Category Archives: I Heart Northwest Arkansas

One stone at a time.

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I love the look and feel of old cobblestone roads. The old bricks, worn down over time by the carriage wheels and feet and cars and horses. The connection I have with teachers and professional influences in my life make me think of those roads. It seems I’m about to write yet another metaphor-laden blog post. Maybe I need to create an essay collection called Life in Metaphors…

A year ago this month I went to a conference for bloggers, the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged. I had already started writing a little for a couple of outlets, and had met a few local bloggers through that bit of work, but I met more at the conference and at other local events afterward. Attending the book-release parties was particularly inspiring for a wanna-be writer! Everyone has different experiences when thrust into a crowd of women… (hello!? drama can ensue!) but for me, the connection to this group of women has been overwhelmingly positive.

As I made the decision to start working as a freelance writer a few months ago, I was hopeful that my network of women who were already writing and managing clients’ social media platforms would be a good resource for information and advice, but it has become more than that. One of my friends, Jamie, has a successful freelance business, and was willing to sit down with me for lunch and offer her suggestions and encouragement soon after I made the leap. Then, last month, she asked if I was willing to do some writing for her when she had too much to do herself. Work with someone already doing what I want to do? Earn while I learn? Um, yes, please. 🙂

Then, this morning while I sat at the local coffee shop dutifully filling my calendar and figuring out what I needed to be doing with my days the rest of this week, I happened to run into another friend I have had the pleasure of knowing this last year. Jasmine is a fearless blogger, a social media maven, a roller derby queen, and a fantastic supporter of her friends and fellow writers. She’s put me in touch with great networking opportunities and people over the last year since we roomed together at AWBU, and has just been personally encouraging of my efforts to become A Writer. She asked what I’m doing now, and suggested that she might have some work that she could pass on to me as part of a new supervisory role she has taken on for a client of hers. I gave her a card and told her I’d love to hear more.

On our path through this life, we meet lots and lots of people. At least, I have. (Makes me wish I were better with names…) Some are broken or weak and are unable to support us as we go, and we have to put them aside. Or, better yet, be the bricks in THEIR road. Others are the bricks and stones that we need to lay in front of us on our road, the ones that we will be able to rely on as we move toward our goals and dreams. For me, this group of writers I have connected with over the past year or so have been exactly what I needed as I made the leap into working for myself. I didn’t know, when I went to AWBU a year ago, that I would be freelancing today. I may or may not have gone simply because Country Outfitter was offering a pair of free boots to all attendees. (<— keeping it real) But I was open to the experience of learning from those women and cultivating those relationships, and it has served me so well.

No matter where your path is headed, seek out those who are doing what you want to do… if you are an actor, hang out with actors (and casting directors! ;)), if you’re a designer, hang out with designers… pick their brain, follow their pages on Facebook and their blogs. Interact, attend workshops and seminars. Hand out your business card and collect theirs. If you don’t have a business card – create one RIGHT NOW!!! Shame on you… You never know, when you’re meeting new people, who will become important in your life. But as you travel your road, those cobblestone people will be there for you.

The Ovaries Know

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I don’t think it was coincidence that my ovaries started hurting as I listened to the stories told at last night’s Listen to Your Mother show. Ever since I delivered my third child, my Girl Parts have been a bit more outspoken… letting me know how they’re doing and what they’re up to more often than  I’d prefer. I’m terrified  they will demand their own Twitter account. But last Listen to Your Mother 2013 logonight as my gut started to ache, I had to smile grimace and accept that they were simply in sync with the flood of estrogen that was washing over everyone in the audience. Even those sitting at the top of the gymnasium style pull-out bleachers. It was that deep. It was a show of ovarian solidarity fist-pumping, I suppose.

As many of my readers know, I lost my mother to brain cancer a few years ago. And as others may know, I am the “nonnie” of an almost-3-year-old red-headed spitfire I call the Grand-cuteness. She and her mama are still living at home with us, and the process of preparing them for independence has been slow and, at times, extremely frustrating. Sometimes I even forget to think she’s cute – but not often. My other daughter is about to leave for basic training with the United States Army, and my 8-year-old son can be the light of my life and the bane of my existence on any given day. Sometimes, within the same quarter hour.

So, I went to the show last night fairly confident that there wouldn’t be many subjects covered in the stories told that I hadn’t faced or forgotten about myself as a mother, daughter and woman. But as the show progressed it was obvious I was wrong, and my ovaries knew it.

As with any show about motherhood, there were funny stories and poignant stories and fabulous shoes. Some stories I could empathize with directly as I thought to myself “Preach it sister!”, but others I could only sympathize with, as I had no direct experience with mothers with mental illness, the difficulty some women have getting pregnant, or the emotions that consume the mother of a seriously ill child or one who loses a child.

The women who told their stories last night did so with incredible grace, humor, and strength. Each of them had something important to share, and the lessons were not only applicable to mothers. Humankind, it turns out, is universal. The things we learn from our children and pass on to them as they are growing into adulthood (and even throughout adulthood, if my family is any example) are important to us as fellow humans. Storytelling, in general, is a vital resource of information, compassion, and equity for our species and I am so pleased to see it being cared for and preserved in this event.

Lela Davidson and Stephanie McCratic are the forces of nature that brought this show to Northwest Arkansas for the first time last year and again this year. They both blog and write and get some national attention for doing so, but I am most grateful to them for what they are doing through LTYM. It makes a difference to the women who participated, to the audience who appreciated, and – most importantly in my opinion – to the society that is rejuvenated by the community of humans it creates.

Ladies of the podium – I, and my ovaries, thank you.

War Horse: This ain’t your grandma’s puppet show!

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When I was a little girl I was probably similar to most little girls (except taller) in that I went through a Horse Phase. If you were a little girl once, you probably know what I’m talking about. My mom had sketches of horses in her keepsake box, I have a copper rubbing of a horse in mine. I read Misty of Chincoteague over and over again. One of my daughters read every book about horses she could find. It’s just a girl thing. Like boys who go through a dinosaur phase. 🙂

Years later, I became a lover of all things having to do with the stage. I acted, I sang, I danced, I worked on sets and costumes… I fell in love with the magic and the escapism and the alternate reality that was possible when the design and dialogue combined successfully. When done right, a stage production can suspend disbelief of its audience like no blockbuster movie ever can.

Last year, I learned that this season’s Broadway Series at Walton Arts Center would include the highly acclaimed show, War Horse. It swept the 2011 Tony Awards, it had been made into a major motion picture, and now it was coming to Northwest Arkansas. This show combined some of my favorite things about theater, AND it was about horses! It was a no-brainer that I wanted to see it. When I spotted The Making of War Horse on Netflix, I watched in fascination as they described the process of finding a story that would be able to be told with puppets, convincing the author it would work, and training the cast and puppeteers to make it happen. If I wanted to see it before, that documentary reinforced my fascination.

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I can’t really put into words how much I loved this show. I was enthralled. I was blown away. I was even verklempt at some of the emotional parts of the story. I found myself believing that the movements of the puppeteer who controlled the horse’s head were actually caused by the horse itself. As if the puppeteer was being pulled and moved by the puppet, not the other way around. The ear twitches and head flicks, the snorts and the tail swishes, they all combine to bring the horse to life like you wouldn’t think possible. It was simply riveting theater. I smiled through the entire production for the sheer joy of it. Well, except during the emotionally difficult scenes – of where there are a few. The story does depict a war, after all.

My 8 year old son was my date for the show, and he was also riveted by the production. (His favorite part was the goose. :)) He was able to follow the story and only occasionally had to ask who the characters were when there were several people on stage in uniform. He understood some of the nuances of the story, and I attribute his comprehension to the outstanding story-telling that was done by the puppeteers, the design of the show, and the cast. I think I could see this show over and over again, like some people used to go see the musical Cats back in the day. It’s just that good.

If you have seen the movie version of War Horse, you’ll be familiar with the story, but I still encourage you to see the stage production. The things that the cast and designers do with minimal sets and outstanding lighting and sound design will amaze you. It’s worth the ticket price, I guarantee. Given the scale of the show, you may even be better off in the back of the theater where the available tickets are, because you’ll want to take in the entire view of the stage. Tickets are on sale through the box office at 443-5600 or online here. It’s only in town for a couple more days – so don’t miss out!

In addition to the fascinating production, Walton Arts Center is featuring some fantastic public art during the annual Artosphere Festival.  The Herd is making it’s way through the lobby… Sun Boxes are singing on the plaza (here’s a video!) and I always love to see the Stickworks figures that I helped create for last year’s Artosphere. So much awesome in one place!

The Herd at Walton Arts Center

Stickworks at Walton Arts Center

Have you seen War Horse? Share your impressions of the show!

Simple Service on a Saturday.

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We are Razorback football fans, as are most people in Arkansas. It’s just the way it is when there are no professional teams in the state to cheer for and only one NCAA conference university. So, we enjoy doing anything that combines family time and cheering on the Hogs. That explains why a beautiful Saturday that included the annual Razorback Red & White game and the Champions for Kids Razorfest event inspired us to get out of the house.

I don’t think we’ve attended this event before, even though I’d heard of it. I knew it was kid-centered, and there were autograph sessions with ball players other Razorback personalities and such, but I had no idea how much was going on at this event. We had heard that a local news station was taking donations of non-perishable food, so I loaded up a tote bag with some cans of beans that were never going to be eaten at my house (much to my chagrin…) and a couple of cans of tuna (same as the beans…) and we headed out.

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We parked and started walking… and walking… and walking… uphill… to the stadium. Did I mention that the hubs picked the parking spot?? When we entered the south end of the facility we were immediately met with activities and booths and such. There were vendors galore who support the work done by Champions for Kids to serve and support kids’ health and active lifestyles. And lots of people! Seems we weren’t the only folks who thought it was a great day to get out of the house with the kids.

Cotton candy at #RazorFest

The boy and his dad were grabbing some cotton candy (not quite what I would have expected to find being sold at an event geared toward healthy kids… but whatever) and I checked out a kiosk that looked interesting. Turns out, Champions for Kids promotes these things called Simple Service projects that people take on in their communities. Everything from packing snacks for kids, to helping them learn to read, or teaching the importance of good oral health… all with major corporate partners like Colgate and Disney. According to their website, Champions for Kids has served 132,000 kids through 800 community service organizations that have received donations resulting from these projects. They each have four simple steps:

  • GATHER your friends, family, and co-workers.
  • LEARN about the needs of children in your community.
  • GIVE items to help kids enjoy happier and healthier lives.
  • SHARE your story with us to inspire others.
Elmer's at 2013 RazorFest

Elmer’s supports Simple Service Projects with Champions for Kids.

Pretty easy, right? I’m  looking forward to finding out more about these projects and getting my kids involved. My son has been having a hard time understanding the value of working for an allowance and we’ve had to cut back on impulse buys. Maybe spending some time showing him how important it is to give will help me drive the point home that life is not all about what we can get.

RazorFest 2013 crowd

When we exited the concourse on the north side we were pretty blown away with all the activity in the parking lot affectionately known on campus as “The Pit”. HOLY MOLY. It was kids’ activities and information and music and people as far as the eye could see. I was starting to regret not getting there as soon as it opened. The boy-child had a ball game in a couple of hours, so I already knew we wouldn’t get to do much in this area. We dropped off our canned goods (which fulfilled this Simple Service project, it turns out), watched some of the kids singing on stage, and collected a few freebies here and there, but didn’t have time to stand in the SUPER long lines for the really exciting activities like that “giant rubber-band jumping thing” (I’m sure that’s the technical term).

JDRF at 2013 RazorFest

JDRF was one of dozens of booths sharing information highlighting ways to keep kids healthy in our community.

The boy and I left the hubs with his buddies – they were going to the game – to head back down the hill to the car. It only took 20 minutes to get to it on the return trip. Next year, Razorfest will definitely be on our calendar again, but we’ll be sure to be at the gate as soon as it opens, and to not have anything else planned for the afternoon.

What kinds of projects have you taken on to support kids in your community? For a ton of great ideas, check out the Champions for Kids Pinterest board. You can also get great information year-round by following Champions for Kids on Facebook and Twitter.

 

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and Champions For Kids. That said – all opinions and views are my own and I can say whatever I want. 🙂 #cbias #SocialFabric

Girls’ Night!

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A few weeks ago I went to an incredible conference for Arkansas women bloggers. In fact it was called the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged conference. Funny how that works. As a result of those three amazing days, I have begun creating an editorial calendar for my writing endeavors, I have picked up a freelance job that pays me decent part-time cash, and I got a ton of terrific swag including a free pair of boots. What a great deal, right?? TOTALLY worth the cost of the conference.

Well the hits keep coming. Some of the ladies who went to the conference gathered for a little meet and greet today, sponsored by Therapon (and I brought home some products I’ll be talking about in coming weeks!) and one of the giveaways for the afternoon was tickets to see STOMP at the Walton Arts Center.

My family is very familiar with the WAC. Ever since my girls were small we have gone to see Broadway shows, dance troupes, musicians and singers, opera… we were even onstage ourselves and have the commemorative Christmas tree ornament to prove it. We have been fortunate to have a family member who works there, so sometimes we get so see things as her guest, but they have such a huge variety of shows in their schedules there are always things that we can afford, whether it’s a family outing or a date night with the hubster.

When I was offered the opportunity to see one of the biggest touring shows in the country as a little promotional perk – uh… Duh. It’s easy to talk about things you already love, right??

The best part is that I’ll be taking my daughter. D and her 2-year-old live with us right now as she works on getting her feet under her as a young mom and figures out where she’s headed. It’s made for some stressful months. It’s also been difficult to find time to do things together for fun. I feel as though I’m constantly griping at her about one thing or another, even when we’re doing otherwise fun things like shopping for shoes or cooking dinner, and that’s no good for either of us.

So tonight, we’ll get dolled up a bit and find our seats at the WAC and look forward to seeing some of this:

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And a good bit of this:

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And maybe a smidge of this:

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There is one more show this weekend, tomorrow at 2pm. If you are anywhere near Northwest Arkansas, I’d encourage you to go. In case you need a little more convincing – check out the video on their website. I’m off to get dressed for a night out!

 

New digs!

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New digs!

It’s not like I haven’t had things to write about over the last four months. I mean, seriously. It’s more like the words in my head just couldn’t get out of my head and into my fingers and onto the screen.

I’m not going to bore you (or myself) by recapping the months that have passed since I last blogged… let’s just pretend I was here:

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Okay, so here’s what’s going on this week:

Last weekend I took a quick trip out to Prairie Grove, a mecca of sorts for people in NW Arkansas who like antique malls, civil war battlefields, and yummy Mexican food. (Mariela’s!! YUM!). I had heard through the grapevine (i.e. Facebook) that a new antique mall called Summit Hill Cottage recently opened.

Since my sister and I have been on the waiting list for the larger mall in the same town for over a year, I figured it was worth checking out the new place. Bonus: new place is right across the street from waiting list place. Heehee!!

My daughters went with me and were patient tolerant of my gushing and being excited… even when a “quick visit to check it out” turned into business discussion and signing of a contract. The place is perfect for the booth that Junque Rethunque deserves to be, and we can’t wait to get set up!!

The flea market we are in currently has been okay, but not great. The “aha!” moment occurred the other day when I was looking at the wish list that the owners send every week with items that customers have told them they’re looking for. The list goes something like this:

  1. Baby monitor
  2. Deer stand
  3. Blenders
  4. Overalls
  5. Salad spinner
  6. Ceiling fan

I’m not really kidding…

As I looked at the latest list it hit me – the people shopping at this place are not looking for ANYTHING we are selling!!  We have made enough to pay our booth fee the majority of the months we’ve been there, but for the last few months only barely. I mean, a check for $6.40 at the end of the month really kind of deflates a girl, you know?? Dave Matthews Band tickets don’t grow on trees!! And you can’t deny this man…

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So, it was obvious it was time to go. Hearing about the new place the same week that I had the “aha!” moment was a little like the clouds parting and a neon sign popping out that said “Do it!” So, I did! I chatted with the owner, Suzy, for a while, she showed me around the vendors’ booths and pointed out which ones were selling well and which ones had product niches that they were filling.

Suzy used to be a vendor in the Waiting List place and included a lot of detail in the vendor contract – even down to the statement saying that we are not allowed to decorate with feather boas. I think we’ll be able to mind that one fairly easily. I also think it will be easy to stand out. There was lots of shabby chic, and some repurposing going on, and vintage kitchenware, but no industrial, not much wire and metal… not many painted signs or lampshades and certainly no vintage linens turned tote bags and home decor.

Here is the new Junque Rethunque space as it looks right now – pre Junque-ifying:

This is not our stuff – but don’t you love the rough plaster and brick walls back there?? Here’s a view down the aisle…

It’s just so much better than where we are. Like, times a billion. And cheaper too! We’ll be paying $17 less per month for the space, and a smaller commission as well. Look at those painted floors! And the wooden valance that Suzy added. I heart it!

So… that’s what’s up right now. We are excited to get in there and execute some of the great ideas we had when we first set up shop a year ago. We plan to be in the space by the end of August, but if it’s earlier we will definitely let you know. Hope you’ll come see us, and let us know what you think.

Also, in case you were wondering – the chickens are great. 🙂

Ice Storm 2010, you’re not all that!

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Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking to YOU. I joined the throngs of people buying up staples for the pantry, locating batteries and candles at home, and making sure that we had clean clothes and blankets… I was ready for a repeat of the storm of 2009. But hey – I knew Ice Storm 2009, and you, sir, were no Ice Storm 2009. You were just a snowy weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! I didn’t mind a Friday off work. I am still not minding several days in a row in my jammies. (sorry mom, I still don’t get up and get dressed if I don’t have to). I’m kind of loving looking out the window at the lovely snowy yard beyond. I’m just saying I don’t consider you an Ice Storm.

THIS is an ice storm:

Notice the lack of any snow at all? It was all ice, all the time a year ago. This year, it’s this:

Sure, there’s ice under there, but the significant difference this year is the LACK of piles of branches in the yard. Of course, they may have just all broken off last year… but anyway, you get my point. We didn’t lose power this time either, which was a bonus. Now, I have to put away all the survival gear.