Stories of Things

Stories of Things - The Piano

Several months after my mom passed away in 2002, my dad started clearing their house out. I had just moved into my very own first home, and I had very different taste than my parents. I didn't really want much of the furniture because I wanted to create my own stamp on my home. I did inherit the family piano, though. It lives in the media nook in my home office (which in many homes might be called a living room.)

This piano lived at my folks' house for the better part of my young life. I never did learn to play. My sister and I took a few lessons as a kid, but we never enjoyed learning to play so my parents didn't make us continue. We played it in little spurts and occasionally had friends over that could play beautifully. I took one piano class in college, which I really enjoyed, and my parents offered it to me then, but I think the piano may have been bigger than the place I lived at the time. Everything I learned from that class faded from lack of use. I've poked at it a little here and there, and started learning to play John Lennon's Imagine by watching video lessons on YouTube. My girls poke at it though neither of them take formal lessons for piano playing. I do enjoy Zia's custom made serenades. Sophia prefers electric guitar. 

It sits more than it gets used, but I have to admit I really like having the piano around. It reminds me of my childhood home. It reminds me of my parents. It's a nice thing to get to build my own home around.

Stories of Things - The Lil' Clump of Medals

Do you ever look at evidence of your past and wonder what happened to that person? I used to look back and beat myself up about losing my past self. An artist. A runner. A metal sculptor. A yogi. A martial artist... And on and on. My little medal collection here isn’t a brag post. I have these hanging in an insignificant cluster on a hook behind a door in a room I barely go into. For a while, these things just taunted me. I let them mock me. I used them as a bar of impossible measure that in my mind, I could never achieve again. I’ll explain...

In 2009, I had my second child in February, closed a company I loved in March, began the divorce process in April, started a new job at Zappos in May (which included 4 weeks of legendary Zappos training in June.) My now-former husband moved out of the house in September, my also-going-through-a-divorce sister and her two boys moved into my house with me and my two girls in October, and in November my dad had an episode that put him back, temporarily, under mental-ward care at the Veteran’s Hospital. A pretty busy year.

I ended up cutting “active lifestyle” completely out of my life during all that in order to figure out independent motherhood, commute nearly two hours per day, and find some semblance of a stabilized life in 2010. By the time March of 2011 came around it was clear that I wasn’t designed for full-time corporate employment, even at a place as relatively liberal as Zappos, I was mostly miserable and felt extraordinarily misunderstood. I left that job in June and sought independence again. Almost as quickly as I left, I was offered a remote Director of UX position for a leading mobile app dev firm. The offer was too good to refuse and most importantly, it let me maintain the most important aspects of my life I was seeking at the time - owning my time and being a more present mom. Less than a year later I lost my dad (April 2012) and over the course of the 10 months that followed, I spiraled seemingly irretrievably, into the darkest space of depression-fueled burnout I’d ever known. A lot of wonderful things happened in these years, too but I’ve kind of thought of 2009-2013 as a bit of a dark patch.  (sidenote: there’s a 30-minute video about my burnout/recovery here: )

I left that remote position in April of 2013 and have spent every waking minute of my life since redesigning my life bit by bit. I’ve crafted it with a thoughtful heart and explorative intention. Each year is building upon the last and becomes stronger and clearer. Each month I eliminate excuses that during my dark patch I allowed to stop me from following the path of my heart. Each month surfaces a bit more confidence in who I am and more bravery in declaring what exactly I want. 

So, the medals - the little symbols of accomplishments from a younger Jaimee that once mocked present Jaimee. Where am I with those lil guys now? 2015 has been about letting go of what was in order to embrace what is, and make room for what’s important. 2015 has been about taking what life presents and allowing it all to make me stronger and more focused. 

I can smile now at my little trinkets of past accomplishments. They represent some great memories, but I think I’ve learned to not let them torture me anymore. I’m very grateful for the life I have, the lessons life has served and the love that surrounds me. I kinda like who I am and I like the idea of letting go in order to allow space for improvement, new adventures, and new accomplishments.

Stories of Things - The Calendars

I keep several calendars around the house in addition to my digital calendar. I have two year-at-a-glance wet-erase calendars (currently 2015-2016, adding 2017 this week) that show my conference schedule, my coaching sessions, workshop dates, phone calls and blog/article due dates. I suppose that all qualifies as "work stuff". I also use those wall calendars to red-X my tinychallenges, inspired by something I'd read once about Jerry Seinfeld's 'write a joke every day' strategy. You can read that post by James Clear -->here<--

I have a large desk calendar for keeping track of kid stuff in a way that they can interact with. The artwork and special notes you see in the photo were done by my six-year-old, Zia. I love the kids participation in the calendar updates, I think it's good for them to know where they can look to see what's happening in their world, and to contribute. Earlier in the year, Zia took the marker to several months throughout the year and told me the Fairy of Happiness had marked "Happy Days". And as much as I wish they loved school, there's beauty in seeing the enthusiastic visual expression for being on vacation. There's a lot to be learned from watching how kids think about planning.

While I'll make modest strides toward 'greener' ways of staying organized, these little interactions the kids have with the giant desk calendars are wonderful things that I would have a hard time letting go of anytime soon. It's fun and incredibly magical. 

Stories of Things - The Missing Christmas

Yesterday was Christmas. It was a beautiful morning with my little family. My girls go to their dad’s house each year on Christmas day around 11 am after we’ve had our Christmas morning together, and they stay for a few days. After I drop the girls off it’s just Ken and me with our two kitty-boys, Rocky and Adrian. I was feeling very under the weather, so we took the afternoon easy, I spent most of it in bed flipping through movies and thinking about what I’d write for my “Stories of Things” post which I ended up not posting, partially because I got lost.

My “Stories of Things” challenge has had me thinking a fair amount about the memories and value that can be placed in everyday objects. All in all, the objects bear no value beyond that we place in them. I’ve had a fantastic journey this month recalling moments, interactions, people, and feelings triggered by various pieces scattered throughout my home. Yesterday, my mind started walking through memories of Christmases past, when I realized I could not locate a very specific Christmas memory. Perhaps it’s some sort of automated trauma control, I don’t know. I was trying to remember the last Christmas I had with my brother. He passed away on Feb 6, 1987. He was 15, I was 11, my sister was 7. Our family was always quite close. I know we were always together on Christmas, so Christmas of 1986 would have been no different. I know we were in our home in Panaca, NV. It’s possible it was our first Christmas in that home. Could it have been our second? I remember a lot surrounding that time, but for some reason, Christmas of 1986 is completely missing from my mind. Usually, I can remember a gift I gave or received, and that would trigger a flood of surrounding memories. I can remember the year after fairly well, and most after that. I can remember Christmases before. I’ve gone through a stack of photo books I borrowed from my sister a couple months ago. She lives near now though, I’ve not had a chance to ask her if she can remember anything from this Christmas that is missing from my brain. I find it so strange that I cannot recall one single moment from that particular Christmas. 

Thinking about it for almost 24 hours now, I’m realizing how much time I’ve spent trying to find these lost memories. I got sucked into a strange vacuum of sadness and loss, then sadness about the loss of memory. Realizing that jarred me into a keen reality, maybe it’s not all that important that I locate these memories. While reflection is important and valuable for growth, it’s also important that I not get stuck searching for them, especially if that means spending too much time in spaces that are not constructively moving me forward. Grieving for loss is absolutely OK, but this wasn't that. This was different. And maybe all that’s important is that the memories I do have of our family times together are all pretty good ones. THIS Christmas brought great opportunity to make wonderful new memories with my own children. I love our Christmases. I can relish in moments that are fresh in my mind and perhaps instead of concerning over lost memories I can spend time writing about the morning’s events so that in some future moment, should I find my memory suffering from dislodged recollection ability, I can pull up my writing and relive those moments - moments captured fresh after they occurred, not left to patchy sparks ignited by old objects.

Letting go has been a big theme for me in 2015. While I’m a firm believer that letting go does not have to mean forgetting, I am realizing that maybe sometimes it needs to. While I do wish I could remember that missing Christmas, I’m OK with it sailing away. Instead of feeling sadness and loss over it, I’ll imagine I’ve set it free. Letting go can take practice. Letting go can often mean change of habit. Letting go can mean growing. This kind of letting go creates spaciousness in life. Spaciousness creates opportunity for light and balance - things I welcome into my life with wide open arms. 


Stories of Things - The "14,000 Things" Book

For a short bit today, I wasn't sure what my #tinychallenges post should be about. Each day I take a little stroll through my house and glance around to see what item will best serve as a catalyst for a story. It's been a neat exercise because it's reinforced that a lot of the things I've kept around do have really wonderful memories, and stories behind them. Today I was glancing over the bookshelf in my bedroom and this little book caught my eye. It made me smile as I recalled where and when I got it, and who gave it to me, but I wanted to see if she'd written anything in it when she gave it to me. I picked it up and paged through it, and noticed a little yellow sticky-note poking out of the top. There was no note from the giver of this book, but on the inside of the back cover, I'd left myself a note. 

This book survived several moves between 1993-2001. While I can't remember at all writing this note to myself, I found it kind of funny. It was sort of like a micro-scavenger hunt. I flipped to the yellow sticky note page, and read through highlighted words. 

Thank you, Sunshine (aka: Sunny), for this book. Years later, the book has become a really great symbol of our very enduring friendship. This little book carries with it much, much more than 14,000 things to be happy about. 

Stories of Things - The ToDo Book

A bargain-bin blank journal that I've made my own, my ToDo book is nearing maximum capacity. As 2016 approaches, I've started thinking about its replacement and glancing through all the history this lil guy holds of the past year-and-a-half of my life. I've tried every conceivable form of digital todo list, and I can't seem to keep up with them. My brain seems to understand writing things down the old-fashioned way.

Lists, ideas, focus, gaps in time, distraction, failure, accomplishment, discovery, memory, growth. It's really cool to see how and where my methods of organization have fallen short or succeeded in such a relatively short expanse of time. The most apparent thing is the reinforcement these books provide, of the importance of writing down your goals, and breaking them down. I'll use the last few pages to capture a retrospective of learnings and set up the goals, hopes, ideas and general ToDos that will carry me into 2016.

How to you keep track of your goals and tasks? Do you do it all in one place? Do you do it digitally or manually? Any tips or tricks you love?


Stories of Things - The '70s Spatula

When I moved out of my parents house to venture out on my own, into grown-up-hood, my mom sent me off with some of her old household items so that I wouldn't have to spend the money on new stuff. This spatula from the 1970s was one of those things. It's still one of my favorite spatulas, not just because of the memories of my mom and how she always tried to make sure I had everything I needed to face the world, and not just because of the awesome avocado green plastic handle that has endured repeat abuse from high-temperature pans, but because it works better than just about any other spatula I've purchased in 20+ years. I've tried many, many spatulas over the years. Spatula makers in the '70s knew what they were doing. 

This little retro spatula holds a lot of memories for me. A lifetime, really. College, marriage, apartments, homes, divorce, children, guests, independence, motherhood, pancakes... my mom. I think of my mom every single time I use it, and it makes me smile. This spatula and I will continue on together until one of us is no longer. I'll use it because it's the spatula that gets the job done no matter what I'm cooking up, especially pancakes. And because it's a time capsule full of wonderful memories.

I hope this spatula outlives me, it may make a great story for one of my daughters to share some day.

Stories of Things - The Dollar Store Bluebird

This little dollar store bluebird sits on a shelf in my 10-year-old daughter's room. She got it when she was 6 years old. One of those trinkets you don't think much of as an adult, but is so important to a child. When she first got this lil' guy, she was so in love with it, she'd carry it around the house with her. 

She left the little bluebird out on the kitchen bar while she was at her dad's house for the weekend. My dad had stopped by for a visit and accidentally knocked it off the counter about five minutes before I had to pick up the girls. A big chip broke out of the back of it, and the tail cracked. There was no time to repair it before she returned, I knew if she saw it she'd be devastated. So I hid it in the vacuum closet until I had time to buy super glue and repair it. She was distracted enough with other things that she never asked about the little bird, nor did she seem to notice it was missing. I forgot about it. A couple months later, my dad passed away.

Some time passed - maybe a year - and the little bluebird caught my eye up on his little shelf in the vacuum closet. I collected him and his little, broken bit and carried him into Sophia's room. I sat on the bed next to her and explained the story of what had happened to her little bird and how badly my dad felt that he'd broken it. I explained my intention to repair it, but how my intentions had become lost in all that had happened.

She smiled and said, "I'm glad you didn't fix it. Now that little broken piece is a really good memory."

Stories of Things - The Fuzzy Hat

Fuzzy hat morning, Nov 2015.

Fuzzy hat morning, Nov 2015.

The fuzzy hat was a completely unnecessary purchase when I spotted it at Target in 2011. While the hat itself is nothing terribly unique or special, it represents some pretty meaningful things for me.

I bought the hat three days after I quit my full-time job at Zappos in 2011. I left for a multitude of reasons, the most important being that I wanted to spend more time with my two daughters, ages 2 and 6 at the time. I wanted to own my time again. Run my own company again. 

Impractical as it was weather-wise, I would wear it when I needed to focus. I'd put my headphones in, put the hat on and go to work. The hat reminds me of when I made the decision to start working from home. It reminds me that I chose to own my time. It reminds me that choices can be worth the risk. Choices worthwhile are almost always risky. It became my very recognizable bio avatar for several years. People still ask about the hat. ;)

Silly, simple fuzzy hat. I don't wear it as much these days. I stopped wearing it regularly in 2013 or so, but I do still throw it on for cold mornings at the bus stop with my girls. When I see it sitting on my closet shelf it makes me smile. It reminds me of that feeling of freedom I felt in those first few months of working from home. It reminds me of those decisions I made, the focus I had, and it causes me to reflect on the journey since. What a fantastic journey it's been.

Some fuzzy hat highlights:

My dad in the fuzzy hat Dec. 2011.

Me with author Richard Bach in our fuzzy hats, Feb 2014.

The classic fuzzy hat avatar pic, July 2011.

Stories of Things - The Naked Guy Picture

Advanced Drawing class, 1997-ish. Jim Pink's class. Three 5-minute sketches from a live model. Paint, charcoal, conté crayon on butcher paper. The objective was to focus on the lighting. To really examine lights and darks and create the shapes using lights and darks, first. An exercise in seeing things differently than how we normally look at something. 

Every now and then, I think about that exercise as an application in day-to-day life. Looking beyond the first impression of something, taking the time to examine and think about it differently. To look at how light and dark define a shape almost better than the shape defines itself. It's a pretty cool exercise to apply to different things, and people. You should totally try it. :)

Stories of Things - The Conference Badges


I save my conference badges. It looks neat to me to see this heaping mass of badges that mark some really incredible life experiences. Every badge holds a memory of a new place I got to visit, new people I got to meet and each serves as a tiny monument to slowly overcoming the enormous fear of public speaking. Each marks a place that has allowed me to tell a personal story about something I really care about, something I learned, stumbled through or otherwise adventured around in this crazy life. I feel I've been really lucky in being able to share those stories. 

I hope to keep collecting badges for a while longer, still. I enjoy the experiences and I still have a lot of work to do in overcoming that fear of public speaking. <3



Stories of Things - The Atari 2600

I think the Atari 2600 was a quintessential component in the lives of many 80s kids. The one in the photo is the one I grew up with. It still works!

My memory tells me we got this Atari at the same time my parents were getting a new television at the Curtis Mathes store. While that is a bit fuzzy, I definitely remember the way my brother's eyes lit up when my parents got this for us. I remember tearing into it as soon as we got home, and my parents set it up for us in the family room on the old television set. We all gathered around while my dad and brother tested out Combat and Gunslinger. Then we got to take turns trying out the games. We spent hours playing. Video games became a pretty instrumental foundation in my personality.

The best memories the Atari holds for me are the ones of playing with my siblings. My older brother was the best at all the games. He would play them, beat them, then teach my sister and me how to play them. Game time was great bonding for the three of us. 

My sister and I still talk about some of the games we played on this thing. We laugh about the time we saved up all those Kool-Aid points to buy the Kool-Aid Man game and one of those awesome fanny packs from the points catalog. Yep, the game is still there in the stack of cartridges. Nope, it's not for sale. ;)

Games, for me, aren't just fun, they build some fantastic experiences and deeply happy memories. As time passed we moved on to more sophisticated game systems like Nintendo. I don't think my brother lived long enough to play Nintendo. I suppose that's all the more reason my memories with the Atari 2600 as rich and fond as they are. 



Stories of Things - The Pooh Bear

I never considered myself all that sentimental. As I've aged a bit, I've started thinking a lot more about the stories behind the things I've chosen to hang on to. The "Why" behind the stuff. 

Something that I've held on to for a really long time is my first Pooh Bear. I got him for Christmas when I was two years old. He lives in my youngest daughter's closet these days, on the top shelf out of reach from wear and tear. When I pulled him down for his little photo shoot today, I immediately hugged him and remembered a flood of our adventures together. I had other toys and things I liked over the years but few, if any, are still with me. Very few ever held a place in my heart like this lil' bear did. He was my very best friend from the moment I laid eyes on him. We played together, I taught him everything I learned at school. I read him stories and he slept with me every almost every single night until I was about twelve. When I was about four or five years old, my dad would play his guitar and sing these songs to me about Winnie getting lost in the woods. I would cry until my dad sang him back to safety. I believed the stories my dad sang. My dad would always have my older brother retrieve Winnie from my bedroom so I could hug him and see he was OK.

Winnie was my friend through rough school days, fair-weather friends, and lots of sad times. He was my friend through happy times, songs, and celebrations. I even bought a little plastic wedding cake and candles set with my allowance once, and I married him. I was, at least, eight years old then. After all these years my Pooh Bear still represents comfort, friendship and the magic of imagination. I'll keep him around in hopes that one day, one of my own kids will appreciate the memories he holds. 

I suppose I'm a bit sentimental after all. Love that ol' Pooh Bear. 


Stories of Things - The Big Wrench

The Big Wrench with a penny and Scrabble letters for scale.&nbsp;

The Big Wrench with a penny and Scrabble letters for scale. 

I have this giant wrench on my mantle. My dad used to use this wrench. He used to own and repair a lot of heavy equipment with nuts and bolts requiring a wrench of this size. I think the most incredible thing about it was watching my dad use this wrench. He had these big, strong hands, creased and scarred from years of fixing cars and building things and surviving the Vietnam War. Hands that didn't wear gloves because gloves just got in the way of what he was trying to do. His hands told stories without him ever saying a word. 

This wrench reminds me of my dad's strength, not just from the literal amount of strength it takes to wield a wrench of this size, which he absolutely had, but what it represents symbolically about who my dad was. My dad was humble, hard working, strong in his beliefs, in love and in character. 

It's a beautiful wrench.




Stories of Things - The Roller Skate Necklace

I got this necklace for my seventh birthday. I loved roller skating and Wonder Woman and Olivia Newton John's song, Xanadu. My mom made the giving of the necklace a sort of special thing, separate from my birthday party at Sunset Park. My mom was great at gifts and general thoughtfulness. Even at age seven, I knew how much care she put into choosing this for me. She knew I would love it. I still love it thirty-three years later. It reminds me of my mom. It reminds me of being a kid. It reminds me of being young and free and feeling the wind whoosh through my hair as I skated in big circles around the rink to awesome music and disco lights. It reminds me of who I am and who I've always been. It's a bit worn and tarnished, but it still shines. I think my mom would be proud of me. I hope so. I know so. 

Thanks, mom, for this little gift of awesomeness. I miss you, and I think of you often. 


Stories of Things - The Ceramic Buddha

The little ceramic Buddha sits on the shelves above my fireplace. He’s about ten inches tall and is beautifully engineered to function as a sake pitcher, cup, and cup holder. It’s a tough one to do justice with via photo. He smiles and watches the life that happens in our household.

This lil guy was made by a classmate of mine in my ceramics mold-making class in 1996. Once people see that he’s more than a buddha figure, he triggers a lot of conversation and endures a lot of curious handling. This buddha’s creator’s name was Alisa, she made five of them as her course final. At the end of each school year, a bunch of us would exchange artwork. I’m pretty sure I made out with the sweeter end of the deal on this one. 

Stories of Things - The Torso Mugs

My second year as an art student (1996-ish), ceramics: mold making class with the fabulous Mark Burns.
Assignment: Make a set of four mugs by hand. Try to make them as close to identical to each other as possible. Draw from a bag the name of an artist/painting that will inspire your work.
My artist/painting was El Greco/St. Sebastian c.1612

I created these mugs, with a bonus pitcher. The reason for the bonus pitcher was that it was actually the first "mug" I made, but the next one was significantly smaller. By the time I started on my third piece (second mug) I realized the first needed to get either discarded or repurposed. When I presented these for critique, I had also made a board with arrows that the mugs hung on. I lost that in one of my moves at some point in time. The purpose of the exercise was to help us really appreciate the mold-making process by demonstrating how difficult it is to replicate something exactly, over and over again. It was an awesome exercise and by the time we got to the mold making process, I was indeed grateful. We got to create some really great stuff through mold making.

I tried to use these a couple times but apparently there were bubbles in the glaze deep down in the inside, and they popped open during the firing process, thus when I added hot beverage, the bubble residue flaked off into my drink. Multiple times. Pretty gross. So, they're decorative mugs. But I like that they strike up conversation from time to time. 

St. Sebastian by El Greco. Oil on canvas. image source:;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=referral

St. Sebastian by El Greco. Oil on canvas.
image source:

Stories of Things - The Suitcase Side Table

I did a self-portrait and daily journal series during my first-ever NaNoWriMo challenge in November. I received several questions about objects that were lightly blurred out in the background of some of the photos. 
One question I got was:

"What's in the suitcase side table?"

When my dad passed away in 2012, my sister, step-mom and I had to do that painful thing where you go through a passed-away person's belongings and sort out what to do with it all. Throughout my entire life, my dad played guitar. I kept his old Martin and this suitcase. I knew there was a bunch sheet music inside, but for this little "Stories of Things" project I opened it up again and dug through it a little.

There are some awesome sheet music books in here, all the classics like Bob Wills and Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings and a bunch more. What I hadn't realized is underneath all the music books were a bunch of handwritten and typed songs my dad had made. His attempts at pouring his soul out into verse. Songs about love and loss and war and pain. There were also a few letters my dad had received in the mail from people he'd done some act of kindness for. The letters weren't specific, but my dad did help a lot of people so it wasn't a surprise to find several thank you notes like this. It made me teary reading through the heartfelt gratitude expressed in some of these letters from people who'd only met my dad once or twice. Kindness is such beautiful mark to leave on the lives of strangers.

It's a pretty awesome looking suitcase side table. But it's definitely much, much more than that. It's a box of beautiful memories that capture the kind of life my dad lived.

Stories of Things - The Bra

When I was an art student, in my first metal sculpture class the teachers (we had two) would give us a word, and we were to interpret that through a metal sculpture.
The first word for my very first metal project was: Paradox.

I had never touched a welder before, but I immediately fell in love with it. While most students were buying sheets of shiny new sheet metal from Home Depot, I scavenged the metal yard for scraps and found these gnarly, rusted 12 gauge scrap metal pieces. I had to modify them a bit with a plasma cutter to create the cup triangles, then pound the triangles into a bra-cup shape using a 10lb hammer and an old Christmas tree stand that I'd found laying around. I felt strong. Creative. I wasn't a good welder at all when I started. I tried to make lacy designs from the weld. I remember how important to me it was that it be functional, actually something someone could wear (yes, many have tried it on.) I love hearing all the different meaning people pull from it when they see it. It's very "me" in a lot of ways.

The simplest story about it is that it was the first metal project I ever made. I went on to make a lot more things out of metal, but this is the only one I kept. The only evidence in existence that I made stuff from metal at one point in my life. 

Stories of Things - The Blue Typewriter

I don’t typically place a ton of value in everyday objects. I appreciate useful things, beautiful design and thoughtful execution, but my personal take on the stuff we buy and surround ourselves with is mostly unattached. What I do love is when the things people surround themselves with, hold beautiful and interesting little stories. The objects become a sort of memory time capsules. I'd like to share 24 tiny stories for the next 24 days of December.

The Blue Typewriter

When I was a little kid, about 6 or 7 years old, my mom got a new word processor. When she got it, she gave my sister and me her old blue typewriter. We loved it. We could play office, and school. She’d also given us a box of unused checkbooks from an old, closed account so we could do pretend payroll and feel fancy and grown up. I loved typing on that old typewriter. The childhood memories are really fond ones.

I shared this story with my boyfriend some time ago. For my birthday this year, he presented me with the one in the photo. Almost exactly as I remember the one from my childhood. I don’t use this one, but I love it. I love the memories that flood into my mind every single time I look at it. I love that it makes me smile. It reminds me of fun and imagination. It reminds me of play and creativity and possibility. Funny how a thing like a typewriter can represent such a range of feelings.