The Women’s March

I know, the Women’s March may seem like old news, especially with all of the other crazy news in the past week, but I still wanted to write about it, because it was so great. Because it was so inspiring and hopeful. And because it seems like it was just the beginning.

The day before the march I swung by JoAnn fabrics and bough a yard of bright pink fleece fabric. Then a friend of mine came over, and together we made eight square fleece hats. They were really quick and easy to make, and according to the internet, if you make a square hat, when you put it on your head you automatically get little cat ears. And it worked! I also decided to sew on some whiskers for extra kitty style, and they came out great.

The next morning my family and some friends, all wearing pink hats, jumped in the van and headed down town to partake in the Women’s March. Along the way lots of people honked and cheered at us, and we were excited to see so many other pink hats out there.

I was lucky enough to score a parking spot near Seattle Center – the end point of the march – so we parked the van and started walking along the parade route towards the start, met up with more friends, and found a place to jump in with the other marchers. I wasn’t sure what to expect – a week earlier I had contemplated not going in case things got crazy, but we decided we all needed to go as a family, and I didn’t want to regret missing it.

I dressed for rain, which is always a sure way to get sun, and it worked like a charm. It was a beautiful day. In so many ways. There were SO many people, but it was a “silent” march, which started off really quiet, but as the day progressed, it got louder. People didn’t really start chanting or shouting, but once in a while a wave of cheering would make it’s way from the end of the parade to the front, and vice versa. So cool.

The energy was the best – happy, hopeful, funny, peaceful. And it seems like the same can be said of the other women’s marches that took place around the world. In Seattle they expected around 50,000 people and instead they think there were 130,000. Despite the crowd size, it never felt too crowded or crazy. Nope. Just inspiring and hopeful. It made me proud.

Here are a few photos.

Women's March Seattle

Women's March Seattle

Fear & Training for a Half Marathon

So, I’m training for a 1/2 marathon. Seriously.

My sister Nicki and I, and two of our friends who are like our sisters, all signed up for the Rock N’ Roll marathon in Savannah on November 5th. Why? I can’t remember exactly. I guess after my sister Maureen passed away, the four of us appreciated, more than ever, the amazing bond we’ve had since we were kids, and we wanted to come together to do something fun and challenging to support that bond.

I signed up for the run months ago. That was the easy part. Then in August I had to actually start training. Now I’m about 1/2 way through my training, and I have to say, it is HARD. For me. A non-runner. (I’m an exerciser but NOT a runner.) The funny thing is, it’s not the running part that’s hard. It’s getting myself to run that’s hard. And if it weren’t for this 1/2 marathon, there’s no way in hell I’d be running this much or this far.

I have to add though, it’s also awesome. Because it’s hard. Because I’m not a runner. Because I’m actually doing it. Because we’re having beautiful fall weather and I live in a beautiful place. But mostly because it’s so inspiring. It’s good for my brain, and makes me think so much about my life and aspirations.

How so? Well, forgive me if you are a runner and have already been through the revelation of how running is a metaphor for your life. But it’s new to me, and it’s inspiring the heck out of me.

Here’s what I’ve discovered about running:

  • Signing up and committing to a 1/2 marathon, especially with other people, makes me accountable and driven.
  • Training takes up a lot of time, and finding time can be hard, but I always make the time because I have to. Because I’m committed.
  • Running is mental. I’m going to run as far as I decide to run. Which ends up being as far as my training plan tells me.
  • My plan starts with a distance that is doable, then incrementally increases my distance.
  • The hardest part is starting. The second hardest part is the first mile. The third hardest is going up those hills, and in my case, the stairs.
  • The best part is when I hit my stride. Actually, the best part is when I’m done. The second best part is hitting my stride.
  • When I’m done running I am sweaty and tired, but happy. A beer tastes really really good. And I sleep well.
  • Now that I’m up to 6 miles, the 3 miles I started with seems easy.

There’s a saying I love, that is: Have faith in the timing of you life, and I think it’s pretty interesting that I’ve signed up for this half marathon at this time in my life – at the same time that I’ve decided to launch Suzanne Harrison Home – an endeavor, I’m realizing, that is actually very scary for me. Wouldn’t it be easier if I stuck to web development? But I really want to do it. It makes me happy and it’s important to me. But it’s scary.

So I’m going to take the 1/2 marathon approach:

  • I’m committing to a big goal of creating pillows and stuff I’m proud of, a great Etsy site, a great e-commerce site and blog, and selling wholesale.
  • I’m making time to do the work. I’m committed.
  • Even though it’s daunting, I just need to get started! Up until now, it’s like I’ve just been exercising, but now I need to step it up and really run with it.
  • I’m creating a plan with incremental steps for achieving my goal, starting with what’s doable.
  • I know it’s going to be hard. Especially at the beginning. But eventually I’ll hit my stride. Sure there’ll be some hills and stairs, but I’ll make it in the end. I hope.
  • If I work hard and stick to the plan, eventually I’ll reach my goal, and when I look back at where I started I’ll think That was the easy part!

Sorry if that was super corny! It’s just that I haven’t been very good at allowing myself the time to work on Suzanne Harrison Home. What I’ve been good at is psyching myself out of it – convincing myself that there’s no way I could ever make money doing this, spending my time working on other “more important” things, contemplating full time employment and steady paychecks.

But in my head, and every time I go running, I think about Suzanne Harrison Home, the stuff I want to make, how I want to my web-site to look, and how I’ll set up a studio for myself some day. Ugh, I keep wavering between thinking it’s just a dream and thinking it’s totally achievable!

But maybe it’ll be like my six mile run the other day. I intended to go first thing in the morning, and finally got my butt running at around 2pm. I ran for a couple of miles, then a black cat ran in front of me, I tripped, fell into the road and got a bloody cut on my hand and knee, got back up, and kept running. I ran through my neighborhood, through town, past the marina, along the beach, through the woods, up many many flights or stairs, and then finally back home. And it felt great. It made me feel like Suzanne Harrison Home was really possible.

This weekend I have to run seven miles, and I’m dreading it. I think I’ll probably take a similar run and figure out how to add another mile through my neighborhood. I’m sure I’ll procrastinate and wait until the last minute on Sunday to do it. But I will do it. Because I have to. Because it’s the next step. Because I want to achieve my goal, and I know it will feel great in the end.

Here are some photos from my training…

My training buddies:

Running past the Marina: 

Stairs, a lovely trail, stairs, and more stairs:

I’m still not completely convinced I can do this, but there are a heck of a lot of people on this planet who have run much much further, so the odds are good. But something I don’t understand is why most runners don’t say “hi” to each other when they cross paths. Walkers almost always do. Hmmm. Curious…

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! 

Have Faith in the Timing of Your Life

Spring is near

Hopeful signs of Spring are popping up everywhere, but the month of March is in full swing and the weather seems to have gone mad. We’re getting a lot of rain, mixed in with a little hail, mixed in with crazy wind, mixed in with some sunny warm days, or a lot of days just seem to have it all. Is it just a coincidence that this crazy weather seems to totally match my frame of mind? I’m not so sure.

Ever since I decided to change my pillow business name to Suzanne Harrison Home I’ve been on a total high. I’ve been working on my branding, my business model, a new website, and new products. I’ve been cutting and sewing while listening to on-line marketing classes. On top of that, I’ve got two freelance web jobs with clients I love, and leads on some possible new clients. And it feels great. Usually.

Sometimes though, I just can’t sleep. I toss and turn and I’m full of self-doubt. I wonder where I might be in my career if I hadn’t quit my corporate job. I obsess about the web jobs I didn’t get. I feel poor. I feel jealous of my friends buying new cars, remodeling their homes, taking amazing vacations. I know it’s irrational, but it creeps in, usually at night, and drives me crazy.

In the morning though, I have a couple of cups of coffee (my ‘happy juice’), get the kids ready to go, then I walk to school with Miles, usually in the rain. Then, I’m back on track, full of confidence and enthusiasm for everything I’m doing. Sometimes I go for a quick run, and that’s when all kinds of ideas come into my brain, that I write down as soon as I get home. Never in my corporate career did I feel this type of excitement for the work I was doing. But I sure did love those steady paychecks, raises, healthcare, and paid vacations.

I don’t know who said it, or where I saw it, but somewhere I saw this quote:

Have faith in the timing of your life.

And it’s become kind of a mantra for me. I repeat it in my head when I’m running, or I say it to myself when I can’t sleep. It’s seems to help push out the jealousy and self-doubt, and bring in my appreciation for all I’ve done, and all I have: amazing kids, a hard-working and loving husband, healthy parents and in-laws, a great house, a beautiful city, fun vacations, etc, etc, blah blah blah. Because I truly believe in this quote I saw somewhere else:

Gratitude makes room for more blessings.

Jumping out of your regular old steady job to start something new is stressful – especially at mid-life, when it seems like everyone around you is reaping the rewards of sticking with their careers. I hate when jealousy and self-doubt creep in. But I’m so very excited about everything I’m working on.

Source: from a page in the Design Within Reach catalog.

Let’s hope that March goes out like a lamb. Because I will be more than ready to welcome the sun and warmth and all that amazing newness that comes with Spring.

I ♥ California

Palm Trees at the Rose Bowl Flea Market

Every year Todd asks me what I want for Christmas, and every year I say “Same thing as last year please!” Because for the past several years Todd has given me a trip to Palm Springs for Christmas. My friend Leslie gets the same great gift from her husband. We got back from this year’s trip just last week, and now I’m writing about it, like I do every year…

Like always, we stayed at the Ace Hotel, which has become a familiar home away from home. But even though it may seem like we take the same vacation every year, every year ends up being very different. Different people join us, and we do different things. This year there were five moms on the trip and we split our time between Palm Springs and Los Angeles – three days in Palm Springs, three days in L.A., six days away from reality, and six days of bliss. 

Every year, however, we do consistently rave about how much we love California.  Going there in February is the perfect contrast to the Seattle winter gloom. California feels so wonderfully warm, dry and brown, with beautiful cacti, succulents, joshua trees, citrus trees, and palm trees.

Palm Springs was the lazy first half of our vacation. Although we did swim, and we did expend plenty of energy talking about all of the silly things our husbands do (and don’t do), followed up with an agreement that we all have pretty amazing husbands, who were, after all, taking care of the kids (and dealing with Valentine cards!) while we were sipping cocktails poolside.

For the second half of the trip however, we put on some miles, walking around different neighborhoods in L.A. in our flip-flops. We got an airbnb house in a great neighborhood called Echo Park, perched on top of a really steep hill, with a great view of the city, and a great spot just down the hill to grab coffee and breakfast.

On Sunday we spent most of the day at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, something I have wanted to do for years, and it lived up to all of my expectations. It’s huge and there is so much great stuff! I felt like I went a little kooky buying so much, but really I got some incredible bargains (really!), and as they only take cash, I could only go as far as my wad of cash would take me. It was so much fun talking to the vendors, bargaining with them, feeling like I was getting such great deals on my new cowboy belt, salad tongs, necklace, linen tea towels, buttons, and treats for the kids. Oh, and we had a celebrity spotting – Emily Henderson of HGTV!

Then for the next two days we cruised around Venice Beach, the Silver Lake neighborhood, Manhattan Beach, and West Hollywood. We ate some amazing food and talked a blue streak about everything. I was incredibly inspired by all of the beautiful boutiques and galleries. Everything was styled and presented so perfectly, and I took tons of pictures of tags, labels, packaging, displays, pillows, linens, and more. I’m really excited to sort through it all and see what inspires me for my own branding, my pillows, and for SuzanneHarrisonHome.com.

I got home around 10pm on Tuesday night, and the kids were waiting up for me. I was so excited to see them, and they jumped into my arms and gave me huge hugs (even though they’re way too big for that!) and it felt great to be home. Walking with Miles to school the next morning, I loved listening to his constant chatter, telling me all about their ski weekend and everything I’d missed. Then I went for a run down to Golden Gardens, so thankful to be back in my wet, green, lush, beautiful home, surrounded by evergreens, fresh air, mountains and water. Ahhhhhh…..

Here are a few photos. Notice the lack of clouds? Incredible.

Swimming Pool at the ACE

The Rose Bowl Flea Market

Bikers with Surfboards in Venice Beach

Venice Beach Shopping AreaAbundance in California
Leather Pillows at Heath Ceramics in LABeautiful Leather Furniture at Heath Ceramics in LAView from the Observatory in LAManhattan Beach from the Pier

A Fresh Start

News definition

I couldn’t decide what to call this post: “A New Beginning” or “A Fresh Start” or “Starting Over”?? All of those phrases sounded so redundant to me. Aren’t all beginnings new? All starts fresh? Well, kind of, I suppose. But what is truly new? Everything stems from something else. Right? Too deep? Why am I even bringing this up?

Because I am embarking on something new, but not totally new. I’m taking everything I’ve done so far, and I’m doing it again, slightly different this time, and hopefully better. I’m making a fresh start! Here’s the backstory…

At the beginning of the year I got a message through Etsy (a ‘convo’ as Etsy calls it) from a woman who said she loved the ‘Words to Live By‘ pillows and was wondering if I’d be interested in selling them on consignment in her store, The Handmade Showroom, at Pacific Place down town. I wrote her back and said ‘Yes!’ and we scheduled a meeting to talk about the details.

At the meeting I showed her the ‘Words’ pillows, as well as the ‘ Wizard of Oz’ pillows, as well as some potholders I’d made, and to my surprise she wanted them all. Her enthusiasm for my work was such an ego boost, but even more, the consulting she gave me was invaluable. We talked about pricing, and craft shows, and wholesale, and labels, and finally she said, “So tell me about the name ‘So Fashion.’”

I explained to her that it was something my son used to say, and that it is a combination of “old fashioned” and “so fashionable” and a play on the idea that everyone has their own way of interpreting things. When I was done she looked a bit concerned and said, “I’m just going to come out and say it…” and I interrupted her and said, “You think it’s weird. It is weird, isn’t it?” And she said something like, “No… I think it’s really important to have a name that you connect with, which obviously you do, but I also think it’s also important to have a name that your customers connect with, and I think they’d have a hard time connecting with that name. It took you a long time to explain it to me and I think it would be better if people could grasp it more quickly. And I have to be honest with you, because there’s a lot of stuff from overseas on Etsy, I thought maybe English wasn’t your first language.”

What a relief! Finally someone said what I really wanted to hear, and confirmed my doubts about the name. So we talked some more and I explained how I had considered using my own name, but nothing sounded right to me, like “Suzanne Harrison Designs” or “Suzanne Harrison Studio” and she said what about “Suzanne Harrison Home?” and I said, “That’s it! I love it!” Why hadn’t I thought of that?

So I went home and bought the domain name SuzanneHarrisonHome.com. Then I made some labels with my new name and the care instructions, and brought them back to the store. Then I built a quick website to support what was on the labels: SuzanneHarrisonHome.com. Then I got out a piece of poster-board paper and started writing ideas and to dos on sticky notes and sticking them on the board.

It might sound a bit impulsive to change my name, just like that, but in the instant she said “Suzanne Harrison Home” it completely resonated with me. It felt right. It felt so much more like me. I love that using my name makes it personal, and that adding ‘home’ includes a word I love, that represents the thing I probably value most in my life.

And it feels like a flood of energy has been released in me. Like this was the trigger I needed to start over, so to speak; to do things again, better, more deliberately, with the knowledge I have from everything I did the first time. I have a ton to do, which feels overwhelming, but exciting at the same time, and I’m not going to rush through it. I’m going to be organized and take it one step at at time. I’m not in a rush. I’m finally going to make a business plan – not a super detailed one, more of a manifesto + high level plan. I want to create some new pillows, but I want to create some other products too, get some professional branding, and the list goes on, and on…

This time of year is always about newness. The year is new, spring is starting to make an appearance, “Out with the old and in with the new” is in the air, it’s a new moon, and the start of the Chinese New Year. This year it’s the year of the fire monkey. I think it’s interesting (and perfect) that all of this is happening right now. And how excellent that this article about the year of the monkey on Refinery29 says:

… the Year of the Fire Monkey is a great year for fresh starts: “If you’ve been on the sidelines, waiting to start a new business or jump into a new hobby or back to school, it’s a very supportive year to do those kinds of things.”

Welcome to the new year — embrace it, and see what new paths it leads you to.

Here’s to fresh starts! Happy new year!!

And check out my pillows at the Handmade Showroom…

Suzanne Harrison Home Words to Live By Pillows at the Handmade Showroom in Seattle

Suzanne Harrison Home Wizdom of Oz Pillows at the Handmade Showroom in Seattle

2015 Review

2016 is here, and it feels great.  The holidays came and went in a whirlwind, like they always do, but we had a lot of fun. We slept in, we shopped, we baked, we decorated, and we celebrated Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Years with family, friends, food, and fun. We saw Star Wars and we skied a few times. What more could you ask for? Nothing! But if sure feels good to have it all over with!

Why is that?

xmas Tree 2015Maybe it’s because the holidays are like the last paragraph of the last chapter of a long book, and no matter how good, bad, or mediocre the story, we’re glad when we’ve finished it, and we’re excited to get started on the next one. That’s how I feel at least. I thought 2015 was really good – great characters, full of meaning, lots of fun, with all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. And now I’m ready to start 2016.

Last year I picked a word to focus on for 2015, and that word was “Integration.” I chose it because I wanted to take my seemingly separate endeavors – web development, pillow-making, and blogging – and turn them into a more cohesive thing. I also wanted to integrate more people into my work.

After ringing in 2016 I started reflecting on last year’s word and I was feeling like I had failed; like I hadn’t integrated much at all in 2015. In fact, I felt like I’d done the opposite and dis-integrated. (Ha! That makes me look at the word completely differently now.) But, isn’t disintegrating actually a means of integrating? You know, like how you disintegrate sugar in water, the sugar seems to be gone, but it’s really still there, it’s just in a different form and now you’ve made simple syrup! Hmm…

integrate

For 2015 I really wanted to start working with other people more, like with my office-mate and graphic designer friend. I also wanted to find mentors to learn from. And I wanted to create one type of business that integrated everything somehow.  Well, none of that really happened like I thought it would.

In fact, I quit going to my office when I started my Nordstrom job, and eventually gave it up altogether. Maybe my word for 2015 should have been ”quit!”  Because I also quit doing Todd’s bookkeeping. And Krypton quit meeting. I also quit hanging out on the playground after school. I quit coloring my hair. I quit sewing all of my own pillows.

But that was what I was thinking last week. This week I’m thinking very differently. I’m thinking that I totally integrated things last year. It’s just that I had to disintegrate a little too.

I may have given up my office space, but I got a new one at Nordstrom, as well as new people to work with, and lots of new web development challenges that got me really excited about the work and my abilities. I often thought to myself: This is great! I’m good at this. This is what I should be doing with my life!

I also did a lot of silkscreening, made a bunch of new pillows, sold them at craft fairs, and often though to myself: This is great! I’m good at this. This is what I should be doing with my life!  Good grief.

So how then did I integrate? Well, mostly I integrated internally. I realized that all of the things I’m doing are important to me. They fulfill me and make me who I am.

The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.  –Aristotle

In 2015 I worked on my branding and came up with a tag line for my pillow business:

Style. Comfort. Inspiration. Fun.

Turns out that those four words, beyond the pillows, are what I believe in completely. I believe we all have our own personal style that we need to be true to. We want to be comfortable. We need inspiration and to be inspirational. Life should be fun. So no matter what type of work I’m doing – web developing, pillow making, blogging, or “momming”, that is the sensibility I strive for. And that is the integration I accomplished in 2015.

So Fashion Business Cards

And I’m not done integrating yet. But I suppose it’s a constant process…

So what is 2016 going to be about?

It’s hard to say just yet, because I’ve only just started the first chapter. But the word for 2016 is:

Organize!

I need to organize my time, my money (Ha ha! Like I have so much it needs to be organized!), my pillow inventory, my workspace, and my house. I need to create web-sites for me and standard processes. I know, it sounds really boring, but I’m excited about this word, and I’m really excited to get organized and into my groove in 2016. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! 

Putting Yourself Out There

It seems like in today’s world people are pretty comfortable putting themselves out there, posting pictures and stories of their lives on Facebook, links to videos and stuff they like, even political and religious stuff. I post next to nothing on Facebook, but I’m a liker, a sometimes commenter, and a reader.  However, I do love posting pictures on Instagram. I love Instgram! I think maybe it’s because I like taking pictures so much. Then, of course, there’s the blog. This blog makes me happy, but it also makes me feel like I’m putting all of me out there. Well, not all of me, but a lot of me, and my family too.

Thankfully I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with it, but I still waver between thinking Should I be sharing this much? and thinking I could be a lot braver and share a lot more. I am definitely not out there shouting, Listen up everyone! I have a blog! You should read it! Au contraire. I’d say a lot of people who know me, don’t even know I have a blog.

I remember when I read Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, or Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, or Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, I kept wondering how it felt for these women to expose themselves at such a deep level, and how thankful I was that they did.  It’s what made those books so interesting and relatable. But how did they muster up the courage to do it? What was it like knowing people were reading about your sordid past? Judging you? I imagine it would be incredibly scary yet incredibly liberating.

Not that this compares, but in the past couple of weeks I’ve written three proposals for potential web development work. I’m also getting ready to sell pillows at a holiday craft fair, and adding stuff to my Etsy site. And it’s hard!  Well actually, the act of doing these things isn’t what’s hard, it’s hitting the ‘save’ or ‘send’ or ‘publish’ button that’s hard. What’s hard is mustering up the courage to say, Here. This is me. This is what I have for you. This is what I charge. Please don’t think I’m stupid. Or asking too much. Please choose me!

Last week, just as I was about to hit the send button to email off a proposal, procrastinating, I checked my email, and in my inbox was something from Seth Godin’s blog, with the subject of “The Initiator.” Here’s what it said:

For each person who cares enough to make something, who is bold enough to ship it, who is generous enough to say, “here, I made this,”…

There are ten people who say, “I could have done it better.”

A hundred people who say, “Who are you to do this?”

A thousand people who say, “I was just about to do that,”

and ten thousand people who don’t care at all.

And all of that is okay, because the person we need, the one we cherish, the one we would miss, is the first person, the initiator, the one who cares.

Thanks for shipping your work.

Even though I wasn’t “shipping” something, so to speak, his email was timed perfectly. It made me smile and gave me confidence. It made me remember that I’m putting myself out there for me, because I care, and because I think I have something valuable to offer. I’m not trying to rip anyone off, or undersell myself just to get a job. I’m simply saying here’s what I have, take it or leave it. If you decide to take it, I’ll give you my best. And if you decide to leave it, I’ll try to understand.

So thank you, once again, Seth Godin, for inspiring me to have faith in me. It’s scary. Yet thrilling. And I’m learning so much.

I got yes’s back quickly for two of the proposals, and I’m still waiting to hear back on the third. The craft fair is on December 5th and 6th. And while my etsy site doesn’t get too much activity, I continually (and slowly) work at taking better pictures and writing better copy to show off my pillows. It’s a great exercise on presenting myself. And it makes me love my Wizard of Oz pillows, which always remind me:

  1. Follow your heart.Follow Your Heart Tin Man Pillow
  2. Experience not brains will make you wiser.
    Scare Crow Pillow
  3. You’re braver than you think.
    Cowardly Lion Pillow

(I really need to take some better pictures, don’t I?)

Embracing My “Enthusiasm”

Here’s a piece of advice:  When faced with a large pile of laundry to fold, flip open your laptop, go to TED.com, and watch a few Ted talks.  Not only will you get your laundry folded, but you will be filled with inspiration, and admiration.

The other day, as I sat down on my bed to tackle a Mount Everest of laundry, I decided to listen to the Ted talk given by Monica Lewinsky.  Within minutes I was in tears. The shame she has experienced over the years, and the shaming she continues to be victim to, seem impossible to be endured.  But here she was, standing proud, talking openly about it, using it as a vehicle to advocate for a safer and more compassionate media. I was blown away by her story and her bravery. 

Whew! What a ride that was.  But still, so much laundry to fold…

Next up, I decided to watch a talk called “Why some of us don’t have one true calling” by Emilie Wapnick.  The title really spoke to me, and as I was watching it I had to stop folding, hit the pause button, and grab a pencil and paper to take some notes, because she was saying exactly what I needed to hear.

As you know, I have been on a mid-life mission to find my calling. For the past three years I’ve been doing web development/design, fabric design/silk-screening/pillow making, blogging, bookkeeping for a while, dabbling in other hobbies, and spending more time with my kids. And it’s been a happy journey. But I often worry that I’m too scattered. That I’ll blow it if I don’t choose just one thing, spending most of my time becoming an expert at that one thing.

I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up.Because If I don’t chose one thing to specialize in, won’t I just be mediocre at everything? Or will I be stuck on the slow boat to success-ville?  Is my inability to chose just one thing some sort of character flaw?  Shouldn’t I be able to answer the question “What do you do?” more succinctly?

A while ago I bought a book called “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” which is about determining and working with your personality type.  After taking the quiz at the beginning of the book, I discovered that I’m a Type Seven, or “The Enthusiast.”  A Seven is “The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Acquisitive, and Scattered.”  (Um, yep.) Described as ‘the quintessential Renaissance person” Sevens seem to have a lot of great qualities (curious, optimistic, adventurous,) but the book also says “On a very deep level, Sevens do not feel that they can find what they really want in life.  They therefore tend to try everything – and ultimately may even resort to anything as a substituent for what they are really looking for.” (Uh oh. Am I doing that?)

The Wisdom of the Enneagram - The Enthusiast

But since I’ve watched the TED talk “Why some of us don’t have one true calling,” I feel better.  I’m embracing my Sevenness.  Because let’s face it, I am an enthusiastic person.  It’s just who I am.

In her talk, Emilie Wapnick blames our culture for making people like me feel anxious about their seemingly scattered pursuits.  From a very young age, we are all asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as if there’s one great thing we’re meant to do. We need to choose a major. We need to chose a career.

But she argues that there’s nothing wrong with people like me who have many creative pursuits. In fact, she says that they have some really desirable qualities.  Like idea synthesis, which is combining fields to create something new – and that innovation comes from these intersections.  And rapid learning – which comes from being good at being beginners and not afraid of trying new things. And adaptability.  She claims that the ability to adapt easily to customers’ needs is especially important in the 21st century.  She says:

It’s never a wast of time to pursue something you’re drawn to even if you end up quitting.  You may apply that knowledge in another field in a way you couldn’t have anticipated.

And that makes me feel better.  Because it’s hard to change who you are.  Especially at my age. So I’m gong to take her advice:  “Embrace your inner wiring, whatever that may be, because it will lead to a happier more authentic life.”

The thing is, regardless if I’m a ‘Seven’, or an ‘Enthusiast’, or a ‘Renaissance gal’, I believe that my mixture of endeavors isn’t so much about being successful as it is about being sane.  I’ve been in the hi-tech industry my whole career, so it makes sense that I do web development. But sometimes dealing with a lot of code makes my brain hurt, so there’s nothing better to counterbalance all of that headiness than by working with my hands, and creating something tactile. That’s where the pillows come in. The blogging is like a cross between the two – I’m on the computer, using WordPress, but I get to be creative, while synthesizing thoughts and ideas with words. The bookkeeping I did for Todd’s business, well I hated that, so I quit, but I’m glad I exposed myself to it, and learned a lot about Quickbooks, accounting, and taxes. (Bleck.)

I think having a traditional salaried job is hard for a Seven like me. Especially as a parent. So being a freelancing web developer/pillow entrepreneur/blogger/mom/enthusiast is really what I need to be right now. I need to be a hybrid. It’s who I am, and I’m feeling pretty lucky that I get to be one.

If you ask my daughter Nadine what she’s going to be when she grows up, she’ll say, “an interior designer.”  My son Miles will answer, “a basketball player, a stand-up comedian, and I want to save endangered animals.” Both are great answers. Both suit their personalities. And both are completely feasible. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Whatever kind of person you are, here’s my advice for you, or, as my dad would say, “If I could make a suggestion…” If something excites you – like a job or a craft or a sport or a hobby – don’t ignore it. Make some time for it. Try it out. Even if you quit, you’ll still have gained something, discovered something new about yourself, and maybe even found a new passion.

And if you’re interested in taking the Enneagram test and find out your type, click here.

México!

Mexico CItyWow, I am very behind in my blog posts! My goal is to write at least one post per week, but sometimes that just isn’t possible.  Sometimes life gets busy.  Sometimes life has other things in store.  In this case I had to skip a couple of weeks because I’ve been super busy putting together another Art Walk event happening on May 8th and 9th, and also because I had to go to Mexico for a few days.

When I was doing my ‘I Never’ project last year, one of the things I put on my list of things I’d like to do that I’d never done before was to go to Mexico.  Like going to the the top of the Space Needle, it seemed like everybody I knew had been there except me. And I knew I would love it because I love the bright colors of Mexico, the food, the people, the heat, etc.  Well, finally, my dream of going to Mexico came true last week, and it’s kind of funny how it happened.

Mexican Wrestling MasksI have a large extended family in Belgium, and for the past few weeks one of my Belgian cousin’s sons, Victor, has been staying with us in Seattle.  He’s 21 years old, and he’s been doing a really cool work exchange program in Canada for the past six months, and in between jobs he’s been staying with us.  We love having him and it’s going to be so sad to say goodbye to him tomorrow.  Anyway…

Victor frequently Skypes with his family in Belgium, and the other day when he was Skyping with his mom and grandmother (my cousin and my aunt) I popped my head into the screen and said hello.  We chatted for a bit and they told me that my other cousin, who lives in Mexico and who’s an artist (Victor’s uncle), was having an exhibition at a museum in Mexico City.  I told them that my friend would be traveling in Mexico City soon and asked them to please forward me the information about the exhibit so she could check it out.  When I got it, I forwarded it on to my friend, and she wrote back saying, “You should come with me!” and I responded “Okay!”  Isn’t it funny how things happen some times?

Exhibition InfoWhen I asked Todd what he thought of me going to Mexico he said, “You would totally love it, but now is not the best time.”  He’s super busy right now, working all the time, but I told him, “No problem!  Victor will still be here and he can be our manny.  He can take the kids to and from school and to all of their activities.”  And that was that.  I found some decent airfare and booked my tickets.  Hooray, I was finally going to Mexico!!!

I booked my tickets a few days before April 15th, and now it was time to pay taxes, and oh boy did we get hit hard this year.  Todd made more money this year and I made some money too, and so we had to pay a hugely icky amount of money to the government.  And that’s when I started feeling nervous about my trip.  Shouldn’t I be working more instead of globe trotting?  Didn’t I just go to Palm Springs?  Would I be totally imposing myself on my friend and my cousin?  Good grief!  Oh well; there was no turning back now.  Plus I had a free place to stay.

I left bright and early on Wednesday the 22nd, with a nervous feeling in my stomach.  When I landed in Mexico City I got on a bus to go to from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 to meet my friend, and then I started to get even more nervous.  I was the only female on the bus and it looked like we were leaving the airport and entering a shanty town.  I don’t speak any Spanish so I thought for sure I was on the wrong bus.  What should I do?  Yipes!

Fortunately the bus finally turned around and headed back towards the airport, where I got off at terminal “dos” and easily met up with my friend.  Thank goodness!  Then we grabbed a cab and made our way to the posh Polanco neighborhood where we were staying at my friend’s friend’s beautiful apartment.  We showered and changed and the three of us headed out for an evening stroll through the city, then we had a very welcomed cerveza and delicious dinner outside.  So lovely!

My nervous stomach quickly disappeared, and for the next four days I soaked up Mexico City.  I must of walked a hundred miles.  I went to six museums, took almost three hundred pictures, ate at outdoor restaurants, enjoyed delicious food (including guacamole with baby grasshoppers and street mangoes with lime juice and chili powder), shopped at the huge markets, and never wore a sweater.  I felt far away and blissfully disconnected from my life in Seattle.  So luxurious!

When I told people I was going to Mexico they were really excited for me, but when I told them I was going to Mexico City their tune usually changed.  “Isn’t that the biggest city in the world?”  “Isn’t it super dangerous there?”  “Are you worried about being kidnapped?”  “Don’t drink the water!” and “Don’t trust the police.”  Well, I didn’t drink the water and I kept away from the police, but otherwise I didn’t worry.  Mexico City is an amazing city, with so much to see and explore. There is art everywhere, amazing architecture, tree lined streets, beautiful parks, bustling neighborhoods, great museums, plus my friend speaks fluent Spanish, and the Mexican people we so so nice and so helpful when we (frequently) got lost.  I was in heaven.

Tamayo MuseumThe highlight of my trip was visiting with my cousin and seeing his exhibit.  When I was a kid my sisters and I used to stay with his family in Belgium for one week in the summer while my parents traveled.  Even way back then I thought he was such a talented artist.  He was always collecting and making cool stuff – often giving me something to take home, like a funny monster made out of his collected objects or an Asterix character he had painted. It’s no surprise to me that he is now such a renowned artist.

These days his work is shown all over the world.  This is the second exhibition of his I’ve seen and for these two exhibits his work has centered mostly around his short films, and then there is a body of work (mostly small paintings and colages) that accompanies the films, that are an extension of the theme of his work. Maybe I’m biased, but I think a lot of people would agree with me that his work is brilliant.   It’s so unique, beautiful and poignant, sometimes even scary, yet always exquisitely presented.  I especially love his films featuring kids – those are the most touching to me. You can check out his films at his website: francisalys.com. And I found this great article about him from Vogue magazine.

I got back from Mexico exactly a week ago, and while it’s always great coming home, I’m still thinking a lot about my trip.  It seems like it was fate that I should go, and traveling to another culture always makes you look at your life a little differently I think.  Not only am I thinking about Mexico City, but I’m thinking about my cousin and his art.  I think I’m a little envious of artists like him, because they seem to know themselves so well, and are so passionate and dedicated to the work they bring to the world.  I would love to feel that way about my work.   But for now I am just so happy and grateful that I had my adventure in Mexico City, and that I got to come home to my wonderful family and lifestyle.

Now I’m going to try and pick ten of my most favorite pictures from my trip.  It’s not going to be easy.

Okay, here they are:

I can’t wait to go back some day!