Casey's and Sloane's Blog
We are indeed thankful. In so many ways, and for so many reasons. Each year, we take a moment right about now to thank our lucky stars for this amazing planet we all ride on and the lives we’ve built within that powerful grace.
- We are thankful for each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
- We are thankful for our parents’ continued gentle guidance.
- We are thankful for our childrens’ patience in our absences and silences.
- We are thankful for our employees’ diligent work.
- We are thankful for our customers’ trust in our dream business.
- We are thankful for the artists we represent and their commitment to handcraft.
And we are very thankful that you take the time to read our blogs and emails. We wish you the most delicious and peaceful Thanksgiving. Ever.
We all want to know that we are making a difference when we shop. Heck, when we do just about anything. The “why” in all our actions is important, and the effects can be long-lasting.
STUFF made a commitment many years ago to support local artists and to be active members of our vibrant community. This is true of both of us in our personal lives as well. Each year since the first one, we have renewed that commitment by setting higher goals for our support of local not-for-profit organizations.
Please join us this year on any of the 20 different nights listed below. By shopping during one of these great charity parties, that charity will receive 15% of your purchase, and all the money raised stays local.
Yummy drinks, delicious snacks, and STUFF’s signature bowl of M&Ms makes each night complete. Magic serendipitously shows herself almost every evening when connections are made between the dedicated charity partners and our customers who want to know just a bit more about possibly doing just a bit more.
Let’s keep making a difference…together.
AIDS Walk Kansas City
November 10, 2015 – 5:00 to 6:30 pm
Great Plains SPCA
November 11, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
November 12, 2015 – 5:00 to 6:30 pm
November 13, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
The HALO Foundation
November 17, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
Girl Scouts of NE Kansas & NW Missouri
November 18, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
November 19, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
November 20, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
Green Works in Kansas City
November 24, 2015 – 5:00 to 6:30 pm
November 30, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
Women’s Employment Network
December 1, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
December 2, 2015 – 5:00 to 6:30 pm
UMKC Women’s Center
December 3, 2015 – 5:00 to 6:30 pm
Jackson County CASA
December 8, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
Kansas City Actor’s Theatre
December 9, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
Kansas City CARE Clinic
December 10, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
Reach Out & Read KC
December 14, 2015 – 5:00 to 6:30 pm
Good Samaritian Project
December 15, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
The Whole Person
December 16, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
Hope Care Center
December 17, 2015 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
Every day, someone enters a treatment center for cancer. Every day, good news is handed out. Every day, bad news is received.
“Every days” have happened to the people in these pictures. Our family. Our friends. Their family and their friends. It seems never-ending.
But for two days a year we childishly imagine cancer takes a break so we can celebrate a wonderful season full of hope and renewal. Those two days are when we open our store wide to our customers and our city and put on a great party, Wings of Hope. It is a holiday open house, and it is a crowning moment in our year. We take a breath right before our season kicks it into high gear to laugh, tell stories, and shop for friends and family.
As in years past, we are donating 20% of every purchase this Saturday and Sunday to a cancer research fund named for our friend Susan Henke Miller. She will be with us again this year – so many years after we thought we would lose her to her cancer.
Join us for an “every day” this weekend. Help us raise money. Help us consume great drinks, delicious snacks, and STUFF’s signature party food: peanut M&Ms.
Help us make this season bright.
We thank you for your business.
p.s. These pictures from previous Wings of Hope parties remind us of our fantastic past. What wonderful days they all were.
Today I missed him for the first time. As in: My heart silently whispered to me, “I miss him.”
And it is all because of six slices of bacon. The fleeting pain I felt and the blink of quick tears were caused from the extra slices of salt-cured meat my husband bought for a recipe earlier this week that called for two. I might have know then, when I inquired about the thick chunk of meat in butcher’s paper, that by the end of the week I would be struck with heartache when I opened the refrigerator to reach for the Greek yogurt.
My son eats breakfast. When he was a baby, his happiness in the high chair with the sun coming in the kitchen windows was glorious to behold. He would make yummy sounds at just about anything I put on the plate, which within minutes was moved to the tray, where he enjoyed his food the most. Bananas chunk were fine, mandarin orange slices even better. This would keep him entertained while I put eggs in the pan. Cheese was always a small part of the mix, and, as he grew I slipped in vegetables – spinach (a favorite), tomatoes (not), roasted sweet potato leftovers (loved when available).
The baby grew, the highchair moved on to others’ homes. A plate at the worn pine table was now full-time home to “special breakfasts”. Those were his words for breakfasts where I had time, usually on the weekends, to make bacon. Bacon takes time, and, if I try to rush it at all, I burn it. Bad. Like smoke fills the house. He likes his bacon very crispy, but not black, so I have been handed a lifetime challenge.
His hands-down favorite meal that I make on slow mornings – and with a teenager, that could be early afternoon – is crisp bacon, very cheesy scrambled eggs, cranberry juice, and thin pancakes my grandmother taught me to make.
And the best part of this meal is that I always eat it with him. The sun shines in the windows, but I make the yummy noises.
And he smiles every time.
p.s.These photos were taken in September when we visited him for Parent’s Weekend. I look forward to his return for Thanksgiving. I need to let my employer know I might be late one morning of our busiest weekend of the year because I will be burning bacon from lack of practice.
Long before I started my career selling art, I got hooked on needlepointing. My mother had done a great pillow I remember so well from my childhood, but that languished for years needing to be finished. I was in awe when I watched her work on it as a child. It now resides in my guest bedroom with a like-designed pillow my sister Casey needlepointed for me as a gift.
I have completed six pillows, one belt, and one holiday stocking for my husband, and I have been part of the pair of parents that attempted and finished a gorgeous stocking for our son. All this in my short life of fifty years.
I say short because needlepoint takes time. Maybe I take a little too long to complete projects, but hey, I’m occasionally drawn to other tasks. Like growing a business. And child rearing. And going to parties.
To this day, there is no machine on the planet that can needlepoint for you. It must be done by the human hand. Needle up through the canvas and needle back down, all while pulling wool or cotton or silk behind.
So, on Wednesday, I stood in awe at all that my friend Patricia had accomplished. I was transfixed by the artistry of her paintings on canvas and the forms themselves. The birds, butterflies, divers, and fruit held me in place. She had painted many of these canvases herself and had painted an original work to make all others from in the future. To scale and to size.
I felt like I was cheating my work as I stood midday during the work week at what was feeling more and more like an art show. It seemed like my sister and I should leave the small needlepoint store and take a leisurely lunch somewhere. A walk and possibly a nap. Art was all around me, and my friend had made it all. My envy of her talent has no end.
When we entered the store, she was stitching a piece of her own in the quiet. A diver entering a pool was swaddled in her hands. I believe she was working on one of the blue tones, of which there are many. She jumped up to welcome us, but I might have been a tad rude because I wanted to brush by her to see all the canvases tacked to the wall. Of course I hugged her, but it might have been too short, as I was impatient.
For me, needlepointing is quiet handwork. Some can stitch while watching TV. I can not. Some can listen to music. I can not. Some can stitch and talk on the phone. Not me. I do, however, enjoy stitching with others, but my last several projects have been worked on in solitary silence,
My greatest memory of stitching is when my sister and my husband and my mother were all stitching projects during one year. This was over twenty years ago. I had begged my mother to finally finish the pillow she had started in the 1970s, and she capitulated. All four of us would meet at my mother’s loft and stitch in silence, breaking the silence only to talk for a bit about current events or to gossip shamelessly. Then, we would drop back off into the quiet. I am always lulled by the scratch of the wool against the canvas webbing. It is soothing and rhythmic. I remember occasionally we would ask each other for help on the serious things: when to stop with one color and begin another or how to tie off a dwindling strand in a tidy fashion.
I stood in the quiet store and was so proud of my friend, She is a true artist in that she sees a future for herself in handcraft and all that that holds. She understands paint, and thread, and patience. She is excited to figure out the business of art, and it shows in her eyes and her smile.
Needlepointing is not knitting. it is not sewing. it is not cross-stitch. It is not crochet. It is not embroidery. It is needlepoint, and it holds me in its sway.
p.s. All artwork seen here is the work of Patricia O’Dell, who is building her needlepointing business under the name Mrs. Blandings. You can find out more here. I am partial to the particular blues she used in the wings on the peacock. Check out the close up below.
p.p.s. You can see her work at KC Needlepoint on Gregory in Kansas City, Missouri.
I said something a couple days ago and it has been bumping around in my head since. I think I should share it.
“We only have one store. One brick-and-mortar store. One actual, real-life, real-time store. You can touch the stuff, we can see you and feel you. We can share a smile and a conversation face-to-face with you. Just this one little store.”
Sloane and I were speaking to illustration students at the Kansas City Art Institute about choices.
One authentic store. That is what we wanted. That is what we built. That is why we continue to work so hard. It is tangible. It shares the joy of art and creativity with so many. It is never easy.
But, most things worth having in life aren’t easy. We were raised to know that and that is why you will find us, The STUFF Sisters, at our store, again today.
We hope you will come visit soon. We believe it is worth the journey.
I sat on a plane several nights ago in a seat I never seek out. The window seat. Planes have become increasingly painful for everyone, and more so if you have height on your frame. I regularly choose the aisle.
As we flew east and the day turned from pink to brown to night, I would occasionally turn from my magazine and look out. Daytime was leaving me, and my interest in farm, field, ponds, and highways was diminishing. As I continued to read in the dark, not a full paragraph passed before a flicker from outside caught my eye. It then held me for the next hour and a half. I was transfixed and slowly let the magazine fold.
The waxing moon, which was above and beyond my limited view on this clear night, was catching the surface of every body of water we passed. It was one of the most beautiful displays of light I have ever witnessed.
As we passed over ponds, rivers, and lakes, they would shine a silvery grey as we approached, then a shock of the moon would glimmer for only a moment the brightest white. The white you see when you first light a handheld sparkler with a match on the 4th of July. The very hottest center of all that magic in the pitch dark. Then, the body of water would recede into grey. Then black.
Rivers were split second ribbons of mercury. Lakes had sinuous edges. Ponds were usually still enough to catch and hold briefly a snapshot of the moon’s surface.
But the swampy parts – the marshes and wetlands – were the most fascinating. The silver of the moon would pop up between darkened trees and old growth. Big swaths of small silver shimmers with no discerning shape from 39,000 feet.
Quick. Sleek. Gone.
p.s. I lifted this image from Google Images. What I marveled at looked nothing like this. My night was darker, and the moon was not full. I will never be skilled enough as a photographer to capture with the camera on my phone the magic I witnessed through an airplane window. Mostly, I just want the memories to live in my mind forever.
I get teased a lot for my passion, my enthusiasm, and my boundless energy. I get it. I am a force. I recognize that about myself. Many years ago I stopped trying to quiet my personality or to dampen my outgoing nature. It wasn’t easy. I had been shamed by many. I was told I needed to change.
I don’t know if, when I was little, people were trying to change me because I was a girl, but I remember thinking why don’t they ever tell the boys to be quiet?
As an adult woman, I still feel that it is expected, at times, for me to “wait my turn”, to sit still and be quiet, or to be demure.
When I first started therapy 11 years ago, I was in crisis. I was facing seemingly insurmountable challenges. Turns out I was going to be just fine.
I stayed in therapy, and I still value it to this day. I have spent many sessions on self acceptance. Countless journal entries, talks, and reading and writing exercises learning about myself. It is hard when you have been teased and criticized about your core nature and personality.
I know we all do it to each other more often than we realize. I hope I seldom unwittingly hurt someone because of my jokes. I know I have in the past, and for those times I am deeply sorry. And, when I make the mistake in the future, I will apologize and ask for forgiveness.
At 47 years old, I am ready to stop apologizing and to start celebrating. My enthusiasm comes from a deep passion for love, acceptance, creativity and justice. It was how I was built. I am a force. I am proud. I am Casey.
Last night I couldn’t sleep. My mind wandered for quite some time. There was no focus or theme. It was completely random. I don’t remember most of it, but I do remember the image that finally lead me into sleep. The image of a pool at night. The blurred bodies and the haze of light. It brought me peace and I fell asleep.
I grew up with a pool outside my bedroom window. It didn’t have underwater pool lights because it was built before that was the trend. I always wanted it to have underwater pool lights. I admired hotel and motel pools because of the underwater lights.
As a teenager my friends and I would pool-hop. Breaking into pools late at night for an illegal dip. I am sure my parents thought we were crazy since we had a perfectly wonderful pool in our courtyard. I am sure it was the allure of the forbidden. And, for me, it was the chance to feel enchanted by those underwater lights.
I often daydream about a pool in my own yard one day. It will have underwater lights.
The photo was taken at the pool of a boutique hotel in Dallas a few years ago. My daughter and my nephew enjoyed a late night swim after a long day of sightseeing.
On one of my recent days away from the store, I stayed home and dealt with a few yard-related chores. It was the day after a tremendous storm, and our three big trees took the chance to shed a few pounds of excess…branches that had been hanging around and needed to move on.
There was also a small bed I had been meaning to edge with limestone. These specific rocks had been waiting for me to deal with them all summer and had been placed at the back of our property. The bed was at the front of our yard. So I moved them.
One of four.
I decided on my two treks up the driveway to lift two pieces at a time – one in each hand – and do reps with them by lifting them backwards, in an up and down motion, to work a group of muscles that just might need a little extra. These rocks weighed about 20 pounds each, and I combined this stroke-of-genius routine with a slower pace to increase the reps. I took my time with the hundred feet I needed to cover.
A few hours later, I was remembering the last time I took personal training upon myself in a semi-serious manner. It was within the year of my son’s birth, and our walks together with the stroller and the hikes with the kiddie backpack still left me feeling cooped up. I had lived in fear during my pregnancy of losing my core strength and was trying to gain it back, and it just seemed like walking wasn’t the trick. I like to “do” for myself. I do not like to wait – for myself to regain or for others to help. I find the challenge of solo-moving the piano/appliance/sofa just that.
So, I had taken it upon myself during the golden child’s nap time to work stair climbing into my routine. Why use a Stairmaster at a gym you really can’t afford when your mortgage provides you with three flights of stairs in a four-story house?
I would start by strapping the baby monitor to my waist, so as not to miss the sweet darling’s squeaks and cries. This was done with a bungee cord of sorts, as the monitor was not designed for this exact purpose. Why did I not just hold it? Well, that’s because I would carry large cans of tomatoes in each hand and work lifting them into my “stair routine”. If the tomatoes had been consumed before the next session, it was two other matching somethings from the pantry with strict specifics on weight. It MUST be 20oz or more, or why waste my time?
The base of my climb was our driveway. Up the flight of stairs to the first floor deck, up the back flight of stairs to the second floor landing, and up the final set of stairs to the third floor. Then I would retrace my steps to the driveway and start again. This was all done at the back of the house, because the baby’s room was in the front of the house. Always thinking, that’s me.
My initial goal was twenty-five climbs up – with arm movements to match the width of the staircases – and twenty-five climbs down. I eased it up to thirty over time and maxed out at fifty. That’s when I was finally and totally bored with this concept. It was still blended with the walks and hikes, but interior staircases hold little allure. Even the dog, who I had to dance around initially as he did every step with me, got bored and started to just lie on the deck positioned perfectly where he could see me climb the first two flights. His eyes were always on me.
Somewhere during my reps with the tomatoes during the days of the thirty climbs, I changed my lifting and lifted the cans behind me. Angled to go backwards and work the back of my arms a wee bit. I can be zealous in my private moments, and I finished every step and lift. That day I felt good when it was over.
At the end of most of my days with a new baby and new business, I went to bed tired. That night I felt great when I went to sleep.
The next day, I went to lift the baby out of his crib and I found that one arm just wouldn’t make the move to lift. It ached a bit as I massaged it before reaching back in for my sweet bundle. Again, no go with the left arm. I didn’t actually hurt, and there was no distinct pain – it just was telling me no.
So I lifted the baby with my right arm and carried him down the stairs in both arms. By the end of the day, the left arm was fine again. Crisis averted but never told to my husband.
But I will never forget looking over at the dog, who was with me at the crib always. As I massaged my arm, he gave me a look that told me he knew everything and had seen this coming. We spent a lot of time together, he and me and the new human. He turned his head and walked ahead of me down the stairs.
I swear he was tsking and smiling his dog smile where I couldn’t see.
Here is my husband mimicking my unique brand of crazy all these years later. He’s is choosing the easy way to carry rocks. I, however, choose the one that suits me.