This is Raja, our new kitty, at about 10 weeks old. He's a Bengal, and before you get on my case about how terrible it is to buy fancy breeds when there are poor, homeless kitties in need of rescue— chill. This was Mike's crazy idea, not mine. And since Mike doesn't ask for much, I figured if he wanted a cat that was five generations down from a snow leopard then by gum, who was I to stop him?
Having said that, this is pretty much the coolest cat that ever was: he was so well cared for and socialized as an infant that he bonded with us immediately, he loves riding in the car, is cool as a cuke at the vet, and has a spotted jungle-cat belly that is to die for. Oh, and get this— Bengals love the water! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Raja already peeks his head in the tub when I'm in the shower, and our the breeder said to watch out: when they're older they will jump in the bathtub with you and splash water all over the place. Craziness, right?
We were so pleased with our experienced with Alexander Bengals I definitely wanted to give them a shout out. We could tell right away that the breeder truly loved their kitties and treated them with exceptional care. if you're in the Western North Carolina area and you're looking for Bengals, well, there you go.
As for the name... I'm kind of ashamed to admit that we got "Raja" from a Disney move. Ugh, how lame is that? We were watching Aladdin on TV, and I guess the tiger's name is Raja, and it just kind of stuck. Sorry, kitty. Naming things has always been tricky business for me. I'm still trying to convince some people that I didn't name our son after the lead character in Rushmore.
I really didn't.
It's about time I check in over here. I haven't been in the mood to blog lately, but I suppose I'm feeling a bit reflective today. Maybe it's all the Lifetime Original programing I watched yesterday. Can you believe we actually got cable?! Mike and I have never had cable, and we've lived together for almost 10 years now. At first, there were financial restraints. Then I suppose after a while we just got used to not having it. We still watch lots of movie, so we were far from TV-free, but I still believe that movies and TV are a world apart, the main difference being that movies have a beginning, middle, and END. Emphasis on the "end."
So, it all started last week when I received a telemarketing call at a very bad time. I was down. Beat. Stressed. Hanging on by a thread. When the cheerful lady asked me if I'd be interested in the Charter Cable Bundle, instead of blowing her off, I actually stopped to think first. I was interested. I guess I didn't respond right away, because she inquired again, "hello?....I said is this something you'd be interested in?" I broke down, almost sobbing, "Yes! Yes....yeeeesss! I am interested. I really, really am." The thought of being able to watch Mad Men at it's regularly scheduled time, and to listen to Food Network shows while I answered emails, gave me the strength, hope, and courage to keep going that week. Now that it's all hooked up, I am enjoying it, but I don't think I'll get addicted or anything. Somehow in my romanticizing of the whole affair, I conveniently forgot how God-awful annoying commercials are. Time to learn how to work the DVR.
Cable TV...an interesting change for us. But not as big Max's big news. He started school today! It's a really big deal and so far, I think we are all pretty ecstatic about the whole thing. I never talked much about our decision to homeschool on my blog. Our family is always changing and evolving, and this year has been a little bonkers for all of us. In the end, I love homeschooling, and I hope we get the chance to do it exclusively again someday. But there were several reasons why it stopped working for us right now. Mainly, though I know it's not impossible, I think it's extra hard to homeschool an only child. Especially when Mike and I are both quiet, homebody types. I figured I'd just have to change who I was and become more social....but it's hard to change who you are, and not really fair to everyone involved. We also have been utterly overwhelmed with the business these last few months. I blame myself for not seeing this coming, who'da thought the first year of a building a brand new business from the ground up would be tough?!? Since this is exclusively what we do for a living and what supports our family, we can't exactly shove it to the back burner. Mike and I are both taking steps to make sure the business grows more smoothly and that we have the help that we need, but it's going to take a little more time before things are running like clockwork. The Shop isn't a sacred cow or anything, but neither of us want to give up on it just because we hit a rough patch. We know we can work it out, but we can't both focus on the shop and homeschool Max properly at the same time. We're just not that awesome, (and I require more than 3 hours of sleep a night.) Plus, I've had a few health issues lately (nothing terrible,) but my stress levels have been all over the place and it's been a very new, and humbling experience for me. Not to say I've never had stress before, but I have never encountered this kind of work-related stress in my entire life and WOW...it's really thrown me for a loop. I'm dealing with it, but it's a strange new obstacle for me, and not feeling like I was able to be an adequate teacher for Max was making it all even harder. I'm sure that many people will argue me on this, but I personally feel that Mike and I are not able to both work full-time and successfully homeshcool. Homeschooling/Unschooling is hard. Wonderful, time-consuming, amazing, and hard. It's really a full time job on it's own.
Happily, we found a dream-come-true school for Max that seems to be the perfect fit for him and is also reasonably priced. We are so grateful to have the ability now to pay the tuition, (which was never really an option for us before.) It's a Montessori School, and their philosophies on learning are very agreeable with Max's temperament. The classes include a range of ages, so everyone learns from and helps eachother - something that Max definitely has missed out on by not having siblings. Max just had an awesome first day, I'm so excited for him. Our policy has always been, "Do what works, until it doesn't work anymore." I will miss the freedom of homeschooling, but honestly, we all need to get a little more scheduled right now. The beginning of this year was like a big free-for-all, and now it's time to settle down and find a rhythm. I hope it all comes out in the wash. I think it will. I'll still miss my baby terribly every minute he's at school. I've always been like that, though. :) Max, however, doesn't miss us for a second. If anything, I think he's grateful to escape.
On the Biz-side.....still trucking along. Making big strides these days. Hiring employees, looking for a new commercial space, and a big website update on the horizon! Super stoked about that. Speaking of something "working, until it doesn't work anymore?" That's sort of what happened with Pappashop (our ecommerce provider.) We have totally outgrown it, and ooooh...the technical difficulties. We lost so much ground over those these last few weeks due to those issues, I can't even tell you. At one point, we just sat back, waiting for the locusts. I'm excited to be moving on up, but I really wish I could just blink my eyes and have all of the work done and the new website up and running smoothly. It's gonna take time to move 1000+ products over to a new site, and get used to the new, more complicated software. In the end though, it's gonna be so very much better. Lots of fun bells and whistles for the customers, easier checkout and a more professional layout, and time-saving features that will give me the ability to do what I love best: finding unique, new products and updating the blog with tutorials and fun stuff. It will be such a relief to get the site going, and a real milestone for the whole business!
Growing the business has been hard. Mike said it reminds him of Croatan. It's a little piece of beach that's one of the only decent places to surf in Virginia. When he was a kid, it was relatively a secret-spot. Hardly anyone knew about it, so it was never crowded. Then one day, everybody found out. And it wasn't a secret anymore. There were so many people trying to cram in and catch waves that nobody could really have any fun. Ok, not the best analogy, but you catch my drift. I miss being the little, secret shop that Mike and I could run ourselves, and ship orders out same-day, and make almost everyone happy all of the time. Now, we are spread far too thin - and I know that will get better as we get help, but right now it sucks. We're sold out of popular items all of the time, we can't ship fast enough, and I have hundreds of emails and dozens of phone calls every day that I can't answer fast enough. Even though I know we're doing our best, it's bad customer service and it drives me crazy. But what to do? Shut down for a while and "retool", so to speak? Thought about it. Might still happen on a small scale, but the Internet is strange like that. you can't just say, "Sorry, we're closed. We've got enough orders for the day, thank you and goodnight!" Internet means 24/7, baby. I've tried to keep popular items "out of stock" for a little while so we could catch up, but then I get 100's of emails asking when the products will be back in stock. The only solution is more man power, and we've learned that the hard way. Still, training people takes time, so we're still not out of the woods yet.
It sounds like I'm whining about being successful. I hate to sound like that. I don't want to make excuses for what's going on, but I do feel it's important that our customers understand who we are and where we are coming from (and that we did NOT know BH&G was doing a full page mention until the day it hit newsstands!) As of now, we have one person that answers phones and emails. Me. The same person who is working like a crazy girl, and also getting her kid to school, and (occasionally) doing laundry. So if you don't get an instant reply, that's why. I'm not saying that's right or wrong, it's just where we are right now. And now I really need to help with packing and shipping orders to get them out faster, but I can't if I'm on the phone/email all day! It's so frustrating - I wish I had about 8 clones! (It worked out for Michael Keaton, right?)
I'm rambling on here, but it's good to get this out a little bit. This business means so much to me and I find myself lamenting a lot lately about not being good enough, smart enough, or organized enough. Not working hard enough, not being sure how to proceed in the future. Not knowing how to be the boss that I need to be. Not knowing how to stay small and still make customers happy. Not knowing how to grow without changing who we are. Not knowing how to do the things I love, and not have them do me.
In a nutshell, running a business is hard. Did I think it would be easy?! I don't know. But I'm glad we have Max. He grounds us. We'd be insane workaholics if it wasn't for him. And that's no good. We don't want that, but it's just so easy to get caught up in it all. Especially when it's all around you, all day. But things are not as desperate as they seem. I told you, it's the Lifetime made for TV movies! They're infesting me with melodrama, I tell you! Maybe one day they will make an original movie about a whiny girl who selfishly complained about starting a successful business and blogged about how frustrated and wimpy she was.
It just might work.....
Ok, so that's what we've got going on these days - thanks for lending an ear.
I hope you are all enjoying what's left of your Summer!
(Indulge me, this is mostly for the fam!) We did have an amazing time at Elijah Mountain, and I would highly recommend it if you are in the Asheville/Hendersonville area. The whole place is the business project of a very inspiring 9-year-old homeschooled kid. Pretty incredible.
As side note, I want to thank you all for the kind emails and comments on my last post. I am going to get back to everyone personally, but I've found myself a bit under the weather lately, so please forgive the delay...I'll get all caught up eventually. In the meantime, I do hope everyone's week if off to good start! I'm gonna lay low a bit longer, but I'll be back this way before you know it.
I don't like to think of myself as a "helicopter mom," but I know I am sometimes. You get so used to doing everything when they are babies, and it's just hard to break the habit. This is a wonderful reminder for me to step back (and also to stop being walked-over.) Thanks Jane! Wonderful notion.
I help max with the logistics, but he pretty much does everything himself. He's having such fun....but I wonder if Typepad was the best platform for him? I'm thinking the ease and no-braininess of Tumblr would be a much better idea, (and I wish I would have though of it in the first place.) I'll probably help him move over there in the near future. I don't know if it's popular with younger kids, but I really think that Tumblr would be a great way to introduce kids to blogging. It's so easy, (not to mention free,) and it can basically be used as a digital journal. I'm hoping that Max will want to start a more personal blog in the future, but for now...he's all about the hedgies. ;)
That means antique stores, vintage clothes, and photo shoots! (Among other things.)
My body seems to be oddly contorted in that first photo, but the dress is so pretty. And I'm really nuts over the coat, too. It also has a matching pencil skirt, but I wouldn't wear them together.
Practicallity aside, this retro bathing cap was too amazing not to take home with us. The thick, rubber shell is accented with a crazy tulle ruffle on the edge. It also happened to match a vintage bathing suite my sister already had. She's so adoreable. I hate her.
We are both trying to work on our pathetic wardrobes this summer. It should be very interesting...
Eight years ago today, Mike had the day off of work, and for no particular reason we went to city hall and got married. No rings, no dress, no witnesses. Just us. It doesn't make for a very interesting story, but it is our story, and we're sticking to it, (for eight years so far, anyway.) After an unusual bout of superstition, I'm actually quite glad to be done with year-seven and to have our feet firmly planted into year number eight. I always joked about having a huge party-ceremony thing when we hit the big "10", and now that that is looming closer, I think I've changed my mind....I decided it will be much more fun (and selfish) to go on a fancy, Second Honeymoon trip just the two of us! I've got 2 years to plan and save up, and I'd love to hear some suggestions on where you think we should go. I do have a few restrictions:
*We're not into cruises
*Fancy, but not too fancy (we're not the Rockefeller's or anything)
*I don't like cold climates
*Not Europe. When we do go eventually, I want that to be a family-thing.
*Nothing too strenuous or action-packed, I'm into lazy vacations.
If any of you have recommendations, please leave me a note in the comments, I'd be so grateful! Neither Mike or are are particularly well traveled, so it'd be pretty easy to impress us.
Thanks guys! And I hope you're all having a wonderful Holiday Weekend!