And just like that, another school year is over and summer vacation is here. Where does the time go, we all ask ourselves. I see it on the Facebook posts of my friends and in the school yard at pick up on the last day. The faces of some of the 5th grade girls – tentative, a little bit vulnerable, clutching on to their friends (some for the last time, I’m sure) – was a bit heartbreaking. I felt for them because we’ve all been there and I still remember what it felt like to transition from one school to the next. In those transitional years, the arrival of summer vacation is mixed with celebratory relief, but also some anxiety at the unfamiliar that’s to come down the road in 2 months. As an adult you think how glad you are to not have to go through those awkward school years again, but when you have kids, you do sort of relive it again through them. Sometimes it feels completely surreal and weird.
We started off summer this weekend bumbling around the North Fork of Long Island, stopping at familiar spots that we hadn’t visited in awhile. The weather was unusually cool, but the pace of summer was undeniably present.
Being at the beach in that particular area made me think about the summer we rented a house when the girls were small. Perhaps it’s because we had just attended a 5th grade graduation ceremony, but I was feeling extra nostalgic. I asked the girls to humor me and hold hands down the road like they did so many years ago in one of my favorite photos of summer. I wanted to compare the photos and see how they’ve grown. Cheesy, I know. They rolled their eyes and groaned at me, but they did it after some coaxing. Just to humor their sentimental mom.
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It’s a pretty great thing when you witness for the first time, sheer joy from your child when she gets something that she really really wanted. Not talking about toys or material things, but something that she worked for or achieved. It’s like the first peek into adulthood, really, and a next level of pride that you maybe haven’t experienced before as a parent. Why this, why now? Because it’s her achievement and victory, not yours, and she gets to share it with you and not the other way around.
There’s only 7 more days left in the school year and you know by now that when June rolls around, it always bittersweet around here. Another grade, another chapter done, and as the kids get older and the grade numbers get higher, it’s starts to feel like a countdown of sorts to the number of years that we have left with them before they go to college. This year, in particular, is a big year as we transition to middle school so the end of school year activities are even more loaded with sentiment. There’s also going to be a graduation. I still remember how sad the last day of preschool was for us, mostly the parents, because it’s a big change for us too as you leave one community for another. Even though it’s a big change for the kid and all the upcoming transitions might seem daunting, she isn’t sad to say good bye to the school she spent the last 6 years of her life in because she’s way too excited about middle school and all the newness surrounding it. That’s admirable for someone so sentimental like me because I know she has her head in the future and not stuck on what’s already behind her.
It’s hard to know when to step in and when to step back, but it’s time now to step back a bit and let the kid make her own mistakes. Middle school is a bit like training wheels on a bike. You’re there in the background if you need to catch them, but they need to navigate through these changes themselves. For them, it’s riding the line between being a kid and a young adult. Depending on the day, she might feel one way more than the other. For us, it’s riding the line between control and letting go. It’s uncomfortable, but anything involving growth and change always is.
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More than ever before, I feel quite split into multiple work personalities. If I’m feeling critical, I might say that I’m avoiding a commitment one way or the other. If I’m feeling generous, I might say that I’m just making sure that we’re not putting all of our eggs in one basket by pursuing all opportunities. Jobs, the economy, clients, customers, trends – they can all be fickle, so it’s hard to say no while opportunities still manage to come my way. It’s that freelance mentality. When you’ve created this life supported by hobbling together various businesses and freelance projects for so long, it’s quite scary to cut the cord and jump all the way in.
But I think about doing it all the time – when I’m riding the train to the office sandwiched a little too closely to people on all sides; when I’m sitting at a meeting during an insecure moment of “what am I doing here?”; when I’m at home on my days off folding laundry and catching up on house work before picking the girls up from school. Taking this part time(ish) job at a startup was supposed to be a move towards simplifying my work life, a break from the hustle of lining up freelance jobs so that I could dedicate the time away from the job to work on our business. At least that was the idea. I still continue to freelance because it gives us a more comfortable cushion, but it also covers camp costs and childcare so that I could go into the office. The irony of that kills me, but isn’t this a common dilemma for many working parents? In the end, the job just added another layer of complexity in my already schizophrenic work life. So now I have 3 jobs, not 2. Funny how that ended up working.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been commuting to a job for a year now. Some things I knew going in – that the commute can be soul sucking, that childcare would be stressful, and that physically working in an office would be a big transition. The AC situation, let alone sitting 8 hours at a desk, is still hard to get used to (I really don’t like wearing 3 layers and a scarf in the middle of summer). The interaction with people is great, and lately, getting off from work during golden hour as the sun gets ready to set makes me want to linger in the city a little longer before heading into the subway station.
What did surprise me was how challenging work relationships can be, especially in really small teams. It’s often as complex as being in a relationship with your spouse or family and it takes a lot of work to foster good relationships built on mutual respect and trust. Being part of a startup, where the future of pretty much everything that you’re working on is inherently uncertain and risky, can feel like you’re on a ship with no navigational course. The highs and little victories can be exciting, but the low points can be the worst too. Things can turn on a dime when winds shift suddenly and you have to execute fast to stay afloat. We’re at a transitional point right now and the work that I’ve been doing for a better part of a year changed when we turned our focus towards something completely different than when I joined. My job title and role was constantly shifting all year anyway and I’m fairly used to change when it comes to work situations given the nature of freelance, but it did result in anxiety-filled uncertainty. I’m still trying to find my footing in this new iteration of the company. Feelings that I hadn’t experienced in a long time, in the context of work, surface quite frequently – insecurity, frustration, but also all the good stuff of being part of a team. The gender stuff too rears its head even though I try not to allow it. All the emotional extras of having a job and commuting during rush hour that I had sort of forgotten about takes up a lot of mental space – so much so that I don’t really have the mental energy to do much else some days when I get home. On those days I feel pretty unproductive, but simply put, a startup job isn’t the kind of job that you can just punch in and out of, and a part time job isn’t really part time when you’re connected to the office online on days when you’re not there.
So my plan to consolidate my work life so I can dedicate more time to the business isn’t exactly going as I planned – not yet anyway – but not all is always lost when things don’t go as you envision. For now, I’m okay with letting things drift to see which direction they take rather than steering the ship too tightly. Taking on a job was, quite frankly, something that I didn’t think would happen considering freelancing worked for us all those years and I loved being self employed despite all its challenges. But sometimes you need to swallow your fears and personal wants in order to do what’s good for your family, and in our case it was a steady paycheck and benefits. I can’t say for certain that after a year, it’s the right career choice for the future, but I don’t know what the future is – I’m working at a startup, after all. Success rates are notoriously low and most burn out after a few years. But then again, the same can be said about the food industry. Here we still are 8 years later…
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It’s a full year later than when we originally intended to launch a new site, but it’s now live. Since Google announced about a month ago that it’ll rank mobile-friendly sites higher in search results, it was critical to do so (I need to get this blog on the mobile-friendly program soon too). Our old site was already suffering from poor SEO due to some of the typographic design decisions I implemented when we launched that site years ago that have since made it outdated as far as SEO goes, so now that we’re back on the search results grid, I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting our site to rank higher for certain keywords. I think this new site might be the 4th or 5th version since we started our business 8 years ago and every version is a reflection of where we are currently in web design trends.
Increased bandwidth over the years have resulted in web designs that feature bigger, higher resolution photos, but design has gotten more templated and in a way, maybe even “less creative” due to the fact that sites need to be responsive in nature so that they’re optimized across all devices. When I look back at the very early days of web design and coding, we used to design the craziest stuff because there were no rules back then and it was all experimentation. Usability wasn’t a thing yet; it was just novel to get anything up on the web and graphic assets, particularly photos, were limited to bandwidth. When I started designing websites for clients back in the late 90s/early 2000s, I experimented a lot with navigation, especially when Flash websites were a thing, and it makes me laugh now because they seem so user-unfriendly by today’s standards. Now, 15 years later, we have best practices, CMS, templates, and usability requirements that have almost homogenized web design. Is WordPress killing web design? That’s up for debate. These are big generalizations, of course, and there are lots of beautiful, unique and creative websites out there in the world, but I admit this has played a part in my desire to move on from this part of my career.
All of this isn’t a bad thing, obviously. Good usability IS good design and that’s a beautiful thing. So while our new website might not be the most creative website I’ve designed, I’m thrilled with how it works across all devices and even happier still with how easy it is to update and maintain on the backend. Hopefully, it will be a better user experience across the board for you too.
P.S. Our Father’s Day Gift Box is available. Order deadline is June 14th. Head over to our new site for details.
P.P.S. Sign up for our mailing list on the website. We don’t send out too many newsletters (promise!), but we do send out emails with exclusive sales for our newsletter subscribers.
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We haven’t had too many city adventures lately, mostly because we’ve been escaping to various gardens and parks outside the city to take advantage of Spring in all its flowering glory. Commuting to an office a few days a week has also dampened my desire to take a train into Manhattan on the weekends to hang out. But now that the trees have shed all its petals and bursts of color in exchange for a canopy of green, we found ourselves in the mood to stay local this weekend.
On Friday after school, we all jumped in the car when Mark got home from the kitchen to make a delivery in Dumbo. Walking around the cobblestone streets, we counted no less than 6 wedding shoots in and around the neighborhood. With the backdrop of lower Manhattan across the river and two iconic Bridges, you can’t argue that there’s a better location for a NYC wedding photoshoot. The streets were bustling with people getting off work and you could taste the anticipation of the weekend in the air. The city in twilight hours is irresistible – you just want to stay outside and watch the light shift from gold to dusk and enjoy the evening breeze.
On Saturday morning we walked around the Lower East Side, eating our way through a block party celebrating the 75th birthday of the Essex Street Market and hitting up Economy Candy afterwards. Hard to believe, but it was our first time in the store. Remember candy cigarettes? I had totally forgotten about them, but they had them and I had to laugh at the thought that at one point in time, candy cigarettes was totally acceptable for little kids. And I loved them as a kid, I did! We used to hang them from our lips, pretending to take long drags, wearing Jordache jeans and god knows what else from the 80s. The girls just looked at the boxes like it didn’t even register. They quickly moved on to other, more enticing looking bins.
I spent the rest of the day Saturday walking around by myself, popping into stores, trying to satisfy a particular sandal search quest. When I’m looking for something I can be quite obsessed, though with much less shopping stamina than I used to have. It had been awhile since I walked leisurely around the city alone and it felt like this great luxury of time. I looked through all the open windows of cafes and restaurants and felt a weird jealous pang of all the people brunching, which is silly, of course. I can’t explain it, but something about that particular scene that morning just felt far removed from my life. Maybe it was just being in the Lower East Side which isn’t a neighborhood I go to much anymore; it reminds me of a past life I used to have. I guess I’ve also become more reclusive in this last year. But the day ended with a backyard potluck dinner back in Brooklyn with our other food biz friends, so I’m not as much of a lost cause on the social front as I sound.
The weekend felt like a precursor to what we can look forward to this summer. It’s already June. I do hope time paces itself a bit. Although we have much to look forward to in the coming months, I’m wanting time to sloooooow down. 24 hours in a day isn’t nearly enough.
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