After my mom’s passing I decided it was time to get serious about finding a j-o-b. My head was telling me I needed the security of a full-time job with benefits; my heart didn’t want to agree. I applied for a job with a local kitchen cabinet company; I had experience designing kitchens back when my husband and I built model homes and I always enjoyed doing that type of work so I thought…maybe “this” is my thing. The interview went well and I was certain they would offer me the job, but after I visualized doing that type of work in that office setting with those people, it didn’t make me feel happy; when I got offered the job I politely turned it down. The next position that sparked an interest was for another local company that helped develop TV commercials. Now this position really seemed exciting, it felt to me like the perfect “I live in New York” kind of job! A husband and wife team ran the company and again, the interview went very well; I really connected with the wife and told her about my Lost Soles of the Highway project as we both had a love for photography. She told me she had one other person to interview that afternoon and would get back to me later in the evening with her decision, but I had a good feeling it would be me. I left there elated and excited for the possibilities of this new chapter in my life, but as I drove home I started getting an odd gut feeling that this was not at all the direction I should be heading in. I turned off the radio and decide to call upon my old friend the rainbow… “If I am to accept this job, show me a rainbow”. I kept my eyes peeled the rest of the way home, once home I scurried about from window to window looking for my sign; I saw no rainbow and I also got no phone call. I had plans to meet up with a friend that evening, I left the house disappointed but kept a positive attitude. As my friend and I drove into town they told me about a trip they would be taking in a few months to Italy and asked me if I would like to come along. My heart skipped a beat; I LOVE to travel and an opportunity like this doesn’t come around every day. I explained that it would just not be possible for me to take that kind of time off from a new job that I was sure I was going to land. My friend continued to talk about the itinerary of their trip when out of nowhere a vibrant rainbow appeared in the skies ahead. I interrupted and said “Well, I guess I’m starting a new job, definitely cannot go with you to Italy”. That night I arrived back home to find no messages on my answering machine, but the Universe had given me my sign so I went to bed with visions of TV commercial showbiz dancing in my head. I finally received my phone call the following evening, she started out by telling me what a pleasure it was to have met me; I could tell that this conversation was probably not going in the direction I had anticipated. She went on to explain that they had chosen another candidate but she really connected with me and would love for us to become friends. I just smiled to myself and responded… “I’d love that as well and…I’m going to Italy!”
This segment is dedicated to my dear mother, Brenda M Carroll.
My mom was loving, caring, kind, and thoughtful…she was the best mom a girl could ask for. She overcame the challenges of having only one hand; her left hand was deformed from getting wrapped around her umbilical cord during pregnancy and never grew. If kids back then were as cruel as they are today I can only imagine the teasing that she went through; yet she was the face of popularity and was crowned “Miss Antler” in high school. She was a stay-at-home mom to my younger sister and me; she was a remarkable budgeter and financial wizard, always making sure we had the necessities and the “cool” jeans for the start of each new school year. She never once combined my birthday (December 22) with Christmas; always making sure my birthday was celebrated separately on the 22nd. Once my sister graduated from high school my mom went to work at a local daycare center, her expertise there was teaching all of the preschoolers how to tie their shoes before they went to kindergarten (remember, she only had one hand). Those day-care kids loved her dearly and when her two grandchildren showed up she treated them no differently than the others; but back at home she was their “Grammy” and was definitely taken away from them way too soon. Even though I know that it saddened her, she was nothing but supportive when I left my 17-year marriage and moved away to NY to “find myself”; she was always there for my sister and me as we struggled with our various life journeys. My mom thought my “Lost Soles of the Highway” project was a fascinating undertaking; she was my number one fan and one of these days I’m going to make her proud by doing something commendable with it. Upon her passing we found a notebook of poems that she had written over the course of the last several months of her life, many dedicated to specific people in her life. I took many of those poems and added some of my own personal photography to create a book in her honor, sending a copy out to close family and friends the following Christmas. We recalled how she once shared with us that she was baffled at this strange new desire to write poetry but we had no idea she was writing these poems or that she was so good at it. The book is titled “Love You Forever - Like You For Always” and is available as an ebook on Blurb.
I am so proud to call her my mom and I will miss her every single day for the remainder of my life.
My boss agreed to let me file for unemployment to supplement my income while I looked for a new full-time position. I would go into the Digital Variant office once every other week to calculate and submit payroll, and deal with accounts payable and receivable. In the meantime, I scoured the local papers and hudsonvalleyhelpwanted.com and amped up the number of dolls that I was selling, developing a more weekly routine. Since I had this bit of income coming in I didn’t feel a weighted pressure to find a job and find one fast. I wanted to hold out for something that I could really sink my teeth into, something that I would thoroughly enjoy. It was the perfect opportunity to figure out “what I wanted to be when I grew up”, but try as I might I couldn’t seem to figure out what exactly that was. I was enjoying the freedom of being a work-from-home kind of girl too much to take the job hunt seriously and I think that’s when I realized that I could pay my bills and get by just fine if I could boost my doll sales. At the same time my mom’s health was starting to rapidly decline and the guy that I had been dating for a couple of years was looking into moving to China… CHINA!? I was all sorts of confused and had little energy to do anything but have fun with friends; it was my way of escaping the realities of my current state of life. My mom passed away on May 2, 2008, the previous Christmas she complained about her knee hurting and was having difficulty walking; we all thought, or should I say hoped, that it was arthritis or something similar. Deep down, however, I think my sister and I knew it was more serious as we both had been noticing changes in her for the last year. She was losing weight, coughing for no reason, and her appetite was lessening; but she refused to go to a doctor. After Christmas 2007 came and went she finally agreed to seek medical attention for the knee pain. At first they diagnosed her with arthritis and we were all somewhat relieved, but the doctor wanted to run more tests since it had been 30+ years since she had been for any type of check-up. A few weeks later we were, once again, presented with the C word; the cancer had metastasized to her bones and that was causing the knee pain. We talked on the phone every day until she just didn’t have the energy to do so. I had booked a flight to go home Mother’s Day weekend figuring it might be the last chance to see her alive, but it was a weekend too late. The drive from NY to WV that day was long and when I arrived the house, the house I grew up in, felt… changed. Things definitely were not going to be the same going forward.
I worked at the Depuy Canal House for 2 1/2 years, finally deciding there was no room for growth or promotion. I did so love that job, it had become a home to me and all of the people that I worked with had become my family. But slowly, one by one, life started taking them in different directions and as the office manager/bookkeeper the struggle to help keep the business alive and well was starting to take its toll on me personally. I began looking in the papers and online for a new job, feeling like my time and experience would gain me credibility for a new position. I was hired to be an office manager for a company called Digital Variant. It was hard giving my notice at the Depuy Canal House, but I was ready to move on and I needed a more substantial salary with benefits. This new job was located in Poughkeepsie, NY... boy, did I sure miss getting ready in the morning and just walking next-door to go to work! My job duties consisted of accounts payable and receivable, sending in payroll information every other week, and answering the phone. The phone rarely rang, the bookkeeping didn’t take any time at all, and neither did the payroll. I found myself with a lot of nothing to do on a daily basis; there’s nothing that makes time go more slowly than sitting and watching a clock. After a couple of months of this I sat down with my boss and shared my state of “ennui” (a word I’m sure I didn’t even know existed until Ellowyne Wilde came into my life). I suggested going part-time but he was having none of that; instead he dove me into the digital world with the rest of the employees (to this day I’m still uncertain how to explain what services this company actually offered). Managing the back-end of a teen and preteen social media website was added to my list of duties (THIS account I actually understood and could exlain!). Every day I would go in and update things like the horoscope, trending celebrity news, and fashion tips. I was also the person who answered all of the teen girl’s questions about love, life, and the pursuit of happiness. This certainly helped make the time go by faster but being an efficient worker I still had a little too much time on my hands; I got lots of online shopping done for the holidays and discovered an unknown love for solitaire. A month or two later we ended up losing the “Popteen” account; my boss agreed to let me go part-time. My 40-hour a week salaried job turned into a 6-8 hour day once every other week. Back to the job market drawing board I went.
I often get asked how I keep all of my inventory straight; lucky for me one of my strong suits is organization. I hope I don’t jinx myself by saying this but I have not once misplaced one of my client’s items or got it confused with another client. Now that’s not to say that I haven’t gotten confused a couple of times and shipped the wrong item to a buyer… and if you are reading this and you are one of those people, God Bless you and thank you for working with me to get that situation straightened out! I keep everything in very systematized groupings; I try to keep 3–4 weeks ahead with my listings, paying the extra fee to pre-schedule is worth that overall feeling of being “ahead of the game”. I have selections of inventory neatly stacked with post-it notes that tell me the date each grouping of inventory will be ending. I most often have more than one client that I am working with at a time and there is a specific section of my office that is dedicated for each of their stuff on a rotating basis. Speaking of offices… My office is actually located in my bedroom; my bedroom is located in the living room. It hasn’t always been this way, when I first started doing all this I didn’t need much space and my bedroom was the largest room in my apartment at that time so I combined sleeping and working quarters. I eventually upgraded and rented a small, two-bedroom house; I used the smaller bedroom as my office but there were times when I had so much inventory that it spilled out into the living room. When I decided to move to Rhinebeck I found myself, once again, in a one-bedroom; it too was spacious so I installed a cable all the way across one section of the room and hung sheer curtain panels to create a hidden storage area for my inventory, my actual office and workspace was in the eat-in kitchen dining area. My current apartment, which is a co-op that I am working on owning, is another one-bedroom; I looked at the two bedrooms but they were just slightly out of my price range. I have moved my furniture around in this apartment more times than I can count trying to figure out how to separate my work life from my non-work life. I think I finally have it all worked out and I am very happy with my current set up; sheer curtain panels now divide and separate my living space from my sleeping space… I guess you could say I reside in a studio apartment with an attached office. Henry is my faithful companion and helper; no matter what room I am in he is usually relaxing somewhere close by.
A lot sure has changed from back when I first started selling dolls, and doll clothes and accessories on eBay. Of course, back then I didn’t look at it as a business, it was just a side hustle, a way to make a few extra bucks. I would buy almost all of my supplies at the Dollar Tree; several trips a month to stock up on tissue paper for wrapping up items, Ziploc bags to place outfits and other loose items in, and I believe I even purchased shipping tape there as well. At some point along the juncture, I upgraded to shopping for most of my supplies at Wal-Mart (insert crazy, laughing, smiley face), whatever funky color of foam board they had in stock is what I would use when that needed replaced; I’ve gone from blue to golden to the now infamous pink. I would make trips down to my local post office and get free priority mailing boxes, whatever they had in stock I would gladly take. I didn’t offer first class shipping back then, outfits and other small items would ship in a small Priority flat rate box and dolls that did not have their original boxes which ship in the larger shirt size Priority boxes. I do not recall how much time passed before realizing I could order these USPS supplies online, but that was one of my first real game changers. Eventually I started ordering other shipping supplies in bulk from online wholesalers; large sheets of packing paper, bubble envelopes to ship outfits in, shipping tape, and jumbo poly bags for larger, combined items. And there are no more trips to the post office, well very rarely anyways. I now schedule my pick-ups and my mail carrier, currently a lovely young lady named Amanda, keeps me stocked in giant, indestructible mailbags and picks up all of my outgoing mail whenever needed. As I’m sure you can imagine, Mondays present a heavy load; usually three or four of these very large mailbags filled to the brim. Tuesday’s can sometimes fill one mailbag full and then the rest of the week I usually have just a handful of stragglers. I am very grateful to all of my buyers who pay right away, It’s nice having one long day of shipping so that I can use the rest of the week to sort, photograph, and do another round of listings. And what does that look like, you may ask… I pull out my bright pink foam board that has become a known visual for my items (and is often copied) and the dolly photo shoot begins. I have a notebook that I keep all of my records in (yes, I am still old school that way); client’s name and auction ending date go at the top of the page followed by a list of all the items that I am selling for them in consecutive order as I take the photos of each item. This keeps everything in a systematic order for when I sit down to do my listings. After photographing, items get placed in large plastic storage containers and items that are in their original boxes are placed on top. Sort, photograph, list, ship… Rinse and repeat.
A typical Monday at the "brodam" home office!