Casey's and Sloane's Blog

Good Dog

December 16, 2014

One of our greatest joys is working each day with a dog in our office. Our little Chancey brings us happiness and warmth at the most unexpected times. He never shows frustration or impatience. He always has time to listen or to share a hug. He never complains. He is always cheerful.

STUFF has always been a dog-friendly business. We invite pups into the store with their people. We offer a handful of gifts for our furry friends. We always make sure our Christmas tree has plenty of animal ornaments. And we have a long, beautiful history of store dogs.

Each year we host over 25 charity parties at STUFF during our Season of Giving from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Tonight we will host Wayside Waifs at our 23rd party of 26 charity parties this season.

Wayside Waifs is the only pet-based charity that booked an event this year, and Chancey has been waiting. He has been working hard by our sides all year. It is finally a night all about his furry friends, and he is pretty excited.

We would like to share our gratitude for our pet family members and to thank Chancey for his loyal commitment to this small family-owned business.

Happy Holidays!

Casey & Sloane
Casey & Sloane Simmons
Sisters & Co-owners

 

 

Chancey spends his days doing the usual office stuff: Greeting customers, working with artists, testing out product, and browsing the Internet. (Mmmm...bacon.)

Chancey spends his days doing the usual office stuff: Greeting customers, working with artists, testing out product, and browsing the Internet. (Mmmm…bacon.)

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Posted in Family, Holidays, Pets, Philanthropy, Work | Leave a comment

Hearing Voices

On Monday, World AIDS Day, I accepted an award from the AIDS Service Foundation of Greater Kansas City – the Mark Dreiling Community Leadership Award – for twenty years of passion for the cause. It was named after my friend Mark who died several years ago from cancer and who was a fierce believer in eradicating AIDS from this planet – or at least from our town. This award humbled me, as I was the first to receive it after it was given to Mark last year posthumously.

In the days since, I have been asked by five people to publish my remarks – two people I know well, and three I don’t really know but who were at the luncheon and sought me out later that day either in person or via e-mail. Again, I am humbled.

photo from Theresa

I can’t promise that the words below were spoken verbatim, because I only wrote down “bones” for my comments, not a complete script. I also spoke with a voice quivering with passion partnered with eyes brimming with tears. Here are the remarks.

Thank you very much. When I stand here and think about what I have given to the fight against AIDS, I can honestly say that today I have been involved in the delinquency of minors. There are three young people in the audience who could be at school – I don’t know, maybe learning something! – and instead they are here, and I am deeply touched. To you, Dakota and Sawyer and Zach, I say that you saw the numbers and the facts on screen, and I am looking to you to finish what we’ve all started.

I don’t really know when I began hearing voices – not the bad kinds that tell you to do bad things, but the kind that stick with you and become part of who you are. I can clearly remember my parents saying to me that I could be and do anything. The power of those words has fueled me to almost fifty years of age. To you both, I say thanks.

This particular journey actually started with a phone call from Steve Metzler way back in 2000 asking me to serve on the board of the AIDS Service Foundation. You told me, “There really is no time for orientation. You’ll catch on quick and will like this. You can call me anytime.” And I did all of those things. But not without drive by meetings on our street about things I didn’t understand or that I was questioning. Since then, your voice on the phone and in person as I have considered other commitments and board positions has been priceless. I treasure your friendship and your wisdom.

Which leads me to the next voice. A little boy’s voice at bath time. There isn’t a partner, spouse, parent or child in this room who hasn’t lived through what I call the “Litany of Leaving”. It goes like this: “I am heading out to a meeting. I have done these things before I go, I need you to do these things while I am gone, and when I get back we can accomplish these things.” That is the Litany of Leaving.

On this particular night, my son Dakota was maybe three years old. He was splashing in the tub with my husband dutifully near him because you really don’t want the baby to drown because by three you’ve got so much invested. The dog was on the rug looking at me, the room was moist and damp and happy, and I was leaving. I stepped around the dog, and, as I touched the wet blonde head, his little voice said, “Mom? Is it AIDS again?”

Greater than the sound of the splashes and the rubber toys hitting the side of the tub was this voice that has stuck with me since. “Yes,” I said. It was “AIDS again” that was pulling me away from my family, and I told him – to the point where he probably glazed over but I felt better – that we needed to fight to end AIDS so no one suffered anymore…that what I was doing was important for all of us. I had lost him at the word “yes”, and I knew it.

In the silences and the noise, I hear all of you. All of you who taught me the way of beer busts and garage sales at Missy B’s. Standing with you in darkened theaters waiting for performances to end so that we could greet people with buckets after they had been prevailed upon to give. Standing with the same buckets on 47th and any old street asking for more money. With tiles and glaze and high school students. Through walks and runs and rides and golf games, I have heard you all, and you are with me.

And finally, I hear Mark. I will not stand here and pretend that we were close friends. We were not. But we were friends, and I miss him. We served on two boards together, and I felt I had finally joined an elite club when he let me in on his quiet, biting humor. His deep passion for this cause wore off on me, and we ended up sharing much more than either intended.

The first time he called me “Madame President”, I winced, and then I smiled. I hear his voice every time I speak those words to Missy – and, for that matter, most of the other past presidents with which I share the title.

I am deeply touched that the committee chose me only one year after Mark. Thank you. I will not let Mark’s memory fade.

I have worked with all of you in one way or another for the people in our city who struggle with the stigma and the disease. I have said it a million times – and Michael Lintecum is sick of hearing it! – we are all in this together, and none of us accomplishes great things alone.

I firmly believe that when one of us has AIDS, all of us have AIDS. I promised that little boy in the bathtub a world without AIDS in his lifetime.

Thank you for helping me keep that promise.

Sloane

p.s. Thank you to Theresa Van Ackeren for taking this photo on Monday and to Tom Styrkowicz for sharing his abilities by capturing that image in the first place…and for charity to boot!

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Posted in Family, Mental Health, Philanthropy, Volunteering | 11 Comments

You Are The Abundant Blessing

“May we all be thankful for our colorful lives and abundant blessings.”

We have spent the past year with our eyes wide open and the desire for change in our hearts. We want to change our father’s lymphoma journey. We want to look into the future and see where Sloane’s son lands for college. We want to continue to watch Casey’s daughter’s esteem bloom as she realizes what being a strong young woman is all about. We want our mother to stay blissfully cancer free.

It took Casey painting the quote above on STUFF’s front glass to realize we have everything we want and have changed what we can. Colorful lives are what we lead every day.

We are ready for a holiday season that kicks off in earnest on Friday after we take a day to rest and nourish ourselves with all of our family at one table.

You are the abundant blessing for the artists we represent and the families we support.

We are so very thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Casey & Sloane

Casey & Sloane Simmons
Sisters & Co-owners

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Posted in Cancer, Celebrations, Family, Holidays | 3 Comments

The Thick and The Thin

I have lived the last week with my eyes and my hands. My eyes and the hands of others. My hands holding the hands of others. In silence and in noise.

Yesterday I attended the funeral for a friend’s mother. I had a seat that afforded me the view of my friend’s right hand. I could see no faces, having only a limited view from several rows back. Her hand rarely left her father’s right shoulder. It gripped him to hold him up, with every muscle in her forearm defined. It caressed his back gently and then returned to its grasp. Nails polished a burnished steel, her hand told a story that left me in tears. The quiet kind that slips out while your eyes are wide open and you are unaware until you swipe them back.

Not a week before that, I was standing in the living room of a friend in the company of many. I was listening intently to the quick speeches of two other friends when I realized one of them was veering into speaking about me. I reached immediately for the arm of a dear friend to my right, and his hand found mine and never left. Having been summoned, I left him to walk into the realm of the speakers. I can still feel the comfort of his grip. The knowledge that he was there for me and would have held on through thick and thin was transforming.

I know that my friend’s dad felt that from his daughter. The thick and the thin. Through the liturgy, the Eucharist, and the final hymn.

The gentle power of the human hand has been a wonder for me to behold.

Sloane

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Posted in Death, Friends | 9 Comments

Dancing

I can’t dance. Never really been able to. Tried. Failed. Tried again.

The word, however, holds me in its grace. Dance. Begins strong and ends softly. Two days ago I used “dance” in a small speech at a charity luncheon. I used it to draw a picture of my involvement with this charity. A slow, almost cautious interchange that grew rich over time.

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Today I spoke it silently in my mind when I walked outside and our maple tree was beginning her fall. The leaves have been tipped with yellow for about a week – the cooler temperatures and rain usually bring it on – but very few had fallen. Now light brown was waltzing into the yellow ever so slightly.

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I stood there entranced, again, at the majesty of this tree in our front yard. It is over three stories tall and shades us brilliantly all spring and summer from the western sun. She is older and lovely, shapely and arching.

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I watched as the leaves truly curled their way to the limestone steps, the vine, the hosta leaves. They came down slowly in light that was just beginning to brighten.

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They danced through the air in no great rush before landing silently. I was held in their sway until I just had to go to work. I was late. I believe I would have sat there all day watching. Yearning to fall into a dance that gorgeous.

Someday. Someday I will dance.

Sloane

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Posted in Environment, Nature, Seasons | Leave a comment

Vanity

Yesterday a good man posted photos that included touching words about my sister, me and our store. The post on Facebook was in celebration of community, connection and charity. I was very proud of his words.

Sadly, I was also horrified by two of the images. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I was shocked at my big butt. That is all I could see. I wanted those photos gone.

I was blinded by my vanity. I cried. I was mean to myself. I had a vicious internal conversation with myself. I treated myself with hate and loathing.

This morning I woke and laid in bed thinking about how I ruined the kindness of that post. I alone was to blame. I looked at my lovely daughter sleeping next to me and I cried. But, this time I cried about my stupidity and vanity.

I will not ask to have those photos removed. I will never see those images the same way again.

Those images are now a reminder to not judge myself so harshly. I will breath in the kind words written about me and I will learn love myself.

Casey

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Posted in Mental Health, Motherhood, Women | 12 Comments

Quote Me

This week was a whirlwind. Casey and I kept many meetings outside the store. We volunteered, dined and visited with many people beyond the limits of our store. At each event, I found myself mesmerized by what people said when describing their work world and lives.

“penalty kick shoot out”

“swells & riptides”

“warm, white box”

“work & turn”

“own a niche”

“blow smoke up myself”

I know Casey and I speak a language unique to our industry, yet I can’t think of one phrase as I write this. When we were political consultants, everything was an acronym: RON (rest over night), PDQ (pretty damn quick), FYI (for your information). Some were even more specific to clients and jobs. Again, they escape me.

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But one quote I will never forget – spoken just between Casey and me in private until right now – and that makes me laugh all these years later is “monumental crap shit fest”.

Sometimes, you just gotta put words together until they fit perfectly to your environment, emotions and life.

You can quote me on that.

Sloane

Photo: My desk today. I surround myself with quotes and images at work. Not surprisingly, my most packed board on Pinterest is called “Saying Something”. Quote, quote and more quotes.

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Posted in Environment, Memories, Work | Leave a comment

Watery Silence

My desire for quiet is occasionally overwhelming. Our store plays lovely and fun music – which I sign and dance to! – but there are days when I sigh deeply when we turn it off. And mornings when I groan when we start it up.

This summer a friend invited me to swim at a lake. My initial delight was in spending time together. Then my mind latched onto memory of the silence that follows me into water. Both were thrilling and ultimately rewarding.

A few weeks later I was invited back, and I was so forward as to ask if we could swim in the dark, a secret pleasure I remember from my childhood spent in fresh and chlorinated water. My sisters, my parents, and my friends were muted while I explored the capacity of my lungs. The depths never scared me.

the distance

True silence was visited upon me that night. A slowly darkening night sky was mine to behold each time I smoothly crested the surface. Long, quiet minutes. An hour perhaps. The magic of friendship that night was when my friend retreated to the house and left me truly alone. I could have wept, and no one would have been the wiser.

Upon his return, we swam into the evening – two voices meeting each other in the dark. I treaded water until my legs were rubbery when I made it back to the dock.

My lungs have a diminishing volume with age, but my love of occasional and deep quiet is met in the embrace of silky, warm water.

– sloane

p.s. Original painting by Philip Robl. Titled: “The Distance”.

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Posted in Friends, Mental Health, Water | 2 Comments

It’s Our Differences

In the last year, we – the Sloane & Casey “we” – have worked on making our store physically different. New vintage display cabinets, entire re-designs of artist displays, wider aisles, cleaner lines, and wider spaces. All while constantly bringing in new and more.

 

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This has truly taken a year. We never went about it to be a shocking change for our customers. Like most things we do, it was gradual and organic in its completion. So much so that customers can’t quite put their fingers on it when they tell us “something’s different.”

 

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Casey has abilities and strengths I do not harbor when it comes to displays in our store. This is fine with me, and I hold no grudges. Truly. She can “see” a new display before she even starts it. She relies on me to help her pull the larger pieces together and to remind her what is lurking and hidden in the display room at STUFF, and then she’s off to the races.

However, she has given me the one area of the store where I am allowed to do the displays that she knows will suit my analytical, spacial driven, and nerdy mind…the card section.

I love it.

 

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Straight lines, themes, groupings. All the challenges are there for me. The fact that we order more cards than usually will fit in the area reserved for cards just makes me more determined.

 

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I seldom ask for help. (If I ever need it, goddess help me.) I am sure I impress my sister with my competence and creativity, as she impresses me with hers.

 

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We get new cards about once a week, and they are never the same design or artist. I look forward to putting the new things out. It takes me away from my other work and sets me free just a little bit from my regularly scheduled programming.

 

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She says the card area would drive her crazy if she were in charge of it. Duh. I knew that before she ever said it. It’s our differences that make us so alike.

Sloane

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Posted in Sisters, Small Business, Work | 3 Comments

A Day Dream Made of Glass

I was shelling on a beach yesterday. I kept finding bits of plastic – a lid, part of a pail, a grocery sack – and it struck me, what would happen if manufacturers woke up one day and stopped making plastic items? Just simply stopped.

I am pretty sure that the world would not come to its demise. Actually, it may even slow our demise. Although the reports I read tell a grim tale of how it is too late.

I like my food, drinks and such in glass. It seems more civilized somehow. But, I am bit old fashioned.

It was a passing day dream. I kept walking in the waves picking up gifts of nature that I collect, take home and sort into glass jars.

Shell on Beach by Casey Simmons

Casey

PS. Any item needed in the medical world made from plastic makes sense. But, prescription bottles could be glass.

PPS. I have stated very clearly that when I die my shell collection should be returned to Mother Ocean (after my daughter chooses what to keep of course).

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Posted in Beach, Collections, Environment, Found Objects, Nature, Travel, Vacation | 6 Comments