’ve stretched two two-day holidays into two four-day holidays. Today we take family pictures, say good-bye to Madison, and then settle back into routine.

Christmas 2016

It is the 28th of December and Christmas is not officially over for us. Madison will fly back to Iowa from her balmy South Carolina home (she told us on FaceTime Christmas morning that it was 70 degrees and she was contemplating a trip to the beach). The four of us will celebrate Christmas together on or around New Year’s Day, so there are stuffed stockings and gifts yet under the tree.

Wendy and I were happy to have family visit us here in Pella this Christmas. Taylor arrived the afternoon of Christmas Eve day and the three of us attended the 6:00 Christmas Eve service at Third Church.

Christmas Eve services at Third Church.
Christmas Eve services at Third Church.

We returned home and watched a couple of Christmas movies. We got through all of While You Were Sleeping and most of the way through It’s a Wonderful Life before deciding it was time to settle down for a long winter’s nap.

Christmas Day was really gloomy. Unseasonably warm (50s F) but very, very rainy.
Christmas Day was really gloomy. Unseasonably warm (50s F) but very, very rainy.

Christmas morning dawned and Wendy made what has become our traditional Christmas breakfast. We stoke up the dining room fireplace (actually, we simply hit the button on the remote, but “stoking” the fire sounds so much more cozy) and settle in around the table. Homemade cinnamon rolls are the special Christmas treat along with our favorite breakfast fare.

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Christmas breakfast.
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Mmmmm.

The rest of the morning was spent relaxing, hanging out, and waiting for the family to begin arriving. Taylor and I had fun on the couch playing with Snapchat and making silly pictures and videos.

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Both the Hall and Vander Well clans joined us on Christmas Day. Mom and Dad Vander Well were the first to arrive around mid-day. Jody, Emma, Sam and Lydia arrived soon afterwards (Scott was home sick) along with Tim (who also left Kumi sick back in Des Moines). Mom Hall arrived with Suzanna and Grandma Vander Hart. Dad Hall met Court, Becky and Lydia at the airport and drove them down in the early afternoon.

Plenty of food. Dish up!
Plenty of food. Dish up!

We had mixed up a crock pot full of French Dip, and the kitchen island was filled with snacks and treats that family brought with them. There was, of course, Wendy’s cheesecake and Uncle Tim’s figure 8 cookies. We enjoyed a meal together and the family spent the afternoon chatting and enjoying one another’s company.

We opened gifts in the late afternoon. By early evening most everyone had decided to head home. Court, Becky, and Lydia stayed with us until Tuesday. Luke and Brooke drove down from Ames on Monday and we had a chance to hang out with them. The afternoon was spent lounging around together. It was also Court’s birthday, so late in the afternoon Luke and I took him to the Cellar Peanut Pub in town for a birthday pint before retrieving George’s Pizza for dinner.

The Court, Becky and Lydia headed to Ankeny yesterday. Wendy and I did a little clean up and then got back to work. Looking forward to our anniversary, New Year’s celebrations, and time with Madison this weekend.

 

 

Thanksgiving 2016

We celebrated Thanksgiving with Wendy’s family in Ankeny this year. Wendy and I waited for Grandma VH to get back from her church’s Thanksgiving service so we could pick her up and take her with us. We arrived around noon and the meal was just about ready.

With a total of seven Hall siblings, it’s increasingly rare to have all the family together. This year there were four siblings home for the festivities. Josh was home for the first time in years and it was our first opportunity to meet his bride, Ellie. Brother Lucas and his wife Brooke were there as well as Wendy’s sister, Suzanna. Taylor drove up from Des Moines to join us as well. There were FaceTime calls with other family members during the afternoon.

It was a traditional Thanksgiving feast which was wonderful. All of us gathered around the table together. Lots of love, laughter, and a little teasing. Wendy’s Dutch Letter Cheesecake was, unquestionably, the hit of the afternoon – which was spent watching football and enjoying conversation in the family room together.

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Madison’s “Friendsgiving” in South Carolina.

We wish Madison could have been with us, but when you’re a young salesperson working in retail your presence on Black Friday is pretty much mandatory. Maddy Kate enjoyed “Friendsgiving” with her growing community in South Carolina, and we’re thankful that she has a wonderful group of friends developing in her new home. Taylor left Ankeny in the late afternoon to join another Thanksgiving celebration with friends from the Catholic Worker community in Des Moines.

I got to spend Thanksgiving with my folks a week ago. Their retirement community has an annual feast on the weekend before Thanksgiving in which family are invited to share a special meal prepared by the Chef and staff there. My sister Jody and I were able to celebrate with them there. My folks were at Jody’s house on Thanksgiving yesterday.

There is so much for which I am thankful. When I stop to think about it all…well, it gets a little overwhelming.

We Need More Festivals

Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed festivals of the Lord.
Leviticus 23:44 (NRSV)

For going on nearly a century, our small Iowa town has held a Tulip Festival every May. Everything stops for three days as residents pour their time and energy into the tens of thousands of visitors who descend on our community. Make no mistake, the festival is all about promotion and commerce. It’s the major fundraiser of the year for most of our community organizations. Nevertheless, I think everyone in our town would agree that the festival is much more than that. It celebrates our history, our heritage, and it promotes a strong sense of community and a spirit of service within it.

Festival is just a fun word. From the Latin word for “feast,” the root word is defined as “cheerful and jovially celebratory.” Who doesn’t want that? That’s one of the reasons Wendy and I wanted to get married on New Year’s Eve. What a great evening to celebrate our lives and love through time.

I find it interesting that God would program into His people’s calendar a series of “festivals.” At the top of the list is the weekly day of Sabbath or rest. The weekly day of rest was supposed to be a festival, but over time the religious people turned it into its own version of burdensome religious toil. Jesus got more grief from religious leaders about breaking Sabbath rules than anything else He said or did. The uptight religious people had perverted a festival of rest into a weekly religious burden. That was never its intention and Jesus knew it.

I can’t say that the institutional church and Jesus’ followers have done much better with our weekly day of worship which was moved from the Jewish sabbath on Saturday to the day of Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday. Each Sunday is supposed to be a festival of resurrection, but I wouldn’t describe the weekly mood in many churches as “festive.”

I knew a family who decided to try and instill this understanding of Sunday being a festival of Jesus’ resurrection in their young children. They began early in the week looking in anticipation of Sunday as a special day of celebration. Every Saturday night (the eve of Resurrection Day) they had a special family meal that the children helped plan during the week. Guests were invited to join them. They decorated with bright colors and had special desserts. There was a large brass chandelier fixture in their dining room with long swooping arms. At the end of the weekly Resurrection Eve dinner all of the meal participants would stand with a party popper, point it at the chandelier and pull their popper so that the colorful streamers would hit the chandelier and get caught on the arms. There the streamers would stay so that each week day the children would see the colorful remnant of their weekly feast and look forward to the next.

The family celebrated getting to worship on Sunday and celebrate the Resurrection. They planned special moments together on Sunday as well. Believe me. The day I was a guest in their home, the children couldn’t wait for their weekly Saturday night and Sunday festival.

This morning I’m thinking about the fact that we don’t do more to make personal festivals a way to mark special days, seasons, heritage, and history that is meaningful to us and our loved ones. Festivals are fun as well as meaningful. Who doesn’t love a nice feast in which to be cheerful and jovially celebratory? Let’s plan a little festival and invite our loved ones.

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Featured image by metku via Flickr

The Latest 08-21-2016

Ugh. It’s been several weeks since I’ve written to catch everyone up on the latest. Summer is winding down already and life has been so amazingly full.

We spent the end of July and first week of August at the lake. It was great to have our friends Matthew and Sarah spend the weekend with us. The weather this summer has been sketchy every time we’ve been at the lake and this visit was no different. Nevertheless, we found time for some fun in the sun. Always a great time to relax.

Wendy and Kim (Treasurer and Secretary) keeping everything straight for the annual election of officers.
Wendy and Kim (Treasurer and Secretary) keeping everything straight for the annual election of officers.

A year ago Wendy and I stepped down from a decade of leadership in our local community theatre. Earlier in the summer Wendy was asked to step back into the position of Treasurer and was asked to continue into this next year. I was asked if I would consider running as President for another year. After some long discussions Wendy and I agreed that it was the right thing to do. So, here we go again. I’ve been joking that it feels like my Godfather III moment:

Speaking of community theatre, Wendy held auditions this past week for the holiday musical, The Christmas Post. This is the third time she’s taken helm of this show. It was ten years ago the last time she directed it. Auditions are going great. Call backs tomorrow night. The show will be the first two weekends in December.

Nephews Sam, Sol and our new niece Christina!
Nephews Sam, Sol and our new niece Christina!
Wendy and me with niece Lydia
Wendy and me with niece Lydia

We’ve added two new family members in recent weeks. Our nephew Solomon married Christina in a small private ceremony in Des Moines. Wendy and I got to meet the sweet Christina at family dinner in Des Moines. The couple are in the Navy and are shipping out to international waters in the near future. Wendy’s brother, Josh, married Ellie in Korea. Dad Hall was the only family member who got to make the trip for the ceremony. We can’t wait to meet our new sister-in-law.

VWs and McQs enjoying a summer evening of baseball at Principal Park!
VWs and McQs enjoying a summer evening of baseball at Principal Park!
Yasiel Puig makes a minor league start in Des Moines.
Yasiel Puig makes a minor league start in Des Moines.

We’ve been enjoying a lot of our usual joys of life. Lots of socializing with friends and baseball (Go Cubs!). A few weeks ago we got to watch MLB superstar Yasiel Puig playing for the Oklahoma Dodgers against our Iowa Cubs. Puig launched a no-doubter in his first at-bat. Our I-Cubbies stunk up Principal Park, but it was a wonderful summer evening with friends Kevin and Linda. We also enjoyed a wonderful evening at Kevin and Linda’s house this past Friday celebrating their birthdays and Kevin’s retirement with the most exciting, eclectic social gathering I think Pella has ever seen.

Our girl Madison learns how to crab!
Our girl Madison learns how to crab!

Taylor is still in Edinburgh, Scotland working at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She’s having a great experience and we’ve loved getting to FaceTime with her a wee bit. A September homecoming is scheduled for our lass. Maddy Kate continues to help make the fairer sex beautiful in her work for Laura Geller. She’s getting more familiar with South Carolina and even did a little crabbing with a friend. You go, girl! Madison plans to join Wendy and me at the lake in a week or so. Can’t wait to spend some time with our girl.

The highlight of recent weeks has been my mother’s 79th birthday. As her Alzheimer’s continues to progress, we relish out rare opportunities to gather as family. Dad put out the call for family to gather, and we had all my siblings and a good representation of grandchildren yesterday afternoon. It was a simple agenda. We just met at their home and spent the afternoon chatting, eating Wendy’s cheesecake, and playing cards. We headed to Cracker Barrel for dinner. After dinner Scott invited us to the shooting range he manages to have some fun exercising our 2nd amendment rights.

When I was just a little kid my dad would take all four of us kids to the shooting range at the downtown Des Moines YMCA. We learned safety and marksmanship. It was a lot of fun to all be on the range together for the first time in over 40 years. We fired a number of different firearms, including Wendy who more than held her own on the range. At the end of the evening the guys all had a little one-shot competition with a .50 caliber Desert Eagle. Scott won, but me and the other bros were only a couple inches off center, which wasn’t bad considering it was our one and only time firing the massive handgun.