Jodi Wallace

Owner, Monarch Solid Surface Designs

Photo © Piotr Krzeslak

Photo © Piotr Krzeslak

I have to admit it has been a rough couple of months. Two weeks ago I had an employee text me ten minutes before the shop opened to inform me he wouldn’t be coming in and was starting a new job… that morning. A few weeks prior we had a guy who went home sick one morning, provided a doctor’s excuse after missing several days work, came back, went home sick again, then disappeared without a phone call, text or smoke signal.

On top of that, we have been burned on payment for several jobs and are trying to work with customers whose general contractors and cabinet makers are weeks behind their schedules. The customers are unhappy because our fabrication time has not changed from my initial commit; they don’t understand why we cannot make up time for how far behind their remodel projects have fallen. A couple of times I seriously have just wanted to lock the door, turn off all the lights and just hide under my desk!!

  But two days ago something happened that made me pause. I received a call from Mrs. Gold whose kitchen countertops we had installed seven or eight years ago. They were very nice and I had actually gone over for tea one time with her and her husband. (I may not remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I remember my customers!) She had a quick question about something totally unrelated to her countertops but knew I would help if I could. 

We started chatting as a lot had happened since we had last spoken years ago. She asked how business was and I told her we had opened a “real” showroom 2-½ years ago. She was excited for us and said she was especially happy we were still in business and had come through the recession. When we did her kitchen back then I was operating out of the 300 square foot “showroom” my husband had built for me in our shop. At that time we were “by appointment only” as I didn’t have enough room for a desk so Monarch was still operating out of our home office.  Customers would call to set up an appointment, I would run down and meet them at the “showroom” (which was 7 miles from home), and then go back to the “office” to work on paperwork. Sometimes I was back and forth 3 or 4 times a day. We laugh about it now, but it worked well for 12 years!! 

She asked how my son (who had been in high school, at the time) was doing. I said he was now 25, had graduated from SJSU, was working for a company that really liked him and was getting married next year to his high school sweetheart. 

I told her my daughter had been in a serious car accident and we felt very lucky her guardian angel had been on high alert that day. I said she had an amazing guy, they had gotten married and recently made me a grandma. She commented grandchildren were so much better than our actual children, and the best was yet to come!!

She asked about my husband Ken who she and her husband really liked. I told her although he had been working at another company for the past year he was recently hired by the company my son was working at (another family owned business), and both he, my son and their boss were very excited about Ken joining their company and the potential we felt was there.  I told her it was nice to see him get excited about going to work again, something I haven’t seen in many years.

We talked a few minutes more as we caught up and I told her it was really nice hearing from her and to please give her husband my best. We hung up and I looked back at my desk piled with unfinished paperwork, unchecked voice mail and unopened email.  As I sat there I realized that although everything I had said to Mrs. Gold was true I really hadn’t thought of it that way. 

Saying it out loud somehow made it feel different, and made me take a quick stock of things.

We had been lucky enough (unlike many other businesses) to make it through the previous tough years. We had always stayed small so we didn’t have to lay people off. Although our guys always grumble about how much money they make and why there aren’t more raises, we had been able to keep guys employed and help them pay their bills. Even if our own personal bills were paid late our guys and vendors never were.

Despite doing countless shower and tub surrounds, kitchen countertops and vanity tops for customers, our house hasn’t had anything done to it since we started Monarch. We still have cultured marble vanity tops and only a couple years ago removed the disgusting avocado green tile kitchen counters, but weren’t able to put stone in our place, despite being in our house 20+ years. But we have a house and a roof over our heads and food in the refrigerator which is more than many can say after the mortgage meltdown.

Seeing my daughter married and my beautiful grandson remind me how very lucky we are and despite the permanent nerve damage she sustained, she is here and the happiest I have ever seen her. Our lives could have been dramatically altered that day. Although she does not live locally, I can still drive the 5 ½ hours to see them, which I try to do every month.

My son – who at times we seriously wondered if would even get to graduate high school –earned his Eagle Scout, graduated high school, and went on to graduate college, (with a lot of kicking in the pants by his mother)! He has a good job with people who really like him and see his potential. He is marrying his high school sweetheart, who I love like a second daughter, and he has grown into an amazing man. He is still mine until he and his fiancé move in together next summer! And although we don’t see each other a lot – since I usually don’t get home until late – I cherish having him there.

Although my parents are gone, my children have grown up with wonderful grandparents. They are getting up there in years but this Christmas my in-laws spent their Christmas Eve and Christmas day with their first great grandchild. 

Like many other families there are some medical issues we are dealing with, but nothing life threatening.

Monarch may have swallowed my life and I may not get to spend time with my girlfriends like we used to, but I know in a pinch I could pick up the phone and anyone of them would be there for me, no questions asked. 

As I sat at my desk I realized that if I stopped time at this absolute and precise moment and took Monarch out of the picture, my life is good. There may never be a day that everything lines up perfectly, but the phrase “it’s the journey not the destination” popped into my head. 

We all get caught up in the everyday “stuff” that feels at times like it wants to overwhelm us.  To some. that “stuff” may be mental, for others, physical.  My wish for myself and everyone this new year is to remember that the important stuff we care about is here and with us right now. It’s family, it’s friends and it’s making memories. I may not have the “perfect” life, but right now, life is perfect.