Friday, January 24, 2014

How Retail Became My Life!



My first real job was working at Hudson’s Department Store.  I remember my interview.  The Human Resources Director was Blanca Fauble, and she was exotically beautiful,  with an accent which made you wonder what South American country she hailed from.

She asked me a few basic questions and then she handed me a coffee mug and told me to sell it to her.  I looked at the mug and then smiled a great big smile and proceeded to tell her that she “really needed this fantastic cup.  It’s really big and will hold enough coffee that you don’t have to refill it as often as a smaller one.  It was a stylish design as well in a basic color which would go with practically any décor and the sleek lines made it different than most other basic mugs available.  It was obviously a mug for someone of a certain class.  Someone ready to define themselves as trail blazers of fashion!”

I got the job and started in Women’s Sportswear.  I met everyone in the department and quickly sized up the personalities.  There were three full time women and then several part timers.  Chris was the maternal worker bee, always helpful and lived by the rules, Kathy was a little negative but a hard worker and Karin was kind of the happy go lucky, helper type.  The part timers must have been rather boring as I cannot remember many of them.  I think I worked really hard and tried to learn the ropes.  Our Department Head, Libby Linder was pregnant when I started.  She had a nasal voice and was very pleasant!  She would write us little motivational notes.

I usually worked about twenty five hours a week in that department but found it easy to pick up shifts as I went along.  Many of the girls were very social and willing to give up weekend shifts so I would do as many as I could.  I learned to ignore the training we received which stated that we had to approach a customer within three seconds of entering our department.  I knew from trying a few times that you would startle them or they’d just leave if they felt intimidated.  

I quickly became the number one salesperson in my department which was funny considering that I wasn’t really trying for that title. I learned quickly that there were a few of the salespeople who were very competitive and jealous of me for surpassing them, Kathy being one of them.  She became very irate and would purposely try to sabotage me with Libby.  I made Libby look good so she ignored the issue.  I learned all of the Managers and their quirks and all the Executives.  I enjoyed my job but after the first few months found myself being somewhat bored by the tasks assigned.

Then one day I pulled an angora sweater out of a bag during a return and all of a sudden I couldn’t breath!  I had to give the return to someone else to do and I had to leave the entire area.  I went to the doctor and was told I had an allergy to wool, angora and about thirty other things.  They also assumed I might be allergic to the formaldehyde that was used to treat MOST fabrics.  The doctor told me that I couldn’t handle being around those fabrics constantly any more.  Wool and angora were very prevalent in the fall of 1984. 

They sent me to Blanca Fauble again because nobody knew what to do with me.  I thought that perhaps I would lose my job but she told me that I had larger sales figures as a Part Timer than the full time people did with almost twice the amount of hours.  She figured that they’d have to find another place to put me with those fine selling skills.  I was happy!

She sent me home and told me to give her a few days.  When I went back she told me that she had come up with an idea of where I could work.  She told me that there was a program that was relatively new called the Gift Selector Program.  It ran from about October through the first of the year and they were in need of an Indoor Sales Representative. 

 She told me that this program was run by the Operations Director for the store, Vern Pachla.  Mr. Pachla was a very intimidating man.  He was second in charge, behind only the Store Manager, and he looked like a mountain!  Probably six foot, three inches and three hundred and fifty  pounds, I was quite honestly scared of him.  I went into his office and Blanca introduced me.  He told me that Karin from my previous department had run  the program the  previous year and they had made about six thousand dollars.  

He explained that there were these booklets called Gift Selectors, which ranged in price from $15 to $150 dollars.  Businesses could buy them and give them to their clients or employees during the Holidays and then the recipient would go through the book (which didn’t have the price on it) and select a gift, they would call the redemption number and order whatever they wanted and it was shipped to them.  I was listening to him intently, and he stated that I would cold call businesses to set appointments for our outside sales rep. and then I would also sell them in the store during the last few weeks before Christmas to those who didn’t make the meet with the outside rep.

Blanca came back in the room and asked Vern how it went and he looked at me, looked at Blanca and said to her, “Well, It would go a lot better if she told me she wants to do it!  Or tell me anything……….she’s just staring at me.”  To which I finally responded that I would be delighted to run the program.

Over the next few months I cold called businesses and got the hang of the program.  I got to know Vern better and really began to like my new job!  I had “banker’s hours” and got to basically do whatever I wanted, which probably rubbed some people the wrong way.  Retail is full of bitter people and I met many of them.
The only thing that got me nervous was that the nearer Christmas got I wondered what would become of me when the job was over.  Where would I go then?  Well, I was ecstatic when Vern took me to lunch three days after Christmas.  He asked me if I had any idea where we ended up financially and I told him that I knew we were over ten thousand but I didn’t know the final number.

We ended that year with nearly nineteen thousand dollars.  Just a bit of a leap from the previous years six!  He told me that he was really proud of the job I’d done and that I had been invited to a luncheon at the home office in Detroit where I had earned a prize for having the highest percentage increase over LY totals!  I got a $50 gift selector and a twenty five cent raise.  Now, the most I had heard of any raise was fifteen cents an hour, so I was in shock!

He also told me that he had decided that I would be his “Girl Friday” and do some special projects for him from time to time.  My next project was to be the Team Lead for Inventory Readiness.  And I learned how to do a store inventory for the next month.  That was a success so he decided when I wasn’t doing special projects for him I would work in the other department he was in charge of and that is how I came to work in the Cash Office!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Nashville



I remember my days in Nashville. Michigan.  We lived on Queen Street and  the Palhamus’s lived next door.  Now the only way I can describe this family is in the limited memories I have of them.  The mother had auburn red hair, all up in the updo that a lot of people did during the seventies, including my Mom.  Mrs. Palhamus’s was more bun ish on top than my Mom’s was.  Mom preferred the basket weave look.  

But I digress.  Mrs. P smoked a lot and had wire rimmed cat’s eye glasses.  She liked to wear polyester pants and short sleeve knit shirts of varying patterns.  Usually she was dressed in browns and beige.  There were always a lot of broken down cars in their driveway….or they worked on their cars a lot and there were the kids.  I remember Marsha and Jimmy.  Marsha, a year ahead of me in school, had a brown coat with beige fur on the wrists and hood.  She must have worn it a lot because all of my memories of her include it.

Jimmy was slow; really slow.  He was very awkward looking and had that look of; well, just stupid on his face.  I would try to be kind but really he was just not very bright at all.  He was always doing things wrong and getting in trouble all of the time.  There wasn’t a day that went by without hearing his dad yell, “Jimmy, get in here!”  More times than not, the police would show up and ask Jimmy about something that was missing in town that he’d been accused of taking.

One summer we went to my Uncle’s farm and got some huge bloodstones.  I believe that they weighed at least twenty pounds a piece or more and were quite a large size.  We put them in our side yard, next to the Palhamus house.  One day we came home from somewhere and those huge rocks were missing.  Gone.  Vanished.  My Mom yelled right across the street, “Jimmy Palhamus, I am giving you exactly one minute to bring my rocks back!  I know it was you who took them!”

Out pops Jimmy and he looks at my Mom and says, “I didn’t steal those rocks!  Those are GOD’s rocks, so I didn’t steal them from you!”  To which my Mom looked at him and without missing a beat said to him, “Well, Jimmy, if God’s rocks don’t make it back to MY yard quickly, you can explain the whole God thing to Gene (Koetje the police chief).

Jimmy reluctantly returned the rocks and all was well….for a while.  I really don’t know how many kids they had.  They might have even been foster parents.  The tragic kind, not the good kind.  The dad got roaring drunk most nights and I don’t ever remember the Mrs. Having a smile on her face.  It was just sad.  

Nashville was full of interesting people.  Our other next door neighbor was Maude.  She was from England and I loved going over to her house just to hear her speak.  Also her house was filled with velvet upholstered antiques and you could look each time you visited and see some new little Victorian style trinket.  I was in love with her accent and everything about her.  

I remember the time that I went over as she was getting ready to eat and she asked if I’d like to join her.  I took one look at the dish and quickly told her that I really had to get home!  I went home freaked out telling my Mom that her dinner looked like a big tongue.  I did not know that cow’s tongue was  something ANYONE would eat and when I saw it on the platter, smelling lovely but looking like a tongue………..well, at least I remembered my manners!

Then there were the Silkies across the street.  They were Jehovah’s Witness.  Susie Silkie was my sister’s age and she had an older sister Theresa.  Wanda was the mom and I remember her being friendly with my Mom but I always felt bad for Theresa and Susie when it came to their birthdays and Christmas. We always felt guilty about having new things around them.  I didn’t really understand the whole Jehovah’s Witness thing and I hated it that Wanda always said that she was sad that we wouldn’t be with them in the Promised Land.  

Then there was the lady who worked at the bank.  We always made May Day Baskets for all the older ladies around town.  I had never given her a basket before because, honestly, she scared me.  She never looked happy to me, but that year Mom told me we should include her on our basket list.
So I fashioned my baskets out of doilies, rolling them up and stapling or gluing them.  I picked all the lovely flowers from our back yard or near my grandma’s yard.   

It depended on what was available but usually some lilies of the valley, violets, daffodils or tulips.  I made handles for the baskets and then the idea was to quietly go up and hang a basket on the door knob, ring the doorbell and then go hide!

I don’t think we hid really well because all the ladies usually saw the basket and then found me and thanked me with a big smile on their face.  That is until the year we did Bank Lady.  She came to the door and saw the flowers, saw me and got mad!  She accused me of taking the flowers from her yard and told me that it wasn’t nice to cut people’s flowers.  I was devastated.  I looked at her as I was crying and said, “But I would never take YOUR flowers!  I picked them from our yard like we do every year!”  And I ran home.  Apparently she felt very badly because she apologized to me soon afterward but I never did place another basket on her door.

Friday, January 10, 2014

My Parents: A Love Story



My Parents:  A Love Story
Throughout my entire life I have seen my parents give of themselves for others. My mom was a teacher and gave to her students above and beyond what she taught in the classroom.  The evidence of the job she did can be seen by the sheer numbers of friends on facebook who happen to be former students…approximately three generations of them!
She challenged her school board’s strict rules many times by telling girls about planned parenthood and we had several students come live with us when they simply didn’t know where to turn during crisis.  Dad coached my brother’s baseball team and I remembered the police coming to our door to talk to him.  They had one of his kids in the car and asked if he could stay with us as he’d been taken out of his home for a violent situation.  They told him he had to go into foster care and he said he’d run away and the only place he’d go is to Coach’s house.  It was the way they were.  They did what needed doing.
My sister and I used to get upset when we saw them get taken advantage of time and again due to their inability to say No to anyone or to being taken in by someone with less than honest intentions.  Even though they might have been used, they would take in the next child or help the next person without a thought of their intentions.  It was their way.
Upon selling our business in Michigan they moved to Arizona full time to be near the rest of the family which had also fallen in love with the Valley of the Sun and slowly all migrated down full time ahead of them.  There always seemed to be something going on in the park and the friends they had made them happy.  Dad seemed to love puttering around his place, fixing things up and adding a plant here and a pot there.  He built new steps and then built a bigger porch.  They helped with Activities and played shuffleboard.  I heard a lot about discontented people fighting over any number of things from Who called Bingo best to who would be in charge of keys to the supply closet.
Management came and went.  My parents helped everyone they could with getting utility programs in place for those on fixed incomes, they provided food and relief when the need was shared. And they have taken people to doctor’s appointments, the airport, the grocery stores and more.  They took on any number of committee jobs that others didn’t want to do the work for including AMHO.  They got daily calls for everything from people upset about questionable activity going on in suspected drug houses to snakes in someone’s yard to dealing with people off their mental health medications. Many times at a cost of not being able to do other things as their time was taken up doing things for the community.
They did so without complaint.  They have done many things that they never took credit for and they have paid a price for it.  Dennis and I became involved helping with Saturday breakfast and saw the amount of work that took each week for just the few who showed up to volunteer. We believed it was a great way to help Mom and Dad out and give back to their great community.  We helped at the cookouts each year and those were a success.   Dad called Bingo.  They got to the point where they were so busy they had NO time for themselves and it got to be too much.  So they decided to give up AMHO and since nobody else would take it over they shut it down and sent the leftover money back to the State Board.
They chilled out for half a minute.  Until they started seeing a lot of things going downhill.  People were upset that the community was becoming infused with drug dealers and unsavory characters.  So Dad organized the crime prevention program and started getting security lights for those who couldn’t afford them. Water was always out, roads had huge potholes… They finally talked with corporate after feeling like they were not getting what they needed from the Park.  The park ownership decided that they would make great liaisons to explain what needed to improve so the Improvement Committee was formed.  Those not asked to be on this committee became upset and had their feelings hurt.
My parents set up and went through training for the PNP.  They wanted to keep their community strong and safe.  They wanted to continue the work they had started with the Crime Prevention program already in place.  Some people must have thought that my parents were trying to get attention and praise.  Those people do not know them very well.  They are not about being recognized nor are they full of themselves.  They are prideful but in a good way.  They are proud of being good stewards of the world.
I am not really sure why the individuals at the park who are mad at them now are upset with them.  I cannot explain how some would come to harm and misrepresent others….but I do know that they have wronged my parents and in doing so they have shown their true selves.  To question and try to negate the good that my parents have done for SO MANY people in this park makes me weary. To practically accuse them of illegal activity is horrendous. The innuendo and outright insinuations are preposterous. I have seen the stress this has caused them and I will NOT forgive NOR forget as they probably will.  I am not naïve.  I have learned caution and distrust just by the nature of watching those who seek to harm good people.
I will be watching for those who wish to do harm.  I will keep a tally and I will not forget.  I am not my parents and I know have my own abilities to help them with this issue.  Do not think they are alone.

Friday, January 3, 2014

What is Love?



I remember just knowing that I was going to have a girl when we found out we were pregnant.  The “knowing” was just there in my mind.  I remember the amazing feeling that came over me the moment that it was confirmed that I was pregnant.  I was thirty five when I found out.  I grew up thinking that I never wanted to GIVE birth.  No way I was going through all that big belly and the pain of child birth.  I was going to adopt!  That thought was still with me at the age of thirty something with one failed marriage behind me and no options in sight.
I made a decision to give myself one last year to find a viable mate with whom to adopt with…….or maybe try to have a baby.  The older I got the more that the idea of giving birth seemed to get better.  Still wanting to adopt as well but perhaps seeing if I could have a child as well.  So I gave myself ONE year to find a partner.  Along came Dennis through an internet search.  We met and things took off from there.  He was the kind of man you could imagine being a dad.  I was hooked.  We were married less than two years after starting to correspond. 
I went off my birth control before we were married.  I knew that with depo it took about a year and a half to get pregnant after stopping.  That was 1998.  By the year 2000 I was getting worried that adopting might be our only option.  No pregnancy yet and news that older women taking depo not being able to conceive being heard.
Then one day in late October of 2000 I was cooking hamburger and was so upset to find out that it smelled bad.  So I threw it out and got another package out.  I started cooking it again.  Dennis got home from work then and I asked him to smell it.  It smelled disgusting to me.  He said not only was that burger fine but so was the stuff in the trash!  I had an odd thought.  I said that my sister always thought meat was bad when she was pregnant.  So Den bought a test the next day on his way home from Toronto and we sat on the edge of the tub waiting for three minutes.  I jumped up at the end and ran to look at the tab:  TWO pink lines!!!!  My hunch had been right!
I called my sister first as we’d been wondering together and then I called Arizona.  Mom answered the phone.  I told her that sorry to say we would need to make some arrangements for the store the following summer because I was going to be doing something that would use up a lot more of my time but it was something that Dennis and I considered important enough to do.  She said, “Well, we will make due no matter what.  We have time to plan.”  I then went on to tell her we would also need to have enough people lined up to cover the entire store during probably the 4th of July.  Being the busiest holiday, this would not be very easy.
She said “Okay…” at which point I said,  “because I will probably be at the hospital having your next grandchild!”  And I think Mom lost it.  Then I got to turn around and have the same conversation with my Dad who hadn’t heard it.  They were both crying at this point.
I had an amazingly easy pregnancy.  I felt better than I had in a long time…which shocked me. I knew before the ultrasound that I was having a girl and we began the name game! I actually lost over seventy pounds during the whole time and the only glitch I had was finding out I was gestationally diabetic so I ended up giving myself shots for the last two months and being heavily monitored.  I played a lot of diverse music to my tummy and sang and read outloud a lot to the munchkin growing inside me.  I embraced my belly and was extremely happy.
Due to the diabetes, I was induced early, as soon as she was big enough to survive…still at 39 weeks, considered full term.  It was June 27th so we’d be in the store by the Holiday!  I was induced at 9:30 a.m. and she was born at 6:30 p.m.  All 6 pounds 15 ounces and 21.5 inches of her.  I had an epidural and an amazing painkiller so I was still out of it when she actually arrived.  I remember looking over at her and wondering who the blonde baby belonged to as I had a private birthing room!
After she was checked and wrapped up I assumed that Dennis would bring her to me and I was really ready to meet her.  Instead he whooshed right on by me and out in the hall where all the grandparents were standing, waiting to be introduced.  A few moments later, she was in my arms and I was meeting the child who shared my body for so many months.    The bond was maternal and eternal!  What is love?  This is love!  The magical moment you hold your child in your arms for the first time.  I have never known a fiercer feeling of love than I did at that moment.  It was truly the moment my life changed more than it ever had previously.  Love is the feeling you get when magic appears in your life!  For me that is McKenna Ann Elizabeth!