At the end of 2015, I exchanged my NHRA hard card for an apron.
I mean this quite literally.
Instead of living the fast-paced life of public relations and social media in the world of motorsports, I decided to stay home and make aprons. At least, that’s what it looked like to the casual observer.
The real reason I stepped away from drag racing was that I wanted to devote my time to writing, and that call from my heart had become insanely persistent and loud. But in order to make the jump from PR to writing, I needed a way to support myself financially that didn’t take me outside of my home office. I mean, everyone knows writing doesn’t pay peanuts unless you’re like really, really successful or never sleep, so I hatched this brilliant plan to make and sell aprons “on the side.” You know, “in my free time.”
This brings me to an important note: I did not take into account how long it would take to create said aprons. Yeah, they were super-cute, and I had all of these darling little details that I incorporated to make them super special. Each apron took at least one full day to make, start to finish, and after weighing (and then testing) the market, I realized that I could only charge right around $40.00 per apron. That barely covers the cost of materials, let alone the cost of time, so my average hourly wage turned out to be, well, twenty bucks on the bad side of zero dollars.
My brilliant ideas and sharp entrepreneurial skills aren’t the subject today, though. Come back to me; we’re talking here.
Right, so, I dove into making those aprons (before I tested the market or made even a casual observation). I bought a sewing machine and a few yards of fabric, cut a template out of poster board, and away I went.
I was quite enthusiastic about it for a spell, and I have a Facebook page with posts and a handful of actual followers to prove it. You can’t see it anymore because I disabled it from public view out of complete mortification, but just know that it exists, okay? And today, in my Facebook memories, I received a flood of photos from that page to remind me of our first farmers market experience.
I was allowed into the winter market on a trial basis as a newcomer, and I was so stinkin’ excited. I got a table, a little stool, hanging racks and twine, a mirror for folks to see how cute they looked in one of my creations, and I signed up to accept digital payments on my phone (Ba-BAM! What is this life!).
I think I took 10 aprons to market that first Saturday, each washed and pressed and clothes-pinned craftily to a hanger for display.
I made no dollars, guys, but I met some really cool people, had a fun time, and decided to come back the following Saturday and try again.
The next weekend I arrived early and found another woman in the exact spot that I had occupied the week before, setting up her…. wait for it… APRON SHOP.
This is the circumstance that explains the existence of phrases such as, “What in tarnation?!” and “Oh, HELL no.”
Her stall was bulging with aprons of all patterns and styles. There were hundreds of them! And she was savvy enough to have sprung for the EZ-UP with sides to shelter her beloved aprons from the misting rain. This was not her first rodeo, y’all.
I felt like I was shrinking as I noted her set-up and absorbed the heat of her unwavering, slightly annoyed gaze. This woman was wiser and far more seasoned than I was, and she was projecting quite clearly that I had infringed upon her territory. The weekend before had been fun and carefree, and I had all sorts of new-girl confidence. On this day, though, I was slapped with the sting of realizing I was absolutely in the wrong arena.
My new friend gave me the side-eye all day long, and it was excruciating. I was embarrassed of my wares! I was ashamed of my low inventory! I DID NOT HAVE ON THE RIGHT SHOES. It was a mess. I was a mess. I had a lump in my throat the size of that weird tomato thing you’re supposed to stick your pins into when you’re sewing a hem.
Alone in my stall of lame-ass aprons that probably appeared to have been constructed by a toddler next to those handcrafted by Fancy Apron Lady, I sat on my wobbly stool and pondered how I could make a graceful exit if the threatening tears of shame should begin to flow.
But then I tilted my head just a smidge, and I caught sight of the most precious tiny girl. She was standing just outside of my space, and her eyes were locked onto an apron with little strawberries woven into the fabric. Tiny Girl was transfixed and smiling, eyes sparkling.
Her grownups stood right behind her, quietly watching, so I asked them if it was okay if she tried one on. On their nods of approval, I crouched down and asked the little one if it was okay with her, too, and she shyly shook her head yes. We all trooped over to the mirror in the corner, and I wrapped the fabric around her twice and tied a big bow. When I was done, she swayed a little from side to side, watching herself in the mirror with pure joy plastered on her face.
That little girl was as pleased as punch to wear my apron, and I saw with my own eyes that she adored it even before she tried it on. Something I made had made someone else happy, and that held a ton of value for me.
This is a circumstance that explains the existence of the “hands up in the air in praise” emoji.
That moment was a very well-timed spark. Seeing my lovingly crafted aprons reflected in her shiny eyes gave me a chance to reset and remember how much of myself I had poured into them. More importantly, that moment was the beginning of understanding that what I really wanted – what makes me feel alive and aligned – isn’t about sewing (delightfully adorable) aprons or simply clicking keys and turning letters into words. It isn’t even about racecars, though I love them fiercely. It’s about people, and it’s about putting something into the world that lights up others.
I’m relatively certain that my assignment on this pretty little planet is to elevate others, to dial into their intrinsic value, and then to tell everyone about all of the cool stuff I’ve found. My mission is to craft my observations and thoughts into words that give other people eyes that sparkle as much as Tiny Girl smiling at that dang strawberry apron.
I’m here to tell stories.
Long story short (as my friend and former Motorsports PR colleague Joanne Knapp would say), I went back to drag racing, and some really amazing things started to happen. I’ll tell you about some of them next time.
Until then (and evermore), may you race well and stay aimed in the right direction.
P.S. I have two or three aprons in various prints that I may be willing to part with, but those strawberry ones are long gone. Hit me up if you’re interested in dropping forty smackeroos on a Josephine’s Place collectible: firstname.lastname@example.org