My mother strikes the perfect balance a woman needs to be successful in all her relationships, and especially in parenthood: she has a gentle touch and a sensitive heart, but strides forward with the fierceness of our Viking ancestors.
Born in Chicago, she grew up in Germany with two German parents. In 1978, when she was 12 years old, she moved to Louisville, Kentucky from Sylt, an island in northern Germany.
Her mother, my Oma, was always more career-driven and self-reliant than the average mother in the ‘70s.
“She had a career when women were still supposed to be mainly housewives. She went to school, became a cosmetologist,” Mom said. “And she always worked.
“Yeah, she was definitely the alpha in the house,” Mom chuckled.
That was the thing about German women, my mom said. If they needed to get something done, they just did it. Being a go-getter herself, my mother was no exception from the line of hardworking German women in our family.
She began working in real estate in the late ‘80s and became an assistant at a local agency in 1993, just after my older sister was born. The job served its purpose for a long time: it gave her and my father the financial security and flexible schedule needed to raise two kids.
But after over 20 years in the industry, Mom wasn’t happy going to work any longer and dreaded getting up in the mornings.
“The person I was working with was very toxic,” she said. “And so it’s like, you go into the office, you never knew which way the wind was blowing.”
It wasn’t only the office environment that boded poorly for my mom’s wellbeing, but the nine-to-five culture that dominates the traditional American workplace. She didn’t want to work for someone else and let them dictate how she spent her time. She also disliked how little vacation time Americans are given each year.
“We’re here as far as we know, only one go-around. And for us, especially Americans, we have this mentality that if we’re not working 50-60 hours a week for somebody else and drawing a paycheck, then we’re useless,” she said. “So we work ourselves to death at our jobs, and come home and just collapse.”
“So we work ourselves to death at our jobs, and come home and just collapse.”
So in 2011, she decided to quit her job and pursue her own business from the ground up dyeing and selling alpaca yarn. We’d had an alpaca farm since about 2003, but by then my mom wanted to pursue her passion for both crafts and animals full-time.
“It was chaos,” she said. “I was used to having a set schedule. And getting up and going to work and doing my work.
“And when my work was done, or when the time clock said, I could go home and then do what I needed to with you guys.”
Not only was she not used to setting and managing her own time, but she quickly realized her business model was going to be harder to execute than she’d thought when she quit.
Having the alpaca fiber sent to a mill to be spun into yarn cost thousands of dollars, and the business was far more physically demanding than she’d anticipated.
“10 skeins of soaking wet yarn are very, very heavy,” she said. “I would need to pay somebody and I didn’t have the money to pay anybody.
“I just didn’t think it through. I reacted. I ran away from something rather than running toward something.”
“I ran away from something rather than running toward something.”
For a few years my family struggled. The business model wasn’t working out and my parents had a hard time paying the bills.
“It was pretty scary for a while there. It was so stressful that I finally got online and found a job. Which was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me, ironically,” she said.
In 2014, Mom decided she was better off getting a part-time office job near home and spending the rest of her time working on her fiber arts and crafts blog, rather than solely dyeing and selling yarn.
“I decided to make the online presence serious because I love computer work. I love coding,” Mom said. “So that way, I was able to do my artistic stuff, as well as my computer stuff.”
The website, FiberArtsy.com, started off as a way for her to give her business an online presence.
Now, it is the business.
On her blog she offers tutorials on how to make crafts — from free crochet patterns to natural beauty products to home crafts. She also offers eco-printing tutorials (using plant materials to dye fabric), yarn dyeing tutorials and felting tutorials.
She finally quit her part-time office job a year ago and since then has been working on the blog full-time.
And after nine years of hard work, she finally has the job she’s always wanted.
“I have the freedom to do what I want. I have the freedom to take a day off. I have the freedom to take a week off if I want, when I want. I have the freedom to go to the beach and work at the beach,” she said.
The thing my mom has always needed, she said, was to prove something to herself. Since moving to America at the age of 12, she’s struggled with self esteem and always wanted to show herself that she had the ability to make something all on her own.
“I can go anywhere in the world, and I have my income, my business that I built out of nothing. Nobody else did. That’s all. I don’t ever need to make a million dollars a year with it,” she said. “I don’t even need to make $50,000 a year with it.
“I’ve done it. I’m good now.”
“I don’t ever need to make a million dollars a year with it,” she said. “I don’t even need to make $50,000 a year with it. I’ve done it. I’m good now.”
The secret ingredient she urges everyone to go find is “the same thing everybody else says, and the hardest thing in the world.
“Figure out what you enjoy doing,” she said. “And figure out a way to make a living doing what you enjoy. Without killing yourself, though.”
My mom has always led by example, and shown me how capable I am of getting exactly what I want out of life as long as I pursue the things I love. What she hoped for her daughters as she raised us was that we found our own sense of wholeness within ourselves, regardless of what goes on in the world around us.
“Sure, it’s nice to have other people. It’s nice to have relationships. But I want you to be whole within yourself,” she said. “And be a happy, complete person without needing somebody else’s input.
“And I think you’re both pretty much there. You both seem pretty happy.”