Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Raw Materials



Do you ever wonder why God decided on clay as the raw material for forming humans? Perhaps it was because clay is easily molded. It's basic structure and pliability makes it endlessly variable.

In one way, God and I think alike. I like raw materials and experience a deep satisfying pleasure of making something from scratch. Although it takes time, growing flowers and vegetables from seeds I've planted or a baking the perfect loaf of homemade bread send happiness bubbles through my veins. I love how formless "stuff" can be turned into beautiful, delicious or sustaining things.
Recently I discovered an old yellow laundry basket full of wood blocks at a flea market. They were just like the ones I had as a child. Although I'm teaching myself how to save and have money, they were completely worth the five dollars I spent. Taking them home and spreading them out on a rainy afternoon with my son was the most fun I've had in a while.

We pretended all sorts of things. We built houses and barns and roads. He was delighted that I spent the whole day playing and creating from our imaginations. I discovered that we both share a love of building and creating together.
So if there is a new personal metaphor for my life right now, I think it might be "raw materials".
It fits with the process of building a new business and a career for myself from scratch.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Discovering Your Personal Metaphors

I needed a day off from "work". So instead of devoting the precious early morning hours to visiting blogs, fb, Etsy, email, or the stack of plush waiting to be transformed, I went for a run.
When I came home, I decided to tend the neglected flower beds. I imagined taking a long bike ride in the afternoon and then taking my son to a local football game.

I'm still going to take that bike ride but before I do I had to write something that may only be important to me. Today I discovered a personal metaphor. I never would have discovered it if I had not been blogging this week.

Blogging helps me see things about myself and my life that a mirror or a camera cannot.
For example, while thinking of the previous post "the blue trailer", and receiving Angie's comment about isolation and a time of growth, I realized in a flash that the blue trailer of my past is a symbol...

or a metaphor.

The blue trailer is a memory rich in detail that I can make use of as a literary device in the narrative of my life. Writing from that source will help me to heal that old hurt and free myself from the power of the painful and pathetic emotions locked in that image.

The blue trailer is a metaphor for all the things I try to hide.

It's nicer to have coffee at my friend's house because then I'll never be embarrassed by my empty flower pots.




The blue trailer is the stack of dirty dishes in my sink. The smelly trash can. My weight gain.
The blue trailer had holes, and mice. Everything inside was worn. The window frames let the cold seep in. It had a terrible rust-colored couch. I had to clean out hundreds of mothballs before moving in. I think the mothballs, even after being removed, permeated everything.
The poplar trees around it blocked out the sky. The sand road imprisoned us in winter and kept people out.
The blue trailer is isolation.
Disappointment.
Loneliness.
Despair.
It is full of anxiety about having enough money and food and gas and books to read.
It is all the things I am embarrassed to talk about.

I am so thankful not to be living in the blue trailer. I just need to search for the happy image that will become the metaphor for the life I have right now.

Do you have a personal metaphor?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Blue Trailer

There was a time when I lived in a narrow trailer in the north woods of Michigan, far removed from convenient shopping, from cultural events, from higher education, from society. One could not see a single sign of human life from my front porch. The light blue trailer, with its dangerous electrical wiring, occasional mice (thankfully gone after adopting a cat), and solitude, stands out as a sad chapter of my life. It should have been a really happy time, especially given my love for natural surroundings. I should have been happy, given that I was incredibly blessed to have a sweet tempered, beautiful curly haired daughter. But I was severely unsatisfied with nearly every other aspect of my existence. Although I was a diligent housekeeper and kept everything clean, the ugly sight of our poverty showed in every room.

In the winter and spring, our road was impassable. I used to walk a mile in knee deep snow, sliding my groceries home in a plastic sled while coaxing my daughter to follow. In spring, the mud was so thick that attending preschool was an event. We walked together, hand in hand, sliding and falling until reaching the drier road where our car was parked. When we finally arrived at her preschool, the mud stains on her purple snow pants reached above her knees. Her teacher's mouth dropped at the sight of us.
I didn't own a computer and could not afford many long distance calls to my mom. Sometimes I went to church but felt alone among the crowd.

Then I joined a Mops group and met a truly beautiful friend. I spent hours sharing coffee at her house, too embarrassed to invite her to mine.
I will always remember the loving reassurance and hope that Wendy generously gave me. Although we have drifted apart, the memory of her sweetness stands out against the gray days of my silent misery.
Although that time is long past, the experience of it continues to influence me. I want to be that kind of friend that Wendy was to me. This year I've been so blessed to meet a lot of truly amazing women...many of you who are reading this now!
Thank you for your kind comments and encouragement. Thanks for offering bits of your lives for me to read. Your stories keep me connected and full of appreciation for the struggle and the bliss of life.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why I love Custom Orders

I love custom orders because it is supremely satisfying to create something imagined in the mind of a child. On my own, I shop for colors and patterns that evoke my personal memories, such as the honey brown plush that reminds me of the Cocker Spaniel that shared our home while I was growing up in Michigan. Her name was Midget and she loved to hunt toads and bark at visitors. In the Knees and Paws Etsy shop, you will see a Chocolate Lab set that is inspired by my mom's dog, Bear. Bear is one of the star actors in our first made for television and youtube commercial. Somewhere behind the products in my shop, there might be a memory of the animals in my past. I also work with regularly occurring colors in nature that are common to all of us. Fusi and Jensen, inventors of the Tiny Tears (TM) doll say that "the most effective toys are those that simulate reality". Knees and Paws are specifically designed to simulate the reality of having fur while pretending to be an animal without overheating the body.

But my customers have wisely stated that going a little beyond reality turns ordinary into extraordinary. It is their imaginations that make outstanding contributions. While my memory provides a starting point, their minds make my work so much better.


Monday, September 20, 2010

On Peace

You know it when you have it and suffer when it's lost. I lost my peace on Sunday and am slowly coming back to it. Quakers like to say that there is no "way to peace" that "peace is the way". I've been intentionally practicing the way of peace for two years, but sometimes the "dark side" (as in Star Wars) takes over.

And here it is, Monday morning. The house is peaceful. Elliot went back to school after being out sick last week. My husband is at work. There's a candle burning in my office and the house is clean. Perfectly peaceful. Except inside my head and heart.

Losing my cool makes me weak. I don't care for the experience no matter what conventional wisdom says about 'getting it all out'.
It's exhausting and depleting. Especially this habit I have of replaying the ugly scene, over and over in my mind. In the film clip, I am the monster.
The one who hurts and stabs her love with harsh words.

So now what? I could try to analyze the source, discover where it started, logically explain to myself and those around me why I blew up. I told our son that sometimes even Mommy has to battle the dark side and sometimes she loses. Before going to sleep last night, he said "I hope my prayer worked for you, Mom. I asked God to put angel wings over you to protect you from the dark side."
And this really made me feel better. In my failure to be loving, my son's faith grew. Through his simple prayer, mine did too.

Although it's a shame that we have to learn things through negative experiences, the incident was valuable. Elliot watched first hand the way my husband responded (he remained positive despite being my target). Then he witnessed, over the course of the day, my struggle...but ultimately my ability to soften my heart and return to my peaceful self.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Knees and Paws plays Show and Tell with MOO



One day while gathering important advice from the gang at Etsy I stumbled upon MOO. At the time I was struggling with the tedious act of explaining Knees and Paws.

I mean, it takes too long to say this: I am the inventor and designer of Knees and Paws. Knees and Paws are hand and knee coverings for kids who love to crawl around playing cats and dogs. They are made of soft plush and kids love them!

My elevator speech makes me seem like a fruitcake.

In the last year I have been incredibly blessed to discover that there are kids out there who actually use and love my product. But none of those customers learned of Knees and Paws on a business card. My original business cards were a waste of paper (sorry little tree!)




The name of my product makes it look like I have some kind of pet care business. I mistakenly stamped the original cards with puppy faces and paws prints. Passing these cards around did nothing to explain what Knees and Paws are, how they look and how they are being used by children.


MOO saved me from my dilemma by allowing me to SHOW my product first, then TELL about it later.


I use these cards as a visual aid in every casual conversation I have about my work. I mail them to my customers. I am planning to order many more for a Knees and Paws display at a local fundraiser.

Because of the fantastic photographic quality on my MOO cards, I feel better about presenting my business locally. In fact I feel really excited to share it with others. Thanks, MOO. I love you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Putting Your Mind To It

It's been rather lonely here. My few regular visitors seem to have lost interest. This makes me a little sad but living in denial won't help. Perhaps I'm failing to connect to readers in their minds and hearts.

This blog started out as a way to document my journey into business as I transitioned from college and several unsatisfying and unsafe working conditions. I was so tired of asking God and myself where I was meant to work that I simply came home. And stayed here.
I wasn't meant to continue to clean the library while my boss watched everything I did from the security cameras ( such a yukky feeling to know you're watched...different from knowing you're being read). I couldn't accept that I could never have my children visit me at work even though my workplace was a learning institution. I struggled with sleep deprivation from rising at 3:30 every morning. The sleep deprivation was what got me in the end. It's a soul stealing, personality erasing condition.

I didn't want to live in that sleepy fog so soon after quitting smoking and exercising. I wanted to enjoy my life and use my intellect and creativity to the fullest. At the time, I felt that the only person who would appreciate those aspects of myself was me.
It was Jill Bolte Taylor in My Stroke of Insight who helped me take the next steps into my new life. As she shared her story of recovery from a debilitating stroke, I felt empowered to embark upon a beginning. She taught me things about my brain that I needed to know. I started seeing myself as a person with an amazing capacity to expand my life and my satisfaction with life by taking on new challenges. Instead of saying "I'm a technophobe. I could never learn any of that stuff they do on computers" I started to try.

I'm still not at a really comfortable place doing this. I mean, yes, I'm comfy at home of course, but still there are uncomfortable aspects. There are oceans of people just like me out there, trying to sell something from home.
There is still so much to learn. But learning is an addictive sort of activity. The fact that I'm ignorant on so many fronts when it comes to business is what makes this fun for me.
And of course, I also do it to show by example the importance of trusting the still small voice inside that leads the way. There are endless possibilities to manifest the things that lay quietly under the surface. One day, my children might need a reference; an example in the real world, a story they can relate to an remember. A story that they watched unfold. I hope by the time they are making decisions about their life's work that I don't have to tell them the old cliche' "you can do anything you put your mind to". I hope they will have absorbed it as a fact of life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Calling all Dogs! and Wildcats too...





Hi Blogging friends! Thanks for stopping by today. I haven't been writing much lately due to being busy creating new items for the shop. You don't want to miss two of my new fall items on Etsy...perfect for playing around the house or as halloween costume accessories. Both of these can be custom fitted at no extra charge. For more information, visit kneesandpaws.etsy.com or email me at kneesandpaws@yahoo.com. Look for new items all week featuring a cocker spaniel, super soft plush tigers, black cats and leopards. These are going fast!

I'd also like to send a big thank you to my most recent customer (you know who you are) for the incredibly positive feedback. Your encouragement meant so much. I'm still carrying around a bubble of happiness.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Secret Mission and a Mystery Story

Sometimes if one looks up, the sun breaks through the clouds just long enough to see a way appearing. As if by magic, suddenly everything glows.

This Wolf is a Clue for my blogging friends who will play along with me while I weave a mystery.
C'mon, play along, won't you please?


Today was one of those rare days when the path opened up to reveal a stunning and exciting possibility. I'm not quite ready to share my secret intent but will drop hints in the next few weeks.

Today was a big day. I'm so filled with the experience that instead of going to bed I rushed home to talk about it here.

Today was the PBS Kids Go! Writer's Contest award ceremony at Great Wolf Lodge. Our son Elliot submitted a story last year and was invited to attend this big event which included admission to the indoor water park complete with lots and lots of families with children.

This, more than anything, was the reason that today was so important to me and to the future of Knees and Paws. I observed something happening in the midst of the ebb and flow of people. Something I never really noticed before, perhaps because I never had a use for it until now.
This observation (I can't tell you what it is just yet) means that I am no longer going to worry a single bit about advertising on television, the internet, radio, print ads or billboards. No more fantasizing that some day, when there's a budget, I'll do a big marketing campaign. No. No. and No. Because I observed something about human nature I am going to do something very specific and it's going to work. I am sure of it beyond a doubt. You, my blogging friends, get to watch it unfold.
By the way, for those of you who have been reading from the start: THE PATENT APPLICATION HAS BEEN WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED! I even enjoyed writing it but am thankful to be going back to my less structured and detailed activities. Please keep sending me your positive intentions and energy for success.
To send you off on your way, here are some pictures from our fantastic day.


Read A Roo giving us the finger as we walked into the awards ceremony.



Many of the kids wanted to plug Great Wolf Lodge and UNC TV by saying thank you for this great event. It will be exciting to watch this when it airs.



Isn't Betsy adorable?! Elliot didn't want his picture taken with the characters but I had to steal a shot of one of my favorites.



"Kit Cat" and Elliot after lunch. They really just want to go to the water park.



I really can't think of anything sweeter than a bear with a big cupcake on his head. Except maybe their smiles!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Go Wildcats!




Stay tuned for our new fall line of Wild Cat Knees and Paws on Etsy!

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