Casey's and Sloane's Blog
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.
My daughter made this tile for me. It is a lyric from a short little song my Grandmother sang to me and I now sing to my daughter. Art makes me happy because when a person chooses to hand make something to share with a specific person or with the world, the love, passion and good intent stays with that piece forever.
The energy in each piece of art I have in my home feeds my soul. Today I will – once again – be surrounded by this magic because I live with art.
Pursue good art. Pursue good stuff…
For many years we – The STUFF Sisters – have dedicated August to a month long Rug Sale. It is our way to treat our loyal customers to a great deal on the rugs we proudly sell at our store. But, this year it seems the “Tech Gods” were conspiring against us.
A couple weeks ago we discovered that our email host wasn’t working and our customer emails had not been going out, so our customers missed our colorful emails about our fantastic sale. Then last week our server went down, making it impossible for us function online. Then today, our phone lines went down. And, AT&T still hasn’t repaired them. Sloane was on hold for over 45 minutes (using her cell phone of course) begging for them to come quickly. She only rolled her eyes and laid her head on the desk a couple of times.
Today, of all days, the last day of our BIG FANTASTIC RUG SALE.
We have such kind and reasonable customers. One even tracked us down of Facebook to tell us the lines were down. Sloane was able to get his order over her cell phone. And, two more customers were kind enough to let us try and call them after hours to try and help them get their orders in before the deadline. But, what about everyone else? We started to worry.
Then Sloane had an idea…
She turned to me and said, “Let’s just extend the sale.” I immediately went to work getting the extension approved. And, since the whole month of August was a such a tech mess, we decided to just “go big”. We worked to extend the sale for another full month. It was time for an official “do over”.
Starting tomorrow – the 1st of September – we are going to try this again. You will be offered the same 20% off and free shipping deal on all our rugs until September 30, 2015. Wish us luck. Keep your fingers crossed the the “Tech Gods” will protect us this time.
We don’t often talk in our blog about sales and deals. Because we think it is more fun to talk about life, art, family and share personal stories. But, this is turned into a story about small business and what happens when a family owned business faces challenges that are frustrating and can cause our customers to be frustrated too.
Please know we work hard to avoid these situations. But, when life gives you lemons…you have to find a way to make lemonade. We hope you will take full advantage of the extension of this fantastic opportunity to purchase our gorgeous rugs at a discount. If you missed the August sale, you have a second change. If you purchased rugs in August, you have a second chance to buy more at the discount. And, if you didn’t know about the August sale, you now have the chance to go wild buying rugs.
Meanwhile, we will be dropping pennies in every wishing well in town until our luck improves.
Thank you for supporting our small businesses. It matters and we are deeply appreciative.
PS. AT&T says they are coming tomorrow morning to fix the phones. We could use a few “good luck” wishes about now.
This is us on the way to get donuts to celebrate having survived August.
On Sunday, I posted the following to Facebook:
“It’s official. Just one hour ago I was laid off from the best day-in-day-out job I ever had – full time mothering. After almost 19 years of dedicated employment, I have entered into a long-term consulting position that comes with the fantastic title ‘Parent’.”
All true. We had just dropped our son off for his freshman year of college in eastern New Jersey with a killer view of Manhattan from his dorm. I was between crying jags after an orientation I can barely remember. No disrespect to the presenters, but the sound in my head while listening to them was like the adults in a Peanuts animated short film.
I was able to focus for a few minutes on the tiny screen and the minutia of the app. I knew I would not be photo-worthy that morning, so I had saved a photo from the day before when we were on the road. I hit “post” and started driving west.
It was time to go home.
In Hershey, PA. The day before, when all smart mothers take photos with their children.
I like to drive. I am at the most peace behind the wheel versus any other seat in the car. My husband calls me a control freak. Whatever. He hates to drive, so I see this as the perfect balance in a long marriage.
The seven-hour drive on Sunday was lovely. Western New Jersey and Pennsylvania are beautiful, and I didn’t miss much of the peaceful afternoon and evening. They soothed me deeply. We chose the turnpike for speed, because I knew a full-fledged emotional “come-apart” was being held in check by the lines painted on the Interstate. As I walked across the parking lot to the hotel in eastern Ohio we had chosen weeks before, my breathing changed and I felt a gasp coming from deep in my chest. In the dark, and within the encompassing sounds of the highway, my husband gently said, “You’re almost there.”
I don’t remember the process of checking in or being deeply thanked for my membership in the chain. Credit cards and politeness were presented and soon forgotten. It was time for privacy within my rich, full life.
Our son is thrilled with his choice. I am delighted for him. He saw no tears from me on Sunday, and I only remember his smiles and his command of his belongings in their new home. He, not we, set up his dorm. Upon arriving home, we found a card left by a friend, and he had written what I already knew to be true – our son is where he wants to be and is truly prepared by all that we have taught and shown him.
Eleven hours of driving on Monday was not the initial plan. We were going to take our time getting home, but the pull on my mind and body was too great, and I steered the car along I-70 until our exit on the Jackson Curve. 700+ miles virtually tear-free. My mind did wander, but, by keeping myself in the driver’s seat, I was accomplishing self-preservation by not wallowing in tears that would have come on the passenger side. That side of the car would have been a salt-water swimming pool had I perched there.
Years ago, I had three bracelets made in brass by a local artist. My son was very young when they were hand-pounded with quotes that I chose and hold quite dear. I wear them as a set throughout the year, but not every day. I did not have them on the trip. However, during my two days of driving home, I kept repeating one in my head – a mantra if you will:
“A long ride back, with stops along the way. To sort things out. Then forgive them. Then forget them. Then it’s time to move on.” – Patricia Raybon
Home is a different place. The dog is seriously puzzled. There are two rooms I did not enter the first day. The quiet is fantastic and scary.
But the freedom is something I am easily coming to terms with. As I dance through learning the limits of that freedom, I am letting the tears flow when they need to.
On our way into Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Pennsylvania. All smiles a day before “the drop off”.
Yesterday I sat for a little under an hour at my dining room table and watched my son and my niece work a huge LEGO project. A Parisian cafe with thousands of pieces that will fit into a city scene my son has been building for years. I watched them sort pieces by kind and by size, and I watched him teach her about “the books” – those multi-pages items that tell you how to put the pieces together so that you actually end up with a Parisian cafe. It is architecture and engineering with bound edges and slick paper.
This photo hangs above my sister’s desk. It is almost 10 years old. My niece is on the left, my son on the right.
I sat there soaking up every little piece of their back-and-forth. Her questions and his gentle answers. His watching her get excited and her looking quickly to him with a smile in her eyes as she completed a big area.
On the final leg of the flights home from Paris a few weeks ago.
And I sat there thinking about what I was going to do to the dining room after Dakota leaves for school in two weeks. What would be leaving us (the piano) and what I would miss (his impromptu playing). (He isn’t taking the upright piano. I’m just getting rid of it.)
I have labeled this mental activity “The Itch and The Dread,” and I have been building comparisons in my mind for more than a few days. I am itching to make changes to my life and surroundings, and I am dreading his departure from our home.
- I am itching to clean his room with him next week, and I am dreading entering it without him while he is in New Jersey.
- I am itching to move the kitchen table out, and I am dreading our first meal at the new table without him.
- I am itching for the freedom that comes with no school schedule, and I am dreading how I will feel without limitations set by a young person.
- I am itching for the silences I crave at my writing desk at home, and I am dreading the quiet he will leave in every room.
The Itch and The Dread. It continues.
I am virtually impossible to surprise. I am the first born of three girls. I am highly regimented in my scheduling, and I will cop to being highly organized in most facets of my life – personal and professional.
And still, my sister – along with a bounty of other sneaks and fibbers – surprised me five times on Monday, the day of my 50th birthday.
4th grade on the left and 7th grade in the middle.
- A breakfast with my family and two friends that have stood beside me and with me since 4th and 7th grade. Strong, good women who know secrets and keep straight faces.
- A group of flowers, arranged the way I adore them, delivered to my desk.
- A schedule cleared and staff hired to cover my immediately-demanded absence from work upon my arrival.
- A lunch planned and executed with more family and more friends – one of whom already had plans with me on my birthday and just kept running with the lies and deceptions as plans changed – at a favorite place with favorite cake.
- A home dancing with 50 blue balloons delivered and placed around my home by two children I love to my very core.
“One for every decade,” she said, while I thanked her at my door as she left my home on the first day of my new decade.
My mom, me, and my dad. Of course Casey took the picture. She’s just that amazing.