Book Review – “Before We Were Yours”

To start, I must warn you, this has been one of the most excruciatingly painful books I’ve ever read.  The worst of it is it’s based on the real crimes of an actual person and their acts of heinous cruelty and neglect while running an orphanage filled with children she’d stolen from their families.

The horrors they endured, some to their own deaths, were beyond description and will not go into them here.  Suffice it to say, this woman, Georgia Tann, was a sadistic serial killer of children.  Young children.

Now imagine what the world is like through a child’s eyes. They and their four siblings living life on a shantyboat built by their father, sailing along through their lives, while their mother awaits the birth of a 6th sibling.  Something goes terribly wrong one night and Father has to rush Mother to the hospital for care and she goes into early labor.  The children are left on their family boat with the eldest, Rill, in charge.

All goes quickly downhill when authorities, paid handsomely by the director of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, swarm the riverside and tear the children away from all they’ve known and loved. They are taken, bewildered, bedraggled, terrified to the orphanage and subjected to torturous ritualistic scrubbings that do less to clean and more to harm but if they cry out, they’re locked in “The Closet”.

Any infraction will do to send a child to The Closet, a small room, completely dark, locked from the outside, and the children are basically forgotten for days at a time.  When they come out, they’re scarred emotionally, starved and close to death from thirst.  Some actually do go into The Closet and never are seen again.

There is a time split between Rill’s life as a child fighting to hold herself and her siblings together and the adult Rill, now May, in a senior living home.  ‘May’ meets Avery and Trent who’ve come to visit seeking answers about a letter Trent has left to Avery’s grandmother who also is in a senior living home, suffering from dementia.  He refuses to leave it with Avery, despite her POA documentation, due to the personal nature of its contents and a promise to leave it directly with Avery’s grandmother. What follows is an odyssey of anguish, enlightenment, shock, that leave both Avery & Trent reeling when they realize the reasons behind the letter.

Fans of true crime will be stunned by this story that focuses with laser precision on the dark times of the 1930s when the country was going through a deep depression and families lived hardscrabble lives that were simple yet, the children knew nothing else and were happy despite it all. For fans of podcasts, you can find this story in the True Crime Brewery’s YouTube channel here.  There are links in the description box on their channel for the iTunes Tiegrabber podcast.

Lisa Wingate’s approach was through a child’s voice, their emotions and even language were peppered throughout to give the reader a depth of feeling and empathy for those littlest victims of an abusive monster hiding behind a facade of respectability.  Ms Wingate’s words and flowing rendering of a mental painting hold you tightly with every turn of the page, leaving you with outrage for the wrongs perpetrated, the lost lives, and heartbroken for the parents who had no idea surrender papers had been forged with their names.  They were left lost, not knowing what happened to their babies. This story will keep you there in the 1930s as well as travel forward to the newest generation that’s only now discovering how that one hellish place impacted their lives forever.

Get the book from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

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The Evolution of a Brand

Over the many years I’ve been in business my brand has morphed from cozy and quaint to cool, sleek minimalist to elegant.  Today, it’s now a modern clean look with a twist.  It’s also colorful, bright and eye-catching.  That’s all about our growth of a business and of style, which is the natural order of things.  How many of us in business as entrepreneurs would design our brand, logo and all and keep it looking exactly the same every year for decades?  No one, really.  We all change, our preferences and likes change. Even our favorite foods change!

One thing that has not changed that I’ve always been focused on consistently was environmentally sound packaging.  I don’t use shrink bands because they’re plastic.  Yes, they’re thin, but they are still a plastic.  Labeling needs to be done with recycled materials.  Soaps are boxed in paper – card stock.  Not plastic. Body creams & butters are packaged in post-consumer resin tubs and they are black, so they look even more stylish while still being environmentally friendly.

My products are made with certified organic oils, which do cost a lot more than regular oils, but it matters to me to bring safer products to my customers than to clear a fatter bottom line.  I do still occasionally use palm oil, despite the stories that ripple through the internet about its harm to the forests and animals that live within it. The difference is, mine is certified organic as well as sustainably harvested.  Again, higher in cost, but ethically a better choice.  It matters.  Maybe no one will ever know that, but now at least you do.  Because your opinion matters.

You know what’s out there but do you know truly what it’s made of? When you do, what choice will you make – the less expensive one, buy a detergent to use on your skin and strip it bare of those precious skin oils only to run to the lotion bottle to put them back?  And for that matter what’s in that lotion bottle by your bedside?  How many syllables are in the ingredients on that label? Does it look more like a chemistry experiment than a body cream? Handcrafted soaps maintain that delicate balance of natural oils on your skin protecting it from bacteria, the drying effects from wind & sun and our lotions are also made from butters & oils for that exact same reason.

My brand has changed, it’s true, over the years, but only for the better for you, the oceans, the forests, the plants, the animals that are never used for testing, and better for me as well because I know I’ve done my due diligence, tested safely & ethically, offered the best product I know to create to my customers because they matter most of all.

It’s been a while….

but I am here, just have had life interfere with living creatively.  Stuff happens, you know?

I’ve found a stride in my work that flows around the new way of life I’m now living with. My husband is now retired, disabled and frequently in need of transportation so I drive – a lot.  Did I ever mention I hate driving?  So there’s that.

With a husband underfoot all the time now, it’s a challenge to get work done but with my foot firmly planted, I’ve set down some ground rules, making it quite clear there are certain work hours that will be observed regardless of what he wants to do.  Needs and wants are very far apart and definitely have nothing in common.

Since all of this has taken place, mainly over the past year, it’s now time to decide on what’s to come for the new year 2019.

I’ve discovered some new fragrances in collections offered by BrambleBerry, and with our season currently on the cold side, the Hygge collection is inspiration in a deep amber bottle!  I love all of these fragrances and they work flawlessly in all applications.  I’ve gotten large enough bottles of each one in this collection to be able to create wax melts, candles & bar soaps in each one. Their names even sound cozy –

Cashmere

Birchwood Oud

Cinnamon  Cocoa

Alpine Frost

Lingonberry

Naturally, with these lush looking names, I had to get new jars for the candles just to maintain that high standard set by the fragrance. CandleJars

I absolutely loved these jars when I found them for their simple lines and elegantly frosted sides!  So now I’m so excited to get started on making some stunning candles for the website with those yummy sounding scents dressed up perfectly in these lovely jars.  Keep an eye out for them to start appearing very soon on the site despite several doctors appointments and errands to run next week.  It’s just too tempting to see this supplies sitting around waiting for me to not work with them despite the hectic schedule.

 

Holiday making & creating

Most bath & body product crafters that I know in the many various groups in FaceBook make seasonal/holiday scented goods and sell out long before the actual big day arrives.  Typically I second guess doing the same thing.  I find all sorts of deliciously decadent scents, some have been used & rated as winners & great performers by other makers, other fragrances are a bit off the beaten path but sounds like festive additions to my lineup, but I rethink using holiday scents until it’s almost too late to make anything with them.  Mainly I fret over lost space.

I live in an old, small house with very little storage space so product cannot be a huge portion of what’s sitting around, so if I make even half of the scents I’d like to include for the holidays, I’d quickly run out of space to store them until they’re purchased.  So what would I do with the general catalog products I make – the year ’round scents in bar soaps, body washes, body creams, body butters, lip balms, candles, and wax melts? There are quite a few of those and they’re currently everywhere there’s an available spot.

Another problem would be leftovers.  Not the leftover turkey and multitudinous stylings it would be reincarnated into after Thanksgiving Day, but the leftover Christmas, Fall/Autumn, Halloween scented bars.  You know like smoky, woodsy, spicy, pumpkin, sweet bread, autumn leaves types of scents.  Where would they go in this tiny house? How to make room for the Christmasy scent? It’s tricky!

Still, I cannot resist the siren’s song of Christmas scents of pine, fir, balsam, juniper berries, cranberries, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, coffee, chocolate, sugar plums, currants, snow and frosty air scents that are the quintessential notes that whisper of holiday secrets and happy faces.  So I do holiday scents now, more than ever, and just have sales that clear them out as much as possible and any orphans (last remaining bar of any given batch) makes up Bargain Bags.  It works out well in the end and customers still get a chance to experience something wintry even in the depths of summer heat waves. Like finding a York Peppermint Patty in the back of your fridge or freezer.  Yummy surprise!

 

 

 

 

Something Wicked

In these quiet days, hours really, before Florence roars inland from North Carolina’s coastal region (or maybe South Carolina’s) there’s this holding of one’s breath, that breathless anticipation of what’s to come.  The not knowing that’s as terrifying as the reality once it’s here for what it could bring and does bring.

I live in the center of North Carolina, affectionately known as Piedmont, not to be confused with the Triad, which is where my daughter lives and beyond where my sons live.  Durham, precisely.  We are the epicenter for top-notch healthcare, among the best in the nation (as well as the most costly) for those times when it’s truly, often desperately needed like it was last November through January for my husband.  Given that fact of proximity, our infrastructure is a strong one, except for perhaps the streets.  Many are awful! When the power goes out during fierce storms or from downs trees/limbs, it’s the one saving grace to living in the city to have power restored quickly.  Sometimes even within minutes,

Such will not be the case with Florence. The very size, power, and potential for devastation will be a game changer for many in our area.  The wind speeds as of noon today were climbing back up from the drop to 140 mph. Our governor has declared a state of emergency and asked for disaster relief from Washington already because as North Carolinians/South Carolinians, we know from past experiences what these storms can do both during and after, particularly if they are expected to stall over the state as this one is expected to do.

Rainfall amounts are being measured in feet rather than inches.  Flood zones will be underwater for days or even weeks. Businesses, homes, and cars will be ruined. The high winds with this storm will bring down trees in full leaf due to the already saturated ground from our wetter than normal spring and summer. This can kill people, crush cars, smash into homes, shooting costs to homeowners through the roof – literally.

To add insult to injury, there are several others in a track across the Atlantic behind Florence – Isaac and Helene lurking nearby, just waiting for their turn.  The imagery is scary when you’re looking down the belly of this beast and know her cousins are waiting to take a swing at you in just a few days, kicking you when you’re down.

Chain of events in the Atlantic

This hurricane season is stacking up to live up to the expectations of the forecasting agencies near and far, local and national and what we need to do most is stay calm, stay informed, listen for alerts on evacuations or changes in direction, prep for the worst while you continue to hope for the best.

  • Plastic Ziploc bags will be your friends.
  • Store valuables in them and keep them in a safe, secure location, including important documents.
  • Put your cherished items in a safe place as well.  Cook up perishable meats in your freezer and store them in foil for reheating on warmers or grills when power isn’t available.
  • Keep both drinking water and non-potable water available for toilet flushing, even if you have to resort to sparkling water for drinking.  It’s still water.
  • Avoid salty snacks as they will increase your thirst, making your water supply run out faster.
  • Get canned goods with pull-tab tops that can be eaten straight out of the can.
  • Use granola bars, Slim-Fast or Breakfast Essentials – premade forms – for meal replacements in a pinch.  SlimFast has sugar free versions.
  • Puddings and Jellos, premade are available for snacking.
  • Most veggies can be eaten straight from the can without issues though they might not be as tasty.  Still, it’s sustenance in times that require only to survive.

Jeepers Creepers

It’s the little things that really annoy me most. Things like

  1. drinking directly from the milk carton then putting it back……
  2. filling up trash cans but never emptying them….
  3. mispronouncing words, adding letters that don’t exist in that word….
  4. creeping up on my back bumper at stop lights.

If I was the car behind you, I would not be crawling up closer despite the light remaining blindingly red.  I stop behind cars at stoplights while I can still see where their rear tires touch the pavement.  And don’t move until the light changes and they’ve begun to move. It’s safer.  Less pushy.  Less rude.  Not aggressive.  And if someone hits you from behind, you don’t end up in that front car’s trunk space.Two Drivers Arguing After Traffic Accident No anticipation of a change in color in sight and cars creep forward anyway. That really gets to me because if they’re in that same intersection on any other day, waiting for that light to go from red to green, they’ll creep forward so much while the light’s still red, they’re halfway into the intersection by the time the light actually goes green.  Yet they hesitate.  It’s green now and still, they sit there like there might be a better option and if they wait for it, it will appear.  Then, finally there’s a twitch, they leap forward, maybe at the sounds of the annoyed person behind them urges them on via a blast of their horn  because the light isn’t green for long, maybe 15 seconds then it’s all over and you wait again for two cycles before it’s your turn again.

I live in the city, a heavily trafficked street runs just a few feet from my front door and through the years I’ve seen, and heard, pretty much everything possible that can be done in traffic.  Throw in a complication or obstruction like street repair, fixing a broken water line or burying a cable streetside, and it’s every man, woman or child for themselves.  It gets nasty.  Quickly.

I’ve often stood at the front facing window in wonder at the craziness that is our city traffic.  No signals because, well, it’s too much trouble and I’m sure they’ll get out of the way in time.  Maybe they’ll even read the signal-less drivers mind.  No small wonder that I hate driving not only here but pretty much anywhere.  I don’t have any choice right now with my husband unable to drive right now, but well, it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Wonder how some of these folks managed to get a driver’s license if they drive like this or maybe they fake it when they’re taking a driving test?  Fake it ’til you make it?

Driving is a necessary part of life now so why can’t other drivers just chill, be kind, share the road politely, don’t creep up so close you owe me dinner and a movie if not a ring on it?  Just sayin’.

 

 

Being Green

On being green, unlike Kermit’s refrain of not being easy to do, we can manage it easily enough when choosing paper over plastic in the checkout lane of our favorite grocery store or even bringing our own.  We choose to be green when we donate old, well-read and thoroughly enjoyed hardbacks and paperbacks to our local libraries.  Composting in your own backyard is as simple as taking out those eggshells to the compost bin.  Pinterest has plenty of inspiration for how to DIY with all sort of materials for bins.  So why wouldn’t we be green?  It’s painless, doesn’t cost us anything, and reduces the amount of plastic that continue to rise in our lakes, streams, oceans, forests, roadsides, and yards (how many times have we plucked a wayward plastic store bag from our rosebushes).

environment conservation in your hands - usa

As a small business owner, it’s often not just a conscious choice, but rather an ethical one and an economic one.  While plastic is cheaper and lighter, making shipping costs lower, it pollutes – pervasively.  Made from petroleum by-products, it’s not exactly clean or green, so why use it?

Here’s the dilemma I face when choosing to package bath & body products.  Yes, the plastics are cheaper and lighter as mentioned, but since my products are for bath & body care, they are often in areas with lots of water, which can make them slippery when wet.  If that bottle slips out of a wet hand or drops into a tub not filled with water, the glass could break, causing harm to my customers.  I can’t sleep at night for thinking about that! Yet, I prefer glass.  It’s easily recycled, clear, providing my customers with a transparent window on my carefully crafted body wash or lotion so they see what they’re getting, what’s going on their skin.  Transparency is especially good for business!

So of course, since glass is preferred from an environmental standpoint, it isn’t always the safest for small business owners who are concerned for their livelihood and their products’ safety.  So what’s a small business owner to do?  I’m listening to my conscience. I’m changing the way I do business over a gradual period of time to use more recycled/recyclable packaging, more paper, less plastic or only that which can be recycled or is biodegradable.  Yes, it costs more, but it’s a sound decision from a personal as well as a professional & environmental standpoint.