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Monday, December 12, 2011

Finally finished all of my custom orders for Christmas!

I love making presents for people. Since starting my company in 2008, I estimate that I have made about 250 custom gifts for others to give either for the holidays or some other gift giving time. That does not count the items that I have created as gifts or that I have made and sold in my shop.

The other day we were putting out the Christmas decorations and my husband ran across pillows that I had made my great Aunt Dell when I was 11 years old. They were in the trunk that I received when she passed away. I remember making them, and giving them to her. I was touched that she kept them in "a special place" all this time. They look pretty good considering that I stitched them entirely by hand! The pillows are on a chair in our new living room to remind me of my past and how far I have come : )

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When a door closes, another, better door, often opens up.

If you would have told me 5 or 6 years ago that I would own a company that is taking its products to the GBK Oscar Gift Lounge, I honestly would have probably looked at you like you were nuts. Where I am now and where I was then, are almost on two entirely different planes.

I remember distinctly sitting on the kitchen floor, with a baby (my now 5 year old boy) sitting in his swing screaming, while I sat and cried. Not just from the usual hormones and total lack of sleep, but from grief, and fear.

The grief was due to the loss of my Dad the year before. I had just finished closing out his estate. With nothing else to do for him, it finally hit me that after being with him for nearly five years fighting colon cancer that it was truly over, he was gone. My constant coach, the person that had believed in me my whole life, was never going to be there for me again. The pain that was in my heart was almost unbearable.

The fear was the pain in my hands. I had been diagnosed with fibrositis (now called fibromyalgia) at the age of 19. Aside from headaches and some neck pain, I had been able to deal with it. Since having Sam, my youngest, I noticed that I could not sit too long in one position without my knees freezing up and that my whole body hurt, really hurt. I ignored the pain until that day in the kitchen, when I could not grasp the baby bottle to get the cap off. I had no idea what was going on, but decided bite the bullet and called my doctor.

Three days later, I sat in his office telling him what was wrong. He knew about my Dad. That I had been his primary care giver for those five years. That I had just closed out his estate. I explained the pain to him and insisted that it was more than being a new mom and grief, that something was wrong. He agreed and sent me to a rheumatologist.

Two weeks later, I was given a complete workup including x-rays of my hands and feet to see if I was developing RA. RA was scary enough, but then the doctor suggested that there was a strong possibility that I had lupus. The nurses took was seemed to be a gallon of blood and it was sent away for a 5 week test to determine if I did in fact have the disease. Five weeks to wait, look up every morsel of information about lupus on the internet to freak myself out, five weeks to pretend some more to my family that I was OK.

Somewhere in those five weeks I made a decision. If I did have lupus, I would fight with every ounce of my being, just like my dad fought the cancer. If I didn't have lupus and it was fibromyalgia rearing its ugly head, I would be grateful. I would start being grateful for the time I had been given and do everything possible to make the most of my life.

Thankfully, the lupus test was negative. But, the doctor stated that she thought the fibromyalgia was worse because of the pregnancy and that there was a good chance that the pain I was experiencing was my new "norm". We talked a long time trying to figure out the best way to help me deal with the pain. Part of the treatment is, of course, medication. The other part was more about how I deal with stress. The doctor suggested that I try to do something that helped me to relax, something that brought me peace. She asked if I had anything like that in my life.

I remembered sewing as a kid on my grandmother's old Singer. How, somehow, the rhythm of the machine and the ability to create something gave me not only a sense of accomplishment, but soothed my creative soul. I had stopped sewing when my Dad got sick because I didn't have the time. I told her that I would try it to see if it helped. I started sewing again after a 5 year break and haven't stopped.

I still have fibromyalgia, will have it all my life unless they find a cure. I am still in pain every day, have a hard time standing up after a movie because my knees freeze up. Walking up stairs is a challenge some days. And, yes, even as I type this blog, my hands hurt. But, I am okay. I am not the type of Mom who can run around with her kids and play ball, or go skiing in our new home state of Colorado. But I am here. Not only am I present each and every day for my family, I have built a successful business that might not have been if I hadn't been looking for a way to deal with my condition.

I thought long and hard about sharing this information in a public forum. Only my closest friends and family know about the fibro and I was afraid that people, potential customers, would think I was weak, that I could not successfully run a business with fibromyalgia. My daughter changed my mind. She said that I am strong and that I should tell my story to others so that they can see what you can do with fibromyalgia. Maybe if someone with fibro sees my story, I can give them hope. She is one smart kid, my daughter.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mom on Strike

It has been coming for awhile now. Moms, you know what I mean. You do the work behind the scenes. Picking up after the family so that you don't drown in stuff. Grocery shopping so everyone has their favorites at hand. Making dinner every night (and hearing "again? groan" or "I don't like that") Laundry, UGH, all the laundry, so that your kids and hubby look (and smell) nice on the way out the door. Put the holidays on top of all of that (the baking, the shopping, the wrapping, sending out holiday cards, you get the drift) and it is exhausting. I have been doing all of this pretty much on my own for the last 17 years. Which was OK. I wish I had some help, but what else did I have to do?

Enter Mom deciding to start her own company. Mom trying to make said company a success *while* doing all of the above. No one like change, especially kids and husbands who have had just about everything done for them for as long as they can remember. Now, I am willing to take some of the blame here. I should have required more help early on, but who knew that Mama was actually going to be successful? Not me, not to this extent, I can tell you. But now that it is and I hope continues on the upward trajectory that it seems to be on, the status quo *has* to change.

I am not asking for much. Appreciation for what I do is the main thing (what they see and what they don't see), a little "Thanks, Mom" "Thanks, Honey" goes a long way. A little help during my busiest time of the year (picking up after themselves, run the broom through every once in awhile, and at least offering to help out before they sit down in front of the TV) is all I ask.

My vision going forward is more of a team effort than a one man job. My kids are 13, 12 and 5, perfectly able to pitch in. Hubby works hard all day, this I know and appreciate. But, so do I. Shouldn't I be allowed "down time" too? Am I worth any less?

Starting this company was my decision, I realize. But, I did it for a couple of reasons. One, so that hopefully, I can contribute to the family coffers (with 2 kids coming up on High School, I know that the financial burden should not be on my Hubby alone). Two, so that I have an identity other than Mom (because, let's face it, teenagers act like they are from a pod most of the time) and I need to feel like I have a bigger accomplishment than saying that the laundry is done. I want, no need, to leave my mark too. I should be allowed to do that, not only allowed, but encouraged, not resented.

I love my kids and my husband to the ends of the earth and would do anything for them. Anything, but give up my identity as a person. I have encouraged all of their hopes and dreams for the last 17 years and will continue to do so. Don't I deserve to have my hopes and dreams encouraged too? I think I am worth that.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

With a little help from my friends at The Artisan Group

Website is ready!

Ashley from Fancy Designs reworked a new logo for Mama and I must say she did a great job. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but she was very patient and gave me lots of help. I am a "more is better" kind of girl and Ashley reigned me in and explained that less is better :) What we decided on is a way more sophisticated look for my company that rocks!

Once Ashley was done with my logo, it was onto Stephanie Williams of Bleue Moon Web Design to do the new website. I knew I wanted a site that was geared to the custom order side of the business, but had zero idea how to accomplish that. Stephanie came up with a great base and lead me through step by step to pull what I wanted out of my head onto the screen. I could not be more thrilled! There are pictures of my work at the beginning and also a Gallery of some of my most recent orders that I can add to as time goes on (how cool is that?) There is also a Requests section that will get the custom order process rolling right away. The questions that are on the page help me identify the type of fabric that the customer may like. Prices are displayed on the Request page too so that the customer knows what to expect.

All in all, I could not be happier! One step closer to getting ready for the GBK Oscar Gift Lounge!

Monday, September 12, 2011

On the Road to the Oscars

Hard to believe that my life has changed so much in two years.

A year ago, we moved from Pittsburgh PA to Denver CO. After a year of searching and renovating, we moved into our new house. Getting the family settled was my main priority, but I was still creating bags and filling orders.

One night when my husband was travelling, I was on the internet messing around on my Face Book Page and an add came up for The Artisan Group. They are a group of juried artisans that ban together to gift their handmade products to celebrities in gift lounges for the major award shows like the Emmys, Golden Globes and the Oscars to name a few. I took a chance and applied. Much to my astonishment, I was accepted in two days! Valerie, the founder of the group stated that the quality of my work was excellent. Now, it is one thing to have family and friends tell you that you are good at something and totally a different thing to have someone outside your comfort zone tell you that you are good.

I started researching the group more and found that they are a wonderful collection of artisans that are uber-successful, kind and willing to help at a moments notice with ideas or encouragement. They have inspired me to take my own leap and I am now getting ready to send my wristlet design to the Oscar GBK Gift Lounge in February.

In the coming weeks and months I want to document my journey, not only for me, but for my kids as well. I am always telling my children that they can be anything that they set their minds to. Time for me to set the example. I am actually doing something that I have only dreamed of since I was a kid. I am happy, excited and slightly terrified all at the same time, but I am actually doing it!!

Next post, I will let you know how I decided upon the fabric that will be representing my company. (Maybe show you a picture too)