The calendar and the heat might still say it's summer but the season is over for my family. This morning I was up at the ungodly hour of 4:45 am to take our son to cross country practice on his first day of high school. I rewarded myself with a long lunch break and a pot of turmeric tea; I'm trying desperately to keep my eyes open all day so I can go to bed by 9 pm and actually fall asleep! I finally achieved my long-pursued goal to get off coffee (and caffeine) and wine, which is supposed to help both my allergies and Hashimoto's disease, but as a result I have trouble both falling asleep and waking up.
My tea basket, above, is a 19th Century antique from Hong Kong. I was introduced to these when we adopted our daughter. We stayed at the Shangri-La hotel on the island of Hong Kong and, true to their British colonial roots, they served jasmine tea every afternoon. Not only did they serve it; they brought straight it to our room in a basket like this. The insulated lining keeps the tea hot and is fitted exactly to prevent the pot and tiny cups from getting jostled. The little dish that serves as a teapot lid held sliced pears at the Shangri-La.
To this day the smell of jasmine tea takes me right back to Hong Kong in summer. I wanted one of these basket sets in the worst way, but they were $80 in the hotel gift shop and about $60 in the shops around the hotel. Jerry said we should wait until we got to mainland China to get a set, where they were sure to be cheaper. Well, poor Jerry soon found that was a mistake! We never saw another set again. When we got home I searched and searched online and couldn't find one. He did not hear the end of it for many, many years!
Then one day a shop I follow on Etsy listed this set for sale and I snapped it up. It cost way more than than it would have if I'd just gotten one from the Shangri-La, but I was so happy to find it I didn't care! I learned you have to search for a "Hong Kong" tea basket because they aren't used elsewhere in China. Even still they are quite hard to find online and I have only seen vintage or antique ones. Maybe somewhere you can buy new ones online but I haven't found it. So, if ever you are in Hong Kong near the Shangri-La, pick me up another one of these tea sets, 'kay? Just in case this one ever breaks.
Anyway, sitting out in the sun (another of my doctor's Hashimoto's prescriptions: 20 minutes of sun bathing around noon) drinking my tea I reflected on Hong Kong and the Shangri-La and our daughter, who was surely a baby just yesterday but whom we dropped off at college last weekend. How long ago it was, getting her from China. Young motherhood is a complicated season, hard but so, so sweet. That season is ending for me; just one fledgling is left in my nest and he will soon be flying free. Motherhood was the summer of my life but it's ending and I'm heading into fall.
Not to be maudlin; fall is a season with its own beauties, although I have cried many tears over the past few years. I get to focus on myself a lot more now, despite carting our cross country runner all over the county. My business is thriving and growing. I'm taking all kinds of classes and learning new things and pursuing hobbies. But there's nothing like having all my babies home again.
I love this photo of myself, even though I am not as young or thin as I'd like to be and I'm wearing no makeup and a mom bun. I love it because I'm so happy. This day, all the kids and my husband were home and we were having a game day. Our youngest snapped this picture of me and I can see I'm just having so much fun and that makes me beautiful. I was taught from about age 10 to never, ever let anyone take a photo of me without my makeup and hair and outfit being perfect. What would my mother have said back then about me posting this on the Internet for literally the entire world to see?
I used to get annoyed with people who acted like I should cherish every minute of motherhood, although even then I knew how fleeting it was. "The days are long but the years are short," as they say. I remember one day when I had my own infant and babysat another and we also had a dog and cat. The dog was sick that day and I was changing diapers constantly and I thought to myself, "I haven't done anything all day but clean up bodily fluids." It certainly isn't glamorous when you're in the trenches, but then you miss it when it's over.
In that regard I feel sorry for parents just a little younger than I. I watch them and see how much they're missing. Their noses are constantly stuck to their phones. Often their kids' are too. They're so distracted. Not that I am some phone-less Luddite; on the contrary the fact that social media marketing is now an inescapable part of owning a business means I'm online all the time; or at least way more than I like. The thing Jerry and I love most (and the kids hate just as equally) about the tiny cabin is our abysmal wireless signal up there. I just take books I want to read, and board games, and actual paper binders of work because I know I won't get a signal. If you comment on my Instagram or message me and don't get a response for several days you can bet we've been up at the cabin. We are forced to focus on the physical up there ~ the present, the environment, the now. One incredibly valuable skill I learned from all my classes is automation. I now automate my social media at least a week out. I could automate this blog except I haven't learned to do that yet!
I've been able to kind of automate my listings for a while with eBay's photo tools. They're a little jenky so I still have to do some work manually. Canva has AI image generation now as well, and I make my book cover mockup images with Mockup Shots, an AI marketing tool. I use AI to write social media captions on and off; at first it took so long to prompt the chatbot it hardly seemed worthwhile; it wasn't saving any time. Just within the past six months that's gotten way faster, and I do notice my robot-written captions seem to get more engagement than my own words. So I will probably use that function more, even though the captions sound way too over the top and unlike myself.
I am starting to automate more and more areas of my life, and not always using robots. As I write this, my Roomba is vacuuming the floor for me but actual humans are doing my shopping at Walmart. They'll deliver our groceries in a few hours. My books for sale on Amazon are printed and shipped to my customers for me, as is my artwork and fashion from my Shopify and Redbubble boutiques.
I really, really love that kind of automation! Employing other people while giving myself more time to create and work is something I wish I'd been able to do when my kids were younger. I could have spent so much more time being with them... but only if I let myself and didn't get sucked into my devices the way I see younger parents doing! My favorite new automated life hack is my Rakuten/Walmart + collaboration. I get on Rakuten and then link to Walmart and sign into my Walmart +. Then I order free same-day delivery (and free shipping on things our store doesn't have in stock). I earn cash back from BOTH Rakuten and Walmart! Walmart + members also get cash back on gas and travel as well as free Paramount Plus streaming tv. It's less than $9 a month if you pay annually too! Plus right now when you sign up for Walmart + you get $20! So by signing up for both Rakuten and Walmart you get $50 along with the convenience and money saved! Sign up for Walmart+ with this link: Get $20 credit when you sign up for Walmart+. Courtesy of W+.
I do make money if you join Rakuten with my link ~ and so do YOU! Right now you get $30 when you join and make your first purchase and anyone who signs up with your link makes $30 too. Besides cash back, Rakuten has special deals and coupons. The other day I ordered some clothes for myself from Belk and got 6% cash back as well as a pair of genuine diamond earrings worth hundreds of dollars for only $29! I was going to sell the earrings but I decided to keep them as my reward for finally giving up coffee and wine! If you want to stay updated on coupons, freebies, and deals from my affiliates just follow my Pinterest board: Deals.
Thank you for wading through this long, long, long post! As you can see I had a lot of things pent up waiting for the chance to write them, and thanks to my robot and human helpers I finally got the chance!
My name is Amanda, but my childhood nickname was "Mandaline". I am a mother of three turning my passion for creating into a full-time business.