"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere beyond the morning." - J.B. Priestly

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Retail Insights

Interesting night at work last night.  Generally, my job at Kohl's has been to work with the team on intake:  accepting loads of merchandise and getting it ready for sale.  The guys unload the trucks and we open the boxes, etc.  However, just before and after Christmas we've been working on other jobs:  restocking shelves and racks to get all of the winter stuff out on the floor for sale, identifying the merchandise that needs to be put on clearance, and last night I was working on going through all of the merchandise that has been collected in the fitting rooms and in returns over the past week.  I was shocked at how much stuff was on racks and in baskets in the "returns room" -- all of which had to be scanned so the things that are on clearance could be weeded out, marked appropriately, and put on the clearance racks.  Then, the "active" merchandise could be sorted and the day people could return the new stuff back out to the floor.

Using a hand-held scanner, I spent 8 hours scanning clothing, sorting the clearance from the active, printing labels as necessary, and setting the racks up for the day staff.  After 8 full hours, there were still two complete double racks of men's clothing that I hadn't gotten to.  Amazing how much there was!  I really kind of enjoyed the task, though; it was a bit like a treasure hunt as we looked for clothing that needed to be marked for clearance.  There were some amazing deals with mark downs of 60, 70, 80 and 90%.  The best deal I saw was a really cute wool winter coat -- originally $160 now 90% off on sale for $16!  Unfortunately, it was a Medium and I wasn't sure it would fit anyone that I knew or I would have grabbed it up.  I did pull out a winter vest for myself -- burnt orange nylon shell with a sherpa lining.

Slept like a top today.  Went to bed immediately upon arriving home (around 6:30) and slept until around 2.  Tonight I'll be back to intake as we're expecting a truck with new merchandise tonight.  During break, I may take a spin around the clearance racks to see what other really good deals there might be.  I've been finding shirts for the kids for $3 and $4.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Last of 2010

Christmas has come and gone, and it was a really great time with family.  When I woke up Friday morning (Christmas Eve day), I didn't feel very well and I was really worried that I'd miss everything.  Steve was sick last year and missed pretty much the whole day.  Got through ok, though I had to compromise on some of the things I had planned.  For instance, no big breakfast on Christmas morning -- just couldn't drag myself out of bed.

We had a good time on Christmas Eve day playing games and shopping and eating.  Ian was with his mom this year so we saved all of our gift opening for Christmas morning.  The kids were all pretty excited and crowded around the tree and the gifts.  We all managed to get through the gift opening with no major injuries or problems -- and I didn't get any pictures!  We did get some photos of the kids around the tree prior to the opening of gifts, fortunately.  If we hadn't gotten that, I wouldn't have anything.  Alex was trying for a big smile and ended up with a grimace.  All of the kids have their Christmas hats on and Anna is wearing her beautiful Christmas dress.  All of them are chomping at the bit to get at the packages and stockings.

After gift opening on Christmas, the kids had some time to actually enjoy the things that they got, and then we headed to Tracy's for the Schilleman family get-together.  Kim, Erkin, and the kids were here this year from Tulsa so it was a big group.  We played games, ate lots of food, and had a ton of great conversation.  The kids all borrowed snow gear and there was some serious sledding, which was kind of a big treat for the kids from Tulsa.

Jeff and I did absolutely nothing on Sunday.  It was football day for him and a day for me to relax, catch up on both sleep and lots of TV shows that I had recorded, and generally just enjoy the free time.  Jeff also had Monday off, but spent some of it at the office and doing some errands.  I was able to clean the house, put away my Christmas dishes, and do some laundry.  [Sidebar about those Christmas dishes:  it seems like a huge pain to get everything out each year just for one meal, but I love those dishes and I'm trying to build a tradition.  It's funny the things that I remember about going to my Grandma's and about things at home when I was a kid.  Maybe no one will remember the Christmas dishes when they grow up, but maybe it will be something that someone remembers.  Anyway, I like the tradition.]  After I got everything cleaned up, I ran to Kohl's to check on my work schedule for this week and to see if I had been scheduled beyond the first of the year.  Turns out they were having a big sale and I ended up spending quite a tidy sum on jewelry for myself and new linens for our bathroom upstairs.  The nice thing about that bathroom:  it's painted white, the tub is white, the shower curtain is white -- all intended to simply serve as a backdrop for whatever color scheme I choose.  I've been using navy and light gray for our towels and accessories, but now I've changed to a light blue and lavender, with a rug that has colors that reminds me of being in the Bahamas or Hawaii.  Very pretty.

I was originally scheduled to work three nights this week (Mon, Tues, and Wed), but they asked me last night if I'd like to work Thursday night as well and I accepted.  I'm still hoping to be retained after this seasonal job is finished so I want to be dependable and available.  As it is, I'm scheduled for one night next week and I think that's a good sign.  I talked to some of the other seasonal folks last night and none of them are scheduled at all beyond this week.  It's not terrible going to work at 9 or 10 p.m., and kind of nice to come out early in the morning before any real traffic starts.  Sounds like the weather is going to get really harsh later this week, though, so I hope my car starts after sitting all night.  It has growled at me a couple of times this winter already after sitting out in the parking lot.

For whatever reason, I just couldn't sleep when I got home this morning.  I dozed on and off from 7:30 'til about noon, then I got up and went to the library for 2 1/2 hours of volunteer work.  I enjoyed being there and I know I'm going to like doing volunteer work when I get into a regular pattern.  Right now, I'm feeling a bit sleep-deprived again and I have to work again tonight.  Should be able to sleep really well tomorrow!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ready to Celebrate

I am sooooooo glad that I stopped the Target job two weeks early.  This week I was able to complete my shopping, catch up on a lot of much needed sleep, and (today alone) I wrapped all of our gifts, got the lasagna started for tomorrow, cooked the sausage for our Christmas morning breakfast, baked a pumpkin and apple pie, and got everything else organized for both tomorrow and Saturday.  Seems a bit bizarre, I know, but I even took care of sorting out some bottle of spirits that we have at the house.  When mom and dad moved to Rice Lake, they had a fairly large selection of spirits sitting in their basement that ended up sitting in my basement!  The evening, I started going through those bottles, as well as the ones that I had on hand, to make sure we have enough for the coming celebration.  I'm thinking some of that might make it over to Rice Lake next weekend in the form of Brandy Slush.

So, I learned something interesting working these seasonal jobs:  by the time Christmas actually gets here, you're ready to move on!  I've been hearing the same taped Christmas songs over and over and over in the stores, and putting out decorations and toys, etc. for people to buy.  Lately, though, we've started to unload merchandise that will come out after the Holidays and it makes me want to move things along already.

The job at Target was during the day and I worked the sales floor and did back-up on the cash registers at the front of the store, in the pharmacy, and in electronics.  I had to listen to screaming children all the time and, frankly, I wasn't that keen on the management team there.  Some of the other workers were great, though.  All-in-all, I'm glad I wasn't offered the opportunity to continue that one as it would have negatively impacted my unemployment to turn it down.  I like being home during the day time.  I like sleeping late, I like going shopping during the day if I feel like it, and I like being available to see the kids if something comes up.

The job at Kohl's is an entirely different thing.  It's in the middle of the night (10-6 or 9:30-5:30), which is fabulous for a night person like me.  I love the whole team that I work with and I even like the job itself, which changes periodically.  Usually, we're unloading and unpacking a truck of merchandise and getting it ready to go out on the floor.  It's fun to see the new stuff coming through, and there is a lot of activity so the times passes quickly.  Also:  no customers and no screaming children!!  There are other times when we're actually stocking the shelves out on the floor, or working to do the price changes and marking things down for clearance.  Let me tell you:  I do a lot of "shopping" while I'm working at Kohl's.  Sometimes I can actually set things aside as I work, and other times I just go back at break and set them aside.  That's another thing that's really different from Target:  at Target, the "guest" gets first shot and the employees can't shop before the store opens.  Of course, I did it anyway and set aside some things for Maggie on Black Friday, and scored some pretty good deals myself over the four weeks -- including my new Dyson vacuum cleaner.

Anyway, I worked at Kohl's on Tuesday night (the only night I'm scheduled this week) and I filled out some papers to close out my seasonal gig (an evaluation) although I'm scheduled 3 nights next week as well.  Then, I was also asked to fill out a form showing my interest and availability in continuing.  Surprising myself, I found that I was interested in continuing the job (at night) on a part-time basis and hope that they offer it to me.  I really like working there once in a while, and I'd love to maintain the employee discount!  I still have a great deal of unemployment to draw on, too, so combining them would stretch the unemployment longer, I think.

Observation:  I'm surprised at the number of Christmas cards we got this year where people didn't buy the Holiday stamps.  Not a big deal, I understand, but it was a bit surprising to someone like me who obsesses over things like that.

Observation #2:  I really like my new glasses.  I've been noticing that I grab my glasses quite frequently to read labels, etc and decided that I might want to think about wearing them on a semi-regular basis instead of just stashing them in my purse for when I go to the movies, etc.  I spent quite a lot of money on these glasses -- almost $600 for the frames and lenses combined -- and that's a lot for me.  Generally, I spend $200 or less on my glasses, but decided to go with designer frames since they're going to be part of my wardrobe.  They're turquoise and brown (which sounds weird, I know, but they look really great), and I have gotten quite a lot of compliments.

Observation #3:  I think I now need a half-size larger shoe than I used to take.  I guess my feet are getting flatter or something because my regular size (9) generally pinches my toes now.  It's amazing how many times I've lost my toenails over the course of my life from wearing shoes that are just a bit too small.  I also learned that, when you plan to walk a great deal (like a marathon), you need to go up a half-size.  Learned that the hard way after doing the Fox Cities Half-Marathon and losing the toenails on both big toes.

Observation #4:  At the risk of sounding extremely unoriginal, I can't believe how quickly time passes.  As I was putting up my Christmas decorations, I was looking at a small quilt that I made (originally as a wall hanging, now it's used under the centerpiece of my table) and remembering when Robin and I took the class where we learned how to make them.  On the back of the quilt, I was smart enough to put a label with my name and date.  I was shocked to see that I had made it in 1990 -- twenty years ago!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Counting down to Christmas

I had been originally scheduled to work at Target a lot of hours this week and next, so it was particularly nice to feel that freedom today.  I slept until noon as I hadn't really caught up on my sleep yet, and headed to Kohl's to finish up a lot of shopping.  This evening, I was able to get everything sorted out and I'm ready to start wrapping gifts.  I may do some of that tomorrow, although I do have some errands to run and I have to work at Kohl's tomorrow night.  Wednesday is double coupon day at the grocery store so I'm saving my grocery shopping 'til then, and Thursday will be spent cooking and baking for our get together on Friday and Saturday. 

I'm finally enjoying the holiday season even though there's only one week left!  Being in the stores all of those weeks with Christmas music playing and decorations everywhere, it took away some of the joy of the season away.  I've only seen White Christmas once this season, and no other Christmas movies at all!

Still, it will be good to get back to normal and get some kind of routine in place.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

All done with Target

On Friday, I was told that Target would not be keeping any of the seasonal people on after the first of the year.  I was told that it was budget/payroll considerations and, as I hadn't planned to stay there anyway, it didn't really matter to me.  [Sidebar:  I really did enjoy working in the pharmacy, though, and might have liked to continue doing that.]  Anyway, I had been struggling with the fact that I'm scheduled to work both Christmas Eve (11-7:30) and New Year's Eve (2-9), which I thought was kind of crummy.  They had worked around several things for me (Anna's BD party, Ian's school concert, Appleton Christmas parade, and the weekend after Thanksgiving), so I felt like maybe I should stay and finish out my commitment.  However, when I was told that the job was ending, and my hours with Kohl's continue strong along with doing some kind of fun things, I decided to pull the plug early.

My discount at Target was 10% as an employee, plus another 5% on any purchase on my Target card.  I got a lot of great deals with my discounts (including my new Dyson vacuum) and was able to snag lots of things as they went on sale before they could be sold.  Those were good benefits.  Some of the people that work there are really nice and I enjoyed the social element very much.  Overall, though, I'll be happy to get my days back and look forward to spending some time doing volunteer work at the library after the first of the year.  This week will need to be dedicated to getting ready for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blessed Event

38 years ago last night I was Christmas shopping and thought I was having some gas pains.  Turns out it was labor pains and, six hours later (2:18 a.m.), I was blessed with a healthy baby boy.  He has grown into a smart and kind man with a lovely wife and two adorable children -- and I thank every day for the blessing I was given.

Happy Birthday, Steve.  I've always been proud to be your mom.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Little Break

I called in sick this morning after working last night at Kohl's. Somewhere in the night I started feeling kinda poorly and spent all day today in bed. Think maybe I picked up something from Alex this past weekend. At least I can catch up on some TV shows that I've recorded.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Half-Way Mark

It was 3 weeks ago today that I had my orientation with Target in the morning and Kohl's that evening.  I started working for both the very next day, and it seems like I've been doing the work forever.  Both jobs have advantages and disadvantages, but running them together has been the biggest problem.  This week has been a blessing so far with big chunks of time where I'm not scheduled to work.  In the last 48 hours, I'm sure I slept 24 of them.  Felt darn good this morning when I got up!

One of the advantages of this schedule has been the continual activity (lots of walking) and I've lost 10 pounds during the 3-week period, along with one toe-nail.  Also had countless bruises, blisters, and a pretty nasty infection that affected various cuts on my fingers as well as my lips.  Almost everything is now healed (or healing) and I found some relief for my toes by wearing Jeff's shoes.  Things seem to be pretty good now, though, so I'm going to go back to wearing my own clothes tomorrow.  The real issue is the extremely dirty environment in which I'm working:  unpacking boxes and working around a lot of people whom I assume are sick.  Every little cut becomes very quickly infected so I'm going through a lot of band-aids.

I can't even imagine the amount of money that I've saved via my discounts -- especially since I probably bought things that I might not have gotten without the discount, but I'm still pretty happy with that aspect of things.

It's the 8th of December and I still don't have my indoor Christmas decorations up, and I have to address and send our Christmas cards.   I have been doing quite a bit of gift shopping, but I don't really have a pattern so the boys might end up with dresses and dolls and Anna might get a basketball!  I'll need to carve out some time to get everything organized and wrapped, and a minimal amount of decorating done.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Some Free Time

I'm finally hitting a week that doesn't have every single second scheduled for work.  I went to bed last night around 7 (I think) after working 3 consecutive 8-hour shifts.  I got up around 11 this morning and feel like I was unconscious.  It's a good thing Jeff was here in case the house caught on fire.  Now, I have all day until 10 tonight free when I go back to Kohl's 'til 6 tomorrow morning.  Then, free until 11 a.m. on Wednesday, and no work Wednesday night, Thursday day or night, or Friday day.  I intend to get my Christmas decorations up this week, some baking started, and I need to sort through the gifts that I've bought and figure out where I am in the process.  Also need to start watching some of my holiday movies.  I always watch White Christmas 2 or 3 times each year and I haven't seen it even once so far this year!  I may also duck into a movie theatre at least once and get caught up on some films that I've been wanting to see.

Jeff put up our Christmas lights outside and they look really nice, but they're all new ones.  We used to have icicle lights that would go the whole length of the roof on the bottom, but they started burning out and looking silly so we got a lighted swag to just hang on the porch this year.  It has big red bows in a couple of spots and there's a Santa with HO-HO-HO stuck in the ground.  It's all very cute, but less light than in past years and I kind of miss the light down near the garage.  I have to finish arranging my wrapped gift boxes on the front porch and put the giant bow on them so that end of the porch doesn't look so empty.

Update on the hot tub:  all fixed!  Jeff had to replace a couple of parts to get it to work, but we're good to go again now.  Whew!  That was a close one.  We've had it for a very long time and I wouldn't want to have to replace it.  The hot tub itself (both inside and out) are still in really good shape and we all rely on having it here.

Jeff is headed off to Oklahoma again this week.  Not sure what the weather is there, but I'm guessing that it's a bit better than the 20 degree days we're getting.  We've been so lucky, though, to have no snow yet.  There was a little bit the other day, but it's gone now and, frankly, it wouldn't break my heart to not have any at all this year.  I'm guessing my shrubs and plants would all freeze hard and die, though, so I guess we need a little for warmth.

Trivial thoughts: 
  • I bought some gloves that specially made to use with ipods.  Stacy got some for Chrismas last year and I've wanted some since then.  I ordered some from Younkers on the day of the big sale and I can barely get them on.  I've always worn small gloves, but these are really small so I guess I'll have to send them back for exchange.  I hate doing that!
  • What is wrong with people?!  I can't believe the number of people who bring their screaming children into Target and just continue to let them scream.  How unbelievably annoying to everyone else!  And, there are the ones who wait forever to come into the store and then they're amazed that we're out of whatever it is they want.  Why don't we keep a special secret stash in the back just for people who wait forever to go shopping?
  • I've been working in the pharmacy at Target and I think I could like doing that on a part-time basis.  Working out on the sales floor is not something I'd want to do on an on-going basis, but I do like the pharmacy.  I'm astonished at the number of prescriptions that some people have to get, and can't imagine how they'd manage without insurance.
  • Update on my lip infection:  the infection itself seems to have disappeared, no more swelling and cracking.  However, the skin on my lips has peeled off more than once as the various layers slough away, so my mouth is still pretty red with new skin.  Getting there, though.
  • When I walked the half-marathon a couple of years ago, I lost toe nails as a result of my toes being pushed into the end of the shoe.  Did a bit of research afterward and found that you should wear shoes a half-size larger when a great deal of walking will be involved.  I should have remembered that when I started working these jobs where I'm on my feet and continually walking for huge periods of time.  I've lost one toenail so far and wouldn't be surprised to lose a couple more.  Had a brainstorm, though:  I started wearing Jeff's shoes on Saturday and it literally saved me for the shifts on Saturday, Saturday night, and yesterday.  The arch support isn't quite as good because the shoe is a bit roomy, but it sure eliminated the pain on the toes.
I'm thinking about going back to England again next Fall.  I spent three weeks there and didn't see half of what I wanted to see.  It seemed like a great time of year to visit -- the weather was great and it wasn't too crowded as school was back in session.  Just thinking about it at this point -- I'll have to start doing some real research after the first of the year.

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Sleeping Place

Got home last evening after working a double shift:  Kohl's overnight for 8 hours and 8 hours at Target during the day.  Grocery shopping after work, followed by a great dinner and cleaning up the mail, etc.  Decided to take a hot bath (Jeff is still working on the hot tub), and filled the tub with hot water and soothing bath salts.  Climbed in and fell asleep in the hot water.  It was great!  A really good soaking for my hands and feet -- both of which needed it.  Slept 'til about 10:30 this morning and now I'll be headed back to Target 'til 9 tonight.  Feel like a hundred dollars though!  And, it's payday!

Side note on payday:  my first week of work ended November 20 and I also filed for unemployment for that week because I didn't make enough working two jobs to offset my unemployment.  I thought that was funny.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day Off

After working continuously for the past week or so, I actually a period of non-work time.  I finished at Target yesterday afternoon at 4:30 and will need to be at Kohl's tonight at 10 p.m.  That's a lot of "me" time all in one chunk!

We went shopping at Kohl's last night because it was double employee discount (30%), plus my 15% pick-a-day card on top of the 50% sale that was going on.  Jeff and I had decided that we weren't going to buy Christmas presents for each other this year and I've been shopping the sales as they come up.  So far, I've gotten a new vacuum cleaner, an electric griddle, a little camera that I can fit in my purse, some new boots, and a milk frother for my chai.  Last night, Jeff got socks and underwear and jeans and nylon jogging pants and a bathrobe.

I had hoped to do some Christmas decorating today, but I'm doing practical things instead.  I had to sort the mail and deal with various things contained therein.  I also went through all of the Christmas shopping that I've been doing and attached the gift receipts before things got too mixed up.  Doing laundry now and thinking about heading back to bed for a little nap.  I've been bringing my library book to work with me to read at breaks as I was missing all of my reading time.

Little update on that infection that attacked my lips (my "unidentified lip fungus"), it's getting a lot better although looking kind of gross as the dead skin sloughs off.  I seriously don't understand how people can look at me without cringing, but I've been applying a little concealer when I have to be in public and I think that helps.  The glands underneath my jawline are still extremely swollen and painful so I know they're fighting this infection and doing their job.  Let's hear it for the immune system!!  I figure the whole thing should be done in another week.

Our hot tub has ceased getting hot.  We may need to rename it "our extremely small indoor swimming pool" instead.  We've had it forever and it's still in really good condition except for that non-heating thing.  Jeff talked to the hot tub store people and got a new something-or-other to replace the thing that isn't working so it can heat again.  Let me tell you:  after being on my feet for 3 or 4 consecutive shifts, sitting in that hot tub has been more attractive to me than sleep!  And, the little kids would be so disappointed if we didn't have a hot tub here when they come to visit.

Well, it's the first of December and we now have a dusting of snow on the ground.  Except for a few flurries that amounted to nothing, this is our first snowfall of the year.  It's so light, though, that I don't expect it to stick around.  Jeff put up my Christmas lights on Sunday and it seems like maybe everyone in the surrounding neighborhood had the same thought.  When I leave at night to go to work, it's really nice to see all of the Christmas lights everywhere.