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Spotted Dog Farm Blog

How to Run 100 Miles. Or a Creative Business.

I read the best blog post yesterday - over at Oiselle.  Oiselle's high on my list to begin with - they're women-centered creative badasses, and they make the best running shorts I've ever worn.  I tend to yoga more than run these days, but their roga shorts are still my summer uniform.  One of the perks of being a creative entrepreneur that works out of a treehouse?  Running shorts as uniform.

(seriously, if running shorts are your thing check these out.)

One of their runners, Devon Yanko, wrote an essay yesterday about how to run a 100 mile race.  And it was interesting in its own right - I've sometimes thought about ultras.  But what really struck me was the parallels to creative entrepreneurship.

Yes, it's amazing to chart my own course and decide what I want my business to look like, and then chase down that vision.  But you know what?  It's a heck of a lot harder than just showing up for work and letting someone else chart your course for you.  Now to be honest I'm not all that great at being told what to do, so for me having my own business is a dream and I'm incredibly grateful for it.  But still... it can be hard.  When things aren't working out exactly the way you'd hoped, or a project that you thought would take a week is now on week 5, or your amazing new idea ended up being neither amazing nor new... it can be a bit of a gut check.  So this essay hit some of the spots I've been pondering lately.  I encourage you to check it out, but here are the parts that I particularly liked.

 

 

Yes! How powerful is that?  Our perceptions of our own capabilities and limits are the most powerful thing.  That's one of the things I try to keep in the front of my thoughts - change all of your possibilities just by changing your mind.  Because the only person who defines my possibilities - that's me.

 

This one made me laugh because it such a perfect restatement of one of my mantras of the last year: "prepare to be uncomfortable."  Because the sad truth is that growth never happens when you're inside your comfort zone.  In fact I had this exact same conversation with a friend of mine who's a new yoga teacher - she's so looking forward to teaching, and a little freaked out at the same time.  So, just like any new venture - get ready to feel uncomfortable.  Because it won't be easy, but it will be rewarding, if you can just make yourself keep going.  In fact, that leads in to some of my other favorite parts of Devon's essay:
This last one might be my favorite of all.  I tell Sam this all the time - and try to remember it myself - that perseverance trumps almost anything in life.  Talent is great, luck might be even better, but for the long run it's perseverance that gets you where you want to go.  And that's why this mug from Shop Compliment is sitting on my desk:
It's an homage to Elizabeth Warren, of course, but in the bigger picture it's the blueprint of getting the life and business I want.  In the end, what counts the most is determined forward movement towards the goal.  So for all of us out there:  nevertheless, we persist.

 

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Back to the Picnic Deck

You guys!  It is February 12 and it is 70 degrees in Asheville.  And that means I am back to basking on my picnic deck for journaling and reading random New York Times stories and getting some work done (unfortunately in that order).  If there is a better way to work than outside listening to the birds chirp I definitely don't know what it is.

You'll notice that my "overlooking the pond" vista is currently an "overlooking world's largest mud puddle" vista.  Which, strangely enough, indicates progress.  That's right, we got the pond drained (finally!) and are now awaiting the arrival of the big equipment.  I'm fully aware that the problem of "my pond needs repair work" is about the most first world problem imaginable, and thus it won't exactly be a catastrophe if takes a while.  But still... fingers crossed this thing has water back in it by summer.

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Team Outing

This past fall I realized that I needed some help.  My niece, Meredith, has been helping me for a while now with packing orders and doing prep work, but it was becoming apparent that we needed another person.  Meredith's going back to school, and we needed another set of hands so that we could keep dreaming up new ideas and creating new collections.  Otherwise we were just barely keeping our heads above water, no time for fun new things.  And fun is one of my business core values.  (For real.  Fun, Evolution, Creativity and Tenacity.  That's Spotted Dog Farm in a nutshell.)  

So, I created a job description describing the perfect person to join us, and then I figured we'd just see what happened.  And what happened was that the actual perfect person showed up!  Trust me, no one was more surprised than me.  I mean, I figured we'd find him or her eventually, I just didn't know that she'd be the very first one.  But she was, and we've had the best time together this fall... Katie, Meredith and me.  Kind of like the Three Musketeers, but creative, and surrounded by the glow of the twinkle lights in my studio.

So, I wanted to celebrate the close of a great year, but I couldn't quite figure out how to do it.  Lunch?  NO, boring.  A drink?  No, Meredith's 19, and also going out for a drink lacks a certain spark.  Finally it hit me - ballroom dance lesson!  Not because I ballroom dance - I don't - but because they do and it seemed like good fun potential.  So, off we went, and it turns out it was super fun - who doesn't like to laugh and listen to music and wiggle your hips?  I highly recommend.  We're already gearing up for our next outing - I saw a sign for Beginning Bellydance.  

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The Treehouse - it's Electric

Remember my treehouse that wants to be an auxiliary office?

Well it just got one step closer - Clark's dad came and worked his engineering magic and fixed the electrical.  The electricity hasn't worked in ages - years? - and we assumed it was because of the spot we found where a lawnmower had clearly run over the (supposed to be buried) electrical line and mangled it.  I mean, that felt like a safe assumption of the problem.  And while it was definitely part of the problem, it certainly wasn't the whole problem - as evidenced by the fact that we still had no power once that line was fixed.  Some sleuthing led to the discovery that the line had also been pulled out of the auxiliary electrical box - probably so no one would try to use it since the line was in mangled pieces in yard?  So both of those problems were addressed, and we now have power.  Yay Clark's Dad!

With the biggest problem fixed, we can now move on to some smaller scale issues.  Such as...  cleaning out the old kid stuff, bigger windows, paint, floor, desk, workspace, heat.  You know, basically everything.  But things that can be fixed on the weekends, with some elbow grease.

Here are the befores:

 

And hopefully before too long, I'll have some afters.  But here's the view from the tiny porch.  I cannot *wait* for this to be my tiny office. 

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In the Company of Women

You guys!  I've finally figured out who I want to be when I grow up.  It turns out, it's Jodie Patterson.  

Not that I actually know Ms. Patterson, but I just read her interview in Grace Bonney's most excellent book:  "In the Company of Women:  Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists and Entrepreneurs."  I love this book - who doesn't want some inspiration and advice?  As so aptly put by the Marian Wright Edelman quote in the introduction, "You can't be what you can't see."  And I think this is true - either see it in reality, or at least in your head.  And this book lets you see lots of interesting, dynamic, resourceful, successful women.  Count me in.

Here are the Jodie Patterson quotes that I particularly love:

"My best asset cannot be measured or copied or calculated - it's my mojo.  I always lay that on the table first."

"I'm not more confident than others, I'm just relentless."

"I have two characteristics that I love most about myself.  The first is that I never quit.  Never.  Exceptionally smart people always surround me, and typically I'm not the smartest in the room.  But I have the most grit, the most guts and chutzpah.  The second trait I love about myself is that I'm an optimist; I'm always looking ahead with hope."

Her unabashed confidence and fearlessness - yes, please.

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I Need a Treehouse

All summer I've been heading over to the picnic deck first thing in the morning.  I plan out my day, journal a little, prioritize a little - you know, start-your-day type stuff.  And it's the best, because I'm out of my studio space, and thus out of the "must get everything done right this second" space.   It's a little oasis to get my self together before I jump into the fray.  (In fact, I'm sitting on the deck right this second, and just noticed that Rhino Puppy is digging a crater-sized hole in the yard while he attempts to find a mole.  Oops.)  

And while this picnic deck is the perfect place for a relaxed start to the morning, it doesn't have any walls.  And so I'm going to be kicked out of my morning office as soon as the weather gets cold.  Which leads me to... the tree house.  My parents built it for the grandchildren to play in about 10 years ago, and now the grandchildren are too old to want to play in it so we've been trying to figure out if there's something fun to do with it.

Clark wants to make it a tiny bunkhouse for kids to use when we have house guests.  But it's seriously tiny, so they'd need to be Lilliputian house guests.  And we thought about turning it into the fanciest chicken coop around, because we have some friends who did this with their old tree house - but I like it an awfully lot, so it seems a shame to turn it over to the chickens.  And also I think my dogs might love to eat chickens and life kind of provides enough stress so I don't think I need to go looking for any.

But I was sitting here at the picnic deck the other day looking around, and it hit me - the tree house might be my perfect auxiliary office for winter.  It's tiny, so it wouldn't be hard to get a space heater to warm it up.  Plus tiny means it wouldn't be expensive to retro-fit - it mainly needs some bigger windows and a few gallons of white paint.  So I think I see a tree house in my future.

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Woolworth Walk and Studio Ninjas

Just finished updating Woolworth Walk - my one and only gallery.  I've been there for years... and more years.  I was there when I primarily sold beeswax lanterns!

 

 I still have a few of those around the house - beeswax shells with pressed flowers.  I love them, but they're a mess to make.  And also quite seasonal - turns out no one wants to buy things that you set on fire in the summer.  

Woolworth very graciously transitioned with me when I moved from making beeswax lanterns, to beeswax jewelry, to resin jewelry.  


   

Why no more beeswax jewelry?  Well, it's cool, but it's not exactly in it for the long haul.  I mean, it's beeswax, so even if you coat it in resin it still isn't going to last too long.  So eventually I moved on to pure resin - no beeswax required - and the rest is history.   If you're ever in Asheville, I highly recommend Woolworth  Walk.  It's all local art, and the Soda Fountain is the best.

Speaking of things that happen in Asheville - I'm also hiring a part time Studio Ninja (or Studio Assistant, if you want to be boring about it.)  If you're in Asheville and you think your destiny might involve working in my studio, check out the Jobs link in the footer of my website.  I've gone back and forth a hundred times on whether to have someone help me with production, but I've finally figured it out.  Despite my best efforts, I cannot warp the time space continuum.  And thus I have failed at creating more hours in the day.  

Soooo I'm gonna need some help.  Because I have all of these ideas in my head for amazing new jewelry, but so far no hours in the day to actually create it.  Creating new designs is one of the most fun parts of what I do - lots of trial and error, and things that you know are going to look amazing that don't, and things that you didn't intend to do at all that end up being your favorite thing.  But it's time consuming - like right now I need to go to Home Depot and buy a pipe cutter and then scour a few jewelry supply catalogs for the exact right chain.  Those are for different components by the way - no pipe cutter required for jewelry chain.  So I'm excited to free up some time for new design, and am thinking the universe is going to send me the exact right person.  Come on, right person! 

Speaking of the right people, if you're not in Asheville, but want to be part of the Spotted Dog Farm team, I've also got a few things I could use help with on a virtual basis - so if you're an experienced VA with a love of jewelry and details (not necessarily in that order), drop me a line.

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The Week of Work

School's out next week - which is both joyous and terrifying.  Joyous because I want another Summer of Yes, and terrifying because I don't quite feel prepared to have an unfettered summer yet.  I mean, I need to update my Cash Flow Projection!  I need to get some new products in the Etsy shop so I have some cash flow to project!  I need to get a shopping cart on my own website!  I need to get a budget set in my new accounting software!  You know, all of the adulting things.  But just like I mentioned in the Summer of Yes post I linked to above, I have another summer where my boy still wants to hang out with his mama.  At 14!  And that's not a gift I'm ever going to take for granted.  So this is the Week of Work. (Have you noticed that I like to label things?)  Which means that for this week I am head down working.  Yesterday I did a complete studio overhaul (talk about labeling things - the dogs are lucky they aren't labeled.)  And for the rest of the week I have a rather intimidating list of accounting and financial projections to knock off, and production to set up, and not a yoga class in sight.  Because starting next week I'm going to be all about sprint drills and pond swimming and pull-ups and badminton.  So, for this one week, it will be all about Work (Werk?).

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On Balance

Balance is an interesting topic to me.  And I'm referring to life balance, not physical balance, although with the amount of yoga I've been doing lately that's a fairly interesting topic to me also.  I read this blog recently, where the woman (who works a full time job, has a young child and also just ran the Olympic Marathon trials), pointed out that balance may be overrated - because it tends to mean you're doing ok at everything and not great at anything.  And I thought YES, that's it exactly.  In fact, at the risk of sounding like my mother-in-law-who's-a-therapist, I'd say it resonated with me. This winter has been kind of crazy - not crazy like last summer, which was Holy Shit My Dad is Dying and I Didn't See This Coming.  I mean, that's legit crazy.  But ever since then things have been crazy as in There Are a Thousand Things I'm Trying to Accomplish and I Can't Quite Figure Out How It's Happening.  We've been renovating the house at the farm since my dad died, and are in the process of moving back, and selling our house near downtown Asheville, and maintaining a farm for the first time in decades (hello Swedish Divorce Ritual, and little pack of wild goats), and so things are a little out of my control.  And I'll admit, I'm not great at that.

 

But interestingly enough, I've probably had more balance in my life than I have in a long time.  Because the farm house *is* being renovated, and the herd of tiny goats is still alive, and our house is under contract, and my business has kept moving, and I'm still married.  And - side effect of the crazy past 6 months - I'm doing more yoga than I ever have in my life, so that I don't lose my shit.  (which'll definitely happen without it.  Trust me.)  But while everything's kind of working, nothing's working GREAT.  The goats are alive but their fence is pretty shifty, my business is moving but not growing, the farm house is being renovated but we're living out of boxes and sleeping on mattresses on the floor.  And I think this is actually the best case scenario right now - I couldn't exactly go all-in on any one of those things at the expense of another.  They're all pretty important.  But once the house situations settle down, I'm really looking forward to some tunnel vision for a while.  I'm ready to batten down the hatches and lose all semblance of balance and make some things happen.  If balance means everything's ok, focus means one or two things are great.  And I'm ready for some great.

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