Sunday, May 27, 2012

the art of a photo shoot

I picked up the camera the other day....

and this is what I found:

a guilty make sure know one is watching

a quick pose

totally getting away with it

experimenting with angles

man, I'm gettin good at this

time to get serious

 pout face
(I was wondering how she got so good at pout I know she practices...
in the camera)


and about fifty others.

I've seen her steal the camera before.  One day I saw the flashes and heard the clicking coming out of a play tent we had in the living room.  She was in there, surrounded by stuffed animals, taking pictures of all her "friends".  But, I am not even sure when she took this photo shoot.  I just picked up the camera one day...and these pictures were there.  What a treat.

happy Memorial Day -

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

behind every a funny story

Alrighty, I am completely convinced that you can't train for a marathon without a bunch of funny things happening.  Or maybe I just need to take it more seriously.  I don't know, but my first marathon experience turned out to be a pretty funny journey.  One where I learned a lot.  So I eagerly set out to do it again and thought if I could just fix my mistakes, I could run at my best and have a better experience.  (if you are interested, you can read the story of my first marathon  here.) I couldn't possibly have anticipated a whole new set of funny circumstances leading up to and occurring throughout the second marathon.  In fact, my second experience just might have been more funny than the first.

It all started in December.  A mere four months after running the first marathon...a mere four months after vowing to never do it again.  Well, I got all excited to do it again. hmmmmm. 

Dane and I planned to run together...until Dane had that pesky injury rear it's ugly little head again.  Sound like deva vu?  It totally is - the same thing happened last time.  Problem is, this time my excited ass already paid the non-refundable $110 entry fee.  If I could only learn to wait patiently.  Ughhhhh.  Poor Dane.  He decided to do a half marathon half way through.  It was a cold and rainy day, and about half way through the race he felt the familiar pull of his soleus muscle.  I think I registered us about one week prior to that.

The first few weeks of training went well.  There was the occasional snow storm run and more treadmill running than I care for, but I felt good and completely motivated.  I bought books.  Three to be exact.  Hal Higdon's Marathon Training, Four Months to a Four Hour Marathon and some nutritional book for marathon runners.  I loved Hal's book - lots of stories and totally motivational.  I gave up on the Four Hour Marathon book when it repeatedly gave no brainer advice like, "if you are a woman it is completely acceptable if your sports bra shows under your tank top"  Really.  Ok then.  Since nutrition was the main "thing I did wrong" the first time out, I thought I would totally get into the nutrition book.  I didn't.  I can't even find it to tell you the name of it.

Then I was blessed with that nasty stomach virus that went around, minor setback missed one run.  This was followed quickly with strep throat.  A bit more of a setback, missed a couple of runs.  This was followed by bronchitis.  Major setback, missed several runs including two long ones. Ughhh.  Things suddenly were not going my way. 

The first attempt at a long running (while still doing quite a bit of hacking) was fifteen miles on a very windy day.  Beautiful route though...beautiful that is, until I was attacked by three dogs.  Interested in the details?  You can find them here.  I won't re-tell the story except that screaming for help and yelling at these dogs to go home at mile ten took my breath away.  It was a very rough run.

Heidi - sister in law, partner in crime!

Then there was the visit by my super fun sister-in-law.  When she came for the weekend, I was getting a little burned out on running on the treadmill and/or getting up the nerve to run in the dark (I REALLY don't love running in the dark...or on a treadmill).  I thought I was going to get up early and go for my long run on Saturday - and then stay up late with her Saturday night.  Problem was, I ended up staying up too late Friday night...and there may have been wine involved.  By midnight I had myself convinced that if I downsized to the half marathon it would be OK.  Saturday night was another late one and by Sunday I was just tired enough to not care.  Then came Monday.  I beat myself up a bit for being crazy and weak, then agreed with myself that another two weeks of sticking with the program would determine the final distance.

The next few weeks went great.  I loved the runs, especially the long ones.  The days got longer so running in the daylight in the morning was becoming more of a reality.  I kept up on my speed workouts, cross training workouts and gave special attention to my nutritional needs during the long runs.  My confidence was building.

Then, there was the run when I saw a car pull over to the side of the road.  It happens.  The fella who got out was rather old and dressed head to toe in camo.  It was turkey again, it happens.  I don't think he saw me coming up over the hill.  I noticed him because I was running up the same side of the road that he pulled over.  I wasn't quite sure what he was going to do so maybe I looked at him a bit longer than I should have.  Then, thinking he lived in the house across the street, I figured I should say hi (it was one of my regular routes...I wanted to be neighborly).  Truth is, I really don't know what triggered what happened next.  As I approached I made slight eye contact and said, "good morning".  He responded with a not so friendly, "why don't you stare at this".  He then proceeded to whip out his thingy and go potty (that might be the mommy in me talking).  Really?  I ran home in a P.R., the whole time contemplating what I would say to him when he pulled up.  In hindsight, I don't think he was a perv...just some old guy who pulled down a dirt road to take a pee and was really irritated when my presence delayed it from happening. 

I don't know, but come on.  A dog attack and a thingy...what is happening to my roads?

me, desperatley looking for Dane for a chaffing stick
Dane, taking my picture while I am desperatley looking for him

Now, let's catch up to marathon day.  Oh wait a second, I don't know if I stressed the fact that I trained in cold weather enough.  I ran almost every outdoor run in my thermal running pants.  I purposely signed up for a spring marathon for the cooler weather.  For the love of Pete, I bought black running shoes.  I assumed I would be in pants for this race.  No one can wear black running shoes with shorts and feel good about themselves.  When Dane saw this ridiculous get up he called me Mike Tyson.  Obviously, I was nowhere near ready for the 90 degree forecast that came our way marathon morning.  I convinced myself it would be fine ("nice and cool in the morning" is how I pictured it) and it wouldn't hit 90 until I was cooling off and sipping beer.  I was a bit wrong about this.

mile 7 - feeling good -
see the guy behind me holding the sign?...he is Chris, the pacer...
about 2 miles from this I began realizing my limitations...and the sun

I began the race following the 4 hour pacer.  His name was Chris (not sure his last name) and he was amazing.  He said all the right things, was completely motivational and told us all sorts of fun facts (like that fact that he didn't run his first marathon until he was 45 and how he suffered a  mid life crisis last year and ran 3 marathons in 6 weeks).  I loved it because there was nothing cocky about him.  He was just telling stories and making us all feel like we could do it.  Around mile 8, there was a small hill and I started to wonder if I could keep this pace.  I was really starting to feel the effects of the heat and began contemplating whether it was worth it to try for 4 hours.  At mile 9, I stopped at a bathroom...and never caught back up.  I wondered who from the group made it and missed the camaraderie that was forming.  I was also relieved to be free to run at my own pace.

 By mile 11, I burned through all the nutrition I was carrying and realized that I missed one of two GU stations.  I saw Dane back at mile 7 where he offered me a pack of GU chomps...which I stupidly turned down thinking, "I feel great!  I don't want to carry them!"  Since we didn't really come up with a solid plan and I knew he still planned to go back to Saginaw to gets the kids, I didn't know if I would see him again.  I felt a bit panicky since I suddenly remembered with uncanny clarity how awful it felt to hit the wall...and there was NO nutrition on this course.  By the half way point, I decided that living to tell this story was more important than any time goal I might have had.  I reluctantly decided to walk through every aid station and keep walking until I felt "right" again.  I no longer thought about finishing, just making it to the next aid station. 

me begging for food

Somewhere around mile 18 there was a bowl full of gummy bears.  I quickly blocked out the visual of hundreds of sweaty runners sticking their hands in the bowl adn desperately grabbed two handfuls.

Then a miracle happened.  At mile 19, I spotted the unmistakable form of Oakley's pink sun hat, the bright and confused eyes of Truman and the brilliant shape of Dane's... backpack!  Don't get me wrong, I was happy to see Dane too, but oh, his backpack!  He had my chomps.  I stopped for a minute and got some much needed words of encouragement, some super valuable nutrition and a glimmer of hope that I could do this without hitting the wall.  Imagine how surprised and excited I was to see them again just few miles later at 22...I was revived and more fatigued than I have ever been - all at the same time.

Knowing how close the finish was kept me going despite the heat climbing into the high 80s.  Oh yeah, one fact that I forgot to mention...there was almost no shade on this route.  None.  We ran into the beating down sun almost the entire race.  Thank God for the good people of Midland, Bay City and Saginaw for spraying hoses on the runners, writing encouraging chalk messages in the road and enduring the heat to cheer everyone on.

Okay, so back to the story.  Somewhere during mile 23, I was approached by an angel.  A real live angel.  Her name was Suzi.  I remembered her from the beginning of the race (we were in that same 4 hour pace group).  I don't know why she chose to run next to me and strike up a conversation, but I am so grateful that she did.  She chatted a bit about her hamstrings bugging her and asked how I was doing.  I think I said something about knowing I can do it now that I was in the home stretch.  We exchanged marathon stories (her story took a bit longer to tell...this was her 22nd).  She proclaimed that she has never run in worse conditions ( high heat and no shade), she has done the "marathon shuffle" but never walked before today and some other stuff that just made me feel better.  For the two miles that we ran together, we went out of our way for hoses, hit drink stations for a little break and continued to utter words of encouragement.  Suzi made me smile.  She made me smile so much that people on the sidelines commented on the fact that I was smiling.  Together we ran past an official race photographer and I know I was smiling.  I can't wait to see that picture.  She pulled away from me at mile 25 and began her run for the finish.

Suzi in the blue.  number 414.

  It took me a bit longer to get there.  But I got there.

This finish was sweeter than anything I have ever experienced.  The crowds were calling my name (it was printed on my number).  I felt great knowing that I could see the end.  I was sure that the clock would say 5+ hours...but I didn't even care.  It was the proudest moment of my life...knowing that I made it through when, as early as 11 miles, I doubted myself. 

When I looked up at the clock, imagine my surprise when it said 3 hours and 45 minutes!  Then I realized that the clock I saw was the half marathon time...heee heee.  I looked to the right and saw that I was right around 4 hours and 35 minutes...holy shocker.  I was sure it would be way worse.  Five minutes slower than my first attempt but in WAY worse conditions...I'll take it.

I saw Suzi hanging out by the bananas.  I reached out and touched her arm.  She turned to me with a smile.  I said, "thank you".  There was a tear in my eye.  We bantered about the conditions.  I made the analogy that today was about survival.  She agreed.  I love that Suzi.  I told her it was great to meet her and good luck.  She winked and said, "I'll see you again".

Maybe she will.

I had to tell this story...thank you for hanging in there.  I know it was a long one.
so happy it's done (the marathon, not the blog post...although you are probably happy the blog post is done:),

wouldn't ya know it that the very next day was breezy, overcast and a high of 70 degrees?
made me want to do it more time, in better conditions.

Friday, May 18, 2012

garden rocks

Let's start by stating a fact...

I am no green thumb.  In fact I need all the help I can get in garden.  That's why I recruited the expertise of little miss Oakley to help me design a system to keep it all straight.  She loved painting rocks for our painting like a rock star project so much, that we decided to take our skills outdoors.  We painted rock labels for our plants so we can tell them apart.  Plus, I am envisioning something like this:

"Oakley, can you please go to the garden and pick some basil leaves for dinner?"
"Sure mom, love to do it.  Which one is basil?" (apparently, I believe that the rocks will make her super agreeable)
"It's the blue rock with the red writing."

and whalla!  I have five basil leaves. 

Isn't that the raise little slaves helpers?  Just kidding...we all know toddlers love to help.  So why not put them to work...

we went on a rock hunt...

...taught Truman that throwing the rock in to a bucket (when you are 20 months and have NO aim) is not a good idea.  We also taught Oakley to stay clear....

...we used the hose and bucket of soap to do a rock bath...

...and that marks the end of Truman's role in the project.  He napped while Oakley laid all the rocks out on the table to get ready for paint.

Finally, after picking colors, we got to paint.  Weird, but paint seems to dry really quickly in 80 degree weather - good for finishing the rocks but bad for using a lot of colors at once.  You might argue that I should have known this going in...I don't even have a counter-argument.

We decorated the painted rocks with sparkles, stripes and labels.

Oakley ran back and forth, carefully placing each rock in the garden.

She arranged them...

...and rearranged them, over and over again.

Now, what are the odds that the labels will stay with the plants they represent?  Cilantro and parsley are interchangeable anyway, right?

enjoy this summery day,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

aisle 6

aisle 6

Ahhhhhh, the time has finally come. 
This week marks the grand opening of a big part of my dream. 

aisle 6

My very own online store.

aisle 6 

My artwork in print.

aisle 6

In my mind, aisle 6 is where dreams go to come true.  

Since fall of 2009 I have have used the tag line "making tiny dreams come true".  Now, in the spring of 2012, I feel like my own dream of decorating the world for children is taking a big step in coming true.  Today I am officially opening my first online store where prints of tiny by design's most popular work will be available.

The night that aisle 6 originated was one of those defining moments.  I could feel the energy - that feeling that something great was about to happen.  Now, just two weeks later, it's force has shifted my path to one that I am so excited about.

The aisle 6 story:

It all really started back at CMU working at the local Red Lobster.  There was a group of us that just clicked.  We clicked in a "do everything together" sort of a way.  The group was big. (I won't even mention how many were in it or what their names are for fear of leaving someone out).  Life has taken us in all different directions...marriages, babies, cross country moves.  Some have lost touch all together... 
part of the crew - hanging out at the Bird

...and some have not.  Two weeks ago, two of my very closest friends and I decided to connect for a three way call.  Kristie Ignash (author of Just Being) and Kim Salter (from Design Thoughts), both of the former Red Lobster life, are two of the group who moved far away.  Kristie now lives in Texas and Kim in New frequent phone calls and occasional visits home are the best we can do.  But despite the distance we remain connected in so many ways.  We all have young children, we all have spent time home with our babies, we are constantly working toward living a balanced life and we are all pursuing our dreams.  We found ourselves deep in conversation about what the next step would be in building our "empires"...for Kim it was setting up a charitable organization to help families live comfortably surrounded by beauty, for Kristie setting up her website to inspire and motivate people to live their dreams (through podcast, yoga instruction, stories and much more) and for me to "put myself out there" and start talking to people I know, like in Meijer and exciting places like that.  My goal was to grow the mural side of the business over the summer.  We were to keep one another updated through the week and planned to talk weekly about our progress and next steps.  As we were wrapping up the conversation Kristie joked about leaving encrypted sort of messages on know, the type that say just enough to get people asking questions.  Like "had a great time in aisle 6 last night"! Giggle, laugh, chuckle...

my soul sisters!

Little did I know how aisle 6 would stick.

Over the days that followed our chat, Kristie and Kim both sent messages of progress and encouragement...and I completely switched my path.  I decided instead to open an online store (appropriately named aisle 6) and focus on the print side of things.  I don't even know what initiated this shift.  Maybe it was the fact that my babies are still little and I want to keep the majority of my work at home?  Perhaps it was the desire to do art shows and needing an inventory for them?  It really could be one of a hundred reasons, but the reason doesn't matter.  At some point during the last two weeks, I have become borderline obsessed with getting this store up and running.  In other words, I have been on the computer every free moment trying to get everything set up...and now it is.  It's been fun setting up a dream...and at times frustrating.  Like when I realized that out of the 50+ paintings I have done for tiny by design, I only have printable photos for a handful.  Thankfully, this handful represents the many of the pieces that have been the most popular...and many more will come! 

 aisle 6 is open for business...

examples of what you will find in aisle 6


paintings will be added fact here are a few sneak peaks for what is in the works:

my first story board -
all about brave Ben on an adventure to get to the castle
each part of the story coordinates with letters of the alphabet

a simple castle
imagine what is going on behind those castle walls!

...and about a thousand ideas bumping around in my head.

Next, I am turning my focus on the expansion of tiny gives small contribution to the world.
More on that story coming soon!

thank you for joining me on my new journey,

Friday, May 11, 2012

taking a leap

Okay, not to piggy back off a friend...
but I am going to piggy back off a friend.

Kim Salter of Design Thoughts (I may have mentioned her a time or two or eighteen) wrote a blog post the other day about taking a leap.  Eight years ago, she and her husband picked up everything they had and left everything they knew to move to the big city...New York.  The move was scary and exhilarating all at the same time.  In the story you can feel Kim's emotions as she embraced such a huge lifestyle change and came to appreciate all the amazing things she experienced.  Read more of her story here

Kim's story got me thinking about how life really is just one leap after another.  Some leaps are small, like starting a new hobby or taking a class.  Some leaps are huge, like packing up your life to live in a brand new place or becoming a parent for the first time.  Many leaps fall in between and catapult us through life.  Taking a leap can feel foreign and scary, but every leap has the potential to feel positive and good.

Taylor Swift is one of those artists who I have always admired.  To me she seems like such a normal person who, at a very young age, took a huge leap.  She titled one of her albums "Fearless".  During an interview I heard her describe that being fearless isn't about not having fear.  Being fearless is about moving forward despite the fear.

she doesn't care who is looking or what they think.
she is just leaping, colorfully, because it feels great

my latest leaps

As I am writing this, my heart is beating about 4,000 beats per minute.  I have the entire range of emotions running through my body as I am in the middle of taking a few leaps of my own.  The first leap is big and the second is even bigger....and I think there might be a little hopping and skipping in there as well.

big leap

My first leap is opening my own online store to sell prints and canvas reproductions of my artwork.  I have been working around the clock to get the store designed, get payment buttons programmed and to get as many high quality (and therefore printable) photos of the paintings as possible.  The paintings that I have a quality copy of will be available in my online store.  I have learned a great deal about photography and in the future should be able to print anything that is created through tiny by design.  Until then, I retrieve paintings from people when I can and take better pictures...and am working to add more every day.

I ordered samples of some of my artwork on canvas (they are coming today or tomorrow!) and as soon as I can approve their quality, I will be opening my store.  I also have the privilege of purchasing my "poster" prints through my family's business TBF Graphics.  I love working with people who care as much as I do about putting out a quality piece of work.

This store is a large part of the vision I had three years ago when I first started tiny by design.  I suppose I needed to build a gallery and gain certain experiences before I decided to take this leap.  The decision to go for it came out of the blue one day when I received an email from a small canvas print company out of Georgia.  They found me through a google search, if you can even believe it.  Little ole me and my tiny little business coming up on google!  It was this one random email on this one typical day that got my little internal voice telling me "you are ready".

My store will be called aisle 6.  For me it's a place where dreams go to come true.  More about this when I officially launch aisle 6.

a hop and a skip

Since the first tiny by design painting was created at my kitchen counter, I have always had the vision of giving back to the world in some way.  I feel so much gratitude to be able to pursue my dreams and would like to know that I am helping the dreams of others.  "tiny gives back" is a program that has been with me from the beginning.  I have donated paintings to fundraisers for people in need and will continue to do this.  Thanks to the leap into prints, I am able to grow "tiny gives back" as well.  Moving forward 50% of proceeds from print sales will go back to the charities where the paintings were donated. 

I am currently working to get printable photos of all the paintings donated so far and working with the fundraisers to decide where any money raised will go.

an even bigger leap

Okay, deep breath...
For the past two summers, I have been talking about getting into the art show circuit.  I know I need to put myself out there and get my work on display.  But I have gotten comfortable crawling down to my studio every night and thinking of reasons why it's just not the right time.  Inventory, money, lack of expertise, who will watch the kids...I can think of a hundred reasons to not do it.  The real reason is fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of the general public judgement of my work.  Fear of doing it wrong and looking like a "rookie". 

I was having a chat with a good friend, Kati, about craft fairs and art shows.  She shared some stories about friends who have done them and made livings off the "art show circuit".  She then suggested I check out the Blueberry Festival in South Haven.  I knew instantly, when I saw the website, that this would be a great first experience for me.  So I applied.  Late.  Talk about looking like a rookie.  Kathy, the nice lady at the Chamber of Commerce was nice enough to accept my late application.  I sent samples of my work (minus the picture of my booth that I had to admit to not having - nice job rookie).  I should hear back early next week.  But either way, I leaped.  About an hour after I leaped, I ran down to the mailbox to change some of the samples I sent and re-review my application.  But it was gone.  So I leaped, whether I was ready too or not. 

Well, I guess now it's time for a crash course in how to have a successful art show - and yes, I am taking advice!  I am going to get myself out to a couple shows so I can get booth ideas  and I will talk to as many experienced people I can.  I really don't have time to waste so I need to know what the must haves and must does are.  Then it's all mine (and Kati's as she has selflessy agreed to work the whole show with me!!)  I am trying to keep my mind focused on all the great things that can come my way.  The fact that I will get an entire weekend to focus 100% of my attention on tiny by design - that's the stuff dreams are made of.  I also work well with deadlines and goals so to have a specific date to get paintings and prints ready...well, that's just great.  To finally get to talk to real live people about my artwork instead of just hoping people come to my website and like my facebook page (not that those things aren't important - just not as face to face as I would like). 

So every day, I take a deep breath and do my best to swallow the fears.  Everyday I start the day by thinking, "what will get created today that didn't even exist yesterday?"  Every day, I try to expand the picture of what the future of tiny by design holds.

And that, my friends, is my leap.  What is yours?

happy leap year,

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

hickory acorn nut-things

We found these acorns in the woods the other day, and they were just screaming "make me into something".  At least I think they are acorns.  Dane said that they might be acorns, or they could be Hickory somethings or maybe some kind of other nut.  For two Biology majors from CMU, we sure don't know our botany.  Either way, these little round wonders are about to become our latest kid's art project.

prepare the troops

Get your three year old to act like a big girl (or boy) so you can reward them with an art project.  Trickier than it sounds when a certain someone woke up about an hour and a half earlier than normal.  I'm not naming names...just saying, someone didn't get enough sleep last night.

decision making

Decide what they should become.  Oakley said a giraffe....I did a little redirecting and told her to come up with some bugs.  I can be creative, but come on, a giraffe???  So we agreed on the bug category and came up with:

a bumble bee
a fly
a rolly polly bug
(yes, rolly polly is the technical biology term)
a turtle
(already said no to the giraffe so the turtle stays even though it's technically not a bug)

scrub em up

I don't even know what to say about this, except that we washed the "acorns"


paint * googlie eyes * glue * crepe paper


super easy.

Oakley painted all the bodies.  She also counted out all the eyes.  See!  Art projects are educational!
The hardest part of the whole project was waiting for the paint to dry.  Well actually, the hardest part was that I kept gluing my fingers together trying to get tiny eyes onto these tiny bodies. 

Meet our new mini bug family:
choo choo (ladybug), zoom zoom (fly), eating (rolly polly), crunchy (turtle), puppy (bumble bee)

The best part of the project is that it literally can be done in a teeny amount of time and then your kids have new toys to play with.

Now, what did we do with Truman...

a lot.

He was a very busy boy today.

He wanted to stand on the kitchen table...not a good idea.

he didn't want to clean and began to day dream while staring out the window.

he played in the bubbles in the sink

and brushed his teeth

of course, he cried a little bit

and snacked a lot.

but at the end of the day...he just wanted to build stuff with his blocks.

enjoy some bugs today,

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