It begins..

in the morning before I even get out of bed, usually somewhere between 7-7:30am. I check my phone and there will always be several messages – Can I have this product, can I have that product, how much do your products cost from a new customer (that is a standard Facebook question that customers can pick from a list) what hours are you open, is this still available..

Most of these questions I can easily answer from the comfort of my bedspace. Some of them require the computer, or for me to go and check stock manually. I usually put those things off until after my shower. But sometimes if it is just a quick task – like sending a link or photo I can’t send from my phone, I might run out and do it, pre coffee, pre shower.

Once showered and caffeinated, it is time to survey my vast domain. I set the cameras up on my tablet so I can watch the front door wherever I might be in the house. What needs doing right now, urgently? Are any packages due?

What is on the to-do list for today? Which customers are due to appear and at what times? What household chores are due to be done today? Does the dishwasher need emptying and filling? What is for lunch? What is for dinner? What admin tasks do I need to do?

Lunch is usually crackers with egg and tomato. I like to try and take an hour long break here if I can. Back in the pre-COVID days I used to nearly always manage it.

Since Scomo declared puzzles to be an essential item and my products are very nearly a puzzle, I am now lucky if I can get a whole half hour without someone asking me for something. You would think I would just say.. that can wait until I’m done with lunch. But that is not how I like to roll.

Maybe what I like is just not going to be a good plan going forward. Maybe people can wait a short while for a reply. Maybe I can set my business messaging system to give an away message at the lunch hour. Maybe the constant interruption of my trains on their tracks is making work harder than it needs to be.

When it is time to prepare dinner I like to listen to a podcast as I do it. I have the tablet with the cameras on in front of me, so I can see if a customer appears. At the moment I am re-listening to the Breaking Bad Insider Podcasts, and also to the Better Call Saul Insider podcasts, and sometimes the latest Clear + Vivid with Alan Alda.

Dinner time, we like to watch an episode of Seinfeld together.

If I am very lucky in these current COVID times, I may now have the evening to myself without any phone beeping and customer wants and needs. It is unlikely though. Most nights there will be a few customers who need things.

Two nights a week we do a business related ZOOM chat for two and a half hours with some of our customers who would normally be here in the studio on those same nights. This week I was so exhausted I very nearly called it off, but I don’t want to disappoint people. So I struggled through it.

Some days – like yesterday – I receive my last request from a customer at 10:15pm. This customer is ordering two items. At the end of every day I’m truly exhausted – whether it is from the constant interruptions to my trains of thought, actual work and effort, or just the brain fog of our current circumstances I cannot be certain.

The dryer is beeping. I ponder whether I should rise and put this stock aside before I go to bed – one of them is hanging up on the wall and I will need a chair to get it down, or whether I should answer the urgent beeping of the dryer.

I’ll save the getting down of stock for the morning. And it will be early, again. Because I chose to do a delivery run in the afternoon to customers who are self isolating, word is out that the studio will be closed for nearly 5 hours. Thus, 10 customers are coming to collect things between 9-12. It will be a miracle if they don’t overlap.

Unlike having an actual workplace where you go to do work and then return home to do.. life.. working from home = working pretty much all the time. I now believe I need to change this before I reach burnout status. The first change is to set actual working hours.

I’d like to say 10-6 for all the days going forward but there is always going to be queries in the evenings and first thing in the morning.

Maybe if I say 8am I can do a quick check in and answer any overnight queries and then put myself back to “away” for the next hour and a half, and claim that time as me time.. but then if I need to do a post office run I usually like to go as soon as they open.. you see things are not as easy as just setting hours.

I could try 8-4 as working time with a quick check in before bedtime, but then you miss people being able to drop in on their way home from work, and I like to have some me time in the morning as well. There are consequences to every option.

Maybe better to-do listing is the answer.. I don’t know. But one thing I do know.. in the first three months of this year, the business has done as much turnover as it did in the last 6 months of 2019.

It is getting busier. I am seeing many new customers, many of whom were referred by current customers. All of that is great.. it is just I am not sure how to make it work so I can separate work from home more.

I’m going to go and enjoy a rare evening off, if I can. Lets not jinx me now, but it has been nearly an hour since the phone last beeped at me. Good Friday Night, maybe people are eating fish and chips and watching teevee? That’s what I would like to do, watch some teevee. :)


Not Quite Over

I thought I had finished my Black Friday rant but turns out I am still ranty about it. I received the above in an email on Sunday. Friday cannot be on a Sunday, Kmart. That is not how days work!

According to my shopping emails, Black Friday began here on Friday the 22nd of November and it continued to Sunday the 1st of December. Black Friday involved a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, the actual Black Friday, second Saturday, and a second Sunday. What an amazing day to last 10 days. And then it was Cyber Monday, sure, fine, whatever, but now I wake up this morning to this email?

You are going to make cyber week out of cyber Monday? NO I MUST DECLINE THIS.

Bad enough that in the space of Cyber Monday, the retailers that I gave my email address sent me 59 emails. On a good day I get 12-14 and I don’t mind it, I like to keep in the loop of what is happening though I very rarely buy anything now. But no, just because you have my email address does not entitle you to send me multiple emails in one day. I expect one per day. Anything more, and we’re breaking up. So I have a few retailers to unsubscribe from now.

To add insult to this injury, in Australia Black Friday has a very different meaning – it refers to a terrible bushfire event in 1939 where 71 people died in the fires.

I’d accept this retail insanity IF we had the Thanksgiving to go with it as they do in the US. But we do not. So it is just an excuse for the shops to try and get us to spend $$, and we have more than enough of those already.

Annoyed Snoskred, shopping

I’m not normal, this we know already.

You would have thought after my post last week that Friday would have been a huge day of parcel arrivals here in Snoskredland. Rather sadly it was not. I can’t remember if anything did arrive at all, my feeling is that it didn’t. On Monday a couple of parcels dribbled in but luckily they contained much of what I had been waiting for.

I’ve been in customer service for much of my lifetime. In my experience, most people, when they lodge a complaint, are not especially nice about it. I’ve learned that if you can be polite, friendly, and even funny if possible, the customer service folks will appreciate that and tend to go the extra mile for you. Thus far anytime I have lodged a complaint the package arrives within 24-48 hours.

What does a complaint from me look like? Something like this –

Dear Post People,

Could you possibly extricate my package of 6 lions from wherever they are hiding out and send them home to me as I expect they are getting quite hungry by now.

Alternatively, let me know if they have escaped and eaten all the staff at your facility, though I suspect I would have seen something like that on the news but then again, the media these days a story like that could get ignored in favour of Aldi’s sale item that will change your life.

Thank you very much in advance!

Yes that was an actual article on the day I wrote it – checking back today I saw this article. It makes me wonder how much Aldi are paying for this – or alternatively whether the writers at news sites simply don’t bother to look for actual news anymore.

The customer service agent who received my note about the lions appreciated it so much that he actually called me. He said it made his day and he had to call and speak to the person who wrote it to update me personally. And he gave me bonus points for using the word extricate. We had a lovely chat, which made my day in return. I’d mostly spent it constructing tricky triangle boxes and rolling stuff up to go in them.

What is the point in getting angry and writing angry things when that rarely achieves anything? Much better to do a little creative writing and try to give those poor customer service folks a smile. They really need it, I can vouch for that.

My lions package should arrive today. Fingers crossed anyway. :)


Dropping It Off

Have you seen this Pakman letterbox out and about in your travels? Probably not because unlike me, you are probably not walking the local streets doing a letterbox drop. It is quite a marvel – allows your postie or couriers to drop in a parcel and only you can retrieve it. But it is an Up Money marvel selling for around $499.

You know it has been years since I did this kind of thing, 28 years to be approximate. I was a Christmas Postie for 2 years when I was 16/17 and only quit after a dog bite. I would have kept doing it because I enjoyed it, but I developed quite a fear of dogs after two attacks.

One was the dog of a friend when I visited which was much more a mauling than a bite. I ended up in hospital after that one and was on crutches for a week. I still have nerve damage and the scars from that attack. The second was while working as a postie and that was the last day I did that job. After that I did have a fear of dogs for a long time. Eventually I mostly got over it thanks to some wonderful dogs I made friends with.

I don’t enjoy letterbox dropping. The thing I really don’t comprehend is how can anyone put a No Junk Mail sticker on their letterbox.

First up I am never lucky enough to get junk mail – we never seem to have someone who delivers it here. Secondly, just how cut off from your local community do you want to be? How do you find out about new things happening if you won’t let any of the folks who take the time to make a flyer and bring it directly to your own house communicate with you? It is your loss.

There should be perhaps another sticker – no commercial catalogues, local flyers accepted. You can always make your own sticker!

We are making our own down money version of the Pakman. I am here most of the time to receive packages but when I have a day off I would like to be able to go out without worrying about possible package deliveries and things being stolen.

Speaking of receiving packages..

Looks like the package deities might be about to smile upon me. I mean some of those things now in Sydney have ONLY been stuck in Melbourne (AKA The Package Black Hole) for an entire week. And those things now in Melbourne will likely arrive around this time next week.

Annoyed Snoskred, work

The New Setup Part 2

Following on from the previous post – Above you see the Kitty Nirvana which has some of their toys and their kitty litter enclosure.

I can use this mobile screen above to block this area off, if I don’t want folks to see it. At the moment it is blocking off the drying area and my private lounge area –

The drying area is a suntrap for the kitties and they have cat towers to recline in and enjoy the sun here. Usually one or the other is in the round basking area – in the next photo you see Happy has made her way there.

My area is screened off from the bright sun area – too much light gives me a headache. I have my recliner, the other half has his Ikea chair, the treadmill is back behind me near the curtains out of the way.

My candle shelf has been moved here from the entryway. I got rid of all the DVD covers of movies, they have all been stored in special bulk dvd storage folios. I kept the DVDs that are series, at least for now. The DVD shelves moved into the studio where they hold arty things now. Looking at this photo I see I still have some cord hiding work to do here.

My much reduced books have a small bookshelf here in the corner – these are the ones I don’t have in digital format. Everything else which I do have in digital format has either been sold or donated.

And now a couple of studio pics. We did a lot of work in this room. There are four tables all of which are fabric covered and I will be getting plastic covering for those arty things we will want to do which are messy. For now the arty stuff we are doing is not messy. There are 14 chairs all of which were re-upholstered in a gorgeous teal and blue fabric.

One of the studio walls is devoted to kits I have in stock or photos of kits on the way, with a couple of posters in between.

This has been a huge effort and I couldn’t have done it without the awesome Other Half, of course. Now we’re all set up and things are going pretty well. I have some dedicated regular students already and the kits sell very fast, oftentimes even before they arrive here. If only Australia Post would get their act together I would have more stuff I could sell. :)

Home, work

The New Setup Part 1

– Our new entryway –

When we were creating our home business where people would be coming into the house regularly, we thought carefully about how we could separate our private areas from the “public” areas. We’ve always made use of “door curtains” to keep the heat in the parts of the house we were heating so we thought we could use curtains to do this job quite effectively. It has worked out well thus far with one painful exception – more on that later!

Above you can see the curtain that leads to my lounge area. I don’t go through that one at all, I consider it like a brick wall that cannot be opened. This is partly due to the lamp and coat rack which sits in front of the curtain, and partly because I prefer to go the long way around.

Now it is like you have walked in the front door – here is what you would see if you did. Some art on the walls which I am loving the position of right now but I do have another artwork in mind for this area once I create it. You see the kitchen benchtop and the mat that marks the studio entrance – more on that below.

In this case you see right through to The Other Half’s office area – but if you were coming here to visit the studio you would not see that at all, it is screened off by the curtain you can see –

This curtain screens two ways – when nobody is popping in, we use it to screen off the guest bathroom and toilet – we no longer use them, they are purely for visitors now. When people are visiting, this curtain swings across to block off the hallway – otherwise known as Other Half World. His gaming room and home office are down this hallway as well as the laundry and our bedroom/ensuite etc.

Behind that curtain the toilet and guest bathroom are patiently waiting for their next visitor. I’ve got some lovely reed diffusers in these rooms that smell like coconut and mango, it is heavenly in there.

Also in this area, we have used curtains to “hide” a couple of shelving units. This one above hides all my tupperware containers. We’ve also made signs to let people know these doors are private areas – the spare bedroom and linen closet which actually holds no linen but contains things like the breadmaker and other appliances.

And this shelf curtain which hides our medicine baskets, oven trays and casserole dishes. This sofa can be used by visitors if they want to take a break from the studio and sit down on the lounge to drink their coffee/tea/hot chocolate. We keep rugs on it so the cats can’t fur it up, we can take those off in a second if we need to.

At the studio entrance I have used this mat to remind people to watch their step. The studio was once a garage and there is a small step down into it which we have mitigated with this rubber ramp mat from Bunnings.

We have used another curtain to block off the kitchen from the areas behind it. This is where the painful exception happens – the dishwasher door is right next to the curtain and twice I have unloaded the dishwasher and left the door open intending to return and fill it..

I’ve then gone off to do something else and forget the door is open, when I go back through the curtain I hit the door with a leg or ankle. Two bruises thus far, I am hopeful that will be enough to learn not to do that again. :)

On Wednesday I will show you a little more of what we’ve been up to here. ;)

Home, work

Every Waking Moment

My current work in progress. I did not know it would be radioactive! :)

I had absolutely no idea how much my new venture would take over my life. This is crazy time, folks, but I am loving every minute of it. I’ve already got a small group of dedicated regulars and we are having so much fun.

Part of the venture is selling things I am importing from overseas. I can’t keep up with the demand – or I should say, the postal services can’t keep up with the demand.

As I type this I have 18 packages in transit AKA not at my house yet, and I have three packages containing 20 items already reserved for customers seemingly stuck in Melbourne which I have fast begun to comprehend is a black hole for packages – they can spend up to a week there going nowhere. I mean really, is it that hard to put things on the truck to Sydney?

I’ve already sent two poster rolls to customers – one in Canberra, one in Sydney, these get there overnight. I’m paying a pretty penny for that to happen so it darn well should. I make it pretty with this duct tape that Sephyroth sent me some years ago.

Sydney transit is much better – things usually arrive within 24-48 hours of landing in the country. But not this week, apparently Melbourne is contagious and I’ve had a package sitting there since Monday which hasn’t turned up here.

Our package tracking is abysmal in this country. When I’ve had packages stuck before they sometimes don’t update that they are being delivered until they get scanned on my doorstep.

There is no shortage of glamour and sparkle in this household presently, even though I did NOT buy these sprinkles. ;) Things are getting very sparkly up in here.


How Do I Tell You

7 weeks ago, I resigned from that job I really loved. It is a long story how that came to be, best summed up as follows – The owner turned out to be a depressed psycho with whom I rarely had any interactions but when I did see her, she would verbally abuse me for doing the things she had actually asked me to do and then tell me the things I did were not important and not necessary.

Making the decision was very difficult. I wrote my letter of resignation and headed in to work one more Saturday shift. I was still a bit on the fence about it, was I doing the right thing, to quit this job I really loved.

She confirmed for me that I made the right decision when she arrived that morning – she said Hi, I said Hi, then she started yelling at me, accusing me of giving her the silent treatment. I know I said my Hi out loud, it wasn’t silent. I knew then that I would never be able to win with her no matter what I did. When I left that day, I put my letter on the counter.

The people I worked with on a daily basis were great and I loved the job so it should not surprise you when I tell you I spent some time curled in a ball on the floor. I had a full on Aspie meltdown. Even just typing about it now brings tears to my eyes, which is one reason I put off telling you for so long.

Things happen for a reason, I am a firm believer in that. This unhappy adventure is yet another in a string of unhappy adventures where I did everything I could for my employer only to be treated badly. It has convinced me that I need to be the person in charge. So after a while of picking myself back up off the floor, I began to think about next steps.

This coincided with a change in The Other Half’s study plans. The university really stuffed him around and there was so much stress trying to schedule everything, in the end I said it might be worth looking into his original option which was to do the degree online. He’ll have to go to Melbourne twice a year for the in person sessions but that turns out cheaper than travelling back and forth to the “local” university.

So he needs a home office to do this, and we decided to separate his games room and study area, which left us the large space that originally was a garage but was turned into a rumpus by the former owners. What can we do with this space, I thought. Why not turn it into a home business of some kind?

We did a lot of cleaning, decluttering, sorting, tidying. The house is feeling like a great place to be right now. :)

Three weeks ago we began building my own home art studio. One week ago we finished it. I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination but there are things I can offer, things I can teach people to do. I’ll be running home workshops – in fact I’ve already held a few this past weekend. I’m also going to do some markets.

So. That happened. The good news for me is that while I thought I was headed into that dark depression place again, I managed to avoid it this time. The bounce back from the Aspie meltdown was a lot quicker. Now I have a plan and a goal I am working towards – this time it is all for me, not someone else’s vision, not someone else’s business.

Onward and upward, no looking back. :)


The Resolved Unravels

I rarely drink but when I do, I like to have a salted caramel martini in front of a roaring fire. ;)

It has been a big couple of weeks here in Snoskredland – with The Other Half leaving his toxic job and moving to a new job on top of a birthday for me and some news about former colleagues at the toxic job, a place where I also worked too..

Remember when I told you I didn’t work there anymore – at the very end of that post I said –

For me there are some unresolved issues that simply will never be resolved. Years ago that would have driven me crazy. I hate unresolved stuff. Now I am pretty good at resolving my side of it and letting it go.

I am pretty good at that UNTIL I discover that the very thing I most feared happening has actually happened. In order to explain that statement to you, I have to give you a little bit of not especially interesting history but I don’t want to go too far into detail.

Last year, mid-Santa, my offsider told me she had been sexually harassed by the 2nd in charge person. Given that she was very young and newly pregnant, she did not want to “rock the boat” by reporting what happened. I felt very strongly that she needed to report it.

Guess why? Because if she didn’t, and it happened to someone else, there would be no record of it happening. But she was resolute – I suspect because the 2nd in charge had something he was holding over her head.

While I could not report it because it did not happen to me, I was able to speak up and raise concerns and I did make it very clear to the business owner what had happened and who had done it. Of course without an official complaint he could not do very much, so he called both her and myself into his office and tried very hard to get her to make an official complaint or even just tell him personally so he could take action without making it official but she still refused.

If I had been the business owner, you can bet I would have made some changes even without an official complaint and the very first one would be dropping that harasser as second in charge. But as they say in the classics, not my monkeys, not my circus.

The harasser remained as second in charge, but I made it VERY clear to the business owner I was reporting directly to him as the owner from now on and while the harasser could be 2nd in charge of the rest of the store he was to have nothing to do with my area at all. I would not take no for an answer on that. He agreed with it. I would have quit on the spot otherwise and it was mid-Santa so he really had no choice but to agree.

I pulled the harasser aside and told him I knew what he had done and that I wanted nothing more to do with him at all, and that I had made my feelings clear to the owner. I refused to speak to him unless it was work related. I actually found it very hard to even look at him. I was furious because he had taken advantage of a young girl who he knew was vulnerable.

But I also had work to do, it was our busiest time of year and I had to focus in on that. As much as I wanted to punch that guy in the face on a daily basis, it would not have done any good. Ohhh, he was so slimy and smarmy and arrogant, knowing he’d got away with what he’d done. Some days it was very hard not to punch him but some how I always managed it.

As time went on, I kept encouraging my offsider to put in an official complaint or even just to put what happened in writing, and then give it to the HR manager and ask them to put it in the safe unopened for a later date in case it was needed. I felt that when it was time for her to go on maternity leave, she might want to take action then. She still refused. My main point was – what if this happens to someone else, how will you feel then?

I felt so strongly about this that I made a call to head office when I left, speaking to someone in a position of power that I met at the conference. I said look, I know there is nothing you can do without an official complaint but I wanted you to at least know this happened in case something else happens down the track. I did find out she actually took some action, arranging for the business owner to attend mandatory training re this particular area.

I suppose my former offsider would be able to tell me the answer to that question I asked now, because of course it did happen to someone else. I found out during the last couple of weeks. I don’t have specific details of what happened, but I do know the harassed person resigned and made an official complaint. The 2nd in charge received a written warning. I don’t know if he will remain as 2nd in charge.

But I am, again, furious. Despite my earlier attempt at resolving things within myself. If my offsider had made an official complaint, that would be two complaints of the same thing and it would be very unlikely he would still have the job let alone have a chance of still being in charge of anything.

I wanted to write about this many times and in fact I did write it out a couple of times and delete it, way back in December when it happened. This was a difficult situation to be placed in, and I hated it. And I was not the person being harassed. It was far worse for her. I’ve been bullied in previous workplaces but this was a whole other level of Not Awesome. It certainly contributed greatly to my decision to move on.

Nobody should have to put up with bullying or any kind of harassment in their workplace. We have laws in place to prevent this and many companies have strict procedures around all of this, but if the people involved will not speak up, the laws can’t do a damn thing.

If the people this happens to will not speak up, that leaves the door wide open for it to happen to the next person. And that WILL happen. If someone behaves this way and gets away with it, they think they can always behave this way and get away with it.