We Left Asheville. Here’s Why.

We left our beloved Asheville. In a Dolphin. Six of the seven of us.

Why? Because it was the best thing we could do. It was silly, but it was absolutely necessary.

With all the health shenanigans and strange family issues we’ve been cartwheeling through, we’ve all suffered to one extent or another. It’s been a trying, exhausting spell. But – Life™ has a tendency to come in spells. Good spells, bad spells. But nothing really lasts forever. That’s good and bad. The bad stuff doesn’t last. Thankfully.

Through all of it, though – we have these kids. 5 amazing people. 5 wonderful, funny, crazy, creative, beautiful kids who have rolled with the punches and kept on smiling. Thankfully, we have a family that has a wonderful time all the time. That’s always helped us through. But, when things go sideways, they suffer along with us. And, with all the goings-on and day-to-day stresses in our lives, we’ve missed a lot of opportunities to connect and enjoy our kids and each other (Beth and I.) We also miss a lot of opportunities to just have fun.

With everything that had been going down, we needed to escape. Not work, not responsibility – but we needed to escape our routine of worry and stress and chores and errands and reconnect. We knew if we planned and waited for the right opportunity to make that escape, it might not come for a long time – if at all. Work and bills and household duties and the stress of the day will always be here – but our kids are getting older every day. We’ll eventually lose them all to the dreaded teen years when they REALLY think we’re uncool. Time is precious. Family is preciouser. It was time to do something silly and make some memories and grow closer to our kids before they grow further away. Since they rolled with us through all the trials, we thought it was time to roll with those precious little souls – literally.

"Sadie," Our 1987 Toyota Dolphin.

“Sadie,” Our 1987 Toyota Dolphin*.

So, we left Asheville in a 1987 Toyota Dolphin. We didn’t know where we were going, but had a faint idea of seeing Niagara Falls. We packed some food, some clothes and an axe. We’d never done anything like this before. Heck, we’ve only camped a few times in our 23 years of marriage.

We’d seen some YouTube videos, and figured that was all the training you could possibly need on how to live in an RV.

We didn’t have a plan. We didn’t have a map. We just hopped in and ran.

We stayed in WalMart parking lots. We ate cereal (a LOT,) and we swam in bodies of water I don’t recall the name of. We saw Niagara, DC, Gettysburg and Chincoteague Island. We stunk. We were hungry. We got on each other’s nerves. The RV leaked. We did laundry in several states. We laughed and sang and hollered and got to stand in awe of a lot of amazing things. With each other.

It was simply wonderful. I don’t regret one damned second of it. I feel better now. A deep down soul better. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t have a map for that, either.

Click for a few photos of the first of many adventures

Click for a few photos of the first of many adventures

Now, granted – I had planned on working more than I did. But, that didn’t happen thanks to spotty electricity and spottier cell coverage (I’m looking at YOU, US Cellular.) Probably not a good thing, but in a way – a really good thing. I’m recharged. I’m excited. We’re all excited.

We’re going to renovate the RV now. We’re going to turn it into the ultimate adventure machine, and we’re going to cart our kids as far as that bucket of bolts can take us – and we’re going to see some amazing things and have some amazing times. Because time is always running. And you never know when it’s going to stop.

There – that’s why we left. We’re back. We will leave again. In the meantime – we’re going to kick ass on some projects, we’re going to dream. We’re still going to laugh and fool around with the kids. We’ll cherish our memories, and we’ll grow increasingly excited to make more.

So, where am I going with this? Life is short. Kids grow so fast. Health ebbs and flows. Families do crazy shit. You never know what’s going to happen. But, dammit – you can MAKE something good happen. Now. One way or another – take the time you have and make something great. Make it great with the people you love.

Tomorrow, God willing, it’ll be back to your normal bloggy goodness about web design, SEO and logos and such. But, today – this was what I felt I should write. I’m exhausted and looking forward to sleeping in a real bed. Now, go forth and create something.

*for the record, I wanted to call it the Millennium Dolphin, but was voted down.

Shutting Down 2 Successful Businesses at the Same Time. Yes, We’re Nuts.

On December 1, there were 2 deaths in our family. And we couldn’t be happier. The deaths were 2 successful businesses – Independent Studios and Lily Giggle. Were they mercy killings? Were there troubles? Eh – sort of. Read on, intrepid design fan…

Mister Terwilliger

One of 5 Reasons to Shutter LilyGiggle

First – Lily Giggle. Beth (my wife and one of the principles here at Blue Dozen,) shut down her very successful PDF sewing pattern business. Why would she close doors something that was working? Why leave money on the table? The answer here is very simple: family. Beth decided that it was time to refocus. Lily Giggle had grown far beyond her (or anyone’s for that matter) expectations and had started taking too much time to maintain properly. She faced a decision: Keep the business rolling the way it was and be forced to spend too much time with admin, upkeep and all the trappings of success, or go on hiatus and risk being unable to fire the boiler back up. The first choice was the easy path. “It’s business. My family needs the money, and it’s my job…” It’s what the world tells you is the right. It’s what most folks would do. It was successful. It was rolling. It was good. But, it was hard – and it kept her from what she really wanted to focus on: her family. Our family. The second choice was hard: stop, breathe, refocus. Beth decided to take the path that requires a lot of explanation and sacrifice. She pressed pause, not knowing if the tape would resume. It might, it might not. We don’t know right now – but what we do know is that she made the right choice. She put her money where her heart is – family. She had a sale and shut it all down Saturday night. It was hard. It will be hard. But now, she has the time to stop, breathe and refocus.

Second – Independent Studios. I started Independent Studios waaaaaaaaaay back in 1999. It grew and shrank and changed and suffered through good choices and bad choices, great clients and clients that could politely be described as nosebleeds. But, it was good, and it was heading in the direction of big success. Why would I shut down a successful business? Easy: passion.

Our Passion for DesignMy passion got lost along the way. It wasn’t my passion for design and marketing and advertising and websites and all that. That’s NEVER changed, and I don’t see it changing in my lifetime. The thing that changed was passion for the business itself. I made some bad choices. I made some people mad. At the same time, I also made great choices and I made a lot of people very, very happy. Success wasn’t the issue. The trajectory of Independent Studios never really pointed downward – that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I had grown ambivalent towards the business itself. I found myself daydreaming too much. I found myself looking at what I was doing as more of a job and less of my passion. I didn’t really have that burning need to come to the office and design something. It was kind of old hat. That was bad, and the business was suffering because of it. There were also some (very boring) reasons to restart – SEO, forming an LLC with a licensable name, domain names, etc., – but the real reason is that I needed a way to jumpstart my passion for the business. The reason for the new name is in another post – but the reason for the business change was very deep and personal. I (we) needed to stop, breathe and refocus. Focus on what made this company good (excellent.) Cut out some of the stuff that made this business suck. The new name was a demarcation. The date was a cut-off point, mentally and functionally. It had to be done. It feels as if an elephant has gotten up off my chest and wandered back into the woods, a la the tiger in Life of Pi. (You didn’t think you’d get out of a blog post without a movie reference, did you?)

I know that through the years, Independent Studios pissed some people off. I’m sorry for that. I also know that I can’t please everyone, and that there are jobs that just don’t fit. I took on a lot of jobs and clients that I shouldn’t have, jobs and clients that just didn’t fit, and that’s when my passion would really slip. That’s my fault, and I take the blame. No excuses. No finger-pointing. Those jobs and the way we handled those hurt me, hurt the business, and hurt the people who rely on this business. From the bottom, top and sides of my heart, I apologize. My solemn oath is that I will do everything in my power to avoid those mistakes in the future.

We also had (and have) a lot of great clients that fit well and feel like family. To them, I say: “Nice to meet you again.”

It really is a new day. I look forward to working with the folks who really understand who and what we are and how we do stuff. We’ve cut a lot of low-hanging fruit away. Cut out clients that were draining our time and passion. It hurt (we’ve been in the process of weeding for a few months now,) and it will probably continue to sting a little. Leaving money on the table is hard – even if it’s for a good reason. I (We – Beth and I) have 5 kids to feed and clothe and hug and cuddle, and having money helps. But – money is the least of our worries. We need passion more than money.

Things are being rebuilt differently. We’re rebuilding Lily Giggle and will relaunch bigger, badder and better than ever. And, it will be done in such a way that it’s easier for Beth to maintain and grow. Blue Dozen Design is launched, and with it a new ethos. We’re actively more selective and we’re only taking on jobs and clients that fit. No more low hanging fruit. We’re still rebuilding the site and some of the branding and what-not. In a lot of ways, it’s not a massive departure from Independent Studios – but the mindset has changed and the passion is back. Look out. It’s gonna git all krazee up in here…

So – what does this all mean for you? Functionally, not a whole lot. We’re still in the business of delivering great design and killer websites and terrific marketing ideas. Beth will reopen and continue to make unbelievably adorable clothes. That much has NOT changed, and it never will.

What we hope you take away from this (excessively long blog post) is simple: Find your true passion. Find what moves you and motivates you. Then, stop, breathe and refocus on that. Rebuild if you need to. Relaunch if you need to. But find your passion and stoke the boilers. Full steam ahead…

It’s amazing what happens when you take honest stock of where you are. When you stop. When you relax and refocus. We have decided to do that every day, several times a day. Not just December 1. EVERY DAMNED DAY.