Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Adventures of Running a Small Shop

Today, I tell you the tale of two Christmas elves who run their own small workshop creating items to bring a little bit of magic and pixie dust into others' lives.

Ok, but honestly, this isn't a fairytale.  There's no magic here.  Well, I guess there's a little bit of it left, because I have absolutely no idea how Eliot and I pulled off the last 24 hours.  If I could only transport you into the complete chaos that was the past day... I can't do that though.  So instead, I'll give you the highlight reel.

Things started off great.  When Eliot left for work yesterday, I felt confident and I knew that while we still had a lot of work to do, we were in fantastic shape.  I'm talking the best shape we've ever been in at this particular moment.  I wasn't in panic mode and I even took some time in the afternoon to take a long shower and try on a bunch of new clothes that I'd ordered over Black Friday weekend.  There was a bounce in my step and nothing could bring me down.  All of our hard work the past few weeks was paying off and we only had a little bit longer to go before we'd survived another "Hell Week".

A few hours later... everything slowly started to unravel.  Eliot got home later than he'd planned to.  He was supposed to come home after working a half day, but naturally one of his machines on the floor broke down so he basically did his full work day as usual.  I was getting a little anxious by the time he got home, but we were in good shape.  I'd spent this week busting my booty to print anything I could.  We still had some stuff to print, but we had gotten most of it done already.  Things were going ok.

This is where I should tell you that we were getting a snow storm here in Maine.  It was our first substantial snowfall this year.  But it wasn't the typical December snow that's light and fluffy and you can pretty much blow it off of anything.  No, this was March snow... big, thick snowflakes, heavy and wet.  The kind that's perfect to build snowmen and snow forts, but not one that's good for everything else.

A little after 10:00 PM, Eliot and I had the printers running and we were actually taking a few minutes to relax before it was" go time".  There really wasn't much else we had to be doing in that moment and I was feeling pretty good about where we were at.  Just before 10:30 PM, the lights blinked.  Then, they blinked again.  I was immediately filled with dread.  There it was, the third flicker.  A loud noise and blackness.

We'd lost our electricity.

Eliot and I both immediately sprung into action.  Thankfully, we each had our phones nearby so we could use them as flashlights.  Eliot checked the rest of our street and all of our neighbors' lights were out as well.  About a million curse words flew through my head... but the overlying concept was "shit, we're screwed now."

My Papa always said that if the lights flicker three times, that means a transformer blew somewhere.  That's not a quick fix, so you might as well be prepared to be out of electricity for a while.  I reiterated that to Eliot, and we started to make moves to save ourselves from despair.  Thankfully, he still had a few of his Ryobi batteries charged up.... and last Christmas Santa brought him an LED light that's powered by them.  I don't think that I've ever been so thankful for a tool in my life.

So we got back to work.  At this point, we couldn't 3D print anything so we figured it was time to finish up the rest of the lose ends we could.  We glued parts to mouse ears, assembled desk accessories, and worked into the night by the light of his one LED light.  Thank goodness that thing was bright.  It lit a good portion of our living room and dining room area up so we could still work.  We need the flashlights on our phones to see details, but we were making the best of it.

By 1:00 AM, things were winding back down.  I was getting tired and there wasn't much else we could do.  I was worried we'd use up all of the battery power.  After a bit of evaluating what else there was to do, we both decided it made the most sense to get a few hours of sleep while it was still pitch black out.  We were planning to sleep at some point anyways, so this was as good a time as ever.

I had the worst time falling asleep.  Eliot was out in minutes but I lay there in bed filled with dread for what seemed like forever.  I finally fell asleep around 2:00 AM, but it was short lived.  Right at 4:00 AM, my alarm clock on my phone went off and we still didn't have electricity.  I had been praying that it would come back on while we were asleep, but no such luck.  We dragged our butts out of bed, went back downstairs and got back to work using the LED as our only light.

Time passed.  By 6:00 AM I was coming to the realization that we had only 6 hours to get everything packed for the post office and we were running out of time.  The sun would be rising soon, but it still wouldn't give us a ton of light.  And that wouldn't solve how we were going to print our shipping labels.  We originally had planned to mail out 30 packages and there was no way we could take all of those over to the post office unpaid... not to mention that they probably didn't have power either.

Thankfully, both of us had the same idea around the same time.  I asked Eliot if he could log into his work computer to see if they had power.  He was able to using his cell phone and they didn't lose power there.  So we did as much as we could, and when it finally started to get light around 7:00, Eliot set off to work to print our labels.

I took a few minutes to breathe, update my parents about what has happening, and then I jumped back to work.  There were still plenty of products that I had to trim and clean, so I got to work on that.  I sealed ears off in the basement by the light of my cell phone.  I wiped all of our desk accessories down using the little bit of hand washing water that I'd thankfully thought to keep stored in our empty gallon water bottles.  It certainly wasn't pretty, but Eliot and I were making it work.

Eliot was gone a lot longer than I'd planned for, and by the time he got back around 10:00 AM, we had to start hustling.  I basically crammed my McDonald's hash brown and breakfast sandwich into me as fast as I could, then we dove in.  Eliot started packing things, I prepped our giant rainbow IKEA bags and we kept moving forward.  

Around 10:30 AM, I happened to look at the clock on my cell phone.  It had been about 12 hours since we'd lost our electricity.  I literally just got done saying "It's been 12 hours, I really thought that they'd have it back on by now" when the house flickered back to life.  With full light back on our side, Eliot and I both sprung into action racing around the house finishing what needed to be done.

Time flew by and we got most of it done.  Right at noon, Eliot took all of the packages we were able to finish with him to the post office.  There were only three trinket trays (that were sealing in the basement) that I was upset we couldn't finish, but it was what it was.  Everything else had something on it that needed to be printed.  And although today was the USPS "deadline" that we told everyone, Monday 12/19 is actually the deadline for Priority shipping so we had a little bit of wiggle room.  (Thank God for my thinking to give us wiggle room... because we needed it.)

Eliot returned from the post office and they were just as out of order as we were.  The two mail ladies there are the nicest people.  They were swamped with packages that they couldn't scan in, and couldn't deliver until they scanned them.  They asked Eliot if he could leave all of our packages in our rainbow bags, and they'd take care of them as soon as they could.  They also told him that while they were closing, they would be there if he wanted to package up those last three items and bring them over.

So back to work we went, although at a little bit of a slower pace.  Eliot packed up our three trinket trays, as well as a few eBay orders he hadn't gotten to.  Around 1:00 PM, he went back to the post office with all of those items, and I took a deep breath.

Eliot and I had done it.  I literally have absolutely no idea how, but we did it.  We got all of our holiday orders assembled, finished, cleaned, packaged up and over to the post office before our shipping deadline... without having power for 12 hours.

They say it takes a village, and though these two elves work at home in their workshop alone- together in solitude, it was our village that kept us going.  I posted a few updates on my personal Facebook page throughout the complete chaos of the last 24 hours, and our village came through with love, support and encouraging words.

My parents texted us wishing us luck.  Jeremy called, texted and messaged me online to let me know that there might be another way to get the packages to the post office without having labels.  My friends, family and travel agent friends responded to my Facebook posts and told us to hang on and that we've got this.  I wanted to cry and breakdown multiple times, and I had the worst pit in my stomach for the entire 12 hours we didn't have electricity.  It was the encouragement from everyone that kept me going.

Needless to say, today hasn't exactly been my favorite day of being a small business owner.  But Eliot and I rolled with the punches and moved forward, doing what we had to do.  I'm always proud of us when this day is winding down... but with all of the extra hoops that we had to go through to get to this point, it makes this year extra sweet.  °o°

Note: Some of the screen shots included say four days ago because, yes I in fact did not write or post this on deadline day.  Eliot and I literally slept all afternoon until it was time to get up for an event we were attending that night.  We got up with enough time to shower and take off, and when we got home we went back to bed.  So I did write this a few days later and backdate it!

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