Summer Should Get a Speeding Ticket!

Have you heard that one yet? Nadine posted it on Instagram and I thought it was pretty funny. Now I’m seeing it everywhere, so I thought I’d join the band wagon.

The funny thing is, late Monday night, as we were zipping home in our van from our Labor Day weekend camping trip, I got pulled over for speeding. I didn’t slow down soon enough when we drove into one of those small towns where the speed limit goes from like 60 to 25 in a matter of yards. Fortunately the cop didn’t give me a speeding ticket, just a good talking too, then he pet the dog, and chatted with the kids a bit.

As I pulled back onto the road, I realized that I had no headlights and was driving in the pitch dark, so I pulled over again. Fortunately that super nice cop was behind me, and when I explained the problem, he had me follow him to a nearby parking lot and helped us figure out what was wrong.

Apparently the headlight switch blew, and needed to be replaced. (Thank you internet and Vanagon forums!) Sadly, we figured we’d have to spend the night in the van, and drive home at the crack of dawn. Ugh! But then just after Nadine said, “Dad, you need to think positively, and everything will be fine,” Todd discovered that our brights still worked, to which I exclaimed “Alrighty then, let’s go home!” So we decided to be assholes and drive the remaining two hours home with our brights on. Fortunately it was late, and there weren’t too many cars on the road, but we definitely got the flicker signal from a few of the cars coming in the other direction.

We finally rolled into the alley behind our house at around 1am, unloaded the car in the rain, then hit the sack. Bed never felt so good!

The next morning I got started on laundry, then made breakfast. When I opened the pantry (or should I say “large cabinet”) bugs flew out. Yikes. Then I looked in the flour container and it was full of black bugs. Gross! So I started throwing stuff out, emptied the cabinet, scrubbed it down with vinegar and ammonia, and put the remaining few things back in. Then I went grocery shopping and back to school shopping.

When I got home and started putting away groceries, I noticed some little black things by the toaster. Pepper corns? Did the bugs get in there too? No! This was mouse poop. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? I have a cat and a dog, why would they choose my house?? Time for more cleaning and to set some traps…

Then that night, more than ready for bed again, I went into our bathroom and the floor had movement. After focusing my eyes better I could see that there were hundreds of ants coming out from under the toilet, going crazy, running around aimlessly. Darn it!  I thought we’d gotten rid of those jerky pests months ago!  So I started murdering them with a wet washcloth, and put diatomaceous earth around the toilet base, which they apparently hate.

Yowza! What a way to end the summer!

But I guess summer is officially over, and as it cools down, everyone is making their way inside. Our days of perpetually open windows and doors is coming to a close, and pretty soon I’ll be making soups and roasted veggies instead of barbecue and salads.

What a day I had yesterday, cleaning, purging, shopping and organizing, but I’m glad I got it all done. It’s a firm reminder that change is the air, and it’s back to business time. We had yet another fantastic summer. And even though it seemed to fly by, I am so ready to get back to a scheduled lifestyle and feeling more productive.

Goodbye summer! You were very very good to us! And welcome Fall. You have so much to offer.

Here are a few of photos from the summer:

 

Branding for Suzanne Harrison Home

They say it pays to have friends in high places, but I would argue that it is even more important to have friends who are smart and talented, who know you well, and care about you deeply. It doesn’t have quite as catchy of a ring to it, so maybe that’s why people don’t go around saying it much. Or maybe it means the same thing?

Right now I am very grateful to have such a smart and talented friend, Sonya of KB Design, who just made me the most beautiful logo for Suzanne Harrison Home.

Check it out. This is the version that is on my business cards:

Isn’t it beautiful? I love it so much! I can’t wait to start applying it to everything: my website, Etsy, Instagram, packaging, labels, etc.

I knew when it was time to get serious about branding that I wanted to work with Sonya. She did Todd’s logo when he started Blackbird Iron, and nailed it. And when I shared her studio space with her for over a year, I got to see her in action. The thing about Sonya is that she really connects with her clients, and she integrates who they are, and the essence of what they are trying to achieve, into her amazing designs.

The added bonus for me working with Sonya is that she has known me for years, and has been there throughout my journey of quitting my job and trying to find a new niche for myself. She understands me, and the idea behind Suzanne Harrison Home; she knows my style, and she knows my personality. Sometimes working with friends isn’t always the best idea, but in this case it was. Because I also know her so well, and trust her completely, and love her work. Okay, I think I’m done gushing…

So what exactly is the branding message behind Suzanne Harrison Home? Well, in a nutshell, I want to inspire people to love and embrace their homes, and in turn their lives. I want people to love where they live, and love how they live. I want to offer products that embrace the idea of home as a feeling (more than a place) that supports the happiest of lifestyles. Because I believe that if you love your home – your house, your community, your world – and make it just right for you – then you have the foundation for a happy life.

So what’s next? Sooooo much! I have started a notebook to organize to-do’s and ideas. I’ve been working on some new products. I’m working on a business plan and a website. Most importantly, I’m striving to be well organized and intentional.

This summer has filled me with inspiration, and my hope is that I can kick off the fall with a six month plan for officially launching “Suzanne Harrison Home.” I am so excited. And so overwhelmed. And so nervous. And so excited! Yikes! 

Escape from Reality

We just got back from our annual beach vacation, and once again it was the perfect escape from reality. For one whole week I got to hang out with my extended family and my oldest and dearest friends, and do nothing but read books, swim, catch up, reminisce, eat, drink, stare at the stars, and sleep in. I write about it every year, and this year I debated on whether to write about it again, but today I decided I would. Because today I thought to myself is this really an escape from reality, or a microcosm of reality? Of my most fortunate reality? Because when I look at my life with my beach eyes on, I see so clearly the thing that matters most: spending time with people I love. And I see how lucky I am to have such amazing parents – really fun, funny, smart and confident nieces, nephews, and kids – friends who are truly family – a husband I love to be with – and a life that affords me this vacation. I don’t mean to be boastful, I just think that this is what summer vacation is all about, and I hope everyone, in their own way, is having a similar reality this summer.

The Beach

The Camper Van Harrisons

For the past year or so, Todd and I have been debating about what kind of car to get. One of our two Subarus was overheating regularly and we knew the end was near. We finally decided to find a nice used Toyota Sienna mini-van with all-wheel-drive, but those are pretty hard to come by, and our search was fruitless. Then recently I ran into our neighbor in the alley and he said, “I’m planning on selling my van. Do you think Todd might still be interested in buying it?” So Todd and I took it for a test drive and a few days later we were the proud owners of a 1987 VW Vanagon. I was skeptical, but the price was right, and I loved the idea of it – lots of space (seats seven), a table that pops up, and then seats that fold into a bed. Dreamy…

Todd worked his butt off getting the van into ship shape, and the day after the kids got out of school we loaded it up with camping gear, cooler, kids, Grandma, and the dog, and headed out for a ten day road-trip adventure through Montana and Canada. Even though it doesn’t go much more than 40 mph up a steep mountain pass, it is the perfect road trip machine. I love our “new” van! And I love camping with my family. We had the best trip.

And every night by the campfire, Nadine and I got out our notebooks and documented our vacation. For me, writing, drawing, and coloring was such a nice way to relax and reflect on my day. I draw like a ten year old, I don’t color very well inside the lines, nothing is ever to scale, and my handwriting can be hard to read, but I thought I’d post it anyway. So here it is. (Click on the image if you want to see a larger version.)

Road Trip Day 1 - Washington to Montana

Road Trip Day 2 - Montana

Road Trip - driving the model T in Montana

Road Trip - Boulder to Glacier

Road Trip - Red Rocks Canyon

Road Trip - Waterton canoeing and kayaking

Road Trip - Waterton - hike to Crypt Lake

Road Trip - Hwy 3 through Canada

Road Trip - Hwy 3 through Canada - from inside the Van

Road Trip - Harrison Hot Springs

Road Trip - There is No Place Like Home

HAPPY SUMMER!!!

 

Happy Fathers Day!

I intended to write about my dad today, but I didn’t plan my time well. On Friday I had a sudden urge to purge my laundry room, and I’m still recovering from having pulled out every last thing, trying to figure out what to keep and what to toss, and then putting it all back in there in an organized way. Crazy. (Sorry Dad!)

But I still wanted to write a quick post to say Happy Father’s Day!!! to my amazing father. I am so so lucky to have such an incredible role model for a dad – a tireless, generous, charming, funny, triple-kissing, organizational master. I love you dad!

My Dad

 

Investment Advice

Today I’ve decided to write a post about investing. Now you may be thinking to yourself, Investment advice from Suzanne? That’s crazy talk! Well believe me, I would never dream of giving advice on how to invest your money (although if you have some for me, I’d gladly take it.) No, today I’m going to write about investing in terms of time not money.

First, let’s turn to the dictionary for a definition of “invest.” Check it out:

Dictionary - Invest

Wow! I had no idea that the word ‘invest” had so many meanings! Gotta love the dictionary…

The thing is, or at least it seems to me, that investing your time is a lot like investing your money. The more you invest, the greater your return over time. Of course you must invest wisely! Yes, it will feel risky, especially at the beginning and through the dips, and there will be times when you may want to adjust your investment strategy, but it you are persistent, you will surely earn profitable returns.

Why am I writing about this? Well, because four years ago I changed my investment strategy. Four years ago, almost to the day, I got out of what I believed had become a bad investment. For too long I had been investing my time and energy in something that would probably never pay off. I was working my butt off for people who didn’t appreciate me, and for a company I no longer respected. I was getting a decent paycheck, but I was going nowhere. It was time to pull out.

It was scary, but I decided that I needed to invest in what I believed in, and what would probably give me the best returns: my family and myself. Has it paid off? Definitely. How so? Well, it’s not like I can put a dollar value on it, but I decided to try and chart it out:

Return On Investment Chart

Note: This is not a scientifically accurate chart.

Right now, being self-employed, I am not making as much money as I was back when I had my full-time job. Plus, insurance is complicated and expensive, taxes are also complicated and expensive, and so many things that were taken care of by “The Man” I have to take care of myself – I need to buy my own equipment and software, be my own tech support, do my own accounting, etc. But, knowing how to do these things myself are part of my investment in me! Not only am I increasing my skill set, but I’m understanding the “big picture” in a whole new way.

What’s also exciting (and scary!) is knowing that my success or failure is completely up to me. I’m not waiting for a lucky break or a big promotion or an awesome boss to help me out. Instead I’m trying to make the best choices possible, and become more and more competent at what I do. Over time, as my portfolio of work has grown, so has my skill-set and confidence. Even though I don’t know where the next client will come from, I never have to worry that I might get fired. And, looking back on my web work for the past four years, I’ve gone from having only a few clients and doing work for trade, to juggling three or four jobs at a time. Hooray!

Then there’s my family. I just want to be with them as much as possible. I’m realizing how this time with my kids is flying by, and I don’t want to miss out. Not only do I want to spend time with them, but I want them to eat healthy, get exercise, be creative, try new things, have fun with their friends, play with their puppy, and stay off those darn devices as much as possible. For me, I feel like that is easier when I’m around.

You know what they say: “Time is money,” which I totally agree with in terms of business, but in terms of flexibility, and freedom, and living your life to the fullest, time is a gift that becomes more precious with each passing day, and so I intend to invest my time as wisely as possible. Because this is was matters most:

My family

My Mom

Mom And Maureen And Me

Growing up my mom was, well, my mom. She was the constant in my life; my security. She was in charge. She took care of my sisters and me, dragged us along on her errands and to her tennis games, made us do our chores, took us to the pool, and helped us with our homework. She was what I knew, and I didn’t think anything of it. I assumed she was like everyone else’s moms. Except for the nights when she and my dad went out…

On those nights there’d be a tuna casserole in the oven, hot rollers heating up in the bathroom, and the smell of nail polish in the air. I would hope and pray that Anna Klein would be our babysitter, and not Mrs. Gluckler. Mrs. Gluckler would make us take a bath and scrub us with a washcloth until we were bright pink, then make us go to bed on time. Anna, on the other hand, let us make fudge and stay up late watching Rosemary’s Baby. Anyway, when our babysitter arrived, my mom would appear – all dressed up in the latest 70s fashion, with freshly polished nails, hair curled and sprayed, bright lipstick on. And I’d think to myself, Wow, she is the most beautiful and glamorous woman in the world! Then off they’d go. I wouldn’t see her until the next morning, and I couldn’t imagine what that version of my mom was like.

When I was a teenager, Mom was still Mom, but I acted like I didn’t need one. Like I didn’t need someone to make me wear snow pants instead of jeans when I went skiing, or make sure I was home by eleven o’clock.

Isn’t it funny though, how as time goes on, Mom stops being ‘just mom’, and becomes a real person? Yes she’s still mom, still always there for you, but you slowly realize how much she’s done for you, and how much you love and appreciate her. You realize how lucky you were to have a mom that was always there, who loved you so much, and always wanted the best for you. You realize that there is nothing more comfortable than spending time with your mom. At least that’s how it was for me.

But it wasn’t until I became a mom that I also really understood the kind of mom my mom was. Until I became a mom, I had NO idea how hard being a mom was. How much my kids would try my patience, push my buttons, ask me impossible questions, put me in uncomfortable situations, and force me make some really hard choices.

My mom had three little girls, three teenage girls (YIKES!), and three girls that went away to college and set off on their own. And through it all she remained trusting, kind, patient, wise, confident, and diplomatic. Don’t get me wrong, I was the boundary-pushing middle child that was always getting grounded and caused her plenty of grief, so she had her moments for sure, but through it all, those qualities rarely wavered.

Three girls on a canon with Mom

Now that I’m a mom, I believe that being a good role model is one of the best things you can do for you kids. I really hope that I’m living my life in a way that inspires my kids to pursue a happy life. Not by how I choose to make a living, but by how I approach each day, interact with other people, and how much I love being with my kids. My mom did that for me, and for that I am forever grateful.

Thanks Mom. I love you!  Happy Mother’s Day!!! I sure wish I had a picture of you from the 70s, all dolled up and ready to go out. Thankfully it remains vivid in my mind. xo

Mom and Me at the Beach

Gaining Momentum

Things have been really humming along lately. I have been working on three new websites and started back part-time at Nordstrom.  I ran out of Wizard of Oz pillows, so I spent two full days last week silk screening more. I sold pillows at a “Handmade Sale” on Sunday, and had some new ones in the collection. And I have been diligently working on my business plan and branding for Suzanne Harrison Home.  Whew!

Sounds crazy, but it’s actually perfect. Mostly. I remember back when Todd started his business, how it seemed like he was always either worried about getting enough work, or worried about how he was going to get all of the work done. And he still does sometimes. Maybe that never goes away.

I’m not really stressing about getting my work done, because I am fortunate right now to have clients with very loose deadlines. But I have put personal deadlines in place to help me manage my workload.

What’s happening to me is that I feel like I’m not making time for the other stuff that needs to get done – like working in the yard, getting our summer planned, putting the ski stuff away, and laundry! I love the work I’m doing right now, and there’s plenty of it, but I’m letting it consume all of my time, putting other things off, letting the little things slide, not meeting some of my personal goals and milestones for the year. But…

Who cares? Does it matter that much? It’s hard to say. I always want to do a thousand times more than is actually possible, but I still get a lot done, and I really try to be systematic about my priorities. Will there be more work after I complete these websites? When should I start looking? Should I block off some time to focus more on Suzanne Harrison Home? Plus, summer is right around the corner – what will this be like when the kids are out of school? I have no idea…

I’ve decided not to overthink it, and just keep plugging away at everything. Making sure I have some billable hours in every day. Making sure I do a little bit of pillow work and/or marketing every day. Making sure I spend only a little bit of time texting, emailing, scheduling, etc. Making sure I’m there for my family, and taking care of myself.

This image came through my email the other day from Tai Lopez, and while I wouldn’t exactly call myself an entrepreneur, I think it’s really great:

10 Habits

#8 makes me laugh because I don’t exactly have a team… Or do I? I am always telling my kids “Solve the problem – don’t make it worse!” Hmm…

 #9 sounds like something to strive for because I am constantly shifting gears between my various “business activities” throughout the day.

But… at the end of the day, I am happy, and hopeful that all of this effort will pay off. It may not be paying big right now, but it’s hard to put a dollar value on the freedom and flexibility I have. Plus I am learning so much about SO MUCH! I’m not sure where I’m going to land with all of this, but I’m excited, and feel like I’m headed in the right direction. Hooray!

Love to Eat Them Mousies…

Our new puppy Chester seems to be growing before our very eyes – getting bigger, bolder, more energetic and adventurous every day.  Which means he needs training!  He’s got ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ down pretty well, but we have a long way to go on everything else.

Last night, as I was saying goodnight to Miles, we were talking about how we needed to train Chester, and he asked, “Why don’t we train cats?” I laughed and said, “Because cats are cats! They have free will! They have no masters. They come and go as they please.” Then we started talking about how dogs and cats are so different, but similar in that they live with humans, wondering why those particular animals have become domesticated.

I told Miles that we should try to watch these documentaries that were on PBS a while back about cats and dogs, tracing their history and domestication, explaining how many of their traits aren’t that different from their wild counterparts. Like hunting. Domestic cats are hunters just like lions are. Our cat Oscar is a great hunter. Unfortunately he’s not much of a killer. He takes a catch and release approach, often releasing gross little rodents in our house. Good grief. Anyway…

Then I started reciting: “Love to eat them mousies. Mousies what I love to eat. Bite they little heads off. Nibble on they tiny feet.” He looked at me pretty funny, and then started laughing. Where did that come from?  I then proceeded to tell Miles about a famous cat cartoon from the seventies where the cat sits on a stool with a guitar, singing that.

I hadn’t thought about that cat in a million years. Isn’t it funny how things get triggered some times? But I loved that cat carton. I loved it so much that when I took Graphic Design as an elective in middle school, I chose that cartoon for my silkscreen project. And I silk-screened many many copies of that silly song-singing kitty. Where those are now, I have no idea, but here’s what they looked like:

Remember that cat? I think it’s so great when things you thought were gone from your memory bank get triggered like that.  Not only did I remember how much I loved that darn cat, but I remembered how much I loved to silk-screen it. And now, here I am, full circle, silk-screening images and words onto pillows.

Life is funny.