Saturday, December 29, 2018

The J. Crew Adventure

This year my plan to take on a big adventure took a back seat to the publication of both my novels.  Real Estate also kept me hopping, so there was very little time for adventure until....

I decided to apply for a seasonal job at one of my very favorite stores...

J. Crew

The job was only supposed to last from the first of November until January 2nd, which was perfect for my schedule.

Not only was this a bucket list adventure, I was also very excited about the discount (60% for 6 items per month, then 40% thereafter) and knew that it would work great with my Fashion Instagram and Facebook. 
(When I first moved to Texas I worked at a popular boutique and I always did a flatlay of a new outfit each day and would post on social media) 
However, I quickly found out my very first day there would be no time for such things. 

As soon as I arrived I was put on the floor - no training, no pep talk, no nothing - which was no problem for me as I've worked retail before and knew practically everything there was to know about the merchandise since I owned most of it.  
Had I not had the experience, though, it would have been very awkward.  

Before you start thinking "It's only retail, how hard can it be?", let me assure you that this place is VERY corporate.
And extremely fast-paced.  
There was never a slow time let a lone a 'down' time. The store was always packed. 
Even though the managers were very good to keep us fully staffed we all still ended up waiting on 3-4 customers at once. 

Because of that I was always running to the stockroom to find an item, climbing up/down ladders, carrying merchandise back to the fitting room then back to the floor and constantly cleaning up after people. Talk about great exercise - (I  was so sore I jokingly accused the scheduling manager of trying to kill me) - I went down a whole size!!

Needless to say there was never time to pick an outfit to showcase on my blog/Instagram, and honestly, I don't think it would have been looked highly on to begin with. 
I was there to sell and ONLY sell (which I loved, by the way).
As I said earlier - very corporate.
They did not expect nor did they want anything 'creative' from their employees.
Everything by the book.

Day 3 I was called in by the manager who so graciously offer me the 'holiday managers' position. 
At first I said yes, but after the second day I declined. 
 While they promised to take 2 weeks to train me, no one ever took the initiative. No training videos. No one standing beside me to go through things step by step. 
Nothing.
And of course every time a customer came to the check-out with some dilemma there was never a manager to be seen.
It was a recipe for disaster.
No, thank you.

So back to the sales floor I (happily) went. 

For the most part customers were so nice and I loved interacting with everyone. 

A few really stood out for me - 
One woman I'd guess to be in her 70's and 80's - a very beautiful redhead - was trying on a beautiful shiny gold jacket and matching boots. 
I kid you not, she looked DIVINE. 
The gold was perfect with her hair and complexion. 
She ROCKED those boots. 
Just as suddenly as her enthusiasm had blossomed it just as quickly waned and her smile faded.
"I have nowhere to wear this," she said quietly as she handed both back to me.
"You have EVERYWHERE to wear it," I replied. "You came here."
I could see the wheels whirring in her mind.
"You go the grocery store. You run errands. Honey - you get out of bed and go the kitchen, don't you? DON'T let that be an excuse for looking and feeling fabulous."
She wasn't budging.
"Look," I said, backing off a bit. "I don't work on commission. I'm just wanting  you to have something that makes you feel great, and I never accept the excuse from women that they don't have anyplace special to wear something. Every day and every place is special. So, I'll put them back until the end of the day and give you a chance to think about it."
The next morning I checked the 'hold' closet and the coat and boots were in the exact same place I'd left them.
How sad.

A few days later another woman - a young woman (and her 5 friends) comes in and walks straight to these mules on display:
Her eyes lit up like the 4th of July and she kicked her shoes off at lightning speed to try them on. 


"I LOVE these," she exclaimed, admiring her feet.
"NO!" boomed two of her friends in unison. "Get them off NOW!"
Her whole countenance deflated.
"But they're beautiful. I noticed them online and they're even prettier in person."
"Sure they're beautiful," sneered the other friend -"for my GRANDMOTHER."
After more chastising from the girls she removed the shoes and placed them neatly back on the display and walked away.
As one of the girls was paying for her purchases she came back and gazed longingly at the shoes.
"Honey, if you love them get them - don't let anyone dictate to you what you can or cannot wear.'
Just as she was asking me to get her size the friends walked by again and belted out 
"GRANDMA shoes."
It broke my heart to watch her whole demeanor slump at their commanding words.
"Never mind," she said quietly, trailing behind them.
 I'm guessing these shoes were not the first time - and wouldn't be the last time she gave in to peer pressure.

Moving right along....
Let's talk about my co-workers.
I freaking LOVED them!!
Every single one of those people were a joy to be around.
They made work fun and I couldn't wait to see them every day.
There was never a problem except for the time I caught one of the men working the fitting room.
Without thinking and probably letting my age speak I gasped, "You can't be in here! It's inappropriate!"
The manager set me straight real quick and I never brought it up again - not even when women complained that it was 'weird' or 'creepy'  and not even when one of my twenty-something young co-workers expressed her concern with it.  
Not even when the young man himself confided in me that he was very uncomfortable with it.

All in all I loved the experience and I was even hoping that maybe I could stay on for a few days a week after the holiday.

But alas that hope abruptly ended when THIS happened:

A few days before Christmas Eve a young man and woman (mid-20's) entered the store wearing matching shirts. I don't exactly remember what the shirts said other than a line that read
'young couples retreat' - that's kinda important for you to know, so keep that in the back of your mind.

Anyway, they asked me a question about what all was on sale and after answering them I noticed the young man was carrying about 5 heavy bags.
Upon noticing said heavy bags I offered him something that I'd offered at least a hundred other people that ever graced our threshold.

"Sir, you are more than welcome to put your bags down, have a seat on the couch and just relax. A lot of husbands and boyfriends do that, and you're welcome to do the same."

A few minutes later he marched up to me and asked to speak to the manager.

Before I could walk away to get the manager he got very close to me and leaned down close to my face-

"I want to talk to the manager about you! YOU tried to assign me a gender role. How dare you!"

 I'm frantically thinking 'gender role, gender role. What the heck is that?'

"You think JUST because I'm a man that I want to - or I SHOULD sit here on this couch. Well, WHAT if I wanted to shop??"

Then it hit me what he meant and I gathered my senses.

"Sir, I am so sorry. Of course you are most welcome to shop. We welcome anyone who wants to shop in our store."

"I want to talk to the manger NOW."

I try to sidestep around him to fulfill his request 
(at this point I want the manager) but he won't let me pass.

"And how DARE you assume that just because I'm the man that I'm a husband or boyfriend. You should never try to assign someone a gender role! Get me the manager NOW!"

Believe me - I was trying like crazy to get the manager, and still he stepped back in front of me, face red with anger and cheeks shaking as he continued to berate me 'for assigning him a gender role'.

By the way, have I have mentioned that I have PTSD? 
I'm very high-functioning and not much fazes me.  
 I pretty much have it under control - unless I feel threatened, as probably a lot of people might if a big, muscular guy was mad as Hades and blocking your way.

(His behavior also scared the young lady that was working with me that evening.)

"Just let me get the manager. I think you're a snowflake, but I'll get the manager."

Of course after talking to my manager she walks up and asks if I called him a snowflake and of course I admitted that I had.

I walk up to him, extend my hand and apologize.
"Look, I'm sorry I called you a 'snowflake'. I shouldn't have done that. Are we cool?"

He accepts my handshake and goes,

"Aaaannnd????"

My manager nudges me.

"I am not going to apologize for being hospitable. I'm just not. This whole 'trying to assign a gender role' is a political movement and I refuse to give in to it."

I walked away as he angrily had words with my manager.

Everything was fine the next few days but I knew it wasn't over.
Sure enough, the on-duty manager and my main manager called me in to the office at the end of my shift.

They were both angry at me that I had refused to apologize to this young man. 

In all honesty I don't think either one of them had a clue as to what really transpired. 
 This man was making a political statement and I refused to play along. Should I have called him a 'snowflake?' 
Of course not -even though that's the term for the way he was behaving.

But I digress.
The manager wanted me to sign a document in which I refused, not even giving her a  chance to explain exactly what exactly the document was.
I'm guessing it was something to admit my 'guilt', or to say that I had been 'reprimanded', - something about the incident to put in my HR file. 

Reminding myself that they have know clue who that I'm a writer, and that my husband is a political insider, I start 
picturing all kinds of ways this could go badly in a very, very public way I say,

"I think it's best that I just end my time here today."

One manager almost cries and tries to talk me out of it.
The main manager says matter of factly,
"If you can't take constructive criticism then that's probably best."

Honey, I've taken constructive criticism from people that have graced the cover of Time magazine...
is what I'm saying on the inside.

But of course on the outside I simply say,
"Thank you so much for taking a chance on me. I've had a really great time and I appreciate everything."

And just like that, this adventure comes to an abrupt end. 
Not exactly the way I planned it, but an end nonetheless.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my time and I'd do it all over again given the chance.

In summary, the people were wonderful, I loved moving around - it was exercise without hanging out at a gym and the best part was it was a paid adventure -
not to mention the discount.

So...I would rate this experience a B Minus.

Now, off to plan my adventure for 2019!
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Quick! - name a Christmas gift you received as a child.

I can honestly tell you that I don't remember one and I haven't talked to anyone that does.

That's why we do Christmas 'memories' rather than Christmas gifts. 
(Disclaimer: I do make a trip to the Dollar Store for a few fun trinkets.)

This year our Christmas Memory/Experience was a Christmas Eve Hayride!

We bought the hay from a local farm here in Rowlett. 
 Christmas dress from Target - best $19 spent this season!



I made a hearty potato soup that morning so all I'd have to do is heat up when the guests arrived.

Below, Grandma Santa's Elf is baking goodies for the hot chocolate bar we'll enjoy after the hayride.


 Here is my secret for mmmmm-good brownies and Christmas cookies...Pillsbury and Duncan Hines.

Look, I'm Hillbilly Debutante....not Pioneer Woman.
Besides, they're just as good as homemade, I promise - 


I'd rather spend my precious time setting the ambiance.....



....making everything merry and bright


Dinner by candlelight....






Christmas Wonder....
(missing 2 grandchildren here - one sneaking a brownie before dinner, and one in Virginia not able to make it)



We waited for dark then all climbed on the hay wagon for the ride through the neighborhood looking at the beautiful Christmas lights and light show!
I decided not to take pictures or video - I just wanted to live in the moment, savor every single squeal of delight and breathe in the cool, crisp open air. 


It truly was magical!

 We ended the night with excited chatter and laughter around the hot chocolate bar - adults and children alike.


Christmas Experience 2018 was a HUGE success!

I need to start planning on how I am going to top this next year. 




On second thought...
I think we just might have a new tradition!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas!

Til next time,

Kathie

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Year of Charlotte


No more sitting in the drivers seat brooding because I can't drive my 1972 Chevy pickup 'Charlotte.' 

Actually, this was the day the fabulous Lucy Krodell and I had planned on driving ol' Charlotte out to an open field for a rustic, country photo-shoot.
You know, for the typical "just a girl and her truck' theme, but alas 'Charlotte' was not in the mood.
She didn't even turn over. Dead silence.

-
(photo credit: Lucy Krodell, blouse: Free People jeans: Ralph Lauren, boots: Boot Barn

Anyway, she now has a new battery and is fixing to get new brakes.
Her current brakes are fine, but of course they're 1972 brakes, which means you have to push to the floor before they work - Yikes! 

There really isn't a lot that needs to be done - she has a fairly new motor and her interior is in good shape. We'll take care of the other issues that need attention and then save the beauty makeover for last...

Even though I think she's beautiful as she is---


imagine what she will look like when she's painted my FAVORITE colors!


RED and WHITE! 

Just one of the many things I'm looking forward to in 2019!


Some dayMost days my free-spirited rebellious nature gets the best of me and I just have to buck the trend...
Which is how I ended up at work (J Crew) in my white tu-tu and red cowboy boots!


-To my credit though, the cardigan, shirt and pearls are all J.Crew -

It turned out to be a most special day because, really - WHO can resist smiling and interacting with an older woman proudly wearing a tut-tu? 
AND...literally every single child that came in with their parents thought I was Mrs. Claus.
I got so many hugs, smiles and 'wide-eyed-wander' looks!
Nothing but love aaaalllll day, not to mention they were all exceptionally well-behaved because they didn't want a bad report getting back to Santa.



And speaking of working at J Crew - 

It's FUN!
I wasn't prepared for how much exercise it would be, so the first week was painful - but in a good way. I worked muscles I didn't know I had, and the BEST part is dropping a whole dress size! Woo-hoo!

Another great advantage is that it's gotten me out of the house which gets my creative juices flowing.

The drive home gives me time to think - which is when I come up with my best material for my next novel.

I hope all of you are enjoying all the days that lead up to Christmas and the festivities that come with the holiday.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Over the river and through the woods....


Instead of exchanging gifts our family is very into 'experiences'.

We always let the grandkids pick what they want their Christmas Experience to be and the past few years they have chosen
 'Medievil Times.'

When asked this year they both cried out in unison,
"Medieeevvvvil Tiiiimmmes."

I admit...I spoil the grandkids a little more than I should and I reeeally hate to say 'no', but I just absolutely cannot watch one more round of jousting for the 3rd straight year in a row.
(However, if you haven't been you really need to!)



So. This year I decided to redirect.
But what?
One of their favorite things to do when they come to my house is to have tea - and we pull out all the stops. 
We use the silver tea set, with tea sandwiches, cookies or crumpets. 
We dress nice and place beautiful linens across our laps, and I pretend to not notice that they put way more sugar (and I mean way more) in their tea than their mother would ever allow.

   Afternoon Christmas Tea at The Ritz Carlton seemed like the perfect gift this year.

But one night while I was taking Lillian out for her last constitutional before bedtime, the crisp autumn air combined with the big sparkling Texas sky reminded me of the old time FFA Hayrides we had in high school.
The lightbulb still didn't come on until I took my first stroll through the neighborhood on Thanksgiving night to see the Christmas Light Show which is absolutely MAGICAL!!

Then BINGO! The idea hit me - a Christmas Eve Hayride to see Christmas lights!

So, here's the trailer we will use.
 I've already found the hay from a nearby farm!



I made the announcement to the family a few days ago and not only were the kids ecstatic but so were the grown-ups!

First we will fill up on a nice hot soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Then we'll bundle up for the hayride and come back for 
Christmas Cookies and a Hot Chocolate Bar.

I am hoping this will be a yearly tradition.

I'd love to hear about YOUR Christmas and Holiday traditions. 

til next time - 

Kathie and Lillian