Dec 31, 2006

Try this year on for size

I have just spent my evening debating with friends on the issues I brought up in my previous post while eating good food, and drinking excellent beer. I'm here briefly to wash away any inflammatory residue I may have cast on the evening for others. I enjoy examining human motivation, but perhaps when entering a new year it is best not to bring up issues too emotional and primal. It is better, I think, to say what a lovely sunset we're having. And hope for a gorgeous sunrise tomorrow.

Happy new year everyone!!

I'm off to watch Nick and Nora be the best married couple on earth. I wish I was more like Myrna Loy. That's my last wish for the year. Myrna Loy was a wonderful lady!

Plus she got to pretend to be married to William Powell. You can't beat that!
Sex Obsession
(thoughts on sex from a happy prude)

I spent my morning lazily sifting through my back-log of glossy magazines for pages to tear out to add to my binder of inspiration. It's been a lovely slow last morning of the year. Max is still in his pajamas.

I love magazines, especially fashion magazines. I have been reading them religiously for twenty four years. Unlike most of my friends, looking at them doesn't make me feel bad about myself. I don't want to look like the models I see though I do want to wear some of the things they're wearing. What makes me feel bad about myself is looking in the mirror or looking in my closet at all the cool clothes I can't wear. What I love about fashion magazines is watching fashion evolve, I like seeing old designs reinvented. I love to see what new designers are doing with fibers, color, prints, and proportions. I love good design, I love evaluating design, and dissing what I think is bad design.

The one thing I find distasteful about magazines is that it forces you to notice how obsessed with sex so many people are. Am I a prude? I am not at all ashamed to say that I am that breed of woman who has no desire to flash you my hoo-ha, I don't think it's empowering to wear almost nothing in public, I think wearing thong underwear is pretty gross, and I don't think sleeping with a battalion of people is something to be proud of. Am I repressed? I am not. I actually think sex is pretty great, (although I am unfortunately not blessed with a significant libido).

Flipping through ten magazines this morning got me to thinking about my attitudes about sex compared to the attitudes most of my peers have embraced. If I am to believe what I read in the press, I am an abnormal woman if I do not want to have sex every minute of every day. I am repressed if I am not eager to learn poll dancing and if I am not desperate to be desired by every man I meet. But I am impervious to such pressures to become a sex-obsessed woman.

I have been called a prude for as long as I can remember because I don't really enjoy nudity, (as though enjoying nudity is a virtue people think I should feel bad not to have), because I don't actually want everyone to see my nipples, and because I really don't think dirty jokes are the slightest bit amusing. All they are is coarse. It's insinuated that a person who doesn't enjoy dirty talk or flaunting their sexuality in public must be repressed, or sexually immature. Which I got to thinking about today.

Ironically, I have always felt the same way about people who feel the need to constantly show the world how sexual they are, who need to exhibit their sexual parts like artifacts in a crime scene, and to talk about sex in that "been there, done that" kind of way to let you know there's nothing they have not done. To me, sexual obsession, as well as sexual perversion are signs of sexual immaturity. I have known a lot of people who have played around with S & M, with kinky threesomes, and with all kinds of sleazy roll playing (which of course they must tell me about so that I know how uber cool they are, because what good is it to do anything perverse if no one ever knows about it?)

I am so unimpressed with sexual perversion, I do not think it makes anyone cool at all. The truth is, when I hear people telling me what weird things they've done sexually, (as though I ought to give them a medal for being so edgy and for possessing such sexual prowess), my respect for them invariably decreases. At its best sexual obsession is incredibly adolescent, at its worst it's dangerous and destructive. What on earth makes a person think I will admire them for enjoying humiliating other people at their most vulnerable?

Do I have to want to buy toys at a sex shop to be a sexually liberated woman? Do I need to have weird sexual fantasies in order for my peers to think I'm really cool? Why do so many people think that for sex to be good it needs a hundred accoutrements? I can understand wanting to shake things up a little bit now and again, but the need to dress sex up in costumes and darkness reeks of insecurity. I just can't help but think that if a person is actually sexually liberated they don't need to do anything but be naked to enjoy it. (This from a confirmed prude.)

I don't feel comfortable with public displays of affection from anyone either. Mostly that's because I don't like feeling like a sexual voyeur, I don't want to know what you look like right before you take a tumble with your partner. I don't want to be led to imagine what sex might look like to you, not because it's distasteful so much as because it ought to be private. And I certainly don't want you to imagine me and mine getting it on either. Sex is a natural and pretty fun activity, but that doesn't mean I feel the need to share intimate mental pictures with anyone.

That's what I was thinking about while I collected eggs, did my dishes, and looked at pictures of Victoria Bekham who really creeps me out. I am waiting for the western hemisphere to grow up sexually. From the way things look right now, I'm going to guess it won't happen in my lifetime.

(In a lot of ways I would say that it was my hippie upbringing that led me to view sex as an ordinary natural thing that people do. So much so that it doesn't really hold that much mystery to me. It's something people do: they need to do it, they enjoy doing it, and shouldn't be ashamed of doing it, like eating and sleeping. I just don't see what the big deal is about it for so many people.)

(Feel free to share your own thoughts on this subject.) (Just so long as you don't get inappropriately coarse.)

*I just deleted a sentence that I think is just too extreme. For those of you who already read it: I'm sorry!

Dec 30, 2006

Wishes, not resolutions

This has been a transformative year. I have restored myself to my rightful place amongst the poultry keepers of the world. I have returned to the state in which I dropped a thousand spiritual bread crumbs so that I could always find my way back. This is the state in which I passed out while trying out for the track team in the sixth grade, running the four hundred run. I passed out in front of the short red-headed love of my life who never knew I pined for him for three years and who later became a big fan of LSD.

This is also the state in which another love of my life kicked a soccer ball into my face knocking me out with a bloody nose to rival some of Max's most impressive ones. It's good then, that I met the real love of my life in California. Where I never got knocked out in front of the men I intended to impress. I have brought him home with me where we have watched the snow and laughed for no better reason than that snow is a joyous gorgeous phenomenon of nature. Crystal ephemeral drifting crowns.

Philip broke his humorous bone impressively and had surgery. He will feel the repercussions of the break for a long time because he is most likely going to need a bone graft to make his arm heal, which it has failed to do. A lot of what we've experienced in the past year and a half has had enormous reverberations throughout our life, like the inevitable ripples on the disturbed surface of an unrestful pond. Circles of pain have a way of echoing into themselves. I am only thirty six (almost thirty seven) and I now feel the cold as it comes on with the pain in my hip. Like a person much older than I am, predicting the weather with my joints. It's the gospel truth.

I have always prided myself on being a good daughter, good friend, good wife, (though I've never felt too secure about being a good mother), but in the past year and a half I have let down a lot of people's expectations. In some ways it's been the best thing that could have happened to me. I've been selfish, turning inward to try and heal, to fix ourselves in a tight cocoon. Because no one else can fix us. We've made shocking decisions, we've left what was known and loved for a road with no fixed end. An adventure with no known resolve. It isn't like us. We are people strongly connected to our daily rituals, to our routines. We are earthy and dependable in our craziness. Until now.

I'm not going to apologize to anyone. Everyone needs to look inwards at times in their lives and make decisions that are good for themselves without trying to make sure it's good for anyone else. I'm proud that when the cards seemed pretty desperate, we rose to the challenge and shook our lives up and out. I have spent so much of my life trying so hard to please the people I love. I dissed my own feelings in preference to theirs and in doing so I did them all a great disservice. This year I have begun to see myself in a new light. Even while I have come to loathe my physical self, I have a much deeper understanding of my spirit, of my needs, of my blessings, and of what I have to offer other people.

I'm not going to make resolutions. Or at least I don't plan to. Sometimes they slip out like accidental children. Instead I would like to make a few wishes for the new year:

  • That George Bush lose all of his money and have to work at McDonalds. Or better yet- AT A GAS STATION! No wait- he should have to drill oil for other people's wait, he should have to serve in the war he started himself!

  • That all of us here at the Williamson Ranch make peace with the inevitability of entropy. (Ooh, that came really close to sounding like a resolution. See what I mean, it's a slippery slope.)

  • That all of the people I love shed unnecessary guilt and baggage and live the life they really want to and that they find happiness there.

  • That my friend Lisa (the one here in Oregon) will not stop being my friend just because I'm a damn prickly person.

  • That Paris, Lindsey, and Brittney all rediscover the virtues of underwear.

  • That I can keep my secrets for just one more day so that I will always have something to say tomorrow. For god's sake, tape my mouth shut!

  • That it snows here again before the spring.

  • That Sharon, Dominique, and Kathleen's little projects find safe passage into this world and that I get to squeeze their cheeks and kiss them like a good auntie should. And smell their hair. And hand them back after my half hour of baby love.

  • That I NEVER EVER get pregnant again.

  • That I stop having nightmares about getting pregnant.

  • That the war ends before anyone else is tortured, raped, or killed.

  • That I suddenly discover how much more satisfying it is to drink a cup of herbal tea than to keep the beer bottling plants in business.

  • That nothing prevents me from seeing the incredible yellow sea of narcissus unfold in the side yard this spring.

  • That the regular vomit we've been seeing our cat Ozark huck up doesn't mean he's dying. He's a mean bastard but we love him.

  • That Brittney steals Brad from Angelina. C'mon, it's inevitable is it not?

  • That Nicole Richie stop freaking the hell out of me with her skeletal display. (Does she have some weird bone fetish?) (I am aware how serious anorexia and bulimia are, all jokes aside, I wish she'd get help.)

  • That nothing happens to my lieberschleben this year. My love is proportionate with my complaints. (I wouldn't trade his emotional, sharp witted, edgy, curious, funny, challenging self for any one of your perfect little kids. No way. I may be more tired than moms of paragons-of-infantile-virtue, but with him I know I am in the presence of incredible potential and a force to be reckoned with. That's something I can respect.)

  • I wish to find more quiet morning moments to listen to my hens. Beautiful functional gals.

  • I wish that Sid, Dennis, and Joschka lived next door. (I know, I PROMISED I wouldn't keep on about it. But I miss you guys more than I can tell you without sounding like a drivelling idiot person.) (Lord knows I really treasure my dignity, you can see by the content of my blog that I would NEVER compromise my dignity.)

  • I wish that George M. will completely recover. I hope to come back to Beaver Street and see him trimming his hedges with a can of Coors Lite in one hand and his headphones on, ignoring the entire world. Blissed out on beer, the radio, and the perfect alignment of hedge corner to hedge edge. That man is a box-hedge inspiration!

  • I wish Lauri Notaro would come to my house for dinner.

  • I wish David Bowie would get his old teeth back.

  • I kind of wish I will never ever cry again in my entire life. I really find crying embarrassing.

  • I really wish I wouldn't find I have anything else in common with Angelina-the-ho-Jolie. It's bad enough having to share my name. Now I find out she's not a cuddly snuggly person, except with her precious children, and I want to sock her for stealing my thunder. I'm not snuggly or cuddly with anyone but my child either. I'm older than her, how dare she have anything in common with me!

  • Most of all, I wish for all of you who may be reading this that you have all your dreams come true, that your children are healthy and safe, and that you laugh a lot this year.

I have written this very late into the night before the last night of the year. This means I will probably feel the need to write more tomorrow. It's possible that New Year's Eve is my favorite night of the entire year for the hope it inspires. For the renewal it engenders. For the fresh air it breathes into our weary spirits. It's like a crisp fresh notebook, virgin to the vagaries of pen ink. I find it irresistible to write as much as possible before the moment the old guard steps down in favor of the fresh guns.

Perhaps that's why I prefer to be home for that precise moment. You never hear the clock tick when you're at a party. I like to hear the collective hope sighing into the cold January morning. Many New Years Eves I've spent hanging out my window, smoking a cigarette, sipping champagne, and listening to the mass of life humming into the quiet night, all jubilation a kind of distant fuss. But right here, in my window, (these days without any cigarettes but still cold as sin), it's so gorgeously quiet I believe in almost everything good.

My hens must be blind

Because they haven't noticed that it's winter. These birds are supposed to be light sensitive, but my girls are continuing to produce a lot of eggs. Lordy Lou! I'm not complaining. It's just curious. I made two quiches the other day with a dozen of them and the quiches didn't turn out very well. Which is surprising because I usually make a pretty damn good one. What a waste of fresh laid winter eggs.

I am working on new pot holders to send out to the contest winners. Be patient, this wasn't even on the list from yesterday. Nor were about ten other things we remembered later in the day. Yet, somehow, it will get done. Because I am tenacious, if nothing else.

I feel the need to offer a little reassurance here. I'm worried about my friends and family being more worried about me than they need to be. (Although it's nice to know how much people care.) The list I posted is very real and about every other day I freak out about how much I have to do, then I get about four hours of crappy sleep and the next day I start all over again with a brand new "Can do" attitude. It takes constant attitude adjustments to get through the monumental tasks we have set for ourselves.

A big part of how I adjust my attitude is by religiously recording my worries, my excitements, our progress, and our plans here on this blog. It's where I empty out all the trash from my brain so that when I get up from this computer I can go do what needs to be done with a clearer head. It's certainly true that it's a part of my commitment to doing all the things that help me maintain my mental health. But it's more than that. Writing not only clears out the brain, it reveals things that are otherwise buried in the unglamorous dark recesses of one's mind. Revelations unfold. Comfort is uncovered. Fears are flushed out and therefore looked at, which deflates their power.

Obviously I spent a lot of time thinking about our business yesterday and wondered how on earth we can find out if we're on the right track before there's no track left and we're left standing at a dead end with empty hands. Sounds dramatic, I know. But that's what most people who start this kind of business must think about at some point or they must be sociopaths, or already be millionaires. Most people who open up stores don't tell everyone what they're thinking every single day, and maybe that's good. Maybe it allows them to believe it was a lot easier than it actually was when they look back in two years from the pile of money they ended up making. I am recording everything. I'd be willing to bet that anyone in our shoes would have just as many ups and downs as we do. And only the very stupid never ask if they're doing things the way they should be doing them, or examine the possible pitfalls they may face. I am not a stupid woman.

So many people have commented on how brave Philip and I are to start this business. I don't really see it that way. It's not as though we had tons of opportunities that we could have taken instead. There was nothing out there for either of us. Who will hire a woman who has been a housewife for the past seven years? Philip worked hard for a company for seven years but because everything in the technology industry is highly specialized, unless he could find a company that used EXACTLY all the same programs he has already used, they won't waste time on him. When we found that first little hole in the wall store six months ago Philip had been unemployed for eleven months. I had been unemployed for seven years. We both applied for work at the local farm store. I got an interview. And it made me very very depressed.

All we had was equity in our house. And an interview at a farm store. A job that wouldn't pay very much. Philip would have to have gotten a similar job and then we would have had to put Max in day care. That's a choice we weren't, and aren't, willing to make. So we had equity we could pull out of our house, and there was a little hole in the wall shop. Plus the fact that we always wanted to have a shop. That wasn't bravery, that was taking the only fucking opportunity there was that was remotely likely to lead to happiness and possible prosperity. I would be amazed to find out that all of you out there who've been keeping up with our progress would have chosen to work at the farm store.

Every other day I freak out. But I'm actually really happy. Haven't I made that clear? I just want to make this work. Because it makes me really happy to be selling cool functional things to people. Designing and making lovely things is like breathing, it's like being my ideal self. I don't know how good I am, or can become at running a store. I won't be able to answer that question for months. But if we're going to make this work we have to examine everything fresh every day. Am I purchasing good products that people here will want? How much of my slow business is because the the Christmas tree is still up five days after Christmas is over, and how much is because we're a new store?

A great sign is that so many people who come in tell me how much they love it. They exclaim over the cute fairy dolls, they are excited to see Ahava products, they laugh about some of the apron prints, and they linger more than they used to. This past month we did quadruple the sales we've done in any other month since we started. But as a new business owner, and completely new at starting my own store, I don't know how to measure success before I'm making enough to do more than pay the store rent, or buy new products (not enough to do both). I have a pretty good idea what the sales were like at some of the other stores and we made a fraction of what they made. Is that because this was our first month in a good location? Will all the people that came in and didn't buy be back next year to purchase from us? Now is when you have to figure this stuff out. I have some control over those questions. I will be going to trade shows this month to buy for the store. If I buy more of what people want around here, I will become successful.

I bet if other new business owners were to record their ups and downs every single day, record their fears honestly, their triumphs, and publish their to do lists, their journals (if you could see them) would look and sound an awful lot like my blog. Every day brings fresh insecurities, fresh worries, or wonderful days where things got done and customers came in to your store empty handed and left with a bag full of stars.

It would be easy to blame a lot of my ups and downs on the fact that I'm mentally ill. I talk about it often enough, it must have occurred to someone to wonder if maybe I'm just looking at things all skewed; if maybe everything wouldn't seem half as scary or raw if I didn't happen to be prone to anxiousness and depression. But oddly enough, you don't have to be mentally ill to go on this kind of roller-coaster road trip. Just start yourself a retail store. You'll see what I mean in no time.

One more thing, most of our family and friends have at one point or another suggested that Philip get a job. As though he doesn't already have one. As though jobs were growing on trees all this time and he was just stubbornly refusing to work. My parents have each in their own way let us know that it's incredibly stupid to suppose we can make this work without one of us having a career.

If Philip gets a career the store will fold. This is his career. This is it. Until the money runs out, we are working our asses off every single day. (Except for when we're relaxing with Lisa and Mark.) One of us spends time with the kid and tries to get things done from the home office, and the other is in the store. Some of you will be relieved to know that Philip is going to try to do some free lance graphic art work, so if you know of any jobs be sure to tell him. But he doesn't have time for a full time job because he already has one.

In spite of all the things that can go wrong, in spite of all my worries and honest assessments of the situation at hand each day that I share out loud on this blog, we have faith in ourselves. As so many Christians have told me: faith is believing in something even when there isn't any proof. (If you don't believe me, watch "Jay Jay the jet plane".)

So anyone keeping up with this blog is basically along for the ride. It won't be smooth. I can promise you that. So break out the Dramamine if you need it, or crack open a few beers, like I do, and see what happens.

Dec 29, 2006

Further ruminations on this whole business of starting a business

Yes, yes, there is more. Always there is more. I have just called SCORE to make an appointment with a retired business person to help us prioritize and take the right steps before we go under. I took a business class a couple of years ago and the teacher highly recommended this organization. Why not get free help from someone who's worked in your industry and actually has the time to tackle the nitty gritty details?

I have also just made an appointment with the sign guy. He's about to go on vacation, but if signs can be made by the end of the month, this dead dead month, that's good enough for me.

If you're going to be a success in anything, you have to be willing to ask yourself the hard questions. After publishing the last post, riding my bicycle to work, and opening the store, I found myself asking one that I really am afraid of.

What if having a store isn't what we're meant for? What if we would be better off being just a wholesale business, like I was before? Just because I've dreamed of having my own shop for years doesn't mean I am good at it. What if having a store downtown, having a store on-line, and also doing wholesale is wasting our money and spreading ourselves too thin? Like women who try to have it all and end up with angry adult children, divorce, and when all they've got left is their career they get laid off because there are younger more desperate women willing to work for half the pay.* What if we aren't capable of giving enough energy to each endeavor to make any of them work well and end up with nothing?

I have to ask that. How can you answer a question like that before life answers it for you with the cold hard light of a trailer park life? I should be the best judge of this. I should know. We are trying all the angles because we want to have that many more outlets for selling our goods. It sounds good, sounds reasonable, but you have to put tremendous energy into each one to make them work.

I'm afraid I might know the answer.

Here's what I am, what I've always been:
Designer. Color swatcher. Product developer. Costumer. Production worker. Shipper. Stock girl. Design Assistant. Writer.

What career seems like the best fit?

I'll tell you something else I've noticed. We've had exactly four on line orders. We can track how many people have visited; hundreds of people have visited. No one is buying. Why? In six months we have not been able to move a significant amount of merchandise in the store. The two best sellers? Mrs. Meyers and my aprons. (Runner up to my aprons are Chelsea's cocktail aprons.) Cleaning products and adult aprons.

I know, you can't expect to do well in the first year or two of business. How many hundreds of people have told me that? I'm not a firm believer in that. I believe that if you're providing what people want and need, if you've really got it figured out, you will not have to wait for two years to do well. People want Mrs. Meyers, and surprisingly, they want my aprons. But those two things can't pay the bills alone. If everything in my store did as well as those two items, we would already be successful.

Another significant piece of information is that no one ever tells me how to improve the quality of the products I design and make myself. They don't because I am good at designing products that function well, that look good, and are made well. I know how to make an apron that looks professionally sewn. My own products don't seem to invite the same kind of criticism as my store does because I have complete confidence in my ability to sew better and to draft better than almost everyone who comes in my store. Maybe you're looking for something different than what I have, but you can't tell me what I have isn't the best quality and pretty damn cool. People can tell when you know what you're doing. I know what I'm doing when it comes to design and production.

I do not know what I'm doing when it comes to setting up and running a store. I was always meant to be the person on the supplier side. I'm not saying I can't cross over. I'm just saying that explains a lot.

I'm hoping that someone from SCORE can help me answer these questions before we run out of enough resources to be on the right track. If we're going to make this store successful then we need to completely believe in our ability to do it.

I'll be interested to see how our future unfolds. Why-oh-why did our magic 8 ball break? DOES GOD HAVE NO MERCY?

*I just want to mention that I know a lot of women and families don't have any choice but to both work to make ends meet, and aren't actually trying to "have it all". But that doesn't change the fact that there is a price that comes with that arrangement whether you choose it or whether life pushes you into it.
Southern Exposure
(and a really long list)

I know that Santa Rosa must have had some pretty amazing sunrises, but I rarely saw them. It must be having a southern exposure that has given me so many gorgeous skies to wake up to. Either that or the nature of the skies here (cloudy all the time) diffuses the light more beautifully. Either way, it's wonderful.

This is the newest apron. The way I have dressed BBQ Sue is how I would dress if I didn't, well, you know. I've been over this territory enough lately. Don't need to beat the damn dead horse.

I love BBQ Sue. Except that she is distressingly thin. When I look at her I feel the overwhelming urge to stuff her full of frosted animal cookies. I'm serious. Women should not be as thin as she is. It should be understood that I have no desire to become her size. It bothers me that I couldn't find a thicker mannequin. Oh well, look at that gorgeous face and cute hair!

This is the new window. I took these pictures at night and now realize they didn't turn out at well as I hoped. I'll try again today.

Color story: Red, Black, and White. They are partying. I still need to include a little story line for people to read. I also need to find some other shoes for Sue. I would wear this outfit, rain boots and all. I'd wear it to the store, I'd wear it to visit farms, I'd wear it to visit friends.

If I ever thought people weren't opinionated about other people's work before, opening a store has cured that misconception. Everyone has a few suggestions for me. Things I should carry, how to rearrange things, what services I should offer, and what new products I should develop (since I can obviously sew, and the world is therefore my oyster). Partly people share their opinions with me because I appear to be fairly open. (I actually think it's because I seem like a novice and carry around with me a fat naive baby face full of fear.)

One woman told me I needed to put a purple and red something in my prosperity corner. Another woman said I should carry Dr. Hauschka products. Everyone has told me how much more merchandise I should have in my store. How the signs need to be bigger, how I need a sandwich board out front, how the furniture should all be for sale. I should sell kids clothes. I should join the Chamber of Commerce. I should fill a niche. I should carry consumables. I should get another job. I should...

Some advice I have solicited such as getting help with the window displays. But most of it is unsolicited. All of it is meant to be helpful. Yesterday my friend Lisa and her husband's cousin Stephanie (who both really want to see me succeed) had a couple of suggestions for me. I cannot deny that they were good suggestions. Stephanie has a framing shop/gallery in Ashland Oregon and has been in business for eleven years. You listen to people who are successful. The lighting in the store needs to be diffused (it's all florescent bare bulbs) and I totally think they're right. They also mentioned the huge wall of wood. Wood doesn't compliment my merchandise very well. I already knew that. It's already an irritation to me that I haven't been able to find time to paint some MDF board and cover it.

But here's what I want to say: I let loose a flood of fears, a list longer than the bible of things I have to do, I unleashed on my good friends a tirade of surprising length about how overwhelmed I am with everything I have yet to accomplish. I'm pretty sure I made them regret having given me a couple of sound suggestions. I felt pretty bad about it. I could tell by the somewhat stunned looks on their faces when all their soothing tactics failed to stem the tide of Angelina's impossibility of life speech...and they backed away slowly and left. (I'm so sorry Lisa and Stephanie! Believe it or not, your suggestions were not offensive to me!)

I think everyone needs to be aware that if they make suggestions to me, this is what they're in for. You have all been warned. Yes, there is so much room for improvement in my store. Many things I have yet to do are super important. And that's the rub. I can only get to one thing at a time and there are about thirty things vying for my attention, things that might improve my business, things that might help to draw people in. All the while the clock is ticking on this venture because my overhead is huge. I knew it would be, but I didn't realize how hard it would be to get people to buy from me online.

So here's my list, recorded for posterity. Also, if anything you wanted to suggest to me is already on my list, can it! I know. And bear in mind that many of these things are small and shouldn't take much time to accomplish, but there are only twenty four hours in the day and I have already been working for eleven of them most days:

1. Get covers for all of the florescent lights (there are about twenty of them!)

2. Get shelving to cover part of the wood panelling and also to maximise merchandising space.

Get MDF (or other) board painted and put up on wood panelling.

Get shelving for sewing area to clean it up

5. Put prices on all of the display furniture

Get a filing cabinet

Get more bins for storage of display items and seasonal merchandise

8. Make labels for pet gift sets

9. Make a dump run to clean out the packaging from the back room

Improve window lighting (higher wattage bulbs)

Design and make hang tags

12. Get a blanket rack for linens

Get signage made, big sign in window, sandwich board sign for sidewalk.

Get more merchandise tables

Find more card lines to carry

16. Find more bath products to carry

17. Start selecting garden items to sell

Design and have T-shirts made

Find good frames to carry in the store

Find a good line of coffee mugs

21. Get sew-in tags made for the aprons

Put a package together for "Left In Stitches". (a sewing contractor)

Put a package together for "Mary Jane's Farm"

24. Send an apron to the costumer of "Desperate Housewives"

Get a rep for wholesale items

26. Put together an official wholesale catalog

27. Work on new apron pattern

28. Put together a binder for the store of all of our suppliers

29. Register for January trade shows

30. Put the light kit together for the display case

31. Develop the bread baking kit

32. Fine tune our google adwords

But that's not all. No. Then there's the house stuff. The house we have to live in while we get all this other stuff accomplished.

33. Fix the fence so the dog can't get out front to scare the neighborhood

34. Fix the deer fencing that fell in the storm

35. Start composting so that we can clean out the chickens hen house and have a place to put
poop where Chick can't chow on it.

36. Get two tall baskets for recycling to keep in the kitchen

37. Get a filing cabinet for the office

38. Re-work the front closet to make it easier to use (cubbies, shoe racks, pegs, etc.)

Organize office shelf so it doesn't take five hours to find mortgage information

Get rid of all excess boxes and recyclables (dump run)

Paint the living room, dining room, kitchen (which requires the removal of wallpaper)

42. Lose 70 pounds

43. Get Max involved in some kind of sport

44. Make lots of food ahead of time to reduce the amount of money spent on mediocre lunches
bought from Harvest Fresh, or expensive ones bought from Luigi's Daughter.

45. Send pictures of Max and the house to all the relatives who've been bugging me for them
for three years

Look for jobs

47. Get scooter fixed

48. Become a born again Christian and let God take care of it all like they say he will if I stop
making pacts with the Devil

Schedule bone graft surgery for Philip's arm that hasn't healed after a year

There are some Feng Shui things that could be on that list too, but I'm not a believer. I know, BIG SHOCK. I could go along with it all on the theory that it can't hurt to put something purple in my prosperity corner, but I already go to great lengths not to attract the angry eyes of the devil (whom I happen to not believe in), if I let myself follow other practices on the principle that it can't hurt, I may end up spending all my time warding off evil and trying to attract goodness, rather than trying to tackle my already sizable list.

A part of me feels certain that I'm on the right path, that somehow all of this hard work will materialize into an income of five thousand dollars a month. I feel like things are going to come together for us. Something in me tells me that we are at the start of good things. But there's another part of me that knows that hard work alone does not guarantee success. Just as believing in God doesn't protect you from evil until you're already dead. We can spend the next two years working our asses ragged and still not quite get there. That's real life. That's a life I'm very well acquainted with. I have never been afraid of hard work or challenges. But what if we don't have that something you need to make people want what you have to sell? What if we are always just a little bit off? I'm afraid that no amount of hard work will pay off in dividends for us, that we'll always be inches from liquidation.

The truth is, if I had it just right, if I was doing everything the way I should, people would not be trying to think about how we could be doing it better, they'd be too busy enjoying what we've put out there for them. They wouldn't see the things we haven't done, they'd only notice what we have done. Because if we were doing it right and I wasn't overwhelmed with what I have yet to accomplish I wouldn't unconsciously invite so much advice. Did Martha have so many people telling her how to make her catering business into a corporation? Do you think anyone dared tell Martha how she could be doing things better?

Maybe Martha didn't have so many people who loved her either. I'm lucky that so many of my friends want me to succeed and are willing to brave the Angelina-tide-of-fear to help me get there.

Dec 27, 2006

Gifts of the season

OK, so he doesn't look ecstatic, but the pillow was a success. I actually had two wonderful pictures of them in the store, but I deleted them from my camera in an over-enthusiastic deleting frenzy. The birds are carrying banners that read: "Love" "Humor" and "Courage" my own version of the holy trinity. It's what you need to get through life in good shape. They are the three things I most hope my boy will be armed with when he leaves my home at the crisp age of eighteen.

There's the smile. Not wildly joyful, but it'll do. We hung out all day yesterday. I got a lot of chores done, but I also spent some good quality time with him building his newest Lego acquisition: a "Dino Attack" ensemble. We also played "Uncle Wiggly" (a very strange board game that I grew up with, for those of you who don't know) and Dinosaur Bingo. Then, before bed, I read him a new book he got from our very dear (very sweet) family friend Judy. Today I go back to work to do new windows. I will remain at work until I am done. Then I plan to spend about a week at home organizing before going back to work to work on the new apron pattern and other projects.
Mark and Lisa took pity on us poor lonesome Williamsons and invited us to their Christmas dinner. Even though they are miles of I-5 from most of their family, just as we are, Lisa's mom, her Grandmother, and Mark's sister all travelled up to spend Christmas with them. In spite of a full house, they made room for us.

Lisa prepared a wonderful dinner with fancy meat (Pork roast stuffed with garlic and apricots) (which I obviously didn't eat, but in spite of not feeling the least bit ravenous at the sight of roast pig-it must be noted that it was a lovely hunk of meat and if I was not a lifelong vegetarian, I would have been all over it.) She also made a scallop potato with leeks casserole, that wonderful squash dish that Alicia and Lori made when they were here, and a salad with pecans, dried cranberries, and feta. For dessert we made two galettes using our canned pears and a home made crust.

It turned out beautifully. Elegant in all it's rustic glory. Tasty. Best of all? EASY PEASY. It's wonderful when you can put together a great dessert from what you already have in your pantry. Although it occurs to me that it's dangerous to come up with any more ways of using the canned pears when I am going through those jars like a pear junkie.

I have got to say that this has been a lovely Christmas. The kid has had a few tantrumy moments (at Rex's unfortunately), but all in all he's been super good and enjoyed all of the presents he got. He's really on the mend and there's only one problem with that: it means he's bursting with energy. I think Philip will have to take him skateboarding today.

I did miss seeing my family. It's something I look forward to every year. No matter how rough things sometimes are between us all they are all of them the most wonderfully unique people and I wouldn't trade the family I got for anyone else's.

Now here's a list of a few things I need to get off my chest:

  • I may have just killed my dog. True fact. I left two hunks of chocolate out on the side table and she ate them up. We caught her reverently licking the already licked clean package. Two great big hunks of chocolate. So I called the vet to get the scoop. All we have to do is watch for signs of drunkenness, excessive water drinking, vomiting, or diarrhea, and then call the vet. It's a crap shoot. Apparently some dogs can die from chocolate consumption, and some...not so much. The vet receptionist knows Chick and says she's not too worried because she's a pretty big dog. That's relative of course, compared to a tea-cup Chihuahua she's like Dogzilla, but compared to some of the English Mastiffs that populate this town, she's fairly diminutive. I really love my dog so I hope I haven't killed her.

  • Speaking of dogs...we have always let Chick sleep on the bed with us. It was a novice mistake. She was so small when we first let her do it. Super small, like a big warm densely muscled toothy cat. So cute, so sweet...but she got bigger. As mentioned above, she's neither really huge nor really small. But she weighs forty nine pounds. It has become really uncomfortable sleeping with her on the bed. So much so that we're experiencing back problems from having to contort ourselves into strange unnatural configurations to accommodate this black furry child of the earth. So we bought a doggy bed, put it on the floor and prepared ourselves for no sleep. Because it takes days to train dogs to do anything. Just like kids. I am pleased to report that we only had to shove her off the bed three or four times before she settled down into the new dog bed. I think it was the steely determination in my voice that got results.

  • This may be shocking, so you may wish to sit down. Every holiday season the subject of gift giving inevitably comes up. Every year it's the same, all the good people say they would rather give gifts than receive them. (These people are obviously angling for halos.) I will say that I do enjoy giving gifts, I enjoy generosity of spirit just like the next guy, but you wanna know something? I really like getting gifts too. That's right. I said the unsayable. I will never get myself a halo, but the truth of it is, I love unwrapping gifts and having that feeling of receiving tokens of friendship and love from the people I most care about. (There are actually a lot of circumstances in which I am made uncomfortable by gifts, but I am not talking about those right now.) When it comes to Christmas and my birthday, I would be really sad if I couldn't look forward to having a few new shiny things to play with or wear. There it is. I am a materialistic monster of capitalism. (Excuse me while I go check if my dog is acting drunk.)

  • Lindsy Lohan is a talentless ho. That's right, I think it's ridiculous that her biggest goal in life is to be a sex symbol like Marilyn Monroe. The only thing more ridiculous than that is that Paris Hilton already thinks she IS the Marilyn Monroe of her generation. Jesus Christ on a bed of hot coals...what girls want to emulate a woman who's gone down in history as a mistress to a president, a hot bod, and a drug overdose that killed her?

  • I am also so tired of all this boyfriend sharing and stealing that goes on in the talentless-ho celebrity circle. They may as well all have a giant orgy and get it over with. I can't help but wonder if they all have some terrible venereal diseases? Why haven't any of these people discovered gardening? Lindsy says she's a great cook, but how can she be a great cook when she does nothing but party at various Hotels? I find that a hard assertion to swallow. The creepiest thing of all? They are all going to start breeding because the coolest ambition to have right now is to produce "millions" of babies. As though that will make them into little paragons of goodness. It boils down to this: sex and drugs are the hobbies of choice amongst this set of youngsters. While sex and drugs have so much to offer, I really think that gardening, crafting, and even flower arranging have so much more to offer.

  • One more thing: what is it with celebrities all having to conquer the entire commercial universe? No one can "just" be an actor anymore. No one can "just" be a rock star anymore. All the celebrities now have to have their own line of clothing, their own signature perfume, if they're actors they must prove they can also sing, if they're singers they must prove they can also act, if they're models they must prove they can infinitum. The problem is that most of them barely have enough talent to be what they started off as, branching out just spreads that thin talent even thinner. Elle McPhereson is a rotten actress and frankly...she's got a flat butt. Beyonce's goal is to become her own corporation. So she's got her line of clothing now "House of Dereon". Every time I see an ad for it I just want to scream. Could a person be more pretentious? No one, not even REAL designers have "house"es anymore. That went out with the "House of Worth".

Alright. I'm done. I just needed to say all of that before the new year. Clean slate and all that.

Dec 24, 2006

Contest Results!

There were no entrants for the men's apron so obviously no one won it. There were eleven entrants in the bib apron contest and one of them has won this apron pictured above. We were originally going to have two or three runners up, but with the contest remaining so small, we decided that everyone who entered and didn't win the apron will receive a pot holder for having participated and hopefully to ameliorate the pain of the worst ever gifts they've received.

The winner is:

Mary Heale! She received a Rubik's cube from her husband. Maybe that wouldn't in itself count as the worst gift ever. But there's more. The same Christmas she received this inappropriate stupid-ass present, her husband bought jewelry for his girlfriend. Which Mary found out about shortly afterwards. Needless to say, Mary divorced the pig. This was a really close contest, but in the end we felt that this present was insulting and hurtful on more than one level.

We noticed a trend in male gift giving. You can almost break it up into convenient categories.

The early on-set of Alzheimer's gift category: This is where men forget to buy a gift at all or somehow bumble the whole gift thing by not following through on half-baked good ideas.

Wende's husband forgot to get presents for her stocking one year and scrambled together the following items: a tangerine (not too bad if you like them and it's a good one), an old pack of gum from their utility drawer (nothing says "I love you" more than six month old gum), and used batteries (because you never know when you'll feel like using batteries that might run out at any moment). The worst part was that he denied he forgot to get her anything and claimed he meant to give her those things all along. Better to own up to it Dude, because if that's really what you meant to give your wife, you might end up in some surprisingly hot water! Luckily, it sounds like she and her husband do love each other (they're still married) and he hasn't lived this moment down. Let it end here, be absolved. We'll send you a pot holder that will cheer up your kitchen.

Capello's husband sometimes forgets to get anything at all. Maybe his head is in the clouds, maybe he's one of those absent minded geniuses, but get with it man! A pot holder will come your way Capello, let it stand in for the last absent gift moment!

Ann once had a boyfriend who gave her an empty jewelry box. Apparently he had planned a great present, but when that didn't happen, he just gave her the empty box it would have come in. Ann, please tell us he didn't wrap the box first! Even though it was a while ago and the boyfriend is long gone, we think you should get a pot holder instead of an empty box.

A rather famous category comes next:

The Homer Simpson Special (buy her a gift you want for yourself):

Merri's husband bought her a base guitar amplifier even though she doesn't play the base guitar. We've met her husband and know he's a nice guy, but hopefully this is the only time he's pulled a Homer!

Gwendolyn's husband bought her a cell phone charger even though she didn't have (and didn't want) a cell phone. Plus he broke the cardinal rule of ignoring a blatant gift request from his woman. Never do that. Seriously. Few things are less sexy than being completely ignored and then given a cell phone charger.

Then there's this well known category:

The practical gift (the gifts that help women to serve their men more efficiently):

Pam once had a boyfriend who gave her a salad spinner. Really, was he trying to say her lettuce was too wet? This is an OK gift to give newly-weds, or a sibling, but it's not OK to give one to your girlfriend unless you've hidden something much prettier inside.

Someone (I will fill in her name when I find her entry which suddenly I've lost) got a Dust Devil from her husband. Nothing says "I'll never leave you for Cameron Diaz" quite like a Dust Devil.

The Obnoxious gift category:

Laurie once received a decorated talking Santa who read "The night before Christmas" over and over and over....if there are kids in the house (you know there are when you get a gift like this) a mercy killing must be performed on the gift in order to avoid the risk of randomly strangling someone.

The surreal category:

Alice had a boyfriend who took her to see Marcel Marceau perform. You know that old saying "Everybody loves a mime"? That's just patently untrue. Some people feel like they might explode with fear when confronted with these very sad twisted human beings. Some people find the whole mime thing nauseating. Mimes suck!

Lastly, a category you may not be aware existed...

The creepy gift category:

Lucille's dad gave her a rubber breast tumor that you hang in the shower so you can squeeze it while you check your own breasts for tumors. Wow. This one would have one the contest hands down if it had been from Lucille's husband and not her dad. Still, it's a doozie!

I will make sure I have every one's addresses and all the prizes will go out by the first week of the new year. Thanks for participating in my contest!

By the way, for any men who might be reading this and feeling slighted or discouraged: it is never too late to learn how to give good gifts!

*for some reason I cannot get the font size to do what I want. I'm very upset about this. But I have no time to try and fix it. I must feed dogs, medicate children, make quiche, and play idiotic board games. Maybe tomorrow I will fix it. If it's fixable.
It's a wet wet world

Well, as you can see, Max's pillow is not yet complete. I stayed up until two am watching Gilmore Girls and embroidering like a busy fat granny. Unfortunately I'm only (almost) thirty seven and need more sleep than I've been letting myself get lately.

It looks pretty good from far away. Up close you can see all the glitches. It doesn't matter. Max glimpsed me working on it last night and is now all worked up to see it. He doesn't care that my work is amateurish, what he might care about is that there are no flowers on it as he instructed me to include. OH WELL.

I am soaked from my short bicycle ride to work. I don't care. Honestly. I don't look at all like a drowned rat. I'm much too big for that. I was marvelling on my way here how I don't at all want to smoke. I smoked heavily for a total of sixteen years. I probably quit almost as often as Mark Twain did. I finally, desperately, went to my doctor to ask for counseling (because I finally couldn't handle both my head AND motherhood simultaneously without help) and to ask her if I could try taking Welbutrin to help me stop smoking.

I've already mentioned what happened as a side effect of taking the anti-depressant: I stopped being depressed which was a monumental revelation. It also worked wonderfully well helping me not smoke. It literally takes away the urge to smoke. So I only had a couple of lapses since taking the meds. I stayed on them because I really enjoyed not needing to psych myself up for a half an hour just to take the trash out. Each time I lapsed on my second daily dose for more than a couple of days I would find, a week later, that the urge to smoke cigarettes would come on suddenly and overwhelm me with it's power.

It's been three years since the last time I smoked a cigarette. I've gone through fire, broken bones, marital stress, living with my mother for five months (with the spouse, the kid, and the cat, all living with my mom, her big dog and two cats in a twelve hundred square foot house), selling a house, buying a house, moving out of state, and starting a business from scratch with no back up options. The meds have certainly helped. But after not taking the full dose for three months I still didn't want to smoke. I never thought the day would come when I would not jones for a cigarette without any support.

You should all understand that if it weren't for the fact that smoking almost guarantees you a spot in the hospital somewhere down the road, I would never have felt it necessary to stop smoking. I loved it. The smell, the ritual, the whole deal.

Anyway, I was just thinking about how the real thing is that the meds supported my efforts to not smoke for a long enough period of time that I learned to live my life without reference to the next smoke, and to live through stress using other techniques to soothe my head and nervous system. I changed my lifestyle. Now I can't imagine picking up a pack of cigarettes and drawing one out, lighter in hand. Even without the magic medication.

The reason I was thinking so much about this is because I am still so unhappy with myself physically. I didn't stick with the Weight Watchers (and thank you for NOT asking about it, I wasn't ready to talk about it). I didn't stick with counting calories. All my efforts end up with me staying up until two in the morning drinking beer and consequently snacking on some sort of cheese arrangement. I have built a lifestyle around drinking way more alcohol than is healthy for me. Just like with the cigarettes, I wouldn't actually care except that it's getting in the way of my ability to lose weight. Which then reflects very negatively on the state of my brain.

I'm not going to say how much I drink. All you need to know is that I can keep pace with any drinking Brittish male. And not get drunk. All you need to know is that I have a very high tolerance that I have been painstakingly working on for years now. You should also know that the only days of the year I drink before five pm are Christmas and my birthday. (I suppose there are the rare BBQ's that start in the afternoon and I'll drink when others are drinking.) The point is: I'm not a drunk mom swigging the gin bottle from morning til night. I almost never get drunk at all. I don't drink the hard stuff.

I don't really feel shameful that I drink so much beer. I don't generally talk about this though because I'm not interested in inviting lectures about the evils of drink. I think of beer as being equivalent with soda. Except that instead of rotting your teeth and eroding your stomach lining, it can ruin your liver. I don't drink soda. I drink beer like it's soda. There are literally only two things that bother me about my heavy drinking: 1) it is preventing me from returning to a normal size and 2) it could potentially ruin my liver, which I value.

I don't need a diet. I need a lifestyle shift. I refuse to become a teetotaller. EVER. Beer and wine are two things that make this life sparkle. Drinking with friends is one of the best things in this world. If I can get to a point where cigarettes are no longer necessary to my lifestyle then I am just as capable of shifting my habits so that I am getting more sleep and drinking less so that I can get back to the person I was before I became rotund. None but my oldest friends know that wearing the same seven shirts from Ross and the same knee length pants every frickin' day of my life is not even remotely my style. I am so far from my sartorial roots I feel lost at sea. I feel like a fat poser.

No one knows that I was collecting and wearing aprons long before it became a hot trend. I can't wear many of them now because they all make me look like a giant talking yam with a ridiculously tiny piece of fabric tied around my waist. I was doing it before Rachel was doing it on Friends. The only person who might have been collecting vintage aprons before me is my friend Lucille. And I have a beautiful pink tulle vintage apron she gave me hanging in my closet against a day when I can put it on and not look like Divine.

It's important that I find a solution. Because self loathing is corrosive. I need to find a solution soon because the apron revolution won't last for long and I need to take my rightful place in the ranks.

This is the classic time of year to contemplate the things about yourself you want to change. I'll bet all of you out there have things you would like to do differently in your life too. Things about yourselves you would like to change. Things you may not be eager to share with anyone else.

One thing that I have never talked about with anyone besides Philip and possibly one or two friends over the course of my life is a habit I developed as a stressed child. I twist fabric around my index fingers or thumb really tight over and over. It is a compulsive behavior that has ruined more shirt hems than I can possibly count. It leaves calluses on my thumb knuckle and my fingers. During the year our life fell apart I couldn't stop doing it, all day long. I kept trying to control it, to make myself stop. I became hyper aware of it and it made me uncomfortable because it's the kind of thing crazy people do to self-soothe. It's the kind of repetitive activity that makes normal people nervous when they witness it.

What's weird is that I have hardly been doing it at all since I moved to Oregon. I mean, I still do it sometimes, but so much less often that I feel relieved. The hems of my shirts are no longer twisted up and stretched out. I wonder how many people in my life have witnessed the fabric twisting and wondered about it, been tempted to ask about, or were bothered by it? More importantly, how on earth have I gotten that instinctive soothing activity so much more under control?

Hey, I just wanted to make sure I keep the mood around here solemn, I don't want anyone getting so giddy with holiday cheer that they accidentally electrocute themselves on their Christmas lights. Discussing these issues is my public service for the day.

Though today's subject seemed solemn, I don't actually feel at all unhappy. And I hope that all of you out there are having a wonderful afternoon doing whatever it is you're doing! I have a pillow to finish!


Dec 23, 2006

It's a nice day for some frantic, head busting, panicked holiday preparations.
(But I'm as cool as an untouched habanero.)

All I have to do is take a "quick" break from the shop to get Philip a couple more things for his stocking. That's it. No big holiday feast, no relatives, no party, no big hoopla, no friends. Damn, sure is quiet around here. While this is all well and good, to not face the usual chaos and stress induced by large gatherings of people who share too much genetic material to keep their fingers off each other's buttons, I have to admit that I have come to treasure my Christmas Eve spent with my mother, my brother, and my sister. And I always look forward to my Christmas day spent drinking mimosas at my Dad's house with my sister and my brother. Obviously the kid loves hanging out with his aunt, uncle, and grandparents. He LOVES them all and LOVES all the attention. I should be feeling superior to all those headless chickens out there for having orchestrated such a quiet unstressful holiday.

It's easy. All you have to do is move twelve hours away from anyone you know.

A customer tried to bargain with me on the price of my bib apron. She thought forty dollars was too much. She wanted the blue cherries one because it was so cool she thought it might transform her from dull to instant vixen. (That's a lie, I just made that up because it's what I would like to believe.) She asked me if I would knock ten dollars off the price. I almost hucked a beer bottle at her head. I almost pointed out to her that I am not an Indonesian child slave and that I have to make my living in McMinnville, not Timbuk-f@$%ing-Tu. But that might have been offensive on several levels. So I just told her no, because I make them myself.

Of course, I won't be able to say that when I don't make them myself any more and I'll still have to charge forty dollars because I'll have to pay a non-Indonesian non-slave person to make them.

She asked if I was going to be open today. I wonder if she's going to come back and ask me if I'll mark my apron price down ten dollars figuring that after a good sleep I will have come to my senses and realized what a mistake I've made letting that sale slip away. I've got my empty beer bottle at my side. I've got some sharp toffee too. She has no idea that I spent all night dreaming about dead people who wouldn't stay dead.

I expected it to be busier today. It's not. In moments I'm going to go run my two errands and then I'm going to sit down to work on Max's heart pillow. We'll see if I can knock that baby out of the park in one day. Think I can do it?

Oh man. I have to come up with a new window design. Pretty much by today. So do I do a New Year type window for one week? Do I do an early garden themed window? Shit. Triple shit. Pardon the french-ola. I've had ideas floating around for weeks but now that the time has come to settle in on one I find that all of the ideas I had are as weak and as exciting as dirty dishwater. Color scheme first, story second, build it third.

Only one more day to submit your entry in the "WORST GIFT EVER" contest!

Dec 22, 2006

I'm glad I asked

I ran out of the butterfly gift decorations.

So I had to come up with something new that I could make quickly.

I like it.

Highlights of our doctor visit:

  • The nurse who checked Max's temperature was so tan I was mesmerized by her deep orange thick hue and couldn't stop staring. But not in a good way. Her teeth sure were white though.

  • The new doctor (not our usual one) actually listened to our concerns.

  • Because of our concerns the doctor ordered a blood test for Max. This involved a lab nurse pricking his finger and then milking it for blood for five excruciating minutes while Max made faces and squirmed. Time stood still. It was like watching an ant milk an aphid for it's minuscule drops of dew. Max told her he did not like what she did to him and that he was mad. Then for fifteen minutes he told us what he would do to her if she ever repeated that exercise. (She could have taken his blood with a needle and been done in five seconds.)

  • Max's issues boil down to three separate ones: 1) he has strep 2) his lungs are full of phlegm because they are irritated by a wheeze which we didn't know existed 3) he's anemic (which a friend of ours asked about and I've been thinking about since she mentioned it-Sid, you were so on it!)

  • Our total lack of surprise at the news that he's anemic (though it should be noted that it's mild). We've actually been surprised at how healthy he's been for the last few years living on crackers, ketchup toast, and apples. Not a lot of iron in there.

  • Max playing breathing games into the nebulizer the doctor used to see if it would lessen the wheeze. He hummed into it, hyperventilated, took giant lung fulls, then held his breath. You just can't get a six year old to take medical equipment seriously.

  • The realization that Max's real doctor sucks and we're going to try to switch his care into the hands of this more competent one.

You were right: trust your gut. And ask questions.

(I don't usually have to be reminded of these things because I tell it to other people all the time. Except when it comes to Max's health, I almost always trust my gut, and I never fear asking questions. I guess sometimes people need to tell you things you already know to reinforce the knowledge.)
Ma poor wee bairn

My boy is really sick. We took him to the doctor two days ago to get a strep test. He didn't have strep. But now his throat is almost swollen shut. It's so bad he was drooling in preference to swallowing before he crawled into bed with us an hour ago and fell into a light sleep. His breathing is gravelly and causes him to cough, but it comes out sounding like a barking seal. Which makes me think he must have Croup (because they always say that's what it sounds like). And the coughing makes his throat contract which makes him gag, but the gagging shakes his chest, which makes him cough. Poor wee bairn.

This is the worst part of being a mom. Way worse than all the times he makes me want to strangle him. Way worse than all the times he makes me want to rip out my own eyebrows. That's all a part of helping him become a good person with decent boundaries and respect for other people. That's all a part of the dynamic of rambunctious child versus sloth-mom. But this, this whole business of watching your kid become sicker and sicker is the worst.

The immediate health care center doesn't open for another half an hour. We were contemplating trying to get him in to see his regular doctor, but we're starting to doubt his diagnosing abilities. Every time Max sees him we have to go to urgent care two days later because Max is much worse and we can't get him into the doctor's office.

This is where my madness kind of gets in the way, and I've brought this up before, but it's difficult to tell how much of my fear is irrational, and how much of it is a warning to look deeper. It's hard to trust myself to act in a way that isn't going to be off center. Here's the worry: until this year Max never had a soar throat, he never had anything worse than your general colds and coughs, and about a billion bloody noses. He's only had the flu twice. He had bronchitis once. So why is it that this year he hasn't had a single normal cold? Why is it that every time he has gotten sick this year it has been accompanied by a severe soar throat and massive pain? Is his immune system compromised? Am I watching too many episodes of "House"?

I want it to just be a normal cold and cough. I don't want to dig deeper. I don't trust my luck. I still haven't gotten completely over the year our whole life fell apart with fireworks (last year). I'm worried that if we dig deeper we'll find something huge to deal with. I'm also worried that if we don't ask the ridiculous questions, if we don't press for explanations, that we'll miss something important. In the end, my boy's health is way more important than how hysterical I might sound to the medical profession. The fact remains that children get seriously sick, children do get diseases, and unfortunately, children do die of them. I don't want mine to be one of them.

Probably it will just turn out to be a bad cold with bronchitis and will pass slowly and painfully for Max. Or maybe it will be croup. I don't care though, I'm asking questions.

Dec 21, 2006

It's all in the serge

The question I hear most from people who've wandered into the store for the first time is: "So, do you make ALL of this?" accompanied by a sweeping hand gesture to indicate the entire contents of the store. No one would ask this if they didn't see me hunched over the serger, or ironing seams. It amazes me every time, their readiness to be impressed by my miraculous industriousness. They're asking the question somewhat thoughtlessly. Obviously if they were thinking about it they would realize that I couldn't possibly sew everything there, throw pottery deep into the night, produce all those soaps and salts between here and the dead sea all by myself, and bind books on the week ends. I would have to be superhuman, or god.

More reasonable would be to simply assume I do all the sewing for the store. Which is not what they specifically ask. But even so, I am back to thinking about how little people understand what kind of work goes into the simple things they buy. I was talking about this at harvest time, and I'm thinking about it again while trying to crank out eleven new aprons as fast as I can which turns out to be about three to three and a half hours for each one. That's a minimum of thirty three hours of work. That's almost a full week of work. I'm sitting here kicking myself because I'm on day four of production and should be done already. Except that I can't just sew non-stop because I'm also there to help customers.

I've been doing pretty well selling my aprons. So most people seem to understand that even a humble apron, if made well with attractive details, costs money to make and consequently to buy. Most people don't balk at the forty dollar price tag (which I arrived at after a lot of careful consideration and market research). But some people come in the store, ask how much the bib aprons are, and when they hear the price- drop the apron like it's a burning instrument of hell. Sometimes I hear two customers discussing the price together. A daughter wanted to buy one as a gift for someone but her father (I hope) kept needling her about how expensive it was and how they had seen a much cheaper one somewhere else. He finally convinced her to go for the cheaper one. I'm not offended by this. I have to make these decisions all the time for myself. Sometimes it's alright to spend a bucket of money on something even when you could get it cheaper somewhere else, but sometimes you have to go for the economy. That's life.

What amazes me is how easy people assume it is to do what I do. How fast I must be to do this professionally. They don't know what goes into this process. All the hundred steps I take to produce a garment of fine quality that won't fall apart after two or three washings. They don't know how hot that iron gets after turning forty straps, or how full of fibers my nose gets when I've just serged one hundred cut pieces of fabric. Most things these days are sent off to China or Bali to be sewn by hard working people for almost no pay. It's easy to look at a garment and not think about those people, they're so far away, and they allow us to buy things at Walmart for seven dollars. I've been thinking about how if I get other people to make my aprons I will still be charging the same price for my aprons. Why?

Doesn't factory-made make the whole thing cheaper? That's what people will presumably want to know. First of all, I have promised myself not to outsource overseas. Not because I don't want to enslave children in Thailand (though that's true), it's because I want to be an active participant in our local economy. I want to pay people here, people who need to work to feed their children, a living wage. Which means I can't produce my aprons for any cheaper even if I'm not doing the back breaking work myself.

The main point is, it doesn't matter who's doing the work, quality products are always being made by someone, and I think it's important that people connect with that fact. It doesn't matter if you can see them doing it in front of you in a funny little shop in McMinnville, or if they are doing it twelve thousand miles away in the sweltering heat of an unairconditioned factory. It's important to realize that products don't magically make themselves for your pleasure. (I've heard that threatening them might get results, but I haven't yet tried that.)

I've recently learned more about the process of wine making than I ever knew before. Lisa, who worked for many years in the wine industry, described the intricate process that goes into a simple bottle of blended wine. She let me in on all the things that can go wrong, all the minute decisions that have to be made at every step- each one of which could help to build an amazing drink, or could turn the young wine into something a desperate naughty teen wouldn't touch. I had no idea how many details went into the whole thing. I thought I respected the process but I was wrong. I was humbled in the best possible way. Because now when I drink wine I will have a better understanding of the science, the luck, the skill, and the work that go into a drink that is so easy to consume.

The irony of writing about this here is that most of the people who check into this blog regularly are craftspeople themselves. They already know all this. They are bending over their own machines, knitting needles, crochet hooks, felting needles, and canvases. The people who really should be thinking about this are the blithe people who walk in and ask me if I make "everything" in the store. But they don't read my blog. I promise I don't shoot snarky comments at them. As much as I am sorely tempted to point out to them how ridiculous it is to ask such a question, I don't. I explain what I make, what I don't make. I'm pretty sure they still think I sew everything there that can be sewn. They enjoy imagining that it's all happening right in front of them.

One lady, who came in with two friends the other night, pointed to me and said to her friends "Oh look how busy she is making things!" She couldn't have said anything to make me feel more like a hippopotamus taking a public mud bath at the zoo. I pinched myself to keep myself from getting down on all fours and making snorfling noises. My steely reserve paid off, the lady made a purchase and was really sweet. She has no idea what kind of a spectacle she almost witnessed.

Yesterday was an eleven hour work day, today will be long too. But Christmas is almost here and since we have no family here I expect it will be a calm day. And I won't be sewing for the first day in about ten. I look forward to the respite.