Challenges

Dear Fellow Journalers,

I asked my dear friend Denise to write about her major challenge last year. I was a witness to some of it and I have to say that I am so proud of her accomplishments. I worked at the same company and while my stress was overwhelming at times, I retired early and so was not affected with the same occurrences she had to face.

Her story should serve as an example to all of us who, under extreme hardship, keep on striving to make our dreams come true.

~Sallie

CHALLENGES . . . .

 

My former colleague and forever friend, Sallie, asked me to write a piece on “Challenges” for her Blog. It all began when the meltdowns at work started. Now mind you, when I interviewed for that Customer Service position on February 3, 2005, the Supervisor said, “If you can’t handle stress, then walk out that door and keep right on going because you won’t be able to handle this job.” I’d never had an issue handling stress. Afterall, I raised two boys, been through a nasty divorce, owned a flower shoppe, worked in big corporations and small offices, I’d been a Receptionist, Secretary, Administrative Assistant, Business Owner and a Customer Service Rep; I’d been around the block a few times.

I started the following Monday as a Temporary (Contract) worker and was hired permanently early October that same year. While still a temp worker, the Supervisor who hired me took a position in another company; I was given her top account. After I’d been there for just over a year, I was handed the company’s largest account which I still had, along with their second largest account and an additional 80 accounts across five product lines, the day I left their employ August 2019. When co-workers left or were let go, they weren’t replaced; you just got more work. There were 25 CSR’s (Customer Service Reps) the day I started; the day I left, we were down to 9.

In April of 2012, our office relocated; my 20 minute drive to work became an hour, one way [on a good day]. Approximately a year after a newly created department emerged with financially savvy IT program gurus, it was decided the person handling Quotes would be moved to Customer Service and all the CSR’s would learn how to generate their own Quotes. This revelation happened late 2017 to early 2018. CSR’s were already handling the initial stages of RFQ’s (Requests for Quote). That process was two-fold; first we saved all pertinent information received to the Hard Drives of our computers, which usually consisted of a Spreadsheet, Blueprints or Drawings for each item, Product Descriptions and occasionally more detailed specifications regarding our client’s end user’s application(s). All those pages were then added as attachments into Sales Force (our quote system), with each individual part on a separate line. Yes, not only double work, but extremely time consuming. That portion of our jobs would not change. What did change . . . . Instead of the Quote Person taking over ownership of the Quotes from this point on, all the CSR’s were now required to send the info to the Engineering Department, then wait for the Engineers to Cost each item and send the file back to us. Upon its return, we input the ‘Cost to Manufacture’ those items into an Excel spreadsheet with embedded formulas that generated the Prices we’d charge our clients. Once we had all those Prices, we then added that info to JDE (our manufacturing system’s program), line by line for each item on the RFQ, adding a detailed description in the background for every single one of those items in order for the system to generate the Quote. We were then required to Save the Quote to our Hard Drives as well as a copy back into Sales Force, create an e-mail with pre-determined verbiage, include our Terms sheet, attach the Quote and forward everything back to the client.

Our days as CSR’s consisted of answering phones all day, editing our orders in between those phone calls, expediting orders, inputting RFQ’s into Sales Force, generating credits and returns paperwork, pushing orders through the system for the paperwork to print at the correct warehouse(s), and interacting with other departments, including: Shipping, Receivables, Planning, Manufacturing, Quality Control, Engineering, etc. Now they wanted us to generate quotes too? The training we received consisted of a two-hour one-on-one meeting to go over 30 pages of instructions. After our initial training, quite a few months passed prior to any of my clients requiring a quote. What’s that saying?, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Oh, I’d totally ‘lost it’ alright! Suffice to say it wasn’t a good day. Not only had I not generated any Quotes up to that point, but those IT program gurus switched our Sales Force program from utilizing Google to Google Chrome and not everything was where it had been, especially the costing info from the Engineers. I even heard that some of the CSR’s computers were not in tune with Google Chrome and prayed mine wasn’t one of them.

I knew my top client was on deadline with their client for our Quote, yet I couldn’t [for the life of me] figure out how to create it. I sought help from one of my Supervisors; she told me to read the literature from the training I’d received, which I’d already done several times, spending a lot more time than I actually had [on it] and when I couldn’t make heads or tails of the literature or any of my own notes, I sought help which turned out to be no help at all. Three times I asked for help and three times I was sent back to my desk to read the literature. That’s when the stress totally overcame my senses; I broke down and cried.

I did finally get that quote done and on Google Chrome. And . . . . I was actually the first CSR in the department to figure it out. Backtracking here in my timeline, to mid-January 2018: I met someone I’d gone to High School with; he lived in North Carolina and I in Connecticut. We’d been talking about my moving down to NC. When the relationship ended on the Fourth of July 2018, I decided to continue on my quest to move because the stress levels at work remained high with no relief in sight. Engineers were jumping ship at an alarming rate. I thought, ‘It can’t just be me’, so I started asking folks in other departments if they were feeling the overwhelming stress and total overload I was experiencing. Every person I spoke with, the answer was a resounding “Yes!” Not only were we all overwhelmed, but in addition to the normal layoff period prior to the holidays, folks were now randomly being let go throughout the year. Everyone was nervously walking on eggshells, wondering who’d be next.

Early fourth quarter 2018, NAFTA Certificate requests started trickling into our department for the following year. After sending several requests to the person handling those certs, we were informed she would no longer be handling them. You guessed it . . . CSR’s would be taught how to use the program to generate those Certificates. Really? We were already tilting on overload! My inner thought? ‘Now I’ve gotta’ go. I’ve had enough.’

Mid-October 2018, I started doing some homework on the Internet; I googled North vs South Carolina, Pros & Cons of each State. I looked at Flood Maps (Hurricane Florence had just blown through that area), where the Rivers, Lakes and Swamps are, Sink Holes, Tornado Alley (yes, in the Carolinas), Tax Incentives, Property Taxes, Personal Taxes, Taxes on Social Security. After deciding South Carolina was the better choice, I Googled Reputable Builders in that State. I called Realtors for their opinions on those builders and chose one, based upon their reputation for awesome Customer Service.

Pre-holiday layoff season was in full swing and while our department had been shielded in prior years, we weren’t so lucky this time around. One person was let go; our numbers were dwindling. Around that same timeframe, our Data Entry person decided to take am indefinite Personal Leave of Absence, which meant in addition to all the tasks already added to our plates, we now had to key all our own orders, which could be several pages long, especially for those 80 accounts I had.

I spent Thanksgiving in Charlotte, NC with family, then scooted down to SC to visit a few of the builder’s communities where I thought I’d like to hang my hat. Did you know when you apply for a mortgage in the State of SC, you are required to have a job in the State of SC, which shows you can repay that loan? After exhausting all scenarios for me to get pre-approved, my application was denied. Basically, I was told to sell my home in CT, then come back. My hopes deflated, I returned to CT. The wheels were now churning. How was I going to pull this off without selling my home first? I needed to make a clean move, from one home to the next with no rental in between; I’ve got a cat!

Early March 2019, one of the Buyers from our largest account called; if we didn’t ship 2,300 pieces of the product that was already two months late within the next few days, we were going to shut down the production lines at John Deere. I checked the system, made a few phone calls, was able to buy back 500 pieces from a former client of mine, had it shipped direct to my current client. I then found another 1,500 pieces in our Canadian facility which I shipped UPS RED. On Thursday, March 7, 2019 at 10:00am, I opened an e-mail stating the product we shipped from Canada was 100% defective and we were shutting John Deere’s manufacturing production lines down. (Note: Big manufacturers charge HUGE FEES when you shut their production lines down; I’ve seen up to $50K an hour. It’s not something you want to do.)

I went to my supervisor’s desk and said, “I need to go home.” She asked why? I said, “I can’t do my job today.” Then mentioned the heart palpitations I’d been having for the past two weeks, said I was going to go to the hospital when I got home. She asked what precipitated this? I told her about the e-mail I’d received and the steps I’d taken to get them product. First she said I could leave, then came to my desk and said I couldn’t drive home. As we were walking to HR, she asked, “What if something happens to you on the way home and you die?” I laughed and said, “Then I’d be dead.” She raised her voice and said, “This isn’t funny!” Eventually we ended up in the Health Room, a first responder came to check my vitals as they called EMT (the ambulance came). They checked me out and wanted to transport me to the local hospital; I was an hour from home and my own doctor. I refused treatment and had to sign off to that effect before they’d release me. They noted it wasn’t an Emergency Room situation, but I should check in with my doctor when I got home. I did go to the doctor; they did an EKG on me in the office which didn’t show any abnormalities. They sent me home. When I showed up at work the next day, my supervisor said, “What are you doing here?” I said, “I work here.”

She said “take the weekend to rest up.” I said, “Well, I went home and thought long and hard about this and decided that I, personally, did not shut John Deere down, but, if you as a Company want to do that . . . well, that’s up to you! I’m not going to let this job affect me anymore. It’s just not worth my health, nor my life.”

That incident solidified my decision to escape! I crunched some numbers; I figured out how to buy my new home sans selling the current one first. It was doable. And it wouldn’t require their damn loan either. That afternoon, the first of many e-mails from that Supervisor was sent, all with the same sentiments: “We are all stressed, do your best, we’re all in this together, we’ll get through it, we know you can’t possibly get all your work done on a daily basis, do the best you can. Overtime is available.” My thought? ‘I did overtime for years and years when there was no overtime because I cared about my job. Now? I just don’t care anymore. To hell with their overtime.’ I made an appointment with the Sales Rep for March 18, 2019; I put a down payment on the Lot I’d chosen, picked the Model I wanted, all my colors (inside and out): flooring, cabinets, counters, add-on’s.

I returned late May; the house was up (already) built, the windows were in along with the front door, the roof was almost finished and the rooms inside had been framed. It was happening; I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. Told my friends I felt as though I was jumping off a cliff, hoping to sprout wings! They all said I’d be just fine. During the next meltdown at work, while talking to my immediate Supervisor, I mentioned I was building a new home in the State of SC and when it was done, I’d be leaving. Her face lit up; she was happy for me, and said, “Take me with you!” I checked on the build again early July, the countertops and cabinets were done, the tile floors in both bathrooms were done, the inside had been painted. The color of the shutters and door were incorrect and the sliding glass doors didn’t match. The finish date remained at August 20 th . In the meantime, I contacted an independent House Inspector to do an Inspection because # 1, I resided out of State, and # 2, I had chosen to self-represent during the entire process (which meant no one had my better interest at heart, except myself, and I required an expert to check out the construction of the house for me).

My last day at work was August 15, 2019; as I was saying my goodbyes, someone asked, “Do you plan to get another CSR job down there?” My thought was, ‘HELL NO! I think I’ve had enough.‘ What came out of my mouth was, “I’m going to take some time off, figure out what my expenses are. What I really want to do is start Writing. Perhaps someday you’ll say, “I knew her when . . .” ” The moving truck came on the 17th; I left the next day with my cat, Bailey; I’d made a reservation for him at a Vet in my new hometown till I received the keys and our furniture had been delivered. I closed as planned on August 20 th and the moving van showed up the following day. As soon as they left, I picked Bailey up.

We did it; we were home! A new start, perhaps even the beginning of retirement, definitely new adventures! A month after I moved in, the reality sunk in that I’d sold my home in CT, built a brand new home in SC, quit my job and escaped! The temperature the day after Christmas 2019 was predicted to hit 73. As I was waltzing out the back porch door to catch some rays, my thought was: ‘Best damn decision you’ve made in quite some time, possibly ever

D ~

Limits

 

“Don’t limit your challenges; challenge your limits.”

Staying on track

Dear Fellow Journalers,

Do you ever feel as though your “stream of consciousness”has flowed into the Mississippi River? I’m not sure if the Mississippi River is appropriate  but I just like writing Mississippi.Anyhow, I recently read an article that detailed 50 Journal writing tools and techniques to trigger ideas. I thought I would start with 2of the different categories and expand on others throughout the year.

Personality

Tracking journal process for personality work using left brain tools

  • Dream calendar – put your ideal day, week or year one one page
  • Make up a Hot List -keep handy yout list of most important things to journal about

Create Awareness

  • Complete the sentence
  • Watch how your mind works

Inner Connections

  • Mind Mapping
  • Rhyme time

Heart Connection

  • Gratitude
  • Poertry

Sallie

Life

 

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Helen Keller

ST Patrick’s Day

Dear Fellow Journalers,

While you enjoy corned beef and cabbage, listen to one of my favorite Irish songs by Liam Clancy:

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