All of my life I have searched for a place where I belonged. And I've found it here and there, but never for long. The small town I grew up in (Andersonville) out in the countryside of Tennessee had a population of about 500, and we didn't even live IN the town. It didn't even have stoplights. So everyone knew everyone, or at least knew a relative of someone. We had a tiny little church that my dad pastored and he and my grandfather started and literally built with help from the congregation. We lived on the adjoining land so I walked to church three times a week. (Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night). It was a small community and we lived there from when I was 2 to when I was 17. So most of the families at our church saw me grow up. These people were like extended family to me.
When I was 17 my family moved to California. It was a new state, a new place and new people. And they acted so differently. It was harder to get beyond the surface level. It was a city not a small town, and appearances mattered more than who you were. I went to college out there, trying to connect with classmates and roommates but never quite fitting. I had a couple friends in all the different social groups, but there wasn't a group that I belonged TO. I went to Thailand for a semester abroad, and that shared experience with a limited group of people helped me form friendships that last to this day. But of course we didn't see each other much after college.
I had a few other times in my life where I experienced belonging. Like when I moved back and lived in Thailand. Being in an unfamiliar place makes you cling to the familiar, so I developed a few friendships that became very close. I met my husband in Thailand and after we moved back to the states it was hard to keep in touch with these friends on the other side of the world (although I will never forget them).
Then we moved to Colorado. It was time to start over again. I made a few surface level friends again and some of those gradually deepened into real friendships. But they had their lives too, and sometimes months would go by without us talking or seeing each other. It could be very lonely. And people that hadn't lived in Thailand couldn't understand my experiences and it became a part of myself I shut off and didn't talk about anymore. Alone again.
But FINALLY I have started to discover a new tribe. Ever since I started doing vintage shows, I would make one or two other vendor friends each time. We had the shared experience of picking for a living. Loving junk and hoarding it and then selling and sharing it because our garages were overflowing. (P.S. I think the reason I love all this rusty, peeling, chippy junk is because it reminds me of the countryside of Tennessee. Of connections, of my sweet grandparents who lived next door to us). I was in an antique mall the other day and came across this old black metal cabinet that was missing drawers and it just spoke to me. I mean I almost started crying because it was stirring some kind of deep emotional connection in me. Not sure what that is linked to. But I probably should have bought the piece.
I am SO sad that when we moved away from Tennessee we gave away almost all of our antique furniture and memories. I think as I hunt for junk I am always trying to find a little bit of that attachment and bring it back.
So anyway I've collected friends along with my vintage finds. And when I was at a show (as a shopper, not a vendor! gasp!) last weekend to see my favorite blogger Liz Marie, I kept running across people I knew! I started doing shows around 3 years ago and now I know so many people in the "show biz". And we all share this kindred love of junk. It's the bond that ties us together. I love my vendor friends. I think I've finally found my Colorado "tribe".
I haven't written for a long time. I used to keep journals, and would fill them one after another. Until I had amassed a huge collection of them. Then I was embarrassed that someone would find and read them so I would rip them up and throw them away or burn a stack of them. Seriously I've probably filled 50+ journals since I was a teen until around the time I got married. Most of them were probably filled with embarrassing details about crushes but they also held prayers and things that my soul only whispered but I never said aloud.
I wrote as part of my job for a non-profit in Thailand as a media coordinator. I used to write email updates and blog posts about life on the border and about experiences with refugee families. I wanted to write to expand the world of people who couldn't see it for themselves.
One thing about me I think you should know is that I am VERY sensitive to criticism. Like, I want to curl up into a ball and die if someone doesn't like something I've worked on or created. I've matured a little bit and can handle feedback a teensy bit better (at least professionally) now, but if you tell me something negative, I will hold onto it and remember it for life.
So turns out my writing for blogging needed to be edited, and somehow during the process it kind of crushed my soul that I felt I had poured into these pieces. And I didn't want to offer anything up or put anything out into the world anymore that could be potentially talked about, made fun of or criticized. I decided to stop writing. I am a graphic designer by trade and was an art student in college, and I found it very hard to create anything after that point. That was around the time I got engaged or married. There were other things going on at that time that were similarly soul crushing, so I went into an incubated period where I didn't do anything creative for several years.
Starting farmgirl four years ago was a toe dipped back into the pond of creating. I finally felt my soul starting to come alive again. I have experienced so much joy through starting this business. But I haven't dared to write in over 7 years. This is the first time I've tried. I know my grammar and sentence structure isn't perfect, but I'm just trying to write from the heart. And spill out onto paper what I've experienced and share it with you. And hope that you'll share with me also.
You know how there are experiences in life that you would rather just forget? But you still have ties and connections to them, so every now and then you will feel a pang of hurt or remembrance. It's hard when you are still friends with people from the world you have tried to leave and move on from.
So I cannot say which former place of business I'm talking about. But it was a toxic place filled with competition, power plays, fear and paranoia. (the last was mostly on my part). But when you walk into a place and it makes you shudder, it's time to leave. So I left! Best. decision. ever. If you are stuck in a situation that makes you want to curl up and die (best name for a salon ever!) weigh your options, and find an escape route. Life is so much better on the other side.
Leaving led to more opportunities and freedom to say yes to things I would have had had to say no to.
One of the most recent opportunities was opening a shop space at the cutest little boutique in northern colorado! Fox and Clover! It's owned by a lady named Kate who is a life coach and very sweet and understanding. She gives great advice too!
I love the feel or vibe you get when walking around the store. It's like a cozy little happy place. There is a vendor there that sells Sweet Pickens Milk Paint (score!) and another (Mary Caaway) that creates her own artwork in the most soothing pallets. <3 and everyone I've met there so far is so nice and friendly. Rachel's Revelry is there and she's an awesome person and very creative (she builds a lot of her own furniture! How awesome is that!) And my friend Jackie (Studio Shambora) also moved in recently. She has the best collection of curated goods and amazing smelling candles that she lovingly and painstakingly makes in the most quality way possible so that they burn evenly without the hole in the center, and so that the essential oils escape the whole time candle burns.
So if you're ever up in Fort Collins, stop in and have yourself a fun little afternoon escape.
Okay, so I just had to share something exciting that happened last week. I heard Liz Marie (as in the amazing blogger, who has been invited to Magnolia to meet Chip and Jo, and invited to tour HGTV's dream home) was going to be in Colorado! I HAD to see her! When I was first getting started with my business I followed her and was so inspired by her beautiful neutral farmhouse style. She was a vendor (at the time) at a store called Painted Farmgirl. And I just thought that was the cutest name ever. And I was inspired to start Farmgirl Furniture!
I've always tried to stick to a semi neutral or at least cool toned color pallet so everything would flow together because of her. (I am so anti-red I can't even tell you! Probably because I thought it was so cool back in my embarrassing college days and painted a huge red accent wall in my bedroom! And now I associate red with awkwardness and being out of style and my "global style" phase where I bought everything at world market and decorated with all my souvenirs from overseas trips). There are a few exceptions to my hate of warm colors (Coke merch being one, and I pull out cute red vintage cash registers and old sleds with red accents at Christmas).
So ANYWAY I had to see Liz Marie! She was going to be at a market up in Loveland, CO which is about an hour drive from where I live. So I planned a trip up with my friend Jackie (a vendor friend who owns Studio Shambora and is an EXCELLENT stylist and merchandiser, btw.) We just moved into a cute shop in Fort Collins called Fox and Clover, and since it's a bit of a haul we planned it to coincide with the market so I could be a crazy fan girl.
So we're working late at the shop trying to whip our booths into shape for the weekend and switching out some things to take to Simply Vintage Market (this coming weekend!) And we finally get to the market around 7p.m. I thought it was going to close at 8 so I rush around the perimeter of the market shouting hi's at all my vendor friends and frantically asking if they knew where Liz Marie was! Finally I spot her right before she's about to give a talk in front of a group of people. (I kind of only realized this after I rushed her). But I didn't want to miss my opportunity to meet Liz Marie!
I rushed up to her in a frenzy and said Hi!!! Can I meet you??? Totally acting like a crazed fan who just met a movie star. She said she was getting ready to give a talk and was a little nervous, and I was like who? you? nervous?! No way! But it humanized her for a minute and I was like hey, she's just another girl here tonight and I assured her she would do great. I blabbed on about how this was like meeting Chip and Joanna to me. And asked her if I could take a picture with her and she graciously agreed. I gave her one of my farmgirl hats because she is the true farmgirl! (She lives on White Cottage Farm where they are renovating an old farmhouse and they have a cute lamb named Grace and a Goat named Baby that they let come in the house. She and her husband Jose (who is an awesome builder and really nice too!) told us a story later about how sometimes the grace runs havoc in their house.
SO she's like, I'll talk to you after! (A polite way of letting me know she was about to go on). So I go sit down and she and Jose sit on a cute little church pew with a lovely vintage backdrop and said they just wanted to have a chat with us like old friends. How AMAZING are they? Totally sweet and humble. So we had about an hour? Half hour? (time stood still really) of Q & A where they graciously answered all our questions about blogging, owning a store, managing their time and schedules, and I found out that she's a night owl like me and is most creative at like 1 am too!
She let us in on some secrets (She used an iPhone to take most of her beautiful pics and edits them in VSCO and Snapseed). Some of her advice was to take yourself (and your work) seriously and other people will too. She recommended (for those of use without regular job hours) to set work hours and have a place set up to be creative in. And if you're a blogger or a business owner to be consistent in posting (on your blog or social media) once or twice a day. She said that she gathers content and has certain topics scheduled for certain days. That seems like it would make it a lot easier to come up with content!
Someone asked how she describes her style and she said she calls it Cozy Cottage but also Farmhouse since they live in one! She also let us know that Instagram is just the highlight reel. That they are real people and they don't have everything figured out. (See what I mean, so darn humble!). She told us to just be ourselves and to share our journeys to connect with people.
So after the inspiring talk I shopped around the market for a little bit while others went up and met her and then I came back and she and Jose chatted with me like we were old friends about places they needed to go see while they were in town. I <3 her so much! If you haven't followed her yet, definitely get over there and like her page! So much creativity flows out of this lady!
I hope someday I can make it out to Michigan to visit her store, The Found Cottage. It would be a pilgrimage of sorts like people take to Magnolia in Waco. It's a beautiful place and the way everything is styled is so lovely! That would be my dream to have a store of my own like that some day!