Look Back & Be Thankful

I have a wonderful younger sister and I have two older sisters who are 10 and 12 years older than I am….they gave me love and nurturing and advice and experience…still do…..and….one of the very best things they ever gave me were my nieces….who are 10ish and 12ish years younger than I am……we are all the dearest of friends and looking forward and looking backward, I get to be in this circle of love….one of the things they do for me is pull me back to my senses….remind me what is important, who I am, who I always was, who I am meant to be…I try to do the same for them….when I’m weak, they are strong….when they’ve been weak, I try to be strong……..I never thought I’d be the weak one for so long and I hate that I am right now…..but, so is life……..

This week, my niece sent me a package in the mail with a dorky hand-painted snowman in it….and a whole bunch of other little gifts of love…..a sketch pad, some fragrant candles, some sugar-free candy……

about the snowman, she wrote….
“I just wanted to remind you how far you’ve come and where you started…..”

This little gift did such a profound miracle on my perspective. I think sometimes we put a fence on how far back and forward we let ourselves go….in our minds, in our dreams, etc…then, when we do go there, we think about regrets and fear, instead of lessons and gratitude and dreams for the future……

Today I remembered that I can do hard things

I started painting dorky little snowmen and Santas and ghosts and ‘welcome’ signs when we’d been married for a few years and Marq worked at a lumberyard and built redwood decks at night. We were so terribly poor and so happy….we had a little baby and tiny little house out behind his parent’s house and we did whatever it took to get by and so I could be home with Brock…Marq would bring home wood scraps from the lumberyard or from side job of carpentry, and one Christmas, he bought me a bunch of paints with money he’d saved-up and I started painting. I was 21 and he was 24. Geeez, this is making me cry.

Anyway, I started giving painted pieces of wood away as gifts and before I knew it, people were asking me to make things for their friends and paying me for it….it was a huge blessing because when we got married, Marq was making minimum wage….not long after the first order, I was bombarded with orders….and, then I used some of the money to buy a saw that would cut the wood into all sorts of shapes, so I could draw up patterns and then paint on them……

….and our whole tiny little house was covered in pieces of wood that were ready to be painted or drying the paint. Our porch had the saw on it and it was covered in sawdust….the busiest times of the year, it was freezing cold, and I would wrap Brock up in a blanket and sit him by the window and I would bundle up and go outside and cut the wood and sand it in the freezing cold….and I tried not to track in the sawdust but it was inevitably going to be part of our home decor.

…and Marq was still working 2 jobs and he’d come home at night and help me, then get up at 5:30am and start over the day….he was so supportive….between the grumblings about the sawdust and paint and glitter that were everywhere…..he told me constantly that I was ‘so talented’ and that he believed in me…that I could do anything I set my heart to do and that he’d help me to do it.

My nieces were 10 & 12….they would come and stay with me on the weekends and help watch Brock. They would go to art shows with me and help me sand the wood and put on the basecoats. They would make me laugh and keep me company. My sisters were so wonderfully kind to let my nieces come and stay with me so much….I look back and think about what a huge help my daughters are to me now and what a sacrifice it would be for me if I were to send them somewhere nearly every weekend. My nieces and my sisters were and are such an enormous blessing to me.

….well, after 2 or 3 years of really successful craft shows and bazaars, a publishing company called and asked me if I’d be interested in publishing the patterns and instructions for some of my work. I went to their operation in another state and sat down and talked to them about it….in the end, I decided for myself that if I was going to do books, I was going to publish them for myself….so, I looked into that….and when I was looking in a big craft store, I saw that scrapbooking was the next big thing….and, I looked into that….and no one was writing anything on their pages….and I am SO SO SO big on telling the story……and so I put together a little book of things to write in your scrapbooks…a little book called “The Scrapbooker’s Best Friend”…..after I had a dream about that little book and how I would it would sell in the hundreds of thousands……..so, I put an ad in the 3rd issue of Creating Keepsakes Magazine…a tiny little classified ad with a hand-drawn illustration of what this book would look like once it was written……and I got a kajillion orders when the ad came out a few months later.

…..and when I went around the corner and over to my oldest sister’s house, I told her that I needed to write a book because I had orders for it….and she said she’d show me how to use her computer and show me how to use Microsoft Publisher to lay it out…..and my nieces sat next to me while I did it or helped me with my kids…which there were 3 of by that time……..and, I wrote that little book and took it to Kinkos to have it printed and bound…..

…and my garage was filled with cases of books that were already sold and we spent hours and hours writing addresses on packages every day for months and months and years….

……so those handpainted dorky snowmen led to the next thing…which was a company called Chatterbox.

….and a few months into it, my husband quit his job and helped me build it into an international phenomenon, with the help of A LOT of people along the way…..I never could have done a single bit of it without him…without his logic, his support, his love, his belief in me………and spending the last 2 years doing this without him has been more painful and difficult and terrible than there are words to describe…….I have fought with knowing whether I can keep going every day without him or not…I have tried every single thing I can think of to make a plan to get things back to how they used to be…but life isn’t like that…it changes every day….we change every day…we can’t keep putting our heart on something that is in the past because the future is out there waiting for us, and usually, when we surrender it all….the future is going to be so much more brilliant that the past ever was….it was the past that prepared us for the future…it was the dorky snowman that turned into a little company at my kitchen table that turned into a big beautiful company out of my garage…that turned into a ????? that turned into a ???????……

when it is hard to keep going don't forget how far you have already come

….and you just can’t look back unless it’s to be thankful….and move forward with that thankfulness and with all of those dreams and all of that passion and ok-ness about not knowing exactly what the future holds….because God knows….

I hate doing this without my husband…but he’s coming back around, a little more every day…..and, this week….when I showed him the snowman, and said…”remember this?” -he said….”of course I do….you just keep following your heart and your gut” ….and those words are HUGE because he hasn’t said them in such a very long time….and I miss him more than I could ever try to say.

I love Chatterbox, I have loved just about every single part of this journey….and it’s been almost 10 years now. You never know where a dorky little snowman is going to lead to, do you? You never really know where anything is going to lead to….but you just have to keep on going….keep moving towards that place that is in your heart.

Thanks for the snowman Kallie…sometimes I forget where we started and how far we’ve really come….to believe in what I’m doing and who I am and trust the future…..that 2 young and madly in love kids from the country can make a life like this while climbing over mountains in the snow…and that we can’t ever forget the journey, because that’s what it was all about.

….never look back…..except to be thankful.

Written August 2006

love this day

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