3 Lessons From My Husband

Today is my husband’s birthday. I’m up at 5am to write while Kanan sleeps so we’ll have the day to spend together once he wakes up. I know that I haven’t given much history about our relationship, and rarely divulge details about his life specifically, focusing mainly on relevant information for our topic at hand. So today, in an attempt to shine light on the person that my husband is, I’m going to share three big lessons that my husband has taught me about life in our last (almost) six years together.

If there’s one thing about Kanan’s personality that has always perplexed and fascinated me, it’s his ability to consistently be one step ahead of the rest of us when it comes to matters of “zen.” I use that term loosely and metaphorically to mean calm, collected, and unchanged by his surroundings. When we first met I mistook his disinterest in most things as aloofness, dismissiveness, and an overall indifference or dispassion, but I know now that my husband cares more deeply than anyone I’ve met, he’s just remarkably good at choosing what few things he cares about.

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Lesson #1: “Structure Your Life Differently.”

If I had a dollar for every time this phrase exited my husband’s mouth or came through to me via text message, I’d be rich, and I wouldn’t need to structure my life differently.

Over the years Kanan has seen me grow from a mid-twenties employee with undefined dreams to an early thirties small business owner with fairly clear goals for our future.

I’ve discovered that when I have an end goal in mind I will work relentlessly toward it regardless of the time and energy that it takes to get there, even if it means depleting every resource I have in the process. Sometimes this takes years to complete. Sometimes the “end goal” is so obscure and far off in the distance that it’s almost impossible for anyone else to see, let alone support. But I see it.

Kanan may not notice what I’m able to predict. He observes my chaotic life, chalk full of work and stress. I see myself lay one more brick down each day I wake up with intention. It may not look like much now, but someday I’ll build my castle, revel in it, then move on to something new. I thrive on accomplishment and projects. I find happiness in the process of building, not necessarily the “finished” result – consequently this means I’m never really done and I’m almost never satisfied.

He watches me struggle and sometimes doesn’t realize that I share his same vision. Laying a brick a day will get us there, I promise, but you need to trust me. A decade later, and the foundation is complete. Still a lot of castle to build, but it’s got something solid to stand on. Structuring your life differently takes time. Great things aren’t built overnight. Strategies take trial and error to perfect; systems take years to run smoothly. I’d work seven days a week, and teeter on the precipice of burnout – he’d say “structure your life differently.” I’d be at the end of my rope spending every “personal” moment on my phone working. What should I do? Structure my life differently. To him, its easy. A simple answer to any of those parts of my life I am not satisfied with.

His point: When I’m “done” I’m never done. So I may as well create a life I love to live in the process of building. Structure my life differently. 

It’s not that I didn’t understand this concept before – I feel like I have quite a clear understanding of what it takes to create a life you actually want, basically full of work I enjoy, people I enjoy, and activities that give me joy, purpose, and meaning. But for me it will take years to even define what that looks like, and I imagine it will be fluid and constantly in flux. But I feel like when he emphasizes that point to me, it’s his subtle and effective way to reiterate that I am the creator of my life and I do have the power to change it, and make it however I dream. It’s up to me, and he knows I can do it. After all, if I’m not happy with something in my life, all I need to do is do it differently.

Lesson #2: Leveling up is hard, but a great partnership will force you to level up constantly, and forever.

I resist what my husband tells me to do. My husband resists what I tell him to do. Together we end up stubbornly encouraging each other to become better people.

What I’ve discovered is that my husband and I chose each other for big reasons, and each one of us has greatly valuable qualities to bring to our table. So when we resist each other because of our strength and stubbornness, eventually one of us will rise to join the other. And when we really clash, it’s because one of us just hasn’t quite figured out how to get up to that next level yet. But with enough encouragement, we will.

This happens in small ways, like snoozing my alarm. I used to be that person. Snooze the alarm every single day for however long it takes to get out of bed in the morning. Kanan explicitly hated this behavior because it disrupts his sleep, and we had many arguments about it, until stubbornly and angrily I made it a point to get out of bed immediately, every single day as soon as my alarm went off. Annoyed and stubborn, I now am a more productive person who loves the morning and looks forward to quiet time alone with my coffee, my books, and my computer. Why would I want to waste that wonderful peaceful time snoozing?

This also happens in big ways, like eating more plant foods, a significant and long-term lifestyle change. Over the years Kanan has resisted my dietary choices being “pushed on him” and has explicitly made it clear to not tell him what to eat. It turns out, the squeaky vegan wheel gets the grease. When I see my husband packing his mostly (if not entirely) raw, plant based lunches for work everyday, coming home for his post-work kale, ginger, celery smoothie it does two things. It instantly makes me happy that we’re headed down this healthy, long path together, but also makes me realize that I can do better too. I don’t eat kale everyday; there’s always room to improve and grow.

When my husband and I seem to disagree, I now try to step back and look for the lesson inside the clashing of two stubborn individuals. We both want what’s best for us, so who needs the boost up to the next rung? The other one of us will be more that happy to provide it.

Lesson #3: Protect Your Time.

This last lesson I’ll share with you wraps back around to the initial idea of my husband as the “zen master.” Kanan is not a meditation expert. He doesn’t do yoga. He’s certainly not Buddhist. He has fairly liberal beliefs but is in no way carefree or someone I’d call a free spirit. He has not reached enlightenment. Nor is he wearing a poncho and selling beads in the park. My point: he’s neither a true zen master, or a wannabe zen master. He’s just himself.

He is an adamant nonconformist in his own way. He’s so punk rock about his time that it fascinates me and encourages me on my digital minimalism journey. Simply put, Kanan understands with no degree of uncertainty that his time is his own, and he is allowed to selfishly protect it. He can exist amongst the chaos and remain himself, a calm center.

Social media? Not worth the time or energy. Texting? Only if absolutely necessary, or to appease his text-happy wife. Facetime is a solid no. Calling is a sometimes and only for the most important in his life. He refuses to make plans if he even has an inkling he may not want to participate in something or may want to just relax and do what he wants. He doesn’t feel the need to answer to anyone about how he spends his personal time, and most of the time that philosophy does apply to me. And while this can frustrate me sometimes as his behavior can appear to be noncommittal or selfish (which it is), he generally encourages me to live the same way. Selfishly with my time, even when it pertains to matters involving him.

This has taught me that being selfish with my time is okay, and that respecting each other’s time is important. It’s taught me not to dole it out indiscriminately, and to really decide if something or someone is worth letting into my life and space. My husband is basically a minimalist at heart, and someone so confident in himself that he can live his life from his own center, allowing in only the things that mean most to him. That is a skill most of us have to actively cultivate with things like exercise, meditation, learning – strategies. I joke that Kanan has had it figured out since I met him. I thought he was antisocial and afraid to commit. It turns out he just wanted to make sure I was someone he wanted to give his most precious resource to before he decided to marry me. What a way to live.

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Wedding Photos:

https://www.hennygraphy.com

“Draining The Shallows” Digital Minimalism Diaries Part 3

What does “Deep Work” Mean to Me?

My whole life I’ve been naturally drawn to produce what Cal Newport describes as “Deep Work.” I picture myself as a ten year old writing stories in one of the many outdoor “forts” my sister and I would build. Sometimes I’d spend what felt like hours alone, riding my bike down our long dirt road to sit on the “big rock” and write down my thoughts and observations – a backpack full of books in tow, and a heavy imagination to compliment the scenery. Nature and quiet time were easy to find, but so were the other kids on my street, who, when I was ready to socialize seemed to always be available.

We grew up in a town where solitude was plentiful – I refer to solitude in the way that Newport does, as being alone with your thoughts, but not necessarily alone physically. Think: In the grocery store check out line without your phone. Not alone, but alone in your head – solitude. My home town is excessively rural, secluded, and a few years behind whatever technology or trends are happening on the outside. Thinking of the hundreds of days I spent riding my mountain bike up over the hills to spend hours with friends makes my heart fill with gratitude. Idle time was seen by many of our parents as time for trouble, but we rarely found any. What we did find was a childhood and adolescence spent “hanging out” with each other before the internet meant much, and long before cell phones were common, let alone in any of our own hands. 

Sitting alongside the Kern River watching tourists go by on river rafts, walking circles around the high school football field talking, getting to know my future best friend, cleaning the hotel pool area in the early morning at my high school job. Thinking about being outside in the warm summer air, just me, the smell of chlorine, and the sound of the birds at 7am sometimes leads me to think that maybe we have gotten so far away from analog behaviors, solitude, and personal connection that we are suffering – mentally and physically. But how do we go back to that feeling – the one that we seem to find whenever our minds are left to fend for themselves?

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive abilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. 

My intention is not to emphasize an unrealistically ideal society pre-modern technology and to suffocate you with nostalgic tales from my childhood. What I do mean to do is evoke that sense of calm in you that I believe comes from the fulfillment and mental rewards we reap from the combination of experiencing a balance and abundance of solitude and personal one-on-one connections with other people.

I find myself researching Digital Minimalism, efficiency and effectiveness in my business and personal life, and my own cognitive potential, realizing that not only are those topics interconnected on many levels, but in my opinion, crucially dependent on one another for their success. As a society we’ve strayed away from meaningful connections and failed to give ourselves and others the permission to spend significant time on work that captures our undivided attention. The result: Our lives are spent toiling away on work that does not fulfill us, and on media platforms that do not produce the amount of value they’ve promised for the time we’re haphazardly giving away. If Instagram was charging you per minute to use their service, how much would it be worth to you? As it turns out, “liking” your friend’s post does cost us something huge: time. The only resource we cannot replenish. When it comes to our time, we should be counting our pennies, but instead we all spend like we have millions in the bank.

Personally, I enjoy and find fulfillment in one-on-one time spend with other people, and time spent alone, producing what I consider to be my “deep work” which usually has something to do with writing. The problem that I’ve encountered, and that has become glaringly obvious to me recently, is that I’ve positioned myself in a career where my personal connections are bountiful and meaningful, I’ve etched out time in my schedule to produce high-quality work, and I’m maintaining a blog and four social media accounts. And it’s too much. I did not replace personal connection with online or shallow connections, I merely added them all in, on top of the heavy client load and the real brick-and-mortar business location I currently run. Shocking fact: I have only had a personal Instagram account for three years. What value is it really producing? Not much.

For those of you unfamiliar with the day-to-day operations of a full time esthetician, my schedule looks like this: From around 8am to 7pm three days a week I book back to back clients during all of these hours for a minimum of thirty minutes and a maximum of three hour long appointments. During this time I will render any combination of skincare and makeup services, typically in a private room behind closed doors, in a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. This means that on any given client work day I will have an average of around ten one-on-one conversations. Many of my clients are friends, almost every single one has been coming to see me for several years. So we know each other and our talks are meaningful and rarely surface level. For roughly 33 hours per week I am in an intense state of concentration and attentiveness. I am producing quality work which requires practice and skill, providing a quality environment that requires thought, intention, and execution, and I am cultivating meaningful personal connections and conversation, which requires my full and undivided attention.

In addition to these client hours, I have event hours which typically include several weddings a month where my ability to concentrate and produce quality work in intensely distracting and high-stress environments is vital. And lastly, office hours which I’ve widdled down to two efficient hours per week doing paperwork and making phone calls – another task that requires my undivided attention to complete, lest I digress to completing these tasks haphazardly throughout my week, distracting me from client work.

I believe that I have cultivated the ability to work deeply and to socialize deeply because my career depends on it. And at this point in our history those skills are becoming increasingly more rare, and therefore, more valuable. The problem: I concentrate deeply for roughly 40-45 hours per week in a very social environment and then go home and try to socialize online, or text/email/call back any clients who are trying to contact myself or my business. My energy is so depleted by that point that I have basically none remaining for myself, my husband, or my personal relationships outside of work and social media. Perhaps I am not becoming more anti social, but rather, more intolerant of allowing my time to be monopolized by anything that produces shallow or ambiguous value.

I built the majority of my client base before I used social media much at all, and many of the most successful business people I know rarely use it. If they do, it is with intention to produce a specific value. The haphazard use of social media networking tools to produce a very abstract value is not serving me, or my business in real life. What does serve me and my clients is a thoughtful, professional environment, quality services and deep connections. In order for me to produce these things, I need solitude, and in order for me to feel content and happy I need to be “immersed in something challenging.” 

As Newport would say, it is time to “drain the shallows” to fill what room is left in my bucket with deep work.

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Luxe Headshots by The Studio by Kimberly Ann

http://www.photosbykimberlyann.com/contact.html

Women In Business Series:  Kelly Lende Owner Pawsitive Experience

1) Explain what your business and professional background is.

My name is Kelly Lende and I own Pawsitive Experience – a full service professional dog grooming salon in Eureka, California. I have been grooming since 2012 when I completed a month-long intensive training and then an additional 100 grooms to receive my Professional Pet Stylist Certification. After working in different types of grooming salons for a few years I rented a booth and started to build up private clientele. I took everything I learned and turned it into my ideal groom shop for pet safety and comfort, opening Pawsitive Experience in January of 2017.

2) Tell us about your personal background/growing up around animals. Do you have any Pets now?

When I was born my family lived on a small ranch where I grew up with the sweetest yellow lab, Maggie, and an appaloosa quarter horse named Clipper. They were the best. My sister and I would dress Maggie up in different outfits, and I remember sneaking down to the field where, with the tap of a rock against a metal fence panel, Clipper would let us climb onto her back with no saddle or even a halter, and she would walk us around the five-acre field. I was in love, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I wanted to work with animals – I remember wanting to become a veterinarian.

Over the years I’ve owned bunnies, sheep, birds, dogs, cats, horses, rats, hamsters, fish, and even a steer. Each one held a special place in my heart, but there has always been something about dogs that I love the most! My husband and I now own the sweetest little terrier mix, Scruffy, and my beautiful blue standard poodle, Lincoln. We like to do everything with our fur babies, from camping and hiking to trips to our favorite vacation rental in Carmel, CA. My life wouldn’t feel complete without them!

3) What led you to a full-time career working with animals?

Shortly after I graduated from Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo I decided to become a registered veterinarian technician like my older sister. I was so jealous of her mentally stimulating career which allowed her to work with animals, so I moved to attend Yuba College and before I had even packed up my apartment I applied and was offered a job at Petsmart as a bather in the groom shop. I never really liked the job. It was so fast paced that I didn’t even remember most of the names of the dogs I bathed, but I was in college and it was paying the bills. After just a few months they asked if I would like to attend academy to become a groomer. At the time, good pay and full-time flexible employment was my priority, so I agreed. I headed off to Sacramento for a month-long training and I fell in love with it. I spent more time with every dog and I got to connect with them as well as use my artistic talent. I quickly began to excel and when I got back to my store, I built up regular clients quickly.

After a few months the semester was ending and it was time to apply and start the two-year vet tech program when I realized, I wanted to do this job forever. I was working with animals, getting to be creative and artistic, and doing something that made me smile every day. 

4) Do you think that your business has allowed you to understand and connect with animals better?

I do. I can usually immediately tell how an animal is feeling when they come in, and am aware of their emotional changes during the grooming process. For instance, I may be told a dog is aggressive but realize they’re actually just scared. I feel like I am very in-tune with small signals and behaviors, and I can tell that the animals are also in tune with mine. If I am stressed or upset they know that, therefore, being aware and in control of my own emotions is also a key part of my job. My business is successful if my dogs are safe and feel as comfortable as possible while in my care. Making money is nice, but the emotional and physical well being of my clients is my number one priority.

5) What is one valuable lesson animals have taught you about yourself?

My work with animals has showed me the importance of patience and compassion. Grooming is something that can frighten many dogs, but with unending patience and compassion for their sweet little souls I can help ease them through every process. Dogs are so innocent. Ninety-nine percent of the time the seemingly naughty dogs are just scared and need to build more trust with me. I love having the patience to slow down and understand what they are really going through. 

6) What is one valuable lesson animals have taught you about themselves?

Animals have shown me the happiness and unconditional love that comes from living in the moment. I think that is why we all love animals. They never hold a grudge. They never accuse, blame, or expect anything from us, and are filled with joy at the smallest act of kindness. If you pay attention, they can show you how to love, and how to live if you want a happy life.

7) What is one valuable lesson animals have taught you about other people/the world as a whole?

When I first started my grooming career I thought it would be perfect for me because I got to work with dogs and not with people. I thought people were the source of every problem in this world, and I would be happier avoiding them, but in fact it showed me the opposite. In a sense I learned to see people through the eyes of their dogs, who can look past all our quirks and just appreciate us. I found that there are so many more people out there who treat their dogs as a part of the family and couldn’t imagine a life without the love and laughter they bring. Dogs have taught me there is something good and kind inside every person. 

General Questions:

8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

I’d have to say when my husband told me I was capable of opening my own business. I’ve never had self-confidence, and opening up your own business, no matter how small, is scary. Without his belief in me I probably wouldn’t have my cute little shop, or the opportunity to bring a little happiness to our furry, four-legged friends. 

Additionally, I grew up watching my dad run his tire shop, Mulkey and Kovacovich, which helped instill in me a strong work ethic straight from childhood. Even though he closed the business when I was still a preteen I remember thinking that I wanted to run it when I grew up. Throughout my life I learned, as many of us do, that I had to work hard to succeed. I learned the value of integrity and the importance of clocking countless behind-the-scenes hours. These lessons have helped me so much along my professional journey.

9) What has been the biggest challenge/biggest reward from owning your own business?

All of it is a challenge! Owning my own business has been so much harder than I thought it would be. When you become your own boss, suddenly the work day doesn’t stop at 5pm, but instead continues around the clock. Finding the balance between giving it my all at work and keeping my sanity is something I’m still in the process of perfecting. I now make sure to silence my phone after work, take time for myself and my health, and take good vacations every now and then. 

The greatest reward has been to create the exact type of business I’ve always wanted and watch it succeed. I worked in several places before opening my own shop, learned from all of my experiences, and then dreamed up the ideal grooming scenario. Watching it come to life has been amazing.

10) What is one book that changed your life? Briefly describe why.

If I only get to pick one book, it has to be Loving What Is, by Bryon Katie. This book taught me how to find my own truth and to stop believing everyone else’s. I learned to recognize and notice the thoughts in my own head and then how to question if they are actually true for me. It taught me to how to have a relationship of love and honesty with myself, and therefore with every person I meet. I am still working on this process every chance I get, and for me it has been completely life-changing.

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4044 Broadway Street, Eureka CA

707-497-8279

https://m.facebook.com/pawsitivepetstyling/

Women In Business Series: Angela Boults Co-Owner Escape Salon & Skin Studio

Today’s blog edition is a special interview dedicated to one of my closest friends, Angela Boults. Angie has played a major role in mentoring and supporting me personally and professionally throughout the last decade, during half of which we worked together. Her kindness, honesty, non-judgmental guidance, and intellectual incite has proven invaluable to me during times of abundance and growth, but more importantly, during the lonely and challenging moments in my life. I call her a mentor because I believe she leads with a vulnerable and open heart and in doing so has helped create a community of strong female cooperation and empowerment. So much can be learned from her success doing so.

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1) Explain what your business is, and your role in the company.

Escape Salon & Skin Studio is a full-service salon established in February of 2012. I am a co-owner with my business partner Amy Kolshinski. We are both licensed estheticians (skin care therapists). 

2) Tell us a little about yourself, your professional background, and why you chose to get into the beauty service industry. 

I am a Humboldt County native. I was a dental assistant for seven years before discovering the world of esthetics. I have always been someone enchanted by all things beauty, but knew that I didn’t have a passion for hair or nails. It wasn’t until one day on my lunch hour when I went to have my lip waxed that it clicked for me. After my ten-minute service my friend said: “That will be $12.” At the time I was making $12 hourly and was struggling to love my job. The salon environment was fun and energetic and stirred something in me. I had made a comment to my cosmetologist friend about how I could totally see myself doing waxing but had no interest in the “other stuff.” She told me about Frederick and Charles Beauty College in Eureka and their esthetics program. That was it for me! As a single mom of three, it wasn’t an overnight change – I had to develop a plan. But six months later I had quit my dental assisting job and was enrolled full-time in the December 2006 esthetics program at Frederick and Charles Beauty College. The program took 600 hours to complete and it was the best thing I ever did for myself. 

3) What is it like working with an all-woman team and co-owning with another woman who happens to be a best friend? 

Amy and I joke all the time that we are totally “cheating” at the job thing. We have been in business together over seven years and have never had an argument. I couldn’t have imagined a world where my work environment is so fun, supportive, and full of love. My business partner and I are different in a lot of ways but also complement each other well. Amy is very organized and methodical. She takes care of all the logistical aspects of the business. I tend to be the more social of the two of us. If we need to network or engage in a challenging conversation, I am usually the woman for that job. All other situations are figured out together. There are six of us who work out of our salon: Amy and myself are estheticians, Katrina is our massage therapist and airbrush spray tan specialist, Yvette is killing it on fingers and toes (natural nail care), and JoAnn and Sarah are our talented and experienced hair stylists. We are all self-employed booth renters. These women empower me to be the best version of myself every day. We encourage and lift each other up without judgment and actually enjoy our interactions with each other. It is a unique working environment in that way. 

4) Do you feel that working with (predominantly) female clients and colleagues helps to create community? If so, why. 

I 100% agree that our work environment and the people (mostly women) we encounter foster a sense of community. We all actually care about each other. It would be impossible to share many hours with someone over the course of a year and not become part of their life. Our interactions with our clients and our co-workers impact who we are as a whole. Our world is opened up. New ideas and views are formed. Connections are made and relationships grow. People initially come to us for beauty and relaxation services. They return, over and over again, because of what transpires during those appointments. And I am so overjoyed and thankful that they do. 

5) What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned from spending so much time with women of all different backgrounds and life situations? 

I think the most powerful thing I’ve discovered in my years as an esthetician is that despite our amazing and beautiful differences, we are all basically the same. We all want to be loved, supported, validated, and respected. And sometimes we just want someone to listen. 

6) What is beauty to you? And how does your work environment foster that idea? 

Beauty is confidence. And confidence is beautiful. Does a single facial or leg waxing erase every self-perceived imperfection? Ummm… that would be a no. BUT, spending time taking care of one’s self can make them feel important. And the valuable choice to invest in ourselves makes us more confident. Putting ourselves on our own list is beautiful and necessary. 

7) What is one thing you hope your kids learn from your journey as a female business owner? 

More than anything, I hope my kids have observed that what we do for a living should be part of our life, not our entire existence. That everyone deserves to feel respected, happy, and valued in their profession. Life is short, but it can feel very long if you don’t love what you’re doing with it. 

General Questions:

8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

“You can’t please everyone.” Struggling to do so is fruitless and results in frustration. 

9) What is the biggest challenge and biggest reward of owning your own small business? 

The biggest challenge at times is knowing that I’m it. There is no one else to blame if things don’t work out. The biggest reward is that I am able to cultivate my environment. I create a space of acceptance for everyone and it feels pretty damn good. 

10) Tell us about one book that changed your life. 

The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz changed my life. I chose two books because they really go together. The idea of these books is how to achieve heaven on earth by changing our agreements with the universe. The first agreement is to “be impeccable with your word.” Say things that need to be said, speak the truth, and do not gossip. The second agreement is to “not take anything personally.” What people do and say has nothing to do with you and everything to do with who they are and what they are going through. The third agreement is to “not make assumptions.” Take things for what they are and ask questions if you have them. The fourth agreement is to always do your best. Your best will vary from day to day but as long as you give what you can to everything you think and do, you’ll be on the right path. And the fifth agreement is to “listen but be skeptical.” Which I understand as actively listening to what people are telling you but knowing that every piece of information comes with a healthy dose of opinion. Doing my best to implement these five agreements has helped me to become a more effective communicator and has therefore helped improve the quality of my day to day interactions with others.

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http://www.escapesalon.org

215 7th Street, Eureka CA

707-269-0199

@eureka.escape

Women In Business Series: Amber Reiners Owner Stonesthrow Boutique

1) Briefly describe yourself and your business.

My name is Amber Reiners and I own Stonesthrow Boutique, a woman’s clothing and accessories store here in Eureka, CA. Owning a boutique has been my dream since I was old enough to have career aspirations! I didn’t feel confident enough to pursue fashion after high school, nor did I have the knowledge or capital to start a business, so I ended up getting a degree in education and working as a teacher for five years. Throughout high school and college I enjoyed working in retail but didn’t see myself having a career working for a large chain store or corporation. While I was working as a teacher my mom opened a franchise boutique back in my home state of Minnesota. I worked for her on weekends during my last year teaching and that’s when I realized how much happier I would be if I pursued my dream of owning a store. I moved from Minnesota to California in the spring of 2015 and by that September Stonesthrow Boutique was open for business!

2) What do you sell at your store? Do you try to incorporate any cruelty-free / environmentally responsible / ethically sourced fashion?

We sell clothing, handbags, shoes, jewelry, and other small gift items like cards and candles. Some of our brands are proud to advertise that they are environmentally responsible and cruelty-free, while others make it harder to know. While I don’t know that any of the brands we carry right now have unethical practices, sometimes there isn’t a lot of information regarding this topic available. Often times the representatives we work with from the companies themselves do not know much about the factory where the clothing is made so we have to do our best to find information ourselves, or look for brands that readily share their practices. I’m really excited about some of the new graphic tee brands we are bringing in this summer! One is called Educated Earthling – their shirts have great messages, but they’re also ethically-made in the USA using water-based inks, with 100% recycled and plastic-free packaging. A portion of their proceeds are donated to environmental organizations as well.

3) Do you have inquiries from customers regarding accessibility to these types of fashion choices? Do you think people make the connection between fashion and animal byproduct use at all?

Unfortunately it is very seldom that customers ask about cruelty-free / environmentally responsible / ethically sourced fashion. On the rare occasion that it does come up, we show them the options we have in-store that meet this criteria and let them know that we are always looking to bring in more brands with similar missions and values. I do not think the majority of consumers realize how impactful these issues are within the fashion industry, or how much waste is produced by it each year. We do have customers ask if our handbags or shoes are made with real leather from time to time. Some people ask because they don’t want real leather while others ask because they only buy genuine leather. Polyurethane (aka “PU” or “vegan leather”) has improved dramatically in look and quality and we make an effort to show customers that high-quality accessories can have the same look and feel of real leather without the negative impact on animals and the environment. But some people are harder to convince than others.

4) Do you believe that you can provide the same quality and style not using animal products? Particularly with shoes, purses, accessories, etc.

Yes I think so! We only have two real leather items in the store and they are great quality, but the similar items we have that are vegan leather are also high-quality, but with a much lower price point. I think brands are starting to realize they don’t need real leather to make nice products and consumers are starting to catch on as well. As stylists we continue to educate customers on the materials and benefits of choosing responsibly sourced, cruelty-free items, and that also makes a difference.

5) Is it difficult to find high-quality fashionable alternatives to lines that typically utilize animal products?

Not for us since the majority of what we carry isn’t designer or high-end labels, which is often where animal products are incorporated into fashion. I’ve been looking to replace the remaining non-vegan items at Stonesthrow with cruelty-free alternatives, and the process has been easier than expected. I’m attending a big trade show in August, and I’m looking forward to talking with the representatives from a specific brand we work with to let them know we would be greatly interested in seeing them offer vegan alternatives (or even better, shifting toward only vegan products throughout the company). I also enjoy taking the opportunity to seek out new, ethical, environmentally-friendly and cruelty-free lines at trade shows.

6) Do you notice a shift in the industry to offering more socially and environmentally responsible alternatives? Ie: banning fur

Yes I definitely notice a shift! I think the general population has become increasingly aware of being more socially and environmentally responsible in recent years and that is reflected by the fashion industry. Major labels such as: Tommy Hilfiger, Stella McCartney and Giorgio Armani have been fur-free for a while and more recently other notables including: Versace, Michael Kors, Gucci and Prada have followed suit. These luxury labels set the trends so I believe it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the industry catches on.

7) Do the cruelty-free fashion options cost you more to purchase, therefore causing the price to go up for customers?

Cruelty-free doesn’t usually cost more because the materials are less expensive than animal materials to produce. Some smaller brands do charge more for being made in the USA, being environmentally-friendly, or using less wasteful packaging materials, but fortunately it’s not typically enough of a cost increase to make a difference in whether or not we order from that brand, or resell to customers at a standard price point.

General Questions:

8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Not to worry about what others are doing, especially your competitors. Just focus on making yourself and your business the best you can, and everything else will fall into place.

9) What has been the biggest challenge / biggest reward from owning your own business?

The biggest challenge I face as a small business owner is learning how to manage my time. I serve so many roles in my company and it can be challenging to get to every task in a given day, or to allocate my time to what needs the most attention. Ironically, I also struggled with this as a teacher! It gets easier as time goes on and I gain experience. I’ve also become better at delegating tasks to my employees and asking for help when I need it. Another challenge specific to the fashion industry is predicting trends ahead of time. Much of our buying takes place at a trade show two or three seasons before the products are in-store for purchase. In August I will be picking out styles that will be shipped to the store before the holidays and in early spring.

The most rewarding aspect of owning a business is seeing people wearing things they purchased from my store. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a girl out in public looking great in something she got from Stonesthrow, or when customers come back to the store later to tell us how much they love what they purchased. When you like what you’re wearing and look good in it, you feel good too. We don’t just dress people, we help them feel comfortable in their skin and proud to present themselves to the world. That’s why I do what I do.

10) What is one book that changed your life? Briefly describe why.

My favorite book (and one that changed my life) actually falls into the young adult genre. It was first read to me by my fifth grade teacher, and I’ve read it at least a dozen times since then. It’s called Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. The title comes from the phrase in the book: “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” This reminds me to put myself in someone else’s position before judging them or making assumptions about how they feel, which helps me as a business owner and also in my personal relationships.

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https://www.stonesthrowboutique.com

326 2nd Street, Eureka CA

707-269-7070

@stonesthrowboutique

3 Reasons It’s Hard Being Vegan

“It’s expensive.”

“My family isn’t supportive.”

“I can’t get the nutrients I need to meet my fitness goals.”

“I can’t eat anything.”

“The jokes and public ridicule never stop.”

“My husband only eats meals with meat.”

“I crave animal products all the time.”

NONE OF THOSE ARE THEM.

Do you notice any vegans complaining about these things? No – not anyone who commits to a vegan lifestyle in full for a time period long enough to reap the benefits. Why is that? Because these are actually excuses or ideas perpetuated by dominant culture, and by people who aren’t vegan. These may be occasional annoyances for vegans, but things that are truly, actually hard? No. They’re reasons people give themselves to not go vegan, because if you’ve never done it, how would you know what’s hard about it? The interesting thing about choosing to omit as much harm as possible from your life is that your perspective on what is “hard” drastically changes, because your priorities and the way that you view the world shifts dramatically. Let me explain.

1) Dominant culture assumes that vegans think we’re superior to everyone. That we’re “preachy” and believe that our moral framework is the only one that matters. The hard part about that: We are vegan because we DO NOT believe that we’re superior to anyone. Illegitimizing and silencing social movements is the norm, therefore dominant culture and what is accepted as truth is what takes on an actual role of superior “knowledge.” We are actually challenging that superiority with a different framework.

The idea that humans are the superior species is rooted in religion and history (patriarchy and white supremacy) and science has been used to justify colonization and destruction of our planet based on this assumption. Animals are here for us, not with us, and therefore we should dominate them and consequently dominate nature and the earth. Even so, throughout history only the most privileged groups of humans have truly benefited from this thinking. From my experience, even the vegans who stop eating animals for health or environmental reasons eventually conclude that we are not superior to all the other souls on this planet, we were just lucky enough to be born into the body of the species that happens to be on the top of the food chain for this very short blip in time. But the universe is vast, and to assume my life is more important that anyone else’s is not only foolish, but naive and selfish. The proof is in climate change, preventable disease, species extinction, world hunger, and institutionalized inequality.

Ultimately, I do not think that we can break down systems of power and inequality without realizing that each day, 99% of the population is choosing to dominate and kill other species based on the idea that we are inherently superior. And these choices are not only killing animals, but our earth and ourselves as well.

2) Watching my friends and family members pay to perpetuate a system I strongly want to dismantle is hard.

The closest thing I can compare this experience to is the connection people are now making with “the personal is political.” Whether you choose to admit it or not, the food choices (and basically every choice you make) is a political one. You vote for the world you want to live in every single time you spend money or make a choice. How you live your day-to-day life is your political position whether you’re willing to admit it or not, just by existing and navigating throughout your day.

Some people are beginning to realize this, and it makes it harder to separate our friends and family from their political choices. Rightfully so. It seems that until recently many of us were willing to overlook our loved ones’ behaviors and somehow compartmentalize them into a political box separate from their identity. In my opinion, that is absurd.

Therefore, choosing to be vegan is a political choice. Watching friends and family claim to love animals but then eat and wear them makes no sense. Having those closest to me seem disturbed by violent and horrific factory farming practices pay their hard-earned money to keep these businesses afloat shakes me. Most people claim to be kind and compassionate – in theory we want to do as little harm as possible because we are empathetic beings. But we have separated ourselves from our food production to the extent that our values directly contradict our behaviors. And many of us are complicit to continue down this path of least resistance even though the cost is so high. We’re consuming death, and therefore we’re dying and our planet is dying. It’s impossible for me to accept that once you know these things your behavior wouldn’t change. But most of the time, for most people, it doesn’t.

Accepting that our friends and family are the ones working in direct opposition to our goals and their own best interest (even when most of them know the truth) is hard.

3) Going vegan will cause you to hold yourself at a higher standard of behavior, and therefore recognize that it is your responsibility to challenge this unjust world to help it become better. You have to do this through example, and some are waiting for you to fail. That is hard.

It’s an extremely complex thing to explain, but once you begin to reject violence as normal, everything in your life will change. There is a consciousness shift that occurs once you remove harm from your day to day life that will ripple positivity outward into everything you do. For me, this began with going vegetarian, then vegan, then I began asking myself what other ways I’m contributing to harmfulness in the world. How can I be better? I can shop locally, I can be more mindful of the clothes I buy, I can support companies who value animal and human rights above a larger profit margin. Going vegan influences all of your decisions, and I would argue, only in a positive way. It’s like you’re systematically eliminating the negativity from your life when you stop accepting it and paying for it.

Personally, I’m more motivated to reach fitness goals because I feel more physically capable. I quit drinking alcohol altogether and try to eat less processed foods which has vastly diminished my depression and anxiety. Intellectually, veganism has encouraged me to keep learning. For the first time in years I feel motivated to write so I started this blog and have been freelancing a bit on the side. And ultimately I’m realizing that my purpose is pushing me toward education and activism so I can more formally teach these ideas. And the best part of all these positive changes is that they multiply, and spread from person to person, making my relationships and community better.

Because all of this is so AMAZING and life-changing, vegans want to share it with everyone. And few people are willing to listen, and even fewer people are willing to change. So this can be discouraging, sad, and frustrating. It can be difficult to not feel defeated and depressed because the world is changing slower than we’d like it to. That is hard.

But I come back to that mantra: “Choose your hard.” I’ve chosen truth over convenience, and I believe that is the key to happiness. As Shawn Achor says: “Happiness is striving toward your potential.” Unless you’re willing to face these truths, I don’t believe you can achieve your potential as someone who can enact change outside of yourself to make the world better. Veganism helps to widen your lens outside of your own selfish ego and personal needs to recognize knowledge is peace and that these issues are much larger than ourselves.

The “hard” things in my life now stem from a place of compassion, kindness, and positive social change.

New Goals & My Life’s Purpose

Everybody Loves Raymond is one of my favorite shows. There’s an episode where Ray decides that there must be more to life than he currently has: A successful career, a loving family, a nice home, a retirement plan. His wife Debra confronts this idea with a response like: “Maybe you feel like there’s nothing left to achieve because you have everything you’ve always wanted.” Basically, you have everything; stop complaining. This throws Ray into somewhat of an existential crisis, unsure if his current routine will fulfill him for the rest of his years. He’s only in his early forties from what I can tell and the thought of there being nothing left to achieve makes life seem repetitious and somewhat pointless. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it privilege – sometimes I think we should acknowledge those feelings as subtle encouragement from ourselves (and the universe, if you’re into that) to pursue things that we’re drawn to, even if we’re unsure the reason. Because there is usually a big reason.

The idea that because we have reached a certain pinnacle of “success” we will be happy or fulfilled is completely false. Success is arbitrary and fluid. We’ve let others define what success means for us. Research has found that external conditions have almost nothing to do with internal happiness. Getting that job may cause us to experience temporary joy but does not predict long-term happiness. Why? Because there is more to being human than getting a promotion and making more money, but that’s what we’ve been taught to strive for.

This brings up the dilemma that I’ve been pondering recently. Can I simultaneously have gratitude and live with happiness in the moment while recognizing that I need more out of this life? While acknowledging that what I am currently doing is not fulfilling my purpose?

Five short years ago I was in the darkest place that I’ve ever been. Depressed, anxious, sad. I had lost my job and a person very important to me has unexpectedly died. But now I truly believe that without losing what I thought was everything, I wouldn’t have felt free to do anything I wanted to. Which brings me to my current life that I would’ve never had, had things not fallen completely apart.

Recently I’ve started to wonder if the life that I’m living now is the facilitator instead of the end-all be-all. I have my amazing husband, my dogs, my business, my awesome sister and supportive clients because I’ve really worked hard and changed my habits to create this life. Because I currently have certain systems in place, I am now able to pursue things elsewhere that are calling me, and that have been quietly pushing me to them since I can remember. But I also recognize how temporary everything in life is, so I struggle to find the balance to enjoy where I currently am without thinking of the future all the time. I always thought that once I had worked hard enough to create this life I envisioned, I’d be content to coast – shockingly I’m finding this not to be the case. (That is sarcasm, for those of you that may not know me in person.) Coasting is okay temporarily, but I know that for me to feel fulfilled I need to contribute to my community, and to making the world a better place to live in. I’m realizing that I didn’t go vegetarian almost half my life ago on accident, my journalism degree wasn’t an arbitrary choice. I didn’t lose my job for no reason. I believe all these events were pushing me toward my true purpose. I’m realizing that perhaps turning one of my talents (makeup) into a full time successful career path is not my life’s dream and purpose, but because of it, I can pursue whatever my true purpose is. It’s confusing and difficult to face that. But for me, even writing the words “makeup is my passion” seems silly to me. Because it’s not, and I’d be lying to everyone if I said it was.

Working with amazing women who contribute to our community and world is one of my passions, helping women to feel valued is one of my passions, making deep and lasting connections is one of my passions. Contributing to making my community and world better is one of my passions. Each connection ripples out to create positive change and mutual support for us all. I feel like Two Beauties is a practical application of those passions meeting in one location. With beauty being the initial purpose that brought us together, but over the years meaningful relationships make those connections last. This whole time I’ve thought being a successful beauty professional was my end-goal, and now I’m realizing it’s not. But that doesn’t make me love it any less. After thinking this over for a long time now, I’m realizing it makes me love it even more. Because I realize how special and rare it is. How privileged I am to have created it with everyone else’s support. And how temporary all things in life are. So it encourages me to pour more heart into it. Isn’t that weird? When I initially began reflecting, I thought if I admitted these things to myself, it would influence me to put less of myself into my business, but it encourages me to do the opposite, because at the end of the day it isn’t really all about beauty, is it?

My current conclusion: You can have great gratitude and live in happiness each day even if you are pursuing new goals and dreams. As long as you’re not chasing them out of unhappiness. Why do we feel like we need to achieve something and always move on? Or correct our temporary problems by changing the scenery? Or think the next thing will be better than the last? Maybe we can add to our lives to make them more full and rich while appreciating what we already have just as much. We can love our lives already, while also adding in more lovely things.

For some reason, I keep visualizing myself in a huge open field of flowers, with a basket full of the ones I’ve already picked. Instead of dumping them out to find “new, better ones,” I’ve decided to add different ones that are just as beautiful, each one complimenting the last, until the bunch is overflowing.

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As part of this process, I’ve decided to say yes to things that make me feel uncomfortable, but that give me that gut feeling of pursuing my purpose. This is my first published article since college and my first freelance writing job ever. I have so much gratitude for the oppurtunity. It’s amazing how a little 250-word article in a local magazine can light me up and encourage me to ask these questions about my life. Being Vegan and using my writing to inform and inspire people to pursue it is what drives me, but it’s taken a long time for me to really figure that out. And I know this is only the beginning for me.

Sensi Magazine, Emerald Triangle Edition: May 2019
Sensi Magazine, Emerald Triangle Edition: May 2019

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Check out the full issue at:

http://s3.amazonaws.com/document.issuu.com/190430165321-4dfd0e4d73e63dadcf57b1f32e9d7e1d/original.file?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIATDDRE5J76XO2TL4J&Expires=1556989386&Signature=J02FTsS40mqWz2vk7%2B6VTop70GQ%3D