Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year My Life Changed

New Year's Eve is almost always the same for me.  I stay in with family watching movies in my pajamas until midnight, when we watch the ball drop.  I make a resolution that I am going to take some sort of action that will change the things in my life that make me unhappy.  Very few years have actually brought about the kind of change I sought.  Especially since graduating from college, I spent the days between New Year celebrations drifting along in haze of good intentions without a call to action.  

Last New Year's Eve was no different, expect that perhaps I was more desperate for change than ever before.  I once again promised myself that I would find what was missing and fix what was broken in my life, but I doubted that anything would come of it.  In the back of my mind, I still believed that I would remain terribly horribly the same.  Thank God, I was wrong.

The first indication that this year would be different appeared less than a week after New Years in the form of a Facebook message.  My darling friend invited me to go to Singapore with her.  That moment began a year full of so many wonderful (and bittersweet) changes and experiences.  This year I:

-saw the Pacific Ocean
-visited Asia (Singapore and Bali, to be exact)
-fed a monkey that was sitting on my shoulder
-left my first full-time job
-left the city where I lived since my second year of college
-moved back in with my parents
-watched my sister graduate with a bachelors and masters degree from UVA
-went on a Caribbean cruise
-started a business    
-worked as a semi-professional tech consultant

I won't try to fit a year's worth of emotion into a single blog post like a really bad Christmas card letter, but I would like to express my deep gratitude to everyone who had a part in making this such an amazing year.  To my all of my friends and family who helped me through the chaos, thank you for everything.  You gave me shelter when I was homeless, shared your wisdom when I didn't know what to do, supported me when I had to make difficult decisions, and encouraged me to take a leap of faith.  May 2011 return to you all of the blessings you've given to me.  Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Curse of the Snot-Nosed Brat: A Fable

Warning:  This entry contains frightening elements that are not for the faint of heart! 

This week, I've been visiting my little sister's third grade classroom to help with holiday crafts.  I love crafts and I love my sister, but I'm not a huge fan of kids.  It's not like I hate them and want to lock them away from the sun in some sort of Bradbury-like scenario, but I find them to be a bit loud.  And obnoxious.  And stupid since they don't get my jokes.  Nevertheless, I was excited to volunteer because that's the kind of sweet generous person that I am.

The first time I came in to volunteer, Miss Miller introduced me to the class as her sister, Miss Jamie.  I would be walking around the room to answer questions while the students worked on their projects.  Shortly after I began my patrol, a little boy called me over to his desk.  What followed is a perfect example of why I don't like children:

Boy: Are you Miss Miller's sister?
Me:  Yes, I am.
Boy:  Really?  Because when I saw you come in, I thought you were somebody's mom.
Me:  Nope, I'm not a mom.  I'm Miss Miller's sister.
Boy:  Huh.  Because I really thought you were a mom.
Me:  Still not a mom.

I didn't punch him in his stupid face nor lecture him about being rude.  I am, however, seriously considering investing in some new jeans.  I just chalked it up to his stupidity and the inability of anyone under the age of ten to accurately determine the age of anyone over 18.  I tried to forget about it.

Before I went back to volunteer again, I decided to put a little effort into my appearance.  I put on a little bit of makeup, pulled back my hair to keep it from getting to windblown, and picked out a nice festive (but not tacky) sweater to wear.  During my preparations, I found shook me to the core.  A gray hair.  

I stood in shock before the mirror.  For most of my life, people have thought that I was younger than I actually am.  How come I am aging so suddenly and dramatically?  It must be the boy!  That snot-nosed little brat cursed me!  I hurried to pluck the tell-tale hair from my head hoping that it would reverse the cursing process.  Sadly, things only got worse.  As soon as the gray talisman was destroyed, I was struck with a strange illness.  Almost instantaneously, my voice became deep and gravelly, like a grandma who spent the last seventy years smoking.  My back and joints started aching so that I hobbled along slowly.  Little whippersnappers were passing me in the hallway!  More disturbing still, my normally sunny disposition began to cloud.  I was aggravated by the hustle and bustle of holiday festivities and irritated by the hassel of decorating and wrapping presents.  If I had a walker, I would have hit people with it and started screaming about the blue invasion just to enjoy the looks of fear and confusion.  

Unfortunately, things still look grim for me.  I feel old, and it is all that stupid little brat's fault!  So, dear readers, beware this Christmas season.  If you come across a little boy who seems unreasonably tactless, run the other way before he can steal your youth!  

And to those of you who think I'm overreacting, that I just spent some time around germy children and caught the flu.....I'll think of a clever retort after my nap.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"At Least You're Not a Garbage Man" and Other Depressing Pep Talks

I am a huge sucker for pep talks and inspirational speeches.  When I hear a great speech on tv or in a movie, I get choked up and determined to right all the wrongs in the world.  It doesn't matter if it's a classic locker room pep talk in a sports flick or an impassioned speech about justice from a classic film, my reaction is largely the same.  Some examples:

Coach Boone, Remember the Titans:
     Let me tell you somthing: you don't let anyone come between us. Nothing tears us apart. In Greek mythology, the Titans were greater even than the gods. They ruled their universe with absolute power. Well that football field out there, that's our universe. Let's rule it like titans. 

Coach Taylor, Friday Night Lights (I'd soo marry him!):
     Every man at some point in his life is going to lose a battle. He is going to fight and he is going to lose. But what makes him a man is at the midst of that battle he does not lose himself. This game is not over, this battle is not over.

Clarence, It's a Wonderful Life (For serious, I cry like a baby every time):
     Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.
     (If you recall, George reads Clarence's note right after Harry flies home in a snow storm to make his toast:  "To my brother, George Bailey: the richest man in town!"  You'd have to be dead inside not to cry.)

Jefferson Smith, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
     I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don't know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for and he fought for them once. For the only reason any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule. Love thy neighbor.... And you know that you fight harder for the lost causes than for any others. Yes, you'd even die for them...You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well I'm not licked. And I'm gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if this room gets filled with lies like these. And the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place. Somebody will listen to me.

Somehow, real life "pep talks" can't hold a candle to these tv/movie ones, and not just because they aren't delivered by professionals.   Just compare these everyday examples with their fictitious counterparts:

1.  "Just think of the poor starving children in Africa."
2.  "It could be worse."/"At least you're not a garbage man (or mime, or dog catcher or any other unappealing profession)."
3.  "It is what it is."

Far from the teary inspiration of the movie speeches, these little pearls of wisdom just make me angry.  So while I smile, grit my teeth, and nod, my internal monologue goes a little something like this:

1. Really, thinking about the starving children if Africa is going to make me feel better?  First of all, childhood starvation is depressing.  Second, you're not suggesting that I actually try to help anyone, just gloat that I have food while others are dying.  For shame.  I should punch you in your stupid face.

2.  Seriously?  This is the inspirational equivalent of saying, "The red dress makes you look less fat than the green one.  I want to punch you in your stupid face.

3.  Really, Aristotle?  I though it is what it isn't!  I find no comfort in your thought process that things suck necessarily because they do suck and so must always suck.  I want to punch you in your stupid face.

I know sometimes it's hard to give a really peppy pep talk because life can be decidedly unfun.  So for Christmas, dear readers, I've developed these special "How To Inspire" guidelines just for you!  That's right, just use this simple formula to cheer up the most determined Scrooge this holiday season!

To cheer the downtrodden, mix any three of the following elements with the person's name and a specific reference to his/her situation:

Things will get better.
The sun will come out tomorrow!  Tomorrow is another day!  Things always look darkest just before the dawn.  Better days are on the way, my friend.

Struggles have meaning.
You'll grow stronger through this experience.  You're making a difference.  You're fighting for what you believe.  This experience will teach you something important about life.

Never give up.
The battle isn't over.  You're almost to the finish line.  It isn't in you to withdraw.  They can take away your life, but they'll never take your freedom!

You're special.
You're strong enough to make it through this.  You can do whatever you set you're mind to.  You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggonit, people like you!

--ex.  The sun will come out tomorrow, Bobby, because you're strong enough to make it through this.  They can take away your life, but they'll never take your freedom!

*Warning:  Use these guidelines with caution.  Failure to sufficiently inspire could lead to a punch in your stupid face.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

If you start laughing, we'll have to go to Walmart!

I've been thinking lately about cause and effect.  As a former psychology major (and giant dork), I find it fascinating that if one could identify and correctly interpret all factors of any given scenario, then the outcome would be obvious.  For example, if I knew everything about a job for which I am interviewing and everything about my interviewers, then I could say just the right thing to get the job!  Or if I knew which buttons caused my internet browser to blow up, I would stop pushing those buttons and save myself a lot of time and frustration.

Alas, we live in a complicated world and it is impossible to predict the future without a crystal ball or a group of nerds with a supercomputer and advanced statistical software.  Unless, of course, you are my nephew.  Last week, Ashley and James stopped by with Jack while they were out running errands.  Jack ran in the front door very excited to show me that he had one of his favorite treats, Bug Juice.  Bug Juice is basically sugar, water, and neon food coloring, so you can see why he loves it so much.  Unfortunately, the sugar started going to his head and he got a little rowdy, even for a three-year-old boy.  While I thought it was kind of funny watching him run around in circles and shrieking like a pterodactyl, his parents were less amused.  It was then that Jack put life in perspective for me.

James managed to stop Jack's cycle of motion long enough to ask him one very important question: "What did we say would happen if you got Bug Juice?"  The answer was clear, concise, and showed a brilliant understanding of how the world works: "No cryin', no screamin', no fussin', no yellin'!"  It is really as simple as that.  If we refrain from acting like possessed children in horror movies, then we can feast on neon-colored liquid sugar.  Or, you know, the grown-up equivalent which is something like -- if you work hard and build a decent resume, then you can get a decent job.  Or if you stop downloading stupid internet games, you probably won't crash your computer.  But it's basically the same thing.

I was very thankful to my nephew for inspiring this epiphany.  It was enough to make me think that there was some truth to that whole "we should all try to be more like children because they are innately wise and innocent and uncorrupted by society" nonsense.  Then Jack shared another pearl of wisdom with me: "If you start laughing, we'll have to go to Walmart!" Somehow, I don't think that was true.  Then he told that he ordered his Bug Juice from Panera, which his parents assured me was not the case.  So I pretty much figured out that I should not rely on Jack for any sort of life-changing insights.

I still believe in cause and effect.  I think that it's an important concept to understand and that we'd all be better off if we took more time to consider the impact of our actions.  But I also believe that there is more to life.  When I look at my life, I know that the blessings that surround me are not a result of my actions.  Thank God, my life is a lot better than what I've earned!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When Snarkiness Catches Up with You

I've been pretty ambivalent about some things recently.   As I mentioned last week, I've half-heartedly started a job search out of a desperate need for funds.   I've actually some calls about my resume, and I know I should be thrilled about it.  I'm just not sure that I am.  

I talked to the hiring manager at a small local business a couple of times this week and have scheduled an interview for next week.  But there is something about the conversations that makes me wonder if my internal conflict is externally obvious.  While speaking with the manager (we'll call him "Bob"), he mentioned several times that the work I would be doing is intense and complicated and am I really sure I want to do this?  Now, I appreciate open and honest communication (unless I'm having a bad hair day or my outfit is unflattering), but I couldn't shake the feeling that he was trying to scare me away.  Since I am not planning to storm the office demanding an interview unless he convinces me that my life force will be drained away if I step within a mile of the place, I found this tactic to be superfluous.  I suppose it's possible that he thinks that I'm qualified for the job, but he can sense my ambivalence through the tone of my resume and/or phone voice.  His comment that "we only want people who want to be here" makes me think that perhaps he is unimpressed with my commitment to a job I don't yet have.  

I tried very hard to sound enthusiastic and professional on the phone, but I've allowed myself to be snarky for too long.  While Bob talked about the challenges of his profession and how it isn't for everyone, I knew I should be sharing little anecdotes about my qualifications and asking insightful questions.  Instead, all that came to mind were smart-alack comments I had to fight to keep in.  For example, when Bob asked me what I was looking for, I wanted to say, "Well, Bob, I'm currently looking for an independently wealthy man to marry so I never have to work again.  Are you single?"  Instead, I said something inane about wanting to provide excellent customer service.  I was so focused on keeping the snarky comments in that I honestly have no idea what came out of my mouth. 

I haven't been sleeping too well lately because I keep going over the pros and cons of the job search and various other personal situations.  I lay awake thinking about the likelihood of different outcomes.  It's kind of annoying because I like my sleep.  I need it to function.  Last night, I was wide awake trying to come to some sort of decision about my future.  I have a handy little "Fortune Ball" app on my iPhone, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.  I took my phone in my hands and asked (with far too much sincerity) if I was making the right decision.  The answer:  For Serious.  I got the feeling that maybe my Fortune Ball was taking too much joy from my current dilemma.  Perhaps it was even being sarcastic with me!  So I did the sensible thing and asked the Fortune Ball, "Are you being sarcastic?"  The reply:  Ask Again Later.  

So basically, I learned two things:
1.  There are problems in this world that cannot be solved by an iPhone.
2.  Snarkiness is like karma.  It always comes back around to taunt you in inappropriate situations.

In conclusion, I'm excited about my interview next week. I think I would like the job and would be good at it.  And I will resist the urge to get an "I Eat Fairy Princesses" t-shirt made for the occasion.  If you don't get the t-shirt reference, check out my Etsy shop to see the new Halloween and Thanksgiving cards!

Monday, October 11, 2010


I need a job.  You know, a real one that pays.  With almost no income, I've really started to notice how quickly my financial reserves evaporate.  How do I spend so much?  And I need money invest in my business before I can expect to make a profit.  Supplies, advertising, etc. don't pay for themselves!

Here's the problem:  I don't really want a job.  Do I even have time for one?  Sure, I may not have posted a blog entry in weeks or listed any new cards in the online shop in over a month, but I've been really busy doing.......something?  Let's see...I do crossword puzzles, I read a lot of books, I watch a lot of TV (Don't judge, it's fall premiere season!), and I've even started going to the gym.

Anyone who has know me for a while knows how funny it is that I've started going to the gym.  I've been staunchly opposed to organized exercise for the better part of my life.  And yet now you can me tripping over steps, getting barbells caught in my shoelaces, and performing off-rhythm jumping jacks in the back of a class several times a week.  Am I really so desperate not work that I'll actually work out?  Maybe a little.  But I hope the real answer is something a bit deeper.

I was considering this question this weekend while I finally got my butt back to work.  I sat at my desk for hours on Saturday sewing tiny glass beads onto greeting cards and wondering why I let myself get so behind.  This is what I came up with:

1.  I need a stronger needle to work with.  For serious, I think I ruined mine.  This is what it looks like now:

2.  Some of my best ideas come when I'm not trying to "work."  For example, while visiting my grandfather I came up with a line of "glimpse into your future" birthday cards.  The idea is to develop several different characters and a quiz to help you determine what kind of old person you or your friends will be.  Hopefully no one will be offended by it since its my way of coping with my grandfather's Alzheimer's.  But the point is that my life fuels my work.  When I stop participating in life, my creative energy dries up.

So here is my new outlook:  with every action I take, I am sewing a bead onto my business.  Or maybe I'm adding glitter, or making a little wire flower bouquet.  The point is, I'm adding embellishment.  Yes, we could make cards with no embellishment and it would be efficient and sensible and cut down on postage.  But they wouldn't be as fun and pretty, and they wouldn't fully reflect me and Ashley.  And yes, I could work more efficiently.  I could skip the brunches and the crossword puzzles, put the books down, and even give up the joys of Body Pump class.  But what can I say?  My life needs sparkle!

By the way, check out later this week.  Our new embellished holiday cards should be up in the next 2-3 days!

And also, I still need to find a stupid job.  Sigh.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


September 23 -

Today is my grandmother's birthday.  She is such an incredible inspiration to me.  I wanted to be with her on her birthday this year in particular because just one week ago she had to move her husband of 60 years into a memory care unit.  After losing him in bits in pieces over the last few years, it was difficult to finally acknowledge that the Alzheimer's had progressed to the point that he could no longer live at home (or in fact, know where home is).  During yesterday's visit to him, I marveled that she had the strength to smile as my grandfather looked at her and asked, "Who are you married to?"

Grandmother is a soft-spoken woman, but her example has had a huge impact on me.  So today, in honor of this wonderful woman, I'd like to share some things that my grandmother taught me over the years:

1.  The table should be set for breakfast before going to bed every night.  It's one less thing to worry about in the morning, and a well-laid table sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.

2.  Dishwashers are for sissies.  Real women wash dishes by hand (and rinse in hot water because dishes rinsed in cold water take longer to dry).

3.  House guests should be served coffee with pastries of some sort two or three times a day.

4.  Any animals in the vicinity should and will receive regular meals.

5.  Don't waste time; we're given precious little of it, and we should do something productive with it.

6.  Take time to be quiet.  Activity is just busy work if you don't take time to reflect.

7.  Put others ahead of yourself every time.

8.  Real love requires few words; it is felt in every action.

9.  Seek advise and accept help.  Don't expect others to get you out of a bad situation, but admit when you can't do something on your own.  Accept assistance with grace.

10.  Yes, life is hard.  Yes, it can be sad and painful.  But there is always reason to rejoice.  Hope springs eternal.

I did not give my grandmother a JA Greetings card for her birthday.  Our snarky cards don't really express how much I love and respect her.  I am working on a superwoman card inspired by her, and I hope she (and everyone else) will enjoy it!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Leave Paradise In Its Place

If I have not adequately made my point thus far, starting a new business is stressful.  I spend so much time thinking about insurance and taxes and filing with the correct government agencies that it's really hard to think about anything else.  Thankfully, I have a darling friend who took me on a lovely Caribbean cruise where I could clear my head.

After nearly a month of learning important business lessons, (such as: envelopes are necessary to sell greeting cards, paper is way expensive, and 'entrepreneur' is a fancy word for 'unemployed') I was definitely ready for a break.  The plan was to sail out of San Juan and arrive in a different port every day.  Hurricane Earl wreaked some havoc with the itinerary, but we had an amazing trip.

Actually, it was an amazing vacation.  There is a world of difference between a trip and a vacation.  A trip is mainly characterized by activity.  They can be fun and exciting and exhausting.  I went on a trip to Singapore and Indonesia earlier this year, and it was an incredible life-changing experience.  It was not, however, very restful.  A vacation, on the other hand, is characterized by rest.  It's a time to sleep, to eat, to sunbathe, and to sight see if there's extra time.  I love vacations!

I spent a week lounging in the sun (I actually have a tan!), eating delicious food (fillet mignon and melting chocolate cake), and losing my breath at the beauty around me.
Exhibit A:

The Pitons, St. Lucia

Exhibit B:
Champagne Reef, Dominica

Exhibit C:
Magen's Bay Beach, St. Thomas
My pictures don't do any kind of justice to these places, but I spent the whole week taking mental snapshots of these miracles.  To stand in the presence of such beauty is an amazing balm for the weary spirit.

However, my vacation was not totally without pressure.  I love my dear traveling companion like a sister, but she is married and I am not.  Since she went through her share of set-ups before she met her husband, she now feels it is her right and duty to put me through the same thing.  Consequently, she tried to turn our time into an episode of the Love Boat.  While we were on the cruise, she tried to make me go to speed dating, go dancing at the disco by myself, and get the 2nd captain's phone number. Now, I got out of speed dating because there were a lot more women than men.  I did go to salsa dance classes while she videotaped my clumsy effort, and it was a lot of fun.  And the 2nd captain was a beautiful man--a tall dark Italian with wavy hair and startling blue eyes.  Still, I don't think that all of these efforts are really necessary.  I haven't given up hope that I might actually meet someone on my own.  So Darling, I love you like whoa, but please don't go through with your plan to sign me up for!

My vacation was so lovely that I was really not looking forward to getting back to the real world.  I was so relaxed, and work is so stressful!  My body was even revolting against the idea of work by developing a truly atrocious cold.  At the San Juan airport (a disgusting little hole of a place, in case you were wondering), I stood in line after line; first, I had to have my bags inspected by the USDA, then I had to check in with the airline, and then go through security.  It was while I was standing in one of the six security lines (all of which lead to two employees who chatted happily to each other while ignoring the growing line of frustrated travelers) that I saw this sign:  "Leave paradise in its place.  Beyond this point you will be subject to additional scrutiny."  I was a little shocked because most signs about security are something long and insincere about how all employees are instructed to be courteous and apologizing for any inconvenience.  This one might as well have said, "Suck it up, Jamie!  You're a freakin' adult who doesn't have to go to an office or pay rent.  Get over yourself!"

So that is what I've tried to do.  I've been back a little over a week, and I've been fairly productive.  I met with an accountant to go over all of the forms I filled out (she gave me a gold star!), set up a business checking account, did some technical consulting, and listed the first five cards in my online shop (see!  But I am also keeping those snapshots of cleansing beauty in my heart, ready to review when I become overwhelmed.  So all due respect to the Puerto Rican TSA agents, but I know exactly where paradise belongs, and it's not in line at the airport.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sifting Through the Past: An Archeological Study of my Closet

Part of the process of starting my business has been to transform my old bedroom in my parents' house into an office.  It was a long and strenuous process since the poor little room was filled to capacity with furniture, boxes, and more than a decade's worth of my "treasures."  I felt like I was working in a giant shadow box of my past.  However, I am now enjoying the fruits of my labor as I sit at my desk in a clutter-free(ish) zone.  You too, dear Reader, will also have the opportunity to enjoy the experience as I take you on a guided tour of my past via my closet:

Finding #1:  Eight bottles of purple nail polish, various shades
     This is a relic of my middle school years, obviously during my purple phase.  The shades ranged from bright and sparkly to almost black.  Looking at this evidence, I'm not sure if was going for pretty and girly or slightly edgy.  I honestly do not know what possessed me own that much nail polish since I always had really short fingernails.  Oh well; it was middle school, and therefore completely inexplicable.
   -The nail polish went in the trash.

Finding #2:  Six beanie babies, mostly off-brand
     Ah, another middle school memory!  I was in 6th grade at the height of the Ty Beanie Baby craze.  I moved to Virginia and started public school for the first time that December, and I was eager to have some way to relate to my new classmates.  During lunch break, a whole group of tween girls went outside to play with them.  Thankfully, I've grown out of the phase where I need plastic bean-filled animals to make friends.
   -The beanie babies were donated so they can help some other awkward girl.

Finding #3:  Five almost blank journals
     It would appear that I am terrible at journaling!  I discovered an entire box full of nothing but journals.  I looked through each one, eager to reacquaint myself with my past thoughts.  However, each only contained a few pages of writing.  This worrisome trend of not finishing anything kind of terrifies me since I'm trying to start a new life now.  On the plus side, I couldn't make myself dumber by reading too many self-indulgent adolescent musings.
   -I kept the journals as a warning against repeating past mistakes.

Finding #4:  Assorted children's books
     Several years ago, I took a bunch of children's books from my parents' basement for a storytelling project in a Public Speaking class.  Apparently, I never returned them.  The basement flooded this winter and most of the books my sisters and I read as children were ruined.  Thanks to my unintended thievery, Amelia Bedelia, The Little Engine That Could, The Pea Patch Jig, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and other classic stories were saved from the flood waters.
   -Of course I kept the books!  Ashley is very excited to read them to Jack.

Finding #5:  Several stacks of pictures
     I was absolutely thrilled to find pictures spanning my entire life.  I saw myself and my sisters as babies, then perpetually tan little girls with thick brown curls playing dress-up in the back yard.  Looking through scenes of my past--hunting for Easter eggs with my cousins, visiting Prince Edward Island after Ashley graduated from high school, sitting backstage before a production of The Miracle Worker, eating a picnic lunch with my first boyfriend before he was my boyfriend, forensics trips to Princeton and Gatlinburg and Princeton--I felt overwhelmingly blessed.  My whole life, I've been surrounded by family and friends who love me more than I could ever deserve.

What can I say?  It really is a wonderful life!  And now it's a wonderful life with more closet space.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Unlimited Sick Days and No Health Insurance

Has it really only been 1.5 weeks since I started this new venture?  Somehow it seems so very much longer!
I had a vision of how my life would be when I opened my own business.  In my mind I was always impeccably yet casually dressed with killer shoes, perfect unfrizzable curls, and the grace and ease which always characterizes the truly brilliant.  Ashley and I would meet every day in neat orderly space and discuss the hilarious card concepts we developed over a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
As it turns out, I'm an idiot.
JA Greetings' first official meeting took place last Tuesday in Ashley's kitchen.  I showed up hot and sweaty from the gym with decidedly frizzy hair, and my brother-in-law and nephew were watching Star Wars in the adjoining family room.  The meeting mostly consisted of writing down a list of the card concepts we already had, setting an impossible deadline, and trying to block out the fact that Jack (the nephew, not the brother-in-law) was running around us in circles screaming, "The rest of them are dead!"  (Side note: He was talking about wilted blueberries.  Really, our family is just overly dramatic, not creepy.)  The whole experience was nothing like I pictured it, except Ashley did make me coffee.

The next day we learned that (part of) the reason Jack screamed so much was that he was getting sick.  Consequently, Mommy, Daddy, and Aunt Jamie all got quite sick as well.  The next afternoon I felt like someone had kicked me in the face, and very little was accomplished for the rest of the week.  The original plan was to have three cards for sale in our Etsy shop by Aug. 17.  Of course, that has not happened.  As I was laying in bed getting woozier by the minute, I thought, "It's a good thing I don't have a regular job anymore.  I was running out of sick days!"  Later I came back to my senses enough to know that the thought was ironic at best and incredibly depressing at worst.  The thing that brought me back to my unfun senses was a letter reminding me that my health insurance coverage ends this month.  I can pay an arm and a leg for COBRA, but I also have no income.  Plus I'm not sure that COBRA covers the prosthetic arm and leg I would need after sending the payment.  The whole situation is like a missing verse from an Alanis Morissette song.
Once I recovered from my nephew-induced illness, I learned something very important about my new business:  I have no idea what I'm doing!!!  I've lost track of the amount of time I've spent researching business regulations and tax requirements and shipping rates; if I had the money to pay myself, I'd be making a lot of overtime.  Then again, hiring an employee required a lot more paperwork (I recently discovered)!

I met with Ashley again today for many many many hours.  The background movies today were Up and The Incredibles.  While we made some progress--for instance, the printer works on vellum (yay!) and we're now registered with the Virginia Department of Taxation (yay?)--we still aren't ready to list our cards online.  It turns out we're missing some important elements, like envelopes and stuff.
Also, Jack started crying that he wanted Aunt Jamie back in her car.  Sheesh!  The first meeting he makes me sick, and the second meeting he insults me.  This kid seriously needs to get his own business and stay out of mine!

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Beginnings

Hello, my name is Jamie and I am un/self-employed.

Reader response:  Hello, Jamie!

Last week, I quit a stable job with excellent benefits and coworkers I enjoyed to start a business with my sister.  Designing greeting cards.  In a recession.  I'm pretty sure I'll be on the Fortune 500 list (or sell a card to someone who may occasionally wear a business suit) by the end of the year.

Ashley, my sister/partner-in-business and/or crime, is a talented artist and actually has a degree in illustration.  She produces all of the artwork for JA Greetings.  I write the text of the cards and handle the actual business details, like the money and the shipping and all of the other not-so-fun stuff.  My degree is in psychology in case you were wondering.

I've worked in customer service for the last three years which means that I was basically nice for a living.  Now I'm trying to be witty, creative,  practical, structured, managerial, and detail-oriented.  Basically, I'm developing split personalities.  I may have to change my name to Sybil.  And Sarah.  And Libby.  And Rhoda.  And Natasha.

This blog is meant to record the ups and downs of starting a business, working with family, and figuring out if it's better to move back in with parents or spend countless hours in a cubicle.  I hope it will read more like a Heratio Alger story than One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but only time will tell.