A Ship In Port Is Safe, But That’s Not Why Ships Are Made

I wrote this draft back last year, 2015 Christmas Eve to be exact because I reference the Doctor Who Special. Like many drafts, that is where it remained because I didn’t have time to finish it, much less finish a thought as we addressed our priorities each and every hour.

I can’t even explain how ungodly that time was for me. For us.

Are you familiar with the boiled frog theory? That was me over the course of 6 months.


Six months later, I look at this draft and realize that extreme edits are necessary. Bear with me.

Seasons come and go without regard to time. Everything has seasons and it’s time for me to recognize when something’s time has passed and move on.

The blue duotone image of the Seattle marina I made above was when we visited Seattle in October. The quote reads:

A Ship In Port Is Safe, But That’s Not Why Ships Are Made

Obviously, the universe is telling me that now that things around me are changing, I too must change.

It’s been a fucking tough year and I for one, can’t wait to turn this ship around.

Andrew’s mother died Labor Day weekend. While she planned for everyone except herself, her decision -or lack thereof- placed a stop halt on anything we had planned for both business and personal. We had custom orders in the pipeline, big shows lined up, and the holiday schedule to attend. Usually, our season was commonly met with excitement and a bit of anxiety –but that’s the way of retail.

When we opened ourselves to the possibility of moving to the PNW in late Spring, we didn’t know that the lazy Summer would be met with trying to outrun the dire of portent.

Suddenly, there were so many plates we had spinning in the air that we had to constantly address them with frantic haste.


Every hour of every day we were reprioritizing everything that seemed to matter: family, business, customers, house, new life, friends and not in that order.


We had to essentially abandoned our shop the month of September due to fact that we had to attend to Andrew’s in-firmed father and manage his 24 hour care. We couldn’t fill orders, complete projects or custom orders. No money was coming in.

No matter how I strived to answer customer queries, many of them were met with unkind remarks about me as a business person. Oh, how I so enjoy armchair theorists and their predilection for publicly shaming anyone who doesn’t meet their dreamy standards. Read: dripping sarcasm.

Honestly, this crushed me.

What I do remember is back in June we had our State Farm rep come in and review our policy with us. One question did arise: What would happen to the business if one of us were to get hit by that proverbial bus?


Good question, tho. What would happen?

A few weeks later, who knew that question would be answered through the death of a close family member?

My spirits weakened and we did our best to meet our posted business hours, but didn’t always make it. To my recollection, I think we decided to at least be open Thursday – Sunday. This left Monday – Wednesday open to go visit Andrew’s dad on a weekly basis, continue finishing our custom projects, and renting a storage unit to begin culling our house from all the business grey goods we had packed wall-to-wall in the basement.

We were overwhelmed with the growing number of plates spinning with priority.

Each day, we were faced with hard questions that resulted in cutting back so much of what made our business excel. This included suspending personalizing gifts much earlier than we ordinarily would and ceasing custom orders indefinitely.

Our plan was to put our house up on the market by Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, that never happened. We were so goddamn busy with 2 shows in November, closing shop mid-November and clearing out product and removing all remnants of ceiling and floor, and selling displays on Craigslist that I barely kept my act together.

I was in the middle of shit going sideways.

Mid-November we had our annual Piedmont Craftsman Fair. I had to do everything in my power keep my game face on. It was probably one of the most depressing weekend in my life. One I hope to never relive. While at the show, I experienced even more devastating news and just couldn’t keep it on. I found myself hiding in the alley (behind our booth) where artists normally store their crates and packaging, crying. Mentally weary. Exhausted.

Three months of back to back relentless ice balls and we still haven’t had time to grieve. 

The next week was the final week of our shop being open. It was really tough because its amazing how ones mind remembers the horrible things people say. Of course, people think they’re being funny when they say, “Oh, you’re closing. So that means everything is 80% off.” I bluntly reminded them, “No. We aren’t Target. Our gifts aren’t made by children in China that one just throws in the back of closet like a forgotten toy. Our pieces are special and if I don’t sell them today, I know that I can sell them in Seattle.” Of course the dbag walked out without buying.

Not much else sold because: in the SE, supporting small business isn’t a thing. 

Meanwhile, I’m struggling with time management because Craigslist (CL) customers aren’t showing up for the appointed times. The most ridiculous arrangement was when one customer dickered for days about picking up the flooring (costing me hours of phone time w/him), he then whined about not wanting to collect it on the very last day of November because of the pouring rain. Try explaining with the utmost patience that the landlord would charge a full months rent if everything wasn’t evacuated by midnight -all without losing your cool.

TIP: Schedule all your appointments 1 week prior to the real due date. This will save so many headaches.

Like magic, Andrew received a phone call in the middle of hauling bundles of laminate flooring to the customer’s borrowed SUV in the pouring rain. The news: His dad no longer needed to remain in the house alone with ghosts -the ideal living center had a room that opened up. Thankfully, the center was located just minutes from his daughter’s home in MD.

News doesn’t always come alone, however. In my life, there is always a glitch.

JStewart-frustratedWe had one more show to get through -Boylan Heights Art Walk- and then flying out to Seattle on Tuesday for a few days to find a place to live. As I mentioned, news doesn’t always travel alone, it brings it’s little brother glitch. Moving Andrew’s dad was supposed to happen the same week. FML

At this point, we’re going up to my FIL’s house every single week checking on him, paying bills, reviewing 24 hour home health care and dodging angry swipes from Cujo the cat. Three hours away, this was always a full day event. It took some convincing w/the other side of the family that we couldn’t do everything -and we certainly weren’t going to cancel our travel plans. They had to step up and make the trip w/dad.

Adding one more spinning plate to the mix, during the months of October & November, we were creating lists and lists of home repairs that needed to be made before bringing the house to market. We were exhausted just making those lists, not to mention the idea of tackling the tasks. Fortunately, I think the universe heard our cries and brought forth a former neighbor to help us out. We had to pay him of course, with the little money that we had –but we were already killing ourselves.

During the last art show, John offered his services and I eagerly agreed. I had confidence that he could help us without too much grief because of the work I watched him do on his own house. So, we gave him a list, a key to the house, and directions to the treat jar for the cats while we were away.

Since June and as often as we could, we were scouring Zillow, Craiglist, Apartments.com, and other resources for place to rent in Seattle. It was so stressful watching anything we bookmarked disappear within a couple of hours because of the high demand. Being in Seattle was a bit of a respite, despite its inherent stress factors.

While folks were settling in on Christmas Eve, we were enduring some back breaking work of packing up books, supplies, and then trucking them off in our daily deliveries to the storage unit. While I’m agnostic/atheist, I do look forward to scheduled holidays in the US -they offer time off. Unfortunately, the past several months didn’t grant us that luxury. At the very least, we opened a bottle of special wine and watch the annual Doctor Who Special.

At this point, our hope was to get the house up on the market by the new year. Once that was done, we’d have the luxury of getting together with friends that we’ve neglected and pushed away to get this shit done that has weighed on us so fast and so heavily. Again, that wasn’t in the cards.

Upon our latest adventure to Seattle, we came home with a major project ahead of us: Scraping ceilings. Oh dear Gawd, what a mess.

TIP: Plan for 5 days when scraping your ceiling. First day is easy: All scraping. Seriously, here’s a HowTube video. Seriously easy. It’s the next 4 days that are killer: Patch, Sand, Repeat.

TIP: For sanding, use a special dry wall sponge instead of sand paper -this alleviates a ton of dust normally created by sandpaper. Bleck!

January was spent clearing, decluttering, and transporting more stuff to the storage unit. By this time, I think we had already rented a 2nd unit. OMFG.

Back in Seattle for another few days in January, we looked separately and together with our Real Estate broker at several homes. We settled on the idea of renting an apartment because we needed to fully immerse ourselves in the new lifestyle. We needed to do this as quickly as possible to find our tribe and test the waters with our designs. We were finding disappointment around every corner. It wasn’t until we realized what we were consistently hearing was that no one would rent to us unless we had income. Having one’s own business wasn’t good enough -especially if we had suspended all making due to no workshop.

We needed jobs.

Great. On top of all that we are enduring, we need to job hunt, too? More damn ice balls.

So our next plan was to get the house ASAP -even if one photo of the house we took many years ago in the idyllic Spring. Get it sold so that we can use the profit to move our belongings and pay rent. Scary risk, but we were all in. There was nothing left for us in Raleigh to bank on.



We managed to get our house up on Zillow mid-February. Watching all the house hunting shows HGTV, we managed to stage each room during the process of updates: Clear, Stage, Photograph. Wash, rinse, repeat.

After a few showings, we realized through talking w/potential owners that the adage about not showing your own house is true. There are a variety of reasons why this is true. We know how to talk about product and making it all about them, but one thing stuck out as I was reading one young 20 something: She doesn’t want to envision two 50 yr old somethings having sex in her new bedroom.

Ew. I get that.

Suddenly, I’m turned off!!

That’s when I decided we needed to back away from this part of selling. So, we contacted Molly, an old client I had many years ago designing real estate flyers for her. Thankfully, in our region, our house was an easy sell for her.  While our house was on the market for only 16 days, many houses sell in our area within 5. Naturally, running on fumes we started to get nervous.

I guess the biggest stress factor for me was leaving the cats in the house alone. We did crate them, but I just didn’t want anyone tormenting them. Of course, that’s the lack of sleep talking.

As potential home owners marched in and marched out, many of them were depressed that it wasn’t a showcase home. Thanks HGTV. You suck. What we needed was a small family who had an abundant amount of coping skills. Like the Internet without a sense of humor, many 20/30 somethings have no coping skills. SMDH. Really?

One day, a quiet couple arrive with their agent… and 2 very young girls. Oh crap. We have to leave our cats with two erratic and unpredictable rug rats. We played the ‘we’ll be downstairs while you walk around upstairs’ game and same rules for when they traversed to the lower level. As I just mentioned to the mom that the cats don’t like children, the little girls screeched and twirled in front of their crates -taunting them. Their screams raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

OMG I’m so tired, please don’t tease the cats.

Things progressed well and I felt that they had made their decision to buy. I asked the little girls what their favorite part of the house was and of course, they bellowed, “The kitties!!!!!” After that little white-knuckled event, the couple (sans girls) came by a few days later for a second walk through. Later that evening, I was elated when Molly called with the good news.

Fast forward 25 days: March 26th rolled quietly by and that’s when Andrew decided we should celebrate. The Due Diligence had passed and the new owners were formally going to take possession of the house in less than one week! Hall-fuckin-luia.

Now that we can pull down several spinning plates, we still had a few more to keep balanced:

  1. Finding a place to live,
  2. Obtaining bank statements indicating we had the cash to pay for rent,
  3. Arrange for the boyz checked out by the vet,
  4. Getting plane tickets for all 4 of us to fly out permanently on April 15,
  5. FIL’s house cleared out, renovated, and ready for market. Oh yah, that!

I don’t even think that was an exhaustive list. I honestly couldn’t remember hour-to-hour as stress and chaos just ate my brain like a tapeworm zombie.

Fast Forward to Today

As I mentioned in the beginning, some expectations have come to pass -for better or worse. I am full of remorse that the relentless experience of ice balls being thrown at us every day prevented us from enjoying time with our friends -or- enjoying time with each other.

Now, we’re doing our best to settle in, however, we’re still pretty exhausted. Some days I feel like my brain is much and I’m spewing only word salad. As a result, I have gained a tremendous amount of weight and I am pretty sure I’m dealing with adrenal gland failure due to the shit storm of 2015.

We still feel like tourists here in the PNW and I anticipate feeling this until we’ve endured a couple of winters. We have already managed to change our health insurance, so I finally get to see a doctor (read: not a quack like I had in NC) to figure out my ridiculous hypothyroidism, try to control my leptin resistance, elevated cortisol levels, and correct any possible adrenal gland damage. #goodtimes

Regardless, I am in a better place. A much better place, thank Goddess.

2 thoughts on “A Ship In Port Is Safe, But That’s Not Why Ships Are Made

  1. carolyn says:

    Omg…what a truly relate able story. Yes it felt like hell and the proverbial “how much more can we take?” It’s always showing up as one ups man ship the next damn day. So happy you shared and are now thriving.

    Not to far from my year also…I’d love to share my “hell” so you know that one is never alone. Heck maybe it’s the start of a book for you…collective stories of hell from “people with custom businesses…it’s art asshole it’s not supposed to be free” lolololol.


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