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I Took The Handmade Pledge

July 2011

This Sister is Doing it for Herself

It's awesome being the Chief Curator and Benevolent Dictator of Wise Daughters, don't get me wrong.

But sometimes I get so caught up running the business, I let my own creative pursuits fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Summer affords me time to make stuff. A couple of weeks ago I felted a bunch of chocolates, actually destined for Distill Gallery, but will soon make some to sell here too.

Felt Chocolate

This morning, I finally pulled out the silkscreen supplies I bought after Christine Pensa's excellent workshop here in the spring. I had made some stencils, and found a local supplier for organic cotton napkins, but had been a bit tentative - fearing screwing up, I suppose. But it was a triumph! I happily screened away until not a single blank napkin remained, then promptly ordered 100 more! I plan to sell cheerful sets of 4 this fall. Here is my first design:

Screening Napkins

Making stuff myself is not only satisfying, but a rather important income stream for Wise Daughters, given the greater profit margin. I make soap that sells here, at Wonderworks and at Red Tent Sisters. It's great to have a presence in different places, without saturating the market, of course.

The next big thing for me is my Wise Daughters Wear - the jammies/loungers about to go into production.

It feels like my baby is experiencing a growth spurt, and it's very exciting!

All You Have to Do is Ask

Over the past three weeks, I've had to move. It was unexpected and upsetting, and would have been a logistical nightmare as well, had it not been for a lot of help from my friends. Faced with little time and no car, I did an unusual thing: I unabashedly asked for help. All my friends said yes to my requests to drive me places and lug things, graciously and with genuine good humour. One friend let me drag her around Ikea, desperately hunting for the Snurgleblorg bin before closing. Another hauled my futon up 3 flights of stairs then took me grocery shopping. One wrote me a cheat sheet all about internet, cable and cell phones so I could speak reasonably intelligently about the services I needed and not get fleeced. People I don't even know that well let me borrow their cars. At some point, a friend commended me for asking for help, and I realized how rarely we do that.

Maybe we women of the feminist era are loathe to show weakness, or maybe we're all just inculcated with the American dream - you can do it, but on your own. I have always been fiercely independent, but have also learned that asking for what you need can be really beneficial. This absolutely applies to my business as well.

Never one to cower before banks or large corporations, I have always demanded better rates and prices. Much to my children's mortification, I will haggle anywhere (except with artists, of course!). Did you know that all you have to do to lower your merchant credit card rate is phone the bank every six months and demand it? I mark it in my calendar. It's harder to get one's way with behemoths like Bell or Rogers, but not impossible. It's remarkable what happens when you cheerily start a sentence with "I'd like to arrange a better deal on..."

Fortified by the generosity of my friends and my capacity to get things done, yesterday I sacked my lawyer in favour of his much more attentive and competent colleague. I had to practice all the way there on the subway (what is it about doctors and lawyers?), but when I got to his office I looked him in the eye and said, "I am unhappy with the service I've received from you." It felt so empowering!

What do you need help with today/this week/this month? Who can help you? Chances are, all you have to do is ask.

Things People Do (Or How my Faith in Humans was Restored)

Last week I had to rant about the woman with a head the size of her Mercedes who said very impolite things to me while I was on my bicycle.

Today, I have a much better story to share about human behaviour.

Some background: for my 40th birthday, I got some new phobias, notably height and enclosed spaces. Mostly I cope. A year ago it got pretty severe (apparently phobias are connected to menopause symptoms - yet another phenomenon not covered in the manual). I worked on it, and by spring I was doing much better, blithely riding the subway and taking airplanes. But when one gets stressed (and I am under a crushing amount of stress right now), phobias and other mental health annoyances rear their nasty little heads.

So... Saturday night I had enjoyed a play downtown and was waiting on the westbound platform at Bathurst station when I felt my breath start to shorten and my palms start to sweat. Whenever I'm about to ride the subway, I pick a secret helper to stand next to - somebody who looks sympathetic in case I freak out. I had pre-selected a woman in her 30s and moved closer to her. I was doing my damndest to breathe slowly, but I was starting to get light-headed, so I said to her, "Excuse me, I'm claustrophobic, and I just want you to know I might be about to faint." She was awesome. Without skipping a beat, she reached in her purse, pulled out some mints and said, "Have a mint - it'll distract you. Lean on the wall. And look how close the stairs are, right over there."

That was really all I needed. Assured that if I did faint, she would know not to send for paramedics to perform rib-crushing CPR, I stopped feeling light-headed. I felt ok to walk to the stairs. Then I took a cab home.

I don't look on it as a defeat. I didn't faint, and that was my goal. I didn't ride the subway either, but in the overall scheme of things, who cares? I rode it the next day with no problem.

And best of all, this kind and sensible stranger did just what I needed her to do in the moment.

The Things People Say

This blog post has nothing to do with the shop, though the story takes place during my ride home from work last night. I just need to write it down to get it out of my system, and maybe to get others' thoughts.

So there I was, calmly riding south on Runnymede in the bike lane, when I was obstructed by a large white Mercedes SUV stopped not only in the bike lane, but in a construction zone, and maybe 50 meters from the intersection at Bloor. Altogether, about the most inopportune spot a person could find to stop. Her window was wide open, so I sidled up and said (without raising my voice),

"Really? You chose this spot to park?"

The driver let out a squeak, as I had totally startled her. This because she was absorbed in the task of clipping her toenails. She was in her late 20s, very blond, and very tanned. It would be a more interesting story if this Mercedes owning foot groomer was not such a cliche, but there you have it.

The woman quickly regained her composure and screamed at me,

"Go fuck yourself, you dumb bitch!"

Now, maybe I've lived a sheltered life, but I don't recall anyone ever speaking to me like this before. I don't think anyone has requested that I fuck myself within my hearing, and I'm sure I've never been called a bitch to my face. It is one of my least favourite words.

I'm not offended so much as gobsmacked by this incident. How is it that one person can address another like this? Not in the throes of an impassioned political argument, say, but on the street, with the one in the wrong doing the yelling, to boot?