Monday Inspiration

Monday Inspiration

Whenever I’m feeling down and out, I always find a little light when I log in to my social media sites and see all the wonderful things people are doing. Whether it’s making a new recipe from scratch, finishing a long-time project or visiting an amazing city, there is always something to lift my spirits.

And then it hit me. While I wholeheartedly encourage seeking inspiration from others when you are feeling overwhelmed or just plain out of it, why aren’t I looking inside myself for inspiration? Why aren’t I amazing myself? I could do all of these things (aside from traveling, that will just have to wait), I just need to make time for them. So what’s my excuse?

I will have to say, I did make a few meals from scratch last week, and we were able to eat leftovers throughout the week. But then by Friday, it all came to a halt. I got exhausted and just couldn’t push myself to create. So I’ve gone over what was bothering me, what made me feel so uninspired, and I made a list of how to fix it. I absolutely love making lists. I don’t always follow them, but I do love to make them.

Image from Huffington Post. Lots of good positive mantras in that post.

Image from Huffington Post. Lots of good positive mantras in that post.

Then I made myself a daily schedule and now I’m working on a weekly meal plan. It’s all totally boring stuff and I feel sort of silly writing about it on my blog. But it’s a part of life and I can pretty much guarantee I’m not the only one who has felt like this. So while I don’t want to write out every detail, here is what I have planned out:

  • Write daily. Whether it’s on my blog or in my little journal, just write.
  • Cook something new and fun when I can. Find new recipes and experiment a little. Mix it up a bit. Share what I cook online.
  • Work out 30 minutes a day and practice yoga at least once a day. It’s insane how much energy I get from working out, and I always feel invigorated after doing yoga. These simple things change everything, but I never make time for them.
  • Set aside 4-6 hrs a day for school work, depending on what I have. Turn everything off so I just have that to concentrate on. Of course I will take time for baby breaks, but that’s it.
  • Schedule more Pampered Chef parties and start selling more of my stuff online
  • An hour a day on creative art stuff. It’s something that I love doing, but never give myself the time to do it.

I got inspired to work on this list after I read a little something from Danny J – who runs The Sweaty Betties – about not making any more excuses and making goals and sticking to them. So I hope I can inspire someone as well. I’m going to turn this into a little self-spring cleaning. Spring cleaning of the soul, maybe?

Share any of our Monday inspiration in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google +. I plan on sharing more of what inspires me and makes me happy in my own daily life.

*Photo of beautiful flowers from Pretty Stuff – by Patterson Maker

Yo Momma Monday: Karen LePage

yo momma mondayMeet Karen LePage, 42, a sewin’ mama from Michigan. I met her through Oh My! Handmade and I instantly swooned over all of her work. She not only sews up a storm, but she also creates patterns, sells custom-made garments and shares tutorials on her website at One Girl Circus! Oh, and she also co-wrote a sewing book for boys, appropriately named Sewing for Boys.

Before she started working for herself, she sang at weddings, sold cars, managed a coffee shop, taught German and worked in Strategic Planning. To say she is well-rounded would be an understatement.

Karen started a blog after she read and loved blogs from other people. Initially, it started as a means for documenting her children’s special moments.

“I guess it’s not surprising that I’m not very consistent with it, however, because I was never a child who could keep a journal beyond “dear diary” for more than a few weeks.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

After her mother bought a sewing machine when Karen was five, she started experimenting and made every project in the booklet that came with the machine. From there, she spent several years making wardrobes for all of her dolls. As a kid, she started watching Sewing with Nancy when it came on PBS, a show she still watches to this day.

I always say Nancy Zieman taught me to sew…I still watch it.  I still love it.”

Karen still remembers her first sewing project – a drawstring bag – and she says there have been plenty of disasters along the way. When she first got started, she would wear her disasters; now, she tucks them away until she’s ready to try again. Her latest creation was a Japanese double-gauze newborn outfit that was in a box for six years because she couldn’t stand to look at it.

“I’m so happy I could rescue it!”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

As a mom, Karen says that her children not only inspire her work, but also keep her balanced and admits that if she didn’t have her kids, she would probably just work all the time.

“I love making things, and having humans relying on me for comfort, food, and shelter ensures that I nourish myself with their companionship while meeting their needs, too.”

The creativity bug has definitely hit both of her kids, as her son likes to design the garments she makes for him, and her daughter is a quilter. Her son also shops at thrift and vintage stores, so he has become quite the master at button replacing, and he already has an eye for what can be fixed, and what cannot. Her daughter will often work up a patchwork when she’s in the sewing space.

“She has an amazing eye for color and pattern.”

Karen describes her workspace as chaotic yet comforting. While she is always moving things around in there, she still keeps an open space for her kids to visit while she’s working. She does like to take some time tidying up in between projects.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“But as soon as I have a clean space I’m inspired to start making again – immediately.

Although there’s no such thing as a normal day, there is one consistency in her morning routine – coffee (ain’t that the truth). Her daily activities are determined by deadlines, inspiration and commitments – and she does try to get some sewing in every day.

“I start to get twitchy when I’m away from my sewing machine for too long.”

Karen says that the best and scariest thing about running her own business is that everything – from what get made to what gets published – is all her.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it’s terrifying and sometimes it’s wonderfully terrifying.”

She started teaching classes after someone asked her to do it, and that is one of her favorite things about what she does.

“There’s something super-satisfying about nudging my students toward sewing confidence.  I love that it’s a skill they can use forever. I love holding their hands through the tough part and saying “Look how awesome you are!” when they make it through and realize they can make something they didn’t think they could make.”

When Karen is not teaching classes and making clothes –  or thinking about new classes and new projects – she loves reading, hiking with her daughter, yoga and cooking.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Actually, strike that, I like reading cookbooks.”

And of course, she loves all forms of crafting. There isn’t a craft she hasn’t stopped, and thanks to Creative Bug and the craft section in her local bookstore, that won’t be ending anytime soon. She loves making anything from  baby clothes to formal gowns – all of it.

“If it goes on a body, someone will wear it and love it, and that’s something that makes me happy and keeps me going.  There’s always something new I want to try, whether it’s a technique or material I haven’t yet attempted; I incorporate my latest learning into each new project.”

She gets the majority of her fabric from local fabric stores and loves visiting new stores in any town she visits. When she cannot find a fabric she wants locally, she will shop online.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“I spend my dollars locally whenever possible.”

Karen loves being a part of the handmade community because she has always been just one of a handful of people she knows that love sewing. Of the four high schools she attended, she only found one friend who could sew. ONE! Now that she has a whole community of friends who also love the same kind of things, she counts it as a blessing.

“I feel so energized and inspired when working collaboratively; even when working on my own thing amongst fellow makers.  The handmade community is what has made my 30s and 40s the best years of my life.”

She currently has two patterns in the Stitch Magazine Spring issue and there will be another one in the Summer issue. She is also working on a handmade garment line and is hoping to hire some local people to help with the sewing and sales of her products.

“I’m really excited about it, but I’m also thrilled to have a steady stream of consultancy projects.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

Karen hopes to inspire people by being an advocate of all things handmade – whether its making, buying, spreading the word, or all of the above.

“I also hope I can inspire people to try something new every once in a while, and to really enjoy the process of making.”

Thank you to the lovely and wonderful Karen for participating in this series! You can find her blog here, buy her stuff here and read the book she co-wrote here.

If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Jane Skoch from Maiden Jane!

Meet the Maker: Print Therapy

meet the maker

Meet Melissa, 30, and Nicholas Wert, 32 from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. They are the adorable and creative couple behind Print Therapy, a handcrafted paper expression company, and I am honored to have them as my guests today. And how perfect (and not planned at all) is it that Valentines Day is officially less than a month away.

Melissa and Nick decided to start Print Therapy while Melissa was in a hotel room during a business trip. She still works full time as a project manager and has one foot in the creative world, one foot in corporate America, as she would put it.

“After several weeks of travel (for work, not for pleasure!) and too many moments of not feeling like my best was good enough and not being able to truly stand behind my work, I called Nick and said “Dang it! We’re starting Print Therapy. For real!” A few hours later, we registered the name and had filled out all of the legal paperwork.”

Melissa has both a Bachelors in Business Management and a Masters in Communication and Information Management. She and Nick started Print Therapy a year after she got her Masters. She admits that at first it felt like a waste – paying off a whole bunch of student loans after realizing that she wasn’t all about corporate America.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“But when I stepped back, I realized how much they would help me run my own business and handle the non-creative portion of my work, which I love almost as much as the creating!”

Melissa says that she wouldn’t rather work with anyone else, and that the secret to their success is working in separate offices. She adds that having her husband as her business partner gives them both an understanding of all the work they put into it.

” If one of us needs to take a break or step away from it for a while, then it’s totally okay. We both know that we each love this business and want it to grow, and that we’re 100% committed to that. Nick doesn’t get on my case if I devote an entire Saturday to Print Therapy or if I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm after a long day of work. We appreciate each other for the work we’re putting in – and make sacrifices together to keep it all going!”

Since Melissa is an early riser, she is able to get a huge chunk of her work done before anyone else gets up and the neighborhood is still quiet. She makes a cup of coffee, checks her email and visits the blogs and social media sites of her favorite creative people. Then, it’s time to handle business. Some days, she works on all the of business aspects and other days, she’s creating a new design.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I am a methodical planner (hence my project management background), and have had to learn that you cannot plan creativity. It’s not something you can schedule on the calendar (yes, I’ve tried), or slot in a certain time of the day. When it happens, it happens.”

The upstairs spare bedroom of their 52 Cape doubles as her office, where she says all of the white space inspires her; yet the beautiful charm and character are her favorite. She has a desk, some storage racks, a Print Therapy design board and a Yoga Dogs calendar. Her only office mate is her dog, Sawyer, who is always hard at work on his comfy bed under the window.

“The bones of the room give me  a warm and fuzzy feeling…being surrounded by color would limit my design sense.”

While Melissa does get a lot of her home inspiration from Pinterest and creative inspiration from Instagram, she is most inspired by things that are not related to stationary at all, a nod to a subject she studied in College.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I studied architecture in college before switching to business, and I tend to find a lot of inspiration in different architectural pieces and in interior design.”

Before Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud, Melissa and Nick were creating all of their cards on Microsoft Word (yowza!). After watching all the Adobe TV tutorials they could handle, they now use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for all of their designs.

“It’s opened up a new level of creativity and confidence for me. We print most of our items at home, but are slowly beginning to work with a great printing company that prints out of California. They will greatly expand what we can offer, and can help keep our prices reasonable for bigger orders.  It’s hard to let a big piece of the business go like that, but we’ve found someone we trust and really enjoy working with, so … baby steps!”

Since both Melissa and Nick work full-time aside from running Print Therapy, they don’t get a whole lot of downtime. So when they do get a chance to unwind, they will get burgers or Chinese take-out and snuggle with Sawyer on the couch and watch a movie or catch-up on their favorite shows.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“As much as we love working together, getting to unwind together is even better! Both of our families are about 10 minutes away, so we love getting to spend time with them, too. We also treasure dinner dates with our closest friends – whether they be out to a restaurant or home cooked at someone’s home. Quality time together is where it’s at!”

For Melissa, being responsible for it all is both the best and scariest thing about running her own business. She loves having control over every aspect of her company, but also admits that it can get a little hairy when there’s not an IT Department or a paycheck, for that matter.

“You get to know yourself pretty well when you’re the one behind it all, and you have to learn to work within your strengths and weaknesses, and to push yourself farther than you thought you could go.”

When they need to buckle down and get to work, Melissa and Nick have different ways to get in the creative mood. Melissa will turn her workspace into what she calls a “safe space” and shuts the door, turns up the heat, lights a candle and turns up the emotional music. Nick, on the other hand, revisits the 90s with his musical choices. “Method Man, Wu Tang, all of it”

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Nick often jokes how much I love sad music – it’s true! I feel most creative when I deeply, deeply feel something. To me, that’s the point of stationery – to put feelings into text and images that can be shared with someone else.”

And when there are simply no creative juices flowing? Melissa doesn’t force it, and just stops trying. She will start cleaning and organizing and comes back to it later. If there is still nothing, she will just start designing something and eventually the creativity will reemerge.

“Sometimes walking away is the best option though – becoming frustrated with the process certainly isn’t going to help that creativity to start flowing.”

And when there are design flops, Melissa has learned to not rush the process and to work on a design until it feels right. And if she doesn’t love it, she will not have that innate urge to sell it. And when she’s not jumping up and down to promote it…then maybe it shouldn’t be up for sale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the trends and to try to make something because you think it will sell. But, if it doesn’t fit you and your brand, good luck”

Melissa loves the familiarity of the handmade movement and community, and loves how it feels like “we’re all in this together.” She has a lot of friends who run their own small businesses, and she feels inspired being able able to purchase items that help people support families, fund an adoption and give back to their communities.

“You just don’t get that feeling from a Wal-Mart. There’s nothing better than purchasing a product you love and knowing that that maker is excited by and appreciative of every purchase coming his or her way, and is using that money to live their life. Double whammy goodness.”

She discovered Oh My Handmade! while on Twitter when she was starting Print Therapy. She checked out the website, and ultimately decided that the small monthly fee was worth all of the support she would get from the online community.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Through my OMHG membership, I’ve learned that I’m not alone and that everyone struggles. Everyone has off days. No one feels like a creative successful genius 365 days a year. It’s been eye opening for me, in the best way, and has helped me better accept myself as a maker.”

While Melissa agrees that starting your own business is incredibly tiring, she also knows how exhausting it can be to work at a job that you don’t love. So, she knows this is the right path for her, and if she does have children, she hopes it will be an inspiration to them.

“Every day that I look at Nick, and the family we’re building, I am inspired to go down this path, because it makes me the happiest person I can be. That’s good for me.”

Now that they finally have their website launched (yay!), Melissa hopes to work on a Wedding collection and add more “just because” cards to their shop. “Those are my favorite to send, and to receive, so I want to offer more of those as well.” Next year, they hope to move into wholesale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I hope to inspire people to do what they love, and to not feel constrained by what they think they should be doing or by what someone else thinks they should be doing. I hope to inspire people to find a partner to share their life with that fully supports their dreams and visions.

I hope to inspire people to rescue their next pet versus buying from a breeder, because man, rescue pets are the best. But mostly, I hope to just inspire people to tell someone else how they feel about them in a way that will always be treasured. Leave a love note, send a card. However they choose, I want to inspire people to tell those they love, that they love them. I want to inspire people to send happiness; from their mailbox forward.”

You can find Melissa and Nick on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you can order Valentines cards (like I did) and any other cards you like from their Etsy shop. If you would like to participate in this series – or know somebody who should – leave a note in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you want to be all private, you can e-mail me too!

Yo Momma Monday: Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Meet Gretchen Fleener, 34, from Mound, Minnesota. She is an Industrial Designer, Web Designer and face painter. She runs her own business, Junk Mail Gems, where she sells fun items that she makes out of junk mail. She is also an awesome momma to her two sons, who are three and five. Gretchen took time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about how she manages everything, and what she wants her sons to learn from her business.

Gretchen got into junk mail art when she was making magnets from junk mail to preserve patterns that she liked in a functional way. She heard over and over again that she could sell her magnets, but it wasn’t until her sister urged her to start selling online. And that is where Junk Mail Gems was born, six years ago.

“She and I came up with the Junk Mail Gems name because the magnets looked like little gems.  I had a lot of fun designing the logo, then website, and coming up with more things to make out of junk mail to fill my store!”

Although  it may not be for everyone, Gretchen says that being the boss is the best part of running her own business. She loves that she can work when it fits in her life, rather than having to wait for work to be over to enjoy life. A life-long multitasker, she can be found packing items during a commercial break.

As for most small business owners, finances are a worry of hers. Fortunately, she has an incredibly supportive husband whose stable job covers the important bills, allowing her to work from home. He fits her business schedule into his and will come home early to watch the boys if she needs to go to a face painting job or a client meeting.

“He never talks down about my businesses or makes me feel less important because I don’t work 9-5 in an office anymore.”

Before she had her sons, doing anything creative or artistic gave her the most fulfillment. Now, she gets the most fulfillment from using her artistic skills (and revenue earned through them) on her boys.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“My kids blow my mind with the things they create already at age 3 and 5 and it’s so cool to see that part of me in them.”

As you might imagine, her boys love crafting with her, and her five-year-old has even caught the bug for turning junk into something he can use and play with! To help cultivate her boys’ creativity, Gretchen labeled a Rubbermaid bin “the project box” and throws odds and ends that the boys can use for their crafts. She also keeps all the kid-friendly crafting supplies at their level so they can create on their own.

“I love coming up with projects to do with them, but my favorite thing is to let them loose and see what they come up with on their own. One of my 5 year old’s most used Christmas gifts is his collection of brightly colored masking tape rolls that my sister gave him.  He is constantly rescuing things form our recycle bin and turning them into things…rocket ships, monster trucks, and houses for his stuffed dogs!”

Not only do her boys love crafting with her, they also love going to yard sales and thrift stores, too! Gretchen says that she talks to them about not wasting things or money, which has also taught them to be patient when they find brand new toys in a store, as they will probably end up at a yard sale or thrift store in a matter of time.

Much like her children, Gretchen loved going to yard sales as a kid and quickly became a big collector. Her collection is now limited to what she can use to decorate her house, and what her family can actually use. I feel your pain, girl. Her vintage finds came in handy last year when she redesigned her kitchen and decorated it with her scores from the 50’s. After facing the normal collector problem of acquiring more than she could use, she set up an Etsy shop.

“This gives me the thrill of the hunt, without the worry of collecting too much.  I love to imagine people looking through my site and getting as excited about finding the perfect thing for their kitchen as I do for mine!”

Gretchen says that she finds inspiration from everywhere – like an oil slick on the street or an old brick building. She also finds inspiration from surrounding herself by other creative people.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“I take TONS of photos and am always collecting inspiration for art, graphic, design or craft projects!”

As an Industrial Designer, Gretchen likes to stay current and is always looking into current and future trends. However, when it comes to her personal style, her love for the ’50s does not stop at kitchen utensils. She also leads a life that is deemed old-fashioned by many people today.

“..Staying home with my kids, canning stuff from my garden, baking cookies, making things by hand and cooking a family dinner each night!”

While Gretchen has always considered herself a motivated person, she says that she is now motivated by different things – like getting her work done early so she can spend more time with her family.

“I know that if I get overtired or overworked, I won’t be as good of a parent or spouse, and my family come first.  So in a way, getting in a little “me” time or letting the laundry sit there one more day  can be better for the family and everyone’s mood!  “

Gretchen credits her ability to get everything done to multitasking and creating lists, just like she used to make fun of her mom for doing years ago. Along with that, she stays super organized, and will rework how shes does something if she feels she’s not doing it efficiently enough – often finding a tool or an app that will help.

“But the one thing I don’t compromise on is sleep.  I just can’t function well on any less than 8 hours a night, and when I get enough sleep, being super productive comes much easier during the day!”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Although Gretchen says that she doesn’t really feel like her work is “work,” she does like to get outside and go fishing, biking and gardening. Living on a lake doesn’t hurt, either. She also likes to paint and work on something creative that is related to her businesses. One craft that she would like to practice more is knitting.

“I’ve done a little, but I love to crochet and really like how much faster it goes!  I’d love to learn how to make my own soaps or candles.  And I’d really love to learn Henna.  It seems right up my alley and would be a great addition to my face painting offerings!”

Gretchen also runs as a series of “Momtreprenuer” Interviews on her blog, as she says that she is always encouraged by hearing how other moms run their businesses and homes.

“So, I thought others might enjoy them too!  It’s also one small way that I can help support fellow moms by spreading the word about their businesses.”

She hopes that her Junk Mail Gems business gives people a new way to look at “junk.” She shares tutorials on her site for various recycling projects, so that people can get new ideas for their own projects.

“I hope to inspire them to find a way to do what they love and maybe even make a little money doing it!  I am always so happy to hear from people who were inspired to try a project I’ve shared too.”

Since Gretchen’s sons will be in school full-time pretty soon, she plans on adding more jobs to her line of work (as if she doesn’t have enough already) like freelance retail fixture design and body painting. She also wants to expand the merchandise section of her online face painting store and seek out more retailers for Junk Mail Gems.

“Right now I have no desire to go back to the corporate gig, but have a huge list of things I’d like to do to grow all of my businesses”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

If you are feeling inspired by Gretchen like I am, you can connect with her through Junk Mail Gems and ID Mommy and can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest. If you know someone who would be a good fit for Yo Momma Monday (your beautiful self included), post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find more Yo Momma Monday inspiration on my Pinterest!