Every year, I write a year-end closing post. It’s cathartic. It sweeps away the detritus of the year passed and makes way for something new. This past year, my “something new” has made my brain mush and made it a challenge to string multiple phrases together (ask me how many times I just re-worded that sentence). In my sleep deprived state, I’ve managed to miss my own self-imposed year-end deadline for this post, even. I wish that I could record and share the elation and emotion of the last several weeks with the new baby, but instead I’ll point you to this new mama’s blog since she’s written everything that I’m feeling but haven’t had the time or energy to write myself.

All I can say is that if 2012 was a difficult year, 2013 was nothing short of blessed. Here are just a few of the highlights of the year…

1. Teaching at Place des Arts

One of my greatest joys was teaching at Place des Arts this past year. I was a student at Place des Arts years ago and learned how to spin and weave from Irene Weisner. I loved my sessions at Place des Arts and felt it was my great responsibility to try to create those positive experiences for my students too. Each class was full of students who were both new and experienced, confident and unsure, but always curious and inspired. Each week, seeing the handspun skeins become more and more consistent and intentional, and then seeing those skeins become beautiful shawls and sweaters was so very rewarding. Whereas I used to endure sleepless nights before having to teach, worried that I would forget something or nervous about how the class would go… teaching twice a week, every week, for nearly 20 weeks brought me more confidence that I could answer those unexpected student questions, whether I had the answer or not. And one of my hands-down favourite class projects was dyeing and spinning these colour wheels.

2. YWCA Women of Distinction Nomination

In the spring, I was among the lucky nominees for the YWCA Women of Distinction Award. I was humbled and so appreciative that Kim Werker nominated me for the Arts, Culture & Design category. The undeniably talented Chan Hon Goh (of Goh Ballet) won the category, but there were so many other unexpectedly amazing things that spilled my way because of that nomination. One of the things being an invitation to audition for TED Talks. One of the local TEDx organizing committees invited me to submit a proposal in the summer and I ended up doing a live audition for their selection committee.

3. FWE E-Series

FWE E-Series: Brainstorming session with Terry McBride, the current CEO and one of three founders of the Nettwerk Music Group

FWE E-Series: Brainstorming session with Terry McBride, the current CEO and one of three founders of the Nettwerk Music Group

I absolutely love being an entrepreneur. When I started my first businesses in my early 20’s I was too young and scared to claim that title. But now, I love it. To me, it’s about creating something from nothing… it’s the ultimate creative work. And this year, I was humbled and awed to be in a room with some of the most kickass business leaders around. Hosted by the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, the E-Series was a three-day intensive workshop for business owners that covered everything from corporate culture to branding, growth hacking to exit strategies. Every session was engaging and essential, and I went home every night not being able to sleep because I was so full of adrenalin. And I’m grateful for all the women I met during those three days… first they were strangers, and now they are peers, models, and mentors.

4. Japan & Hong Kong

My grandma at the udon shop in Narita, Japan

My grandma at the udon shop in Narita, Japan

At the end of March, we took a trip to Japan to visit my grandmother and celebrate her 88th birthday. My husband and I traveled together with my brother and his girlfriend. It was a special trip for all of us. My brother proposed to his girlfriend one rainy morning in Tokyo during the trip while my husband and I roamed around the Ginza train station hoping to catch a glimpse of Jiro’s restaurant. She said yes, and then the four of us met up at Asakusa for zarusoba.

A couple days later we met up with my parents and my grandmother in Narita where we simply ate a lot. Narita is a sleepy sort of airport and business hotel kind of town but to our surprise, there was an incredible handmade udon shop down the street from my grandma’s house. And there was that one night we accidentally ordered foie gras on rice from a picture menu that was entirely in Japanese.

My husband loves the idea of traveling with family, and coincidentally we were able to swing over to Hong Kong after Tokyo so that we could meet up with his parents who were traveling there too. Hong Kong was a sentimental trip where we visited the places where my in-laws grew up, went to school, and got married and also the cemetery for Ching Ming festival (grave sweeping) where my husband’s great-grandparents rest. It’s definitely a cultural experience… seeing the mile-long line ups to board the buses that ride up to the grave sites, the paper money for burning, the mass outdoor picnics under the haze of smoke and incense. And again we did a whole lot of eating in Hong Kong. Everything from $3 rice rolls from street vendors to har gow (shrimp dumplings) decorated with gold leaf at our first Michelin-rated restaurant (Tin Lung Heen).

I happened to be about 5 weeks pregnant at the time of our travels and we weren’t ready to share the news with our families yet, so I endured a bit of nausea during the trip and couldn’t eat any of the raw fish in Japan. Worse still was the extreme fatigue from those early weeks of pregnancy that I kept dismissing as “jet lag”. Despite any physical discomfort, I love traveling to Japan and love seeing my grandma. I will be ever so lucky if I have her stamina and energy at 88 years.

5. The new house and craft attic

Pretty much my whole spinning stash, except for two fleeces

Craft room… where I can make a mess

In September, we moved to our new home and I couldn’t be happier. Finally, a place where we can settle in. Now, to find a way to store things in a room with sloped walls…

6. A babe in yarns

Baby Russell at 8 days. Photo by Jenn di Spirito.

Baby Russell at 8 days. Photo by Jenn di Spirito.

For years now, I’ve struggled with the dilemma of starting a family while maintaining a business. I didn’t want to lose one for the other, or grow resentful or bitter. Over the years, I’ve surveyed mothers and entrepreneurs and tried to see where I could find the sweet spot — that holy grail of balance between life and work, business and family. How would I manage this life change when I was always the one to unlock the door in the mornings and lock up at night. When I was dyeing every skein myself. When I was spending hours and hours entering orders, invoices, and receipts into my accounting software, manually… line by line.

From left: Teresa, Grace, Channa, Liisa, Ginny, Matthew, David, Hubert, Micheala

From left: Teresa, Grace, Channa, Liisa, Ginny, Matthew, David, Hubert, Micheala on my birthday

Over the years, all the right people became part of the studio and wanted to help build SweetGeorgia. Finally this past year, all the pieces fell into place. Teresa, Hubert, David, Ginny, Channa, Grace and Liisa magically transformed SweetGeorgia into this place where beautiful things are made and shared everyday. It’s become a place that has given me time and space to enjoy the new baby. More importantly, it’s become a place that needs something different from me now. Not more inbox zeros. Not more hours spent bookkeeping.

I am excited about this new path as both a mother and an entrepreneur. It will no doubt take me time to get good at this, now that there is a new voice who often determines the course of the day. But with those spare moments between burping, laundry, and email…

Fat Quarter Bundles: Kate Spain's Sunnyside from Moda Fabrics and Joel Dewberry's Heirloom from Free Spirit Fabrics

Fat Quarter Bundles: Kate Spain’s Sunnyside from Moda Fabrics and Joel Dewberry’s Heirloom from Free Spirit Fabrics

While I only have little windows of time these days (somewhere between those 12 daily feedings), I am feeling more free than I have in years. Free to explore, learn, create, let myself be inspired, and play with colour and texture. To once again really dive in and indulge in the creative side of this creative work. To knit simply to feel the yarn move through my fingers. To dust off my Pfaff. I have a stack of fat quarters, two looms, a spinning wheel, and an attic full of wool. What ever shall we do next?