Posts tagged 500wordsabout
500 Words About: Mixing Business & Personal

I took a walk down memory lane today, editing many years of blog posts that had gotten wonky when we transferred them from our old site. Reading posts that I hadn't looked at in years was strange. I watched my voice change, my topics shift, my consistency waver.

When I started this blog (and this business), I was in my early twenties. I was right out of college, newly married, new to Seattle, new letterpress, new to adult life. My early blog posts have an eagerness and an enthusiasm that betrays my age. They also include a lot of personal details. Anything and everything was fair game to share. Life was exciting and new, why not? In the last few years, my blogging screeched to a halt. This afternoon I've been thinking a lot about why. I have some theories and thoughts.

I didn't completely stop writing along the way, I just started hiding it. I kept it to myself or shared it anonymously somewhere else. It's easy to share bubbly blog posts about starting a business, designing products, buying presses, hiring employees, traveling to fun places, celebrating anniversaries. It's hard to share about infertility, grief, losing friends, making mistakes, arguing with my spouse, struggling with faith, hiring attorneys, and feeling like an imposter. That stuff isn't fun to write about, and nobody high fives you for sharing it. I've still shared a lot about these topics on Instagram, in person, in the cards I write, etc. But my business blog feels like absolutely the wrong place to talk about these things. I think I still have an ideal for my blog that's informed more by Pinterest dream boards and lifestyle blogging than my real life. My expectations are inauthentic.

I also became a mom. And while I feel pretty comfortable sharing details about my life, it's harder to know what to share and not share when it comes to my kid.  

When you're just starting out in life, every little thing feels newsworthy. I used to share every tiny victory. Honestly, I think it was a beautiful phenomenon. Over time, I've gotten numb to the encouraging milestones that would have once blown my mind. I probably won't go back to firing up the blog every time we find something at an estate sale or get an order from a new store. But maybe I should. Celebrating successes is something I could use more of in my life. More sharing the positive. More victory laps. 

Here's the thing: I've always mixed my business life with my personal life. From day one and every day in between. Every card I write comes from a personal relationship or experience. I'm close with the people I work with, and my emotional chaos is open to them (for better or worse). I bring my work home, and I bring my kid and my dog to work.

I've let my blog feel like someone else's blog. Someone who's better at business than me. Someone who's got it all together. And if my life and my business didn't fit that expectation, I didn't share it here. Plus, blogging just takes so much time. Especially when you're out of practice at writing and trying to put on a voice that's not yours. I'm not 20 anymore. I'm 30. I've been through a lot. I've learned a lot. I've grown a lot.

For the past few weeks, I've been writing 500 words every day, and hiding them away on a Tumblr blog that I don't have my name on. It's "safer" that way. But I don't want to hide my words, and I don't want to hide myself. Not from my own business, the thing I built and crafted and nurtured with my own hands. I'm challenging myself here and now to keep writing, and to share more of those words here. Who knows, maybe it will even lead to something beautiful.

500 Words About: Daffodils

There are two tiny daffodil plants on either side of my house's front steps. I didn't plant them there, but I know they're just for me. Daffodils are my favorite flowers. I love their cheerful sunny color, their unique shape, and the perfect timing of their appearance. 

I didn't grow up with daffodils. Or Springtime, for that matter. My birthplace in Florida has approximately two seasons: Summer and slightly cooler Summer. The first Spring I spent in Seattle took me by surprise. After months of rain, cold, and gray, I felt like Summer would never return. Summer in Seattle is not like Summer in Florida. In Florida, you bake and burn in the sun. You sweat and stink and lose all energy in the oppressive heat. Summer in Seattle is heaven. You reach out for the sun and soak it in. You unapologetically use every excuse to be outside. You linger on the front steps. You find new ways to experience and celebrate the beautiful weather.

Winter in Seattle drags on a bit. Towards the end of February I forget warmth and brightness and get a little glum. And then... daffodils. They spring out of the earth as bright green stalks that look alien in their somber surroundings. The cold, dead earth produces a cheeky surprise. My first year in Seattle I didn't know what was coming next, so the explosion of yellow blooms felt like a true miracle. After seven Spring seasons in Seattle, I eagerly await the coming of the daffodils as a sign of hope. Every year, the daffodils bloom exactly when I need them most. When life feels most difficult and when hope seems most impossible, that's when they show up. My beautiful daffodils split their stalks, shake open their yellow petals and point their happy faces at the sun. 

Unlike more pretentious flowers, daffodils pop up all over the place so that I can enjoy them wherever I go. They're also quite inexpensive, allowing my sweet husband to surprise me with them many times throughout the season. There's nothing happier around the house than a vase full of daffodils. If you're willing to make the drive out to La Conner, you can even see fields of daffodils. The vast quantity astounds and delights me.

When I was a child in Florida, I felt like something was always missing. I was taught about the change of seasons, but I never experienced them for myself. After moving to Seattle as an adult, the arrival of fall leaves, daffodils and snowflakes in my life felt like truly coming home. I assumed that my childlike wonder about every detail would wear off - but it hasn't yet. In an adult world with very little wonder, the seasons give us true magic. Everything dies. And then, when you most need it to, everything springs to life again.

The daffodils in my yard haven't bloomed yet, but they're about to. I can see their sweet yellow petals beginning to poke out of their stalks from my window as I write this. Welcome, friends. I've missed you.

Two famous poems perfectly encapsulate my love of daffodils. I'll share them here:

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills, 
When all at once I saw a crowd, 
A host, of golden daffodils; 
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, 
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. 

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way, 
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay: 
Ten thousand saw I at a glance, 
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. 

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: 
A poet could not but be gay, 
In such a jocund company: 
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought: 

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood, 
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude; 
And then my heart with pleasure fills, 
And dances with the daffodils. 

by A.A. Milne

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
"Winter is dead."

500 Words About: Ideas

Ideas are slippery. They lurk around the fringes of my mind like weird deep sea fish. Ideas are shadow figures, only visible out of the corner of my eye when I’m not trying to see them. Do I catch them, or do they catch me? 

Ideas can also be comforting. Today I lost my composure, ugly crying on the phone with my husband about debt and budgeting and business and all the ideas I can’t pin down. I dried my tears, hung up the phone and then…BANG! I was hit by an idea like a surprise jump hug from a friend. My cheeks flushed and my hands fumbled to my keyboard to write the idea down as soon as possible before it disappeared. It wasn’t the most complex idea, but it was honest. It was funny. It was good. 

In the world of art and design, my focus is stationery. Greeting cards are my most common medium. I write, design, and print my own work. My work is almost always just text. Simplicity. Black ink. Ideas - good ideas - can be hard to come by. Countless writers and designers have repeated the same sets of words for centuries. I love you. I’m sorry. Happy birthday. Congratulations. 

Sometimes I sit down to write new cards and I end up stewing in the futility of it all. “THERE ARE NO NEW WAYS TO SAY THESE THINGS!” “ALL OF MY IDEAS ARE STUPID!” “I’M A TOTAL FAILURE!” On days like that (yesterday), I close my notebook, walk away from my computer, and do something else. (Like make dentist appointments and take the dog to the groomer and eat a lot of All Dressed chips.) On days like those, there’s no amount of persistence that will push me through to great ideas. 

On days like today, the fog lifts suddenly and before I know it, I’ve written a whole new series of things. I order new paper and printing plates with confidence. I’m giddy and can’t wait to print this new series and share it with the world. I’ve gone from abject failure to inspiring entrepreneur in no time flat!

I watched an insane movie on Netflix the other day called Girlfriend’s Day. It’s about a greeting card writer who is in a writing rut and is stuck on an idea that could mean life or death. (Like I said, it’s an insane movie.) But as nuts as it was, the movie left me with a quote that is so poignant, I can’t help but share it.

“You’ve got to have the feelings first, then you can write about them." 

I think the emotional breakdowns, flailing arms, doing mundane tasks, and feeling like a failure are important steps in my creative process. Every time I think that I can skip all of that and go straight for the good stuff, but it’s not that simple. I have to go through the process so that my mind can work on the ideas when I’m not paying attention. Then, like magic, there the ideas are! Fully formed and ready to go. But it’s not magic, it’s just the end of the longer process. All of my best work has been personal. This new idea is personal, too. My brain tapped into the struggles and the “if I don’t start laughing about this, I won’t stop crying” dynamic of working for yourself and wrote a series about that. I don’t always appreciate the way my mind works, but I love the results when it’s finally time to make something new.

1,000 Words About: Printing and Me

I recently started a personal project to write 500 words every day. I've been writing about a variety of topics - personal essays, short stories, sports, podcasts, etc. I skipped my writing both days this weekend, so it's 1,000 words today. (Plus I'm terrible at editing myself.) Today's topic is printing related, so I've decided to share it here. My friend Dan suggested I write about how I chose printing as my profession. I've decided to share my letterpress printing timeline. The more I think about printing, the more I realize that I never had a choice in the matter. Printing chose me and wouldn't let go. (Not that I'm complaining.)

June 23, 2007: I walked into an antique store in Arcadia, Florida and saw a tabletop printing press. I didn't have any idea what kind it was, how to use it, or what it was worth. I just knew that I needed it. I paid $100 (way more money than I had to spend at the time), and brought it back to my dorm room. I was in college studying graphic design and spending my summer break as a teacher's assistant for a high school summer program. I worked during the day and spent my evenings cleaning and organizing the lead type that came with my press. I've always loved antiques. As a kid, one of my favorite family activities was browsing antique stores with a particular item in mind. This antique press intersected beautifully with what I was learning in History of Graphic Design. I loved that era's aesthetic, work ethic and machinery. That day in the antique shop was a chance encounter that changed the course of my life.

May 12, 2009: I attended a one day workshop with letterpress printer Paul Moxon. I came in knowing very, very little. I left knowing much more, but most importantly knowing that I must continue to get inky. I was weeks away from college graduation and a cross-country move to Seattle. All of the crisp, clear plans in place for my career were suddenly blurry. What I'd trained four years to do and what my heart was pulling for were growing farther and farther apart.

October 26, 2009: I took a letterpress class at the School of Visual Concepts taught by Chandler O'Leary. I was 1 month into my first post-college job, and it was a comically bad first job. (Well, it's comical now but wasn't at the time.) Getting my hands inky again and seeing my first design come to life on paper... It was all I needed to quit the bad job. (The CEO dropping by my desk to ask me if I was going to go home and commit suicide should have been enough to quit, but I suppose I was young and naive.) I loved my letterpress class. By the end of the 6 weeks I was sending dozens of emails to Seattle area letterpress printers, offering my services as printer's devil, letterpress indentured servant, or anything else I could do to gain more knowledge and keep getting inky.

December 12, 2009: I started my apprenticeship at Myrtle Alley Press. My first tasks were organizing spacing material and leading. I'd quit my job, so I had plenty of time to throw myself into this new part of my life. I remember how exciting every little task felt. I got to be around printing - watching, asking questions, listening, learning. It wasn't long before I was learning to print on the platen press. That year was sort of like my master's program. Except instead of spending time in a classroom, I had inky hands. The act of printing on the platen press was so daunting at first. I was nervous about smashing a hand, felt out of my element and uncoordinated, and my legs ached badly at the end of each day. But the bigger a challenge is in my life, the more determined I am to conquer it. It was only a matter of time before the press and I found a common rhythm. I loved troubleshooting my projects to make the next one better than the last. I loved seeing the prints stack up. I still love that now. 


January 10, 2011: It was time to set out on my own, and I'd just signed a lease on my first studio space. On the day before my 24th birthday, I bought my first full size platen press. We moved it that day too. (I've probably got another 1,000 words in me just about moving presses.) I loved letterpress at the time, but buying, moving, and refurbishing this press skyrocketed that love to a whole new level. I was confident about printing on the platen press at Myrtle Alley, but I got to know my press intimately. As the above photo illustrates, this press was in terrible shape. I spent $500 (way more money than I had to spend at the time), and we moved it into my studio. I named her Josephine. I spent countless hours alone with this press scraping off rust, cleaning out gunk, oiling joints, and finding replacement pieces. I had no guarantee that this press would ever print, but I believed in her. I had no guarantee that I could actually make a living with letterpress printing, but I believed in me. 

February 27, 2017: Today. In the last 6 years, we've moved Josephine two more times. I've bought and learned how to print on several more presses. We brought a press back over the border. I've passed on a few presses to other printers, including my first little press. Our current print shop is part of a beautiful storefront space, so everyone gets to see letterpress printing in action. I've taught many workshops. I've had the privilege to take on many interns. I've designed and printed so many projects for so many people, including a full catalog of greeting cards for our own wholesale line. I've hired and trained an assistant, who became my replacement when I decided to be a full time mom. So much has changed. And yet...

I'm still printing. When I'm printing, I'm home. I listen to the sound of the press, feel its rhythm. My body works in unison with the press to create something beautiful. My hands and feet are busy with the task at hand, but my mind goes elsewhere. My brain works best when I'm on press. It's a quiet, safe place to work things out. It's productive and physical. I still love it. 

Practically, printing is the way I create the things that make me money. But it's so much more than that. Printing found me in a Florida antique store. Printing gave me a dream for the future that was bigger than all the jobs I didn't get. Printing helped me quit a bad job and believe I was worth more. Printing got me out of my comfort zone. Printing gave me a tool to bring my thoughts, ideas, words, and art to life. Printing helped me grow up. Printing is a lifelong challenge to pursue. Printing gave me community, a business, a purpose, a future. And I still have inky hands.