“When I get married, I’m totally having you do my invites.” – Why I’m Changing the Business Offerings of S2 Stationery & Design + When

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An advertisement I snapped a picture of just before leaving Japan in January, 2013. That was 3.5 years ago and this sign seems more relevant now than it did the day I took the photo.

I’ve been running S2 Stationery & Design for over seven years now.

Yep, you read that correct, SEVEN YEARS!!

And it’s time for a change.

You already know the story, the idea for S2 came to me while traveling around Italy a month after my father’s death in 2009. It was a series of signs that came to me and then a dream that resulted in this dance I’ve been doing since. A dance that has turned into a full-fledged and non-stop Merengue (the kind where you’re left gasping and wondering when the damn song is going to end) in 2012.

There are moments where I honestly believe that I’ve worked my ass off to get to this point. Then, there are moments where I don’t believe I’ve worked my ass off to get this point. Those moments are the most difficult. Those are the days and nights where I struggle to sleep because I don’t have enough money to pay this bill or do that thing with my friends, or to pay back someone I borrowed money from a few weeks prior. It is exhausting and I wonder if I should at that point pack it in and be an adult – find a 9-to-5 job that pays me well enough to stop the stress. Those are the nights that have and continue to leave me feeling stuck.

People like me love to talk about following their passions. As they should. We are following our passions that come across as outrageous and/or out-of-the-box, and that anyone who is looking for stability wouldn’t understand. What I’m doing is not for the faint of heart, but nothing about following your passion is glamorous or inspiring for that matter. That last point often gets glossed over when people choose to deal with the awe of tossing common sense for a passion.

Following my passion, has required me to become comfortable with asking for help (which I rarely did before), saying no (even to people I love the most), feeling lonely (I barely go out any more), gaining weight (stress beats the shit out of your body), and living in a space of doubt, so much doubt, that I’m continuously uncertain of my accomplishments.

Something that people who talk about following their passions never really discuss is the sticky space of what happens when, like me, you don’t have thousands of dollars saved up and have to work a job to help bring in money so that you can survive and afford the basic necessities. There are so many people, gurus of this “follow your passion” movement, who have taken office jobs to save money and then quit. They talk about this as though it’s a temporary solution that is magical. And it may have been for them, but as someone who has sat in this space for a while now, it’s killing me.

I found my current 9-to-6 job at a point where what I was doing was not working. Where I was bouncing from lots of part-time jobs that kept me from focusing on S2 Stationery and had me resent my decision to quit my job. Let me be a bit more clear -I was resenting the loss of the steady income I no longer had, not the job itself. Working for the last company I worked for was not all that pleasant and I know I made the right decision by leaving.

I know this sounds dramatic, but I feel the same way I felt a few years ago when I was working for a big corporation in NYC. While I haven’t reached the point of crying for the 30-minute duration of my commute, the unhappiness has resulted in overeating, not exercising, not wanting to get up in the morning early enough to do work I need to get done for S2, etc. And I’m fed up with it. Honestly, I’ve been daydreaming about quitting and all the ways it can happen.

Now, the part of me that wants to maintain my car and apartment, fight this and that’s why I do eventually get up and get dressed and go to work. And that part reminds me that I need to motivate myself and do the work that I need to do. And this same part reminds me that it’s time to create goal deadlines to get out of this situation.

All of this leads me to changes…and you may be thinking that you’ve gotten to this point and still don’t understand the quoted bit in the post’s title, “When I get married, I’m totally having you do my invites.”  Let me explain…

When I started S2, I was a diehard fan of creating wedding invites. I wanted to spend a ton of my time working with brides and catering to their needs and whims in a design capacity. I have been told so many times, I’ve lost count, the quote above, and finally after seven years, I’ve decided that I don’t want to hear it any more. Primarily because it’s not true. Every single person who has made that statement has in fact, not used my design for their wedding, nor have they even reached out.

Now, before you accuse me of sounding bitter, note that I’m not. I’m actually quite gleeful that I’m shutting down the wedding invitation design side of S2 Stationery & Design. In fact, I’m shutting down a lot of the custom design business. And I’m quite glad.

It’s been seven years since I started this journey and while I’ve enjoyed every single customer I’ve worked for and every single project I’ve commissioned, as I take stock of both myself personally and my business professionally, I’m letting go of the things that are not worth my time. I’m saying, “NO!” to the stuff that isn’t fulfilling me anymore. I’m saying no to even the thought of a promise that isn’t there.

The next stage of S2 is taking shape and has been vaguely discussed in other posts that I haven’t followed up on, and is being ironed out now, but there is still a ways to go. I’m sure I’ll do some commissioned work and maybe even the occasional wedding invite during this time (I’ve had a few people say, “crap, but I really did plan on using you when the day came!), especially if it is aligned with the work I’m transitioning to, but I’m no longer holding out on promises and work that does not nourish me or my creative pursuits.  This isn’t about the money, or lack there of, either. No, this is about the nourishment. Finally! Right now, the nourishment is found elsewhere and I’m excited for this change.

I’m finalizing some creative projects now, but in Quarter 4, starting October 1st, S2 is moving away from the custom work you’ve known. I’ll still be making stationery sets and individual greeting cards. I’ll still have these wares at markets, but the real work – the work my soul has been longing for the past two years begins. I’ll do my best to keep you up-to-date in a more consistent fashion as things change over.

More soon!

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When Echizen, Japan Met New York City – October 2013

Gheesh, practically a month ago, on October 2nd, I attended a little event in Manhattan at the JET office on 47th Street honoring the opening of a small exhibit at the Japan Consulate on Park Ave in Manhattan on the Washi Village I spent time in last year, Echizen, Fukui Prefecture.  I was notified by my friend, Yoshinao Sugihara, who lives in Echizen and works with many of the paper makers I spent time with in Echizen to share their paper and gifts with the World.

The party I attended was wonderful only because it made me feel so connected to this village that I once had no clue about. As I looked at photos of Echizen, met the Photographer who captured the spirit of this amazing village, and “chatted” in broken English with people I met in the Village, I felt for the first time since returning, as though it hadn’t all been a dream…

I’m not sure how much I’ve discussed about my time in Echizen, but since my return, I have often felt like it didn’t happen, like Japan was something I fabricated in my mind.  The truth is, especially now that a year has occurred since I found myself in a village surrounded by water, a language I could barely understand, and with a broken heart,  I’ve felt a bit disconnected.  Working a job that has left me passionless, again, and struggling to find peace with my current place where I am mostly happy, but partially unhappy.  When I think back to Japan, struggling to make sense of my heart, fears, insecurity, and all the change I had just personally undertaken, I found a sense of me that I had not expected to find and so when I think back to that time, it feels surreal.  Almost as though so much change occurred, it had to be fake. This gathering reminded me that it was not fake. That I had indeed gone there, met incredible people, challenged myself, and survived to see my village before my eyes with love and a desire to stay connected.

My best friend, Geeta, attended the party with me and said to me, “dude, you’re like famous.” I, naturally, didn’t feel famous, instead I felt warmth and appreciation. I felt grateful that I could partake in something so amazing a year later.  I felt amazed that I could share it with friends from two different countries and two very important times in my life.

The exhibit ended last week on October 22nd. I was able to check it out the day before it closed and I can not express how happy I am to have been able to see it.  The photographer, Fumio Tanai, emailed me a few days after Sugihara-san emailed me asking me to attend both the exhibit and the launch party on October 2nd. In the days leading up the the event, we emailed some more and I couldn’t wait to meet him. After all, he was like me, a fan of Echizen and the world of Washi. When I arrived at the party, he came up to me with much excitement and expressed his gratitude at my attendance.  Tanai-san’s work that night was like a much needed elixir. He’s got a lot of talent in taking photos that really reach into the soul. I realize that we have something in common, but if I had never been to Echizen, but came across his photos randomly, I would have not only felt like I had been a visitor myself, but would want to seek out Echizen to explore.

The morning that I visited the Japanese Consulate was a rather quiet morning. I was running around like crazy, but once I walked in and laid my eyes on photos of Echizen on paper made by a paper maker I spent many hours with, I was calm. I smiled non-stop and I just stared in disbelief that I had met those people and learned from those people. That I had taken a dream, my passion and turned it into reality. Finally, that I had been touched by those that may never know just how much their respect and love for their work impacted my soul.  In other words, Tanai-san managed to capture exactly what I felt those two months in Echizen.

Below is a collection of photos I took of the exhibit and I hope it does justice to the depth of the photos on display.  I know that might go against artist rights, but I couldn’t help myself and I wanted to remember my morning looking at Echizen behind the window of crazy New York City. A quote on a caption boldly stated next to a photo of the Shrine for the Paper Goddess, “This place saved me.” I read that a cried a bit because Echizen and Echizen Washi saved me more than it will ever know, or that I can ever explain.

Post exhibit, I feel a bit more alive and a bit more energetic to get things moving on my end.  The one thing I was asked by Sugihara-san that night was how am I using Washi in my work. The truth is, I’m not. So now the urge and hunger to keep this bond is even more strong. I need to get back to Sara and to what Japan taught me. I need to get what is mine – truth, work, passion, love. I also need to get back to Japan, or as one friend to me before I left the event that night, “Sara-chan, come back to Echizen!”  Don’t worry, Echizen, I will be returning. Many, many times, I’m sure.

The Day I Received the Best Compliment – Crafts in Chelsea, Fall 2013 Recap

“Everything on your table reminds me of Paris!”

THAT is the best compliment I received on Saturday, 10/5 at the annual Fall Crafts in Chelsea Market organized by the EtsyNY Team. I signed up for it quickly, and on a whim just before applications were due and I’m so glad I did!

Saturday was a breathtaking day.  Not only did I have a great day, the weather was beautiful and while there were some wind gusts, my table lay perfectly flat and not a single piece of paper fluttered off my table. THANK GOODNESS!

So why Crafts in Chelsea?

Well it is a market I’m comfortable doing. This was my third time or fourth time as a vendor and it was just as eventful as always, although I didn’t have my annual Ethan Hawke siting.  More importantly, it was a day full of talking, business, and friends. I was able to catch up with a few EtsyNY team members who I haven’t seen in a long while, as well as friends from various walks of my life who stopped by to say hi and lend support. One even picked up lunch for me and I was so grateful. Beyond grateful actually.

When I arrived to set up, I realized I left my stash of business cards in my apartment.  I also realized that I didn’t really remember how I set my table up the last time I did a market last summer.  I mean, I did know the general layout, but I felt like styles were missing and I was unprepared.  The good news is that I thought my table never looked better. Seriously! Below is the proof:

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My first Crafts in Chelsea. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was present.
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Brooklyn Flea Summer 2012. I started to tell my story, albeit with too much.
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My table at Crafts in Chelsea last weekend. Inviting, warm, and not too full.
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A little sparse, but it felt right.
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My Holiday Card basket offering sparkle and shine to the table.

As I put everything together, I kept thinking, I hope this works. Either way though, I anticipated having a good day. See, I’ve never really made a lot of money doing these markets. I’m incredibly selective about the ones I do do because markets require a lot of time, energy, and money. It costs money to stand outside all day. It can be exhausting talking to customers, especially when they don’t bite and buy, and from being outside all day. It also costs time in the sense that you aren’t making anything during the time spent outside.  This is the reality, but I always go into these markets feeling excited and optimistic nonetheless.

The way I see it is even if I don’t make many sales to make the day “worth it,” If I get one custom order weeks down the road, the market payed off ten fold.  See for me a day out at a market is a day of promotion. It’s a great way to get my brand out and for potential customers to meet me, the woman behind the vision and the brand and who they will be working with for several weeks or months. I am my own best business representative!

In the end, Crafts in Chelsea was a huge success! I made some sales, which was awesome, but I received one of the best compliments of my business career to date! (No offense to any of my customers who have praised my work!)

The day started off with two visitors from Echizen, Japan, whom also happen to be individuals I met and worked with while studying Washi in Echizen Washi Village last year (next Tuesday marks a year to the day of my arrival in Echizen.)  They were here for the opening of an photography exhibit of Echizen Washi, currently going on, at the Japanese Consulate in NYC (more details soon!).  I had mentioned the Market and sure enough they stopped by and filled my heart with joy and inspiration.

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Visitors from Japan! Best start to the day!

The rest of the afternoon involved more visits including a friend from my Etsy Intern days, Sam Cusano, Jr, who gave me some advice about my sales pitch and table and offered encouragement. My dearest, and one of my best friends, Amy P., stopped by and brought me lunch and water and an hour of laughter and chatting. Another good friend, Chiara stopped by on her way home and said hello. It was great to catch up with her especially because I haven’t seen her since before I left for Japan last year. Not to mention, Chiara and Amy have stopped by my Crafts in Chelsea tables every time I’ve participated. Yay for encouragement!

In between the Japanese visitors and Sam though, an older woman stopped by my table and started talking to me. She’s the woman who gave me the best compliment I mentioned above, “Everything on your table reminds me of Paris!” She and I then went on to talk about Paris and how much we both love it and have traveled to it and plan to visit in the future. I told her she had given me the greatest compliment to date and of my life there. I also told her I’m so glad she could see that because I took such pains to put together a table that tells the story of a traveler who collects fine paper and is grateful for worldly experiences and encounters.  That she got that immediately, and about my favorite City, well even better!

As the day continued, I spent quite a bit of time talking to potential customers. I gave our almost every business card I had on me, got feedback from visitors, and never let my energy fall too low that I couldn’t keep up talking and spreading S2 love.

Naturally, I wish I had made more sales that day, but again, just getting out there, showing my brand and my products and feeling the love and positive energy from my friends, fellow makers, and NYC community made it all worth while.

Hooray for a successful Crafts in Chelsea. I’m looking forward to the next one!

The Black Snake – A Dream and Symbolism

Last week, I had an ah-mazing dream. I haven’t been able to get the dream out of my head, which testifies I think to just how ah-mazing the dream was, but more than that, and after a dear cousin helped me analyze the dream, I can see the truth in it.

A week ago, to be exact, I woke up from the following: I was standing tall up in a tree. My hands were up straight, almost as if reaching for something, yet, I wasn’t touching anything. I don’t remember branches in my hands, or hanging on to anything for support. It was just me standing on a sturdy branch with my arms straight up.  As I surveyed my surroundings, a small and cute lizard/gecko started to crawl down my arm. I didn’t think anything of it even though it was ticking me as it moved. It disappeared below my left shoulder, just beyond that point where you can peer over.  Not thinking, or expecting anything, I kept look straight ahead with my hands above me.  After a minute or two, I felt my left hand and arm begin to go numb quickly. In shock, I looked over my left shoulder and staring me straight in the eye was a black snake.  It had bitten me (not sure if black snakes are known to bite humans) and something about that bite was causing a numbness.  As I stared at the snake in shock that it had bitten me and confusion as to where it came from, I then fell out of the tree and was tumbling down a wooden circular staircase, except I wasn’t me, I was the actress/comedian Anna Faris.

Weird, right?

My cousin and I only analyzed the lizard/gecko and black snake element because  I was me in that part of the dream.  While I am just as curious about Anna Faris, as me, falling down a wooden circular staircase bit, but only because seeing both a snake and a spiral staircase in a dream means growth, change, transition.  Upon initial research I got everything from Freud’s fallacy meaning for snake dreams, to change and transition. Falling down stairs, spiral stairs, can be growth and transition, by delving into past feelings and experience, but also fears attached with what I am experiencing.

My cousin’s analysis seemed spot on. She talked to me about an issue I’ve been facing and how the lizard/gecko and snake represent the “something” bothering me, and me believing the good in that something but that it is undergoing a transformation. According to her, the snake doesn’t necessarily represent anything bad, or me, but instead represents the other side of the something.  Or as she put it, “we have this tendency to believe that snakes are bad, but they are the only animal that sheds its skin- which is a symbol of transformation and growth, so believe in your connection and your growth and the connection and growth of the something.”

I am being a lot vague in this article because this over-sharer has learned to be quiet, a bit. Not too much, but a bit much and because as much as I believe my cousin was spot-on in her assessment, I also believe two more things about the “something.”

While I traveled around Japan, toward the end of my trip in January, a friend and I went to Kamakura and walked around. We ate, hiked, prayed, talked, bought souvenirs, snapped pictures, and enjoyed each others company.  As we meandered along taking in everything we could, we walked along this trail to a popular shrine, Zeniarai Benten Shrine,  where legend says if you wash your money with water from the spring located there, you will double the amount washed that year.

I’ve never been one for money wishing. I’ve never wished to win the lottery, although I do love scratch off tickets, but upon meeting the tunnel entrance to this shrine, I read on a plaque that “the Shrine was constructed after a god appeared in a dream to Minamoto Yoritomo, founder of the Kamakura government, and recommended him to build the shrine to bring peace to the country.  Because the dream occurred on the day of the snake, in the month of the snake of the year of the snake, the shrine was later dedicated to Benten, a Buddhist goddess associated with snakes.”  I loved the history, naturally, but what made me a further believer in this particular shrine was that my friend and I visited Kamakura on January 4th, which was during the week of the New Year 2013, which also happens to be the year of the snake. To be honest, I couldn’t believe my luck!

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The Japanese take their New Year seriously in the sense that they visit Shrines and pray for good health, well being, good fortune, and happiness for the entire year throughout the week.  At the point of our visit, I had already visited Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on New Year’s Day and had prayed plenty for myself and my loved ones at various Shrines, (to many, this may seem like overkill, but when you need help and are seeking, prayer is a miraculous action!), asking for strength as I wandered through the next few months of uncertainty.

Fast forward to now- last Tuesday night’s dream about a black snake that came from a gecko/lizard, I believe even more in the year of the snake, and the fact that my visit to Zeniarai Benten Shrine in Kamakura, Japan on January 4th is part of the larger picture of my year.  It also allows me to see that I have been standing in a tree, I’ve been standing with my arms up in a wild place. A place of uncertainty, although strong, and while that snake bite shocked me and made me feel numb, I believe he bit me to remind me to feel, to keep feeling all that I feel, but also to remember that even in this wild place I’ve found myself, life is amazing and though many things in my sphere and in the lives of my loved ones are changing, transformation is a beautiful thing. It’s why the snake started me straight in the eyes as I peered back at him in confusion.

That confusion and wild state is not just from having landed in New Jersey, but to my stationery business as well. As I’ve sat here adjusting to this new state and terrain I find myself in, I have not pushed myself as much as I should business wise. I’ve often times thought, “do I want this bad enough?” ,”Why am I allowing myself to not design?”  With each question, I’ve realized that I am working, I’m also just exhausted. I still want this, badly, but right now, I have to step back and survey the land before jumping right back into things. It is okay to stop every once in a while.  As an entrepreneur that is not the message I should be sharing, nor is it the common message you hear from entrepreneurs growing businesses and trying to attain success, but the fact remains, if you don’t stop every once in a while, you’re going to miss everything.

The black snake from my dreams represents the two things I want the most out there reminding me to live and believe; the tree- stability, strength, and the ability to balance; my arms in the air – my flexibility and openness; the gecko/lizard – something that I trust and should continue to trust; the falling down the stairs – my need to still keep resting my body and soul, while learning from hurt, pain, and anything else I’ve attempted to not delve into.

In other words, I have it all together, I just need some more time, but it will be all okay. I mean, hey, if I can stand in a tree, high up in the sky without hanging on to anything, I must be doing something right.

An Update…With More to Come

I’ve been lagging in my blogging. It sucks. It’s unfair. Not only is it unfair to you, my little tribe of awesome readers, but to me. I haven’t been writing period. Yes, I’ve written a few cards to people here and there, but I haven’t really been writing. I’m not even attempting to apologize here. I’m just explaining that while I started out writing with a vengeance, I stopped with a vengeance as well. However, things have a way of changing…

Today, I posted my first non-personal blog in a long time. Since last year, actually. I’ve been meaning (and wanting) to write more for blogs about sustainability and environmental concerns and just haven’t had the time. Or maybe the motivation. Or maybe just both. As much as I’ve enjoyed writing these posts, they require time and I just haven’t had time. I feel like I haven’t had time to sleep, which is odd, but adding one more thing to the list of things to do, just wasn’t fun.

It also doesn’t help that I’ve moved to New Jersey, am living with a friend, don’t have a car yet, and just started a job. I’m a month into the gig and it’s moving. It is nice to be in the working world again and to have money, but honestly, all I can think about is Japan, stationery projects, a guy, and traveling more. At the same time, I am longingly looking at every West Elm catalog that comes contemplating how I am going to decorate (on a budget and with second hand and upcycled items). I’m excited by the prospect of having a corner with a work table that is all stationery.  And yet, I still wonder, is this it? It’s funny how life does that to you, isn’t it? But I know I’m on the right path…that I’m where I am supposed to be right now. The signs keep telling me so. So I’ve just got to have a bit of patience and continued faith. Easier said than done with your Sara “impatient” Stroman, but I’ll survive. I am grateful for every day that goes by and for all the opportunities that keep presenting themselves.

And so where does that leave me, well it leaves me wandering in this life that’s mine, but it also means that I am living and active and breathing. It means that while I haven’t been sharing as of late, I am enjoying life.

I’ll be posting a bit more regularly, especially as S2 Stationery and Design takes shape and picks up. I’ve gotten quite a few orders lately and have been busy, busy, busy with all exciting stuff! I’ve designed a graduate school graduation announcement, a stationery set for a teen, I did my first foiled invitation, worked with a couple on a Save the Date announcement, am designing a 21st birthday card for a friend’s daughter, am working on a birth announcement, and have two new ideas for cards in the pipeline to be released this summer, as well as a membership service, and a photography collection. I started painting with water colors and I’m taking a class on making pop-up cards. More on all of this soon!

Two nights ago, I opened my box of goodies from Japan. I hadn’t seen that stuff since I mailed it to myself at my aunt’s house my last day in Echizen. It made me nostalgic and happy and sad at the same time.  Happy because I did THAT- I went away, I lived abroad briefly, I picked up some Japanese, I was alone- I experienced it, I lived it after planning it and wanting it so badly. Nostalgic because that time was one of the hardest and trying times (I compare it to just after my Dad passed away four years ago), and I found joy and happiness in every moment. Sad because I can never go back to that same point. But I’m so happy that I’m here, where I am, hiding out in New Jersey.

While I was in Echizen, the woman I stayed with told me that she didn’t like that I said, “I understand now that this is where I am supposed to be.” I’ve since realized that she and I do not have the same life philosophy, hence our not getting along in the end, but means exactly what it says, I’ve no doubt that I am where I am supposed to be, growing pains and all. I’ve just got to be patient. Patient. Patient. After all, that is my word for the year.

And so with that, today, I posted an article about the Hello Etsy Conference I attended last month at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY on the Etsy NY Team Blog. It was mind blowing in a good way. As I promised in that blog, I will write more about it here on this blog. It has a lot to do with what I learned while in Japan and I think that’s worth sharing, even if you’re only interested in posts about stationery.

Before signing off, I want to share an article, “Woody Allen, Louis C.K., And The Power Of The Handwritten Note,” I read earlier today that keeps me smiling. It’s about writing and the power of a written note between two well known and comedic artists, Woody Allen + Louis C.K.  As I get ready to mail out thank you cards to friends in Japan, America, Africa, and America, I’m excited to know that Woody Allen and Louis C.K. are fellow members of the writers club.  Are you? If not, I hope you join, soon! (More on that to come!)

Valentine’s Day Eve 2013 = The 2013 Love Mix

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!

On Signs

I promised a post about signs a week ago and I will need to write one that is more in depth in the future. Today, I want to touch upon the concept of signs over all.

See, my second to last day in Japan, I looked up at the sky as I walked and I thought to myself the following questions:

“I wonder what will happen to all the signs that have found me during this trip?
Will they go away?
Will I look back on them as a memory, realizing that I imaged them all?
Will they appear while I continue my life journey back at home?
Will I get new signs?”

I landed in Los Angeles to one of the best welcomes EVER as well as my first sign that all was okay, a ladybug…

Ladybug luggage tag at LAX baggage claim.
Ladybug luggage tag at LAX baggage claim.

I’m not going to go back into what the ladybug signifies, but I will say that it is my guiding sign that I’m on the right track, or path, or better yet that things will be okay. That luggage tag I caught eye of as I wheeled my luggage cart out to the exit. It was a quick glance, but it stopped me in my tracks and I took a picture.

Back when I was wondering about the state of my signs, after three months of seeing them all over Japan, I ended with the decision to just take them for what they were. Signs letting me know everything would be okay, even if I never saw them again. Even if in five years they just seems like figments of my imagination.

After landing in LA and seeing the bug above,  I realized that I was where I was meant to be and that good things were on the horizon.  I should note that when I felt this same way about finding the Paper Goddess in Echizen, the woman who hosted me told me she found a problem with me saying that. I’ve since realized that she and I have different life philosophies. I by no means begrudge her for that difference. In fact, I wish her the best in life with her philosophy, but I choose to keep believing in mine. I firmly believe that sometimes you just have a feeling/sense that you are in the right place at the right time. When you feel that you have to accept it and run with it. I felt that way about Echizen and I feel the same way about my signs.

This all comes to play because the signs kept showing themselves in California. Not necessarily in the same way as they had in Japan, although some things did (ladybug), but they did appear. To say I was shocked is an understatement.

Here’s the thing about signs: I believe they appear,without rhyme or reason, when you’re on the right track. When you’re on the wrong track they appear only because you are looking for them. I say this quite confidently because I’ve been in both positions. I’ve both wanted something so badly that I sought it out intentionally and saw signs everywhere, and wanted to be rid of something so badly that I’ve gone so far to ask for guidance from above to forget it, to get over it, and the signs have shown themselves as bright as a neon-lit sign in Times Square.

I’ve always been a big fan of the Universe and our spiritual connections. I am a total horoscope lover and believer. In my youth, I believed that coincidences were every where and a sign of fate (which I still believe in), but now I believe that there are no coincidences. Every thing does happen for a reason.  In Japan, I had no choice but to dig deep into that side of me that loves philosophy and has one good existential crisis a year, to understand the world of nature and my deep connection to the signs in the natural world guiding me; the signs that touch into my heart and intuition, aka gut.

I know, it sounds like I’m talking BS again, but I’m serious here. I’m serious only because I questioned whether the signs would guide me post-Japan and I can honestly say that now, 18 days after leaving Japan, where the signs began, they are still following me.  Today, as I walked to Starbucks, I noticed one of the signs, a plant, along my way. That plant was along side my car yesterday evening when I parked at the grocery store on an errand. In the grocery store yesterday, as I walked toward the mangoes, I stopped in front of a display that had a ladybug on it.

It is important to mention that I had some thoughts in my mind that were questioning and bordered on insecure. In Japan, I learned that those moments-when doubts, insecurity, and questions prevailed-were the moments when the signs found me and found me strong; quickly correcting my thoughts and reminding me to just keep believing. To remember that all will be well as long as I keep faith and trust in myself. To remember that not everything I think is correct, real, or even true for that matter.

Today, I saw my plant, smiled, laughed, raised a cheeky fist up to the heavens, but only realized later in the day the truth in believing the signs…I received an email from Danielle LaPorte titled “55 inspirational quotes on desire & making it happen” and there in the middle was the following quote by Rumi (another sign within the signs),

“What you seek is seeking you.”

It is hard to explain this to people who don’t believe, or don’t see the magic in every day life. Not only is it hard, it can be exhausting. It’s caused me to ask myself if I’m crazy and yet, constantly my heart and intuition tell me I am not. I know not what the outcome will be, but it’s nice to feel that these signs that have found their way to me from a period of time full of confusion and uncertainty are still with me in a period filled with more peace, happiness, and security than I’ve felt in a long time.

Actually it’s the same feeling I felt back when I had that little dream that launched my stationery company. It’s important to follow the signs. Especially when they come from the heart.