How to Rebuild Your Home or Office after an Emergency Caused by Inclement Weather 

Act with caution

When you have been given permission to return to your neighborhood and home, act with caution.

  • Check the outside of your house to see if there are cracks in the foundations or chimney and to check if the roof is sunken, loose or if there is any sign of deterioration.
  • Do not force the opening of a door if it is stuck. I could be holding the structure of the house.
  • Contact your insurance company. Ask what are the steps to follow to assess the damage to your home or business.
  • If you need a place to stay, you can find refuge through the Red Cross.

You may discover that due to the damage caused by the disaster it is necessary to do an intensive repair in your home or in your business, or directly a demolition. The availability of funds from insurance settlements and the assistance offered by the federal government to homeowners can be an opportunity for scammers to take unfair advantage of the situation. It is no secret that opportunistic scammers are alert to weather emergencies attracted by the demand for repairs and the availability of funds.

If a weather disaster causes serious damage to your home or business and you intend to repair the property, make sure you can do it legally. When you submit a work permit, local inspectors will determine what federal regulations you must comply with. Check the construction permit well to see what restrictions apply to your property and to check if the new structure meets the corresponding height standards.

If the structure is basically intact, but you need a contractor to help with some repairs, ask first and pay later. Remember that it must be SKEPTICAL: control the expenses that are charged to your name in the store of construction materials.

How to choose a contractor

  • Ask for recommendations from friends, family, neighbors, work colleagues, insurance agents or liquidators of insurance claims.
  • Stay away from contractors who encourage you to spend money on temporary repairs, offer “special prices” in exchange for your credit card number, or promise a loan in exchange for an advance charge.
  • Only deal with contractors who have the corresponding license and insurance. Ask the contractors for copies of their general liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies. Contact the local Home Builders Association office and consumer protection officials to find out if they register complaints against any of the contractors you are considering.
  • Get a written quote that includes all the verbal promises of the contractor. Before allowing someone to come into your home to make a budget, do not forget to ask if they will charge a fee for the budget.
  • Take your time to sign a contract. Ask for explanations about price variations, and do not automatically choose the lowest budget. Do not make deals with a contractor that asks you to pay all the work in advance. The norm is to pay a deposit equivalent to one-third of the total price of labor. Pay only by check or credit card, and only pay the final sum when the work is finished and you are satisfied with the result. Do not pay in cash.
  • Before signing a repair contract, ask a friend, family member or lawyer who is knowledgeable about these issues to review it. Before the work begins, get a copy of the signed final contract.
  • Before the work begins, ask your contractor to deliver a lien release. This is a document that states that workers and material suppliers will not claim money once you have paid the contractor. In any case, never sign a landlord’s statement that says you, the property owner, will cover the costs of the materials and labor if the contractor does not pay them.

How to pay for repair work

Never endorse your insurance payment check to a contractor. Instead, process a Certificate of Completion with your bank. The bank will pay the contractor for each completed stage of the work only after you express your agreement.

If you get a loan to pay for repair work, be careful to put your house as collateral: If you do not pay the loan on the agreed terms, you could lose your home. Consider asking a lawyer to review the loan documents.

If you used your credit card to pay for a product or service that you are not happy with, you may be able to recover your money if you dispute the charge. Write a letter to your credit card company detailing the matter; You must do so within a period of 60 days from the date you receive the invoice that includes the charge for the product or service disputed.

Using a credit card to pay for products and services offers you additional protection. In general, you can dispute the charges for unsatisfactory goods or services (even for issues related to the quality of an item) if you made a good faith effort to resolve the dispute with the seller, if the charge exceeds $ 50, or if you made the purchase in your state of residence or within a 100-mile radius of your current billing address.

If you are thinking to sell your home and going to shift to a new home than consider Hudson Movers for moving service.

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I Bet It’s Difficult for My Co-Workers to Imagine I am Married and Have Kids!

I have caught on to a tradition in my office, since starting there over 3 months ago:

Every Friday afternoon, an “It’s almost the weekend!” email goes out to about 20 people in our department, to help motivate everyone through those last couple of hours. Typically, it’s something like a funny Internet meme or an office-themed comic strip.

Well, last Friday, it was… me.

It was a picture taken of me as I was returning from my lunch break.

Apparently I feel comfortable enough working there now that I have begun wearing Hawaiian shirts on Fridays; not because that’s an official thing we do in our office, but simply because I feel like wearing Jimmy Buffett style clothing when it’s that close to the weekend.

Hey, if it were up to me, I’d be wearing a Hawaiian shirt to work every day!

I’m not sure my wife would approve though; even if my co-workers encouraged such Dave Coulier behavior.

And this is actually something I’ve been thinking about, as one of my co-workers recently commented, “Nick, I wonder what your wife must be like? Is she normal? How does she handle being married to you?

My immediate response to her: “And don’t forget… I have two kids, as well! Imagine me being in charge of two young human beings!”

When you spend 40 hours a week working next to the same people 5 days a week, it can be easy to assume that version of them is the default. And to some degree, the “work version” of me does bleed over to the “family version” that my wife and kids know.

In both cases, I believe in being structured and focused, yet optimistic and creative.

But I bet it’s difficult for my co-workers to imagine I am married and have kids.

I think to some degree, even I’m confused:

How do I consistently co-exist on a daily basis, as different versions of myself?

The daytime version at my office versus the evening version with my family.

I wonder now, in reality, if there’s even much of a difference?

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: No, I Totally Don’t Miss Being around Other Adults All Day Long… In Fact, I Enjoy It a Little Too Much!

In looking out for me, my kind and thoughtful wife expressed some concern for my social well-being when my entire office was abruptly shut down back in October. She wondered if I might suffer from culture shock; after I had worked at the same place for over a decade and now I would suddenly be removed from constant adult interaction on a daily basis.

She suggested I might need to find a stay-at-home parents’ group so that I could get out of the house and socialize with people I have some things in common.

Here’s the thing: It’s been two months doing this stay-at-home dad thing, and not once have I ever missed being around other adults all day long. In fact, that’s one of my favorite parts about my new job!

I do not miss being interrupted from doing work to be asked any of the following annoying questions on a daily basis, and then having to respond to them while forcing myself to smile and act nice:

“How was your weekend?”

“Do you have a minute?”

“You’re quiet this morning, is everything okay?”

“What are you eating? That looks good!”

“Got any big plans for this weekend?”

I was just there to get work done. I didn’t need a friend. I wasn’t lonely. I didn’t need to be entertained with conversation or learn about someone’s thoughts about life, before I had my coffee… or after I had my coffee.

It was important to me and my identity that I was perceived as approachable, helpful, and a good communicator. So I successfully disguised the fact I am not actually an extrovert, but instead, an outgoing introvert.

I’ve heard the difference between introverts and extraverts explained this way:

If an extrovert is someone who feels energized by being around other people all day and but then feels drained when they are alone again, an introvert is someone who feels drained after being around people all day and then has to “recharge” in solitude afterwards.

Yeah, the 2nd description, that’s totally me. I love to interact with other people… just not while I’m being paid to get work done all day!

But now I don’t have to worry about any of that anymore. I no longer have to act like a supervisor who works in an office.

The culture shock that I am actually experiencing is a good one.

Now the only people I see on a daily basis are the members of my own family- and occasionally, some of the nice employees at the Publix just a mile from the house; which is about as far as I travel through the week anymore.

The ultimate irony is that I truly consider myself a people person. In the total of over a decade that my wife and I have been together, she is definitely used to us being out in public, and me making seemingly random yet relevant conversations with complete strangers.

But I think the difference is that in an office, I was forced all day long to be social, which distracted me from the work; which was the reason I was paid to be there.

As a stay-at-home dad though, I no longer have to anticipate that at any second of the day, I might be interrupted from my work by another adult seeking confirmation in their identity or escape from boredom.

My work now is to care for an awesome 7 year-old boy before and after school, and an adorable little girl all day long. And then when she’s asleep, I work on my freelance writing jobs and YouTube videos; which is how I’m financially supporting my family now through a growing amount of supplemental income.

Granted, I’m working from the time I wake up at 6:00 AM until the time I collapse around 10:30 PM; if I’m lucky enough that my daughter doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night.

But I love it. This is great. I was totally able to do the whole “work in an office” thing. I did that for over a decade. Now I have confirmation though:

I was meant to be a stay-at-home dad who works from home as a freelancer. My time has arrived to accept and embrace my new identity.

I Was Fired and Re-Hired within 90 Seconds… While I was in the Bathroom

I Was Fired and Re-Hired within 90 Seconds… While I was in the Bathroom

Yesterday afternoon I had recently returned from buying vegan chocolate cake for my wife, as well as “lip scrub”, which I didn’t know existed until she asked me to get it for her.

For myself, while I was there at Whole Foods, I also picked up a bottle of one of my favorite drinks: Synergy Grape Chia Kombucha.

I suppose I drank it fairly quickly once I returned to the office from my lunch break. So naturally, I had to hop on over to the restroom real quick.

By real quick, I mean literally less than 90 seconds. Here’s how I can know for sure:

Because at precisely 14:04:28, a message went out over our company’s instant message program that “Nick Shell is no longer employed” at the company.

(That message was apparently sent the moment I stepped out of my office.)

Then at exactly 14:05:55, which is less than 90 seconds later, a follow-up message went out explaining that it wasn’t “Nick Shell” who was no longer employed, but instead a different Nick.

Apparently by that time, I was washing my hands in the bathroom. I stepped out into the hallway, to see a huddle of people around my empty desk.

To make matters more seemingly dramatic, my boss (as a joke) moved my chair along with my name plaque and my hat and my empty Kombucha bottle out into the hallway.

Half the people who traveled from the other side of the office to see the crime scene hadn’t seen the follow-up message, so it only reinforced the idea I really was a goner.

I know now how loved I truly am by my co-workers. Apparently I had some people worried. I was originally hired on January 2, 2006; more than a decade ago.

While my family did move back to my hometown for about 8 months when my son was born over 5 years ago, I’ve worked at the company for over 9 years.

I’m known as the guy who has been there forever, so I guess it freaked some people out that I would just so suddenly disappear.

After I later took my afternoon 10 minute break, in which I took a walk outside, another coworker decided to decorate my desk as part of either my going-away party… or my triumphant return.

The Art and Irony of Trendsetting: Featuring Crocs, Hawaiian Shirts, Voss Water, and WWJD Bracelets

Trends are only truly cool when they’re not quite cool yet.  And by the time they are in style, they’re pretty much going out of style.

Recognizing the hilariousness of how in many offices in America, it is standard that everyone dresses professionally Monday through Thursday, but on Friday, everyone goes casual with jeans and often t-shirts, at the beginning of the summer I decided to start making Thursday a “buffer” day for how I dress in the office, encouraging everyone else to participate.  How do you transition from khakis and dress shirts to jeans and t-shirts?  Hawaiian shirts.

They are button-down shirts with collars.  Perfect, tacky transition.  At first, only one other coworker would join me in Hawaiian Shirt Thursday.  But then, if for no other reason they felt like they were missing out on something cool, one by one, others began joining us.  By the end of the summer, I had half of the office on my side.  Some people dug through their closets to find the shirt; some actually went out and bought one.  And now, even in autumn, many of us are keeping the tradition going.

Of course, this isn’t the first trend I’ve started at work.  In an effort to make sure I was drinking enough water everyday, I went to Whole Foods and bought a glass Voss water bottle that I refill several times throughout the day.  At first, coworkers joked with me, “Isn’t it a little early in the day for vodka?”  By now though, several of them have privately approached me to ask where they could get a water bottle like that.  And sure enough, the glass Voss water bottle is no longer weird in my office, but instead it’s the norm.

But the irony with trendsetting is that by successfully coming up with an original and unpopular idea, it eventually becomes unoriginal and popular.  Prime example: Crocs.  For the last couple of years, I’ve looked on from a distance at the weird plastic rainbow colored Birkenstock rip-offs.  They were so trendy.  You’d see moms and their kids out at the mall, all wearing Crocs.  Even though I wanted some, I refused to buy them.  Because they were too cool at the time.

However, this week I came to a realization.  The Birkenstocks I have been wearing were given to me by my parents Christmas 1999.  I had already paid $35 five years ago to have them resoled.  It was time for me to either have them repaired again, or pay $110 for new ones.  Or… pay $30 for some brown Crocs.

To entertain the idea of buying Crocs, I checked around Cool Springs during my lunch breaks while riding my mountain bike instead of driving (another office trend I’ve been trying to start since April), but sure enough, I had trouble finding any Crocs for sale.  Eventually, some girls behind the counter at a Hallmark told me to check out the Croc stand across from Fossil in the mall.

Needless to say, with yesterday being Thursday, I wore my Hawaiian shirt, with Crocs, while drinking water from a Voss water bottle.  And boy was I cool.  Yet I wouldn’t have been caught wearing Crocs if they were still trendy.  The trend of wearing Crocs is over; which is why it was more difficult than I had imagined to find them.  I’m not saying that Crocs aren’t cool anymore; they’re just no longer a fad.

And so an important rule for a trendsetter is to not get involved in a trend that is overly popular.  But once a trend is over, then it’s “game on” to participate.  Some fads, after their prime, become an outdated, yet timeless classic.  Like Hawaiian shirts.  And Chuck Taylor’s.  And the wondrous Rubik’s Cube.  WWWD bracelets?  Not so much.


The Importance of a Setting in Real Life, Not Just in Fiction

 This could be Heaven or this could be hell.What makes old graveyards creepy, besides our sneaking suspension that the bearded ghost of a Confederate Army General will appear through the foggy mist and try to tell us a haunting story of he ended up with a hook for an arm?  (Pirates don’t have exclusive right to those things, you know…)  Take away the graves and all the preconceived ideas that human curiosity has handed down to us over the centuries, and chances are, the land itself is still not a beautiful piece of land to begin with.

I assume that the land used for graveyards and cemeteries often was the land that wasn’t aesthetically pleasing as the acres used for building homes, schools, and businesses.  Safe to say it wasn’t feng shui. 

Instead it was the leftover, out of the way, dreary land that someone was just trying to get rid of.  So they sold it for less than they would have liked to an investor who saw its best potential and destiny was for it to become a graveyard.

We choose destinations for a reason.  Why do coffee shops serve as such a great pre-date and unofficial first date venue?  Because there are plenty of other people around in a coffee shop whose collected friendly conversations make for the perfect background murmur, so that while the two single people are surrounded by people, it’s intimate enough of a setting where they can, in a sense, feel alone- without the awkwardness of actually being alone when they don’t yet know each other that well. 

If nothing else, the coffee itself serves as a convenient social crutch, as mentioned in Campfires.  A coffee shop is a setting of safety, comfortableness, and relaxation, as well a symbolic “garden of growth”.  I know this first hand:

Before I asked out my now-wife to the sure-to-get-a-second-date John Mayer concert, I primed our new friendship with several Sunday night meets at the local Starbucks.  It was the coffee shop that watered and fertilized our friendship into dating, then a little over a year later into marriage, and two years after that (present day), a baby.  A human life is scheduled to make its first out-of-the-womb appearance this November.  And it all started, in theory, by me choosing the right setting- which in this case was a coffee shop.

What if instead of asking her to coffee when we first met as strangers, I would have asked her to dinner?  It could have been awkward.  Eating with a stranger she just met the week before.  I could have ended up in a category of guys she had dated but it never really went anywhere- and I wasn’t willing to make that gamble. 

I knew that if I built the relationship on true friendship first, it would be much more natural and relaxing to eventually eat a meal together at a restaurant.  But not before coffee at a Starbucks.

We can choose where either good or bad memories will take place.  Where does a guy propose to his fiancé?  Where do parents announce to their children that they are getting a divorce?  Because those places will never be the same again after that.

Where were you when you found out the cancer is in remission? Where were you when you heard about the two planes crashing into the Twin Towers?  Those places will always be associated with the big news, good or bad.

It’s why the phrase “may I speak with you for in a minute in my office, please?” is so epic.

Whether we choose the place, or it chooses us, the setting is everything; lasting an entire lifetime as it attaches itself to a memory of hope or a memory of damnation.