My best friend and me during
our senior year in high school.
First things first. I am rather self-assured, and am comfortable in
my skin. I like me. And not in a self-centered, narcissistic way. I have been
labeled passionate, spirited, a team player,
gracious, witty and nice by others. All
wonderful traits. Possibly not completely true,
but welcomed and treasured as compliments to my
If there were one thing I wish I could change
about myself, I would be more graceful. But
it has never been in me. I have always been
a wee bit clumsy and not altogether
surefooted. The testaments in my past to my
falling and fear of falling haunt me. High
heels are my nemesis, and my size 12 feet,
while providing stability, can be
troublesome. I have steered clear of
dancing in all forms, but I loved square
dancing in Girl Scouts.
When I was much younger and working in
politics, I was placed in the office of the
mayor of St. Louis, Vince Schoemehl, who was
running for governor of our great state.
Like all good political operatives, I
believed in all that he stood for, and I
still do. (He was big on light rail between
the major population centers of our state,
among other things.)
My wobbliness came into
full view on the morning I arrived at City
Hall. I had entered the elevator heading to
the 3rd floor when I heard, "Hey. Hold the
elevator!" and there stood the Mayor. We
spoke freely as the elevator rose. When
it stopped, all I could see was the buffing
machine on the thick, polished marble floors,
and I could feel - all the way up to my throat
- my little kitten heels. Stupid footwear
Mayor Schoemehl stood there holding the elevator
door waiting for me to exit. He was waiting
because I was in a state of shock, since
the image that had flashed before my eyes
was me laid out in the hallway of that
lovely building. He waited a bit longer
while I devised the ruse of needing to
return to my car for what I had forgotten,
which was nothing. He left the elevator with
a gracious "Have a good day," and I rode the
elevator down to the garage and then right back up.
Finally, saddle shoes.
In high school, my best friend tried out for
our Pom-Pom Squad in our sophomore year. Our
inner-city school supported a cheerleading
squad AND a pom-pom squad. I did not try out
for either. I knew better. I was holding
out, quietly, for a coveted place on "Honor
You see, SOUTHWEST has nine letters in it,
and each of nine young women in their senior
year of high school wore a single letter on
their chest on all spirit days and to almost
every sporting event - football, basketball,
track, etc. However, they did no coordinated
kicks, jumps or swing dances. The W
historically landed on the woman who was
just a little bit crazy when it came to
spirit. You can imagine my complete apoplexy
late in my junior year when I learned that I
would be replacing a mentor of mine,
Stephanie Donaldson, as the W. I finally got
to purchase black & white saddle shoes for
the first time in my life. Well, and "blackies",
those amazing leotard bottoms that covered
your "dainties" under your short skirt. I
loved Honor 9 and still do.
Honor 9. Check out that crazy W.
This fall, our son took an "etiquette &
dance class" with Kansas City's treasure,
Penny Vrooman. I have to admit to being just
a wee bit jealous every time he left the car
to enter the church basement with all his
friends - boys and girls alike. They laughed
and talked while walking away from the car and
made the same happy tracks back to the car
an hour later. The stories were glorious to
hear in the driver's seat. And, when the
kids I was shuttling would drift to other
topics, I would daydream about my lifelong
friends and myself in a church basement
learning to dance. My son is very lucky; he
learned at least seven dance steps - two-step,
swing, waltz, foxtrot, etc. He has only
offered private lessons to our family friend
Ryoko, and only on the nights right after
class. I've asked for an application for
private classes and been denied. I think he
already knows how it would end.
I will never not want these shoes.
That brings us to this holiday season and
all the parties to attend. When most women
are out honing in on that "perfect pair of
heels", I'm in my closet polishing my cowboy
boots. Kitten heels died for me when Mayor Schoemehl lost his election, and my desire
for the amazing plaid shoes at Halls this
fall subsided when I found out 10 was the
size cap. Hey, my "party shoes" of choice
have got heels: cowboys are cool, and those
who rope and ride have a grace I will never
know. Besides, I have two pairs of boots
that are black, and black goes with
I have fallen. I have stumbled. I have
tripped. I have suffered soft tissue damage.
However, I have only ever slow danced - in
high school and at my wedding - and it is
still the peak of my grace.
I love art children create. They are not
limited by judgment or concerned with
interpretation. And often they feel free to
re-interpret their work as needed. So here
is this afternoon's masterpiece, clearly
influenced by the current environment of the
artist's life: "Christmas Santa", crayon on
paper. The image features Santa with his sack,
large snow, children and parents.
This past year has asked us to revisit and tweak
every thing we've built our business on:
purchasing decisions, business relationships,
hiring, training, travel, and, of course,
insurance. We have lived vividly in each
challenging, exhilarating, brutal and delightful
moment. But there is one thing we have not ever
been more sure of in a changing world, and that
is our deep gratitude to our customers. You are
the reason this small business - this small
dream - is holding on tightly to all we hold
For that - for you - we are thankful. We
humbly ask for your continued support of our
local store this holiday season. When you
shop locally, the impact is felt instantly.
The members of the stuff family (the people
we hire, the artists we represent, and all
the people at the local businesses with
which we do business) live where you live,
go to your schools, attend your churches,
support your charities, and live with you in
We are always counting our blessings; some
days we do it silently, and some days we
sing it from our rooftop. At our family
table on Thursday, in that moment of silence
so deep only our souls can hear, we will
count upon you as that blessing that sees us
through this amazing year.
The neighborhood that our store sits in -
Brookside - has an old-fashioned alley behind
our strip of shops.
If you thought that STUFF
was the only ardent recycler on the block, think
again. Proof appeared two days ago on the trash
dumpster. And we had nothing to do with it.
A hand-lettered sign appeared, and it made me very happy. Whoever
wrote it is right: it's not like the
cardboard recycling dumpster is too far away and not
worth the walk.
Mother Earth is smiling on the alley behind
STUFF. We rock.
We've told customers for years that we have a
strict adoption policy here at
STUFF. This is
all said in jest. However, I wouldn't put it
past Casey and me to deny someone a purchase if
we thought they were going to mistreat it in any
Two years ago, I know that a woman was very
happy and was going to love a painting she
was buying for a long time because she was
crying when she thanked me. She had been so
nervous that the piece would not be here
when she had pulled her funds together, and,
when she saw it on our wall, she was
And then we have great customers who send
us photos of their purchases in their homes.
It makes us delighted to see people using
functional art. Each of the jewelry holders
by Hoop Dog Studio - and they delivered many
- is unique. Every. Single. One. Different.
Since our adoption policy does not insist
upon an in-home site visit, the photos are
nice to receive.
Late last Thursday night, I went to a basement
storage room at STUFF. My mission was to
retrieve the sole remaining CRT computer monitor we
owned. We replaced our CRTs four years ago
with more efficient flat panels, and we'd
been keeping this one as a backup in case
of "flat panel trauma", but that hadn't
come to pass. So
Casey and I decided to take advantage of the
Electronic Waste Recycling event near UMKC on Saturday and
get rid of it.
Now, I had spent the preceding days with Casey getting the store
ready for our holiday open
house. We, along with our staff, had busted
butt to make the store look amazing. We had
traversed the stairs between our levels at
least 100 times each. However, this last
trip for me late Thursday night with the
world's heaviest Dell monitor almost put me
over the edge. That sucker weighed 700
pounds, and I honestly can't remember having
ever used it in the store. Unbelievable.
I loaded it in the car and delivered it to
two people I know who were volunteering at
the event - my husband and our son. I warned
them both that it was the most monstrous
monitor ever developed and sold by Dell and
to be careful lifting it. I mumbled
something about stairs, but I'm sure it fell on deaf
My husband Harl is an independent computer
consultant, and in his zeal to keep his
clients - small businesses, individuals,
home businesses and not-for-profits -
running efficiently, he had filled a small
section of our basement at home with their
old electronics. For years, his private
mission has been to keep these items out of
dumpsters and landfills. Trips to
Exchange had become old hat to him. It had
been a while since the last sojourn, so on
Saturday morning we loaded my car to the gills
and they were off....
And then, on Saturday morning, while those two
were off making the world a better place for
used electronics and Casey and I opened
door a few minutes early for waiting
customers, the sweet sound of glass being
deposited in the new
Ripple Glass container
across the street made us apoplectic. We're
that kind of gals - recycling makes us
excited. Our staff at times has been afraid
to throw anything away, and we have more than
one recycling bin. All weekend, the tinkling
and crashing of glass told us all was going
to be well in the world of glass recycling
in our home town.
Kansas City is making leaps and bounds in
cleaning up its game. It delights me.
We read this year about a family recovering
from their loss to cancer of someone close -
a 36-year-old mother and wife who left a
legacy of hope and happiness with her
family, her friends, and the community. She
shared her writings about her struggle with
cancer - frank, honest and positive stories.
She clearly always kept her face raised to
We didn't know Laura. We are not close
friends of her family. But her story
inspires us. Her story reminds us why we
dust off the Wings of Hope event notebook
each fall and plan, once again, our holiday
open house. Laura's strength reminds us that
giving up is not an option.
How many cancer benefits have you been to?
How many pink ribbons have you worn? How
many breast cancer months and awareness
campaigns and parties and fundraisers and
walks have we all participated in? Is it too
Yes, of course it is too many - not because
we are bored with the events, but because we
are sick and tired of cancer. Cancer has a
way of dragging us down even when we don't
have it in our own bodies. But cancer will
not win. A cure will be found. We must push
upward and onward.
The first Mother's Day after Laura's death
would have been her 37th birthday. On that
day, her family turned their faces to the
sky. They celebrated with a simple idea that
soothed their pain, opened their hearts even
wider, and spread hope - they wrote messages
to Laura on balloons and released them into
On November 7th & 8th at Wings of Hope, we
will turn our faces to the sky. The first
balloon we release will read "Laura...Thank
you for reminding us there is always hope!"
When I turned 16 years old and all the
driving lessons were over, my mother handed
me the keys to the car and told me she
doubted she'd ever go to the grocery store
again. After 16 years of me and two other
children, she was done with that particular
chore. So Casey and I made a grocery store list template, and it was
organized by aisle so that we would forget
nothing while we were there. Also, this
alleviated any backtracking in the store - never
cool in my book.
So, off we went each time to Milgram's in Brooskide,
with me behind the wheel and Casey clutching
the blank signed check from our mother. It
was fun. The novelty soon wore off, but we
still went together and did our fair share
of laughing and arguing.
We have lived in separate homes
for over 25 years, so we no longer tackle
this household chore together. But just last week, there I was at the
grocery store in Brookside, and Casey was
right there with me. And even though she was
with me, she wasn't actually in the store.
There she was - larger than life - looking
at me through the window while I presented
my own check as payment. Missouri Bank,
banking best friend, has put three
huge faces on a 6 foot by 10 foot banner on the
outer wall of their future location in
Brookside, and Casey's smiling face made the
Go and see Casey for yourself on 62nd Terrace across from Cosentino's Brookside Market. You can't miss her.
My sister is amazing and one of the true
joys in my life. To see her at the grocery
store every time I visit makes me smile and
vividly remember great stories from the
past. And God knows she's smiling at me - all
6 feet of her!!
This summer, I stood in wide open spaces in
western and northern Nebraska and wondered at
the stupidity of General Custer. How could he
not have thought that there were more than
Native Americans wandering around? Well, I guess
he found out when they all crested that hill
headed straight for him.
I quickly thought of him again a week ago while my son and I were
volunteering at the Kansas City Marathon. We
were standing in the middle of Main Street
at 19th around
7:08 am, holding paper cups full of water when
the leading edge of 10,000 runners crested a
hill way back at 17th street. It was amazing
and a wee bit awe inspiring to see that much
human strength and determination headed your
way for a sip.
We were trained to hold the
cup flat in our palm and hold our arm out so
that the runners - those who chose not to
stop - could easily pick it up and carry on.
And it worked. Over and over again.
By 7:30 am they were all past us. By 8:00 we
had raked the street of all the empty cups,
and by 8:20 we had gathered up all the
discarded clothing - four huge trash bags! -
left by the runners and had them loaded in a
waiting car from a local charity. It seems
it's common practice for marathon runners to
dispose of unwanted clothing on the course. My son and
I joked that we wanted to be at the finish
line to see all the naked runners because,
if they were shedding clothes at the 2.5
mile water stop, they were going to be
cruising across the finish line in their
We were at the finish line when our friend
Gary Foltz crested the final hill at Grand
Avenue right after 11 am. We cheered and
clapped when he swooshed right by us. My son
ran after him with the camera in tow to be
there when his final time was registered. We
wouldn't have missed it for the world. Heck,
he had just run 26.2 miles, and we wanted to
see if he had any clothes on!!
I finally found a burger joint I love! I am not
much of a carnivore when it comes to burgers;
it's just not my thing. I know, I know, very
anti-American. But, what's a girl to do?
I was recently on the east coast for a
friend's wedding. I was staying with another
friend in Montauk, New York, for a few days
before we travelled to Westport, Connecticut,
for the celebration. And my beach loving
friend teased me for days before my arrival
with a promise of all-you-can-eat blue crab
at a local joint.
You can imagine my surprise when she whisked
me off to
Bay Burger, a burger joint in Sag
Harbor, New York. When we entered, it was - of
course - charming, and it had a family-owned
feel. Everyone was smiling, and the wait
staff was buzzing, and our table was waiting
(thanks to my very smart reservation-making
Bay Burger is known for burgers and its
homemade ice cream. The daily ice cream
selection is neatly presented in an old-fashioned ice cream cooler that sits to the
side of the main counter. The whole place is
clean & cozy and has a New England style
As if that isn't enough to make you want to
camp out there every weekend, they offer live
music by regional musicians. The night we
were there, Mick Hargreaves was performing
(Mick on Facebook) and occasionally someone
would wipe their hands clean and remove
their crab crackin' bib and join him on
"stage" (which was a rug thrown out in the
corner of the dining room).
What about the crabs, you ask? Bay Burger
offers an all-you-can-eat Crab Boil on
Friday nights in September. I was honored to
have been there for the 2nd Annual "festival
of crustacean delight". I am assuming that
last year's Crab Boil was a huge success and
was therefore brought back this year to
smash all records in human crab
consumption at one setting.
And folks, we did our part. We slapped away
hands when they tried to remove our trays
too fast, and we raised dripping hands to
request more. We did not wear the sissy bibs,
and we turned up our noses at the fact that
they served our wine in cheap plastic cups
(until we realized that we were having a
hard time keeping them from slipping from
our hands – good call, Bay Burger).
We ate 12 crabs each! That's 24 total. I know
you are impressed. We pushed back with two
full tummies, one bandaged finger, and
crab juices rolling off our elbows to the
floor. We were victorious - over what, we are
still not sure, but victorious all the
And then: Bay Burger knocked it out of the
Upon our return from upper body bathing
in the bathroom sink, we were served
dessert. And I am here to tell you that a
grilled peach with homemade ice cream and
whipped cream is like sex on a warm beach.
(Hopefully, no children are reading this.)
My friend and I were shameless with our
responses to our first couple of bites. I
certainly hope we are welcome back, because
I am booking flights for next September.
I highly recommend visiting Bay Burger
any time you find yourself in Sag
Harbor, NY. But truthfully, I can't recommend
the burgers, since I have never had one.
I love water. Everyone should know this
about me by now, but if you are just getting
to know me, here is a big fat hint about
what I enjoy most: water! To me, there is
nothing like being immersed in water. I love
oceans, pools, lakes, rivers, puddles - any
body of water.
My sister, Sloane, has claimed for years that
stress can't float, and I think she is right.
So, when I came
across this article, I was immediately pacing
off my back courtyard to see if a dumpster
would fit. How freaking cool would it be to
jump of my back deck into a dumpster full of
cool clear water?
It would be like a recycling
dream come true, turning a giant trash can
into an oasis. These inventors are genius. I
want one. Screw that, I want a whole block of
My daughter and I recently rode in the AIDS
Bicycle Challenge. It was an amazing way to
spend a morning.
It all began a couple of months ago when my 4
and half year old daughter and I purchased a
tag-along bike. It's a nifty attachment that
lets her ride half a bike behind me. She
loves it, I love it, and we have been known
to ride all over town together. Of course,
it also means that I have to pull an
additional 70-plus pounds of weight,
which can be tricky sometimes.
On the morning of the AIDS Bicycle
Challenge, we took off from our house with a
friend and joined the other riders at the
Power & Light District. We signed on for the
11-mile ride - and truthfully, I was naive
enough to think (silently) that it wouldn't
be that hard to finish the ride. We had
been on many 11+ mile rides this summer
without much trouble.
But it turned out that the route was tougher
than I expected. It was sprinkled with
hills - some long, some steep, and some long
AND steep. And many times we were forced to
come to a stop near the bottom for traffic
to clear. This eliminated the only advantage
I had to having 70 extra pounds in tow -
And so we climbed each hill slowly but surely
until we reached the top, again and again.
After the ride, with good humor and many laughs,
it was pointed out to me that a change
occurred during my ride. At
the beginning, I was cheerfully supportive
of my child, saying things like, "Way to go
kiddo" and "You're doing a great
job" and "Awesome job, we rock!" Near the
end of the ride I was heard saying things
more like, "Sit down and pedal" and "Mama
needs you help" and "We are almost there, promise"
and "Stop shaking the bike!"
(Insert panting between these words).
Since that morning, I have often thought
about the how our ride was so similar to the
efforts of the AIDS service organizations in Kansas City.
These organizations are like my daughter on
the tag-along bike. Even though I had to
pedal, push and suffer to move forward, I didn't have to do it
alone. I had a loving and deeply caring
spirit right behind me - kicking in when I
needed it the most.
I know now that it was her belief in me that
kept me climbing those seemingly impossible
The porch is finished. Finally.
All it took was the arrival of an 18-wheeler
at work to get this home decorating job
The porch had been painted two
years ago. We had all the upholstery done at
the same time. I had moved the finishing
touches from other rooms in the house. But it
was just missing that certain something....
Casey and I had been waiting over a year for
Dash & Albert to perfect a new rug rack.
When ours finally arrived at
STUFF - along
with all the samples of all the
Dash & Albert creates - I knew it was just a matter
of time before the porch at home received
its final touch. That certain something.
I took five rug samples home and flopped all the options down on the
porch floor. In 1.3 minutes,
the decision was made: Captain
Stripe in navy & ivory was the clear winner.
6' x 9'. Indoor / outdoor polypropylene. Done.
Now we're sitting pretty.
Yep. A sample for every rug they make is on this mother.
Click the image to open a readable PDF of the article.
I have had this page from a magazine on my desk
for a long time (since April 2006). I re-read it
all the time. The author's thoughts really resonate with
me. I do believe that working in retail is a
great sociological study. Oh, the stories we
What really kept the article on my desk for
more than two years is the idea that I have
spent the last 13 years of my professional
life helping people define themselves - evolving, reinforcing or exploring their
identity by shopping.
What also fascinates me is the gift buying
process - how our customers are so aware and
articulate about the people in their lives.
If you agree with Mr. Campbell's remarks,
then it takes a very conscientious friend to
pick a gift from our store. It may even be
more challenging than shopping in a chain
store. But it is that extra effort that
makes the gift meaningful.
When I re-read this clipping today, I
couldn't shake the sense that I had seen
myself talking about this before. And then
it hit me: In 2007, we aired a TV ad that
speaks to this idea. Check it out right here
watch it on YouTube.
We live in the same town as a majority of our
family. I work with my sister every day. I see
my niece almost every day on her way to school.
My mom, my dad, my stepmom, my step-sister
and her family - they all live in Greater Kansas City.
So my son has never been to a true,
blood-relative family reunion with my family in his 12 years on
this planet. What would be the point? We see
each other all the time and we like it that way.
But this past Saturday, at 6:30 in the
morning while we were standing outside in
the Power & Light District, my son said to
me, "Wow. This is like a family reunion."
And it was. There was food. There was drink.
There were members of our "real" family and
our extended family. He could run around and feel the parenting
leash loosen. You know, family-reunion-like
stuff - if a family reunion encompassed 400+
bicycle riders descending upon us to take to
the streets in an organized fashion.
Saturday was the AIDS Bicycle Challenge - an
annual fundraiser for the AIDS Service
Foundation of Greater Kansas City - and our volunteer
duties had started at 6 am. You see, my son
and my husband and I, as a
family, we were assigned to be "greeters"
for everyone who was riding.
But our son had
a much bigger job throughout the morning: he
was the "starting whistle blower" for the
50-, 33- and 11-mile bike rides when they
rolled around. I was very proud of how
seriously he took the job. He had been
talking about it for weeks. But, when he was
going over the race start notes and scripts with the event coordinator, Michael
Lintecum, I had a knot in my throat and had
to look away. He looked very grown-up and
was learning so much because Michael was
taking the time to not only tell our son
what to do but to tell him why it was being
done in a particular way.
Michael has known our son since the year he
was born. Our son was born in March of 1997,
and AIDS Walk that year was held in May.
He was there in a little white sleeper with
a red ribbon sticker on the center of his
chest. He slept through the entire event.
was my first AIDS Walk. By the next year,
I was a full-fledged volunteer and have
been ever since. It is a fantastic
organization, and the people who volunteer
and run all the events have become family.
We've done all the things a family does: cried, laughed, corralled
each other's children, aged, argued, and stood in awe of the power
The bike that did
the 11-mile ride
in 1 hour and 8 minutes.
The briefing and
Our son and
Michael starting race #3.
The 50-mile riders.
6am is fun.
So in the wee hours of Saturday, when our son
looked around the Live! Block inside the
Power & Light District downtown and saw all
the people he sees several times a year, it
was just like a family reunion.
He knew he was safe,
because he was surrounded by the people who
have helped him to grow up to be the young
man at the microphone thanking hundreds of
people for caring about the 5,500-plus
people in our town living with HIV/AIDS.
I knew he was safe because most of the village that
is raising him was right
For years, I have been a Frank Lloyd Wright fanatic. I
inundated my brain with facts and images of his
talent, I collected too many books highlighting
his genius, and I mentally traveled back in time
to the places be built that are no longer
standing, placing myself in them. I have
traveled to Chicago to be a part of "Wright
Tours" in Oak Park. I have been inside his home
and studio in the bustle of a tour group. I
have sat inside his Unity Temple in Oak Park in
silence and cried.
But on Saturday night, I slept with him.
Frank, not my husband Harl. Well, both of them
actually. Does that make me a slut?
Harl and I traveled to Oklahoma with friends over
the weekend and spent our only night away
from home in Bartlesville at the
Price Tower. Frank Lloyd Wright designed
and it was completed in 1956. Fantastic and
amazing architecture with comfortable and
welcoming rooms. You would be hard pressed
to find a 90-degree angle in the entire
building except for the joins in the
windows. I kid you not. Even the super small
elevators had limited space for more than
three humans, and they were unusually short
on squared-off corners.
An entire building
based on triangles.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed Price Tower to be a multi-purpose
building over 50 years ago, and it still is.
It houses a museum, a small hotel, offices,
a restaurant, and a bar. If an evening on the
road finds you anywhere near Bartlesville,
Oklahoma, stop and stay at this historic hotel. It is
listed on the National Register of Historic
Places and will fill your heart with joy in
more ways than the Super 8.
Sunday found us in Tulsa at two great
museums chock-full of great art: the
of Art and the
The impetus for the trip was an installation of Gustave Baumann's woodblock
prints at the Philbrook. I had seen his work several years
ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and, when I read that a
museum in Tulsa was running a small and
limited exhibit, I figured a road trip was
inevitable. Beyond that particular show, the exhibits at both museums
were amazing in
Even at the Philbrook.
The gardens behind
I love these guys.
Both museums house exquisite
collections of American and Native American
art - and they do it in abundance. The Gilcrease doesn't have just one amazing
painting by Frederic Remington, it has
probably 20 or more. And the Philbrook has a
world class assortment of Pueblo pottery and
clayworks, besides a historic home and
garden at its center.
Two woodblock prints by
We all got to take naps on a sunny Saturday
afternoon, we all ate food at locally owned
food joints (that my husband vaguely regretted
when it came time to button jeans over the
next few days), we laughed constantly, and
marveled at all the sights we were taking
in. And I know two of us made lengthy lists of
things left "undone" for when our roads lead
us back to Oklahoma.
As you can see,
this was not a culinary weekend; it was an art
and architecture weekend.
("New Oil"? As opposed to...?)
Art and architecture are unique. They pull
you in, they hold on. And before you know it,
you're in bed.
As our dog has aged, it seems as though his
smiles are saved for the things that truly make
him happy - car rides, boat rides, dog walks,
the first blush with a neighbor dog, and going to
work with me on Tuesdays. On each of these
occasions, he shares a brief smile with his
humans and forges on.
These photos are from our family vacation
and were taken on my Dad's pontoon boat.
You would be hard pressed to find a member
of our human family that doesn't jump at the
chance for a boat ride - even to a nearby
marina and back for gas. Our four-legged
family members are no different. Through the years
they have all jumped on the boat, secured locations with the best view, and leaned into
My son says the math on dog years versus human
years is a factor of 7. Therefore, since Einstein
is at least 16 in dog years, he's at least 112 in human years.
Amazing that he has the energy to smile at
all, let alone jump from the dock to the
When I grow up, I'm going to be just like
him: graceful, smiling, and ready for a boat
ride any time.
Technically he's not smiling here, but all our children are beautiful when they are sleeping.
When I was in school, I was the kid that always
found the loophole in a syllabus. I really
should have been an attorney, but my creative
side just wouldn't go dormant. I did, however,
spend 10 years in political consulting. (You
can't really find a better job to hone your
loophole finding skills.)
I always look for ways to "outsmart" the
requirements for anything, often creating
more work for myself, but thriving on the
knowledge that I am thinking "outside the
box". So, if a picture is worth a thousand
words, this is my 52,000-word essay from our
recent trip to New York City to search for
the freshest, most creative, cutting edge
work for our store this coming season. And
yes, I want full credit for all 52,000
I have just spent five days in New York City with
my sister. This business trip found us laying
our bodies down in Hoboken, New Jersey, at a friend's
empty apartment and utilizing the city's amazing
public transportation system. All five days, we were
regular commuters on the busses and subways to
and from NY and NJ. We passed an innumerable
quantity of eating establishments and street
Of course we ate good food - outside the
convention center - but some days our
options just didn't seem to include what we
were looking for. Simply put: a
and a Brach's caramel.
Jo Marie Scaglia, with the salad empire she's
building, has created monsters in Casey's and
my hearts. We crave her food when we are
away from home - no matter our exotic
locale. We ate Mixx salads before we left
for the airport last Friday, and it was the
first place that popped out of Casey's mouth
as an option for lunch today.
Now on to the next course. Desserts are always important and can
be eaten anytime. I seldom want dessert
right after dinner any more. Before dinner is
fine. As dinner is even better. But
the best time, in my mind, to eat dessert is
about 30 minutes or so after you've eaten
your meal. In New
York, all Casey was looking for was "just a
little caramel," and we never found one in the
5+ mini markets we entered or at any of the
700 million "Hudson News" stands we cruised
visually as we walked to and from work.
(Those newsstands have almost EVERYTHING under the
sun. Just stop and look carefully the next
time you are in New York. Chock full of
everything but caramels.)
returned to the land of our cravings, and
great handmade "stuff" will
be trailing in our wake
over the next 3 to 4 months.
Ladies who lunch.
Eating a salad she
PS...The French fries at
The Mixx are out of
this world. I have not eaten at a McDonald's
in 8 years but, if memory serves, their
fries were awesome. The Mixx leaves
McDonald's holding the greasy bag in the salty
Today's story should be short, really. I do not
use the word goodbye. I tell friends when they
are leaving our home, "See
you soon." My common phrase at airport
departures is, "Have a great trip. I'll miss
you." Even when all transactions have occurred at
the store and a customer is leaving, I tell them,
"I look forward to seeing you soon." And not
once while speaking at four funerals for
amazing grandparents have I ever said the actual
And I didn't on Sunday when my husband and I took our son to his first
camp". You know, overnights and far from
Now, this child has traveled extensively.
London, Japan, Hawaii, Yosemite, The
Bahamas. And those are just some of the places
he has been that I
haven't been. Add Washington, DC, Baltimore,
Florida, and most national parks and historic
sites between here and the Continental
Divide. And a few further West and South of
that. He loves to travel, and with every one
of his departures from me I have never
uttered goodbye. Not even every morning for
the past nine years when I have delivered him
safely to school and he's shutting the car
door - "Can't wait to see you at 3:30!!"
or "Have a great day." or "Love you."
I may possibly be physically unable to say
My parents had three children, and I only
have one. My parents may very well be saints; I
can't say. They led busy lives when I
was growing up. They were self-employed most
of the time. They had business partners and
businesses, a home to run, causes to support,
and children to raise. They both, in all
this chaos, made me feel like they were
carving out time to be with each child
individually. One-on-one time. Quality Time.
Mommy Time. Daddy Time. Whatever. Call it
what you will. I was warmed when the
spotlight fell on me.
One time with my father stands out as unique
- and involves my unspoken word. If memory
serves, my mother was traveling for work in
Iowa, and my father had business out of town.
It was far enough away that air travel was
necessary, and, not being not old enough to
drive, I was unable to take Dad to his Braniff plane.
Now, as all good memories are
a bit fuzzy, I have no idea where my younger
sisters were. But on this day my father
walked with me the few short blocks to the
Country Club Plaza, and we had lunch
together - just us and his suitcase - at
The Granfalloon. At that time, the restaurant
was darker and much moodier in its 1970s
demeanor, and I thought it was definitely "big
girl stuff". The taxi would pick him up from
there, and I would walk back up the hill to
Simple plan. Time alone with my Dad. Lunch
at a place I was dying to get into and tell
my friends about. Perfection..
Until, through the window of the taxi from
the curb, I uttered the word "Goodbye". Huge
mistake, even in 1980. He could maybe tell
you if I was crying as he pulled away, but
the road home was beyond blurry.
My dad about the time I said "Goodbye".
several hours before I called him at his
hotel and told him I was sorry. I remember
him being a bit confused, but to me it was
perfectly clear: Goodbye means forever, and I
wasn't ready to give anything - not even a
silly word - that carte blanche.
And to this day I haven't.
I do look forward to friends coming back to
the house, and seeing my grandparents again,
and delivering people to airports that will
take them places that their hearts desire. And I treasure time with customers and the
exchange of souls and stories that
And the word goodbye did not escape my
lips a few days ago when my son walked away
from my husband and me toward his cabin and his bag and
his bedroll. And probably
because, early on, my parents taught me that
you could only use words if you knew their
meaning and their power. My Mom is a firm
believer that there are no "bad" words, only
"strong" words, and by God you'd better know
what you are saying before you put breath
I don't really have a handle on the full
power of goodbye. So, I'm not really ready
to use it.
I really, really, really loved this installation
piece at the
Smoky Hill River Festival. My
sister and partner in crime, Sloane, has written
recently about the festival and has even
featured this piece of art. But I just can't
seem to get it out of my head. It made such a
deep groove in my mind.
I was floating on my back in the ocean last
week, and the tubular art came into my mind.
I started thinking how cool it would be if
you could somehow get inside and ride
through the twists and turns - like slow
rolling waves. At some sort of magical,
speed. Continual, smooth, peaceful movement
that would lull you to sleep but would stay with
your body movement memory like the waves do
once you leave the beach.
Jason Peters, the artist, to come build
one in my back courtyard. Three stories high,
over-looking the park below, so everyone -
including me - can marvel at it each day.
I had a birthday this week. I like birthdays. I do not fight them,
do not fight growing older. I was
lucky this year, because my special day was
celebrated for two days, since it is hard to
talk your whole family into going to the pool
for an entire work day. Go figure.
Late on my birthday, my husband gave me a birthday card
that included the quip at the left, and it made me laugh very,
very hard. The funny thing about him is that
he is the creative genius behind a line of
greeting cards, but every year he gives me cards
from other companies.
This one, however, takes the cake - and
all 44 candles.
A week ago when I was breezing through photos
from the Smoky Hill River Festival for my
I was constantly stopped in my tracks by the
close-ups of Lori Buntin's new dog paintings.
Well, the dog chairs, too. And the mixed media
Of course you can commission Lori to paint
your dog on a chair or canvas. And it's
fabulous when you do. Many people have.
However, these dogs stop me because these
are the dogs of whimsy, fun, frivolity,
and just a pinch of Lori's imagination. She
has caught each pooch a little off guard and
not perfectly posed. They are happy. You can
In addition, Hoop Dog Studio, of which Lori
is a member of the chorus of two, has begun
making "Dog Tag" jewelry. These are pendants
and earrings with images from these dog
paintings captured behind glass and finished
with a backing of salvaged metal. In essence,
the pendants are two-sided - but the dog side
is my favorite. Duh.
These are the long, hot, dog days of summer,
as my grandma used to say. She was an
"August baby" and not a great fan of the
heat. The heat follows each customer and
dissipates after they
open the door of STUFF and enter our cool oasis of
Grandma would like it here right now.
My husband outdid himself last night. There are
two things I know about him implicitly. He will
leave me and call a divorce attorney if I ever
have a server in a restaurant sing him birthday
wishes. Also, he hates to attend movie premieres
or go to the movies on busy nights or weekends.
I have ceased to ask when the movie muse
On Monday, our son pushed him on item number two above.
He didn't even push hard.
So last night found us at the premiere of
Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince at
our local movieplex. Our son has been
reminding us about the date of the movie
premiere for months, and on Monday night he
said, "I really want to
go. Bad." And he wanted to go surrounded by
his two best friends and his two parents -
not just his Mom. And the first slotted
time would be great: 12:01am
So I got out
my debit cards and made reservations. For
I'm a sucker for the movie theater and the
"going to the movies experience." Not movie
theater prices and not packed houses, but I
do love going to the movies and enjoying the
big screen. I can vividly remember when I
saw Out of Africa on the big screen
at the Glenwood Theater at Metcalf and 87th.
It seemed to take ten minutes for the velvet
curtain to make its way across the jumbo
screen. It was magical.
Movie theaters used
to be a place for me guzzle gallons of soda,
but I gave up Diet Coke over 3 years ago, and
I recently gave up the crutch I used after that
- its sister,
Coke. Those addictions are behind me, but
they can rear their ugly heads when we walk
by the snack counter. But I digress.
I kicked myself for not taking my camera on
our midnight outing. Although our group of
five did not
get into the full Hogwarts spirit, the lobby
and theater was full of young people who had
dressed up in all things Harry. We spotted
scars above eyebrows, neck ties with
vests, capes, wands, round glasses, Gryffindor badges, and team paraphernalia. It
was glorious, and I felt underdressed.
It was a good movie, and I would give it high
marks for cinematography and set design. It
was, however, a reminder that you should
ALWAYS read the book first. So much was cut
from its pages, it was mind-boggling. And
that perception was universal in the comments
we heard as we slowly made our way out of
My husband had a good time, believe it or
not. Of course, I bribed him by taking him
to Walgreen's before the show and letting him
buy all the candy he wanted. I said nothing.
Shocking but true.
I think he really wanted to go all the time.
He was just playing hard to get.
Many moons ago - OK, maybe a month ago - we all
loaded in the car to spend a weekend in Salina,
On and off for a handful of years,
either Casey or I has been asked to be a juror for the
American craft fair inside the
Smoky Hill River Festival.
This festival is a four day bonanza of
the arts, with music, dance, fine art, fine
craft, installation art, artist demonstrations,
performance art, and great food. But I've
mentioned all this
This year I was a juror, and the added bonus
of that honor is that two of the artists
represents every day - Kari Heybrock and
Lori Buntin - were asked to do
demonstrations. This made the trip doubly
fun. For those needing indoctrination, Kari
is a glass artist who loves to fire up her
torch, and Lori is a fine art painter and an
active member of Hoop Dog Studio - home of
"The Dog Chair".
See Lori Buntin at work.
See Kari Heybrock at work.
Casey, her daughter, my husband, my son, and
my son's friend all crammed into small hotel
rooms for two nights and spent two glorious
days at "the camp" - the shady spot in
Oakdale Park where we parked our coolers,
chairs, tables and art supplies. From that
vantage point, the wandering began. And the
gorging, too. Stuffed cucumbers, deep-fried
Snickers, Hawaiian wok fried noodles, corn
dogs, frozen lemonade, BBQ ribs, and hand-cranked
ice cream are just a few of the amazing food
items that passed the muster of the jury
that governs that part of the festival. And
that passed the lips of our group.
Salina doesn't need me to tell it that it is
not a noted tourist destination. However,
this festival is a class act that is
accomplished with the talents of thousands
of volunteers and hundreds of hours of
planning. Casey and I fall back on our years
of event planning and gossip among ourselves
as to what it takes to pull off a
celebration of this scope. We are also a wee
bit embarrassed to think that for years we
knew nothing about this fair. Shame on us.
A huge grass painting.
The most amazing art installation - at night.
Cool 2D "fair participants".
Our mesmerized children.
Curvy metal temporary art installation.
My mom at base camp. (Casey's mom, too.)
This one was my favorite.
The most amazing art installation - in the daytime.
Young artists in action at base camp.
Just couldn't get enough of this one.
It's a great festival. If early next
June you get a hankering for an art attack,
go to Salina. For the whole weekend. Then hoof if
back home before the sweltering heat of the
plains sets in for the summer.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that my son has
been making great strides with his digital
Last weekend, the 4th of July found us
in Grand Lake, Colorado, visiting my husband's
siblings and their children.
Grand Lake is a very small town that puts on
a HUGE fireworks show over the waters of its
namesake. We clocked it at 40 minutes this
year!! This year, however, the fireworks had
to to do battle with a great big, almost-full moon. The moon rose slowly over the
mountains, and, at 10pm when they lit the
first fuse on the anchored barge, the moon
was front and center and attempting to steal
Now, even a novice like me knows that taking
pictures of fireworks takes camera equipment
that far surpasses what our little family
owns - or will ever purchase. From my
vantage point, it looked like my son
attempted one shot and then moved on to
pictures of his cousins and their
glow-in-the-dark jewelry. That was my
thought. I guess I turned my head.
When we walked back up the mountain from the
lake, I asked if he had taken any fireworks
shots. My son mentioned that he had decided
to focus his camera on the moon. His quote:
"They look different, but I like them."
A few days later - all the way back in
Kansas City - we sat down to download all
the pictures, and I came across "the moon
pictures" from his camera and loved them
all. I think what I liked the best was how
they all looked together as they flashed
across the screen.
There have probably been millions of
photographs taken of the moon rising over
the Rockies. Multiple millions. None have
made me smile in wonder like these do.
I received an e-mail a few weeks ago from Izzy's
mom. She mentioned that she had caught up on her
blog reading, and, although she was delighted to
see Izzy's photos in my
May 14th blog, they were
not her best poses.
I couldn't agree more. Herein lies the
difference between professional
photographers and amateurs.
I had mentioned in my blog that poor Izzy
had spent most of that evening being hounded
by a 12-year-old boy and his new digital
camera. My son is an amateur photographer if
there ever was one. But he has learned all
kinds of amazing things about his camera
this summer, and his photos have impressed me
I have never been able to take good
photographs. Casey can. My husband
understands the processes on most cameras he
touches and takes good pictures. I have just
never found the patience to learn all the
little buttons and special features on the
newer cameras. I can, however, hearken back to
my art director days in a heartbeat. I can
"see" a photograph in my mind's eye and then
have a professional capture it for me. That
sweet action will spoil you, and I have found
that spending time with an experienced
photographer is never wasted.
Just yesterday, I returned to my inbox to
see that it was time for
cooperative fundraising effort between the
Kansas City Free Health Clinic and No More
Homeless Pets KC. And, joy of joys, Izzy and
her beautiful mother had been chosen as a
delightful couple we can vote for with our
I plan on voting - early and often - because
both of these organizations couldn't be more
worthy or do more good for the community.
A little over a week ago, we were in Salina,
Kansas, for the
Smoky Hill River Festival. Of course I loved the
art, the music, the fantastic installations, and
being with my family for two straight days. But
what I talked about quite a bit on Saturday was
how to "get back to The Cozy Inn before we
We did not stay at The Cozy Inn; we gorged
This restaurant is an real piece of Salina
history. It has been in the same location
since 1922 and has been building the same
burger since then as well. It was one of
America's first fast food burger joints.
There are no French fries, there's no ice in your
drinks, and there is no need for utensils. You are
welcome to enjoy an ice cold canned soda -
13 varieties available the night we were
there - and, if you desire a small bag of
chips, they're right on the wall. Grab one.
This place is tiny. Six stools at a tiny counter with a grill you
could reach out and
touch if you sit on the stool by the door.
Locals will tell you that you should never
eat inside but should, instead, order at the window and enjoy
the outdoor seating on 7th street. Eating
outside will save your clothes
from being engulfed by the flavored steam
from your very freshly made burgers.
However, not eating at the counter will deny
you the company of the amazingly friendly
people who work there. It's a toss-up.
My husband and I visited The Cozy Inn in
March for the first time, and we had a fabulous
conversation with the owner and two of his
staff. It was hilarious but informative. Come
to find out his "special order 3-inch buns"
are made "due east on I-70 in Boonville,
Missouri," we were told. That blew me away, because
my parents grew up in Boonville, and Casey
and I spent great times in Boonville with
our grandparents. I can clearly remember
"working" with my Grandmother Price at the
law office she worked in. Her work was
serious; my work involved calculating how to
spend $5 really well on Boonville's Main
Street. (I had a whole week to decide.) But
what comes singing through my memories is
the smell when the Wonder Bakery - right
there on Main Street - had fired up the
oven and was probably baking great buns to
ship to Salina.
I loved this shot.
So, this past Saturday I returned with my
clan in tow. There were eight of us, and I
had to show them all the tiny inside. We sat
outside with our 2 dozen burgers to share,
canned soda all around, and a bag of chips
for my niece. Paradise on a clear blue sky
night in central Kansas.
My honey and his grape sodey.
Even my sister breaks down and eats a burger once in a while.
The staff this time around.
Half of our order on the grill.
It doesn't get more authentic than this
anywhere. If you find yourself cruising down
I-70 this summer, take a side hike into
Salina. You can see The Cozy Inn neon sign
from Iron Street and 7th.
I know I have written about my friend
Patricia before. (See my
October 2, 2007,
blog.) We share a like sense of humor, a love
of interior design, and a pragmatic view of
raising children. She has three children and I have
one, so I rely on her heavily for said
The first time I was ever a guest in her
home, I visually took it all in - her
design sense, her love of particular items,
and her knack for perfect placement. But I
left with the memory I carry to this day of
the pillows in her family room that were
silhouettes of her children's heads. I think
at that time there were only two pillows
because baby number three was on the way.
But I can't be sure.
It was such an amazingly personal touch in a
bright and highly trafficked room. I love
handcrafted items, and these rang my bell. I
admit I was jealous of such a great idea, and
I also admit to never having copied it.
This past weekend, I was in Salina, Kansas, for
Smoky Hill River Festival with my
family. It is an amazing celebration of the
arts - visual art, fine American craft,
artist demonstrations, art installations,
music, dance, theatre, etc. We have been
going to the fair for four years now, and it
amazes us all every time we step foot on the
grounds. We "set up camp" (blankets, lawn
chairs, pop-up tables, cooler, wagon) in the
center of the festival - in an old city park -
under huge old growth trees and make a
multi-day event of it.
The only piece of art I purchased at the
fair this year was a small silhouette for my friend. I
can admit to ogling a necklace, several
pieces of fine art, and one sculpture - all
from artists standing right there in their
booths - but what blew me away was this
piece for Patricia. I know she would have
loved meeting the artist, Ursula Dunnewind
from Kansas City, and seeing her demonstrate
the amazing art that she accomplishes with
her tiny scissors. I was entranced.
Ursula calls her art by its German name, Scherenschnitt, but agrees it has many
names, such as silhouettes. She gave me a
fantastic little slip of paper that told me
the history of the art form - in 750 AD it
appears in China, then travels by merchants to the
Arabic cultural centers and from there to
Europe. It seems to have really caught fire
in the 7th century in Germany and has become
a folk art that is highly praised by many
and practiced by few in the world.
Patricia has shared with the world her
knowledge and love of silhouettes. You can
learn more from one of her previous monthly
columns for Spaces magazine, and she shows
her children's pillows in one of her daily
design blogs (see
October 17, 2008) at
I hope she likes this little piece of
handcrafted heaven. I have a strong feeling
In real life, this entire
piece is only 1.5 inches tall - half the
length of your pinky.
Ursula cut this from black paper with a white core, and it's mounted
on white paper.
Note the incredible detail in the hair.
I love a good road trip. Just me, by best pals
or family, a map, a few back roads, lots of ice
water, and I'm happy. Contented. At peace.
Several years ago, STUFF started offering art
classes taught by local artists here at the
store. Every single class has been a ball,
and everyone leaves very, very happy. What
has been an amazing part of the art class
journey is that we have taken one of
the classes, SoulCollage, "on the road" to
groups of people at a location of their
The last two road shows have been
taught by Jane Hosey-Stern. I have been her
trusty assistant. (Yes. I am trainable and
will perform admirably in a crowd.)
Both of our journeys have been to places
more than 15 miles from the store. In my
book, a road trip!! For the first one, I was
denied using any maps because it was across
from Kauffman Stadium. Our class was a small
part of a "party weekend" for children with
cancer - terminal and otherwise. It was an
amazing night, and Jane and I talk about it
Now, the other was in Greenwood,
Missouri, and our participants were
elementary school art teachers. I wondered
what we could possibly teach art teachers,
but I moved beyond that puzzlement quickly.
Everyone, even art teachers, can benefit
from a little artsy R&R and a chance to work
on a new project of their own - one not
necessarily meant for others to poke around
in or have an opinion about. It was an
A bright hallway.
Chinese brush painting.
Chihuly inspired Shrinky Dinks.
Another amazing hallway.
But what blew me away was the art hanging in
the halls of the school we visited. Our host
was LeeAnne Gourley, and our class was in her
room at Greenwood Elementary School. This
school is dripping in art - she has it
on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, and
taped gently to windows and doors.
I was in
heaven and spent many minutes soaking it all
in. She teaches not only the basic concepts
of art but also about famous artists, their
lives, and the processes they used. I can tell you right now
this woman has deeply affected the lives of
the lucky children who have entered her
classroom. Heck, I'm 43 years old, and I've
only been in her classroom once - and I am
Our classes - and our road shows - have been
well received, but they surprisingly still seem to be a bit of
a secret to some of our customers. If you're looking for a really
great art class, check us out on-line. And,
if you want us to bring our show to you,
give me a call.
Yet another hallway.
Watercolor and assemblage.
How could you not be happy learning - and working! - here?
My father has a knack for discovering the unique
when it comes to food joints. He has introduced
our family to countless off-the-beaten-track
greasy spoons over the years. I am not sure
secret to discovery. It's like he has a divining
stick that points his car in the right
And don't think he isn't very picky
about his finger-licking choices. He will speak
strongly in favor of not only his choice of
joints, but what to order and how to garnish (if
necessary) his top menu picks. He will even clue
you in on the better times and/or days in which
you will get the best food and service. These
tidbits of wisdom can, of course, be set aside
in the case of emergencies - like cheering up
your children and friends.
My sister, Sloane, inherited his talent for
the juke-joints of food finds. I did not!
Don't get me wrong, I am strongly
opinionated about food (and most everything
else), but my tastes tend to lean away from
the greasy spoons of our grand America.
However, I am game to chow down on some
memories from time to time, and I found
myself doing just that recently on our
collective return from the
hinter-northlands, post 6th grade lacrosse
game. Our father made the insightful and
popular choice to treat us all to IN-A-TUB
Now, IN-A-TUB is the home of the Chernobyl
Cheese taco. This is MY name for them; I am
sure they would not appreciate my reference.
But check it out: What else can explain the
color of the powdered cheese they dump on
top? And don't even think about having them
hold the glow-in-the-dark garnish - it is the
secret ingredient. But the secret ingredient
here isn't very secret,
folks. The magic is right on top in
radiation orange. If you miss it, you need a
seeing eye dog!
Here is how it works. At IN-A-TUB you order
your tacos in quantity by the basket. For
example, a proper young Simmons woman will
start with "3-in-1" and go back for a
"2-in-1" or maybe a second "3-in-1" -
especially if she is sharing with her 4-year-old
daughter at her inaugural trip to
As we usher in a third
generation to the Simmons family tradition
of Chernobyl cheese tacos by the dozen, we
invite you to start your tradition today!
Note: When I was a little girl, IN-A-TUB was
across the street from its current location and sat back from the
street, with outdoor tables out front. It was
next door to a self-wash car wash I would
frequent in high school to wash the INSIDE
of my 1977 International Scout. I would make
bets with people that I would actually spray
the INSIDE of my car. I always made sure to
bet enough to afford a 3-in-1 before I would
head home. Sadly, the car wash is gone and
IN-A-TUB moved "up" to an old building
across the street that once housed a food
chain franchise. But, happily,
the food is still the same.
A small family business like ours gets its fair
share of mail. Some days we get a truckload, and
other days not so much. Last week, on a
truckload day, there was a pretty little
invitation-sized envelope addressed to Casey and
me. I save these to open last - after the bills,
the catalogues, the junk.
The contents of this particular envelope
exciting. It seems as though past visitors
to Kansas City had been asked to nominate
their favorite places during their visits
here. The names were compiled by the Kansas
City Convention and Visitors Association.
And we made the grade for the first time
They only compiled nominations from people from
outside the five-county metro area. So
these are truly visitors who nominated us.
As with the nomination process, voting for
the winner is limited to visitors. You know
the next part - please share with your
summer visitors your love of all that we do,
and ask them to
click here to vote for what we believe is the best retail
store in Kansas City:
STUFF. They can vote
from May 15 to August 31.
We are honored to have been chosen for the
KC Visitors' Choice Award
'09. And we thank
you for all that you do to "share the love"
we generate at STUFF.
On Monday, I was not in my best mood, and I still
do not know why. It's not that I wasn't "fit to
be with" really, it's just that I wasn't
myself. Generally happy. Usually smiling and
quick to laugh. This was not me yesterday.
But I changed around noon when these photos
appeared in my Inbox from a customer. Aren't
they delightful? Someone obviously has more
talent with the camera than I do! She sent
them to me so that we could see the art we
sell in action.
We have vases full of the
button flowers you see here, and we have sold
them for over 6 years - one stem at a time -
for a local artist, Celia. They are
handcrafted from buttons old and new, and
Celia has a new variety that incorporates
her ceramic "petals" into the button flower
They are flowers that last forever and
are used in bouquets that never fade. And
they changed my moody Monday. Enjoy.
My niece was born in January four years ago.
Casey and I did much planning at the store for
the time she would be home with her daughter. We
even planned the Valentine's window down to the
very last detail - the art, the rug, and the
theme. What I didn't plan on was how difficult
it is to write backwards on our plate glass
windows. Casey is our calligrapher when we
attempt these projects, and I am in charge of
font size, placement, and
kerning. We are a
team. She makes her part of the deal seem
effortless, although the letter S can still throw her for a loop
occasionally. But you didn't hear it from me.
Stuff window #35.
So, on the day of the new Valentine's window
that year, I hopped up on the display riser
and got started. And it was awful. I'd like
to think that it just wasn't the same
because Casey wasn't there, but it was really
because I was inept. I take some pride in
the fact that, even when I am failing at a
task, I maintain my leadership skills. I
therefore promptly turned to one of the
young women helping me and said, "Here you
go. Here's the paintbrush, the paint, and the
words. This is will be a great skill for you
to learn as you consider a career in
retail." Pretty good. Huh? Empowering? She
did a great job - as you can see. What I can
say is that the inside of our front window
got washed many times that day as we all got
This week, I saw this article in
Beautiful about grosgrain ribbon (one of
my favorite things on this planet) and was
instantly reminded of that same Valentine's
window because we had designed an all-ribbon
"wall" between the store and our raised
window display. It was fantastic. Every time
the front door opened, the wall of ribbon
would slightly ruffle with the wind and then
gracefully fall back into place. They were
incredible shades of pink and red - and, to mix
it up, we added a hint of purple.
This window is numbered 35 in the "Window
Diary Book" we keep here at the store. It is
much like a scrapbook in that we keep in it our
preliminary sketches, photos and paint
swatches; it is a memory bible. We moved our
store to Brookside in May 2002 and are
currently getting ready to do window number 82.
I get excited about every window we do
because I get to do them with my sister.
She's my #1 window collaborator.
I have always loved that my family laughs. We
laugh to survive, to celebrate, and to remember.
To me there is no better drug than laughter. My
sister, Sloane, and I have always had a special
connection. Some people believe we are twins
born three years apart. We have worked together
for more than 20 years. Yep - TWENTY years. And,
we are known for our laughter. We egg each other
on. We get rolling, and the tears start
flowing. When we are on a really, really good
"falling out", we make everyone near us laugh,
too. We are complete fools, and it is marvelous.
Today we "loaded" all the STUFF television
YouTube.com. After they were loaded,
I thought I had better review them to make sure
they all worked. And, as soon as Sloane
heard our voices, she turned around to watch
with me. We share an office that used to be
a bank vault, and our backs are inches from
each other. (This, of course, does not
prohibit us from e-mailing each other all
day long, every day. We even have to set
meeting times to discuss business. This is
not a joke.)
Anyway, back to the YouTube ads....
There we were, huddled over my computer
watching our ads, and we started laughing. We
stopped short of a complete "falling out", but we laughed, laughed and laughed some
more. Partially because we have both changed
so much since our first ads (hair, weight,
style), and partially because the ads are
pretty darned funny..
You see, our ads were an accident. We had
this brilliant idea to create TV ads. We
worked diligently on scripts, and we worked with
our consultant John Kekisein to be prepared.
The big day came, and we couldn't pull it
together. John was so brave. He put up with
our endless "out takes", our giggles, and
our flubbed lines. He just kept filming and
saying, "Let's try that again."
When he got back to the studio, he had
nothing to work with. The footage frankly
sucked. That fateful day, John had the
genius to make something from nothing - and
the first of the STUFF ads was born.
It truthfully takes a little guts to review
an ad of yourself acting like a fool and
say. "Great, let's air that to hundreds of
thousands of households in my home town."
But the one thing I can guarantee is that
- with my sister at my side - I have guts to
spare. I knew if it had backfired we would
of just laughed.
On Tuesday afternoon and evening, our dog
Einstein had a playdate with a friend's dog.
prevails. Our 16-year-old dog was mostly in the house
while the three humans with whom he cohabits had a playdate on the porch. My son's part of the playdate was
stalking our canine guest with the camera
and capturing her every move. Einstein was
at peace the entire time and proved himself to be
a gracious - if sometimes absent - host.
Isabella is a beagle, and for many hours she
kept our property free of birds and squirrels.
And she made good use of her vocal chords in
controlling the wind blowing through the hosta leaves. When my dear friend Missy Koonce returned from work - she's in
Unicorn Theatre's current production of
Bare - Izzy went crazy greeting her Mom and
then pretty much just hopped up on the sofa and
crashed next to my husband.
While the children - four-legged and two-legged
- slept, the three adults whiled away a few
hours on the porch while the air cooled and
the friendship deepened. Who says playdates
are only for children?
PS...Go and see Bare. It is fantastic and
proof yet again that Kansas City's
theatrical scene is cutting edge and
Casey and I do not follow a recipe when planning
the parties at STUFF. But don't be too
impressed. We do follow an outline, a budget, and
a plan. Our previous careers taught us the power
of all three of those.
We had an event last Thursday night in the
back alley of STUFF for
Fred Conlon, a metal artist from Utah that we
represent. It was a
celebration after a week of endless rain.
Long after the event was over, the fires in
the fire pit had smoldered, the extra
ingredients from the s'mores were packed up,
and Fred Conlon was in his truck headed for
home, I ran across this recipe
on the back of the graham
cracker box and giggled.
We had used every single one of these name
brands, but we left the funky blue sky and
picket fence out of our event. We're crazy
urban girls - our event included a dramatic
post-storm sky and a truck and trailer full
of amazing art as our backdrop -
nothing like the picture on the
Yes, the fire pit is for sale.
Come in and see the one we kept.
The s'mores were delicious - just ask every
adult that attended the party. They aren't
just for the small people in the world. Big
people love 'em, too.
Last summer, I was in Steamboat Springs, Colorado,
and spent a few hours shopping the locally
owned stores all nestled in down by the river.
I was with my son and two nieces, so a trip to
the bookstore was a given.
As I entered the
store, I saw a fabulous little logo on the glass
that caught my attention. It was for
IndieBound.org. A week or so later, back at
work on my
computer, I checked it out and was glad
to find out that I had supported one of the
"good guys" with my purchase several states from
home. I stayed on their site a few minutes and
then moved on with life.
Then, just last week, Casey told me all about
a "3/50 thingee" and the benefits of
shopping locally that they were touting. She
made great sense while she was talking. Of course I agreed with her, nodded my head
at all the right times, interjected comments
of approval when appropriate, and said we
needed to "check into it". And life moved
So today I did it. We were called to
confirm our involvement with
the350project.net, and after the phone call I
read everything they had put forth on their
website. And here's how it works, in short:
The 3 Part: Choose 3 independently owned
local stores you would miss if they were no
longer in business.
The 50 Part: Spend a little something in all
3 of them, and, in doing so, try to spend a
total of $50 in local stores every month.
This is easy to do. As a co-owner of an
independently owned business, I've been
doing this with the businesses I treasure
for years. I shop locally to a fault, and so
does STUFF. (You can see a
partial list of
our favorites on our website.)
What blew my mind was this next little part
of math: for every $100 spent in independently owned stores in my
neighborhood, $68 returns to my local
economy through payroll taxes, property
taxes, sales tax and payroll. That same
amount spent at a chain or franchise store
only returns $43 to the city I love. And if
that $100 is spent online, nothing comes
back to my hometown. Zilch. Plus, I pay too
much in shipping to get it to me while
adding nasty CO2 to the environment.
So, pick your three and love 'em up. They
will thank you, your community will thrive, and the
earth will breathe just a little easier.
I admit to having been raised for a short period
of time in a trailer. Not a double wide, and not
for very long. Like right after birth for just a
And it's possible that the very
essence of that existence has affected my taste
in holiday decorations from time to time. Or so
I've been told.
But I consider my heritage a
plus when "embracing" all holiday decorating
styles and being in tune with humanity.
Christmas I believe C-7 and C-9 multi-color
twinkling lights can be appropriate for outside
decoration if planned well. I think a blown-plastic fully-lit
three-foot black cat rising from
an orange jack-o-lantern can look stunning in October. And I know that,
for Easter, plastic "fill and
thrill" eggs are unbeatable.
So, years ago, I began the journey to the
display you see above. It probably started
with one dozen or so, and the collection has
increased as our son has grown.
This was the happiness that greeted us at
the kitchen table this Easter season. Yes, I
smiled every time I glanced them. Every.
But the highlight of my Easter Sunday was the quick sketch my niece made
of the Easter bunny just for me.
It doesn't light up or twinkle.
But it does hold a treasure.
Pencil on paper original. Untitled. Unframed. Unsigned.
I have always felt at odds with the idea that
"feeling blue" means you are sad. To me, "blue"
is magical. To me, "blue" is everything good,
strong and pure.
I, of course, think first and most often of
water when "blue" comes to mind. I will
never forget the sensation I felt when I
leaned over the edge of a boat floating on
the Pacific Ocean. I was stepping from the
boat to a submarine to check out the "Big
Blue" from below - but I couldn't move. I
was mesmerized. I was hypnotized. I was
The tour guide leaned close to me and said,
"Don't do it, lady. I have seen that look
before, and you ain't going swimming on my
watch." I looked up, surprised to find people
around me. I am not sure where I floated in
my mind, but it wasn't anywhere near the
deck of that boat.
After reading an article recently about a
man that has dedicated himself to preserving
the art of indigo dying ((Traditional
Home, April 2009), I closed my eyes
and tried to imagine the excitement of
pulling the fabrics from the vats and
experiencing the magic of the color blue
over and over again.
Next time you are "feeling blue", remember
peaceful as a clear sky;
soothing as the waves slowing rolling by;
endless as the Pacific;
majestic as the Rocky Mountains; and,
as cheerful as a bird's song.
My husband and I used to be so good. We used to
start our taxes in early February and have them
turned in to the tax attorney by the end of the
same month. I think we probably got gold stars
in our "permanent file" at the firm, but they
never showed them to us because they didn't want
us to get big-headed.
However, last night, March 31st, we started
our tax work for 2008. March and April are
insanely busy months for both of us, and we
seem to always put off the inevitable until
my husband is truly fussy just from the
prospect of the work - and then we start. All
year long, I save every receipt my hard-earned cash produces when I'm out
stimulating the economy, and at tax time I
sort them all out.
It was while sorting the "Miscellaneous" sub
pile into other sub-sub piles, "Food
Expenses" and "Charitable Giving", I was
reminded of how lucky we are to go to the
grocery store and buy food when we want it,
not just when we need it. Every November and
December, our local grocery store brings out
the donation cards so that we can add a
donation to our food bill for our local food
Harvesters. It always cuts me to the
bone to see the bounty I have on the
conveyor belt while thinking of those with
almost nothing, and my reach for the donation
card is swift. You see, my family is one of
the lucky ones. We have enough.
Harvesters does amazing and far-reaching
work in our community. The newsletter I got
from them recently spoke to how there has
not been enough lately.
The spirit of plenty seems to be sparse at
the dinner tables of many in Kansas City
during this time of financial upheaval.
Maybe it's time to bring the donation cards
out of storage and put them to work at the
PS...My Kansas City friend, Patricia,
otherwise known as
Mrs. Blandings, had this
to say in her daily blog today: "...Meg
and Chris of
Easy and Elegant Life, have developed an
initiative to help in the fight against
Feed America. Feed America is a national
organization that supports over 200 food
banks nationwide, including Harvesters here
in Kansas City."
Mar. 28, 2009
The stowaways in my purse
on Saturday morning.
Two days ago, the weather took a rather
winter-like turn; the skies turned grey, the air
cold, and the back deck icy.
Just last weekend, my
husband and I were doing the yearly raking
of the back and front yard - I
come from people who rake in the Spring, not the
Fall - and loving the
hot sun and warm air. We actually found it hard
to come inside at day's end.
So, as the week got colder and the days
greyer, I was dreaming of blue skies. And
salvation was just around the corner. In
the last 24 hours, we have experienced two
artistic "shows" that have left me feeling
Two nights ago, my husband and I were in
our regular seats at
Kansas City Repertory
Theatre for "Winesburg, Ohio". It is a new
American musical that is based on a novel by
Sherwood Anderson. The new artistic director
of The Rep, Eric Rosen, had written the book
and lyrics of this play. It was
We were transported back to early
1900 rural Ohio and were guided through 13 "stories" of the people who inhabit this
fictional town. They were slightly interwoven, yet distinctly set apart. I was
mesmerized - left breathless in one scene and
found crying in another. This play is loaded
with some of Kansas City's finest performers
- and a few from that far off artistic Mecca, New York. When we were leaving, I eyed
my friend Missy in the crowd, and, when I
tracked her down later on her cell phone, she
stated perfectly what I was feeling after
this non-traditional musical: "I feel like I
was part of a perfectly-wrought piece of
Harl and I have been going to The Rep since
1985, and I don't think we've missed many
shows. We had the rare opportunity to meet
Eric Rosen when he was first in Kansas City
after accepting his current gig at The Rep.
It was one of those magical nights at Bar
Natasha where you really were surrounded by
some of the most creative people this town
Artwork from the musical.
Eric and my husband got to talking a
bit - they share an alma mater - and, when I
spoke with him directly, I can remember being very
excited about the season of plays for which we had
plunked down money just two weeks before. Eric has not let Kansas City down this
season, and this current show is a
masterpiece of human collaboration.
My favorite portrait from
And yesterday, right after carpool, we whisked
our son off to the
Nelson-Atkins Museum of
see the limited engagement exhibition of
paintings from India's Mughal emperors. They
are in town from Dublin, Ireland, where they
reside in the Chester Beatty Library. The
museum has provided magnifying lenses on
ropes so that you need not miss any of the
details in these pieces. They are album
paintings - scrapbooks, really - from several
hundred years of the Mughal empire
(1526-1858). They are all rather small in
size but huge in detail and rich color.
All three of us went through the exhibit at
our own paces, but we found ourselves
inviting one another over to view hidden
treasures. Several emperors were open to all
forms of religion, and many of the pieces
have a unique blend of Chinese dragons, Madonnas, and Islamic script.
These painters were masters at capturing the
human face. I can't say there was a huge
array of different emotions displayed, and a
majority of them were profiles, but the way
light plays on the skin was expertly applied in
pigment and paint. They held me in their
The rest of our weekend is full of birthday
parties and lacrosse games in unseasonably
cold weather.. But the sun will be shining
in two of Kansas City's finest artistic
playhouses. If you have a chance, go and see
"Winesburg, Ohio" before it leaves the stage
and "Muraqqa" before it sails for Dublin.
Mar. 27, 2009
Blue Glass and
Oh the joys of ownership!! On Wednesday, I was
the lucky one who got to open a package from
Kathleen Plate and Smart Glass.
Kathleen's work for years, and her evolution as
an artist - and a company - has been amazing.
When we saw her this past January, we decided to
bring in her newest and "greenest" creations.
She is slicing recycled glass bottles, kiln-firing the rings, and fashioning amazing jewelry
with sterling silver. She sent a card that
showed what kind of bottles each color of ring
is from. Kathleen's company has always been
dedicated to improving the environment and not
messing up the planet, but this latest collection
has taken her concepts and ideas a step further.
Check out the blue!!
I immediately made Casey try the
"Asymmetrical" necklace on; she is my supermodel. It was amazing, and I loved the blue
color on the upper ring.
Kathleen has always
used a great range of blues in her jewelry.
It may be one of the reasons I'm always so
Even the bags she sends her work in shows her love of Mother Earth.
The blues are wonderful, but these
rings are almost glossy - like they're
holding the essence of the purest water
you've ever immersed yourself in.
However, for pure ingenuity, she wins an
award from me for the following stunt: she
is taking the very bottom of the bottles
she's just sliced and is and cutting out the
thick center part. This center part is
called the "punt" in the glass industry. She
then works them with heat and style and sets
them into sterling bezels for rings and cuff
Very cool. Very Green.
Isn't my sister pretty?
Mar. 19, 2009
This past Saturday, our store participated
in the annual Brookside St. Pat's Warm-Up
Parade. The warm-up part is a little
confusing, but it is because our city hosts
several of these parades in various
neighborhoods. The winners of first place in
the warm-up parades have slots in "The Big
Parade" that is always held on St. Patrick's
Day. Rain or shine. No matter what. We won
1st place several years ago in our
neighborhood parade and had the honor of
marching in The Big Parade. It was incredibly
cold. Fun. But cold.
This year was beautiful. 60+ degrees. Sunny.
Perfect parade weather in anyone's book.
Casey and I operate daily under the closely held belief that
STUFF is bigger than the
two of us and has been since we opened our
doors almost 13 years ago. The parade every
year confirms that theory, and it finds us
inviting artists, friends, our families, and
various pets to again join us in the parade
as we make fools of ourselves in front of
thousands of people. This year we were
joined by Patrick Binder who, along with his
cameras, perfectly captured our shenanigans.
here to see all the fun for yourself.
The float in action.
This year we handed out 1,000 "Lucky Ducks"
with numbers at their necks, and 100 of
these ducks gave people
the chance to win a $10 gift certificate
at STUFF. Our friends dressed up in shower
shoes, mud masks, robes, towels, curlers, PJs, and all things ducky, and we strutted
our stuff for the people who lined the route
and cheered us on.
Getting ready for my performance.
Yes, those are rubber duck earrings.
Our friend Patrick.
STUFF is nestled nicely in Brookside, and we
love the neighborhood. Every day finds us
right here - strutting our stuff for the
lucky ducks who cross our threshold.
PS...All of the photos from parade day will
be on our website soon on the
Binder may have been the only professional
who brought a camera, but that doesn't kick
to the curb the others who had their
shutters working overtime to capture the
Mar. 11, 2009
Passed Me By
Saturday was my first foray into the world
of math competitions.
And not as a
Our son has been a participant in math
competitions for three years now, but this
is the first one I have been able to attend.
I have made time for practice, cleared
schedules, and cheered him on.
It was boring for me while he was taking the
series of tests. While sitting there,
however, I realized that - again - he has
passed me by. He is mastering math concepts
that are beyond my abilities.
I have always
considered myself in the "lost generation"
of girls/women who, in the 70s, were led to
English, history and art, but not to math or
science. I have been at peace with that and,
when I hit a math wall, I call my husband
for a refresher course.
This is what a math geek
Scribbles like this freak me out.
But having my eleven-year-old doing math
that makes my head swim has been humbling.
Since he started crawling, I have known that
he was moving away from me, knowing that he
could always turn around. And then he
walked, and I knew he would be able to run
All children take in knowledge that
leads them places you've never gone. Every
time my son comes back, I'll be right where
I've always been - behind him one hundred
Feb. 24, 2009
Valentine's Day Surprise
In my recent blog, I spoke
about not knowing what would happen on
Valentine's Day but knowing it would all be
"perfect" in the end. And this year a surprise
made my prediction come true.
After an early dinner with my family at
Minsky's, my daughter joined her Nana for an
overnight, and I went home and found myself
in my home alone with no plans. I decided to
use this rare opportunity to catch up with
friends on the phone. And, since I roam when
I talk, I found myself standing on my front
stoop (yes, I have a front stoop). As I was talking
on the phone to a friend about her new
babies and all their trials and triumphs, I saw a man walking back and forth in
front on my building and the houses next
It was dark and cold and I assumed he was a
bit lost, but I just kept talking. The
mystery man walked by again, and then I
heard my name from the dark. "Casey, it's
Lee. I can hear you, but I can't find you."
That's when I realized that the lost man in the hat was looking for
my home. I quickly ended my call and called
Lee over. There in the freezing cold was a friend
holding a Valentine's gift for my daughter and
I was so taken aback (and my damned phone kept
ringing) that I just stood there dumbstruck
for a while, and then I managed to fumble
through a crappy thank you as Lee hurried
off to finish his cupid deliveries.
I went inside and was struck dumb again. The
gift was a tray of the most delicately
beautiful cookies you could imagine. They
were packaged in a pretty box tied with a
bow. I realized that Lee, his wife Lisa, and
their two daughters had made the cookies, and
each one was a work of art. It made me
instantly happy and thankful to know such
Later that evening I met friends for drinks
and even managed to do some late night
dancing. My night ended poorly, not anywhere
close to the romantic night I had
But, when I came home and switched on the
dining room light, there was the box of
cookies - lovely, beautiful, thoughtful, and
made by a loving family. And one had my
name on it.
So this year, once again, Valentine's Day
was quite perfect after all.
My daughter with her cookie.
PS...When a 4 year old with a very stuffy
nose asks for her "big 'S' cookie", it
sounds amazingly like "big ass cookie". So,
if you have the opportunity to ask my
daughter about her Valentine's cookie, don't
be shocked if she tells you she got a big
cookie from Elizabeth and Allison.
Feb. 23, 2009
Early Warning System
I didn't see the signs this year. I didn't think
I was cooped up. I had embraced the onset of
winter WAYYYY back in November. And, being a
natural "nester", I had prepared the house and
myself for the dark days ahead. I was ready to
snuggle in, slow down a bit, and enjoy the change
of climate. I pulled the heavy curtains on all
the windows and French doors in the living room
and had dug out the "snakes" to block the cold
air from seeping into the house.
But, by the middle of this last week, I
realized I had missed all of my warning
signs for the restless behavior that sets in
right about now. My friend, Mrs. Blandings,
mentioned how cruel February was in a
last week, and I found myself nodding my head
in agreement on the grey skies. I had my
family out hiking in very cold weather last
weekend when one member of the family truly
hates the cold. I found myself asking
questions of my husband about wall colors
for paint and what he could stomach. I found
myself pulling sheets from magazines that
showed colors I liked. And I considered
moving most of the wall art in the house to
new and exciting locations.
I was attempting to change what I could when
I couldn't make the sky blue and the sun
shine. I had missed all of my early warning
signals and didn't realize it until today.
It dawned on me that we really didn't have a
room that needs re-painting before we deal
with a small construction issue on the upper
floor of the house. I came to the conclusion
that moving all the wall art would just
drive me crazy because I like where things
Today it was 35 degrees and sunny - in my
book, perfect weather for walking around
outside. And, since I was the cruise
director today, we packed a picnic and did
Several years ago, my son and I must have
been at some tourism kiosk when we picked up
information about state parks close to home.
Those postcards have sat in a bowl in the
kitchen since that day, a reminder that we need
to go that was quickly forgotten. Last
weekend, I found them again in a bowl
underneath the dinner napkins and said to my
son, "Let's go soon to this place." And he
said, "How about Saturday?" And we were on.
You never have to ask me twice to go on a
I was delighted when I woke up and the sun
was shining. I hoped that my husband
wouldn't look at the thermometer he keeps by
the bed, but he must have because he came
down to the kitchen with adequate padding,
with an almost happy demeanor about spending
the day in the cold.
This is a man who, from
the first of November through April, would
wear a parka into the shower so as to not be
cold when he got out. He deplores the cold,
and it has been one of the only sticking
points in our marriage when we use it as a
psychological weapon against each other. I
do get cold, but I also warm up long before
A short time later, we were at Watkins Woolen
Mill near Lawson, Missouri. The light dusting of
snow we had at home the night before was
deeper there and made winter beautiful
again. Watkins Mill is a Missouri State Park
and is fantastic. It is well kept, and the
tour guides know their stuff. I work with
the public, so I know it must be hard to put
on a "good show" in the off-season for five
tourists. But Randy, our guide, was awesome
and very informative about the only 19th
century textile mill in the country with all
its original machinery intact. It truly was
as if we had stepped in while the workers
were at lunch!! I was a question-asking fool,
and I was beyond intrigued at times.
Given that my husband HATES the cold, I knew
that a picnic in the sun at a picnic table
was out, so we ate while driving 40 miles or
so to Weston Bend State Park just outside
of - well - Weston, Missouri. The view of the mighty
Missouri river was great today because all
the leaves were off the trees and the blue
sky made the river not seem so muddy. After a
one-mile hike for my son and husband and a
shorter hike for me and the dog, we "made
the turn for home" and, on the way out of the
park, we saw a bobcat in a clearing. It
barely moved, but it never took its eyes off of
us while the car was stopped.
The thermometer never struck 40 today, but it
was toasty in my heart because the four of
us were together, driving on back roads,
eating bologna sandwiches, soaking up a
little history, drinking in fresh air, and lovin' every minute of it.
The first bobcat I've ever
Happy Valentine's Day!!!
Feb. 6, 2009
The Valentine's Day Conundrum
I spend the weeks before Valentine's Day every
year trying to act cool.
You know what I am talking about. You say
things like, "Valentine's Day is so stupid.
I mean, really who cares? It is a made-up
holiday that is designed to suck bucks out
of people's pockets. I don't want to do
anything special for Valentine's Day - I
would just be happy staying home. I don't
want anything for Valentine's Day, really, I
And all along you are secretly thinking, "I
want to be swept off my feet. I want the
perfect mix of love, passion, laughter and
indulgence. I want to know that I am loved.
I want to spill my fancy, prix fixe dinner in
my lap and have my date think I am charming,
cute, and even more beautiful with pasta
sauce on my shirt."
I want a full-blown romantic comedy.
It dawns on me that the true tradition of
Valentine's Day has become to act like you
don't care, but to feel your heart beat
harder that week in anticipation of the
possibilities. Knowing that it will never
live up to your dream, but realizing the
next morning that it was quite perfect after
all. No matter what happened.
A few ideas for this year's gift to my daughter.
The greatest part of the this "silly"
holiday is that you don't have to be in a
couple to play. For many, many years, I would
get a single rose from my father each
Valentine's Day. My mother always creates
these artistic and thoughtful goodie bags
filled with treats and treasures. Our family
often spends part of the day enjoying heart-shaped pizzas
at one of our favorite local haunts,
Minsky's. And, now that I am a Mom,
I look forward to surprising my daughter
with a piece of art that reminds her that
she is loved deeply and treasured by many.
For the next week, I will help customers
find gifts. I will help parents, children,
lovers, wives, husbands, partners, and
friends find the perfect "token" for their
Valentine. And, with each gift, I will hear a
story. I will get to share a bit of their
insecurity, their desire, and their love.
And I will be reminded every day of how
easy it is to share your love with someone.
So this year, remember:
"Don't be reckless with other people's
Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours."
PS...I love words, quotes, thoughts and
conversation. So, this year I LOVED working
on our Valentine's Day theme for the store.
We sat around and came up with
365 words to
describe a gift from your heart. Part way
though this exercise, I had to leave for a
bit, but I kept calling Sloane (making her
crazy, I am sure) with more words I thought
of in the car. So, enjoy our list! And, if
you can't think of anything to do on
Valentine's Day, sit around with the people
you love and think of your own 365 words.
Feb. 5, 2009
Another Day In Paradise
On Saturday, it was 60+ degrees in our fair city,
and we had a party for an artist we represent,
Kelly Aaron. I want you to have her tell you all
about it -
We planned the event a month or so before. You can't custom order the weather, but it was
I describe Kelly's amazing work as "found
object mosaic". I have yet to hand over to
her my broken pieces of Italian pottery,
although I did loan them to the display
window we fashioned in honor of her event.
I'm still designing in my mind what I want
her to fashion from my breakage. Her work is
detailed, occasionally tongue-in-cheek, and
always perfectly beautiful.
Casey and I always have fun designing the
events we host in the store. However, one of
the coolest things we did in preparing for
Kelly's event was make part of our web page
about the event sing an
Elton John song when hovering over Elton's photo. Of
course, he crooned "Don't Go Breakin' My
Heart". He has become my mascot for this
Valentine's Day. We have never added this
technology to our website before, but watch
out: we're on a roll.
My other little, subtle piece of fun
for this event was a plate of "mosaic
cookies" - carefully broken Chips Ahoy,
Nutter Butter, and Sandies packaged cookies.
I forgot to take a picture, but I had to
refill the tray many times.
We'll have another party soon. Join us.
PS...At the left is Elton as he appeared previously on our website. Make him sing for you!
Feb. 3, 2009
Today the power was out from 12:59 to 1:25pm at
STUFF. It gets very quiet, very fast, when our
Today's treasured shopper.
I kind of liked it, because it
reminded me of STUFF when we opened 12 years ago
and wrote every sale up on a carboned paper
receipt - so no computers and printers humming.
We had no stereo - so no music playing. It was
quite a different experience than now. However,
I like now just a bit better.
My favorite part of STUFF is that, when the lights
go out, people keep shopping. Many other
shops on our block locked their doors right
away today, but we never have for power
outages. And today, like most days in the
past, we had a woman who was in the store
when the lights went out, and she was still there
when we came roaring back to life. She chose
a perfect gift and was never fussy.
Several years ago, we had a man on staff,
Parrish, who had the quietest sense of
humor. It was sharp, however. On a day in
December, we had a power outage near the end
of the day that sent us running for candles
so that customers could see - and even then
it was a challenge. During this power
struggle, he walked over to me with probably
the most expensive necklace we had in the
store at that time and told me he needed it
gift wrapped. I knew he must be joking; that
would be just like him. I quietly said, "Very funny,"
and laughed. He said very little, but
something like, "I'll meet you back up front
with my customer." So I wrapped it. And she
bought it. And yes, she knew the price; it
had been shared with her even if it was too
dark to read the tag!!
So, even on the darkest days at STUFF, we
sparkle and shine, laugh and gift wrap.
Jan. 25, 2009
Cover To Cover
In the room in our house that we call the
library, you will find a set of books with extremely
tattered covers. My son likes them to be housed
in numeric order, 1 through 7. All of us have
read them - as they were released - and in
order. There were times when that was dicey,
because my husband and I would tussle about who
got to break the spine and dive in first.
We have loved every one of the Harry Potter
books by J.K. Rowling. And although our son
loved having them read to him by my husband,
he chomped at the bit to be able to read
them while ensconced on the lower bunk in his
room - all by himself and by the light of one
thin bulb. I inhaled these instances of pure
magic every time I visited his room as the "lights
out executioner", and at times the emotions I
felt were suffocating.
I was in Scotland with my father - and 40
years old!! - when Dumbledore died in the
book I had brought on vacation. My father
had stepped out for a moonlit view of the
The Old Course at St. Andrews, and I had
stayed in the hotel room to bathe and read.
I was crying when he came in, and he
immediately thought something bad had
happened back at home. When I had the
ability to speak clearly and told him what
the true problem was, he laughed. I believe
he understood because, in his words, "I just
finished the first one a while back."
This weekend, our son was invited by my mom
to bring a friend and the first five Harry Potter
movies to her house for a
Of course they are watching them in order,
and, when I checked in today from my business
trip, they were in the middle of number
was mid-day, and I'm sure she had darkened
the area around the TV. They all sounded
like they were wrapped in bliss.
In a continuing effort to be an exemplary
mother, I had packed a little candy as
strength and sustenance for their film
journey. I knew my son and his friend
wouldn't really want to eat candy that
tasted like dirt, squid, snot, or shepherd's
pie. So, I bottled up a little bit of my own
Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. M&M's were
the stunt doubles, and I'll bet the bottle is
empty upon my return.
Just this past Christmas, I mentioned to my
husband that I thought I was ready to
re-read the Harry Potter books in order and
back-to-back. I'm gonna crack the spines
again just as soon as I get home.
Jan. 24, 2009
The One That Got Away
This is the one that got away.
The piece of art you see here will never be
displayed for sale at
STUFF. That's because, the
day the artists from Hoop Dog Studio delivered
it, Casey bought it. You see, to say my sister
loves the ocean and all of its treasures would
be an understatement. And this amazing piece of
sculpture is a treasure from the sea and
from the hands of Kansas City artists - an A+ double
My sister and I share a business, and our
children share a school, but we really do not
spend every moment together. We do not share
a brain and know everything about each
other. Plus, we live in separate homes. But
her love of the sea permeates all of that,
and I have been involved in at least two
incidents involving conch shells that make
me giggle as I write this.
Incident #1: At one restaurant in Kansas
City - in Brookside no less - is a women's
restroom. It has no windows, one stall, and
a single shelf above the sink and mirror. On
that shelf, several years ago, was a great
conch shell sitting alone. I know this
because, although I did not need to use the
facilities, I was sent in by my sister to see
the "travesty" that was playing out in
there. When I rejoined our table, I shared
with everyone what I believed to be the
problem. Casey saw it as more than a mere
problem and asked me if I would mind
creating a small disturbance in the main
room while she went in and confiscated
(read: steal) the shell and took it to be
"with its friends" at her house. It bothered
her deeply that the shell was in a darkly
painted restroom with no fresh air or a
window. I pointed out that it was near a
water source, but she merely rolled her eyes.
She did not steal the shell. Truly. She did,
however, ask the owner about it. She
may have even offered to pay for it - I'm not
sure. The shell was a "treasured" thing in
the owner's wife's life, and he could not
part with it. Casey begged to differ -
silently - in her soul while talking to him,
but I heard about it in full color all the
way back to work.
Incident #2: Probably 5 years ago now, my
sister and I hosted our two best friends for
a long weekend at a house our father was
renting in Florida. The home was within easy
walking distance from the beach, and the
weekend was slow paced, restful, and easy -
until the day we got in the car to "pick up
a few things" as presents for our families
and children at home in landlocked Missouri.
While driving down the main two lane road on
this skinny little island, I was asked by
my sister to bring the car to a stop, turn
it around, and head back down the road to see
Now, as the driver of the car, I would like to believe that I would
have been aware of any true danger.
What I had missed, because I was looking out
the driver's window at the beach and ocean,
was the collection of conch shells that had been fenced in
on a shelf outside a gift shop. This was a
five alarm blaze in my sister's eyes. As
Casey told us
in plain English, "Just look at them. They're chained up."
And, what bothered her the most, "And right
where they can see the ocean." She added something
else about "no justice" and "disgusting".
Now, to be honest, they were not chained up.
Technically, they were on a lovely,
weathered, 4- or 5-shelf cabinet outside a
locally-owned gift shop. True, they were
behind chicken wire, and there was a lock
between the fence and the wood, but we
learned from the store owner that this was
only for "overnight" and that during the day they
were allowed to breathe more deeply of
implied freedom. These were cool conchs -
they were not shiny, and several had a
non-fancy air about them. They were
I can't remember if Casey bought one or not.
I can tell you that the ride back to the
house was delightful, and no harm came to the
group. I can only guess that the conchs that
were left behind were
sad when we pulled away.
Each incredible piece of art that Hoop Dog Studio
delivered this week bears the inscription "When we try to pick out anything
by itself, we find it hitched to everything
else in the universe." This is a quote from
John Muir, and each unique sculpture grabs
you in a different way. One of them has me
in its sway, but I haven't plunked down any
money yet. The one Casey chose was hitched
immediately to her blue planet and all that
swims in its water.
Come in and see them. They are phenomenal.
We do lock the doors at night for
their safety, but we leave the fresh air
circulating and a few lamps on so no one
Jan. 11, 2009
" No Paint ? ! "
These are the words that were asked of me in New
York several years ago. Casey and I had flown to
NY for business and, at the end of the "tour
on foot" we had conceived for ourselves
neighborhoods between the convention center and
a favorite place for dinner, we landed ourselves
in the a place called Think Pink on 6th Avenue
at 10th Street. My sister had been there before with
girlfriends, so we spontaneously plunked down
money for manicures. It was to be an adventure
like nothing I had put myself through before.
You see, every member of the staff was using
a different flavor of broken English, and I
think I was having trouble expressing the fact that I can't wear
nail polish on my fingernails. My skin goes
into "allergic insanity", and we all know
blood doesn't look good on anything. So,
since the ripe young age of 10 and what
seemed like a few too many visits to my
pediatrician, I have opted out of this rite
of womanhood and style. (I can wear nail
polish on my toes - who knows why? - and it
has been my occasional joy throughout life,
but not something I maintain on a regular
basis. I save those finances for facials, my
one true beauty love.)
I admit to not being much of a girlie girl.
I can still count on one hand the total
number of manicures I have had, and I can
use the other hand to do the math on
pedicures. I like them both, yet have never
made them a part of my beauty regime. I tell
myself I can't find the time or the money,
and I move on.
Most people think work trips are like
vacation anyway, so we went crazy and plunked
ourselves down for a little pampering - but
not until I spent many long moments that
were slowly filled with hand gestures as I
tried to explain the "no paint" premise when
it came to my fingertips. I had been walked
by the wall full of little bottles of
fingernail polish temptation and had been
asked to choose "mine" at least twice. Casey
could stand it no longer and finally stepped
in and said, "No paint."
Those two words
registered. We were met with "No paint ? !" in
a querulous tone understandable in any language. By now, I
felt like a medical spectacle in a very
small operating room. Everything in New York
is designed well and wastes no space, and
this salon was no exception. They have the
ability to perform probably 12 manicures and
8 spa pedicures simultaneously while 20
people are parked at the nail drying
stations. All this in about 800 square feet.
If memory serves, at least 900 people
were watching this spectacle, including the people that were looking through
the street level glass at the Midwestern
girl who wanted "no paint."
It didn't get better. My nails were cleaned
up, the cuticles were restrained, and a slight
shine was applied with a great manual
buffer. Then, the top of my hands were slapped
firmly two times each as a form of massage.
I was handed my briefcase and handbag and
was sent to the waiting area - two
leather footstools under the coat rack, four inches
inside the front door.
Now, my sister chose the "paint" package, and,
when I was able to lift my head from its
slightly embarrassed state, I saw that Casey
was being escorted to the drying station by
her manicurist. The woman walking toward
me was bringing me her coat and bags to
hold. What happened next still puts me on
the floor with laughter.
At the drying station, my sister's
manicurist was treating her to a small shoulder and back massage,
gratis. Her small Asian body was
firmly bent into Casey's shoulder, with
her elbow providing the pressure. I had been
slapped on the hand two times and sent to
the corner - and she was getting a massage.
Our hands had been equally damaged. We paid
the same amount of money.
But she had had a genie in her paint
PS...This past Friday, I had a spa pedicure right
here in Kansas City at
Persona. My son gave
me a certificate for Christmas, and I wasted
no time finding a time to go. Connie was the wizard
who transformed my feet.