Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rewind Renaissance Maiden

I thought it would be interesting to share some of the older photos from my company here on the blog. Our company has grown a lot, I have grown a lot, and life has blessed me beyond what I thought was possible. 
Wow, this is one of the first style of bodices that we ever started making. Holy night. 
This is an OLD picture of my sister in law, Jill, Me, and my sister Emma. I feel old. 

This is one of my favorite old pictures of me. No wonder the men were hanging all over me. ;) 

The gals in this picture will love this! Look how....DIFFERENT we all are today, compared to this picture! Wow...

Friday, September 4, 2015

S.Q.U.I.D. Day!

       Today is a special day for my company, but also an uncomfortable one. Let me come straight out of the gate by saying that I don't like to be criticized. I am just like every other human being. When you tell me all of the ways that I've failed, I'm not going to immediately thank you sweetly and earnestly for "helping" me to not be a failure. My "fight or flight" mechanism will get fired up.  I'll get defensive and come up with reasons for why I am NOT a failure, and why things proceeded the way they did.  However, as we all know, that is not helpful.

       I worry also that we live in a time where, socially, "constructive" criticism has died. We're all painfully aware of the rampant cruelty that goes on in social media, forums, blog comments, and even freaking amazon reviews (I just read one the other day where a lady ripped another lady a new hole over a makeup SPONGE!).  We've all most likely been on both ends, whether we would like to admit it or not. If you've ever argued with someone or tried to get them to see how you're right and they're've been on both ends, my friend.

          But, holy night, where is the proper place for HELPING people to grow, and being honest with them about issues that have arisen? Even though I don't like to ever get an email with a problem in our company, usually, after a few days, I realize how absolutely valuable those emails are!!  If we never ever had anyone be honest with us about issues that they've had, my company probably would have died years ago.

       Which brings me to go the goal for today. As I grow my company to slightly larger than just me and my husband, there are inevitable things we have to face.  Every company in the whole history of history goes through something like this, and NO ONE is immune.  To think that you wouldn't suffer communication issues, quality challenges, and frustrated customers would be like to imagine that you could marry another person and never have a single fight, never be annoyed with their words and actions, and always snuggle and love them no matter what! *gling*  Cough. Today, we are bringing up issues, feelings, criticism, and discomfort.  Hopefully, we will also get to the part where I tell everyone how awesome they are and how amazing their attitudes are and how much I appreciate all of them!

         All the same, I'm still so flabbergasted when there IS any issues. I think, "What the crap, I've been doing this for 11 years! I should be perfect!"  Then comes the guilt..the shame....the beating up of myself...the putting the angry customer email on a CONSTANT loop in my head that plays over and over and over and over and over and no wonder I like cake so much.  Alas.....either way, today is about me and my team talking with candor, love, and appreciation. We're going to start at the beginning of the corset making progress, and go all the way to the end, with all of us together, watching the process, and I'm going to address EVERY customer complaint that I can THINK of for the last 11 years of being in business.
         Am I freaking out? yes. I feel like I'm back in high-school, being bullied and having completely inappropriate things said to me, and then feeling all of those feelings......however, I'm ADDRESSING these feelings head-on, instead of channeling my frustration and insecurity into....let's comments on youtube. yeah.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Turnstyle in, the style "turned" out completely different.

“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.” 
― Ed CatmullCreativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

     I started out this post with the quote by Ed Catmull for a reason.  It's because I'm am engaged in a tumultuous battle with my unruly, snarling thoughts about my company and my success lately.  When I started this company, my main goals were simply to create a corset that was long enough that I could wear it to Renaissance Festivals without having "muffin bottom" out of the corset (the opposite of muffin-top).  It grew and morphed into a crazy passion where I truly do eat, sleep, breathe corsets. Do I want to change the world with corsets? Yeah. Obviously. Do I want to change the way women see their own bodies? Hecks yeah! That's not a hard thing to tackle, right? Do I want to reach new heights of quality as I grow and expand? You betcha. Do I want to be perfect and make everything exactly right to fit every single body without fail and never make mistakes ever in the whole entire world for one single even little bitty moment? SOOOOO much. 

      This is my ideal. I make crazy beautiful corsets. They sell to crazy beautiful women. I make crazy beautiful money. Everyone is happy and holds hands and skips and shimmies to Taylor Swift songs. Woot!  Reality can be..uh....different. I'm woefully, horrendously, human. I get offended by the SMALLEST of things  (e.g. I post a new corset made out of a fabric that made my thighs squeeze together with glee when I beheld it. I post it on facebook. The first comment is, "Wow, this is nice. If only you would have made it in a solid forest green."  I'm not smart enough to say to myself, "Oh, this is awesome, people love my creations and want them in all the color!"  I think, "Holy crap, I should just stop living. I will slink away and go and hold road-signs for a living, where hopefully I can't mess things up and ruin people's lives with my corsets. I fail everyone. Everyone thinks that I should just give up now. It's clear." ) 

      Then, there's my creative brain which NEVER stops and never quiets. I keep telling myself, "No, Michelle, you've got to make things that people actually like.  No odd, cephalopod shaped corsets draped in fishnet complete with little stuffed fish. No "Narwhal Inspired Corset Collections!"  Women just want beautiful, functional corsets that can do a variety of things and make them feel like rock stars!"   However, the CREATIVE brain EXTRUDES  ideas such as the one at the top of this post. I actually made the original "vision" corset with the scalloped neckline from start to finish, and I cannot find the dang thing anywhere in my shop! I wanted REAL pictures of the corset to show you, but I just had to draw it in the end.  Let's just was sooo badly bad. The scalloped edge just did not lay right with my fabric, and ended up looking like blobby little arrows pointing to the nipples. I mean, if you're into that, then that's fine, but it didn't look good when I tried it on my own body, and it looked grotesque on the mannequin.   Plus, I have a LOT of faith in my abilities, and so I had my husband cut whole size runs (this is about 10 sizes that we carry standard) in THREE different colors. I just sat there and looked at this pile of cut, and unsewn putrescence. *sigh*  You can imagine I beat myself up heartily.  DAMMIT, I should have just stayed safe. I should have just made things that I knew would work instead of letting my creative brain drive the crazy train. 
        Then again, I cut off the scallops, draped and shaped a large fold-over collar, and I LOVED the end result. (above)   And therein lies the question. When do you let your creative brain pump out ideas, and when do you "play it safe"?  Lots of movies, books, art, poetry and music isn't even APPRECIATED in the artist's LIFETIME! There is tons of art that is made, not understood, and the artist dies, having never made a cent from the art.....then lo and behold, it is discovered, immortalized, worshiped, used to inspire millions, and truly makes a difference in the world. 

        It's just such a complex thing. "New and Edgy" sometimes doesn't pay the bills and isn't even admired. You can't run a company on it. Companies need to understand their customer and THEIR needs, not exist to just fill their own odd endeavors.  Then again, we all know companies that have gotten left behind, "stuck in a time period", outdated, and haven't changed a thing in years.  I knew this wonderful crusty little old white-haired man who looked like Santa Claus after Weight Watchers, and he ran a "Piratical Goods" booth at Renaissance festivals for what seemed like eons. A fellow vendor friend said that they were talking to him one day while he was in a particularly foul mood, and he exclaimed, "I just don't get it! I've been making and bringing the same stuff for 20 years, and it's always worked just fine, BUT SUDDENLY, no one is buying!!"   To people on the outside, we're like, "Seriously, bro? 20 years? It's a wonder it's worked this long! Do something new!"  Yet, the artist, who is so close to his art and passion, often cannot even begin to glimpse the folly. 

         So, failure. How have YOU felt like you failed, and have YOU been able to see yourself and your actions in a new light? How do you feel about possible future failures? Paralyzed, unable to take an incorrect step? Energized, knowing that the "quickest way to success is to double your rate of failure!"? 

        Phew, heavy stuff here. If you feel so inclined, drop me a line on facebook or at and tell me about how you move your brain through fear, into creation, and finally into "success".  ;)  I'm always interested. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Magazines and Crying

I thought this was a nifty tool on You can put your own pictures into pre-set magazine covers and look all glamorous. The only thing is I couldn't figure out what a magazine about me would be like.  Um...cake and corsets? 
      When I was 13 years old, I had one of those "coming of age", "crying bitterly for loss of childhood" moments, and it all started with a dang magazine. My older brother had decided to take all of the younger kids in my family to the swimming pool on a sweltering hot afternoon in July. It was Tuesday night, and the pool had a "family night" thing where you could get your whole family in for $2. Being poor, and wanting more "bang for our buck", we regularly pulled into the entrance gleefully driving our 13 passenger van filled with my parents and the 8 of us kids. This evening, it was only 7 of us, minus the parents, and my brother stopped at Wal-Mart to get some drinks before the "Family Night" time opened up.

     I had been working hard that summer at a blueberry farm, picking buckets of gorgeous, dark clusters of purple-blue-berries and getting paid $3.25 per bucket. I think I've told you all this, but I was the fastest picker they had ever had, and STILL to this day, I hold the record for being able to pick more buckets per hour than anyone who has ever worked there, adult OR child. The buckets are gallon buckets, and you have to fill them to a certain line to make sure you get enough to get paid! Most adults average about 1 gallon per hour. I was picking 3 per hour most days, even at the age of 13. I had a little walkman cassette tape player, and I would make my own mixes of songs off of the radio to  keep me going fast. I remember distinctly a tape where I had lots of Backstreet Boys and Alanis Morrisette!  Ah, those were the days.

     Since I had my own money, and my parents weren't with me to judge my purchases, I went over to the magazine racks! There, in all of their shiny glory was all of the teenager magazines telling me how to be cool!  Glory be!!! I picked out an issue of YM (Young and Modern) and took it up the cash register, subtly trying to hide it from my siblings, as I was afraid of them making fun of me for wanting "tips on how to get a better tan" and "7 ways to make boys go crazy for you".
    The  issue above wasn't the one I had (I scoured the internet and couldn't find the dang thing) but it is close enough. Honestly, an issue with Gwen Stefani would have been better than the one I got, because at least she is genuinely cool. Anyhow, I can remember a lot of what was in the magazine. It was full of the normal ads, aimed at teenagers, and QUIZZES to help me figure out who I was, and TIPS on how to make boys like me, and BEAUTY SECRETS so that I could be beautiful. After swimming, I went home, sneaked  it up to my room, and just DEVOURED IT! I literally remember my heart beating faster as I turned each page, because I was so excited to learn how to be cool. I imagined myself at school, makeup perfect, clothing spot-on, flirting with boys and having no zits! Magic!

    That is..until my mom came up the stairs to tell us to come down and clean the kitchen. She saw the magazine before I could hide it. I KNEW she didn't like those "fluffy" magazines, and I was terrified she would take away my beauty secrets! I knew she thought that I was too young to be thinking seriously about boys and that I should just try and be friends with them, without trying to have serious relationships. Come ON, mom! Geez! ;)

    She asked me if she could look at the magazine, and I handed it over. She actually took it downstairs and read through the whole thing. I sat up in my room, tense with anticipation.  A little while later, she came back up and set the magazine down on my bed.  She said something to the effect of, "Michelle, I know that it's important for you to be unique and kind and courageous. If anything in this magazine makes you feel good about who you are, or if it inspires you to be TRULY the kind of woman you want to grow into, then leave it in the magazine. However, if there is anything that tells you that you are not acceptable, or that you have to follow what other people are doing, or if you have to do something that you normally wouldn't do, I want you to tear out that page. In the end, you'll have a magazine that is right for you." 

     Holy crap, I got to make the decision myself?  Heck yes!  I got right to work after she left.  And DAMMIT, she was right, as always. I looked at each page and really tried to look inside myself. Did this make me feel acceptable? Did this encourage me to be kind to others? Was any of this behavior true to me? I remember specifically the page about how to get a more sexy tan, and I looked down at my pale legs that I KNEW only burned and blistered when I tried to tan.What was I DOING?  I started bawling my eyes out and ripping out the pages. One by one, they got torn out, wadded up, and thrown into the trash. 

     "How to tell if he's lying to you?"  Trash. "Super Cute Fall Fashion." Trash (It was all clothing that was wrong for my bosomy, hourglassy body.)  In the end, I was left with about 4 pages. Granted, I may have gone overboard in my hormonal teenage angst brain, but there you have it. 
      I still struggle with this as an adult. I look at the glossy magazines, glamorous media images, pinterest pages, and instagram feeds.  It's MORE prevalent than it was when I was a teenager. I still want VERY BADLY to be cool, popular, gorgeous, thin, clever, and fashionable.  Yet, my mind goes back to this story from my life constantly. Back then I had to rely on my Mom's wisdom and courage, as she helped me to be the person I wanted to be. Now, it's me, every dang day. What is important to ME? Do I REALLY want to BE the person that these things are telling me to be? Does that person think of others? Is that person kind and compassionate?  Is that person HAPPY? 

      I have to constantly remind myself that if we were truly ALL the image that the world wants us to be, then the belligerent, hell-raising non-conformists like myself would turn it right around and then it would be desirable to be NOT perfectly thin with ginormous breasts and NOT perfectly dressed with a "perfect life".  It's all about "wanting something we can't have" anyhow. I truly think that lots of Big Brand companies think that they have to make us feel bad and inadequate to sell us things. After all, if we feel good about ourselves for one second, we won't have to buy something to "patch ourselves up." 

        I truly hope that the message that my company sends out is that we want to shower our current bodies with praise, gratitude, and a little corseting. We proud of where we've come to, and we're excited for where we are going!   My favorite part of my job is meeting all of the VASTLY different brands of women that all wear corsets. It just makes me giddy. I genuinely think all of my customers are so beautiful. Their varying personalities, voices, styles, laughs, senses of humor.....I just love all of them. 

      I realize this meandered a little bit, but I just want to convey to you a message of joy in the magnificence of who you are. We live in such a rough world that I need these kind of messages every single day. It's not enough to read some little chipper meme and then to go onto my day feeling  like a rock star. I have to constantly shove it down my mental maw. I would like to say that I'm  happy to report that I discontinued ever reading any "ladies magazines" again. I'm not saying that everyone should do this, but I know that for my own brain, I would get magazines like Vogue, and I think that on a subconscious level, I was constantly getting the message of "You HAVE to be thinner and more fashionable to be successful."  We cannot possibly calculate what the lower layers of our brain are picking up, but suffice it to say, we have all jacked ourselves up a bit. 

     So, what does your OWN magazine cover look like? What would your magazine be about? What is important to you? What message do you want to send out to the world? 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Stuff and Things

         A customer recently asked me if I would post my hat collection for all to see. Unfortunately, I only have about a quarter of my hats together in one place. Presently, the rest of them are packed in boxes for me to take to my festivals, nicely padded with tissue paper between sets of hair falls and dreadlocks. That's the thing I want to talk about here. My things that I truly love, I take care of as if they were my own babies.

       I've heard many times, sentiments about how it's not "things" or "money" that make you  happy, but people and experiences. I've always wondered why it has to be this black and white, either/or case. When I buy handmade things from people that I care about, the "happy experience" and the "soul of the person" seem to be all wrapped up in the actual item. I know this is just my own "perception" of reality....but what IS reality, if not for our perception of it? So, what? It's my freaking reality.

       I personally have a deep belief that everything made of matter is buzzing with energy, and when we touch, partake, purchase, utilize, and obtain these items, we are participating in the energy of the item. As depressing as it may seem, I feel that when I choose to gorge myself on some junk food that was made cheaply, with the intent to get consumers addicted, without any regard to their health or satisfaction, I am TAKING that energy into my body. Yes, it's my decision, and I own up to that. But, it's not a light little indulgence. Similarly, when I am feeling cheap, and I choose to buy cheaply made clothing (I'm looking at you, Forever 21. Woot! This is getting edgy!), I participate in the energy of that clothing. It was made to be disposable (I know, I'm reading a book about the manufacturing of these cheap clothes, and because they're playing on super trendy stuff, they specifically construct the item to last one season. Yes. one.) It wasn't made with careful thought about FIT, COMFORT, QUALITY, AND WORKMANSHIP!  These are standards that I strive to uphold with the corsets and clothing that we build, but why wouldn't I support that in the normal clothing that I wear?? This clothing is made without regard to the employees and people sewing it. Their safety, brain health, job satisfaction, and SOULS are not taken into consideration.
This is the podcast that my husband, and two of the guys that work for me do. We figured that since they were ALREADY talking about comic book stuff constantly, they might as well freaking do a podcast so others could listen to their funny banter. If you want to check it out, I think you'll like it. My favorite episode, although it is very long, is the one on "Ultron", where my husband, Tyler, is the one who did the research. He is sooo funny in it!
       I would like you to know that the little team of people I have working for me is treated VERY well! I feed my employees good home-baked lunches every day, so they don't have to worry about packing lunch. We regularly go out and see movies together, ON THE CLOCK, because I figure I'm paying for them to have friendship and unity. I give them bonuses, I tell them "thank you" every single day. I listen to them when their is issues, work-related or home-related, and we all support each other and try to help each other out. For a while (although we've slacked off) I let them get off early on Fridays from sewing to do "on-the-clock Entrepreneur Day" where they were paid for a few hours to work on their own projects. That's where the podcast from up above came. As a result, I have had MANY people tell me that there is just "something" in the corsets that we make, and they can't figure it out, but they truly are special.

       I will have to write an entire blog on what I try to literally "sew" into our corsets, but let me just say that there is a reason that we have such a rabid fan-base, and there is also a reason that people get really....*cough* worked up over a simple thing like corsets. You guys are just embracing and participating in the energy of the corsets, and that's why they are special. You then go on to have wonderful experiences, emotional journeys, and breakthroughs with your life and your body image, and then the corset is imbued with that power. Luckily, these things are MADE TO LAST long enough to have these types of powers! ;)

        This is my jewelry collection. I would say it's about half-hand-made, and about half of it is more quality stuff that I got on clearance at department stores, that I then layer with the hand-made stuff. Interestingly, when one of my "store jewelry" items break, I just throw  it away. Who cares? It's cheap. When one of my hand-made items break, I have a whole tool-kit and I sit and fix it and bring it back to life. I'm hard on my jewelry, because I wear it so much, but I take a ton of pride in all of the hand-made items I wear. When I put them on, I think of the person who made it (usually, a talented lady who I'm proud to call my friend) and I think about how happy and proud they would be to know that they were  part of my day. NOW, THAT is good energy!
        I know, it takes a LOT of brain power to sit there and think about the origins of EVERYTHING that you have in your life. That's enough to explode my brain. Good night! However, I do think it would be beneficial to start looking at the things that surround you and just asking a question. "Is this serving my life right now?"   I have personally experienced wonderful results when I was able to "clean out" my life of things that didn't serve me to make way for things that will!
     I  just BARELY read one of the most INCREDIBLE books on prosperity that I have ever encountered. In fact, I can't, and won't shut up about it! I want everyone to read this! I believe it was in this book that she talks about how you can't expect to RECEIVE things if you aren't willing to first GIVE AWAY things to make space to receive.
       I have heard over and over again, ladies saying that they want one of our corsets really badly, but they just can't afford it. Holy face, if you want more corsets, then read this book. I know it will help you get there.  I believe deeply that if people gave up buying cheap, flimsy, apathetic articles of clothing, and started focusing on quality, durability, integrity, and proper fit, their LIVES would begin to be more quality, they would have more strength, integrity, and things that properly fit into their world.
       The things that we choose to bring into our life are a mirror for ourselves, in a lot of ways. As a small example, I spent years buying cheap shoes over and over again to wear with my costumes at festivals. My feet would hurt to badly by the end of the day that I COULD. NOT. MOVE. I would lay in the hotel bed and they would feel like they were on fire. It would put my mind into a bad place where I felt sorry for myself and blamed the outside world on my inside world. When I finally pulled the trigger and asked my customers what shoes they thought would work, and tons of ladies in Oklahoma urged me to get Ariat boots, I just paid the dang $279 and hoped for the best. 
      Here's the amazing part. When I chose quality for my life, rather than cheaply manufactured crap, the experiences I had while wearing Ariat boots were finer quality! People complimented me everywhere I went, my costumes looked AMAZING, and the BIGGEST thing was that my BODY reacted on a physical level to the boots. Not only did my feet NOT hurt after wearing the boots for a whole entire day, but I would feel more relaxed and focused, as I knew that my posture had been better, my outlook was brighter,  my brain was more peaceful, and my stress was down. 
      My first part of these boots that I bought still looks amazing and new FOUR YEARS LATER, and I take joy in polishing them, cleaning them, and even displaying them up on a shelf in my closet. What a truly different experience than my crappy little flats purchased from Famous Footwear that hurt and fell apart. I ended up SAVING MONEY because I only had to buy one pair of shoes, whereas, if I were wearing cheap quality shoes, I would have had to buy about 5 pairs a year, at around $40 a pair. You do the math. 
      Holy what?? This has been a long blog! You can tell that I'm very passionate about this very thing. Please, please remember that you are quality and you deserve quality. Please remember that you participate in the energy that your things have been imbued with. It's like when you eat a hastily slapped together $1 burger from Burger King, vs.  an amazing, mouthwatering, well-crafted burger from the local hole-in-the-wall run by an awesome family. They're both "burgers" but think about the difference in experience!!  
       I am bold enough to PROMISE you that as you seek for higher quality things and experiences for yourself, the whole universe will notice, and bring you the money and means and people to provide you with even more of these blessings. Your whole life can change if you are bold enough to believe that you deserve better. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Thoughts on Elephant Seals

Man, do I LOVE ladies who dress up all piratey! These gals were especially fun, vibrant, beautiful women!
      I know, right? What the what?!? On our last trip to California,  I was able to attend not one, but TWO awesome Pirate Festivals right on the coast. These are the kind of moments when I just have to stop and think,"Wait....REALLY? For my freaking JOB, I get to dress up like a pirate, and play dress up with other awesome women on the beach. This is my life!!" It's truly times like this that make the stress and drama of the job worth it.

       My favorite part of my last adventure was not planned. We were traveling along the gorgeous Pacific coast, and just in case any of you imagine that the whole California coast looks like sunny beaches, bikinis, and endless parties, you are incorrect. I drove the WHOLE thing, and most of it is FIERCE and daunting and captivating and jagged's a picture down below. With the exception of the Pacific Coast Highway winding its way down the whole thing, most of it probably looks like it did when explorers and pioneers were forging their way to this glorious state! 
      We had been driving for about two hours, and were almost to our hotel. We had screaming kids in the back of the car, and all of us needed to go to the bathroom, when we saw a road sign that said, "Caution: Elephant Seal Area". I didn't think much of it, because usually when you see signs warning you of possible wildlife, you get excited, only to be let down...nothing but natural vegetation and absolute absence of said animals. 
        However, a couple minutes later, we rounded a corner, and saw a beach with HUNDREDS of these lumpy elephant seals! 

        We excitedly pulled over and went to a "viewing area" that they had set aside, with fences for the possible idiots that might try to go and frolic around on the beach with these massive sea animals. Immediately, I was struck by the NOISES coming out of these things! I would describe it as a mix between the raptors from Jurassic World and a flushing toilet...with maybe a little bit of chainsaw thrown in there. The calls they were making were loud, boisterous, and almost joyous! 

         Most of the elephant seals were just sort of lying around, crammed next to each other, sprawled out over one another, and just lounging without a care in the world. There were two males that seemed to be fighting over who was the alpha, and they were rearing back, yelling, and slapping each other, as well as snapping at each other with their strange, floppy nosed maws! 

         Holy night, these animals were the most beautiful, ugly things I had ever seen! At one point in time, my sister and I started to wonder if they were perhaps animals that God had made the very last, when he was tired and just wanted to get it over with. It looked as if he had just grabbed a wad of "matter dough" and started roughly rolling it out on his Celestial table until it was sort of a lumpy, oblong potato, and then had thrown some fins on it, slapped a floppy blob of matter clay on for its nose and called it a day, as he chucked it into the ocean. 
Freaking out about how awesome this hat is. This makes my 6th hat from this company. Yup. 
       Here's the thing though.....that was the CHARM of the animals! They were so...uh....unapologetic? I watched one "gluggidy-gloob" out of the ocean (I can't think of a proper verb to describe how it moved.) and the layers of blubber and fat shuddered violently with each explosive leap forward.  These things were MASSIVE, and every move made all their fat look as if it were vibrating.  But, guess what? All of the humans LOVED them! Everyone was camera-crazy-snapping away, amazed, awed, and astounded! Everyone was...well..excited about how fat they were!  I think that is one of the things that I absolutely adore about things in nature. They are so much at peace with their being in this world. I mean, sure there were still the big male butt-heads fighting each other, but even that was beautiful. Nature is at peace with itself. It is not apologizing to anyone. The elephant seals aren't caught up with trying to be more flopperific than the next floppy, "Squidward" nose. 
      I think I want to endeavor to start viewing the people around me in a similar was as I viewed the elephant seals. Yes, they were different from me and had led different lives, but I was so INTERESTED in them! I was freaking out about how awesome they were. I had JOY as I discussed how God crafted them! I thought they were beautiful, living their life, making their noises, biting each other, and jiggling their fat. There was not a single time when I was "comparing" one to the next and trying to sort them into categories in my brain. (Oh, that one is the nerd. That one is the cheerleader. That one is the jock. So on. ) I just saw them all for marvelous creatures that were filling the measure of their creation, and sounding like clogged flushing toilets whilst they were doing it! 

     If there's one thing that I've found amusing in my life lately, it's how ACCURATE those dang inspirational posters have sounded to me in my brain.  When I'm thinking about what advice I need most, I think things like, "Follow your DREAMS!" and "Keep At It!"  and "You are the only YOU!" and "You are BEAUTIFUL!" .  Sometimes, the basics are the basics for a reason. I tend to needlessly complicate lots of things about my life, but if I were just laying on the California Beach, looking at the beautiful sunset, and not minding how I jiggled when I moved, perhaps I could have the peace  of the elephant seal. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Q and A...with....myself

 For me, personally, I LOVE behind-the-scenes info on how businesses run, how people get through adversity, and how entrepreneurship gets a beating heart. However, when people ask me about my own personal "triumphs" and struggles, I get a little wishy-washy. Really? I don't know....I just wake up and do my stuff....

But then I got to really thinking about it, and I think I might have some answers that will help. If nothing else, they will give some hopefully interesting insights into how a small business runs (one of the MANY ways!)

So, here is
Q:How long have you been doing this?
A: Holy freak. I don't think I've never NOT been doing Damsel in this Dress. These seeds were planted LONG ago, in my childhood. I think that most people that end up "finding their bliss" KNOW what they should have been doing with their lives from the time they're young. I'm serious about this. In childhood, we have our most pure, unfiltered, unadulterated feelings, desires, and dreams still in us. It's the world, school, teachers, parents, and the media that unfortunately tend to beat it out of us. We lose hope. We feel shame. We give up. I loved something I read the other day about how "for the first two years of a child's life, we are so EXCITED every time they talk and walk, and then for the next 16 years, we just try to get them to sit down and shut up. " Wah, wah.
So, around to the point. I've been doing this "professionally" under the name Damsel in this Dress for about 11 1/2 years, and I've been making and selling costumes online for about 13 years.

Q: What is your daily routine? What does a day look like for you?
A: I'm VERY methodical about my mornings, and have created very specific rituals that make my days go better. I get up at about 3:50 a.m. to 4:30, depending on how my baby let me sleep. I put some "Deva Curl" gel back into my hair and rough it up a little bit (I like big and crazy hair) or I put a bandana in it, pinup girl style, and bobby pin it back. I always put on a smoky eye makeup, every single freaking day. I get to work  and get sewing. My crew comes in at about 7 in the morning, we have some type of morning meeting where we talk about the goals for the day, and we listen to podcasts, audiobooks.....anything that will keep our brains active and fresh.
We try to end work around 3-4 (so, about a 12 hour day for me) but generally, I spend my late afternoons and evenings fabric shopping, figuring out photoshoots, working out, and sometimes even trying to spend time with my kids.  ;)  If it's a crazy week and we're getting ready for a show...which is a LOT of the year, I will work late into the evenings, trying to re-stock inventory and tag and hang up the pieces.
Q:What is the biggest challenge of owning your own company?
A: ARgg. I'm ashamed to say it, but I REALLY let "haters" get me down. I'll be in this wonderfully creative mode, and I'll be excited about new styles, new fabrics, and new concepts! I'll be thinking about what customers suggested, and then I'll read something online and it will SHUT. ME. DOWN.  Anytime someone points out a flaw in my product, and then goes on to tell me how it ruined their life and how disappointed they are in me...I mean, holy crap, like language of a controlling, manipulative parent or authority figure. "I'm so disappointed in you, and because you are so bad, I'm going to punish you."  I believe sooo much in the golden rule, and I can honestly say that I'm proud of how I usually handle people that are trying to purposefully make me feel bad about myself, however, I'm just always so surprised by this type of behavior. I suppose we live in a world where customer service  is so bad that everyone feels the need to "escalate" and yell and "speak to the manager" to get anything done, but working with a small business is usually not like that. When I buy something off of etsy, and there is an issue, I KINDLY contact the person, tell them that I COULD BE WRONG, but here is this issue, and would they be so KIND as to help me? People in small businesses are generally so sweet and accommodating!
It's amazing how- if we expect people to be butt-faces, WE, ourselves actually end up acting like butt-faces so that THEY will act accordingly and prove that our "story" is true. On the flip side, when I expect people to be awesome and help me and care about me, I get exactly what I expect. Cashiers are friendly and sweet, servers at restaurants give me great quality and I tip them accordingly....the world is full of love.
Anyhow..this clearly needs a whole entire post by itself, but maybe it doesn't. I mean, I can't control others, I can only control myself and the thoughts that I think about others that seem to make me crazy. I'm working on letting go of the negativity. The negative stuff KILLS creativity, though. I mean, it really shoots it dead. Then it takes that much more energy and motivation to come back from the low place that you were.
 Q: What advice would you give to people that want to start their own company?
A: Once again, this needs a whole entire post itself! But, for starters, I think the biggest thing would be to work on letting go on all your perceived limitations and "reasons" for why you can't do this awesome thing that you want to do. Unless you're clear and coming from a place of love and pure creation, you will be shot down repeatedly by others and by yourself, because you didn't build that original foundation.  You'll start your own  little company, but when the crap hits the fan, you won't be able to sustain the strength and fortitude that it takes to push past the obstacles and become something greater.
It's so easy to say, "Yeah, I want to be an author and I'm writing this book" and then when people ask about it, you say, "Oh, well, it's not ready to show people."  You've GOT to show people and you've GOT to be okay with people not liking it, bullying you, trying to tear you down because you created something and all they can create is drama.
I heard it phrased like this-When you set out to create, you do so with a clean canvas. Start fresh, and without all the negativity and fear. Otherwise, you can't create what you want because the canvas is already mucked up with ugly stuff and you'll have to be creating alongside it.
It's EXTREMELY hard to let go of all of your "stories" about why you "can't" and why you "haven't" and the "I really need to's" and "I probably should's".  However, ALL of the "limitations" that we put on ourselves and products of our own mind. I'm not saying that you can sit there and be all like, "I've let go of the fact that I have no legs, and now I'm going to run a marathon! No limitations! Holla!!!" However, most of our self-inflicted barriers are not like that. All the same, you know what your own stories are. Just start questioning them, and trying to plow your way through them. Start bullying THEM like they bully you, in your own brain.
Q:Where do you see your company in five years? 10?
A: Holy night, I ask myself hard questions!!!  Well, let me see. I would LOVE to form some trust-filled relationships with people across the country and meet people that would be good at possibly managing a booth for us at festivals that we can't make it to! Obviously,I would love to do an 8 weekend long festival in Maryland or something, but I myself, just cannot commit to that many weekends. I would want to get an INCREDIBLY good team of people for my booths, no matter where they end up. I'm VERY picky about the customer experience in my booth. We work our guts out to make sure it's a "safe zone" and to make sure that women leave feeling 100% better than when we met them. We want to change their brains about their body shape and size. I want to always have women working who will LISTEN and not just try to "sell" as I really hate sales tactics.  It's all a tall order, and that's why I've been personally present at almost all of my own events. Do it "In House" and you can have better control of the results. It scares me to think of having a completely different crew managing a show, and hoping that they would love my customers as much as I do. Eek! *hyperventilate here for a second*  I know I'm not perfect, but I am passionate about the product, and I do genuinely like people, even when I'm in a grumpy mood! ;)
So...5 years? Doing some more shows across the country. 10 years? If I'm being honest here, I REALLY want to start some kind of "stick-it-to-the-man" small business school(I don't like the word 'school'....uh...boot camp?) where people come in and learn how to make passive income online doing what they love. That is the future. I honestly believe that with the rise of technology, there is the urgent call for more of us to quit the cubicle life, or whatever drudgery job that we thought we were shackled to! We have the opportunity to CONNECT, and CREATE, and INNOVATE and I know those sound like buzz words, but I freaking buzz with excitement when I think about more people being excited to wake up to their lives in the morning. We live in the best time!!! Right now. I would love to encourage people to take hold of their dreams and shut down the inner voice of fear. Do what you came to earth to do!!  WHO KNOWS what the world will look like in 10 years! All I know is that I'm excited to be a part of it.  People that live in fear and are miserable will continue spending their time trolling on the internet, and tearing down others. In the meanwhile, people that are excited to live and want to help the world will rise up and create things we never even dreamed. 

Q: Last question. What are some things that help you in your daily life?
A: I'm glad you asked. I made a collage.  Here's the stuff from going through the vertical rows, from left to right.
top left: KT TAPE!!!  Sitting and sewing all day has jacked up my back and my wrists and all sorts of things. I don't even know what this tape is or how it does it, but HOLY NIGHT, it literally takes away all of my pain. I thought I would have to just live with lower back pain for the rest of my life, but all I do it take two strips of this tape and put them on either side of my spine, and I am a rock star.

middle left: Family. Obviously, that's the key to my success. This is an older picture, without my baby, but honestly, they're the reason I do everything I do.

bottom left: You can get zipfizz at Costco or Sam's Club. I love the dang stuff. I have a hard time drinking enough water, but like these fizzy tubes of goodness.

middle top: This just represents my general love for high quality makeup. Do yourself a favor and just spend the extra money. I PROMISE, it pays off in the end. My favorite brands are Urban Decay and Make Up For Ever. Nobody can make me feel bad about my love for makeup. But what about looking natural and feeling beautiful without  it on?  Guess what, I don't feel beautiful without a bra on either. Let me feel what I feel and you can feel what you feel, and we can all be friends. (by the way, I do recognize that my grammar in this blog is atrocious. I was just looking at the sentences above and getting nervous about my high school English teacher leaping out of nowhere and doing grammar karate on me or something...)

middle bottom: I still have my first pair of Zella leggings. These things will not freaking die. They are 3 1/2 years old, and I hold them up to my pair that I got two months ago, and they look exactly the same. The fabric is just incredible. Truly. Oh, and if you have anything nasty to say about people wearing leggings, please refer to my previous blog.  Anyhow, you can get these things at Nordstrom

right top: I love all kinds of kale chips forever. Plus, they get stuck in my teeth and make me into a total kissable babe.

right middle: Sharpie markers are the best. Even when my kids use them to create murals on my newly painted walls. Nothing can shake my love and loyalty to these things.

right bottom: Ah, yes. My sister, Emma calls this "Chocolate Yardwork" but don't's like if yardwork tasted good! I mix it into all of my shakes and smoothies. It's got like....70 types of organic green things jammed into it, and the company grows everything in Kansas. I love all their products, and love this one especially!!!