Casey's and Sloane's Blog

The “Perfect Storm” Tech Mess

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.

Tech MessToday, 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…

Sloane Has An IdeaShe 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.

Casey

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.

This is us on the way to get donuts to celebrate having survived August.

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Posted in Computers, Entrepreneurs, Home Decor, Marketing, Shopping, Sisters, Small Business, Work | Leave a comment

Driving & Not Crying

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.

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.

Sloane

three at fallingwater

On our way into Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Pennsylvania. All smiles a day before “the drop off”.

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Posted in Children, Motherhood | 12 Comments

The Itch and The Dread

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.

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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.

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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.

In general:

  • 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.

Sloane

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Posted in Children, Family, Memories, Mental Health | 12 Comments

One For Each Decade

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.

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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.

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  • 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.

 

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  • 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.

Sloane

me and my parents

My mom, me, and my dad. Of course Casey took the picture. She’s just that amazing.

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Posted in Celebrations, Family, Sisters | 8 Comments

The Second Question Asked

I have a great friend who knows more than a little bit about gardening and landscape design. Right after the first of the year, right after we had had very hot soup for lunch, I persuaded him to follow me to my house and give me advice on a very pressing issue. Well, it was pressing on me. Grand plans for the warmer parts of the year with no better time to contemplate them than the coldest and dreariest days of winter.

As we walked around my very small property, he asked many questions. Sprinkler head questions. “What grows here?” questions. “Who laid this?” questions. “When does this bloom?” questions. He wondered when we had done certain things. He never questioned our choices or our taste. When he spoke to me about my dogwood tree in the front yard, I answered, “A Mother’s Day gift from my son.” My favorite moment was when he asked about yet another winter-weary plant in one of our beds towards the back of our yard and I regaled him yet again with not only what the plant was but which grandparent had given it to me. And when. And why. I was brief, I hope.

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He gave me The Look. You know The Look. It can take many forms, yet this one was saying to me silently, “Does everything have a story?” He knew the answer and was playing dumb just so I would respond to The Look. So I played along….

I thought of this again this morning when yet another person congratulated me on the graduation of our son from high school. The conversation rolled along, and before I knew it the question was “popped” again. This is the question that seems to escape people right after they ask where he will be attending college: “Are you going to sell the house?” It has become “The Second Question”.

It has puzzled, the fact that this has been such a frequently asked question this spring. Is it because we have only one child and his absence from our home will have us putting a sign in the yard from loneliness? Is it because we live in an older, historic, and larger home and therefore must be looking for the newer and the smaller?

My friend who gave me The Look on the coldest day this past winter already knows my answer. I’m not leaving the home I brought that bouncing baby boy to from the hospital. The memories live inside the house and outside as well. With the daylilies, a gift from my mom’s mom; the dogwood tree, a gift from my son; the surprise lilies, a gift from my mom’s dad; the bridal wreath bush, a gift from my dad’s parents. The list goes on and on.

And that’s before I regale anyone with what the days were like when each planting was made. They all live with me on the coldest and the warmest days.

Vividly.

Sloane

p.s. The photo was taken this morning in my back yard. These daylilies were originally grown in the ditch near the entrance to my maternal great grandmother’s farm in Gasconade County, Missouri. They are majestic and stand almost five feet tall when they are blooming.

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Posted in Children, Environment, Family, Friends, Gardening, Gifts, Memories | 8 Comments

Hold On Tightly and Hire a Professional

“Blink of an eye.”

“They grow so fast.”

“Take lots of pictures so you never forget.”

“Hold on. It’s a great ride.”

I have heard them all. From the day my son was born until and including today, when he graduates from high school in front of very proud parents and a loving family that sings his praises higher than should be allowed.

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My advice to my sister, who has a child younger than mine, has been individual in its focus: “It all changes so fast.”

 

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Last year, a full two or three days before portraits were due at school, I leaned upon a professional to capture for me a young man who would be leaving our protective hold sooner than I cared to accept. Both photographer and subject knew what they wanted and never butted heads. They let me have opinions – one of which left my friend, the photographer, with chigger bites that lasted for days – and a set of photos that I will treasure forever.

 

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So, to my sister, I need to change my tune, or at least add to my mantra about change: ” Hold on tightly, and hire a professional.”

Sloane

 

p.s. My greatest and forever thanks to Robbie Schraeder for being a photographer that captures the essence of a person, not just their image. It is a gift that cannot be undervalued.

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Posted in Celebrations, Children, Family, Memories | 11 Comments

Nosing Around

I have never toured the White House in Washington, DC. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’ve never planned my trips to this greatest of our cities in advance enough to actually book a tour. I would love to see the public spaces of that building, but I have never had a desire to see the private spaces where our president and his family reside. I firmly believe they are private for a reason, and they don’t need the rest of us nosing around.

I live in an historic home in our center city. It is pushing 110 years old, yet it is not a masterpiece nor overly important architecturally. It is, however, a home. With people living in it. A dog. Plants. We host many events, but we seldom let guests up to the second and third floors. Many reasons: one being the rooms are not as majestic; two being that projects have been completed on the first floor for many years yet linger undone on the upper floors; and three being that these are our most private quarters. Our bedrooms and baths. Our studies, dressing rooms, and over-sized closets. Not as tidy as our lower floor, and loaded with our treasures, valuable and not.

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Two times last week we let people climb the stairs, past the magnificent crown molding and quarter-sawn oak of the first floor, to land squarely in our lives. One night it was the staff from our business that came for a meal and tour, and one night was a close friend who needed a place to change clothes before we waltzed out together for another night on the town for charity.

For the first evening, I spent multiple minutes preparing our spaces upstairs, and on the second evening I did not. I do not know why. Both were intimate and benignly invasive. You never know what others will see in the rooms you live in. More importantly, what they will read into you in what they see about you and around you. Your art. Your books. Magazines. Lotion bottles.

I know that when I looked up from my bed last night and saw this sight before me, I was reminded that evenings with my son in our home bent over a book studying while typing endlessly on a keyboard are limited. I can actually count them on my two hands.

Our personal spaces are our respites, and I will miss my son crashing about in my private and quiet spaces on the upper floors of our home.

Just as I will miss doing the same in his.

Sloane

p.s. More about my son and his impending departure for college here.

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Posted in Children, Family, Home | Leave a comment

And So We Tussle

Two nights ago, in low light and with a drink in my hand, I was asked how my dad was. A good friend was wondering about the ongoing cancer that lives in my father. This friend can handle most of what I put out, and I blinked twice before answering.

In general, those in the Simmons tribe like opposition that is clearly defined and worthy of our full battle abilities. My father lives with a very picky strain of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is a bear to treat. His goal, our goal, for the last four years has been to gain remission so he can undergo a bone marrow transplant and possibly knock this cancer down a notch or two and then put it to bed. Three completed chemotherapy protocols have not done that – but one got him damned close. “Close, but no cigar,” as a grandfather used to say.

king and vic and dad

In the next few days, my father will enter another treatment that he and his doctor already know will not bring him remission, but it is the only option available to him at this time. It’s like we are all waiting for science to catch up to his need. His need, and the needs of probably thousands of others as well.

And so we will tussle with cancer. I am viewing this as not a full-fledged fight but a skirmish. We will help, and hold, and laugh, and cry. And wait. He will be sick again from the poisons he will ingest, and we will all dream of limited reactions on his part. 

I asked my friend, with a voice that quietly betrayed my emotions: Who really wants an all-body rash?

Sloane

Photo note: This is my dad, my stepmom, and my son on the night my son was crowned Homecoming King last fall. There will be more nights just like this in all our futures. Of this I am certain.

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Posted in Cancer, Family | 14 Comments

Creative Gifts

I received this care package in the mail last week.

A gift of creativity is always appreciated.

A gift of creativity is always appreciated.

It was unexpected. It brought me joy. It reminded me why people love getting gifts of art and creativity. Even a co-owner of a store, like me, dedicated to the mission of sharing creativity with the world, needs a reminder once in a while. The happiness it is spreading is immeasurable.

I had re-posted on Facebook an article about a recent study that found that coloring is good for adults. You can read about it here at the Huffington Post. Julie Cates, an accomplished artist and friend, had responded. And, I believe, that was where the seed for this deeply appreciated gift was planted.

Since my original post I have come across another post about coloring books intended for adults. Again, it made me happy to know that coloring, this seemingly “for children only” hobby, has many benefits. You can find out about the newly published coloring book here, coloring book for adults.

So, it turns out coloring is good for people of all ages. And, I for one, will be coloring more often and well into my years. Join me.

Casey

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Posted in Art, Books, Color, Facebook, Friends, Health, Mental Health | 8 Comments

Fake It to Make It

This year the Brookside St. Patrick’s Warm-up Parade snuck up on us. And, frankly, we were not in the mood. Winter had managed to get us down. We were snapping at each other about little details daily. This is not like us. We are snappy about stuff all the time, because we read too much news and care sometimes too much about the condition of the world. But we are not often snappy at each other. This year the parade preparation had us acting like snapping turtles. (At least they are green, which is somewhat in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day.)

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So we arrived at the parade grounds with fake smiles on our faces – the ol’ “fake it to make it” trick. As the parade began, we looked at each other and silently shared, “Let’s get this done.” With each step of the parade, our real smiles grew. Every shout out helped heal our frustration. The bright and warm sunshine burned off the winter fatigue. As we pulled onto the final block, we looked at each other and smiled – giant smiles of pure joy. There was nothing fake about these smiles.

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We were bathed in our community and the power of sunshine and happy people. In one short mile, we were healed. We lingered at the end and resisted letting it come to an end.

Until next year….

Casey & Sloane

Casey & Sloane Simmons
Sisters & Co-owners

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Posted in Celebrations, Holidays | Leave a comment