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Spotted Dog Farm Blog

Stay In Your Lane

I've been working on staying on track during my work day - which can be surprisingly hard to do when you work from home.  Basically I'm in total control of my schedule - which is awesome! - but also leads to lots of opportunities for detours.

Yesterday drove home the importance of staying in my lane.  I was supposed to be doing some computer work, but I wanted to go dig up some stuff and investigate a farm issue that I am utterly unqualified to address.  So, when faced with the option to do what I was supposed to vs what I wanted to, I picked up a shovel.  And then I created slightly more of a problem than previously existed, and totally freaked myself out since I had zero expertise in what I was playing with anyway.  Yeah - totally should have stayed at the computer for the hour.  Then my accounting would have been done and I wouldn't have found myself freaking out over something I shouldn't have been in the middle of anyway. 

Turns out my giant problem - not a giant problem once I talked to the expert.  Just not a problem I personally can solve.  Yeah - here's to staying in my lane.

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Evolution

I've been reading a bit lately.  (Well, I'm always reading, but my taste usually runs towards frothy fun fiction and I devour those like candy, but lately I've also been adding some substance into the mix.)

One book recommended by a friend:  Executive Toughness.  I think this title is kind of a misnomer, in that you in no way need to be an Executive or have aspirations thereof to benefit from this book.  It's more of a "figure out what you want and make a concrete plan on how to get there" kind of book.  Count me in.

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The Creative Process

People like to ask about the creative process - as in, where do my ideas come from?  And I usually have no good answer, but today I sort of do.  Because it has occurred to me that all of my good ideas come from doing something.  Rarely from thinking about something - as in, I can't think my way into my next good idea (which is kind of a bummer because it would certainly be easier and less time consuming.  But also a lot less fun.) 

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Showing Up

I went to a photography workshop with the amazing Nicole McConville a few months ago, and among many other good pieces of advice, she recommended that small business owners take pictures of themselves at least once a month (I think, I'm paraphrasing here.)  Anyway, the point was that amidst all of the other things we enjoy photographing, don't forget that the common thread in everything you're doing is... you.  And I recognized this as good advice, and then kind of forgot it.  Because, you know, busy, distracted, other stuff going on. 

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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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