Archives for category: Love

Over two months ago now, as I got ready for the 2013 Etsy NY Holiday Handmade Cavalcade, a request came from our team asking for donations for the goodie bags being given out to the first 100 shoppers between the two days of the event. Being my first Cavalcade, I was reluctant. The cost of doing two-days was adding up and it was only going to get more costly day of.  Donating to the goodie bag, seemed like just another expense. After a third request, however, I decided to join in and I’m glad I did.

I had no idea the amount of fans (and shoppers) who line up in advance and wait, no matter what the weather (snow last year!), to get their hands on these bags.  As was explained to me, those who get a goodie bag, get home and eagerly and slowly go through each piece inside looking at all the freebies and discounts offered.

My donation ended up being a bit of work (I don’t have a single picture of my donation!), which probably stopped 48 gift bag lovers from participating in my giveaway, but I’m glad I donated what I did.  My freebie piece included a small notebook paper size bag that included my business card, a discount card, and a postcard that read “Holiday Sugar” and had the word “sugar” glittered in red, one $.33 stamp (which at the time was the cost to mail a postcard), and a note that said the following:

“Hello there Handmade Shopper!

Thank you so much for attending this year’s Etsy NY Holiday Handmade Cavalcade! This is my first Cavalcade and I feel really fortunate to find myself amongst these incredibly talented artists and makers, but more to find my little bag of goodness in your hands.

Enclosed is a holiday card that I glittered by hand one cold night in November.  It is a postcard, which is why somewhere floating in this bag along with my business card and a discount coupon (expires February 1, 2014!!) is a $.33 cent stamp.  All you need to do is write a message either on front, or on the back of the card, address it and mail it off.  I figured if I give you the stamp, you might actually mail the card, even if you don’t mail out Holiday cards normally.

So here’s the challenge I’m presenting to you. Yes there’s a challenge!

I want to see how many of the 50 cards floating out there are actually mailed.  I’m asking that you go one step further and email me and let me know when you mailed it and where you mailed it to…was it domestic, in NYC, outside NYC, abroad-where?  You do not need to provide names or anything else.  Again, I just would love to track how far these cards go and find out how many actually used the stamp and found a mailbox or post office.

As for me…well, I’m just Sara, a woman who loves paper (I studied Japanese paper making this time last year), writing, and communicating with the people I love.  I don’t think we do enough real connecting any more. I also don’t think we know how to properly express ourselves.  It makes me sad. I’m trying to fix it. I figured I could use this little goodie as a social experiment and a way to get you writing this Holiday season.  Please let me know how it goes!

Yours in love & cheer!

Sara/S2″

I know that’s a lot, but that’s me. A rambling lover at heart and it’s better to be honestly me than try to be anything else.

My rambling way made some kind of a connection because I had two shoppers email me and let me know they received the postcard and mailed them off:

Hi Sara,
Just mailed your cute postcard yesterday to my sister in Iowa via my local post office in Jackson Heights, NY.  I can’t remember the last time I actually sent my sister anything by mail (I haven’t mailed Christmas cards in years).  I am sure she will be surprised!
Thanks for the lovely idea.
All the best,
R

AND

Hi Sara,  

I am one of the recipients of your goodies in the NY holiday cavalcade market in Brooklyn. I was travelling from overseas last week when I came across the market and the goodie bag. Your card and stamp prompted me to write to a new friend I had made in DC.   I

am with you in thinking that we don’t express ourselves as well or as often these days as people used to, and as a great fan of snail mail I think this is a pity. I am not sure how long mail normally takes in the States but I’m hoping that the stamp was enough to get the card from New York to DC – I haven’t yet heard from him saying he received it (sent 4 days ago). Fingers crossed! 

Thank you for your card and for reigniting my love of snail mail. I hope you hear from many others confirming that your cards were circulated around the country.   

A

Those are real, unaltered, emails from people, whose full names I removed, who went along with my challenge. Both of these messages made my day when I received them.  Sure only 1% of the people who received the postcard contacted me to let me know they mailed it, but that’s still 1% or two people who made the effort and were grateful for the opportunity to write a message to a loved one and express their sentiment.

Naturally, I wish that more people had written in and contacted me, but I consider this a success. Knowing that two people, took advantage of an S2 design and sent out love is enough to remind me why I am doing what I’m doing and why I’m going all for broke doing it. If I can help more people feel this way, and reach out to loved ones with intentional communication, well then, that’s my legacy and its worth all costs, rambles and all.

On days like today, where I’m sitting thinking about how I quit my job and am really trying to make a go doing the things I love while my bank account dwindles, I read these messages and remember, this may be my fifth year, and I may be taking a risk, but the world needs some “holiday sugar.”

Speaking of holiday sugar…Friday, tomorrow, is Valentine’s Day. I wish you all a day full of intentional communication, or missives of love.  Happy Valentine’s Day. Happy Holiday Sugar!  Pick up a pen and get to writing! Please?

Wow. I am floored at how quickly time is moving these days, or rather this year. Last year, while I cried my way through the last four months, I had no idea that January would swing in, punch me back to reality, and leaving me paying more attention to every moment I have on this planet.

This blog has taken a bit of a turn. I haven’t written as much as I would like to, nor have I felt a need to write. I’ve been writing on other spaces, but writing more so on environmental concerns.  What brings me to write now, today, is that wedding season for me has ended. This year had me work on three sets of wedding invitations and all three had delivery dates a week apart.  Each set was different and required a different set of skill and time.

One set was the complete wedding stationery from the invite all the way to the table and seating cards at the wedding, along with programs, thank you cards (my gift to the couple), menus, table cards, and escort cards.

The second wedding only involved invitations and an RSVP post card, but required that I cut slots into the side of the third layer, to apply the top layer and hold it all together with a knot in the center.

The third wedding was the most simple, as it was two layers to assemble.

When I discuss custom wedding projects with a couple, I promise them that the final product will be exactly that, a final product. There will be no assembling on the couples part; all that will need to be done is invitations stuffed in envelopes, addresses added to envelopes, and a trip to the post office.  Yes, this means a ton of time is spent on actually assembling invitations, but that is the fun of my job. I love seeing a pile of finished invitations take shape as I keep making.

Of the three weddings, I attended two. The second wedding that involved the cut slots, I did not attend. They were strictly clients, who I would consider friends, especially after dog sitting their adorable little Chihuahua pup, Tootie, but I was not a guest.  Please note, I did not expect to be invited to that wedding.

The first wedding that I did attend, was in California. Temecula, California to be exact. It was directly in the desert and it was stunning. The couple, two very good friends of mine, asked me to do their wedding stationery the minute they got engaged. It spanned two countries: the US and Japan. They were in fact, one of the only people I skyped with while I was away. This wedding was the first I mentioned that I did all the pieces of the suite. It was breathtaking to be there for my two dear friends and not only share in their friendship and love, but be part of their day in more than one way.  When I sat at the table, across the pool from the married couple, and saw the menus, table cards, and escort cards, it was like a dream had come true. I know that sounds silly, but it was as if all of my love that transpired from my heart through my fingers and was surrounding their new beginning. That makes me sound like I’m full of myself, but I’m not. It’s actually quite a humbling feeling.

The second wedding, I did not attend, but I did check in with the couple two weeks before their wedding and they were overwhelmed, but excited. They told me they appreciated me checking in on them and would let me know how everything went. I look forward to hearing from them.

Finally, the third wedding, I attended. It was held October 26th, in gorgeous Lake George, New York. It was the wedding of my former roommate (I live alone now) and her then boyfriend, now husband. They are an amazing couple. My former roommate is in fact one of my favorite people ever.  The invitation process was particularly difficult for me because my former roommate isn’t your typical female. She’s a guys girl. She gets dressed up, but she is so far from Diva it is refreshing. I knew she wanted natural, but I wasn’t sure if she was going the formal or informal route. In the end, her wedding was stunning and the invitations I created for them, her husband had quite a bit to say about the paper, fit the day and evening to a T.

It was at this third wedding that I splurged. I was able to spend the weekend in a gorgeous room in a quaint and romantic bed and breakfast overlooking the Lake. I slept well, partied with dear friends, and got to see a part of New York that I had never seen as an adult. It was truly magical and the perfect way to end a year of work on weddings that stretched my creative ability, taught me something new (I learned about foiling!), and showed me just how much I love working on wedding stationery.

Below is a gallery of photos of the three different wedding invitations so you can see how different they all turned out to be. I also included a few photos from the two events I went to. I don’t take many pictures any more at weddings. I decided at the wedding in California that I wanted to just be in that moment. Photos would definitely help me remember the day and night, but they wouldn’t exactly take me back to how the moon looked, or how fascinating it was to see the peacocks moving about above and around us.

On a different note, things are picking up for me as of late and I’m really excited to see what 2014 brings. As a matter of fact, I’m hoping to do more than three wedding invitation sets next year. Maybe you’ll help me? If you know anyone looking for custom wedding stationery, please send them my way! More details on a program I am launching to acknowledge your help, soon…

In February 2007, I made my first edition of the Love Mix. I put it together as a gift to female friends of mine who didn’t have boyfriends or husbands or any one to give them chocolates and flowers. I thought that by giving a CD full of songs about love, they’d dance around and feel the magic and power of curated love songs picked just for them. It was a fun project and now, seven Valentine’s Day later, I’m still making them.

The difference between the first year and this year is that the emotion behind them is not just to make these friends (now I send it to a few men as well as women) feel better, it tells the story of love. In most cases it tells the story of my love in my life.  There have been years where the mixes are full on poppy and full of light and then there are years where the mixes aren’t. I try to incorporate “world music” as well as American music in every mix, and of course there is always the possibility of more somber indie music over rap and hip hop, but every once in a while a hip hop song makes its way onto the mix. In other words, every mix is crafted with care and with what I hope is a fluidity that shows how fluid and full of care love is and should be.

This year, I mixed the mix while freezing my buns off in Echizen, Japan. As I shared with my friends via email today (I shared the mix as a Spotify Playlist rather than in CD form for the first time), one of the first songs that pieced together the mix was Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough.” I’ll never forget my nightly 10 minute walk from the cafe near the center of Echizen village up the small hill to the house I was staying at, but I’ll never forget the night that song came on and I just started balling my eyes out as I connected on such a deep level to the words. That night, began the process of selecting the 20 songs that make up the hour long annual mix of love.

This year’s mix is personal. Extremely personal. It combines emotions I’ve experienced over the past six months: loss, hurt, fragility, strength, love, desire, passion, jealousy, doubt, confusion, forgiveness, persistence, craziness, stupidity, understanding, fear, and courage. Even more importantly, it shares faith. In my last posts, I talked about signs and that element during my trip to Japan. One of the greatest lessons of those signs was faith; the ability to believe no matter what. I’ve always believed in the Universe, coincidence, the power of energy, fate, and even the magic of the “Gods”, but it wasn’t until Japan that I began to understand that they were with me every step of the way, even when I felt the most lost.

The first version of this mix was in fact somber. It included songs like Sinead oConnor’s version of “Nothing Compares to You” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Adia”, but then something switched. It may have been that I only have 80 minutes on a disc, but I started hearing other songs like Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” and I remembered how in those cold nights, I too had a turning point. I went from feeling like things were never going to change, that I was going to be stuck feeling that miserable and lost, to understanding that the powers that be, the Universe, and the spirits known as my dad and grandmother were urging me to think differently, to believe in them and that things do and will turn around.

I’ve said before that I don’t expect people to believe my experience. I do believe that people need to have their own experience to understand such a spiritual enlightenment, even though it is trendy to read and believe experiences like this. I mean, honestly, how many times did people tell me before I left, “Oh, you’re off to have your own “Eat, Pray, Love” journey. Part of me was bothered by this because Ms. Gilbert’s experience was much different than my experience, even if we both learned to believe in the end.

With that belief, I put together a mix that ranges in all emotions, but in the end asks to have faith. Not necessarily a religious faith, but a faith in yourself, in the power of love, and in the power of other people, no matter what happens. A tall order, yes, but one that can be done.

I share all of this because I’ve read a few articles today about taking back Valentine’s Day and turning it into Generosity Day, or as Anne Lamott put it, “Occupy Valentine’s Day” and I agree, even though I’m in the industry that wants you to share love and spread love and spend money via cards, chocolates, and other notions of ridiculous.  As I told one friend today, I’d like to believe that seven years ago when I started making these mixes, I started the movement for Generosity Day, or “Occupy Valentine’s Day” when I was making mixes to share with single females so they knew that no matter what, they were loved and thought about and remembered on what could be, and I’m sure is, for many a day of despair and loneliness.

With that said, if you’re interested in hearing the 2013 Love Mix and wanting to be part of it, you can hear it on Spotify. If you have any thoughts, or songs that I should consider for the future, please share them in the comments. I’m always looking for a good love tune! More importantly though, if you do give a listen, I hope you feel inspired by love, regardless of the emotions. Love is fabulous and freeing and amazing. I hope you also feel the love I’m sharing through the openness of this experience. I don’t want your thoughts on my issues, I just want you to feel whatever you feel and maybe be inspired.

Oh, and before I forget, let me share the quote that gives the feel the this year’s Mix, it’s a favorite of mine from Paulo Coelho’s book, “The Alchemist”:

“If what one finds is made of pure matter,
it will never spoil.
And one can always come back.
If what you had found was only a moment of light,
like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing
on your return.”

Happy Valentine’s Day Eve!

In 2008, I read “Eat, Pray, Love” and I loved some parts, like her stay in Italy, and hated other parts, when she found herself hating the life she had chosen. I was just about to be 28 when I read the book and was still young and full of strong ideas that would stay firm until my father passed away unexpectedly the following February. I thought Liz Gilbert was whiny and annoying and lost. But I loved her love for travel and her bravery to go out and find herself.

This past Saturday night, October 13, 2012, I found myself in a few gay bars in Tokyo, Japan celebrating the birthday of a dear friend. The birthday party was selected for this past Saturday because I’d be here and it would allow me to celebrate with my good friend’s friends and enjoy a night out in Tokyo. I am so glad that I was part of the festivities because it was a ton of fun and I got to see another layer of this amazingly interesting city known as Tokyo.

So what’s the connection between the party on Saturday night and “Eat, Pray, Love?”

Well, I left New York City heartbroken, and I still am, but am managing better over all. Leading up to my leaving, I was questioning lots of things: my life purpose, my ideas of love and my future. I was having a complete existential breakdown. What is my purpose and point? Why have I not made more money? Why am I just floundering? Much like Liz, I find myself crying and wondering and seeking something, anything that will remind me of who and what I am.

See, I know my worth and value deep down inside. I’ve just become cloudy. I know that what Mamy said to me that day about having a good feeling about me because I’m a good girl with a clean heart is accurate. Even with my bitchy side and my lack of compassion (mostly to myself), I have a good heart. I want to save the world. And I know that I can. I just can’t jump. Or I’ve felt like I couldn’t jump. Yet, I’ve jumped! I’m in freaking Tokyo, Japan. I’ve jumped, people! Sara, please note that you’ve jumped, because your entire little world of friends and connections and loved ones are watching you with awe and amazement.

And yet that awe and amazement terrifies me! It’s that moment that I had in Istanbul when I seriously might not have gotten on the plane to Moscow. What if I fail? Yes, at least I tried, but what if I seriously failed?!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know I’m strong. It’s why my judgements and opinions are so strong. It’s why I don’t always believe in the gray. It’s why I have a strong opinion on depression. I believe that WE have the ability to change things. At the end of the day, we change things. We make decisions and we create change.

Yet, deep down, deep down, I struggle.  It’s a hidden struggle, I think, because I am not necessarily putting out the vibe of heartbroken, uncertain and sad woman. The reality is that I’ve been this way for three years. What led to this point is that I have been looking for something to fix me after my dad’s death. Nobody but myself can fix me, especially when it comes to dealing with my dad’s death.

In regards to seeming normal, I’m talking about my trip and my life when I’m out and laughing.  You’d almost guess that there is nothing wrong. And maybe in that the Universe can sense that I need reminders. I have experienced more love than I could ever have imagined or hope to experience in the last two weeks. And it terrifies me that at nearly 32 years old, I need a love boost, but it is what I’ve most needed and what I am the most grateful. It started over two weeks ago when one of my best friends surprised me by appearing at my going away party in New York all the way from Chicago. Talk about surprises! It included two very good friends driving in from New Jersey and one from the Bronx. All four of these individuals surprised me and I hadn’t seen them in months, one in over a year.

Saturday night, we were outside drinking and across the street from the bar there was a store that said, “I am here” and then on top of that “Impact.” I looked at it and said, “yes, Sara, you most definitely are here and will most definitely make an impact. Don’t think about it or question it, just know that that is where your heart is going.”

This came on the heels of sitting in a cab with one of my friend’s friends who turned to me in his drunk state and said, “I really think you coming to Japan to study paper making is brave and everyone is going to love you! They just are!” All of my friend’s friends that night expressed an interest in seeing me again and one even said, “you don’t want to stay in the country the entire time. You should come back so we can hang out.”  Another friend as he got ready to leave grabbed my hand and said, “I am so glad I met you. You are a good person, I know it and I will buy your product one day. I know that, too!” All of these conversations warmed my heart and gave me a jolt of the Sara of before and of the Sara that will be after this journey.

In one of the best moments of the evening, as I annoyingly looked up at the TV playing a Drake and Lil’ Wayne music video, this Japanese guy, who was cute, walked passed me and as he passed said, “hi. you’re really pretty” and then walked along to his seat. My friend, Mark, had told me that hiding out in Japan would be perfect for me because Japanese men aren’t the most aggressive and I wasn’t going to deal with what I did in Turkey. I’m kind of glad that that one guy, whether he was gay or not, complimented me. It seems kind of silly and shallow that being told “you’re pretty” from a stranger at a bar would mean something, but it was about the moment. It was about being surrounded by some fabulous gay men in a country I will call home for two months and am still getting a hang of and realizing “I am here.” Those moments matter more than I really have ever credit them. Alas, not any more, it’s part of trusting the process.

The Universe does speak.

Arigatou gozaimashita.

P.S. I am leaving in a few short hours by bus to the next leg of the trip: Echizen, Japan in Fukui Prefecture. I’ll arrive early tomorrow morning and the paper making adventure begins. Stay tuned!

 

I wrote this blog title the other day and all of a sudden remembered the Rodney Dangerfield movie by the same name. Hahaha. Rodney Dangerfield. That just goes to show you how much comedy is infused in my life and why I support the amazing and incredibly talented Erin Conroy, friend and comedian extraordinaire!

I’ve digressed, forgive me. I have been seeing ladybugs the past couple of weeks. I even bought a ladybug backpack as a gift for a friend that recently had a baby girl.

When I was a kid, I remember being told that ladybugs mean good luck. They were the only bug I allowed myself to like as a child. Although, I was fascinated by worms, but I still disliked them as a whole. I think it had something to do with growing up in NYC with roaches. ICK!

Anyway, ladybugs and snow took on completely different meanings in February 1992.  My paternal grandmother, Germaine, also known as Frenchy, passed away that year. I was 11, not yet 12 and whereas I had spent very little time that I can remember with her as a small child, I spent the last six months of her life with her living in my room. She passed away in the hospital, but prior to that she slept in my room. I remember talking to her before and after school. I remember the spider she killed with her bare finger-the spot remaining on that wall until we moved out. I remember talking to her about my French studies in school and about how much I loved the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast” (it is my favorite Disney movie).  I remember her commenting on how many times I had seen the movie (5!).  And most importantly, I remember her enjoying her final days while staying in my room. It really taught me the importance of compassion.

I wish I had asked her so many questions- about why she never wanted to go back to France, or about her brother and father and mother-all individuals I know nothing about. I wish I had asked her to help me get to France, because I’ve always wanted to live there. I wish I had asked her a million questions and yet, I was 11, I didn’t know. We had just moved to Cleveland Heights, Ohio from Brooklyn, NY and I was busy dealing with the change of being an awkward pre-teen in a new city and school.

It’s been 20 years since she passed, which is incredible to think about. It’s funny how things change over time. For example, I don’t remember thinking much about her as a teenager or young adult. I mean, I did and we always had pictures of her up in our home and we talked about her, but as time goes on, the pain of death lessens. It never goes away, and I think children handle it differently, but I never grew up pained by my grandmother(s) deaths (they died the same year, two months apart from cancer). I knew they were in pain and it was their time to leave. I definitely missed seeing them and being held by them, but it wasn’t the way I feel now as I deal with my father’s death.

So this is where the ladybugs come in. Apparently, ladybugs were my grandmother’s favorite. It became a thing in our family to say that whenever a ladybug appears, it’s really grandma giving us a sign that things are okay. I know some of you may be thinking, “this is nothing but mysticism hogwash, “but as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to realize just how real this connection is.

Since my own father passed away in 2009, I have been seeing ladybugs when my life is a huge crux-when I have decisions to make, or plans to change. For example, in 2009, after walking around the city of Naples, Italy, I went to Castel Nuovo, a castle and started taking pictures of the water and sites in the distance. As I wandered around the top, I came to a glass map and discovered three ladybugs all together.

I cried for about 30 minutes. I took pictures of them, or tried to, I could really only get one at a time, but the entire time I kept thinking, “You’re happy I’m here. This is where I am supposed to be.”

It would be a few days later, almost five, where I would have the dream that planted the seed for S2 Stationery and Design and well, now the rest is history.

A year later, the ladybugs would take over my kitchen in Astoria, New York, as I got ready to move out of my apartment of 3.5 years and away from the guy who had been one of my best friends and roommate at the time into an apartment in Manhattan. I was stressed and frantic with worry because I was also in route to Cape Town, South Africa for an environmental volunteer research expedition through the Earthwatch Institute and was going to come home and have to move.   I was nervous about leaving the dog, who I had fallen in love with and about the change that was about to take place. It was huge and frightening.

Yet, in all that fear, ladybugs started taking over my kitchen. There were five total on certain days. For two weeks, until I moved out of the apartment completely, they were there. I’d see either all five, or one. As soon as they appeared, I knew that I was making the right choice; that this change was not anything to fear and that much like in Naples, Italy that day, I was being surrounded by love and light from my ancestors.

As I move back into today, Tuesday, 2012, nearly two years later, I’m getting ready to make a big decision and some moves and so the ladybug backpack that I’ve bought aside, I’m taking all the signs of ladybugs I’ve been seeing, like the guy on the train last Friday who wore a bejeweled ladybug hat, that I’m moving in the right direction.

So yeah. Whatever you believe in as your luck, believe it wholeheartedly. You never know when it will appear, but when it appears, never doubt that it means something good is on it’s way.

Thank you, Frenchy, for believing in me now; I need it, as you already know.

I love Valentine’s Day! Even though I am always fortune enough to be single each year, I find it one of the most fun holidays of the year. It’s a day to share love, regardless of whether you are partnered or not.

The world needs a lot of love and we don’t share it nearly as much as we should. From the cheesy and campy, to the commercial, I find the holiday a great way to wear red, pink, tell all your loved ones you love and more importantly to love yourself.  If you can love yourself, well you’re 100% able to love freely and openly without regrets or fear.

I don’t have many memories of Valentine’s Day outside of four years worth of selling Valentine’s Day balloons, messages, candy and bears in high school as part of the class of 98′s annual fundraising for our prom, but I do have one memory that involves possibly the most important man of my life: my dad.As a matter of fact, that memory triggered the connection between my passion and the writer I am today.

It was a Valentine’s Day in the mid-90s and we received a delivery at our house in Cleveland Heights. It contained a dozen roses for my Mom and a single red rose for me. They were from my dad, who was on one of his trips (he was a truck driver). Boy do I wish I had the card that he sent with the rose, but I don’t. Instead, I have the memory and it is one that makes me smile even while I cry.  It will be three years since I lost my dad next week and when he died, I remember thinking I lost the only man who would ever unconditionally love me. Which is true for the most part. Someone else may love me, but they won’t love me the same way Dad did. Don’t worry, I don’t have a father complex here. No, I just know that love is a fragile thing; it doesn’t always last forever and our society now, doesn’t know exactly how to value love and yet, still, I  have hope and am optimistic.

Anyhow, yesterday afternoon as I wrapped up the last bunch of 2012 Love Mixes to mail to friends both near and far, I also finished up a letter to the most recent “M” in my life. After I mailed it, I thought, well there’s no taking that back. And I felt content. Happy. Glad to have it sent.  After all, I do believe that everyone should have a good old fashion and REAL love letter once in their lives, whether it comes from the person they marry or not. To know your loved is unlike any other experience you may have.

After I left the post office, I remembered the single rose delivered from my Dad all those years ago and then a flood of memories of all of the cards I got from my dad through those years while he was on the road, and even after he stopped driving. Let me be honest, I didn’t have the most amazing relationship with my Dad; we were by no means Gwyneth Paltrow and her father, no, we were Sara and Howard, and we were pen pals. I have a card he sent me back in 1997 when I was looking for colleges sitting on my desk now. I found it months after he died and while it makes me cry, it makes me smile and feel connected – to see his handwriting and read his message, reminds me that he has always guided me and is always around

So anyone who asks me why I love Valentine’s Day will get the story of the single red rose from my Dad received at the age of 14 or 15. And then a whole earful on the importance of real connection through correspondence. It’s why I write now, because my dad was not only one of my best pen pals, but showed me how important it is to stay connected with the ones you love even from a distance and when you’re not your best person. Love is love.

Whether you’re single, partnered, gay, straight, poor, rich, educated, illiterate, black, white, etc, may you communicate today and really love not just yourself, but lend your heart out to all those in need of some love. Today is a day to openly love and it doesn’t cost a fortune to do so.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hearts courtesy of Huffington Post

I believe it was last week that I shared my Valentine’s Day tradition with you readers. I didn’t give specifics, I don’t think, and I may have offered the possibility of a chance to win a copy of this tradition.  I, of course, could go and look what exactly I wrote, but I’m not. Instead, I’m going to share the story of the tradition and then offer one copy of the tradition to one lucky winner.

I happen to be a holiday lover. When I was a kid, we used to buy paper decorations from this store in our neighborhood and would hang them in our windows. There were turkeys and cornucopias for Thanksgiving; Santa Claus and Christmas trees for Christmas; and hearts for Valentine’s Day. We may have had other decorations for other Holidays, but those are the ones I remember the most.  Which is why it makes sense that I would love holidays and sharing the spirit of them. It also explains why Valentine’s Day minus the boyfriends has always been a day of fun for me. I’ve always baked or given gifts away in attempt to cheer up friends and loved ones who might be disappointed by the day or the fact that they are single.

See, that’s the joy of Valentine’s Day for me. While couples are running around expressing their love with gifts and expensive dinners, I’m spreading the love to my friends single and with a partner to show them that love is love, regardless of whether it is romantic or friendly. I mean, sure, I can’t love them the same way a man can, but I can love them as partners in this crazy journey called life and am honored to have them as friends.

When I moved to NYC, almost six years ago, I felt a connection to new friends, but a disconnect to all of my friends back in DC and in various other cities and states and decided that the best way to alter that was to create a tradition. One that would foster sharing, love, and our friendship. It led me to the Love Mix.

I’m not sure what I thought five years ago when I created the first one, but the first mix is not my favorite. I asked friends for suggestions, which I still do, by the way, but rather than speaking from my experience or heart, it was heavy on songs suggestions. The following year, in 2009, I created the second mix, but then my father passed away and I was left putting together the mixes later than I had planned and not quite feeling the joy that it was supposed to bring.  And then 2010 came along and it was different. Rather than focus on putting together a pop mix or an upbeat mix, I let the music select itself.  That sounds odd, I know, but I do the same thing when I’m knitting or putting together a design- I let the purpose or person I’m creating for dictate the tone and feel, I just make sure it don’t hit any bumps or fail.   In 2010, the mix was about my Dad. It had songs my Dad loved on it and it spoke to my heart of the pain, sadness, hurt, and joy, I felt about my relationship with my Dad and his death.

Last year’s mix was along the same lines. I had spent a large part of 2010 missing this guy who in a short time managed to mean a lot to me and before I knew it that was reflected in the mix. A friend, my close co-worker, who also receives the mixes, asked me if it was about him and it was. Of course, to those who aren’t so close to me, they may not get every song meaning, but they are there.

This year’s mix is a bit of a true mix. In the letter to the lovelies, as I call them, I mention a psychic that I once saw almost six years ago, now, who told me that the letters M and S are big when it comes to relationships and me. When she said that I was madly in love with a guy whose last name started with an M and obviously, both of my names start with an S.  But now, six years later, I’ve realized she was right (call me crazy for believing if you must).  Every guy, in the last six years has had an M or S in their names and so this mix is about all of them. It does lean a bit to a few in particular, especially toward the end, but it’s about them all.  I have compiled a collection based on my NYC dating life. Crazy!

I’ve given several copies of the mix out to friends close to me, or in town and the remaining mixes will be out in the mail by tomorrow so they are received just in time for Valentine’s Day. I am excited to hear back reviews of the mix and to share my story of love in one of the best ways I know how…with honesty and a little dash of some of my favorite bands. I’m not the only one that believes music is the best soundtrack for life and if my friends take a way little pieces of the mixes to blend with their own stories, well then, that is indeed a lovely, lovely day of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

OH, and before I forget, one lucky reader will get a chance to win a copy of the mix. All you need to do below is tell me what you love about Valentine’s Day or share a tradition of your own. If I get one story, well then that person wins. If I get more than one story, well, it may be harder, but I’ll choose my favorite story and announce the winner on February 15th. So get sharing because stories need to be submitted by 11:59 on February 14th. Just to foster encouragement and curiosity, here’s a picture of what friends will be receiving in the next few days:

I know, you won’t get your mix until after the Holiday, but you know, maybe we can find a solution to tide you over until it arrives.

Comments below! Spread the love!

I LOVE Love letters.

I LOVE writing love letters.

I’m a pro at writing love letters.

I’m not lying or joking here.

See, this afternoon, I sat at my desk writing out a card. A thoughtful card to go along with a small gift for a friend of mine that I’m sending. This note is hardly a love letter, but it got me thinking about my history with letter writing, especially love letters. See the card and gift from today is for a male friend of mine. I say friend because that’s exactly what he is, a friend, but I realized that my notes, ranging in a wide field of emotion, to guys have gotten better, almost simpler – which is great and exciting!

I’m not quite sure why it was THIS Card that threw me into a time warp, but it did and I remembered the first love letter that ever wrote. It was my Junior year of high school and it was to a boy named Brian. Goodness how I loved Brian! He was super cool with his denim bomber jacket that he wore every day and his parted down the middle hair that came down to his eyes. In retrospect, it was more dorky than anything else, but nobody could say anything about Brian to me. I adored him! We flirted. A lot. We flirted so much that we had our seats separated in Chemistry 2 AP class. It was heartbreaking and yet, exciting.

Of course, though, there was conflict and my way of dealing with the conflict was to write him a note. This note, was more like a four page letter that went on about how much I liked him. I can remember writing it and I can remember giving it to him in the science wing during classes one day. I can also remember finding him and yelling at him for having shared the letter with his friends who teased me about the letter.

You might think that I would learn from that situation, but I didn’t. And once electronic mail came along, I found it even easier to write my letters.

You may now be scratching your head wondering why I chose e-mail.

I can explain!

After high school and college (although I don’t recall writing many love letters in college), I found myself in situations where I wasn’t always able to hand deliver a love note to the person. As a matter of fact, the guy I was crazy for, my first love, was in Ohio while I was in Washington, DC and so electronic communication was our means. My love letter to him was also my break-up letter to him and nicely delivered by yahoo.  I wrote this one with a  heavy-heart and excitement. I knew things were going to change. I would go on to have one of the worst periods of sadness from this relationship, but I will never forget ending my letter to him with, “Please know that I did love you, Sara”.

I never wrote a love note to Dane, at least I can’t recall one. I do recall all the angry emails at the end though, and the realization that I can slap someone across the face with my words when I choose to.

Okay, maybe that’s too much. What I realized with the lack of love e-correspondence with Dane was that when I feel strongly about something, I command my language. Not only do I command it, but the receiver feels it and so much so, that you can end up with a heated debate over who is the one to blame that accomplishes nothing.

And then came along Ellis. Yes, Ellis. Ellis the guy who inspired CDs (an entire 2-disc compilation complete with a professionally designed cover/case) and laughter, crying and all other emotions.  I wanted his approval. I was like the puppy constantly needing to be scratched by him. I wrote Ellis my first “love-but-not-a love-letter” in the CD cover I gave him for his birthday. I still consider it one of my best. It was inspired by and started off with a quote from one of my favorite books, “The World To Come” by Dara Horn,  “The world stands still, timeless and empty, until an act of generosity changes it in an instant and sends it soaring through arcs of rich seasons, moment after spinning moment of racing beauty.”

I would write another letter to Ellis that would be an end of ANY relationship email and while it upset me, brought me freedom and assertion and it definitely cut to the chase. This time around, I was also better prepared – when I got his “as honest as he’s going to get” response, I thanked him and moved on.  Thanks to Dane, I had learned that sometimes you just shut up and grow up.

Which brings me to my most recent love letter. It was a love letter. Maybe the most real love letter I’ve ever written. Strongly written out of emotion that I didn’t understand, but completely dosed in love that it frightened me to write it. It spoke of how I didn’t understand why I felt this way, nor did I have a clue what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew that he, the receiver, was the person I wanted to take that chance of being confused with. I wanted him to come along for the ride. Even though it was delivered thanks to gmail, I wrote that letter by hand in my journal several times before it ever saw the white space on my laptop screen.

In comparison to my first ever love letter, it was short and sweet. It said what it had to say, was full of Sara,  sincere, and honest. I think it was one of my best love letters. I am no longer the kid blindly liking people; I am the woman with more sense and attune to my emotions. I don’t discredit any of these men, or the letters that transpired between us. They were all learning lessons for me as I left my teenage and 20-something years behind. When I look at the 30-year-old woman who writes this blog and still writes her love letters, I’m proud. I’m proud that I’ve always picked up a pen, or in a few cases, typed out, my feelings and emotions.

Not all of my letters were positive, happy, love letters, but they most definitely are examples of the art of writing and the reason why people write in the first place – love, or great dislike inspired by love or rejection. You get the idea.

Maybe all of this flashed before my eyes because every thing I’ve learned in the course of these years showed as I wrote. Maybe it’s that if this friend and I suddenly were no longer friends, I’d be prepared. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because the note comes from a place of love. I don’t know. What I know is that I love that I have a history of  love notes and that they inspire other notes rooted in the same sentiment – LOVE.

I encourage you all to write down a love letter. Even if it’s not to a guy or significant other, write one. Write one to yourself. Why do you love yourself? WRITE IT DOWN! Love letters only get better with practice. So get going! 

I don’t know what’s up with all this guy-relationship focused posts, but you know, they help me some how. I hope they’re helping you, too!

This posting is a feature on…Me and a project that recently wrapped up last weekend! I know, I know. Why would a blogger feature herself, or her own work?

To be quite honest, it is so that you, my fine friends and readers, can see my work (in case you haven’t already seen it) and know a bit more about my work and not just my voice on other issues relating to starting a business/ other artists/whatever floats my boat on that particular day.

So,  back to my creativity here…last Sunday, February 20th,  I attended a wedding. My first wedding of 2011! It was gorgeous and fun, two of the most important elements of a wedding aside from the bride and groom. With this wedding, you just knew that it was going to be beautiful and fun because the bride and groom are two amazingly gorgeous, generous and kind people. Their wedding was full of love and happiness and I was honored to be part of that and to feel that energy. (There is nothing quite like the energy of a wedding!)

Leading up to the wedding, I was excited because I was a bit of an insider–I designed and assembled the wedding invitations, rehearsal dinner invitations, tags for the hotel goodie bags and small cards to go with the bridesmaids gifts. Being at the wedding allowed me to see how everything fit together. What started as a conversation about a winter wedding and bridesmaid dress and flower colors turned into a gorgeous affair!

The ceremony was held in a church on Staten Island and the reception was held at The Estate at Florentine Gardens in Rivervale, New Jersey.  The ceremony was beautiful because you could tell that Diana and Mike had taken considerable amount of care in selecting the readings, the gospel and just in preparing flowers to honor their loved ones no longer with us.

The reception was where it all came together for me. Where as I could see how the invitations were reflected in the  flowers  and the dresses of the bride and bridesmaids at the ceremony, I saw it completely at the reception.  Each table had a centerpiece that was just out of this world gorgeous! They were tall and wintry. There were flowers in the same color as her bouquets at the base with large branches coming from the top. Additionally, there were crystal tear drops. I know that I am not doing nearly enough to describe the beauty of these center pieces, but they really helped me see the big picture of Diana’s vision for her wedding. It made me even more honored and flattered to be part of it and a BIG part of it at that.

Below are a few pictures of my designs and work for the wedding (rehearsal dinner invite, hotel goody bag tags, and the invitation themselves). In the words of Diana via text message the day after the wedding, ” we wanted to quickly thank you for creating our invitations and all your hep with our personal touches with the cards and the hotel tags.”

When I started S2 Stationery and Design, I had absolutely no intention of doing anything wedding for the first two years and yet now, I have two weddings under my belt and another one that I’m working on samples for. Amazing, eh? I think so, too. Sometimes you can’t fight certain paths. The other thing that I have learned is that I love the entire creative process of working with another person to make an event special for them. I don’t think I’d ever be able to be a party planner, but knowing that customers (and friends) are happy with my work means more than I ever thought possible.

Here’s to the marriage of Diana and Mike (one of my favorite photos of them and their love below), my creativity and the future of S2 in weddings!

NYC. I’m serious!

As a child in Brooklyn in the 80s, I HATED NYC. It was dirty and dangerous. Of course, to some extent it still is even in 2011, but Central Park is nowhere near as bad as it was then. The streets are overall safer and there will always be crazy people doing crazy things, but again, the overall quality of life in regards to crime is better.

When I decided to move back to NYC after growing up in Cleveland, attending college in DC and living in Northern Virginia, my father was much against it. He even called me to tell me he did not agree with my decision. Ever the child that did what I wanted to, I told him, well I’m moving regardless. NY was calling!

And so I returned. A bit green-eyed, but excited. It was just before my 26th birthday and the possibilities seemed endless. I started my job, excited, made new friends immediately and couldn’t believe just HOW much it felt odd that I was back in NY, walking and learning the streets, eating in restaurants, and taking in the ever-changing atmosphere that this city throws at you whether you’re ready or not.

Of course, four years later, I’m nowhere near that same twenty-something gal. I am very much 30 and kind of poor, which I said the reason I was moving to NY was so that I could be 20-something and poor and not 30 and poor. HA! How things change! I also said as a teenager, I’d never move back to NYC. Yep. Things change.

Anyway, just before moving here, I didn’t consider myself a NYer. How could I? My cousins–THEY are NYers. They grew up in the South Side of Williamsburg, Brooklyn their entire lives. They’ve seen it all, the crack wars and now the hipster invasion. Me, I grew up in Cleveland Heights, OH, completely unconcerned with what was going on in NYC, just happy to be away. And so, hearing all the talk about how NYers are mean concerned me. Don’t get me wrong, I can be a mean person, a very mean person, especially after dealing with crazy people on the subway or having my entire person pushed around, but NYers are NOT mean. In fact, they are some of the nicest people around. The trick is, you have to catch them at a moment when they’re not brooding (which can be a challenge) on a personal matter. NYers will in fact stop and give a tourist directions, even after complaining about how they’re taking up the sidewalk with their constant stopping or luggage. NYers are friendly and willing and that’s why I love NY because the first Valentine’s Day I spent in this amazingly friendly, hard and unforgiving city, I got to Times Square Station to find a sea of red. I kid you not. People had on red hats, red coats, red sweaters, red tights, red scarves… red EVERYTHING. It was in that moment that I realized NYers get a short stick wagged at them when in reality they just are full and capable of love as say anywhere else.

So that’s what I love this Valentine’s Day–the memory of my first Valentine’s Day and the fact that NY can and always will surprise me.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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