Reading is Fundamental

Families create traditions. This is my father reading to my son. Reading is contagious.

Sometimes a trip down memory lane is a good thing. I’ve been thinking lately about how full my life has been and how my children probably don’t know the half of my story. Funny when you stop to think about it. We are always so darn busy living that we don’t tend to take time for the stories. I tried to think of things to discuss with my dad before he died, but now that he’s gone, I seem to have questions all the time. It’s in the details. I know he rode his bike to the neighbors before school to work, but what did he do? I know he planted trees during WWII, but where are they? When did he first tap trees and make maple syrup? Where did he find the courage to buy a business when he had three young kids and a fourth on the way?

I have been blessed with curiosity piqued at an early age by books, the first of which I remember reading out loud all by myself was Hop on Pop. I remember where I was (my aunt’s) what the occasion (my 4th birthday) and the thrill of reading to everyone. That book did not survive the number of times it was read.

Thanks goodness we have a mom that was a reader. I remember going to the library weekly and coming home with an armful of books and devouring each and every one. I lived through them, going to places I never dreamed that I could ever visit. I learned about fjords in our elementary science class. They fascinated me, probably because they were related to rocks and geology, which still interests me. I remember seeing fjords on my first trip to Norway and thinking about what a long way I’d come from Mrs. Hughes third grade science class.

That love for reading naturally led to a love for writing. In fact, I won a contest for writing my own version of the Christmas story when I was six years old. My dad’s company sponsored it — he was the equivalent of a Greyhound bus driver when he was in his 20s. Mom gave me the framed copy of it a few years ago. Definitely a hoot. As an adult, I realize that I was probably the only kid that entered, but it was still a thrill.

Fast forward to college when all that reading and writing led me to a means of putting a roof over my head while taking advantage of the GI Bill. While attending Western Michigan University, I worked as a stringer for the Kalamazoo Gazette and I was also a reporter and daily Morning Edition news reader for WMUK, the local NPR affiliate. That was 1984. It was the year the Tigers won the World Series — so much fun to announce their progress on a daily basis! Here’s a daily report I did from “way back then.” It’s kind of fun to listen to and see how much has changed.

That year was also the first time I went to Camp Grayling as a Lieutenant in the National Guard. Before heading north with our convoy, I worked out a deal with Tony Griffin, my boss at WMUK and a real mentor to me. Tony had served in the Army in Vietnam and had even surfed there! Better yet, he knew the news industry and was a leader in it. When offered a position to work at the state bureau, he declined to stay in Kalamazoo with his family. The man who took the job is now NPRs National Political Correspondent, Don Gonyea. Tony was loyal and smart. One of those people who touch your life and you don’t ever forget. He pushed to get the best out of me. He cared about my future and I often find myself thinking of the lessons I learned there.

Anyhow, the deal was, I would write a story every day for the first week at Camp. I would call it in and they would play it during All Things Considered. This took some doing as I had a platoon to lead, but my company commander allowed me the time necessary to do it. I researched, wrote, and went to the payphone and called my stories in. I enjoyed that gig and made a cassette tape of the stories, then misplaced it for 30+ years. It surfaced a couple months ago and Tom Totzke performed his magic and digitized the recordings for me. I share that week of stories from the summer of 1984 here with you. I hope you enjoy this little morsel from my history and history in general. You never know where books and curiosity will take you! (click on each title to listen).
1 The Convoy
2 Michigan’s National Guard
3 Women in the Guard
4 Feeding an Army
5 The Kirtland Warbler
6 Work Hard, Play Hard
7 Touring Russian Equipment

This photo was taken a year or so prior to my reporting days. I was definitely in the field getting dirty. I was a 36C as an enlisted person. We laid and hung telephone lines, back in the days prior to cell phones. It was hot, sweaty work in the field and no one bothered us as long as the job got done. The perfect enlisted job, in our eyes.

Writing and reading have continued to be a big part of my life. From creating curriculum for crafters to writing magazine articles, blogging, and writing our company newsletter, my pen gets plenty of use. Sometimes I do still use a pen and paper, but my latest gizmo is a ReMarkable digital writing tablet that keeps all my notes in one place rather than 20 notebooks scattered around the house and the shop. There’s something to be said for letting the words come out of a pen rather than out of your fingertips.

For me, no day is complete without having spent time reading — both for work and escape. Where has a book taken you lately? I would love to learn your book recommendations in the comments, including why you liked them.

Being a shopkeeper during a pandemic

Sunrise on Lake Orion. A little island that looks so alone, but is surrounded by thousands of people, just a lifting of fog and sunlight away. 

We are all living insular lives. I live alone and the shop is a short eight-minute walk from home. It makes it easy to move between the two and easily maintain “the distance” and keep the business alive and vibrant. My world, like yours, is a very small world.

On a typical day, I usually eat breakfast at work somewhere between 7 and 9 while checking email, Facebook, Instagram and checking to see if it’s my turn to play Scrabble—an 11-year daily habit with Sybil. If we have orders via the website, invoices are printed, product gathered and prepared for shipping. If we have Second Chance orders from our Heritage Specials group on our fb page, I hand write a list, make piles for each purchaser and get that in the shipping queue. It seems so simple written in just two sentences, but it is usually not until  about 2:00 when Lika or her sub comes to get the mail that we come up for air. The USPS has become our lifeblood, carrying orders out to you and sometimes bringing new product to us.

IMG_2532I also get email requests, like: “I’d like to make the Nightshift Cowl, can you please find Crazy yarn and a matching solid?” So I pick several options, send photographs and, if we are lucky, I hit it the first time. If not, we do it again. Or, “I need to make five pairs of mittens for Christmas, plus a pair for me. Can you choose colors?” Sometimes more guidance is needed and the emails can go on for a day or three. Thank goodness for the phone camera and our little portable photo studio. I take pictures and send them along and decisions are made. Similar requests come in over the phone and we wander around the store finding just the right yarn for your next project. It’s kind of like being a personal yarn shopper and a detective, all in one.

DebH works as a necessary (VERY) employee three days a week. She is my sanity. Some days it takes us until early afternoon to get the orders processed. Lunchtime comes at about 2. Where we often ordered out in the past, we carry in these days. Deb stays until about 4 (or 5 or 6) and I usually go home a bit after that, except on days when I am sent home to take a nap (I’m working seven days a week).

In between, we sanitize everything, manage porch pick ups, try to keep our work areas tidy, price Second Chance, take inventory, keep the webstore up to date, take photos for Second Chance on-line, apply for grants, design patterns, shelve yarn from all the personal shopping, place orders, and try to stay sane. Deb has managed to keep up with taking the garbage out, but neither of us have tackled sweeping the floor. There will be one big cleaning work-bee before we reopen to the public! I never, ever imagined how much work it would be to run this place with just two people, really 1.5 people on a full-time basis. I am more grateful for our regular staff than I have ever been and I miss them dearly.

IMG_2351Our kits have been very popular since we put them on the website. They remove decision making for the knitter and are ready to knit right out of the bag. Keeping up with making the kits and yarn packs has been carefully coordinated by Becky. She lives close enough to walk to the shop, we basically do porch pick ups and she is keeping the kit shelves stocked. Sharon is also working long-distance. She is responsible for many of the Facebook posts that you see. Having help with social media has been a God-send. It has freed a bit more time for me to do other things, although I am still out there regularly, I have been able to back off a bit. Sharon’s posts help remind the world that we do have these kits, so Sharon and Becky have a somewhat symbiotic relationship!

Now, the phone rings more often and conversations are longer. I have had delightful conversations with people, mostly women, around the country. I listen, you listen, together we help save each other’s sanity. Knitting, weaving and all the fiber arts are enormously comforting.

Financially, I can guarantee you that the shop IS here and WILL be here when we are through all this. I no longer take a paycheck, but am able to pay Deb and meet our expenses. If worry produced income, this place would be flooded with gold! We will be here because of you, the community we have built and your very, very generous support. This is NOT how I intended to celebrate our 20th year in business, perhaps we will celebrate our 21st as a coming of age party. By then there should be a vaccine and freedom of movement will return, for which we will all be grateful.

Life isn’t all work. Life has layers.

One week after I closed the the shop to the public and the day the governor sent us all home, I learned that I had breast cancer (minor, small, contained, early stage, NOT critical, but still bothersome). Treatment is a simple lumpectomy followed by radiation. Since this is an elective procedure, I wait. I am president of a charity the provides comfort items to cancer patients, Knit Michigan. I know the drill, that I shouldn’t worry, but sometimes, some days, it still feels like there’s a little time-bomb in my body. So I work harder.

Our last family portrait.

Last week was the first anniversary of my father’s death. I miss him everyday and see him each time I look in the mirror. I am his daughter. The hardest part of that day was not being able to travel north to be with my family. I moved to Detroit in 1981 to attend CCS and never left SE Michigan. This will be the longest I have gone without going “home” in all these 40 years. We are a close family. Lately, they know that the business, my health, and my husband’s health (he was transferred for work to Harbor Springs over a year ago) have been weighing heavily and we talk and text often. The gift of family.


Then there’s my extended family. After a long day at work, I go home to catch up with friends that need checked in on, that I need to talk to, to those I need to hear their voice. They call or I call. In between and during our calls, I knit and continue my pattern design work. I find that I am spending so many hours keeping the shop afloat that weaving and reading do not come easily anymore. I know that I will be “better” when these once joyful activities return to my daily life.

This is Joy. Delivering JOY!

In spite of everything, finding joy has been a gift. My grandmother once told my father that “every day is a beautiful day.” She was so right. I have been making a point to look for it. A friend did some grocery shopping for me and she brought me mini daffodils. A precious gift. We have had some splendid sunrises these last few weeks. The maples are in flower. The birds are back and noisy. I enjoyed a birthday car party past a friend’s house. People are busy helping strangers by making face masks. There is a constant parade of dogs on the Village streets. One of the grants I wrote paid off: we received an advertising grant from Long Thread Media (you’ll hear more about this). I hope you find as much joy in finding joy each day as I do. It does help.


When it is over.

We will be changed. We will be different people living in the same skin. As a business owner, it really won’t be over when it is “over” because we will still have to recover financially from the loss of sales, lowering of inventory that needs restocked, and returning to being able to draw a salary. One thing I know for absolute certain sure is that my family and my Heritage family will sustain me.

Our Heritage family is so special and so far-flung, yet closer now. Today we will have a ZOOM session for our regular Sunday afternoon social knitting for Fair Isle and Norwegian knitters. We are likely to have special visitors from out-of-state that love us from afar. Thanks to all of you for being a special part of our Heritage fiber family. I hope it means as much to you as it does to us.

Shop, one of our downtown lake orion businesses. Need masks? call Ed’s Broadway. Need chocolate? Check out Nutz about Chocolate. Sara’s Bath Boutique has soap and hand sanitizer. All have Facebook pages and websites. Visit for a complete list of downtownshops offering curbside delivery.

I hope my blog post has given you insight into the story of a small business owner during these unusual times. It’s not just yarn shops going through this. Every shop owner I know is struggling to do everything they can to keep their noses above water. I don’t hear complaints from them (perhaps frustration about grants promised that will not be delivered, but that really wasn’t a surprise). I do hear hope and see innovation, creativity and love for what they do. I do sense worry below the surface, because, well, we worry a lot. Please know that supporting small businesses supports our communities. Thank you for your patronage on behalf of all small businesses owners.