The sh*t I do for my dog

Chester giving me some serious ‘tude!

I used to think that people were bat-guano nuts when they talked about their pets.  You know those people…the ones that have more pictures of their fur babies than they did of their human children.  The would purchase all kinds of crazy crap to make their babies comfortable…Sherpa blankets, crate fans, nail polish, organic treats, high end grooming stuff, etc.  Yep, all kinds of crazy **raises my hand**

Over the past few years of having multiple Chows and now being left with just Chester, I begin to realize how much we depend on each other for emotional support and protection.  Our lives are so intertwined that I realize that I cannot be comfortable unless he is comfortable.  It is a bit nerve racking, but honestly its a necessity.  I read all the labels on his food, I pay attention to recalls, and I seek out products that he will actually like vice what I like.  I almost sound like a snob when I talk about what I feed Chet and how he is treated, but believe me that is not my intention.  I just hate high vet bills and I find that if I can do some preventative medicine…I am on top of it.  What is really funny, is me buying the gourmet treats for dude.  I was in a doggie boutique in Florida a couple of years ago and as I had the girl behind the counter let me ‘smell test’ all of the treats that contained meat or cheese.  She kept saying something about peanut butter…Chet doesn’t eat peanut butter.  Anywho, she thought I was nutters until I explained that if I cannot smell the meat Chet can’t smell the meat and he will not eat it.  So, after 10 more minutes of smelling treats, we finally decided on a cheeseburger flavored treat that actually smelled like seasoned beef (HE LOVED THEM!).

So, the sh*t that I do for me dog has lead me to this…I am buying a house and guess who determined what we needed in a home?! Chester!!  Did I really need to tell you that?!  Since moving to Maryland I have lived in a condo and a townhouse and both were just awful for my dude.  The Condo was on the third floor with plenty of stairs and lots of noisy neighbors.  If you know a Chow; their main job is protect the family.  So he was on guard consistently with the all the noise.  We had to make arrangements to keep him from the door and thereby allowing everyone to sleep through the night.  Luckily, the condo was on the top floor so we were saved from elephant footed top neighbors.  The townhouse we are currently living in is great, but it is a middle one that has neighbors on both sides.  The extra room is fantastic and the fenced in yard is fabulous, but the noise from both sides is driving us insane.

Before I go any further I want you all to know that I am nominating House Hunting as an Olympic Sport (thinking for the Summer Games!).  Hey if people can nominate the fake game Quidditch then I can nominate the REAL game of House Hunting!

When I started the house hunt I was initially in the market for a condo, town home, and a single family home (in that order).  The search was excruciating because I was working with a certain budget and needed some very important things for Chester.  We needed a fenced in yard or a yard that could be fenced in, hard wood floors (this was for both of us), a deck that he could sunbathe / chill out on, and finally lots of space for him to stretch out to keep him busy and on his job.  With his needs being the majority of my list, all I wanted was a basement for my home studio and a nice kitchen.  Once the games began, my list quickly just went from three home styles to just a single family home.  I really began to hate being attached to someone else and literally losing sleep when dude was on patrol after I had went to bed.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with apartment, condo, or townhouse living but it really is not for everyone.  I think I would have been more apt to do the condo/townhouse thing if I had a small breed dog (Yorkie, Jack, ChiChi, etc…).  Unfortunately for my back, Chow Chows are not exactly grab and go dogs and their barks are not at all cute.

Here is what I found (I am a sucka for Pinterest!): http://pinterest.com/thetwistedcow/osborne/.  At the release of this posting, I am still in the negotiation phase with GMAC on the price of this lovely short sale.  I am praying and exuding positivity!!!

My house that I found spoke to me on both an emotional level and a dog level.  At first I was a bit scared to even say that it was mine because buying a home is GI-NORMOUS!  I did go back a few times and after each visit I could feel the house and I could see myself making it into my home.  I saw Chester (and maybe a new buddy!) running, playing and lounging on the deck, I could see my friends and family eating, drinking, and making lots and lots of noise, I could even see children playing with the dogs and just making a full blown happy mess. I could truly see this as a home for me and my boy.

I am like most pet parents, we will do anything to make the furry ones comfortable.  They are part of our family and that unconditional love deserves some consideration when it comes to buying cars and homes.  I am not saying ‘go for broke’ when shopping for big ticket items, but a small creature comfort (pun intended) would be nice.  A house is something that everyone should get to enjoy and there should be something special for every member of the family; a room for each of the kids, a big kitchen and wine rack for mom, a man cave for dad, a yard for dog, a nook for cat, and a place for friends and family to gather.

Home is truly where the heart is, and no home is complete without laughter, a fur ball or two, and the smell of cookies. I just llllloooovveee cookies!

Cloudy with a chance of clarity….

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With the pending purchase of my new forever home (I really hate moving!), my mind is starting to play tricks on me or at least keep me occupied with ‘creativity’ to make my wait seem more bearable.  There are so many things that I see my friends doing and designing that I am just losing my mind because I cannot do my ‘Twisted Cow thang‘ until this house situation is settled.  Under normal circumstances I would just do stuff without thinking about the long term or short term impact. I know that I have a lot of changes that need to be made both personally and professionally, but everything is in a holding pattern and I am allowing it to be that way for now (it is much safer that way).  So while my closest friends and networking circles are moving forward, I am stagnant and I have no choice but to BE stagnant.  God hear my little prayer and give me patience.

It takes so much to learn to be still, wait, and listen.  I am learning (albeit, very slowly and with severe resistance!) to take this downtime as a blessing in disguise.  I have been playing with my website / product lines and taking a good hard look at my raw materials, equipment, and my human resources.  I seem to always bask in the comfort of a more compact product line so that it is one person manageable, but this is NOT the definition of growth.  So, my ideas have been really leaning towards doing an additional line with the help of some outside hands.  Remember, the holding pattern has this plan crawling along because I don’t want tie up my financial resources, have the raw material and finished products sit or have to be moved to the new house.  It is almost better to not do anything in this case, but instead it is better to have my designs / patterns on paper ready to roll when I get settled.  There are a million things that I want to do, but that little voice is saying, “WAIT BITCH!!!!”.

I am of the school of philosophy that dictates: when you are supposed to do something, have something, or be somewhere you will be there when you are supposed to and there is NOTHING that you can do to rush it or stymy it.  In other words, there is a plan for me and right now my plan is in motion and I need not screw with it.  My eyes are still on my prize and I’ll get it, but this little layover is just a layover and my flight will be coming along soon.  Oh, did I tell you that my flight was an SR-71? 😀

The best decision I ever made

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I find that my blog is a bit of an outlet that not only allows me to see myself as a woman, designer, and artisan, but it allows you all to connect with me on a variety of levels so that you can see why I create/design in the way that I do.  I am not some profound person, but I am awesomely human just like you.  I have my great days, I have my terrible days, those in between days where I am just as confused as the next person, and we cannot forget the HOLY S#!T DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?! days.

I read an article on a blog the other day (I will try to find it again as I really wanted to follow her) that touched on what I am feeling…is my emotional journey too much to share?  I surely do not want people to think that I am unstable, but instead think of me as human and my experiences are what make me an outstanding daughter, friend, wife, and sister.  Additionally, that same craziness makes me a thoughtful designer and careful business woman.

Last year I made the best decision of my life to start seeing someone to help balance me out.  Yes folks, I started to see a counselor.  I thought that I knew all that there was to know about me and obviously I was so wrong.  Our first session was a bit awkward with me crying like a two-year old on the couch (OMG yes there was a couch!!!), but by the time my first session was over I felt like the weight of a car had been lifted off my shoulders.  I had never bared my soul like that before and it was so hard and so easy at the same time.  Our conversations range from picking colors for fabrics to martial issues; there is no topic that is off-limits.  Those topics help her decipher who I am and what makes me tick as a human.  She does not judge, but instead she listens intently and speaks deliberately.  She is educated, compassionate, funny, and really seems to understand what I am feeling and what I need to hear in order to move forward.  I often ask myself, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” 

So fast forward one year and let me share with you some of my journey:

I have more self-confidence and I truly understand my self-worth.

I am more self-aware and vocal about how something or someone makes me feel.  I don’t tolerate being made to feel ‘less than’ by anyone.  We can disagree but no one is allowed to discount me and what I feel. 

My creativity seems unblocked.  Hell I was already a nutcase for fabric and design, but counseling has freed up emotional space and allowed me to really tap into my creativity.  Some nights I cannot sleep because the ideas and colors in my mind are so vivid and clear.

I look at day-to-day situations in a different light.  I have learned that not every problem needs my interjection.  I have lived many years with my ‘plate full’ of other people’s issues, that I had no place to put my own issues.  In the beginning I felt that doing this was mean and wrong, but what good is it if we are both carrying the weight for the same problem?  Sure, I am really happy about holding my loved ones hands or being a shoulder to cry on, but I really weigh out if I want to take on their emotional issues as my own.  Really people, there is only so much room on that plate!  

I stopped feeling guilty when I treat myself.  I am a natural giver and I find it so hard to do something for myself unless there is some giant reason for the ‘self spoiling’.  Now, I am so proud of myself when I purchase two pair of boots because I wanted them not because I needed them.

I have learned how to say ‘no’ and not feel guilty about it.  This is so damn hard!!! 

The most important thing that I have discovered about myself during this journey is that there are some parts of me that I dislike…in comes Bitch Linda.  I realize this sounds a bit odd after all those great points, but this truth is my real wisdom.  I ‘own’ those parts of me, I ‘own’ how those parts make me feel, how they make me act, and what they make me say.  ‘Bitch Linda’ is my best friend and my worst enemy.  Those parts of me will pop up in a design or two every now and then and the beauty and creativity in that darkness sometimes surprises me.  I take full ownership and responsibility for Bitch Linda because she needs me as much as I need her crazy ass.

Essentially, we all need someone who we can speak freely to without feeling that our comments will cause a defensive response/action. I have plenty of best friends that I can call on to vent to, but this is different as there is a bit of psychology behind the counseling.  Honestly, there is no substitute for it.  I recognize that not everyone is ready to leap into the ‘counseling’ thing.  So until you are, learn that being good to yourself is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and those that you love.  To not recognize that your own well-being is critical means that you are depriving yourself of your full potential as well as depriving those around you of your true greatness. 

I am going to tell you something that you already know: give yourself as much love and attention as you give to others and you will be unstoppable.

What’s in a name?

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Crown Jewel dog collar in the French Martingale style

My latest creation: Crown Jewel in the French Martingale style

When you are younger and you hear a name, you do your best to memorize it so when you see that person again you can put their name to their face; at least that was my method as a kid.  As an artist, I listen to a name and then I look at the person and think…does their name really fit their face and personality?

My mother (and apparently a whole mess of folk) named me Linda Jean, so when I started to analyze my name I asked my mom, my Aunt Flossie, and my granddad why that name.  I could have thought of a lot of fabulous names that I could have had, but Linda Jean…what the?!  Here is what they told me, Linda was for my aunt Linda and my father Larry had a thing for L’s.  Jean was a family middle name, my grandmother had it ‘Essie Jean’, my mother has it ‘Ethel Jean’ and now I have it ‘Linda Jean’ and I will pass it down to my daughter (if I am blessed with an evil minion of my own).

The ‘Jean’ used to bug the hell out of me because it just seemed so country kinda backwood-ish, but then again my family did originate from Georgia and Alabama (who am I to argue?!).  The older I get the more I appreciate that middle name.  I am finding that when someone ‘gives’ or ‘shares’ a name with you, it means that you are loved and cherished from the day you were born.  I feel so loved when I see my middle name and so I wear it like a badge of honor.  I have been using it online and boldly in my signature to show how grateful I am for that love. Oh BTW, I did manage to find a friend in Massachusetts that shared a name with me, but her name was spelled with a ‘y’; Lynda Jean.  Would I be a different person if my Linda was spelled Lynda, Lenda, or Lyndah?  Hmm…that is another post for another time.

The giant opening was because I was having a dilemma naming my latest collar design, so I begin to think about my name and how it came to be and what it means to me.  I was looking for a name for this collar that would really invoke a picture or a feeling every time you heard it.  As I was selecting the crystals for this design, I was picturing the actual inspiration behind the collar: The British Monarchy’s Crown Jewels.  I started to focus in on the Crown Jewels when I was watching something on the telly, and either there was a exhibition of the jewels or Prince Harry (that firey redhead) was effin’ something up and the Crown Jewels were mentioned.  Either way, I decided to check those babies out and I was just floored.  The crowns were awesome, but the Koh-i-Noor and the Cullinan I diamonds really put me in the mind for a collar design that would be the crown jewel of my Urban Symphony Collection.

As I was sewing and poking my darn fingers, I was trying to think of names of people, places, or things that would make you think of jewels, opulence, richness, diamonds, sparkle, etc. So, here were my original name choices:
1. Opulence: yeah, this was like a no brainer for this design
2. Sinful: I love this name, but I thought it would make people feel to guilty (I may use it for something else that we need to be guilty about…)
3. Gabor: after the Gabor sistahs, they were freakin’ fabulous! Loved Green Acres!!!
4. Ms. Taylor: after Elizabeth Taylor…ya girl was rockin’ the jewels!!! I think she wore major carats to order pizza.
5. Palisade: no idea where this came from because all I can think about is an exit off the New Jersey Turnpike
6. Seven – I have a design called Six that will be unveiled within the next couple of weeks, so I thought that Seven would be an awesome name for a collar…but not this one.

After thinking about it for a few days, I decided that the name was in my face the entire time!  How do you make someone think of the beauty, history, richness, and sheer opulence of the Crown Jewels when they see this dog collar Name the damn name thing Crown Jewel!!! GAWD!!!  Yep, there it is folks…Crown Jewel; I can be a bit ‘thick’ as the Brits say.

I will post more pictures when Crown Jewel is completed, it still needs to be attached to the collar base and the remaining satin needs to be crystal encrusted.  I am excited to finish it up!

As you can see, naming something is a process and I take it seriously.  A name should make you feel, picture, or understand the reason behind something.  So when next you hear Crown Jewels and you find yourself thinking of the Queen of England and my dog collar, I have done my job!

Ssssoooo you want to spend what?! Where?!

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Before I get into this post and have folks thinking that I am competition bashing…I’m not.  We all realized that we are no longer a strictly domestic economy, but a global one.  With the invention of on online shopping and online vending, we are all interconnected like never before.  All purchasing actions, large and small, impact each of us equally.

What I really want to talk about is utilizing the handmade market.  In all my years of making collars I have learned and evolved my construction, raw materials, and designs.  I have learned to put my heart and soul into everything that I make and my efforts have paid off, but here is my dilemma…watching folks pay boo-ku bucks for something off the shelf when they can just get something totally custom made for the same cost.  The handmade movement here in the US is rolling like an eighteen wheeler without breaks and the sheer genius of these artisans are an untapped market for my dog peeps.  Granted, I have a large clientele base and they are so supportive of me but honestly, why are there not more dog people going handmade…especially the dog show people, dog ‘show off’ people, and dog performance people.  Honestly, handmade is the way to go if you all about the functionality with some serious presentation.

Here is what I am saying, lets say that you go to the mall and get a designer dog collar from one of the big name purse and accessory makers (yeah you know who I am talking about!) and you get a collar for $200.00.  I must admit those collars are fabulous, but think about it…everyone will have one.  You, your show competition, your neighbor, your arch-nemesis, and your arch-nemesis’ cousin will ALL HAVE ONE! For that same amount of money you could have called me or your friendly neighborhood leather artisan and had one-bad-ass-collar conjured up.  Speaking for my own nuttiness…I could create a collar that would have been dripping in disgusting opulence to the point that it would have just been sinful to even speak of it again or touch it without praying first.  A collar that is so embarrassing in bling opulence that we would have to avoid every house of worship within a 20 mile radius of our homes until we got a personal note from God allowing us to ride by them again!  Yes I said it, a $200 handmade collar would have been THE. BEEZ. KNEEZ.  It would be a darn one of a kind (or something that could not be duplicated exactly) and we could double dog dare your neighbors to get one exactly like it.

Look no one is saying NOT to go out and purchase the designer stuff (I still do – got quite a few bags myself!!) and we surely need to employ the guys and gals that work in this places.  I am asking you to allow me and my fellow artisans to put your imagination to the test to see what kind of crazy we can come up with.  Get on the handmade band-wagon and make a handmade collar artisan famous.  You can be the one that says ‘I knew her when…”.  Come on make your collar maker famous…so famous that you can no longer afford her collars (hint hint).  <insert Linda’s evil laugh here>. I kid!

Serious, give handmade a try for any and all occasions.

The New Blog Smell…uuummmm

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I love the new blog smell of my new blogging spot!!!

I do my best to keep everything in my life fresh and fun, so with the new website and webhosting company I figured it was high time that my blog got a bit of a make over to support the new Twisted Cow.  We ‘liked’ our other blog, but it did not really inspire us to ‘LLLLLOOOVVVVEEEE’ it.  WordPress has this way of making you love the modern sleekiness their service therefore making your blog so easy to ‘lurve’. 

The Twisted Cow has been threatening and working at making the blog a bit of a hybrid; you know…half video and half written.  I have been working…well worrying myself into an ulcer trying to figure out my true introductory topic, but most importantly how to format my new baby.  So here is what I am thinking for my blog:

  • Instructionals: I think that every blog that is associated with a product should have an instructional video section.  Since I make dog collars and leashes, I will follow my own advice and give the people an instructional video section!  
  • About Me: People should know a bit about the woman, the myth, the legend that is The Twisted Cow…right?! 
  • Events Calendar: O-o-o-o and a tab that tracks me like a stalker, you know…a calendar of some sort that says when and where I am going to be so that we can meet and grab a drink.  I guess I should try to sell you a collar (or two) while we are sharing a space…LOL!!! 
  • Just Linda: Lastly, I think that I need a tab (or section) that is just plain me.  I am interested in a boat load of stuff and I know that I am not the only one, so a tab that discusses any and everything is a must for me.  I need a depot for the Crazy Train to pull in to (need a ticket?).  I am going to try to keep the Just Linda fairly PG, but there is just some stuff that I find in life that just deserves a good old fashioned four-letter-word. 

I will add more subjects / tabs as needed.  Afterall, this is a living, breathing, thing and it will need to grow…I need cake 🙂