Our stories are priceless

The Last Word by Herb Lagois

Here we are in 2021, and as an annual family tradition, we each share our personal goals for the year ahead.

One of my mine is to complete my Mom’s memoir – stories I am thankful she shared before her passing.

This was one:

“Königsberg (Kallingrad), 1945, police went from door to door ordering us to evacuate. My mother took a sleigh; put a big whicker chest on it, filled the chest with a feather bed, papers, pictures, a few jars with food and we left for the harbour.

There were three ships. Close to 9400 people were on board each ship, packed like sardines. It was nighttime, out at (Baltic) sea when the third ship, the Wilhelm Gustlof, was sunk by Russian torpedoes.

Everyone on our ship was really scared. So quiet, so frightening, you could not even hear a baby cry!
Years later I saw the movie documentary by accident – It brought back a lot of memories and tears.”

(Note: Of the 9,400 people on board, only 400 to 500 people were saved, making it the largest loss of life from a single ship sinking in history.)

I think of her life’s experiences often, especially now, navigating through these unique COVID-19 times.

And it makes me realize: every person on this planet has a story.

What’s your story during these times? Many of us are working from home, perhaps experiencing things for the first time. Some of us are working together in the kitchen more than ever – and frustrated with lack of counter space. “Home office” has taken on a whole new meaning. Now it means balancing not just work but home schooling. Many of us are talking about the wisdom of generational families living together. (We’re helping two widowers live independently with their children.)

Many of us are seeing opportunities for refreshing and reinvigorating our spaces. As you might imagine, our industry is very busy.

Here are some general tips about renovating these days:

  • Be patient, unless it’s an emergency.
  • Don’t rush for the sake of rushing.
  • Realize it will probably be a while before manufacturers and suppliers are able to get back to normal. (Imagine their stories!)

Whether a company is in business for many years or just starting out, I can’t stress enough how important it is to find the right “fit”.

What is fit? Here are some questions you might ask yourself when you’re interviewing remodelers:

  • Does the company’s process align with your needs?
  • Do they have a repeatable process?
  • Is communication important to you? How do they communicate?
  • Are you okay about being interrupted at work for last-minute decisions?
  • Are you okay with people not working on your home for weeks at a time? (I recently talked with a wonderful couple who have a story about this. Their flooring installer, after not showing up for days, finally stopped by just to pick up his tools – without telling them when he was coming back.)
  • Are you okay paying double what was “quoted”?
  • How does the company mitigate cost overruns?
  • Do you have an uneasy feeling at your first discussion with the remodeler?

My Mom (and Dad) eventually immigrated to Canada. Thank goodness for stories they shared. Our COVID-19 adventures will someday become distant memories, too.

Imagine – just imagine – the stories we will tell next generations.

Herb Lagois is the owner of Lagois Design-Build-Renovate.