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:

 

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!!!

 

The End of Summer

Holy cow, is summer actually over?!

Dragons at GreenlakeIsn’t it weird how time seems to move so quickly, yet some things seem like so long ago?  Summer went by in a flash, but it seems like the kids have been out of school forever, and the sweltering hot days of July, hanging out at Greenlake ’til all hours, seem like so long ago.

This summer had a totally different vibe to it , and my job at Nordstrom is probably a big reason for that, but even so, so much seems to have changed over the summer.

My Zucchini

For starters, my kids seem so much older than the did in May or June.  It always seems like they grow up really fast over the summer – kind of like the zucchini in my garden.  I plant little tiny seeds in the spring, much too close together, unable to imagine how big they’ll get, and for so long they seem like slow growing little sprouts.  Then summer kicks in and suddenly the zucchini plants have taken over the garden, with their giant leaves and big yellow flowers, squeezing out the string beans, huge watermelon sized zucchini appearing overnight.

This summer not only did my kids grow in size, they also seemed to get more mature, independent, capable, grown up.  They can make their own meals, make their own plans, bike over to their friends’ houses, hang out at the mall, go to the movies themselves, watch Sharknado 2 multiple times on Netflix, and even help out around the house.  Nadine got an iPhone when she graduated from elementary school, and it has been so nice being able to text with her to keep in touch while I’m at work, or wherever she may be.  She has been completely responsible and mature about that phone, thank goodness.  And the other day when I totally forgot about Miles’s soccer practice, I told Miles I was sorry and he said, “It’s not your fault mom, it’s mine.  I should have remembered.”  (Aw.)

Kids at the Beach

The kids spent a lot of time away from their parents this summer, not just while we were at work, but at sleepover camp and at their grandparents; they even flew on a plane by themselves for the first time.  I think that this independence, spending loads of time with their cousins and other kids, played a big part in their rapid summer development.

Todd kicked off the summer with a herniated disc in his lower neck that incapacitated him for about six weeks.  Talk about a perspective changer!  He couldn’t do much of anything during that time, and spent a lot of time in bed, watching movies, contemplating life and his business.  He initially worried that his clients would freak out that their metalwork would take longer than expected, but eventually he let go, accepting that his health, and living without pain, really is the most important thing.

Turned out that not only were his clients understanding, supportive, and willing to wait, but Todd hired his first full-time employee, and got in some part-time help to build and install a couple of the really big jobs, paying them to do the heavy lifting, getting things done more quickly.  An approach that he will carry forward.

Todd saw every kind of doctor to get help with the pain, scheduled surgery, then canceled it at the last minute.  He decided instead to work exclusively with the physical therapist, and his progress has been amazing.  He’s not 100% just yet, but he can do a lot, including kayaking and sleeping in a tent.  Thank goodness!  We didn’t go on a big family camping trip this year because of his neck, but we’ve been able to squeeze in a couple of camping trips these past two weekends, both times bringing the kayaks and setting out crab pots. Two of Todd’s favorite most activities are kayaking and eating Dungeness crab, so it was a great way to cap off the summer.

Me Kayaking

As for me, this summer has been so validating. I love my web development job at Nordstrom, and I love making and selling pillows. For the first time ever, when asked what I do for a living, I am completely comfortable saying “I am a web developer and a pillow maker!”  Doing the web development work can really strain my brain sometimes, so it feels really good balancing that with making pillows – silk-screening, sewing, making something with my hands.

A lot of what I love about these two lines of work is the freedom and flexibility they provide me. Even though I work a lot, I get to be my own boss, make my own choices, and I don’t feel trapped doing something that doesn’t fulfill me. I don’t feel pressure to work for a certain block of time every day. I don’t feel like I’m not getting enough time with my kids. But I do love my paychecks!

I don’t know where these endeavors will take me, but for now I am embracing this hybrid approach to my work, loving the confidence and balance (and $$) they are giving me.

Sunset from Vashon Island

The end of summer is always bitter sweet.  I will miss our unstructured days, camping, swimming, staying up late, and no homework.  But I am soooo ready for school to start! We all are. The teachers’ strike has finally ended, and the kids go back to school tomorrow – eight days later than planned.  The weather has cooled down, and the sweaters are back on.  This time of year always feels like ‘back to business’ time and I am excited to have regular blocks of time to get work done.

Really, you can’t beat summer in the northwest, and I hate to see it end, but it will be back in no time at all…

Northwest Summer

 

Selling Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival – Part 2

continued from Part 1.

Seattle Street Food Festival 2015So here I was at the Seattle Street Food Festival, standing behind my display of pillows, not really sure how to act (Should I stand? Sit? Wear my sunglasses? Say ‘hello’?), watching throngs of people walk on by (on their way to the food trucks I presumed), often smiling, pointing at, or touching my pillows.  Actually, almost everyone touched my ‘Welcome’ AstroTurf pillow, and lots of people read the quotes on the back of the Wizard of Oz pillows out loud.  ”Experience not brains will make you wiser.”  Would anyone actually buy one though?

So Fashion Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival

I kept telling myself that it didn’t matter.  That it is what it is, and even if I don’t sell a single pillow, at least I got a lot of pillows made, figured out a display booth, and if this wasn’t the right type of sale for me, I would just have to be more deliberate in finding the right type of sale or outlet for my product and customer.

But I was still nervous, and I still wanted people to like and buy my pillows.  Meanwhile, the cutest couple ever in the booth next door were working their butts off selling meringue after meringue.  They gave me a key lime one, and it was truly amazing.  They really understood that they should be selling food at a food festival.  Meanwhile I was just smiling and taking it all in. Such great people watching, so many cute dogs, so many pregnant women.

Seattle Street Food Festival 2015

My meringue selling neighbors at the Seattle Street Food Festival

At 12:30 someone walked all the way into my booth, and immediately bought a Tin Man pillow. I was so excited I could barely swipe her credit card or put her pillow in the bag. Woo hoo!  Gushingly I told her that this was my first sale at my first craft fair and she was so sweet and wished me luck.  I told the couple next door, “I sold a pillow!” and they said, “Way to go!”  Okay, maybe I can sell pillows at a food festival.  A few minutes later, it happened again – another Tin Man pillow.

By 3:00 pm I’d sold three pillows total, and by the end of the night I’d sold five.  Hmmm. Not terrible, but not great.  Especially since across the way the fuzzy monsters, which were super cute but not cheap, were flying out the door, the mustard guy was working his butt off selling his mustard, and the couple next to me sold out of meringues and had to go make more.

The vendors across the street

My view of the vendors across the street.

At one point the fuzzy monster lady came over for a visit and said, “Your booth is awesome.”  I told her this was my first time and she said, “Well you nailed it.  It looks great.”  I told her hers was amazing too, and she said that her boyfriend built it for her.  ”It looks like people are in love with your monsters,” I told her.  And she said, “Yeah, these are my peeps – the geeky young people who work at Amazon.  And kids.”  She also told me that she sells a lot a Comic-Con and did a killing at the Urban Craft Uprising winter sale, and that she’d been doing it for five years. I loved talking to the other vendors, who had such great stories, positive energy and enthusiasm.  Most of them had been doing their thing for about three to five years, and all of them did it exclusively for work.

The first day ended at 10:00 p.m. and Todd and the kids came early to help pack up my pillows and secure the tent for the night.  It had been a long day, and I was so happy when we all piled into Todd’s truck, with Miles on my lap and Nadine in the middle, and headed home for the night.

Seattle Street Food Festival at Night

So Fashion Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival Night Market

On Sunday morning I slept in a bit, but when I got out of bed at around 8am, my nervous stomach was back.  Would I sell any pillows today?  I hadn’t sold even one in the last hours of the festival the night before, and I was doubtful that any pillow buyers would be at a food festival on a Sunday.

When I got back to my booth at around 11am I decided to move my display up towards the front of the tent.  People were shyer than I’d thought, and liked to look at things without actually stepping into the tent.  They seemed to like it if I ignored them and just let them look.  I felt like I should say ‘hi’ when people stopped by, but then let them browse in peace.

So Fashion Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival

So Fashion Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival

Sunday had a completely different, more mellow vibe to it, and I liked it.

The first guy that came to my booth said he thought I was charging way too much for my pillows, and that instead of $65 for the Wizard of Oz pillows I should be charging $20 or maybe $40.  (Ha!)  I told him that they were labor intensive – all silk-screened by hand – and that the linen they are printed on is expensive, so is the insert, and that it takes a really long time to make them, and that if he wants to spend $20 on pillows, Target has some really cute ones.  He said, “Yes, but they are not as original.” Good grief! But it’s hard not to worry about your prices.

So Fashion June Bug Pillow

Next a dapper looking couple came into the tent and said they loved my pillows and that they looked really well made.  They asked me where else I sold them, and I said “Just etsy and here.”  Turns out they have a business selling printed textiles and ceramics to wineries, and they told me so much about their business and what’s worked well for them. They had a lot of great information to share, and their enthusiasm for my pillows was a real ego-booster.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, but business was slow.  The first pillow I sold was the “Welcome” AstroTurf pillow to a couple at around 2pm.  Guys loved that pillow, and everyone touched it as they walked by or commented on it.  I had to explain that it was an outdoor pillow and waterproof, which I thought would have been obvious, but apparently not.  The guy who bought it suggested I make another one like it that says, “Go Hawks!”  I can’t tell you how many people suggested I make Seahawk pillows.  I just don’t see that happening, but it would probably be a real money maker.

At around 3pm a nice English guy, wearing a straw hat and a checkered shirt, really surprised me when he said he wanted to buy all three of the Wizard of Oz pillows. I reacted by jumping up and down, saying “You made my day!! Thank you!!”  So professional.

So Fashion Wizdom of Oz Collection

As the day wore on, my nervousness disappeared and was replaced with contentment and fulfillment. By the end of the day I had sold seven pillows, and I felt really really happy. Even though I didn’t exactly sell out of pillows, people really seemed to like them.  People talked about them, touched them, read the quotes and words, sometimes bought them, and often picked up a business card.  People really connected with the Wizard of Oz pillows, which, considering the book was published in 1900, I think is truly amazing.  I loved talking about those pillows and showing people the images in the book.

Throughout the day Nadine would text me and say things like, “Sold any pillows?”  or “Are you bored?” or best of all, “Are you hungry?  We’re coming down to eat with you!”

Seattle Street Food Festival

Todd, Nadine, and Miles came down at 6pm and bought a smorgasbord of amazing food from the food trucks, which I gobbled down after eating practically nothing all day.  Then at 7pm we packed everything into the truck, said goodbye to our new craft-fair friends, and headed home.  That might of been my most favorite part of the festival – that feeling of accomplishment and contentment at the end of day, loving that the kids and Todd were enthusiastically helping me and supporting me.  It’s a feeling I just don’t get working in the corporate world.

Help from my family

So, what’s next? Well, it’s time to apply for holiday craft shows, so I will get those applications out in the next week or two.  I also need to spruce up my etsy site, and create a dedicated website, which means I need to get some good pictures taken, write a whole bunch of copy, and work on my branding. I still haven’t figured out the perfect insert for the pillows, and I need to keep working on how to keep costs down so I can afford to sell retail at some point.  I also need to get my accounting in order.  Bleck!

I don’t know that I’ll do another street food festival, but I am so thankful for the opportunity and the experience.  I learned so so much and I’m excited to keep moving forward with this fun new business of mine.

Stay tuned!

So Fashion Stay Tuned Pillow

My Favorite Things at the Beach

Oof, what a rough week I had last week!  Sleeping in every day, drinking way too much coffee in the morning, then making my way out to the beach, swimming in warm aqua-blue dolphin filled waters, reading my book in the middle of the day, chatting and laughing with friends and family, cocktails under the tent, gorgeous sunsets, playing cards with my nieces, and the list goes on.  Lucky me, it was the epitome of a vacation.

We’ve been doing this vacation at the beach in Alabama (my family, extended family, and friends that are family) since 2003, and every year feels a lot like the one one before, but still, every year since I’ve started this blog, I’ve felt the need to write about it. This year I decided I’d write about my favorite thing from each day.  Here goes:

Day 1 – Sunday: The Storm

Day 1 Storm

We almost never get big thunderstorms back home in the northwest.  Our rain comes in a constant drizzle rather than a fly-by down-pour.  But at the beach these storms roll through regularly, and today, our first day at the beach, a real doozy came through. We had recently arrived and everyone was sitting on the beach enjoying a glass of wine and catching up, the air thick with humidity and perfectly still.  But behind the houses the sky was jet black and advancing quickly towards us, so we packed it up and and made our way inside. But Todd, our friend Jack, and I lingered as the wind picked up, the sand whipped our feet, the birds flew frantically overhead to safety, and the black clouds covered our sky.  It was beautiful and exhilarating.  Then the heavens opened, huge raindrops started falling, and we decided it was time we went inside too.

Day 2 – Monday:  The Paddle Board

Later in the day the wind picked up and so did the waves, so Nadine and I grabbed the paddle board and went for a wavy laughy ride.  It was too rough to stand up, but I got on my knees to paddle and Nadine rode behind me, with her beautiful tan and gorgeous smile, and we paddled along the shoreline, hoping to spot a dolphin, watching the fish jump all around us, and the pelicans flying by so low and close we shouted, “Hello pelican!” practically in their faces.

Day 3 – Tuesday:  Ocean Beach Cake

This afternoon, as we were all sitting on the beach under the shade tent, we partook in “Ocean Beach Cake,” which for me is also “Time Travel Cake,” because with every bite I am whisked back to the Jersey Shore in the 1970s.  I have no idea what the cake is actually called, we’ve always called it “Ocean Beach Cake” but it’s a super delicious spice cake with a coconut glaze topping that Barb’s mom makes.  Back in the 70s, when we went to the Jersey Shore with Barb’s family every summer, following the same menu every year, we always had Ocean Beach Cake for desert on the first night. Fast forward 40 years (yikes!) and here we are at the Alabama coast – best family friends together again, sharing this most delicious tradition.

Day 4 – Wednesday:  Life Jackets

Three guys in a two-person kayak

This afternoon, three of my favorite teenagers got on a two-person kayak, with fishing poles and a cooler full of bait, and said they were going shark fishing.  (Really? Sharks?) Sitting under the shade tent, we waved them off and watched as the kayak got smaller and smaller until it was just a tiny speck near the horizon.  I didn’t like them being so far away, but I didn’t worry much, until I saw Todd and Uncle Gary running out of the house and down the beach.  The girls and I took off after them and as we got closer we could see that the kayak had capsized and we could see only two bobbing heads in the water. Uh oh. (Did they actually catch a shark that pulled them so hard they capsized?)  We ran. Finally we got to the scene and could see all three boys in the water, dragging the boat to shore, and my niece yelled, “No way, I think they’re having fun!”  Turns out the hull had filled with water and a wave had pushed them over. We were all incredibly relieved, had hugs all around, and said, “Thank God for life jackets!”  Then a Coast Guard helicopter flew overhead and we waved enthusiastic “everything’s okay” waves and headed back to the house for lunch.

Day 5 – Thursday:  Book Club

It’s important to have a good book at the beach, and last year, coincidentally, three of us brought the same one: Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.  I have no recollection of what it was about, it was just a fun beach read, made even better by the fact we were all reading it.  This year we deliberately chose a book to read before-hand, and six of us ladies read Never Let Me Go. It wasn’t quite as fluffy as last year’s book, but it was a quick read, and this morning, since everyone else had finished the book, I woke up early and decided I wouldn’t leave the house until I was done.  It was an odd book, an uncomfortable topic, but interesting, with good characters, and a big mystery that finally unfolded (thank goodness!) at the end.  Best of all, it was a great book to discuss, and we had such a lovely beach book club meeting under the shade tent this afternoon. And a new tradition has been kicked off!

Day 6 – Friday:  Fireworks

Todd and I on the beach

It was really hard to pick my favorite thing for today since I did so many fun things.  I started my day with a trip to the fort with Todd, Miles, and Ben.  Fort Morgan is a fort on the coast that was built in the 1800s to protect Mobile Bay, and the boys loved exploring it, and I have to admit, so did I.  Then after lunch we had our annual mini-golf competition, followed by ice cream cones at Scoops.  Just after finishing our ice cream another crazy storm came through, followed by the most dazzling sunset which we enjoyed on the beach with a glass of wine, while the kids played ultimate frisbee.  Then we had a delicious dinner of local shrimp and pasta.

After dinner the three houses came together at our house to watch a fireworks display extraordinaire, courtesy of Uncle Paul.  It had been another super-fun beach day, even though I didn’t spend much time on the actual beach, so I decided that the fireworks were my favorite for today, because it was the perfect ending to a perfect day, spent in an extraordinary place with people I love so much.  Sappy, I’m sorry, but true.

Day 7 – Saturday:  The House

Nadine and Miles in front of the house

We have rented this same beach house for years, and while I’m not a huge fan of the dolphin themed decor or the blasting cold air conditioner, I do love it’s big open floor plan, the big well-stocked kitchen (with the exception of a salad spinner), the three tables that are pushed together so 16 of us can dine together every night, the puzzle table in the corner, a TV area, and huge windows overlooking the beach. I actually try not to spend too much time in the house, but today another storm came through, so we all ran inside and found our happy places – at the puzzle table, in a comfy chair by the window reading a book, playing cards, eating chocolate cookies.  It may not be my house, but it sure feels like home.

Maureen at the beach

Of course this year really wasn’t like other years because my sister Maureen wasn’t there.  I felt really sad and worried before we got to the beach about how weird it was going to be without her.  But it ended up that I didn’t cry a lot or feel super sad like I thought I would.  Instead I felt a sort of contentment, or maybe gratitude is a better word, for all the years she did go, and for all the years we got to spend with her there, in our worry-free bubble, creating all of the traditions and bonds and memories that we continue to carry forward.  Lucky us.

We checked out of the house Sunday morning, and Todd and I flew out of Gulfport, Mississippi, and the kids drove home with my parents to spend a week with them in South Carolina.  It was good to be home, and this week, unlike last week, has been really productive.  It should have been party-central, or make-out-central, with the kids gone, but instead we both dove into our work.  I worked full days at Nordstrom, then worked on pillows when I came home at night, and Todd had two big installs that meant super long hours for him.  We did go to a really fun party on Thursday night, and had margaritas and walked around Ballard last night, and it’s been a really great, really different, sort of week.

I miss the kids a ton, and can’t wait to see them in a few days, when life will get back to normal – or summer normal at least.  And before long we’ll start talking about how much we can’t wait to go back to the beach next year.

Sea you later!

Nadine wrote this in the sand on the last day.

Three Summers Ago…

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years.

Three summers ago, at the very same time that school was getting out, I said goodbye to my full-time working-mom self.  Until then, I never imagined not working.  But I decided it was time to take a little break, shake things up, and start something new – something more creative and fulfilling.  I needed better balance.  I wanted to spend more time with my kids, and less time doing work that didn’t feel meaningful or appreciated.   I didn’t have much of a plan, but I did have faith in the net, and, I guess, in myself.  I thought it would take me about a year to get it all figured out.

Haha!

In these past three years the one thing I’ve figured out is that I’ll never figure it out.  Nobody does.  But I’ll keep on trying. I’ll keep plugging away. I’ll keep making progress.  Time moves quickly, and everything keeps changing, including me and my perspective.

So much has changed since three summers ago!  Like…

Three years ago I had a six-year-old and an eight-year-old – a first-grader and third-grader. Now I have a third-grader going into fourth, and a fifth-grader going into middle school. Back then they were babies. Now they are incredibly capable and independent.  I rely on them to help me.  They don’t need me nearly as much as I think they used to.

Back then, because I’d been working all day and the kids were in the after-school-care program, I didn’t spent much time at their school and didn’t know many of the other parents.  Now the other moms are my new best friends and my kids’ friends and their parents are our main social circle.  We rely on each-other so much for help (and sanity.)

Back then I was really excited (and nervous) about not working all summer and spending 100% of my time with my kids.  Now I’m excited (and nervous) about a new contract job I’ve taken this summer (a part-time/flex hours web dev job at Nordstrom) and leaving the kids to their own devices for part of the day.

Back then Todd’s business was in it’s infancy and he would stress out about getting enough work and staying in business.  Now he has a reputable business and stresses out about how he’s going to get all his work done.  Unfortunately this has given him a bulged disk in his neck, so he’s had to take a break, can’t do any heavy lifting for a while (or ever?) and has had to hire employees for the first time.  Talk about a perspective changer.

Back then I hadn’t written a single blog post.  Now I’ve written hundreds.  I hadn’t silk-screened on fabric or made a single pillow.  Now I’ve made a whole bunch and even sold a few. I hadn’t built a single WordPress website.  Now I’ve created several.

Back then I had platinum blond hair.  Now I have gray hair in the front, brown hair in the back, and blond hair on the ends.

Back then I had an older sister who I considered a breast cancer survivor.  Now I have only a younger sister.

Back then I thought money was a key component to happiness.  Now I know it’s how you spend your time.

Back then I was looking for my calling.  Now I’m pretty comfortable with my “web developer/pillow maker” status.  Although I haven’t brought myself to make it my job title on LinkedIn just yet.

Back then Todd thought I was crazy to walk away from a steady income, excellent benefits, and a solid savings plan.  Now he says “I doubt you will ever regret quitting your job and spending more time with your kids.”

And I don’t regret it.  At all.  Yes, sometimes the money thing makes me nervous.  The people around us seem to have so much more of it.  Their cars are so much nicer.  But my perspective on money has changed a lot.  I value what I spend my money on so much more.  When I get paid for a freelance job, or when someone buys a pillow, I feel a swell of satisfaction and pride that I never experienced with my salaried paychecks. I feel like I really truly earned every penny, for working hard on what’s important to me.

The past three years have been a bit of a roller coaster, scary and fun, riding the waves of doubt and faith, fear and fearlessness, impatience and patience.  But things have leveled out lately. I’m more comfortable in my skin.  I’m proud of my choices. For the past three years Todd and I have invested in ourselves (instead of our retirement funds) and I think that investment is starting to pay off.

In another three years even more will have changed.  The kids will be teenagers and I’ll be 51.  (Yikes!)  They will be even more independent and capable.  My hair will be all-over grey by then.  I’ll have sold thousands of pillows and created lots of successful websites. Todd’s back will be fine and he’ll have more employees to help him build amazing metalwork.  We’ll have slightly nicer cars and money will be going back into our savings accounts.  We’ll take a trip to China and we’ll finally make the kitchen and dining room a bit bigger and the yard a little nicer. And I will continue to savor my time with my family - the best gift the world has ever given me.

Yesterday was Father’s day, and when we were visiting with Todd’s brother’s family, I saw this page in Real Simple magazine.  I really love the photo, but I think the words apply to both dads and moms, and totally agree with this line:

The end product of child raising is not the child but the parent.

The Wild Life

The other night, as I was reading in bed, the bug bites on my ankle were driving me completely crazy.  I had over-scratched them already so I decided to try a hot compress instead, hoping that would relieve the itch.  I went into the bathroom, got the water super hot, then put a hot wash cloth on my ankle for a bit.  Ahhhh.  It totally worked.

When I was done, I went to hang up the washcloth, glanced into the shower, and screamed.  Holy cow!  There, on the edge of the shower, was an itty-bitty baby bird, staring up at me with its big black eyes.  I ran out of the bathroom and Todd asked, “Is there a spider in there?”  No, of course not, I am not at all afraid of spiders.  “A snake?”  “No,” I told him, “please just go in and look.”  So he walked in and said, “Oh wow, it’s that same baby bird.”   Yep.  We had rescued him just two days ago.  And I didn’t scream because I was afraid of him.  I screamed because I was so startled that this little guy had been staring up at me the whole time I had the hot washcloth on my ankle.  Anyway, Todd put on some garden gloves, put him back in his box, took him outside, and placed him on the roof over the deck.

The first time we met this baby bird was last Sunday morning.  I was working on my computer in the basement when I heard some birds making a crazy ruckus outside, so I decided to go check it out. When I walked out on the deck, sitting on the wire that crosses our backyard was a hummingbird, next to him was a finch-type bird, and two other hummingbirds were madly swirling around in the air.  Also, two large robins, presumably a mama and a papa, were swooping out of the sky chirping frantically, and in the middle of our yard in the grass there was a baby robin, also chirping frantically.

Baby_Robin_by_Monique_Haen

Miles came out and I showed him the baby bird and said, “What do you think we should do?”  He said we should put him in the tree.  But I didn’t think the baby bird could fly, so instead I gave Miles some gardening gloves and asked him to gently pick up the bird while I lined a box with an old t-shirt, then Miles put the bird into the box.  We put the box on the deck, but when Todd came out he put the box on the deck roof.  Very smart.  Up there he would be in the shade and away from the cat.  Then we all got in the car to go to Vashon Island to pick Nadine up from camp.

When we got back several hours later, there was still a lot of chirping going on.  I went out back and saw that the baby bird had hopped out the box and was standing at the very edge of the roof, right next to a tree.  When I checked on him a while later, he was gone, and the chirping had stopped.  Oh good, the family has been reunited, I optimistically imagined.  But early the next morning I heard more frantic chirping and when I went outside and located the source, it was our little baby bird again, at the tippy-top of the spruce tree.  Wow, how did he get way up there?  And that was the last I saw of him.  Until last night.

I’m not sure when he came into the house, but I do know who brought him in.  Maybe he fell out the tree again, I don’t know, but obviously the cat got a hold of him, brought him in through the cat door (ouch!) and released his little present in our bathroom, where he remained until I got my late-night fright.  When we checked on him in the morning he was gone and again I convinced myself that the family had reunited and that all was well with our baby bird.

I’ve been thinking about that little bird a lot lately.  As fragile as he seemed, he was really one tough bird.  Somehow he landed in the middle of my back yard and then (with a little help) made it to the top of a 30 foot tree, only to be captured by my cat two days later, and re-rescued by us.  Talk about the will to survive!  But he didn’t do it on his own.  His bird community (what was up with the hummingbirds being there?) got in on the action and all of that ruckus caused Miles and I to get involved and move him to safety.  Now that’s teamwork!

The baby bird incident isn’t my only recent run-in with the local wildlife.  Just two days prior I was woken up at 3:00 am by the sound of scratching on the window next to my bed.  I thought it was the cat asking to be let in, so I got up and lifted the shade.  It took a while for my eyes to adjust, but I could immediately see it wasn’t the cat.  It looked like the biggest rat I’d ever seen.  Oh no, it wasn’t a rat, it was a young opossum stuck in the window well, trying desperately to scratch his way out.

opossumTodd was out of town and I was on my own with this conundrum.  Ugh.  So I got up and headed to the back yard to find some sticks.  I thought maybe I could kind of chop-stick him out of the window well.  The first piece of wood I saw was a long flat board and when my sleepy brain started to work a little better I realized that all I needed to do was put a plank in the window well and the opossum could walk out himself.  It took some time, but it worked.  Thank God!

Funny thing is, the very next night, as I was driving down our alley, a little opossum crossed right in front of me, and I’m positive it was him again.  And as gross as you might think opossums are, I was so happy to see him alive and doing well.

Why am I writing about all of this?  I guess because it’s summer-time and summer-time means it’s also nature-time.  Starting with our trip to Glacier and Banff we were thrilled to see so many animals – bear, moose, big-horn sheep.  Then at the beach in Alabama it was the dolphin, sting ray, and crabs, and on our other camping trips we ran into deer, otters, seals, and loads of chipmunks.  And check out Miles and toad:

These run-ins with our animal neighbors are always so exciting, and so important.  Why?  Well I guess it’s because they remind us that we’re not alone, and that we need to accept, appreciate, and respect this fact.  I think Chief Seattle put it most eloquently:

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

I am a firm believer that in the end, it’s not a competition.  We’re all in this together, so we might as well be helping each other out the best we can, and that doesn’t just apply to our human friends.  Chief Seattle also wisely said this:

What is man without the beasts? For if all the beast were gone, man would die of a great loneliness of the spirit.

I first came across that quote on a bottle of beer I ordered when traveling years ago in Africa.  It really stuck with me, because what a weird synchronicity, having traveled from Seattle to the middle of nowhere, then finding this quote on a bottle of African beer.  Funny.  But also profound.

Pillows in the Garden

P-Patch GnomeA week before we left for our trip to Alabama, my neighbor sent me an email asking me if I was still making pillows, and if so, would I like to share a booth with her at the upcoming Art in the Garden event.  I love this event and I adore the P-Patch where it’s held.  In addition to crafters selling their wares, they have craft projects for kids, live music, a beer garden, and food trucks.  It’s their annual fund raiser and it’s a really fun way to spend the afternoon.  So I replied to my neighbor with an enthusiastic “Yes!” and got busy filling out the application.

Then I started to get nervous.  Was I crazy?  It was only three weeks away and I only had eight completed pillows, no display, no business cards or payment system or web-site or etsy site.  What was I thinking?  And I was about to leave on vacation!  But there’s nothing like a deadline to light a fire under my butt, and so I made a plan.  The week before vacation I would focus on the business side, and the week after vacation I would sew like crazy and make my display.

The first thing I did was order a Square device and download the app so I could take credit cards with my iPhone.  That took about two minutes.  Check!  Next I set up a gmail account for my business.  Check.  Then I decided to make business cards.  What to do, what to do…  So I took out my sketch book and found a sketch that I thought would work well on a business card.  I scanned it into Photoshop, along with the name of my business which I had hand-printed, then put it all together with my email and web address, and saved it as a jpeg file.  Now I could import it into an on-line business card app.  I decided to use Zazzle, and it was a pretty straightforward process.  100 two-sided business cards cost me $24, including shipping.  I also needed tags for the pillows, so I decided to make business cards again, but this time using VistaPrint, where 250 cards costs only $23.  I put my business card image on one side, and care instructions on the other.  Here’s how they turned out:

So Fashion Business CardsManifesto Wordscare instructionsCurious about the name?  “So Fashion?”  Well I have Miles to thank for that.  Here’s the story.  When Miles was about 3 years old he would look at things, like a car or someone’s outfit, and ask, “Isn’t that so fashion Mama?”  I thought it was so cute, but for some reason I thought he meant, “Isn’t that so fashionable/hip/cool Mama?”  I would hesitate and reply “Yes, I guess it is Miles.”  Because sometimes it was on old Pinto, or some other not-so-attractive car like it (no offense), and I worried a bit about his level of taste.  But as he got older and more articulate, it turned out that when he was saying “so fashion,” what he really meant was “old fashioned.”  When finally one day he corrected himself and said “I mean old fashioned” I thought to myself, Duh!  Of course that’s what he meant!  Leave it to me to confuse the two, and to project my own meaning onto it.  So funny.  (He also used to call his pacifier his fire pass.  Nadine knew exactly what he meant.)

I originally thought I would name my business “Spruce.”  I liked the idea of my pillows sprucing up your home and life.  But one day when I was driving around, and my mind was wandering around, I landed on the idea of calling it “So Fashion.”  I was thinking not only about the idea of how we all put our own meaning onto things, but also about how I love modern design and technology, but I also really embrace the traditional, the hand-crafted, the old fashioned.  And I liked the idea of a name with a story.  So there you have it.

So I got a bunch of stuff taken care of before we headed off for our week at the beach, but I didn’t get a web-site or an etsy site set up.  Oh well.  I figured that it was okay not to have them for this very small first step into pillow selling, and I convinced myself that I probably wouldn’t sell any pillows anyway.  And off we went on our relaxing get-away.

When we got back, with only five days til show-time, I started to sew like the wind.  On Thursday I painted an old crib I had white, thinking that would be how I would display my pillows.  And by Friday night I had 16 completed pillows, and was ready to go.  Ta da!

The event started at 11am, so we had plenty of time to set up, and even though my wares were bulky, set up was pretty easy.  Unlike my booth-mate who had lots of big frames to hang, and boxes of greeting cards to set up.  Todd was an amazing help to both of us, and I have to say, he has a great eye for creating a lovely display.  We got done in time, and I think it looked pretty darn good, especially since neither of us had done a test run.  Here are a few shots:

So Fashion - Art in the Garden DisplayOur shared boothArt in the GardenMy mother-in-law showed up at 11am sharp and was my first customer.  I told her I couldn’t possibly sell her a pillow, that it would be a gift.  She does so much for us!  But she insisted, and I took her money.  My neighbor said, “She totally wants to help you out.  You should let her.”  Okay, that made me feel better.  And then throughout the day I had a lot of friends and neighbors stop buy, and many of them bought pillows.  So nice!  And by the end of the day I had sold 8 pillows and made $400.  Wow!  I really didn’t expect to sell so many or make so much.  It was really exciting.  But more importantly, I learned so much.  I learned which patterns and colors people liked the best.  I learned that most people didn’t know that I had designed all of the patterns myself, and done the silk-screening.  I learned that I am a spaz when in comes to taking people’s payments.  And much much more.

So, what’s next?  Well it’s definitely time to take some good photos, get an etsy shop set up, as well as a web-site.  And I need to make more pillows!  I need to make a lot more of the pillows I called “Stay Tuned” (the ones with the TVs on them) because those sold out right away.  And for the pillows I called “Manifesto” (the ones with the words) I need to make more with the grey material.  Grey was the hot color.  I also want to figure out how to best present myself and my pillows – how to share my story better.  And finally, I need to decide where to sell them next!  Doing the Art in the Garden event was the perfect way to dip my big toe into the craft-show waters.

And when I wasn’t busy selling my pillows, I couldn’t help but take a few photos of the amazing flowers at the P-Patch:

P-Patch flowers at Art in the GardenP-Patch flowers at Art in the Garden

P-Patch flowers at Art in the GardenP-Patch flowers at Art in the GardenP-Patch flowers at Art in the GardenP-Patch flowers at Art in the GardenIt was so great having my first pillow sale in such a beautiful and inspiring place!

Stay tuned for more on the progress of my etsy site and web-site.  And please check out my neighbors photos.  They are spectacular!

Summer Half-Time

Wow, I have really been neglecting my blog lately.  I’m over a month behind in posting my ‘I Nevers‘ and it’s been three weeks since I published my last regular blog post.  But I suppose that is the sign of a good summer.

Summer is about at its mid-point, and we are totally embracing the laissez-faire lifestyle that comes with it.  We got back late Sunday night from our annual week at the beach where the only thing on the agenda was showing up for dinner.  Our days in Seattle aren’t too different and include sleeping in, eventually making our way to Greenlake, and then staying at Greenlake until around 9pm or so.  At 7pm the lifeguards go off duty, and that is when things get crazy – everybody’s favorite time of day/night.  The kids head straight to the dock with the low and high diving boards and spend the next two hours or so jumping, flipping, diving, and belly-flopping.  When someone flubs their diving board move and lands smack on their back, belly, and/or face, you hear a group groan emanate from the beach, as the parental lifeguards recollect memories from their own summer days of yore when they too often landed with an unfortunate smack on the water.  But that doesn’t slow these kids down one bit, and they hop right back on line, continuing to hone their awesome diving board skills.

Sunsetting at GreenlakeWith such a laid-back lifestyle, why the heck haven’t I been blogging?  Well I suppose it’s because when I’m not vacationing or taking the kids to Greenlake, I’m either working on two web-sites that are about to launch, or sewing like the wind getting ready for my first craft-fair attempt at selling my pillows (this Saturday – more to come on that), or attempting to keep the house and yard from looking like Armageddon.  Which probably doesn’t sound so laid-back, but thankfully since it’s summer I suppose, I have a pretty laid-back approach to these endeavors.

Our deck in the summer-time

If we’re not at Greenlake, this is what our deck looks like in the summer-time.

So in an effort to not neglect my blog for too long, today I’ve decided to post eight pictures, choosing one from each day of our relaxing and fun-filled Gulf Coast family escape.  For the past ten or so years, every July, we’ve been traveling to the opposite corner of our country to have a family reunion.  There were twenty-four of us this year:  17 members of my side of the family in one house, and 7 members of my best friend from growing up’s family in the house right next door.  I feel so extremely fortunate to have this annual getaway with my family and friends (who are really family too), whom I adore.

Here are the photos…

Day 1:  Sunday.  We flew into Pensecola Florida, rented a car and drove to our house in Fort Morgan, Alabama.  As we crossed the state line we came to an area called “Flori-bama” and snapped this shot:

Flori-bama

Day 2:  Monday.  Oh no!  I didn’t take any pictures this day.  How is this possible?  Here’s one from another day of the week, which is pretty much what every day at around 6pm looked like:

Cocktail time at the beach

Day 3:  Tuesday.  This is what dinner at the house looked like:

dinner-timeDay 4:  Wednesday.  Wednesday night is always dinner at Tacky Jack’s.  This is the view from the deck where we dined.

sunset at Tacky JacksDay 5:  Thursday.  The kids are in and out of the water from dawn ’til dusk.  Dusk gives the water a pretty pink glow.

Swimming at dusk

Day 6:  Friday.  The annual mini-golf championship of the world:

Mini Gulf at Gulf ShoresDay 7:  Saturday.  The last full day at the beach means time for the family photo shoot.

Family photo shootDay 8:  Sunday.  Time to head back to Seattle.  What a week it has been!

Heading homeWe have no other trips of get-aways planned for the rest of the summer.  Time to enjoy Seattle at its finest!  But while August in Seattle is amazing, I know that we’re also about to turn the corner with our excitement for this lifestyle, and soon enough I am going to be very (very!) excited for school to start.