Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Moving Along in Life

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face - Eleanor Roosevelt.

Getting laid off was a bummer.  Learning to sew was fun.  It has been just over a year since I started this blog, learned how to sew, and started sewing pillows on Etsy.  All three of these things were outside of my comfort zone.  I always enjoyed writing when I was in school and when I worked. However, writing my thoughts and experiences for all to see was not in my comfort zone.  Learning to sew was never on my bucket list  It is so hard for me to look at a pattern or even take the scissors to the fabric.  And last but not least, I was never comfortable with the idea of actually selling pillows. Fortunately, I have had a good experience and the feedback has been positive.  But, selling is so far out of my comfort zone.  Here, I made what I think is an awesome pillow.  Do you want to buy the pillow? Sure you do?  Come on!  Nope - not me.  But here is a small trip down memory pictures.

First, I learned how to make a pillow.

Then, I made pillows for Haven and put my daughters to work.
And, I learned how to make good pillows!

The most exciting part of this pillow gig was the opportunity to get involved and help out the Belle Isle Aquarium.

It was an interesting year - one of ups and down, frustrations and successes.  I don't think I would change anything.  I listened to my husband and took a chance by learning how to sew.  I met so many interesting people.  But, lets face it, this was never meant to be a career.  And crafting, well, it is not so lucrative.  For the past five years I have been mulling over in mind, what am I going to do when my kids are in school all day.  I am not there yet.  Vi is only in preschool.  But, this summer I started to seriously weigh my options.  So, I am quiting the pillows business and saying goodbye to my Etsy store.  Friday, I am swinging by the aquarium to empty the tank that has been housing my pillows all summer long.  And next week, I am going back to school.

My husband and I were talking about what I should do with my life.  Kevin said, "Do whatever you want.  Work in the cheese department at Westborn.  Just do something that will make you happy."  Lucky me to have that kind of support.  So, I hemmed and I hawed and decided to go back to school to get my Master's in Teaching plus Certification degree.  I am going to work on it for the next two years with the hope that I can secure a teaching position when Violet is in kindergarten or first grade.  What a relief to have a plan!  I like to have a plan - maybe that is why I have a degree in Urban Planning, too.  I feel good about this choice.  I feel good that I have some direction in my life again.

Sew, what am I going to do about sewing?  Well, I am still planning on sewing.  I am still planning on learning new things about sewing.  But, I am not going to sell on Etsy.  After I collect all my pillows from the aquarium, I am going to decide what I want to keep and what I want to sell.  If you are interested in anything, let me know as I will be offering discounts. 

As for this future of this blog....well, only time will tell if I still feel like I have something to say.  Or, I guess I should say, only time will tell if I will even have time to write a blog in between parenting, homework, and housework.  But, I thank you all for stopping by from time to time to read this little blog.  And if you really want to see me keep it going, well, let me know.  But, what I do know for sure is that trying something new is never a waste of time - even if it scares you.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Love - Hate Relationship With Grand Rapids

If you know me, as some of you do, then you know that I have never had strong feeling of love for the Grand Rapids area.  Now, I do enjoy the Lake Michigan coastline.  Fun times have been had in Traverse City, sipping wine and enjoying the sights around Leelanau, and Grand Haven will always be a favorite town.  But, as a student at Grand Valley State University in the early nineties, I was a very lonely girl.  At the time, GVSU was primarily a commuter campus.  My dorm cleared out ever Friday night.  Allendale was a long ways away from Grand Rapids and even GR seemed to empty out on the weekend.  The winters were cold and vicious.  Plus, I have always been a bit on the liberal side and I was one of only ten Student Democrats on campus.  I think there were about a 1,000 kids in the Republican club.  After two years, I said goodbye to my dear friends and completed my undergraduate degree at Michigan State University.  Go Green!!!

My only reason for staying at GVSU:  Two great friends!
About a year and a half ago, my husband suggested we take a road trip to the "west side."  We used a hotel in 28th Street as our base.  From there, we spent a day frolicking around the Tulip Festival in Holland and playing at the Frederick Meijer Gardens.  We even took a short trip to GVSU.  My children were hungry and cranky so we did not stay long.  While there, that all too familiar feeling of dread filled my belly.  I felt a longing to run into some old friends, but knew I had made the right choice to leave so many years ago.

Grand Rapids and GVSU are not the same places that they were in 1992 to 1994.  Just as I have changed, so have they.  Grand Rapids has boomed!!!  It is a pretty snazzy city.  So, when the my husband suggested we take another trip, I did not hesitate.

What spurred our visit to Grand Rapids was an exhibit at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.  The GRAM is hosting an exhibit called Cities in Transition.  As an urban planning junkie this was of great interest to me.  I saw some of Andrew Moore's photographs at the Detroit Institute Arts and they are beautiful.  Kevin, being the LEED Certified environmentalist, was really interested in the GRAM building. (Kevin started his own blog -and wrote a great post chronicling fun and concrete use in GR.)   The GRAM is the first LEED art museum in the world.  It is a very snazzy building - very modern looking, sophisticated.  Very quiet inside.  My kids are not quiet and sophisticated.  I felt mildly uncomfortable.  But, tucked away in the basement is a great room set aside for kids to do art projects.  The volunteers are very friendly and the projects are based on the Cities in Transition exhibit.

My kids learning about cities.
This chocolate milk rivals Calder Dairy's chocolate milk.
Thank you Grand Central Market and Deli.  Hope you enjoy our $2 bottle deposit.
We kind of needed a souvenir. 

After some down time and very fancy pizza dinner in the hotel lobby, we headed out to the beach town of Grand Haven.  When I was in college, I spent so much time at the beach, the pier, and Tip-A-Few Tavern.  Going to Grand Haven brings back some of the happiest memories I have of living on the west side of the state.  Now, I can say that I created some great memories with my family in this lovely spot.  I am not going to describe the fun that we had with words, you can see for yourself.

Sunday morning we met my old college buddies for breakfast.  It has been over a decade since all three of us have been together.  We are all grown up, we have all moved on from college, we are all pretty different.  But, in some ways we were still the same.  The smiles, the giggles, the ways we seem to still know each other is still with us.  Oh, I think I have really missed my friends.  I hope there are more breakfasts in our future!

Of course we could not drive all the way over the Grand Rapids without a trip to the Frederik Meijer Gardens.  By the time we got their the girls were worn out.  But, the thrill of the tree house kept them going and ensured a long nap on the ride home.

No one, I mean no one can resist the mouse door.
Yep, two years ago I would have told you that I really truly disliked the west side of the state.  I would have told you I would never go to Grand Rapids for a vacation.  It is funny how I am starting to come around to liking the dark side of our state again.  GVSU still gives me shivers.  But, the new memories I have been creating with my family in Grand Rapids and Grand Haven are warming me up to more and more trips back.  I suppose I learned my lesson, never say never, again!    

Monday, August 6, 2012

Traveling to Chicago: The Generational Way!

When I was a little kid, travelling usual involved towing a trailer, popping a tent, eating food no one really enjoyed eating, food rations, fighting with my brother, breakdowns on the side of the road, and many odd adventures.  We never flew in an airplane.  We rarely stayed in a hotel room.  Oh, the stories I could tell.  We haven't gone camping with our kids, yet.  Kevin did not camp as a kid.  But, I am working on the three of them.  Eventually, we are going to get some camping gear.  But, we do enjoy travelling and exploring.  However, given the strange experiences I had growing up, I did not want to do my children a disservice of growing up "normal."  

Last week, spur of the moment, my parents and I planned a quick trip to Chicago to reunited my girls with my niece.  Yeah, my brother and sister-in-law were there, too.  No, we did not fly.  No, we did not even rent a mini van.  We all climbed into a Honda Accord.  My dad drove.  Mom and I took turns sitting in the backseat in between the girls.  My children were much better behaved when my mom was in the backseat.  When I was back there, Dad said, "I feel like we are travelling with three kids."  Yep, I am that kind of mom.  The trip went smoother than I expected.  I kind of felt like I riding in the car with the Waltons.  Mimi even learned how to tie her shoes!  Oh, how can I forget????  We also traveled with our furry friend, Rocko, who split his time between the front and back seat.  

Hello Poochie!!!!
 Once we got to Chicago, we played.  The cousins played and the adults played with the little ones.  My dad and I took Mimi and Violet to the Museum of Science and Industry.  Mimi went on the Coal Mine Tour and the tour of the U-505 Sub.  Violet took a nap!  I am serious.  She took a nap with my dad on a somewhat remote staircase.  She did however enjoy sitting in a jet engine with her sister.  

Believe it or not, they climbed in there unprompted.  
Then Saturday arrived and it was time to head home.  Not via the tightly packed Honda, but by Amtrack.  It was so much fun, despite my fears of travelling alone with two little girls by train.  My brother drove us to Union Station.  The girls were very worried we were going to miss our train.  Once we made it too the tracks, I held the hands of two nervous girls as we walked in between massive Amtrack trains.  The engines were on.  The trains were loud.  They made loud belching sounds which startled the girls.  They were very, very brave and very, very small next to the trains.  We settled in - Mimi was thrilled but Violet was still a little unsure.  

First moments on the train!
After about 15 minutes of sitting on the train, the conductor announced engine trouble.  The train needed to be shut down and locomotives needed to be switched.  While sitting on the dark, hot train the girls asked lots of questions and much to my surprised, behaved.  When the lights came back on, Violet exclaimed, "Yeah!  The lights are on!  That was so much fun!"  We spent about seven hours on the train with only two sisterly fights.  I  bought Vi a ham sandwich but she insisted on eating my caprese sandwich.  Grrr!  We survived and we all had fun.  Now, I keep fielding the question, "When can we go on the train again?  Can we do it next week?"  No more trains this summer but we do have two more destinations left before school starts in the fall.    

We love the train!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Murphy's Law Strikes Again!

Murphy's Law:  If anything can go wrong, it will.

Yep, Murphy's Law applies to my life.  Things go wrong ALL THE TIME!  In the end, everything has always worked out, but, things do go wrong.  I have soooo many examples I could write an entire blog called 715 Examples of Murphy's Law.  But, I am not going to write that blog.

Two weeks ago, a new refrigerator was delivered to our house.  Our old one was closing in on twenty years old.  We thought, let's get rid of the old eyesore before it breaks.  We love our new fridge.  Then, I the DVD player broke - the next day.  Cheap easy fix.  Then, I decided to get a new bike.  I developed a financial plan for my new bike.  Last night, our old oven broke.  The new range will be delivered on next week.  It looks like this:

Jealous much?  Yep, plain white and very basic. 
Guess what the unexpected addition of the new oven means?  Guess, just guess!!!!  Well remember this post from Sunday?  Well, I am not going to get my bike.  I am too frugal.  I have deleted my listing on Craigslist.  The bike will have to wait until spring.  Until then, the Townie bike will have to remain in my head as a distant dream.  Damn you, Murphy!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Moving Up in the Bicycle World

I love to ride my bike.  I think as far as physical activity goes, it has been my one constant.  For years I was a runner and a kick boxer.  I have been an off and on roller skater, ice skater, and a whiz on roller blades.  I have tried yoga, aerobics, hustle aerobics, fencing, and Jazzercise.  In college I took badminton and my team was known at the "Fearsome Foursome."  Kevin and I non-dated through a season of tennis and badminton.  But, biking...well you just can't get much better than the feeling of cruising around on two wheels.

My first bike was of course a little red trike.  I think most of us started out on a red trike in the 70's.  Was another color even manufactured?  But, I finally got some freedom when my parents bought me a groovy Schwinn with a banana seat and streamers.  What a way to ride!!!  While I do have some pictures, unfortunately I do not have a scanner.  But, this is what that first taste of freedom looked like.
Great memories of that old bike!
After I outgrew that white bike, I used my mom's yellow three speed and my dad's 10 speed.  For my 12th birthday, I got a brand new blue, Huffy 10-speed.  Loved it.  When I turned 16 years old, I got a Huffy mountain bike.  Who needs a car when you can have a bike?!?!  That bike was my trusty friend all through college until some schmuck stole it, probably for the new tires.  So, I upgraded to a Schwinn which is still owned by my brother.  So where am I now in the bike world?  Why am I writing this?  Next paragraph please.

Ten years ago I scrimped and saved for a new bike.  I wanted a lighter weight mountain bike.  Then I found my Trek 4500.  The bike served me well.  Because I was young and single, I would bike a several days a week at Kensington Metro Beach.  My bike even served me well on a few bike tours.  Then I started grad school, then I got pregnant, then the bike acquired a baby seat.  I have loved my bike.

Trek 4500 - 2002 excellent condition.
But now I must sell my old bike.  Why you ask?  Because at 38 years old I now have an old body.  Arthritis and degenerative disk disease make riding my current bike for a long periods of time uncomfortable.  Due to limited storage space, I cannot get a new bike until I get rid of my old bike.  Yes, my husband sets out a lot of rules regarding the way we live.  So, if you are in the market for a used bike, please click out this link.  Because I have my eye on a cruiser.  A bike that rides with comfort in mind - my feet will be flat on the ground when I stop and the seat is actually more suited to the size my my rear end.  

Yes, like most of my posts, this one is longer than it needs to be.  Basically, I am selling my bike.  If you need a bike and live in Michigan, let me know.  I love my bike and it needs a good home.  Once my Trek has found a new home, I have only one decision left to make: Purple or Tangerine??????

Purple Townie - my children like this one.

Tangerine Townie - this just looks like a happy bike.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15 = 715 Pillows Day

One year ago today, I got an unexpected e-mail.  An e-mail that would inform me that I was getting laid off since the law firm I worked for was closing.  Well, that was a bummer!  I was working part-time.  Splitting my hours between the office and working from home.  It was a great gig.  I was upset, angry, and depressed.  I liked getting out of the house.  I liked the extra money.  While I was a little upset, my family was excited that I would be not have to work on the weekends, something I had been doing since Mimi was six months old.  With the news of the layoff, I had to decide what to do next.  Working on the weekends was become more and more inconvenient.  Kevin was travelling more so working at night was becoming inconvenient.  Working part-time during the day had draw backs because both kids still needed some form of daycare.  (Mimi was in school for half a day.)  It is not that I am opposed to daycare but it would suck up too much of my income to make it worth the effort.  Plus, MOST of the time, I enjoy being home with my kids.  But, I still needed something for myself.  But, it would be another month before Kevin and I dreamed up this darn pillow thing.

So, in celebration of one wonderful year out of work, I want to celebrate with all of you.  There will be a coupon code posted on 715 Pillows Facebook Page - click here, (You might as well like this page because I have some fun contests planned for next month.)  This code will be expire on July 20, 2012.  You can use this coupon to receive 15% a pillow order.  Admittedly, stock is getting low, but I will be sewing a good chunk of the day so that I can update my shop.  So, if you are in need of a throw pillow, please consider me.  If you are in need of slice of cake and scoop of ice cream today, please consider taking a bite in honor of 715 Pillows.  Hey, I will take any excuse I can get to eat cake!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Working Vacation Was Foiled by Fun!

Good Intentions

Friday night - June 29:  Hubby and I hang out in the basement cutting fabric and packing up sewing supplies.  

Saturday night - June 30:  After spending a wonderful night watching the fireworks in Lake Orion with friends, Hubby and I are busy with last minute packing.  Sewing machine along with box of material and notions make its way into the living room.

Sunday morning - July 1:  Two adults, two kids, vacation gear, and sewing gear was loaded into a very tiny Scion xd.  This was the first vacation with my beloved red car that we felt the car might be to small for our needs.  When the girls were not fighting, they were sleeping.  You see, they also saw the fireworks the night before.  Yes, there was a lot of crankiness.  However, because they spent so much time snoozing, Kevin and I were able to talk about pillows.  I am definitely not going to invest in paying a marketing company right now.   While I am having fun, this needs to really develop into something that is more than a hobby.  Kevin and I discussed how I would most likely have time to sew AND blog on this trip.  I even had an awesome idea of taking pictures of my pillows with the lake as a backdrop.  Oh, I was also going to write descriptions for my Etsy listings.  A real working vacation, like a real working person.    


The reality of a vacation is rarely the ideal vacation.  That being said, the week was not a disaster but maybe not completely as planned.  Like I said, we started the vacation with two kids suffering from a sleep deficit and uncontrollable excitement.  Which means there was crankiness on and off all week.  On our way to Brevort, Michigan we stopped at a rest stop to eat our picnic lunch.  As we stepped out of the car, Mimi lost her second tooth.  Good thing she always packs her tooth fairy pillow made by 715 Pillows.  Now, a visit from the tooth fairy pillow is an exciting way to start a vacation.  We spent the week at the beach, Mackinaw Island, Mackinaw City, flying kites, playing at a splash pad.  Kevin and I even went on a date to a water park...without kids.  Monday afternoon, my kiddies took a much needed nap, I sewed two pillows.  Two whole pillows.  I thought I was off to a great start.  Then my brother, sister-in-law, and my baby niece arrived on Tuesday.  Yeah, my working vacation was over.  I was officially on vacation.  

What a Vacation Looks Like

Me riding a pink cruiser on Mackinaw Island.
Kevin got lapped by a child.  Since I was riding along with him I guess I was lapped,  too.
The girls playing on the beach and pirate hunting.
I did find some locally created throw pillows for sale on Mackinaw Island.
It is always good to size up your competition.  
The family!  
 The Aftermath

Now I am home, laundry is washed (not folded), house is clean, and the pantry is stocked.  I am not caught up on my sewing projects or upcoming blogs.  But, since my current situation can be loosely described as self-employed, I guess it is okay.  Besides, if this was in your backyard everyday would you want to work?  I think not!  
View from my parent's condo!

My parent's beach! 
Brevort!  !