Casey and I grew up in politics. In
politics, if you were a candidate with any
sense, you had a "Kitchen Cabinet" - a group of
people you held close to you that you trusted to
help you make important decisions. And, in
politics, you occasionally had to make these
decisions at breakneck speed.
STUFF has a Kitchen Cabinet. We don't make
lightning fast decisions because, unlike
politics, most of our decisions don't have to be
made in two minutes. But occasionally the choices we
have to make demand that we reach
beyond the knowledge the two of us hold.
Cathleen and our
Cathleen Connealy was a member of our Kitchen
Cabinet. For a little over eleven years, there
was very little we dreamed up that we didn't run
by her - leases, human resources concerns,
raffle rules, contracts, and taxes. We knew her
from when STUFF wasn't a part of our fiber, and
she knew - from the beginning - that this new
chapter in Casey's and my lives would be very
exciting and challenging. She eagerly - with
her skills as an attorney - helped us to
continue to be different in our approach to
This past November, we dedicated our holiday
open house, "Wings of Hope", to Cathy. At
that time, we crafted a letter to our customers
telling them why. 4,000 invitations to join us
at this two-day party were sent, and we
endeavored to share with each of those customers
our motivation to continue to raise money.
Casey nearly fried the computer keyboard with
her tears while drafting it, I couldn't see the
numbers on the telephone keypad while calling
Cathy's best friend to have the letter approved,
and the tears continued to flow on and off
throughout the "Wings of Hope" event - not just
for Cathy's condition, but in unison with those
individuals that attend the event and shared
with us their stories of fear, hope, and loss.
This is your chance to read it again...
this year we are hosting this event in honor of
our dear friend cathleen connealy.
the word dignity. she has always shared her
bottomless knowledge and wisdom with us freely
for as long we can remember. she has always
lived by her own set of standards, beliefs and
we have never seen her flinch at
the impossible. the idea that real change for
our world may take lifetimes has never caused cathy to compromise her vision for a fair, just,
equal and healthy world for every person living
on our great mother earth. she is gentle, kind,
smart, patient and loyal - and we are grateful
to call her a friend.
after years of fighting
cancer, cathy recently was given difficult news
about her condition. again, she acted with
bravery and has decided to live the rest of her
life with dignity.
so, cathy, in your honor, we
will continue to celebrate hope. we will raise
money to help find a cure for cancer. but
mostly, we will work hard to treat everyone with
the dignity and kindness we have tried to learn
by your example.
Cathy is no longer available by phone, and we
will no longer find her at her office when we
Cancer has left her alive in only one place
where she has always been: our hearts.
Dec. 23, 2007
Yesterday, Sloane and I worked with hundreds of
customers. But I went home with two customers on
my mind. Both had been shopping for jewelry. Both
were shopping with heavy hearts. Both were
trying to find a way to change the inevitable.
A man was selecting jewelry to give to women in
his life. His goal was to find pieces that would
help these women remember his sister.
His sister is dying of cancer, and she is a
friend of all of us. It was important to him
to find pieces that are a reflection of this
A woman was selecting a piece to give to her
friend who is in a battle with cancer once
again. Her friend has just begun another round of
chemotherapy. It was important for her to find
something that would "say" to her friend that
she was surrounded by love and friendship. We
know the woman because her children went to
school with us.
These experiences got me thinking. Why do we buy
these talismans? We all know that these tokens
won't change the reality that these
women are fighting a deadly disease. I even wear
a thumb ring in memory of my younger sister who
was lost in an auto accident 10 years ago. I know my
ring won't bring my sister back.
So...I thought about it. I thought that maybe we
fear that we will forget them without the
reminders. Maybe we are just grabbing at
anything that will help us stay close to them.
And then I noticed that I was twirling my thumb
ring. I looked down and watched my hands
naturally and seamlessly twirl the ring. From years of practice, it is
second nature to me. And I decided that we have
these talismans because they are tangible. They
are a physical presence. We can touch them. We
don't need them because we fear we will forget;
we will never forget them. We aren't grabbing
for ways to stay close; we will always feel
close to them. We have them to touch them. Because we want to touch them
- our loved ones - and we can't.
These experiences don't happen at most stores.
You generally don't find people buying big
screen TVs and toaster ovens to honor the
people in their lives. But at
STUFF we are
blessed with these experiences all the time.
When the world strips away everything, you will
find art. It is in art that you find the pain,
joy, challenge, and triumph of everyday life. I
am thankful for the chance to help someone find
peace in a work of art.
This year I feel truly blessed because my family
is healthy, happy, and able to be together to
share in the spirit of Christmas. My wish for
you is that you are also blessed with a happy
and healthy holiday and that you are touched by
the people you love.
Happy Christmas to all,
and to all a good night...
Dec. 17, 2007
A friend recently sent me snapshots of the art
in his office. I responded by sending snapshots
of art from the walls of my home. And the great
art exchange began. What was amazing about the
"conversation" was how much we learned about
each other from the 4 images. Because of today's
technology, we were able to have an intimate
visual conversation in a matter of minutes. I
It was even more exciting to discover that the
prints in his office are by my favorite artist,
I fell in love with Keith Haring's art many,
many years ago. His images spoke to me
instantly. I was in love with his energy. He
created an iconic language that everyone can
"read". He created tirelessly. He shared his
vision with the public freely. His work is
honest and revealing. But what Keith Haring did
for me was to make art mainstream. He helped to
take art out of the galleries and museums. He
brought it to the people. People see art
differently because of Keith Haring. He broke
the boundaries and the rules. And breaking the
rules always appeals to me. Ask my parents.
Since the exchange, I have been revisiting my
passion for Keith Haring's work. I have re-read
some books and visited some websites. I even
looked back at some of my old artwork that was
from my "Haring Phase" and saw what I have
brought forward in my own work both on and off
I can't help but wonder what Keith Haring would
have done with today's technology - our ability
to share images so rapidly and seamlessly. I
know he would have been pushing the envelope
with all his might. I would have liked to have
seen the evolution of his art. Keith Haring was
born on my birthday. Actually, I was born on his
tenth birthday. He died in 1990 of AIDS-related
complications. I know he would have liked the
fact that my friend and I were e-mailing images
of art taken with our phones. I believe he would
have thought that was cool.
It is difficult to always explain to people why
I am so passionate about what I do for a living.
To many, it seems like just a store that sells
some funky stuff. But I believe it is something
greater. I believe that art has a power all its
"I don't think art is propaganda; it should be
something that liberates the soul, provokes the
imagination, and encourages people to go
further. It celebrates humanity instead of
manipulating it." - Keith Haring 1985
One of my own
pieces, inspired partially by Keith Haring.
Me with one of my
favorite Keith Haring books.
Some beautiful art on my wall at home, by regional artist Philip Robl.
So, if you have a few minutes, take a snapshot of the art on your walls, send it to a friend, and
start an "art talk". You may just be surprised
what you discover about each other.
Thank you, Keith, for sharing your vision...you
My, the weather has been sensational! Or should
I say sensationalist?
I can't decide whether to laugh or become irate
at the media's lust for sensationalizing the
weather. And I don't mean the real,
honest-to-goodness, look-outside weather. I mean
the weather forecast - you know, that nebulous
guesswork about what might happen but quite
On Monday night, after a great day at work and a
visit with the kids to see Santa at Corinthian
Hall at the Kansas City Museum, my family went
to our favorite pizza joint. We walked in at
what should have been peak pizza-eating time.
Instead of a packed house with a waiting list,
there were about three tables with pizza-eaters.
After a day of scare tactics by the local and
national weather services and the media,
everyone else seemed to have been too afraid to
come out and play in the rain. It worked out for
us, but it was obviously not good for the
I watched the foot traffic all day in Brookside
and elsewhere. I received calls from friends and
relatives asking if we were headed home to sock
in for the storm and whether we had enough food
to last us through the upcoming weather
emergency. My son's school was canceled for
Tuesday based on the idea that it might be bad
weather on that day.
I hear from a friend that one local newsperson
actually said that the upcoming storm was going
to "have a great economic impact." Let me tell
you: it seems to me that the media hoped to
create that economic impact.
The real joke is that, of course, the terrible
ice storm never came. It was chilly but
comfortable. It rained a lot. The trees became
ice coated, but the streets did not. But it was
no worse than your average winter day. I will
admit, I have several friends who were without
power for hours, but not days. And if the
power's out, what better reason to get out and
enjoy the season and spread some cheer?
What ever happened to looking outside to see
what the weather was like before heading out?
Maybe driving a little more carefully and
heading home if it feels like the weather is
getting bad? Why is it that an entire community
can go berserk like a flock of dodos just
because some weather person, instead of just
saying, "It looks like things might get icy, so
be careful," all but screams for hours on end,
"THE SKY IS FALLING. STAY INDOORS. LOCK THEM.
THE NASTY WEATHER COULD GET IN! AND BE SURE YOU
HAVE PROVISIONS TO LAST THROUGH A NINETY DAY
SIEGE OR YOU MIGHT STARVE!"
Really. Think about it. When was the last time
the weather was so bad for so long that you
I can personally attest that the maniacal,
sensationalist media wreaks havoc on the local
economy every time they start crying wolf. Will
they ever stop? Probably not as long as people
keep falling for the hype that keeps their
ratings up. Casey and I are fortunate;
surprisingly, the havoc
it wreaks at STUFF is positive. For some reason our
business thrives on the nastiest days.
it's because we are a happy place.
Dec. 7, 2007
I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas
As many of you know...I don't like winter. But
what many of you don't know is that I am sucker
for big, white "polka dot" snow. I just look out
the window and think "cue snow" and it looks
like I walked onto the set of a Hollywood
holiday movie. It's beautiful! It's nostalgic!
It's lovely! It makes me want to drink hot cocoa
and curl up by the fire. And everyone knows I
like things to be pretty, picture perfect, and
arranged in pleasing piles.
Yesterday I was at STUFF watching the snow fall.
It was beautiful. It made us all playful. Sloane
and I hung out on the sidewalk taking photos
for an e-mail to our customers. Emma (one of the
shop dogs) ran through the snow kicking up
flurries. The staff was singing and dancing to
the store music. It was like we all turned 9
years old and a snow day had been called.
I believe this is why we all wish for a white
Christmas. It is the ultimate snow day. The city
is shut down, you are surrounded by family, the
food is yummy, you stay in your PJs all day and
YOU GI believe this is why we all wish for a white
Christmas. It is the ultimate snow day. The city
is shut down, you are surrounded by family, the
food is yummy, you stay in your PJs all day and
YOU GET GIFTS! It doesn't get much better than
Dec. 6, 2007
AIDS Is Bigger Than One Single Day
World AIDS Day is always December 1st.
Worldwide. Every year. But here in Kansas City,
AIDS is bigger than just one day. It warrants
a whole week of contemplation and celebration.
That week just ended for me.
I was at a lunch on Wednesday, November 28th,
where the speaker - Dr. Victoria Cargill from
the National Institutes of Health - spoke
passionately about HIV/AIDS in America. I filled
my program with quickly written quotes from her
speech. She was awe inspiring. She rocked my
world. She has dedicated her professional life
to HIV/AIDS and her private practice is in our
nation's capital. A city where 1 in 7 people are
I was at a fabulous reception on Wednesday
night, the 28th, at a wonderful loft in the
Crossroads District. I would define this event
as a "party of the faithful" - a party of people
who either work every day at organizations that
support those living with HIV/AIDS or who
regularly give of their time or their finances
to making sure that AIDS doesn't gain a greater
foothold in our area. And the main topic of
conversation in all the little pockets of people
was doing more, giving more, adjusting
strategies, and making greater change. Dr.
Cargill had humorously spoken earlier in the day
of being "54 and tired" but that it didn't deter
her. It made her realize she had more to do in
leave this world a little bit better than she
And I looked around that night at one
point and realized that the youngest at the
event was probably already 30. And, the group of
people - nationwide - who are at highest risk of
contracting HIV/AIDS are those 13 to 23. My son
is 3 years away from that lowest number. I have
known a world without AIDS, but my son most
likely will not.
I was at a party on Friday night, the 30th, and
was chilled when my friend John spoke from the
podium of those
who were close to us but who are now with the
angels. He said it so evenly, until his voice
broke. We all felt the uplift of thousands of
wings in flight.
I was at work tonight and a group of women in
Kansas City - True Blue Women - found it
in their hearts to have a party at our store and
to have it benefit the AIDS Service Foundation
of Kansas City. Their website says they "gather
progressive women to advocate social change,
provide education and promote camaraderie". They
were doing exactly that and shopping at the same
Only one woman, whom I've known since high
school, asked me why I was "involved with AIDS".
I didn't take long in answering, but I took a
moment so that I didn't seem so vehement. This is
exactly what I said: "How can I not be involved
in the world's largest pandemic? And our part of
that world has over 5,600 people living with its
effects every day here in Kansas City." I
prattled on for a minute about these people
being part of my human family, my neighbors,
my friends. She nodded her head in
understanding, and she handed me her credit card.
I was thankful for her business and for her
These and the pins above are my treasured personal red ribbon collection.
They have been given to me by my
husband, my son, my friends, and
This ended my World AIDS Day Week. In my heart,
and in my mind, AIDS is greater than just one
It's every day.
Dec. 5, 2007
At a Loss for Words
Earlier this week, an old friend from my high
school years lost her mother. It was not an
unexpected passing, but it didn't make it any
easier. When a person leaves our world, there is
a flutter of wings that stirs up the years of
dust that have settled around us all. It makes
us think of our own fragile lives. I spoke with
my friend today, and she was sad, tired, and at
peace. But, when I got off the phone, I still
felt like I wanted to say more.
So I found myself at the STUFF card racks.
While I searched - reading, feeling, thinking,
and filling my hand with 7 cards - I realized
there were many people to which I wanted to say
more. I just mailed a sympathy card to my friend,
and I mailed 6 additional cards to my friends to
let them know I love them.
Take some time this holiday season to stop and
share a few words with the people in your life.
It may help you feel less lost. It worked for
Nov. 29, 2007
The women you see before you are guilty.
They are guilty of pulling off amazing grace while
covering up a huge power failure.
Shall I digress?
On Friday night, November 9th,
STUFF hosted -
along with our friend Susan Henke Miller - a
private party within the walls of the store. It
was a fundraiser for a breast cancer research
fund, held at the KU Cancer Center, that is
named for Susan. It was a wonderful success and
kicked off our Wings of Hope holiday open house
What very few people know is that the
ambiance that night - mood lighting accented by
candlelight - was not planned. Actually, it
was furthest from our dreams. You see, the team
at STUFF had spent whole days - and nights! -
preparing a winter wonderland here at STUFF for
our holiday open house. And the last thing we
all wanted was for no one to be able to see it
in the pitch black!!
Less than one hour before the party was to
start, we had a power failure that knocked out
1/2 of our lights, our furnace, the phone
system, the computers, and the credit card
machines. This didn't mean we couldn't have a
party. This didn't even mean we couldn't check
people out. This meant we needed to get our
hands on 100 tea lights jiffy pronto, and to
reacquaint ourselves with the manual receipts we used 11 years ago and always have on hand
The women who worked with Casey and me that night pulled off the deception beautifully. There
was much behind-the-scenes drama before the
event, but none of it carried over into the
party. We could not be more proud of the women who
grace us with their presence at work.
Everyone had a wonderful time. The food was
fantastic, the drink plentiful, the cause just.
And the lighting was perfect.
Nov. 19, 2007
Cancer, Socks, Susan & The Holidays
We almost lost my friend Susan many years ago to
breast cancer. Stage 4 right from the start. The
inspiration of her victory over cancer was the
impetus for our "Wings of Hope".
The first year STUFF had an official holiday open house we
called it "Sock It To Breast Cancer". We
partnered with a great artist in Vermont for her
handmade socks (an artist we still represent!!)
and built an event around it. That event, and
every one since, has benefited the
Miller Breast Cancer Research Fund at the
Then, in 2000, we founded "Wings of Hope" and the rest, for us, is
history. 2007 was the 8th
year of "Wings of Hope", and it is still a
fundraising partnership between
STUFF, Susan, and
the KU Endowment, where Susan's fund resides.
Susan joins us every year and helps us with our
customer service for two days straight. KU comes
and sets up a table with important information
on all types of cancer. Casey and I, along
with our staff, put on a holiday party that is a
winter wonderland. A joyous, happy and
delightful shopping experience.
But the 8 years have not been easy. We've lost a
grandmother to a long fight with breast cancer;
our mother has had yet another breast cancer
scare; our dear friend Cathleen Connealy is
currently fighting a cancer fight she may lose.
And there are many, many others whose stories
have been shared with us by customers, friends
and Susan. Stories that end both happily and not
Just look at what cancer has brought me: yearly
chances to raise money for research;
celebrations of battles won and battles lost;
lasting friendships and a belief that hope does
Casey and me with Susan Henke Miller at
"Wings of Hope" in 2006
I have much to be thankful for. Amazingly,
cancer is one of them.
PS. You can read all about our "Wings of Hope" celebrations
through the years on the
Events page of our website, www.pursuegoodstuff.com. Check
Nov. 14, 2007
Trick or Treat on Our Street
Brookside is a wonderful neighborhood. A
neighborhood in every sense of the word.
Halloween, many merchants on our street sponsor
a "Trick or Treat Street" that basically equates
to us ooohing and aaahing over all the little
kids who parade past on the sidewalk outside our
stores. A majority of the kids that come by are
the ones that are probably too young to go out
in the dark later that night without full blown
crying fits from exhaustion!! So, their
intelligent parents bring them here in the
daylight where the kids can safely get mounds of
This year, STUFF handed out 3,200 pieces of
That's a big mound of candy . . . . and
a big mound of kids!!
Oct. 29, 2007
Just Down the Road a Piece
Last weekend, my husband and I took off on a
National Geographic Expedition - to Arkansas.
OK. It wasn't like the great radio programs on
National Public Radio, but we did follow a
general itinerary that had been written in
National Geographic's Traveler magazine last
We have been to Arkansas many times, and it is a
great, great state if you are a road trip lover
- which our little family is. They take
fantastic care of their byways (we stayed off
major highways!), and they will overwhelm with
their character - lots of great turns on
mountain terrain and scenic drops from mountain
tops to river basins. We loved it . . . again.
What was amazing was that Saturday night found
us in a national treasure - Mountain View,
Arkansas. The highway sign as you enter town
proclaims it the "Folk Music Capital of the
World". The magazine had mentioned the
phenomenon of "music on the square", but we were
not prepared to be truly amazed. We parked our
car around 5pm right on the square and walked
around a bit to get a feel for the festivities.
That almost makes it sound like it is an
organized undertaking. Since getting back this
week and telling of my trip, friends have asked
if we went to a festival or a concert. The big,
fat answer is "NO". It just so happens that
every Friday and Saturday night, people come to
town with their guitars, mandolins, slide
guitars, harmonicas, violins, string basses and
- my personal favorite - banjos. Heck, we even saw
a woman with an accordion. They sit in small
groupings without sound systems, mixing boards
or speakers, and they make fantastic music. The
lack of fancy equipment finds the "performers"
sitting on folding chairs in a circle facing
each other, and their voices dovetail beautifully
with their instruments. I was so glad I had
the foresight to pack the folding
chairs. We stayed for hours.
We sat in one location for around an hour, then I
turned to my husband and said, "Let's see if we
can find a banjo." On the other side of the
courthouse we did. It was being played by a
young woman of maybe 23, and her group was being
"fronted" at that point by a 6 year old boy who
was singing his heart out to the banjo, two
violins and a string base. It was wonderful. (I
confess to a love of banjo that goes back to my
time listening to Steve Martin's comedy LPs and
his banjo playing.)
On our drive away from the square that night, I
added up in my head how many groups of people we
had heard as we walked - and sat - for 3 hours.
It came to 10 groups with a minimum of 5
performers each. That's a lot of folk playing
Two of a seven-performer group on the porch at Mountain View Music.
Yes, this is a bacon-wrapped, cheese-topped hot dog, best eaten in a folding chair while listening to folk music.
The Chill -n- Grill, where you can obtain the bacon-wrapped, cheese-topped hot dog.
Mellon's Country Store in Mountain View asks you to toss your caps in the driveway. It was really cool.
General Arkansas Highlights:
"Bubba's" Bar-B-Q in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The meat is good, but the French fries are
out of this world.
Never miss a chance to eat in Jasper, Arkansas,
at the Ozark Cafe. It's right on the square, and
you absolutely can not miss it. The French fries
there were fantastic as well. Maybe it's an
Arkansas thing. Beats me.
Exit the car at state parks near rivers. The
waters are so clear that they scream out to be
touched and listened to.
Visit Mountain View Music in Mountain View. The
staff is amazing, and the instruments are just
begging you to play "a little foggy mountain
See if Marsha is working at the Jasper Conoco
(right off the square). You will like her. I
did. When she came out to put the gas in our car
- which is rare and not an experience I've had
more than 2 times in my time behind the wheel -
she told me that it was a self-service pump but
that the owner, Bob Reno, is "from the old school
in Louisiana" and just likes customer service.
We ended up talking long past the fill-up about
my hybrid car and how much I love it and how
much she wants to own one. She says her farm
"needs it", and she was taking her husband to
look at one like mine.
If your travels find you anywhere near Mountain
View on a Friday or Saturday night, take time
and stop. You won't regret it. I promise.
Oct. 17, 2007
Are You Looking
When our son was young, he was given a book
titled "How Are You Peeling?" by Joost Elffers.
It is a wonderful book. However, I think whoever
gave it to him was making a slight jab at me,
because I'm not really adept at "sharing" my
Don't get me wrong. I have opinions
and I share them. I have passionate beliefs, and
I share them with others to try and get them to
change the world with me. However, I'm not one
to immediately open up and pour out my emotions.
Now, this book is a fabulous picture book of
fruit and other food items that have been chosen
because their outer shells or skins seem to have
faces on them. And, with careful placement of
other food items and partial peeling of the
fruit, even more fantastic faces appear. It is a
mesmerizing book and not just for children.
I've always loved finding the "face" in
manufactured items, so my love of this book was a
natural progression. I always swore there was a
face in the side of my grandfather's Allis-Chalmers tractor; I think there is a face - in
profile - in every crescent wrench. And
last vacuum had a face when the vacuum bag was
And then, over a year ago, a face appeared in
the peeling paint on the outer walls of
where I park my car every day.
the smiling face out back at
It makes me very,
very happy, and I don't know what I'll do when it
no longer exists. I can't help but smile every
morning when I see it. And, for some reason, it
reminds me of the face of the little boy who sat
on the sofa with me while we looked at all of Joost Elffers books.
Come on . . . check 'em out for yourself at the
Reading Reptile here in Brookside. You'll be
glad you did, and if you need to talk about them
- or share your emotions - just come on down the
street and I'm here for you.
Oct. 8, 2007
We have lived in our house for 14 years. For
a majority of those years I re-designed the
kitchen in my head, on paper, and, occasionally,
verbally directly to my husband. Sometimes I
demolished the entire thing, moved exterior
doors, and saw all new things in all new places -
furniture, appliances, rugs.
And then I was part of a "No Place Like Home"
tour with SAVE, Inc. (www.saveinckc.org) and
toured the apartment of a person whose life is a
daily battle with HIV/AIDS. But all of those
problems seemed to stop at the door, because this
one bedroom apartment was a "home". And it was
perfect in the eyes of its inhabitant - our tour
guide - and was everything he needed to make his
life better and balanced and safe.
I came away from that tour deeply shaken. I
realized I had spent countless "pretend" dollars
re-designing and re-configuring a kitchen that
was perfectly fine. The food we served from it
sustained us, the parties we held in it brought
us laughter, and the room was a place of daily
reflection when we sat down to dinner at the end
of the day.
True, it needed a few updates. The
floor was linoleum, chipped and peeling. The
paint job from before our son was born looked
all of its ten years. The walls were a modge
podge of art and treasures. Something had to be
And over the course of the past year, we've
worked on that checklist. The best interior
painter in the world - James Johnson - made it
look like new. The linoleum was removed and
replaced with glueless laminate flooring. The
art was edited and re-hung just so.
But tonight my husband and I completed the final touch . . . we
changed all the drawer and cabinet door pulls
with recycled glass knobs from an artist we
represent at STUFF: Kathleen
Plate and her company Smart Glass. They are
fantastic. She makes them in her studio in
Atlanta, Georgia. We had a lot of colors to
choose from, but black won out in the end.
This year's kitchen changes cost a mere fraction
of what my "vanity kitchen" would have set us
back. But the reason that I didn't change the
whole kitchen was not the money. It's because the kitchen we already had,
with just a few minor updates, is perfectly
fine and will be for another 14 years. Or more.
I just needed a stranger to show me his "dream
kitchen" for me to see that mine already was
Oct. 5, 2007
I know many mothers. I turn to them for advice
and strength when I need help. Mothers have an
instant bond. They can take one look at you and
know what to say that will make you feel better
about the "bad mother" moment you just convinced
yourself will scar your child for life. They can
also help you know what to expect when your
child heads off on a new adventure.
My daughter started school this year. And every
mother I know warned me that I would cry like a
baby when I left the classroom on the first day
They even included tissue in the
parenting survival kit they gave us on Parents'
Night. But I didn't need it...she was ready.
She was so excited to join the other toddlers in
the Toddler Program at St. Paul's Episcopal Day
School that she RAN up the hill to school. You
see, we live 5 blocks from her school, and we
walk to school together.
Her cousin (my nephew
and Sloane's son) has been at St. Paul's for 8
years and had been "showing her the ropes". She
marched in and only hesitated briefly before she
said goodbye, and I walked out feeling happy. No
tears. I thought, "Look at me - no tears, no
big scene - what are these other sappy moms
talking about?" And the year began.
Then, this Monday, walking to school as usual,
we talked about her being brave and letting me
leave her at the front door of the building with
the other kids. She wasn't sure, but said she
wanted to try. We arrived. She looked at me and
gave me a big hug and headed into the building.
She took about 5 steps, turned around and with
giant eyes filled with big fat tears said, "I
can do it Mama...I will try." Then she blew me a
kiss goodbye. I cried all the way home. Sappy
mother all the way, baby...it's the only way to
At least she will still let me fold her up in a
ball and lay her on my lap and tease her about
not fitting in my tummy any more.
Oct. 4, 2007
It's In the Bag
I am a self-professed bag hag. I love handbags!
I have bought the "perfect bag" many, many, many
times. I can give you a presentation of each of
my choices and why it is the "perfect bag".
ask any customer that has made the mistake of
asking me why I like a particular bag. They know
that I will gladly tell you all about the nifty
features and uses of any bag we sell. I just
smile at myself because it reminds me of my
father and the way he talks about his cars
and/or boats (at least my passions are less
expensive - did I mention I love jewelry, too?).
I have learned from this addiction that
every bag IS actually perfect. It depends on
your destination and mood. So...today the
"perfect bag" is my new STUFF favorite. Which we
offer because it is the "perfect bag"...at least
Here's what's in my bag today.
What's in your bag?
Oct. 3, 2007
The Big O
That's "Big O" for Omaha.
What were you thinking?
Oct. 2, 2007
Friends - Can't Live Without 'Em
This is not a competition. I have the best
friends and am lucky to have them. I'm no fool.
I know there are all kinds of friends: best
friends, lifetime friends, family friends, work
friends, college friends, friends from high
school, etc. And then there are friends that
don't fit an easy, tried and true description.
My friend Patricia came to be my friend when I
was pushing forty. We met at our son's school
(her oldest is my son's age) and made the
general early acquaintances that moms make look
easy. Heck, we had an interest that we shared
that we both cared deeply about - a child. But I
have to admit: from the beginning, I knew we
probably shared a lot more than that, and I was
willing to commit good amounts of time to
figuring out why I felt that way . . . to find out
why I had a feeling we were "soul sisters". I'm
not a stalker. Really. I just know a friend . .
. right from the beginning.
And then it happened. I realized during polite
conversation that she shared a love of
"nesting". That she, too, saved pages from home
magazines of rooms she loved and things she
coveted. That she, too, memorized the feel of
things without even touching them. And then I
realized, through a joint antiquing adventure,
that she, too, took a long time looking in small
places for the perfect item - old or new. That
she, too, knows that items "speak" to you, that
they haunt you if you don't take them home the
minute you find them, and that you take a real
risk of a broken heart going back for it to find
Patricia and me last Friday night. The kids are out of camera range!!
And then she started a web log - a "blog" in
computer speak. It is charming, full of
beautiful pictures and witty, witty words from
Patricia. She doesn't mince words, and her
honesty is refreshing. She takes no prisoners,
likes what she likes, and makes no excuses.
Hurry. Go and check it out.
But remember, life really is like 5th grade, and
she was my friend first.
Oct. 1, 2007
O' Boy, A Trip to Omaha!!
Christmas never ends for the
STUFF gals!! Last
year for Christmas we gave our good friend Ryoko
a trip to the Omaha Zoo with her "grandchildren",
which are actually our children. So, in early
September, it was time to celebrate with Ryoko.
Several weeks ago, we loaded the STUFF mini
van with ourselves, our children, and Ryoko, and
we took off for the great North on I-29. For the
first several miles, we sang Christmas carols to
get Ryoko in the mood, and most of the weekend we
wished her "Merry Christmas" whenever she seemed
particularly happy. The highway was a highway,
but the zoo was fantastic, incredible, amazing
and well worth the 3 hours each way spent on a
boring interstate. For years, we had heard from friends and
customers how amazing the zoo in Omaha
is, and I guess we were just too lazy to drive up
there. I can't think of another excuse, even
we really aren't lazy people by nature.
There are many reasons that the Henry Doorly Zoo
in Omaha constantly ranks in the top 5 of
American zoos. I will be honest right now: with
a two and a half year old in tow, we didn't even
see the entire zoo, but the parts we experienced
were wonderful. Penguins, an amazing glass tube
you walk through under an "ocean" of sea
creatures, a desert dome, a feature called
"Kingdoms of the Night" that had nocturnal
animals active in the daytime (it was dark
inside!!), an amazing number of gorillas,
orangutans in an outdoor - and huge -
environment, a tropical rainforest environment
full of plants and animals, polar bears and way
more. I'm still stunned.
And I'm ready to go back next year with a 3 and
a half year old and her 11 year old cousin. And
this time, we're gonna see it all.
PS. Travel advice: Stay at the Embassy Suites in the Old
Market area of downtown Omaha. (Bigger than average bedroom
and a comfortable living area.) All 5 of us stayed in one
room comfortably. The free breakfast and an indoor pool were
nice bonuses, but not overriding reasons to stay there. Old
Market isn't a huge area, but it was a charming place to
walk around and it has a smattering of locally owned shops
and a great ice cream place that "churns" their ice cream in
the old fashioned crank-style barrels every day.
Sept. 27, 2007
When You Wish Upon a Star
I returned last week from vacation. If you read
our blog, you know my daughter and I spent over a
week on the beach in Montauk, New York. It was a
fall beach trip, so lots of sweatshirts at
sunset. We were blessed with a wonderful house a
block and half from the beach. Or as my daughter
now says "to get to the beach, go to the stop
sign and turn left...theeeeere it is." It was
wonderful. I would have been perfectly happy if
our trip had been filled with days at the beach
sprinkled with a few trips into "town". But my
friend Claire made sure we had an adventure that
we will forever remember.
You see, my friend is a surfer. She doesn't just
surf, she IS a SURFER and with that comes a
lifestyle both external and internal. For
example, every time she calls me in Kansas City,
she reports the surf conditions almost before
she says hello. I am not a surfer, but, as many
of you know, I am an ocean lover. I don't just
"dig" the beach. I live for a chance to be near
an ocean. I have to see a beach more than once a
year or I go batty. And my home and office are
covered in shells, photos and artwork that keep
me close to the tide. It is this mutual love
that helps Claire and me understand each other so
One thing we both love about the
ocean and beach communities is that everyone is
equal when you are in or near the water. It
creates a level playing field. You can be rich
or poor, outgoing or quiet, young or old...it
doesn't matter. When you stand at the edge of
the mighty blue water it all washes away. And
you never know who you may meet.
That is how it came to pass that Jimmy Buffett
sang "Row Your Boat" to my daughter. It was the
power of the waves.
On Friday of our trip, Claire invited us to
Ditch Plains Beach to hangout while she
volunteered her time to an organization called
Surfers Healing. This amazing group that takes
autistic kids into the ocean to surf. When I
learned about it from Claire, it made perfect
sense to me that going into the ocean had therapeutic effects on autistic kids. It has
always had a therapeutic effect on me. My
daughter and I spent the whole day building sand
castles and watching surfers from all over the
country take kids out on surf boards. It was
truly inspiring to watch these kids surf. Their
faces said it all. Everyone cheered at each
success. Everyone worked together to create a
magical day filled with companionship and
healing. (I encourage you to read about it at
their website.) I felt hugely lucky to be on the
Later that evening, the volunteers, supporters
and some families gathered at the local surfer
Sunset Saloon. And, as a special treat, a
regular surfer at Ditch Plains Beach offered to
sing a few tunes to thank the group for the day.
This is where
Jimmy Buffett comes in...yes,
"the" Jimmy Buffett sat on a stool with a guitar,
and a buddy played the bongos and congas, and he
sang for the group.
When he started to sing, my daughter put down
her third fish taco (she is 2 and half, but the
fish tacos are particularly good) and weaved her
way through the small "crowd" and sat down on
the floor in front of him. I crawled my way up
to join her. She was mesmerized. After a few
songs, Jimmy reached down for his drink and my
daughter asked me (loudly), "Mama, what is that
man drinking?" Jimmy laughed and good heartedly
responded, "it's not apple juice." Then we all
We sat there for a few more songs and
then crawled back out to let someone else have
the floor seats. We found our away around a deck
that put us directly behind Jimmy and the drum
player. On the way around, my daughter asked
me if "that man would sing Row, Row, Row Your
Boat for me." I thought it was so cute I shared
the story with "Aunt Claire" while we stood on
the deck listening and humming to our favorite Buffett songs.
As he got near the end of
his "show" he talked a bit and asked if anyone
had any requests. Claire, with my daughter in her
arms, simply said, "she wants to hear Row, Row,
Row Your Boat." So, with a few words about how
"he never does this" and a promise from the
group to join in the round..."that man" Jimmy Buffett sang to my daughter.
It has been a difficult year for my daughter and
me. My divorce from her father has presented many
challenges for both of us. But every night we
sing songs together and it all just floats away.
It's like the power of the waves.
I will forever be grateful to my friend Claire
for giving me the gift of being near the ocean.
I will always be humbled by the strength of the
families that came to the beach that day. And I
will always be thankful to Jimmy Buffett for
granting my daughter her wish.
Sept. 24, 2007
Party All The Time
My sister and I love a good party. And last
Thursday night at STUFF was just that; a good
party. The store was full of people, the food
was simple and delicious, the wine was cold, the
jewelry was fantastic, and, more than anything,
laughter filled the air.
This party was a celebration of 10 local artists
(women!!) who make fantastic jewelry. And all 10
of them were here in the flesh and telling us
everything we needed to know about their current
work. The party had a name, "extravaganza", and
that name was very fitting.
On Saturday there was another party at STUFF.
And this one featured 9 local artists working
feverishly in our classroom downstairs on their
art. Much like Thursday night, these artists
were women - albeit younger women.
They too were celebrating - celebrating the art
they were creating and the 11th birthday of one
of the artists!! There was no food (just
candy!), no wine, no jewelry, but laughter still
filled the air. The sweet sound of young women
laughing, talking, and, at the end of the party,
singing "Happy Birthday" at the top of their
lungs filled our store with happiness.
Casey and I had a wonderful time at both
parties. But who doesn't love a good party?
In early August, we threw a small dinner party
for a sister-in-law's visit. It was really a
celebration of the completion of our exterior
paint job and the inauguration of our newly
re-decorated (and painted!!) porch.
Our porch is not screened in. It is open to the
elements and is perched on the south side of our
home. It's "closed in" with thick hand-built
lattice that does nothing for the bugs but does
provide ample privacy. We love it.
When the house painter was booked last winter, I
decided that this was my chance to finally have
the porch look as I had imagined it; we had done
little to change it since moving in 14 years
ago. We live in a 99 year old house full of
character, and the porch was not designed as an
My current favorite state
I have inherited and collected vintage wrought
iron furniture. Most of it had been so lovingly
cared for by a great aunt and a grandmother that
they needed no repair. One table and chair set
had never seen the great outdoors until it came
to live with us!! So, while the house and porch
were preparing themselves for their painting
make-over, my husband and I planned for the
painting of the furniture, purchased the fabric,
and called the upholsterer for all the cushions.
While we were at the fabric store, I had the
greatest epiphany . . . I could incorporate my
vintage state plate collection into the "new
porch", as I was calling it. This made me very
happy. I had been told years ago by my maternal
grandmother that "God was in the details", and I
felt that these plates would be the porch's
But I digress . . . .
I didn't know that the night of the small
dinner party really wasn't really the porch's inauguration at
all. That night happened a month later when my
son took center stage on the porch . . . .
You see, by then school had started, we were
back in the monotony of a stricter schedule, and
we were all bucking a bit under its initial
strain. So, my son and I took to the porch one
Friday afternoon and vegged out. Not two hours
into it, we heard voices we recognized walking up
the street, and we saw Casey, our friend Ryoko, and
Casey's daughter bringing Ryoko home. And, that
began the night no one wanted to see end.
My husband came home from work around the time
my mother called and said "I can't find your
sister. What's everybody doing for dinner?" I
knew where Casey was, and I knew - right then -
that dinner would be a huge pasta served on the
porch to those who were already on it and those
who were on their way over.
Before we ate, while the natural light was
leaving the porch and the candles were just
taking over from the sun, my son stood up and
recited the poem he had started that day at
school and had finished an hour or so earlier on
this very porch. His sweet voice silenced the
porch as he read:
I can tell when summer goes,
because the Fairway Pool will close.
I can tell when summer goes,
for I will have to go shopping for new clothes.
I can tell when summer goes,
because the summer camps must close.
I can tell when summer goes,
for the alarm clock goes and goes,
when the alarm clock rings and rings,
I know the birds have stopped to sing,
I can tell when summer goes,
for the heat comes to a close.
I can tell when summer goes,
for the sand leaves my toes.
Summer goes, Summer goes,
Why does summer have to go?
I can tell when summer goes,
For the alarm clock goes and goes,
I can tell when summer goes,
For I can't go to late night shows.
Summer goes, Summer goes,
Why does summer have to go?
Why does summer have to go,
If I don't want overnights to slow?
The alarm clock rings, and rings, and rings,
I can hear when birds don't sing.
Summer goes, Summer goes.
Why does Summer have to go?
That was the night the "new porch" became a
member of the family. It was the kind of night
that can not be planned and will not be
forgotten by the little boy's mother who cried
as she held his candle.
Sept. 19, 2007
Changes in Latitude
Three years ago, before Casey's daughter was
born, we decided that, although my son had turned
out alright in the end, we needed to raise
the next child in a more child friendly
environment and move our office out of the
concrete-floored, always-a-bit-dusty lower level
at STUFF. Since moving to Brookside, we had shared office space - really cute, well-lit, and a bit vintage
feeling - with our friend and
STUFF's CFO (Cheap Financial Officer),
Ryoko. Besides the
birth of an heir, there was no impetus to move
But we love that we made the move. We converted what had
been a "back room" behind the counter - filled to
the ceiling with supplies, bags, tissue,
ribbons, etc. - into our current home. Now, what
is unique about this office is that it was originally a
safe for the bank that occupied our space in
Brookside when the shopping district opened
almost 90 years ago. So our walls, floor and
ceiling are one foot deep concrete, and the room
had no air conditioning, heating, windows, doors
or electricity. Needless to say, a few
things had to be done to make it ready for
bringing a baby to work, let alone bringing
ourselves to work in it.
We installed ceiling fans and fashioned a
"Dutch" door from an interior door we found at
the hardware store. The door has 9 little windows in
the top half and nice panel work on the bottom.
We realized very quickly that two grown women
and a newborn would make a bit of noise, and that
concrete wouldn't absorb any of it. So in came
a Gypsy Rose rug from Dash & Albert, an old slipcovered
sofa from my house, and a curved-back
Queen Anne chair for acoustic support. In
time, the walls have slowly filled with art and
The office is 10 feet wide and 28 feet deep.
Casey and I sit back to back, and we have
surrounded ourselves with the electronic
detritus of a small business: two desktop
computers, a multifunction printing device, a
color inkjet printer, the security system, and the
modems, routers and phone system that make
for a working environment straight from a sci-fi
film. I am always asking our on-call computer
genius - my husband - "can we ditch those cords?"
and "does that have to be seen?" and, his favorite,
"does it come in any color but black?"
But the best thing we splurged on when we were
designing our new digs was framed
cork boards to go over our desks. Casey's is 3 feet by 4
feet, and mine is 1.5 feet by 2 feet, and they
are filled with treasures we just can't part
with or file away. More ephemera.
We have a great office and much good comes out
of its door. You'll find us there most days with
the ceiling fans spinning and the electronics
humming. And, in the winter, you'll see the
little space heater cranking it in the corner.
My cork board
Casey's cork board
Casey and me playing office at our "desk" at our Grandma Simmons's house in 1971.
Sept. 12, 2007
You Just Can't
Earlier this week I was looking back through
some of the "keepsakes" Casey and I brought back
from our trip to Philadelphia and New York in
mid-August. I keep a travel diary - and have for
years - and I pick up little pieces of paper
ephemera all day long. I bring them all
together at the end of that day of travel and
paste them in my book along with written
memories and facts.
I have officially decided that The Reading
Terminal in Philadelphia is so authentic that it
can never be duplicated, even by the super
duper "we can mimic anything" environment
planners in Vegas (e.g. Venice, New York, Paris). It is a place of great wonder and is a
site to behold. Every time I have ever been
there, it has been packed with people. Some, like
me, are wandering around aimlessly trying to get
a lay of the land. Others know exactly what
they are there for and know by heart the fastest
route to retrieve it.
Maybe when I visit again I will instinctively
know the fastest route to my favorite slice of
pizza. Or maybe, on purpose, I will wander
around and take my time.
PS. I've never been to Vegas.
Sept. 10, 2007
It Takes a Village
Earlier this year I joined the ranks of women who have become
single mothers after a divorce. Shortly after, I started
making jokes (since all you can do sometimes is laugh) that
my family vacation had gotten cancelled this year and I was
looking for a travel buddy.
Tomorrow, my two and half year old daughter and I
leave for 9 days on the beach in Montauk, New York. But it
took a village to make this trip possible.
My friend Claire in New York snagged a free beach house from
her friend to whom I will be forever grateful. My sister
Sloane sat quietly while I obsessed about the dates, the
flights, the costs, and the arrangements. Then she simply said,
"Go on vacation Casey. It will all be okay." My mother and
her girlfriend are getting my mail and watching my house, and
they're the airport shuttle. My sister and her family are
watching my dog. My nephew loaned my daughter his portable DVD
player, which my brother-in-law had to deliver to me at 9:00 tonight. My best friend has taken 10 calls a day
listening to me worry about every other detail in my life.
And another friend went to the drug store for me - twice - to
get cold medicine and tissues, since somehow I have
managed to get a head cold, too.
You see, as a single mother, you are unable to just leave home
after your child is in bed. Either you have to hire a
babysitter to go the drug store or, if you're lucky like me,
you have a village that makes anything possible.
So, this is a thank you to all the people in my village. You
deserve to be sitting on the beach with us.
Aug. 30, 2007
My Sister, Casey
My sister makes me smile. A lot. Often. And she is one of
few people on this planet that can make me laugh hard enough
- and for long enough - to truly test my hours of Kegel
We were out this weekend doing a little shopping for vintage
items for the store. I happened upon one individual's
"booth" and was truly dumbfounded by what they had chosen to
sell. I think I stood there a bit too long staring. The
next thing I heard was my sister cracking up because she had
been just as dumbfounded but had moved on ahead of me and
turned just to watch my response. She was already losing it
- tears running down her face, bent over at the waist - when
I made eye contact and I fell in right behind her. It took
us almost 5 minutes to bring it under control.
The laugh lines on my face have been awarded to me primarily
by the people I hold closest to my heart. I can still quote
comedic passages from Bill Cosby, Steve Martin and Eddie
Murphy. All of them are from the stories they told about
their families. They are as lucky as I am.
We were raised well, and I think it is important to state
that there was no one in the booth, so no insults were handed
down when we had our "come apart". In addition, the items we
brought back are wonderful. Come in and check them out.
Aug. 29, 2007
New York and Philly
Here are some fun shots from our whirlwind trip to markets in New York and Philadelphia in August. Enjoy!
Aug. 27, 2007
Friends Out of Context
Me and Barbara Cosgrove
Casey and I were going through all the fun
photos we took on our trip to New York (a
painting on the actual street outside of MoMA,
Casey with the world's largest roast "beast"
sandwich, etc.) and we saw the picture Casey
took of Barbara Cosgrove and me on the
corner of 53rd & 7th Avenue. We both look so
amazingly happy, and mostly I think what comes
shining through in the picture is that we found
each other on a street corner in Manhattan and
that made us relax. And then Casey snapped a
Back Story: Barbara Cosgrove makes the most
amazing lamps for a living here in Kansas City (www.barbaracosgrovelamps.com).
STUFF carries a
few of her lamps, but the pieces we carry are
really more one-of-a-kind than what she sells to
people around the world. She has the great
fortune of having two fantastic people who work
with her, AJ and Jeff, and they all seem to make
each other laugh and that carries through into
the lamps they make. Barbara was in New York
showing her wares at the convention center. Or,
on that particular day, AJ and Jeff were.
Barbara had just been walking down 7th Avenue
when she saw us get off the shuttle bus (re:
Greyhound!) from the convention center with at
least 40 other people. She admits to being as
amazed as I was at spotting a friend from
"home". It seems like when you walk alone in New
York - and other big cities - you kind of
insulate yourself in your thoughts and your
journey and can be a bit unaware of actual faces,
even while processing the movements of the
bodies they are a part of. She raised a hand,
when our eyes met, from the north side of the
street, and I waved from my spot on the south.
And then we stood and visited for a very long
time. About kids, husbands, business, food, work
and parties. It was divine.
This has happened to me a few times over the
past several years. Friends out of context. I
have been in a city or remote location and have
looked up when crossing a street and seen
someone staring at me and we lock eyes for a
brief minute and then the "Oh my gosh . . .
.What are you doing here?" type comments start
It really is a big, small world. But, I think
I've said that before.
Casey and the World's Largest Roast Beast Sandwich at The Stage Deli on 7th Avenue
Aug. 23, 2007
Back to School
Well. It's over. Summer has officially ended today in the
Simmons/Van Deursen household with the beginning of 5th
grade for my son.
Today brought back a very exciting memory: I was in 5th
grade when I met my "best friend for life" Cathy Stark,
currently the good Reverend Catherine Stark-Corn. (You can
see a picture of us together on this website on the Events
Page. Just click on the AIDS Walk logo!!)
It was an overstatement to say that summer ended today. I
was feeling dramatic. Summer ends slowly for me with school
starting, then again when the Fairway Pool closes on Labor
Day, and again when Fall begins in late September.
I've always been a summer person and have never really liked
Fall. Not because it isn't a great season - it is! - but
because it takes away my favorite season for a while. For
several years I was unable to drive my son to the park in
Fairway that adjoins the pool because I couldn't stand to
see the pool empty. My palm would itch for the feel of the
water and the sounds of summer.
Don't worry. I'll be fine. I'm getting better. Really.
Aug. 20, 2007
I build houses in my dreams. Many of my friends already know
this, but I have a recurring dream in which I build a house.
It starts with the plans and the pouring of the foundation
and continues all the way through the minutest detail
(knobs, trim, built-in shelving, paint, furniture, books,
fabrics, sculpture, wall art, etc.). Only in a dream could
you build your dream house in a matter of hours. I often
repeat ideas. After years of trial and error the basic
layout now remains the same. I have added and taken way
features over the years. The house has never been outrageous
or "over the top". Since Sloane and I started
STUFF, I have
tried out many of our offerings in my dream house. I have
re-built rooms around a fine art painting, making the light
from a window strike it just right. I have moved the
courtyard to accommodate a sculpture. I have redesigned the
bedrooms to feature an endless supply of bedding and rugs.
But one feature never changes. There are windows and doors
everywhere. The builders just roll their eyes at me, but
make the changes. In my dream house there is always a view
of the world that surrounds me and doors to let myself out
and my friends and family in easily. Because what good is a
dream house if you don't share it with your world? It is in
sharing our lives that the items we collect and the houses
we build become "real" and embodies our memories and
experiences. That is when a house becomes a home.
Aug. 17, 2007
Out Of The City In The City
During our recent time in New York City we had two days that
were not spent in the convention center and we were able to
do our work in a more relaxed setting. (Relaxed meaning
sitting or reclining!!)
On one of the days we rode the bus way, way, way up Madison
Avenue to the top of Central Park and we then cut west and
proceeded north on Amsterdam Avenue, Broadway and Fort
Washington Avenue to 190th Street, a stop for The Cloisters.
The bus ride took 1 hour and 20 minutes and Casey got a
little goofy on it but I loved looking at the city change
block by block. Manhattan is amazing and I love every part
The Cloisters is an adjunct museum of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art and is dedicated entirely to the Medieval
times in Northern Europe. This is not a time period that I
hold close to my heart but this museum shines. They have
incorporated such fantastic historical architecture, stained
glass and cloistered gardens that you feel very far from
home. And, the sounds of the city just melt away.
The 1 mile walk from the bus stop to the museum was divine
and is when we really felt "out of the city". The park that
this museum sits in, Fort Tryon Park, is a rambling and
hilly location that overlooks the Hudson River and one spot
in the park took the breath away from both of us, The Linden
Terrace. The linden trees are all over 100 years old and
were set in a half circle with magnificent views of the
river and the George Washington Bridge. There are many
benches set in the same arching circle as the trees. We were
there on an 90+ degree day and when you stepped under these
magnificent trees, at least 10 degrees fell away. I will
never forget this place. The light was muted under the trees
and I swear, no direct sunlight was hitting the old brick
sidewalks. It was superb.
The Cloisters is worth the trip to the upper reaches of
Manhattan and is much, much smaller than its mother ship,
The Met. We were there for several hours and they flew by.
One of the cloistered gardens is growing only plants - or
their cultivars - that would have been in medieval gardens.
We walked back to the train stop at 190th Street on a
different path and saw a place we hope to visit and eat at
in the future, "The New Leaf Cafe". The Cloisters may not be
part of every one of our trips to New York City, but we will
be back. It was that fantastic and peaceful.
Aug. 9, 2007
I believe this is a big, small world. Here's why: Casey and
I were cruising through the lobby of the Marriott in
Philadelphia when I spotted one of Kansas City's greatest
mayors, Kay Barnes. She was quietly reading a book in the
cacophony of a "big city convention hotel" when we
interrupted her to say hello and briefly catch up.
And, a few days later, on one of New York's hottest summer
days, Gloria Steinem got on the M4 bus we were riding. We
were all heading uptown and she took a seat and was quietly
reading a book in the noise of the bus until her exit.
Needless to say, we did not bother her to say hello or ask
for an autograph.
These two experiences made me think about how amazing these
two women are. One built a myriad of partnerships to change
the way our city physically looks and is perceived by
others, and the other woman changed the way the world views
women and their potential.
Women are amazing.
PS. New York is a place where you can see famous people in normal situations. Casey thought she saw Hugh Grant at the grocery store on Broadway at 55th. It was just a banker.
Aug. 7, 2007
My theory is that all hotel rooms are crap. Although the
Ritz Carlton isn't half bad (which I sadly haven't stayed in
for over 10 years)...it's still just a hotel room. Every
time I check into a hotel I immediately start to feel
trapped. I pace around the room feeling edgy, which in New
York City is difficult because the rooms are so small that
you have to take turns. But that is not why I am writing
I am simply writing to say that every hotel room looks just
like a house trailer once you hang your bra and panties from
any available "hook" that of course isn't a sprinkler head.
So spend what you want...but I can turn your high end $350-a-night hotel room in mid-town Manhattan into a white trash
motel on wheels in 10 minutes flat. And I don't even have
to get creative.
Aug. 5, 2007
No More Wire
I had a big giggle this morning in my hotel bed.
my room here in Philadelphia is nice, but it's still a
standard hotel room: two queen beds, a table and lamp
between them, a TV cabinet across from them, and a bathroom
to the left of the door. In addition, it has a window that
looks out onto downtown Philadelphia. It is nicely appointed
and almost feels like the people who style Ralph Lauren's
Polo ads had a hand in the decorating with our
made-to-look-like-cut-crystal table lamp. Heck, we even have
a desk for the
STUFF computer and paperwork from the artists
we met with yesterday. So, it's a nice enough room in a
hotel that's attached to a convention center.
What gave me
the laugh was the 3 inch round sticker in the shape of a
bright red circle with a slash through it that is stuck to
the wall under the sprinkler head to tell you not to use the
sprinkler head as a place to put a hangar with clothes.
Maybe they should just put a few hooks in the room in
addition to the one on the back of the bathroom door.
Call me crazy.
Aug. 4, 2007
One of the problems of waking up at 3:30AM and flying
halfway across the country before you go to work is that you
end up in a daze hovering between reality and theme park
delirium. Keep this in mind when I tell you that I was
sitting on a Monopoly square for lunch.
All aboard the Reading Railroad! The Reading Terminal in
Philadelphia is amazing. It is what you fantasize an open
stand market should be - vendors shouting to customers;
meat, fish, veggies and fruits piled high in food magazine-esque
mounds. All this and the chance to eat. Almost every vendor
has prepared offerings that you can buy and then fight for a
seat at the very limited area crammed in the center of all
So...this is where I found myself eating Japanese noodles
and octopus sushi while my sister ate pizza and we discussed
cannoli with a labor lawyer eating a Philly steak sandwich
and welcomed the interruption from the woman nearby enjoying
ice cream with her son wanting to know where I got the
You may be wondering if we took the lawyer's advice and had
a cannoli. No, instead we grabbed a bag of Amish homemade
BBQ chips that we ate on the way back to work.
PS. I was thinking about my friend Pat Deaton the whole
time. Wish you were here, Pat.
July 27, 2007
Today I was thrilled to have two of our former team members
come-a-callin'. Many of you know our friends Meghan and
Natalie. They both find themselves living and working in
Chicago now. The three of us got comfy on the
STUFF sofa and chairs, then
we talked and talked. What a fun way to spend the mid-day.
It is nice to re-visit with our past, to watch them evolve,
to share our families, our relationships, our laughter...it
feels like no time has passed. Both Meghan and Natalie look
amazing and are happy, healthy and living exciting lives. I
think about them often and always giggle when I remember
Meghan's first interview and how she said "I feel like a
caged animal" (no joke). I believe this is one of the big
reasons we hired her -- honesty will get you far at
STUFF. I also remember when
Natalie slipped off a stool causing pretty big harm to her
leg, but her only concern was if the display looked good and
she kept right on working all night. It wasn't until days
later that she finally had it examined. She smiled and
laughed through the whole ordeal. I miss them both and I am
honored to call them friends. Thanks for sharing your day
Nats and Megs. I love you both.
July 27, 2007
It all began with needing light bulbs and small bite sized
cookies, and it ended with two polycarbonate, hard-sided
A little back story: Casey and I were delighted years ago
when a warehouse store decided to build a store and grow
their business in our inner-city neighborhood; the
neighborhood where we live and raise our families. We had
neither one ever been warehouse store shoppers. Mostly
because they were always built miles and miles from our
homes and they didn't fit our desire to "shop locally"
whenever we could. However, this company excels at paying a
living wage to its workers and in giving back to the
communities in which it builds. As the years have passed, we
have become quite close to a few of their treasured
employees and long visits happen often as we are exiting or
entering the store. So, we were back again today for a few
Tonight we have an event at STUFF for the group of people
450!! -- visiting from Kurashiki, Japan, and needed a few bite
sized cookies to serve with our amazing Diva Punch -- a
recipe developed years ago for our annual "Diva Day Doubled"
event -- and we were off to our favorite warehouse store. Our
friend Molly, who works for us, tracked us down in the car
and said we also needed light bulbs. So far, this was barely
a list worth writing down. We hadn't made it 20 feet into
the store when we were face-to-face with what we really
needed and never knew we were coming for: very large
You see, we leave soon for a 10 day trip to the East Coast
to meet with the amazing artists we represent at
that is a long time to be in a hotel with limited laundry
facilities. What each of us didn't know was that the other
had been having real discussions internally about how they
were gonna get it all together in one 22" roll-on suitcase,
the only suitcases we have ever needed for our business
trips in the past.
A lot has changed in the 10+ years STUFF has been open, and
we travel with a lot more office supplies, forms, contracts,
and -- much hated for the weight of its battery -- a laptop
computer handed down from my husband. (We have been
known to have discussions over who has to carry it. It is a
reviled necessity to help keep our business running when we
are both gone.) This trip to Philadelphia and New York was
stacking up to having too many small bags for a
In front of us, right there in the aisle, were two different
29" suitcases. And, the one that won out after much test
driving down the aisles, having the manager cut the seal for
an internal inspection, and having a friend Carrie give one
a thumbs up is the:
" 29" / 74cm Hardside Spinner from Samsonite with a 10 year
warranty fully constructed of rugged polycarbonate for
lasting durability with four wheels for zero effort. "
Casey has a little paint work to do on them because they are
not yet STUFF style. Give her time for inspiration and we'll
be ready to go.
Of course, the light bulbs are compact fluorescent, the
cookies will be delicious, and we hugged an employee on the
way out when she wished safety on our trip. We're ready to
July 24, 20077
Old is New Again
I was getting a piece of STUFF's ancient history out of
the furnace room and was reminded of that silly
statement that my Grandma used to say, or I thought it
was silly then, that "all things old are new again"!!
My guess is that when our 10th year in business is over
in a few months quite a few of our things will feel old
and new. I like that about us . . .that we re-use just
about everything we come in contact with.
I had to have help carrying the steel, plasma cut,
brushed finish, hollow construction, handmade rolling
sign up our stairs; it's not heavy, just awkward. When
it reached the light of day upstairs, two of the people
that work with us - and have been with us for several
years - said, in different ways, "Where did that come
from?" and when I rolled it outside, a young boy said
I have to admit, our "ancient" history is cool and today
it is advertising on of our art classes that will take
place tonight. Tomorrow, that old thing will be new yet
again and put to work doing something else in the clean
air and sunshine.
July 24, 2007
I was at the pool today with my toddler who is part fish and
while she was chanting "catch me MaMa, catch me MaMa" a
woman came up to me to say she got a gift from our store
last night and she loves her new earrings. She described
these wonderful shamrock earrings we sell that are very
dainty and simple but full of shine. She was so happy and it
she made me happy too by sharing her story. It's the little
pleasures in life that often make my day shine like those
dainty shamrock earrings. They are already bringing us all