Monday, September 10, 2012

"Just a Shirt"

Amazing gifts have been bestowed upon me because of my new business, and they are the best kind of gifts- friendships! I have heard from people all over the world who are quickly growing dear to me as they share their stories, and my handcrafted shirts and onesies have become more than "just a shirt" to so many, including myself. Let me share a few of their stories with you.
Two stories that strike me right away are two of my earliest customers. One was a Navy mom whose husband was deployed and she wanted her adorable twins to wear a patriotic set I had designed for their Daddy's homecoming. She even met me at our Commissary so that she could get them in time for his arrival! It was my first customer that I had met, without knowing beforehand, and it was everything in my power to not burst into tears when I met her and she proudly showed me her kiddos pictures. And I got to have a part in that! She kept telling me "Thank you!" but truly I was the one who was blessed in the end.  How beautiful is this family y'all???
 This set can be found here: Patriotic Sibling Set
She also had me design coordinating rosettes with glittery blue elastic headbands for herself and her Nanny. Of course I want to make one for myself now!

On the same lines, another military mama messaged me and deisgned an adorable coordinating set for her daughters to wear for 4th of July to, again, honor their active duty Daddy.  Oh man! Did these cuteies do my creations right! They are adorable, don't you think? (by the way- me and this mama are now frequent friends on Facebook :) love it!)
PRECIOUS! Love this little Diva- she is rockin' the Token Blonde!

The red onesie or shirt can be found here: Red Necklace Onesie
The white shirt or onesie can be found here: White Necklace Onesie
(These photos are courtesy of  Orchard House Photography)

The other day I received an email from a woman who was looking for a onesie for her one-month old to wear at her husband's deployment send-off. ONE-MONTH-OLD folks. Those of you who are military know the pain and anguish that a deployment can cause on it's own, and with a newborn, I cannot imagine. At the same time, what a blessing to have that sweet little life to help the time past quickly (we all know how these little squirts seem to sprout overnight!) and keep company on those loneliest of days. So, she asked if I could make a onesie from my shop that says "Guarding Mommy's Heart for Daddy" for her little guy. Let me tell ya' folks, I had to be extra creative to get all those letters on a little teeny newborn-sized onesie! But of course I did it, and I also sent her an email letting her know that she was on my heart and I was praying for her and her family, because like I said, it is more than just a shirt.  She came back with a heartfelt appreciation- another blessing.
"Guarding Mommy's <3 for Daddy" onesie or shirt can be found here: Guarding Onesie

I also recently had the pleasure of recently interacting with another mommy on Etsy who was looking for a last-minute onesie for her little guy's first birthday. We designed a Mickey-Mouse-inspired onesie, without it "screaming Mickey" (as she said:) it turned out so adorable! I sent it off to her as quick as I could and told her how my amazing Jackson (my 4-year-old son) had helped me in laying out the outfit (truly he was just there for giggles and smiles, but that is just as much of an inspiration as a picture of Mickey himself!)

This shirt or onesie can be found here: Mickey Suspenders and Bow-Tie
She came back with a message to me saying how she felt like she has known me her whole life, and I agreed. It felt effortless to have conversation (all in emails of course:) about our boys and our love for them and the joys of being a mama. The shirt had already been sent and we were still exchanging emails socially! She sent me a message later and asked me to keep her son in my prayers because he had been sick all week and was having trouble with his breathing and headed to the ER soon. I happened to be out to dinner with my family (my husband, son and my parents in from Seattle) and I told them all at once (yes- I was checking work-emails at the table... what can I say, I'm a workaholic...) We prayed for that little boy and I have been keeping him in my prayers since. Now I don't know if you know the Lord that I serve, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was no chance meeting. No way. He is deliberate and specific in his plans and layout of our lives. The little self-consumed details that we care about so much (i.e. the best parking spot at Costco or a new friend for our child in Kindergarten) He cares about too. The Bibles says "You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!" Psalm 139:5-6 (NLT) I'm telling you, it blows my mind how much He adores us and loves on us, no matter how broken and sinful we are.

Now for one of my favorite stories: A few months ago I had the pleasure of "meeting"another friend through my shop. She was a mom of three boys and wanted to order a coordinating set for her sons to wear for her middle-son's birthday. The shirts turned out adorable and she kept telling me "I'm a photographer and I'll send you the pictures of my boys in your shirts." Now, I hate to be harsh, but lots of people "claim" to be photographers and then send me a picture of their kid in the corner of a dark room, crying hysterically and taken with their iPhone, (just the image I want for my shop... lol).  So I just sent the shirts without any expectations (which is the best way to do life by the way; then the Lord can beat any expectations you ever had by ten-fold!) Well, she ends up being UH-MAZING and her kids are BEEEE-UTIFUL and I burst into tears when I saw her littlest guy in his onesie/vest/bowtie.

This vest and bow-tie onesie can be found here: Bow-Tie and Vest
Pictures Courtesy of the very talented Leslie Kruszynski at Impression by Leslie Photography
The coordinating Sets can be found here:  Tie and Vest Set  and Suspenders and Necklace Set

She then emails me to tell me how her littlest one had undergone 5 surgeries already this year and he was just getting ready to celebrate his first birthday.  She loved the outfit so much that she wanted me to make something for his party. I was so honored, not only that she ordered again from me, but DANG, that she shared her story with me. So we started emailing and sharing about being mommies (mommies of BOYS:) and all of the blessings and challenges we are given on a daily basis. Now, we had already connected on a humorous level (you all know how I love to joke, but it doesn't always come across the best in print, and she GOT.IT.) and now we were connecting on an emotional and spiritual level. At the time, I was having trouble reaching customers, in the form of adverstisment. As a brand-new business and still learning how to do it all, I just didn't know how to let people know that I was out there! She offered to put something on her business's Facebook page and I said sure (again, no expectations). BAM! The next day my shop's Facebook following went up 600%. People were emailing me left and right and I was floored that people could possibly want a shirt from someone who was just googling and teaching myself how to do it all!
The people I have come to know through this have been inspiring, heart-breaking, and uplifting. This is why it is way MORE THAN JUST A SHIRT.  God can use anything, why wouldn't He use my little shop and my willingness to do great things for Him? His Word says "That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." Romans 8:28  I am so in love with Him that I can't help but scream it from the rooftops, "He has changed my life! Through the darkest of times He has pulled me through!" Others are sensing this, even through a computer screen, and wanting it as well.
So my word to you today, make it count. Make it more than "just a shirt" and everything you do will be for Him and His glory. Who knows, He might just bless you with a new friend (or two).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

From Buttons to Treasures...

Ok folks- this is going to be a bit long, but I had to give you the background and it's a journey! Here goes..... (big breath)...

I can't help but laugh when I think back to only 4 years ago, when I used to walk down the block to our dry cleaner in Chicago, IL and ask her to sew the buttons back on my dress shirts for me, because... wait for it... I didn't know how to do it myself. Now I am stitching 10-15 hours a day and mostly by hand! I'm sure Mrs. Lee would be laughing now too.

It sort of happened on accident, me starting my own business and creating one-of-a-kind items for a new career. I thought I would be teaching elementary school for the rest of my adult life.  When the opportunity arose for me to stay home with our almost-two-year-old at the time, I wasn't sure what God had in store for me. I was pretty confident in my identity as a working mom, and felt successful at it.  What would this new adventure of 24-hour, round the clock care of another little human be like for someone who was/is so innately selfish and self-consumed? I soon knew the answer- LIFE ALTERING. At first it was a miserable change: wipe a nose, scold a behavior, change the behavior, make a meal, clean up that meal, wipe "something else" and back at #1- you get my drift. Motherhood can be the most demanding and unappreciative job to ever exist; it can also be the most rewarding and identity-defining job to ever exist. 
So, after a tough two years (give or take) of transitioning from being a working-mom (with an identity in my career and not simply in being a "nose-wiper") I learned to put my identity in God. I read Jen Hatmaker's book "Out of the Spin Cycle" (one which I cannot recommend enough to other stay-at-home-moms) began to see my identity in what it should be, rather than what it was: my identity should be in simply being a child of God. I am a person blessed over and over with grace (undeserved love) and patience and unconditional love, and therefor asked to give the same to others. Once I saw this, my days of laundry and meal prepping were seen as a way to serve my family so that they might see God's grace and love through me.
It was then that God reignited my passion for creating any and everything (also known as "crafting") and because my eyes and my heart were so clearly focused, He blessed that. 
A friend encouraged me to try out Pinterest and with my OCD tendencies, I jumped right in and began creating all over the place (literally, my husband was scolded several times for throwing away empty toilet paper rolls because of all the "art" I could create with them:).  At first I was overwhelmed, but like I said, in the background the Lord was forming me and my heart's desires to match HIS, and once I focused in on a specific field of creation (i.e. boutique children's items and accessories) things took off! It started with my friend (Susan:) showing me a cute outfit she had wanted to get for her kids to wear for Valentine's Day and I couldn't have imagined spending that much on a set of clothes (cheap!cheap!I am cheap!) so I asked her if she would let me try and make her something similarly for a lot less. I hadn't used a sewing machine or been near fabric since 9th grade home-ec class, but heck, I could try anything! So the first "Token Blonde: Noticeably Different" creation took place.
Valentine's Day 2012
Two of my favorite models:
Miss Taylor and Mr. Garrett <3
I was so happy to see my friend's delight and her telling others about what I had made, that I couldn't just let it go. I started making more, experimenting with different fabrics, practicing different techniques and seeing how different thread weights created differently- I was HOOKED. One of my dearest friends in the world (Heather:) suggested I look into to open my items to more buyers. I first scoffed- who would want to spend money on something I created that might not even stand up in the wash (*side bar: I have worked very hard to make most of the items in my shop machine washable and only a few are hand-washed, but doable). My ever-patient-loving-encouraging-husband took the reigns of business manager and started looking into "this Etsy thing". He was the one who read up on all of the policies and the expectations and the shipping rates, comparable pricing, etc. Without him I was a puddle of fear, insecurities, exhaustion and tears in the middle of my living room floor. I can't even count the times he has scraped me off the floor and put me back together with words of encouragment and a quick slap on the butt, "You can do it Squeeks" (my family's nickname for myself- LOL). So I posted my first item on Etsy in late February 2012, for St. Patrick's Day and as my new friend Leslie would say (she is sure to be a whole different post by the way:) "I just about peed myself" when I received that first email saying I had a purchase from my shop!
March 2012:
St. Patrick's Day Onesie
First item listed at Token Blonde: Noticably Different
My favorite little Leprechauns :)
So, as I finish up this first blog entry, I'm sure there will be more in the very near future, it's nice to reflect on how I got here (with lots of fear, tears, encouragement and help:), and how much I love being where I'm at now. Please check back regularly- I'm sure to keep you on your toes in the world of sewing, thimbles and thread! :)