by Kristin Cooper
May 28, 2020
READY, SET, GO!
2020 started off with a bang, just as planned. Chris and I dove into our 100 Days of Metalsmithing challenge January 1st, motivated to move our business forward with our oldest going to college next year. We were pushing our designs, getting accepted into great shows around the country, and more people were ordering from our online store (we cannot thank you all enough for your orders!). All our goals were coming together just right.
Our (clean) jewelry bench on January 1, 2020 ... Day 1/100 of our 100 Days of Metalsmithing Challenge
HELLO, WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL
I recall Chris calling out from the next room, “The NBA canceled their season!” Soon college sports followed suit. The next day our boys were let out of school a day early for spring break, and suddenly, we were self-quarantining. We, just like everyone else in the US, were rattled in those first days of confusion, fear, uncertainty, panic over food and TP, and conflicting news reports.
LOSS UPON LOSS
Feelings of grief started to weigh heavily as our 8th grader’s first opportunity to act in the school play and his state Science Olympiad competition was canceled, followed by our senior’s robotics tournaments, electric car races, and high school graduation. Chris and I were terribly sad about the experiences our kids would be missing out on. (Luckily for us, our boys seemed to take it all in stride, we know that's not the case in every family.)
All the disappointment and uncertainty was too much to handle at times, and I was having trouble making jewelry or doing much of anything productive. Watching TV or getting on Facebook felt like turning on the faucet and showering in fear and bad news. I also remember moments of deep gratitude for the extra time to spend at home with our family, while feeling guilty as so many others were suffering, dying, or risking their lives for ours & others.
Shows — in a normal year — are an unpredictable gamble for every artist, it’s the nature of the art/craft life. We typically do around 15 shows a year. We apply to each show with photographs of our work. A jury decides if we make it in or not. If we got in the year before and had a stellar show, we might not be accepted again the next year. Sometimes we’ll be accepted to two awesome shows that fall on the same weekend, and we can only do one. Weather is always a risk factor for outdoor events, and oh my, we can tell you stories!
You might be wondering if the shows are worth the gamble? Honestly, yes! We love meeting new people and talking with our friends and longtime customers at our shows. Our shows are a main source of our income, and they are a wonderful balance to all our solitary work in the studio.
Shows — this year — are in limbo, or canceled (or innovative ... read to the end to see exciting proof). In January and February, show acceptances were rolling in left and right, and the stars were aligned with our goals and our calendar. (By the way, news of each acceptance feels like Christmas, accompanied by a “YESSSS!” and a happy dance.) Then in March and April, Chris and I slipped a bit into shock as show cancelations started trickling in. With news reports suggesting the virus might resurge in the fall and winter, we are facing the reality that shows might not happen at all this year.
Ah, deep breath, “We will get through this.”
Odd Fact: During our years of doing shows, domestic terrorism, weather, and now a pandemic have canceled our shows.
UPS AND DOWNS
One of the biggest ups is the online orders we’ve received through quarantine! Your support of our handmade work through this pandemic brings us joy, and keeps us motivated and feeling connected with you all through these scary times (and helps us feed our growing teenage boys!). We are so grateful! THANK YOU.
Definitely an up: We moved the living room furniture out of the way so we can get our game on. Chris is passing his mad ping pong skills to the rest of us.
In those early weeks when we'd get overwhelmed with worry, Chris and I kept reminding ourselves that we have it pretty good. We weren't sick, Chris can still do his day job from home, our online shop is already set up, our family of homebodies is quite content to quarantine at home, and we all genuinely like each other. We are incredibly fortunate.
And, like everyone else, our ups would cycle back down. What if we get sick? Will our senior be able to go to college in August? Getting groceries was suddenly the scariest thing we could do. Through the darkness and sleepless nights, I realized my anxiety had anxiety. Hours numbing out, watching feel-good comedies, became a necessity. Thank God for dogs.
In an effort to feel better, “Focus on what you can control” began to play on repeat in my head.
Thankfully, Chris and I continued our 100 Days of Metalsmithing challenge, which kept me grounded and focused for at least a bit every day that first month of quarantine.
My school district yoga students asked if I’d continue teaching them online. After wrestling with lots of excuses not to, I realized they all must be struggling as much as I was. Maintaining that yoga community of friends was something I could do (something in my control). My oldest helped me throw together a “studio” in our basement, I got over my fear of teaching online, and we started meeting for yoga via Zoom. Seeing their smiling faces and how much the yoga helped them really helped me. It felt good to focus on others. All the deep breathing and movement was definitely a bonus, too. Yoga wasn’t canceled.
COPING VIA GOOD NEWS
At the point when the barrage of COVID-19 bad news felt completely unbearable, we wondered how do people continue when so much gets thrown into the air? Chris said, “Let’s do something to bring some good news into the world. Let’s create a way to help others who are going through way more difficult stuff than we are ... let’s send surprise earrings to people to brighten their day.”
I immediately loved the idea — THIS is something we could do, something within our control. Our Share the Love project developed quickly. We decided we’d start with giving away five pairs of free earrings, and possibly five more if we felt like we could swing it.
Exactly one month after we started our self-quarantine, we asked our friends and customers to nominate people they felt could use a pick me up in these challenging times. The nominations poured in! Together, with our boys, we read through all the nominations and made selections.
Holy smokes, people are dealing with very hard things on top of this pandemic: cancer treatments, the inability to visit loved ones in nursing homes, grads & retirees with crushed hopes, depression, loved ones sick and at the hospital alone, teachers having to create online curriculums while juggling homeschooling their own kids, plus nurses, first responders, and essential workers putting themselves at risk to keep us all safe, supplied and alive ... and people who have lost their jobs to COVID-19 ... it was overwhelming, and these women’s stories put life into perspective for our whole family.
We learned that everyone’s struggle is personal and we really can’t judge. Pain is pain. We’re all in such uncertain times.
My anxiety faded away every time my focus shifted to writing letters to the Share the Love recipients to let them know who nominated them, why they were nominated, how much they matter, and our hope that this pair of earrings serve as a reminder they are loved and supported by so many. We sent the first five pairs not expecting anything in return.
Then, nominees and their nominators began contacting us with their reactions — pure surprise, joy, love, and often tears. Inspired, Chris and I dug in deep, deciding to send more.
COMPASSION IS CONTAGIOUS
At that same time, Jill Anderson from Heart and Smile Creative, LLC asked if she and her husband, Jeff, could contribute to our cause. Thank you, Jill and Jeff!! Their generous donation allowed us to send five more pairs of surprise earrings! What a wonderful thing, I’m pretty sure my heart grew three sizes when they asked to sponsor our effort. We’ve long thought compassion and love are contagious, and we witnessed this firsthand. So incredibly exciting! Jill and Jeff’s generosity inspired us to increase our efforts even more.
With a little help from our boys, Chris and I continued to send out “pick me up” happy earrings throughout April and May, and we just sent another batch of surprise earrings, bringing our total to 30 people so far!
The best part is: that’s 30 nominees + 30 nominators who feel a lift when the surprise arrives. And, hopefully, the recipient will continue to feel a lift every time they see their earrings.
Thank you to all the people who nominated someone for our Share the Love project. We couldn’t have done this without you!
We aren’t sure what the rest of the year will bring, but then we never really are. This experience helps us accept that truth and gives us a new perspective. We remain hopeful for the future and grateful for our family, friends, and community. Thank you all for your support!
WE HOPE YOU’LL SHARE YOUR INSIGHTS!
What silver linings have you discovered during this time?
How are you coping with stress and quarantine fatigue? What’s helping you? Just last night I listened to a podcast with Dr. Laurie Santos, a cognitive scientist and Professor of Psychology at Yale University and host of The Happiness Lab podcast. She covers ways to cope with the on-going stress of this pandemic. If this topic calls to you, I recommend giving it a listen, it’s fun, free, and filled with good tips. https://armchairexpertpod.com/pods/laurie-santos
Also, Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps, opens up about mental health and the pandemic with options for help in this candid article. Give it a read if it calls to you, or pass it on to someone you care about who may need some support right now: https://www.espn.com/olympics/story/_/id/29186389/michael-phelps-most-overwhelmed-ever-felt
AND, DRUMROLL, PLEASE ...
There’s one more BIG silver lining!! Innovators like Katie Maybry Van Dieren, the curator of The Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair, are doing groundbreaking things right now. Instead of canceling her 6th Annual Spring Swing event, she created Kansas City’s 1st Virtual Craft Fair. It's history in the making! Join us THIS Saturday and Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm CST — from the comfort of your own home (in your PJs if you wish!). It's FREE and open to ALL, no matter where you live!
We are busy finishing up brand new designs for this event ... a wonderful, familiar feeling, and a nice reminder: We will get through this, friends.
Hugs to you all. Stay well!
XOXO,Kristin & Chris
May 28, 2020
Thank you for sharing 5 months of your lives with us. It was a real journey to read through your resilience as a family and how you managed to turn lemons into lemonade. I think we’ve all learned some things about ourselves and others during this quarantine. I know I will never take a hug for granted again.😁
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