Thursday, 18 June 2020

And that's that chapter closed

Tuesday ended 2 1/2 years in a job that was heavy sledding all the way. I walked into this store thinking my years of experience would have armed me for the the task at hand which was rescue a sh*@ pile of a store and make a success of it. It took me the first 6 months to learn the liquidation game and to understand that my usual standards of merchandising and customer service needed to basically go out the window. I battled a management team that didn't want me there, two of three had applied for my job. I learned that the customers have no regard for the work my team does and complains loudly and rudely when they don't get their way. I've been in retail management since I was 21 and have never encountered such poor behaviour from customers.
We finally started to beat targets and in two years I increased sales by $500k. I had a good team who were starting to take pride in their jobs. Let me tell you this was extremely difficult because you couldn't close the day saying all jobs got done, not once. A little over a year later my team fluctuated and I was rebuilding the team. Nonetheless we came in over target for 2019. The new year started well with good sales and plans for a new location to look forward to. Meanwhile my management team went from high level assistants that I was fast-tracking to be managers to a bunch of keyholders who rarely made a decision themselves. So mentally exhausting every day.
And then came COVID. We stayed open for three weeks after it hit until retailers were forced to close. When we finally closed I came home and collapsed. Micro-management from HO combined with possible mutiny from one of my supervisors along with trying to keep up a positive face for team and customers was too much. I cocooned with a vengeance only leaving the house once a week.
I even developed a bit of agoraphobia. The thought of returning to work at the store became abhorrent our weekly phone calls sent me in to anxiety attacks. Nonetheless the day to reopen arrived and I didn't want my staff returning without me there.I returned to half my management team and 3/4 of the rest of my team. Everyone had restrictions on what they's work and supervisors would call in at the last minute to say they weren't coming leaving me to open and close many days. The store looked like crap and sales were suffering . For some reason every other store opened and operated at a higher level than they ever had. Stores that were tanking at the beginning of the year were 25% over target and here I was eating dirt. I made adjustments to the team and when given the green light I hired people to fill the holes. This all happening in the first 3 weeks of opening. Oh, and remember my personal anxiety not only did it not go away but was compounded by all the crap going on at work.
So, three weeks of crap apparently trumps 2 1/2 years of success and I no longer work for this company. Didn't want to be there and clearly it showed. And now I'm home again starting the healing process of giving my all to yet another company that ate me up and spit me out.
I'm saying it here and you guys need to keep me to it. I'm not going to rush back into work. I've been applying for jobs for weeks now anyway but only those that really interest me. I rushed into this last job after being stressed on the previous one and look what I ended up with.
No happy, cheerful thoughts this time just an airing of my mind.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Where to next?? Where have I been?

Two plus years since I last took the time to put my thoughts to paper, as it were. I haven't had the mind space to stop and compose but today I'm having a bonus day off and have been doing some things I haven't done in a long time.
January 2017 saw us in the middle of Jeff's battle with Hogdkins lymphoma. He and I were spending every other Friday in the cancer ward while they pumped him full of poisons that were designed to help. We'd been on that track since the previous August and Jeff was getting worn down.The emotional toll on both of us was high. At this point Jeff is healthy and continues to be clear of the cancer. The emotional toll still lingers in both of us.
Jessica had made it through a very difficult pregnancy that also exacted an emotional toll, this time on our whole household as she was living with us at the time. It's only in hindsight do we see how tough that time was. The sheer joy of that is my fabulous Jakers. If any kid has a mind of his own it's him. Now two years later we await the birth of my second grandson in a much happier and content place. Jess has been able to control the health issues this time and although the baby is affecting her mobility everything is going well. Calvin ( or as I call him Jonathan Livingston Seagull) will arrive mid-January.
I think I lost the ability to express my thoughts back then because the reality was I was an emotional mess. As the person who is seen as being able to deal with everything that's what I had to do. Aside from my sounding boards Dayle and Brenda no one bothered to check in on how all this sturm and drang was affecting me. In reality I ran out of resources. Personally during this time I was working in a job I loved but, as it turned out, as a temporary manager. I had ressurected the business at this store and had it humming along only to find out that the manager who had been off on leave for two years was coming back. I spent the fall of that year not only worrying about and caring for Jess and Jeff but also worrying about if I would have a job at Christmas. I didn't.
Once off work I decided to take a break and not rush back to work only to find that I accepted a new job and started back to work beginning of February. My first 6 months in this position were horrible. It took forever to get the staff to trust me and for me to understand the business. When we finally got rid of an extremely bad apple that September did things fall in to place. I'm heading in to my two year anniversary here and it's the first time in a long career where my knowledge and experience are actually valued. It's exhausting but never boring.
So, what you may be saying did I do today that sent me back here. Well, I went to a Christmas bazaar at the seniors' home down the street. Being in retail I'm generally working weekends in November and December. This week I got a free day I didn't plan and it's bazaar day all over the place.I had lunch in the tearoom and it brought back such a strong wave of nostalgia. When Mom was alive my kids and I would help out at the tea and bazaar at her seniors' home. Sitting there in the tearoom today I realised that I really missed this. I still have twangs in my belly as I write that pop up every now and then. This time ten years ago I was cringing every time the phone rang because mom's health was failing and as her caregiver I was the one they called. I had just gotten her back to her apartment after a month long hospital run that pretty much did her in. She was so weaken by this point that, quite frankly, I wondered which call would be the last.I was trying to run the house, run a store and be there for Mom.
Ten years later that time is as clear as day for me, just as, two years later, Jeff's chemo is still so clear.
Sitting there today made me realise I need to stop avoiding things that bring back the pain. I had one of the residents pull up a chair to chat with me and it reminded me that I enjoy this stuff. So, on my way out I volunteered to help out at their future Teas. I stopped being brave ten years ago. Don't know if people noticed but I know it. I've carried on, I've survived but I haven't been the fearless thing I used to be. Maybe this is a baby step back to that.
At the end of September a bunch of us got together to celebrate being 60 years on this planet. It was lovely. People I literally hadn't seen since high school showed up and we were all so glad to see each other. It was a bit nerve racking planning to go even though there were certain people I really wanted to see ( Norm, Arne ) but once we were all there it just worked! I've even gotten some cookie business from these lovely people, thank you so much.
So, as my blog says where to next? Right now I'm recreating my craft room in a bigger space and really thinking about and planning it. I want the space to give me inspiration and joy so I'm curating the things that will go in there.
Christmas baking is under way, the infamous red sweater is almost done and I'm now thinking ahead to Christmas. The family isn't in the best place right now so I'm not sure what Christmas will look like this year. But I'm determined to enjoy it anyway.

Monday, 2 January 2017

And on to another year!

Hard to believe it's been 7 months since I last posted but when you read on  I think you'll understand my absence. To start with, Happy New Year! I think most of us will agree that seeing the backside of 2016 gives us a renewed sense of hope. How did the year end up spiraling away from any sense of normality? I'm not here to rehash what we've all seen in the news etc. I want to give you a glimpse into how the remaining months of the year unfolded for my family and friends.
In May my brother-in-law Greg lost his battle with cancer. And that's when the writing stopped. We knew the end was coming for years, the reality of that end came too fast. I've pondered over what to say and finally have enough distance to put some words together. Greg was a lovely person, plain and simple. He never met a stranger and always had time to help out his friends and neighbours. He and Dayle were meant to be together. Why else would Windsor call to her as the place to go to school? I think the best way to describe Greg is 'uncomplicated'. He took life as it was handed to him, made the best of every situation and loved openly. His relationship with my sister, while not in any way perfect, was perfect for them. Best friends. How many of us endeavour to find that person who is our mate and our friend? I know now that Dayle's idyllic early marriage was helping her store up the great memories she now has that got her through the years of Greg's illness and now her new journey on her own. I'm not worried about you big sis 'cause we all come from the same stock. Although Joy and I chose to leave our marriages we understand the loss of that secure relationship. Call me, text me, come to my house. It may not be obvious but I'm here for you.
July brought the next change in our lives when I was moved from my store in Kitchener to co-manage the store in Hamilton. I had been covering a mat-leave, although that was not my contract, and when the manager came back the company tried to find a place for me rather than lose me. After my roller coaster ride with jobs lately I really appreciate them doing that. The position didn't exist and the other manager and I tried to figure out who we both were now, in the store. We're friends so that helped but the position wasn't meshing. The Kitchener manager was once again pregnant and I repeatedly offered to go back. Anyway five months later I was given a week's notice that I would be returning to the Kitchener store. I'm happy to be back but I landed in Hamilton just before one of our busiest months during back-to-school and returned to Kitchener just before our Christmas rush. Needless to say July to December was stressful. Silver lining was that I requested the chance to gain a contract for baking for the team as a corporate gift. My samples won the day and I had a contract for 21 assorted treat boxes. I heard from various stores that the cookies were well received.
August brought another big shift in the family with the end of Jess and Alex's marriage. Looking like it came out of the blue we were shocked to hear that they were separating and two days later Alex had moved back to Brampton. Jess put on a brave face and carried on. We're now gearing up for another change as Jess is moving home to regroup and figure out her next steps. Being half Ferrier makes her tough but there is healing to do. She and I miss each other with our opposite work shedules. I'm sure we'll make each other crazy but we've tried to air things before the move.
Over to Jenn and Theo, Jenn continues to be kind of a big deal. Her reputation in the illustration world keeps growing and I couldn't be prouder. What they need now is for the government and banking institutions to stop throwing surprises at them. Despite of, and probably because of, their tough year financially their relationship seems to grow stronger. I lament that I can't just make the issues go away but they persevere. We've two new additions to our family this year in the form of fur babies. Jenn and Theo have a german shepherd named Bear and Jess and mix breed called Mikey. We also lost one of our fur babies when Fox was suddenly taken ill a few weeks ago. In all I have 11 fur grand-babies. Pretty sure not many people can make that claim, lol!
Jeff had some changes at work in the past few months. He works for a small family-run IT firm. The owners decided to sell to one of their nephews and this caused somewhat of an upheaval with one of the senior staff deciding to leave. This has forced Jeff and his colleague to take on more responsibility and guess what, he's not only handling it he's succeeding. He's still reserving judgement on the changes but I can see that the company values his contribution and doesn't want him to start looking elsewhere.
As for Greg, he's still working on finishing his GED. Not going fast enough for my liking but he's getting through it and I need to relax a bit. He got his first real job this summer and this has helped with his self confidence. It's not a fancy job but he's happy doing it. Coming up in a few weeks Greg will be going under the knife again. He has opted for jaw surgery that will move his upper jaw forward into a more natural position and help align his bite better. His jaw will be supported with permanent titanium plates ( that just sounds cool) and the braces will stay on for another 6 months at least to finally set his bite. One more surgery is still planned for 2017 to even out his nose. I'm not sure we'll recognise him when it's all done!
As I said May to December has been a bit of a roller coaster. Goodbye 2016 and don't let the door hit you on the way out! Time to settle into our new norm. Dayle has just retired and will be eating bonbons and watching the telly all day. Our house will be fuller but I think it's where people need to be for now. The back bedroom is available, Jenn and Theo, should the need arise. I've resolved to be happier just being me. I'm happiest with my kids around me. If that's where they want to be then I make no apologies. That being said I want to look outside the house as well and find a group that could use my skills. I'd still love to teach high school and college kids how to cook for themselves and a few other life skills such as sewing etc. Anyone know a place that could use me?
Love to all of you. If you want some tasty goodies, let me know. Muskoka Brownie Baking Company is open for business.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Happy Mothers' Day!

Yes, I'm going to get all sentimental today so pull out the hankies. Everyone has heard me go on about my kids before but this is my blog so I get to say what I want, so there.
It's hard to believe that it's been almost 28 years since I first became a mom. Yes, Jess, you're that old. I never realised what a change four tiny little people could make to my life but I can't imagine who I would have been if I wasn't their mom. For the most part life with these kids has been trauma -free. Oh, don't get me wrong, there have been moments but in long run it's been smooth. You know, once Jessie got over needing me to sleep with her every night and her night terrors, Jenn learned boundaries and stopped climbing fences and disappearing, Jeff got over his colic ( at about 14 it seemed) and Greg became a more social, helpful human ( that was just this year but progress is progress ). Our kids share the same warped humour that I grew up with. I'm pretty much inured to anything they throw my way even if I don't agree. Like mom I'm allowed to make noises like a mother, state my opinion then continue to accept them for who they are.
 I think dad would have had fun with this bunch. Their quick wit would have meshed well with his. The nerd side of this family would have been a perfect fit for dad.
I am, of course, thinking about mom today but this is nothing new. Mom's picture sits in the livingroom reminding me to keep hanging in there. I remember her as someone who always had her shit together but if I look objectively back I wonder how she got through our early years when we had little money and dad was away most of the time. She raised us basically as a working, single mom. As I continue to go through some financial strife I'm blessed that this is happening when my kids are grown and they are unquestioningly pitching in. How the hell did we get through it all when mom had no support system? We never felt poor although I know we shopped at the bargain shops in the city. Us girls looked forward to being in different clothes from everyone else.
My kids poopoo their Scottish background but I'm sure the grit and inner strength of our culture is what has created a deep inner strength in all of us. We are born with the attitiude of just carry on and fight your way through. I'm so thrilled for Joy who has finally got some light at the end of her tunnel. She wanted to build a life in Muskoka and did whatever was necessary to stay there.  She has now achieved some breathing room and is enjoying herself. Dayle, my outwardly eternally cheerful sister continues to fight the good fight. Greg's health is on another down swing ( that's what I'm calling it because the Wolverine hasn't given up yet!) and she is by his side all the way. Like I said deep inner strength.
We three sisters are really pretty lucky. While we know that our children are wonderful because we were, and still are, perfect moms, it's great to see who they all are now and what they're contributing to the world.
So, to all of my children out there by blood or by choice know that you are loved. Thank you for letting me be your mom, it's a privilege.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Thinking while cooking

Today was my day off so I did the grocery shopping which refilled our meat supply. We have a lovely butcher in Cambridge, Dipietros, that has good meat at fair prices. We particularly like their breaded pork cutlets otherwise known as schnitzel.
Generally when I cook these it becomes a bit of a production because it has turned into a classic German meal. Those of you who know me know that I spent the last few months of high school as an exchange student in Germany. I was paired with a family that lived in southern Germany in the Schwarz Wald. I'm pretty sure everyone who was in school with me will remember Uschi. She became one of us, sad but true, very quickly. All the boys had a crush on her.
So, back to tonight's dinner. Schnitzel mit Spaetzle was a delicious dinner that we had a number of times while I lived there. Spaetzle are a Schwaben noodle or dumpling that is made fresh every time. Uschi's grandma was the resident expert at making them and cut each noodle by hand. I loved these things so much I came home with a spaetzle drucker ( spaetzle press). Between the noodles and the bread I managed to put on 20 pounds over there, which put me at about 125 in those long ago days.
I digress. I have started making fresh spaetzle and am becoming a bit of a dab hand at cutting the dough into the boiling water. This is very time consuming and my mind always wanders to Germany and my time there. I lost touch with Uschi years ago when my Jessica and her Sara were babies. I don't think she ever knew how much influence my time with her family and friends have had on my life. I was a shy 18 year old who didn't have much confidence in her linguistic skills. Gerhard, Uschi's boyfriend then first husband, patiently taught me how to comfortably speak German and Schwaben. The words still dance around in my head. This happens regularly when I cook tonight's meal. I look at my misshapen spaetzle and wonder if Uschi's Oma would approve. They may not be much to look at but they taste perfect.
   This is dinner. We always have the same combo, schnitzel, spaetzle and grilled brussels sprouts.

I often wish I had met Uschi later in life. I could have appreciated what she had to offer so much more. As it was we didn't have that much in common and she bonded more with Brenda than me. I was young and madly in love. I missed out on an offer to go to Italy at the end of the school year with Uschi's family because I HAD to get home. What a dolt. Since then I've never had the opportunity to travel.
So, Uschi, if by some weird chance you are out there and wander across my blog let me know. I'd love to know how life turned out.# UrsulaAuchPfeiffer, maybe this will flag to you.
Nonetheless, dinner was delicious and the memories were a sweet dessert.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Mid winter's dreaming

Have I mentioned before how great I think my kids are? Ok, I know I say it all the time. Guess what it's true. Yesterday the gang descended on the house, at my invitation, for pizza Sunday. Once a month I try to make sure we have these dates because in between it's mostly texts or radio silence. It was a gathering of the usual suspects with Arif ( who is actually one of the usual suspects) and Sanata. Nothing exciting happened, we talked about books ( sorry Alex I tried, I just don't like Game of Thrones) played games and ate pizza. My daughters who are delicate flowers suffered gut pains and food poisoning ( not from my pizza) but all had a good time.
I often wonder if my life revolves too much around my, now grown ,children but I then consider myself lucky that they want me in their lives. Sanata has asked me to teach her how to knit and we're making plans for her to come out, learn to knit and marathon Gilmore Girls with me.I laughed when everyone arrived because I was still in the bathroom making myself beautiful and both Jenn and Sanata barged in to give me a hug. It reminded me of the times my sisters and I would arrive home from college etc and head to the bathroom to catch up.
As we figure out what our family looks like as they make their own lives I wonder why modern North Americans have tried to move away from the natural inclination for families to live near each other or in the same house. We are exploring how to live closer to share expenses and just to be together. Mom used to tell stories of growing up with her Grandmother living in their house and from that generation it doesn't sound weird. With our striving, since WWII, to have more buy bigger houses and prove to each other that we've arrived we've lost a lot of the soul of the family. Why do we not turn to the elders in the family for advice and support? We have at least made the mistakes and hopefully learned from them. I've mentioned before how lost I feel without mom as at least a sounding board for my mad ideas. If you still have your parents try and cherish them. Yes, they can be set in their ways and perhaps give advice when not asked. It's not because they don't think you can do it on your own it's usually because they don't want you to suffer from mistakes they've already experienced.
Anyway, back to my kids. Quick update on their lives. Jess just got a promotion in a business I don't understand, logistics. Virgo that she is, she loves it! Keeping everyone organised and going where they're supposed to and wheeling and dealing for money makes her little heart beat fondly. Jenn's illustration renown continues to grow. We just have to make sure she comes out of her cave  and her head more frequently. Jeff is learning a new profession in IT. Will it be enough to challenge for the long run? That remains to be seen. Greg is finally seeing light at the end of the high school tunnel and is looking forward to programming in college. They're not curing cancer or solving global warming but they're succeeding where they're planted and this is enough.
Love you all near and dear. I'm proud of the whole motley crew of you. Our strange family, and this means my extra kids too, all are great, kind and funny people. I'm blessed to know you.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Thoughts on the days to come

I can't believe it's been four months since I last posted! This is a sign of how busy the fall has been. As you all know I rejoined Scholars Choice this summer. We rolled into back-to-school in August and the momentum kept up right until 5pm Christmas Eve. The company has changed it's marketing tactics and we had a sales events every two weeks. It's a grueling pace to keep up for three months. Constantly contacting customers and keeping the store prepared. Now we are in January. We have inventory this week and then, hopefully, a month to regroup and catch our breaths.

I've had a number of subjects floating in and out of my mind over this time period.You'd think I'd want to look back at 2015 but I'm working on staying positive and looking forward. 2015 holds very few positive moments for me. I look forward to things getting better, settling into my old normal and being able to look forward to the future instead of dreading what's coming next. Wow, such a positive outlook, lol.

I was listening to a documentary on CBC today about a writer who lived about the same amount of time as mom. She had taken life by the horns at a very young age then ended up involving herself in almost every important historical event of the 20th century. As I was listening I remarked to the boys
how amazing it was that she was brave enough to just do these things. I know I live a small life but when did I stop being brave? I'm not interested in being a history changer but I realised that for the past three years I have been constantly afraid. I've made a few decisions since mom's death that have affected my financial security and I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out of everything. This fear, I'm sure, is apparent to my kids and I hate what they're learning.  How does one get past this? I haven't figured it out yet but I'm determined to make it work this year.

There, dirty laundry aired, too much about me shared, let's move on.

I can't promise to write more regularly although I should. I think I'd like to work on some creative writing. This has never been my strength. Oh, I know I can properly form a sentence but I purposely studied maths, sciences and languages to avoid having to write essays. Having the freedom here to write about anything I want has given me a voice I didn't realise I had. So, we'll see if I'm brave enough ( be brave Nancy) to publish some creative writing on here. I have a children's book I've been playing with for years. Time to pull it out and see if there's something good there.

Dayle is always going out for a walk. I find walking boring but you have to walk before you can run and I want to be able to run again. You will not hear about my progress here because I hate looking for positive reinforcement for something I'm doing just for me. When I've made enough progress to please me you will know.

How did this turn into a piece that looks dangerously close to a list of resolutions. I hate those lists. What I do know is that if you put your plans, ideas etc in writing that gives them a concrete form.

And adding to the list. I started off the year by creating two new pieces of jewellery. One is actually a hanging for Jeff but they are both trees of life. I spend so much time worrying about everything that I can't focus on my creative soul. I have this lovely craft room and the cats spend more time in there than I do. I have some great pieces of fabric I've already made plans for. Get them out, cut them out and get sewing.

Put away the computer and read more. I'm tired most days once dinner is over. That leads to too much TV and screen time. Read, read, read. Head to our quite well stocked library and wander the stacks. Pick up anything that appeals and just read it.

I hope everyone has something to look forward to this year that brings them joy and peace. It doesn't have to be monumental and it most certainly doesn't have to be a resolution. Nat, Steve and the girls are looking forward to Disney World. That's cool. Think of the memories! Make a memory you want to look back on. Dayle and Greg create memories every day simply because they don't know how many more days there will be to make them.

Maybe that's my main goal this year. Stop being afraid and make some memories I will want to share with all of you.

As always love you all lots.