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!! 

Energy

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about energy.  Well, not as much thinking about it as paying attention to it. And by energy I mean those positive or negative feelings you get when you’re working on something or interacting with someone. You know, those good or bad vibes you get from people, or that happy hum you get when you’re having fun, or that icky heaviness you feel when you’re struggling with something.

Earlier this holiday season I sold my pillows at a couple of craft fairs, and I loved the energy. Local, creative makers, getting together to sell their stuff – the energy was great – positive, supportive, and encouraging. There seems to be such mutual admiration amongst makers. You hear comments like: “Beautiful!” and “I love what you’re doing!” and “What a great display!” and “Wow, that must have been a lot of work! How did you do that?” I’ve had vendors help me with my display, assure me that my prices weren’t too high, and high five me when I sold three pillows to one customer. We chit chat about etsy, selling retail, packaging, and other craft fairs to try. I sold more pillows than I thought I would at these past sales (hooray!), but even if I hadn’t, I got so much out of them. Most importantly I got the validation and excitement to move forward with my craft.

PNA Craft Fair

Last summer I spent a long weekend selling pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival, then on Monday I went to the office to do my web development job, and the contrast in the energy between the two places of business was extreme. At the craft fair I was outside in the sun and fresh air, people were having fun, and I was proudly (yet nervously) showcasing my work.  Back at the office the lights were off and it was silent.  My coworkers were all in their cubicles, staring at their screens with their earplugs firmly planted, not even acknowledging my presence. Don’t get me wrong, these are good people, it’s just that this is how they like to work.

For most of my life I’ve worked in the IT department, and in my experience the energy has not always been that great, especially at my last job, where it was pretty darn negative. In the IT department I never got a lot of “Wow, I love it!” or high fives when I succeeded. Nope. It was all about requirements to fulfill and problems to solve. Not a bad thing really, but there was a lot more “The data is a mess!” and “The site is down!” and a lot less “Wow, that’s beautiful!”

Unlike the craft fairs, the IT environment at my last job often felt competitive rather than supportive. People talked negatively about each other. Feedback was given only at performance reviews, and not by the people you worked with or were helping, but by the person you worked for. And the drive to do better was tightly connected to the drive to make more money, please your boss, and move into the next pay band.

When you look at the work, though, there’s not that much difference between the process of building a website and making a pillow. You go through the same basic steps: brainstorm → design → prototype → build → test → deliver → repeat.  And I really enjoy doing both kinds of work.  So why is the energy so different? Is it the culture? Or my personality? Or both?

Culture definition

When I took my alchemy class a couple of years ago, one of the first things we learned about was energy and frequencies.  I remember learning that the opposite of love isn’t hate; the opposite of love is fear.  That the highest frequencies are love and enlightenment, and the lowest frequencies are fear and shame.  Like frequencies attract and are harmonious, unalike frequencies cause dissonance and are uncomfortable. That made sense to me.

So is it possible then that the difference between the craft fair energy and the IT energy was love versus fear?  Or was it the way my personal frequencies were interacting with those different environments?

Here’s the thing. It’s not like I spend every day at a craft fair selling pillows.  These sales happen only a few times a year. They are a lot of work, driven solely by me, and when I finally get there, it’s like my performance review. Based on that review, I make adjustments that are, hopefully, lucrative adjustments. This pillow business is run 100% by me, and my success or failure is 100% up to me. That is not the case in the IT department of a large corporation.  And that, I believe, is a big reason these environments feel so different.

The other day a mom friend of mine who wants to get a job said “I just don’t know that I can work for someone else.” And I said, “Well, I don’t think anyone likes to work for someone else.  I think we all need to work for a purpose and not a person.”  Often, though, these are mutually exclusive options. Either you work for yourself and your own mission, or you work for someone else and their mission.  It is a very lucky thing to find a job where you work for someone whose mission you embrace completely.

At a craft fair it kind of looks like the vendors are just standing there not doing much, doesn’t it? But really we worked our butts off just to get there, making stuff like crazy, doing work we love, not because we’re making so much money, or because we might get a promotion, but because believe in the work. It makes us happy. We’re not trying to impress our bosses. Our only competition is ourselves, as we strive for uniqueness, perfecting our craft, and finding the people who connect with and value what we’re offering.

Can I apply that same mentality to web development? I think I can, and I think I am. I really love making websites for people. I really love pushing though the challenges of figuring out the tough stuff. I love working with the business owners. And I love being my own boss. But I think it’s important to pay attention to the energy, and strive for the highest of frequencies.

Christmas is in two days, I haven’t been working much since the kids got out of school, and it’s a totally different vibe right now. The weather has been horrid, we’ve been sleeping in, making (and eating) a lot of cookies, spending time inside, going outside only to get in the car to go shopping. I’ve been feeling a bit anxious, but I know that will all change tomorrow as we celebrate Christmas Eve, and then Christmas, then do some skiing, hang out with friends, and ring in the new year.  I’m really excited for 2016, and to keep the good vibes coming. But I’ll roll with the bad ones too.

Wishing you all the best energy this holiday season and in 2016!

Sex and the City

On this dark and rainy Monday morning, after getting the kids off to school and cleaning up, I sat down at my desk to tackle my ‘to do’ list.  But I was so tired. Which was weird because it was only 10:30 and I’d just had my second cup of coffee. But I felt like I really needed a nap, so I decided to lay down for a moment on my bed. Next to my laptop. Which I decided to open. And watch one episode of Sex and the City to help me fall asleep. Just one.

When it was over, I really wanted to watch the next one. So I told myself that since I’d worked all weekend long selling pillows at the craft fair, it was okay to watch the next two episodes. In fact I also told myself, “Don’t even think of looking at that clock. Just relax and enjoy this. You never do this and it’s okay to relax and take a break.” And I’m so glad I did!

I never fell asleep as I watched the last three episodes of the sixth and final season.  And oh man was it good! I didn’t look at the clock even once, and I didn’t feel guilty. I just let myself get completely sucked into the lives of those four awesome (make-believe) women, whom I adore, and I cried and cried as the series came to a perfect ending, so happy I got to relive it all, so to speak.  When it was all done, I felt like I had had the nap that I needed, and the energy to go on with my day. But I kept thinking about Sex and the City and how great it was to watch it all over again.

The last time I watched it was when it was on the air, from 1998 through 2002. It was one of the first really great series broadcast on HBO.  Back then I used to get together regularly with my girlfriends to drink wine and watch the latest episodes. At the time we were the same age as Carrie Bradshaw/Sarah Jessica Parker, and we were addicted to the show. We were going through, or had recently been through, many of the same things she had. It was the perfect show at the perfect time in our lives, and we drank it in.

Then it was done. And I didn’t miss it. It never dawned on me to watch it again, until a few months ago when I saw it was available for streaming on Amazon Prime. Almost every night since then I’ve watched a couple of episodes in bed instead of reading. And it’s been like time travel. Back to a time before I was married or had kids, when work and going out were my two main things. Back to a time before cell phones and the internet were ubiquitous. Carrie answers her cordless phone without knowing who’s calling, deletes messages from Big on her answering machine, and writes her column on a twenty pound laptop. She smokes! Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha, and especially Carrie pull off some of the the craziest outfits and the most incredible shoes. Best of all, it all takes place in NYC.

Watching Sex and the City this second time around really made me reminisce about my old life, and how important my friends were to me, and how all-consuming our relationships were. Like Carrie, my friends were like family members, sometimes closer, knowing me better than anyone. We went through the ringer together with our boyfriends and our breakups. Wondering who we’d end up with. Going to so many weddings and baby showers, watching everyone else getting married and having kids. It all seems like a lifetime ago, but watching Sex and the City again brought it all back, and it made me remember how intense that time was. How exciting it was to start seeing someone new, and how much it hurt when you broke up. I wouldn’t want to go back, but I’m so glad it all happened

In season 6, the last season, Miranda has a baby, gets married and moves to Brooklyn. Charlotte struggles with infertility and adopts a baby from China. Samantha gets breast cancer. And Carrie ends up with Big. Miranda’s family is what finally softens her up. Charlotte gets the family she longed for but in a way she never expected. Samantha’s cancer (and her amazingly hunky and devoted boyfriend) is what gets her over her fear of commitment. And Big finally stops being a dope, and finally shows Carrie how much he really loves her. Aah, so satisfying…

Why I felt the need to write a blog post about this, I’m not exactly sure. Maybe it’s because it made me so emotional. Why did I cry so much?  Hormones? Or am I just becoming more and more sentimental as I age.  I don’t remember crying at all the first time I watched it. But the first time around I hadn’t adopted a baby from China or lost my sister to cancer. Plus it doesn’t take much to make me cry these days. Listening to Nadine’s choir performance the other day really caused some waterworks. Why?

I think it’s because the feelings they trigger are really important and not to be ignored. Seeing Nadine sing doesn’t make me sad, it fills me with love for her, which apparently makes me cry. Watching my TV friends go through all of their stuff did the same thing, not just because I loved the characters, but because I could relate to their experiences. And my experiences, good and bad, have made me who I am. And watching Sex and the City again did a really good job reminding me of that.

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.

Remembering Maureen

October 21, 2014, one year ago today, was not a good day.  It was the day my sister Maureen passed away.  The saddest day of my life. I can’t believe it’s been a year already, but the weather today – a perfect fall day – feels exactly the same as it did last year.

Today I started my day a lot like I did last year. But this year, this morning, while the oatmeal was cooking, I decided to go outside and pick some flowers to put on the mantle.  I felt the need to do a little something special to commemorate the day.  Then I started crying, and Miles came in the kitchen and gave me a huge hug and started crying too. Then we had breakfast and set off to school and work.

All in all I’ve had a pretty good day today (only a few crying episodes in the bathroom at work) and I got lots of lovely texts (and jokes!) But I also thought a lot about the meaning of today, and how or if it should be commemorated. And I decided that while it’s not a day to be celebrated, it will always be a day that fills me with memories of Maureen.  Not so much memories of the things we did together, but memories of how I felt when I was with her, or when I talked to her on the phone, or when I hugged her, my incredibly lovely sister.

So today, instead of writing about that terrible day one year ago, or how much I miss her, I decided to commemorate this day with posting the words I spoke at her memorial service.  Because they remind me of the sister she was to me.

Hi. I’m Suzanne. The middle sister. Maureen was my big sister; Nicki is my little sister. And I think some might say we pretty much fit the stereotypes of birth order. Maureen was the responsible one, I was more of the free spirit, and Nicki was the baby. But Maureen took her big sister responsibilities very seriously, and loved to boss us around. And so we liked to call her “Mother Maureen” But Maureen wasn’t just the bossy big sister, she was our leader. And she led by example. By doing everything first and making it look easy.

She was the first to ride a bike, to go to kindergarten, go on sleepovers, drive a car, go to Belgium by herself, go to college, get a real job and an apartment, go to architecture school, get married, design and build a home, and start a family. She paved the way. And she impressed the heck out of me.

When we were kids I loved her “Euro” style and to raid her closet. I couldn’t believe she got to see Journey in concert. When we went to Belgium she always spoke French. I was way too self conscious. She had the coolest job at Crate & Barrel and the most amazing apartment in Chicago. When she met Gary working at Apple, boom, she met her soul mate, the guy she’d be with forever. So impressive.

But Maureen wasn’t perfect, and today I thought I’d burst your bubble, and tell a little story from when we were kids.

One night, back in the mid 70s, we were having dinner and our dog Lola came in from the TV room with a huge bar of the cherished Belgian chocolate in her mouth, and my dad jumped up and said, “How did she get that?” and we all said we had no idea. So we were sent to our rooms to be interrogated individually. As we were going upstairs, Maureen devised a plan. She said Nicki should admit to taking the chocolate, since she was the baby, and they’d go easy on her. We agreed it was a brilliant plan. So first my parents talked to Maureen, and she denied everything. I did the same. And then when it was Nicki’s turn, she cracked under the pressure. She started bawling. Saying, “I didn’t do it!” in a heap of tears. And so Maureen fessed up. I mean, come on, who loved chocolate more than Maureen? And so she had to call up Sarah Rowen and tell her she couldn’t go to her sleepover. Brutal.

So as you can see, my big sister, who seemed to do everything right, wasn’t perfect. But being on this planet isn’t about being perfect. It’s about making the world a better place, and we all know that is exactly what Maureen did. She made the world a better place no just by giving us three amazing kids, but by being who she was. A role model. Patient beyond belief. Stronger and braver than we’ll ever know. With the most infectious laugh. We all loved being around her. She was so calm. “Mother Maureen.” I never once heard her yell at her kids. That wasn’t her approach. Her approach was with love and patience.

That is how I will remember her. The girl who only lived to be 50, but packed so much into those 50 years and filled me with so much admiration.

I believe that love is stronger than death, and I will always love Maureen with all my heart, and be forever thankful that she was my big sister.

 

Life

I haven’t written a new blog post for a while now. Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I haven’t had any inspiration about what to write, which is okay right now I think. Because ever since I’ve started this blog I’ve written a lot about wanting to find my groove, my thing, my calling, my balance, my lifestyle, whatever you want to call it.  And while I’m not running around proclaiming, “I’ve done it!  I’ve figured myself out! I finally know what to do with my life!” I feel really happy about where I am right now, and my days just fly by, full of good stuff.

How and when did this happen?

Well, I guess the first thing would be my recent acquirement of steady part-time employment.  My job as a contracted web developer at Nordstrom is perfect.  I work around 24-32 hours/week and have total flexibility, so I work as much as possible while the kids are at school, and when I come home I can work on my pillows. I’m not sure how long it will last – it was supposed to end a month ago, but stuff keeps coming up for me to work on, and so I’ll take it.  I’m learning so much, honing my skills, plus I like the company and the people I’m working with.  What more could I ask for?  And while I’m happy for it to last as long as possible, when it does end, I’m not worried about being unemployed. I’m exited for the next thing.

I wonder if this good place I’m in might also be because of my new “I don’t give a shit” attitude.  Or maybe I’ve reached the other side of my mid-life crisis – the side of acceptance, of letting go.  Or have I finally found the right path?  Because right now I feel like I know what I’m doing.  I feel like I’m doing the right things, for the right reasons, and I’m enjoying myself.  I feel like I’m not stretched too thin, or stressed out about stuff, or wildly out of balance, or thinking luck or anyone else besides me will help me be successful.  Hooray!

It feels so good to not give a shit about a lot of the stuff that I used too. I’m done dying my hair, wanting a fancy car or a bigger house, or eating out much. I wear comfortable clothes, that without nice shoes or a scarf or jewelry, could easily be mistaken for pajamas. I usually shop at Safeway instead of the fancy market, and a lot of my clothes come from clothing swaps. I’m not embarrassed to tell people I love them or hug people who aren’t huggers. And I’m pretty okay with the fact that I will always have cellulite.

But not giving a shit is not the same as not caring.  I do care.  More than ever about a lot of stuff.  I care about my family so much it hurts.  I care about time well spent, and spending as much time as possible with the people I like the best, and not as much time with the people who bug me.  I care about aesthetics, good design, and comfort.  I care about yummy healthy food and my vegetable garden.  I care about aging well and always learning and trying new things. I care a lot about having fun, but I pretty much always have.

Most importantly, I think I’m at a point in my life where I am just so appreciative of all I have, of where I’ve been, and where I’m going.  I have faith in the universe, and my faith in the net is stronger than ever.

But I don’t think this is the end of the story.  This is not the end of my blogging.  I may have slowed down a little in my posts, but, as they say, the story never ends…

 

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

Selling Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival – Part 1

I’m still recovering from my big pillow sale last weekend.  The house, inside and out, is still a wreck from it all, and this is what my work table currently looks like:

Pillow Sale Aftermath

But it was all worth it!

I haven’t written a blog post since The Beach because for the past few weeks, when I haven’t been doing my web development job, or doing the kid thing, I’ve been spending every spare moment getting ready for my first big craft sale at the Seattle Street Food Festival.  It’s been a lot of fun – happy work that doesn’t pay by the hour, but makes me excited seeing it all come together, dreaming of the possibilities. I’m not exactly a pillow mogul yet, but I am proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.

The festival/sale was last weekend, August 15th and 16th, and on Saturday morning I woke up at 6 a.m. with a big old nervous knot in my stomach, and for the first time I doubted myself. This is food festival! I thought, and people are coming here to buy food, not pillows.  What, are they going to grab a hotdog and a beer AND a pillow? What was I thinking?? Well, typical me, I really wasn’t thinking when I signed up for it; it all just kind of happened, like life does.

Last March, when I applied for the Urban Craft Uprising‘s June sale, I checked the box that said I’d also like to apply for the Urban Craft Market at the Seattle Street Food Festival.  A few weeks after getting rejected from the summer sale, I got an email that I had been accepted to the Street Food Festival in August.  Okay, I thought, that works well for my schedule and gives me more time to get ready.

After getting the news, the first thing I did was plan my inventory.  I had no idea how many pillows I would need, but decided I wanted to have at least ten of each pillow. That way I would also have plenty of pillows to sell on etsy and at other sales.  So I created a spreadsheet, wrote down what I had already, and figured out everything I needed:  fabric, zippers, piping, etc. Then I shopped, then I washed and cut and ironed all of the fabric, then I did my silk-screening, painting, stenciling, etc.

Ironing

Painting

Silk-screening

Drying

Heat-setting the ink

Cutting and prepping

Then I contacted my sewers.

There was no way I could sew eighty-some pillows myself, but fortunately, a while back, I found two talented people that could sew for me, doing a way better job, especially with those pesky invisible zippers.  And, fortunately, they both said they could sew forty pillows each in time for my sale.  I can’t tell you how great it felt when I got my pillow ingredients off to them finally, and how even more thrilling it was when I got the completed pillows back from them.  I had two new Wizard of Oz pillows – the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion to join the Tin Man, and new fabric colors and contrasting piping for my ‘Words to Live By’ pillows.  I loved them!

Wizard of Oz Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion Pillows

While the pillows were off being sewn, I got busy with my display.  I borrowed a table from my neighbor, bought a 10′x10′ tent on Amazon, spray painted some baskets I’d found on the side of the road that had a ‘free’ sign on them and a wire bread rack I found on craigslist.  I got some burlap from JoAnn Fabrics to cover the table, some fake fur from IKEA, and Todd made a great pillow backer for the table out of our old broken down fence.Then I got some business cards and a couple of signs printed out at Fedex/Kinkos. Everything was coming together.

Back Yard Prep

So Fashion Pillows

On the Friday before the sale, much needed rain came to Seattle, and all day and night we had crazy thunderstorms and high winds.  Yikes!  Not good craft fair weather! Thankfully everything cleared up by Saturday morning, and when Todd and I got to South Lake Union, in his truck loaded with my display stuff and many many garbage bags full of pillows, all was dry and just a little overcast.  Perfect street festival weather! I had a great spot between a lady selling shortbread and a couple sellling meringues, and across from a lady selling fuzzy monsters and a guy selling specialty mustards.  Fun!

It was so nice having Todd’s help because not only did he provide the much needed muscle to get the tent up and the truck unloaded, but he has a really great eye for displaying pillows.  Who knew?  And in about an hour I had a booth I was really proud of.  I still had my nervous stomach, but the booth looked great I thought.  And at noon I was open for business.

Okay, here we go!

So Fasion Pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival

To be continued…