Every day another three more minutes of light

Every day you wake up, there will be three more minutes of light! At least, for about six more months anyway… But also I love it as a wonderful metaphor. I have found that there are few moments in life where everything changes all at once. It is usually through small improvements daily over a long time (like learning a language, or investing for the future) that we see positive changes compound. I love the Eastern proverb “many drops make a shower” (less so the English proverb “many sands sink a ship”).

I hope you have a happy New Year’s Eve, can enjoy a day off tomorrow (assuming you read this on NYE) and have a slate of new ideas and goals going forward.

Quick plug: we ARE open NYE regular hours (noon to 9) and we DO have pizza from 4 to 8:30 like normal, and would love to make your evening dinner choice an easy one. Call, come in, or buy on our website!

So, I am hesitant to write a “what a horrible year 2020 was but hey this Saturday everything changes and it will all be fine” email, mostly because I sincerely hope that you found a way to thrive, or at least found some silver linings, in this past year. But also because I don’t think we should let down our guard because the year happens to be a new number. I am an optimist, but it seems to me that it is probably true that the worst of the pandemic probably is still in front of us. But let’s be honest, I really really really really really hope that our best days are also in front of us sooner than later.

2020 has been an extremely hard year for a lot of people around here, let’s not minimize that. We have a friend who has basically had everything fall apart around here – professionally, family issues of all sorts, school, health, they even had to evacuate when the train derailed last week.

But, having said that, we here at EStation have had a LOT to be thankful for, and the end of a year is a nice moment to reflect. I am extremely grateful to all of you who have been generous to us this year, to our employees, generous to this community and giving to help people all around the world. We have not given as much back as we would have liked this year, but you have been generous enough to us this year that we are cautiously optimistic we can get our giving levels back up to where they were in 2019. It is on a shortlist of priorities for the coming year.

This email will be mostly some random thoughts from this year, and a few thoughts about business. Little things that have been collecting, things that don’t fit into any other email. Seemed appropriate for the end of the year.

If you want to read any of my previous posts, OR if you haven’t got to read my post that made me decide to stop acting like a corporation and start writing like a human, you can find all of these here: elizabethstation.es/blog

If you were to read any of them, I would love it if you would read the post from June 3rd (toward the bottom of the webpage). It is my most heartfelt piece.

(As somewhat of a companion piece to that, my wife wrote this piece on forgiveness in 2008 while learning English at Whatcom, after we had moved back from Mexico. It is heartbreaking and beautiful.)

Over the next week or two on Instagram we will be posting some fun end/beginning of year things like top 10 selling items of 2020, top moments from the year, that type of thing. Keep a look out for those.

Thanks again for taking time to read this, and for being a part of this. Our goal is to be a business that Bellingham would sorely miss if we were to disappear. And all the long term thinking that goes along with being (hopefully) a piece of this city that is valued. We want to live up to your highest standards.

On to the random thoughts!

Christmas Lights plea (please)

Can we all please leave our Christmas lights up? For a while? I mean, seasonal depression is a real thing, and yet it seems like everyone is anxious to pull down wonderful colored lights off their houses and get back to drab darkness like four or five months too early. Can we at least leave them up until St Patrick’s Day??? Or at least Valentine’s?

Where to find the most interesting items (Retail Behavior)

There are some interesting retail science and research of how people buy things, and I love it all.

For example, it is common knowledge among anyone in retail that people generally shop “eye to thigh” which means that when you walk up to a shelf, you will notice products that are at your eye level, and down to about your waist level. The shelves above your eye level and down at the floor will basically disappear from view unless you are really intent on taking time and seeing each item.

Here at EStation, we LOVE finding fun new items, but a lot of great items have to go on the top and bottom shelves, where people rarely see them.

The point: if you want to find the real unique items we have, take a second and shop the top and bottom shelves. I bet you’ll find stuff you didn’t know we had!

One step towards local

I made one small, easy decision towards local this holiday season. And I did it while at home thinking about it, not just a whim or because someone sent me a promotional email. I just thought about a small step I could take to make Bellingham better.

After reading an article in the Seattle Times about how there are more than 650 restaurants in Seattle now closed forever, I thought to myself the following question: “what parts of Bellingham would I be terribly disappointed to wake up and see that they were gone?” This is not exactly the same thing, necessarily, as my “favorite places” because for example I cannot remember the last time I went to Woods at Boulevard Park, but I can remember when that building was unused for years and years and I always longed for something to go there. I would be terribly disappointed to see that disappear. All my favorite places would be on my list, but there are other places too, like the Mt Baker Theater or the Pickford Theater that I wish I went to more. Perhaps later in life.

So anyway, also high on my list was Village Books (another place I frequent way less than I would like to imagine) and so I decided to do is to figure out how to make buying books from Village Books as simple as I could for myself, with the intent to get all my books from them going forward. I remember a claim somewhere that they would price match Amazon, but honestly, if I’m buying like 10-20 books a year, if it’s a few more dollars each that won’t break the bank either.

Moving away from Amazon turned out to be both easy and nice. Their website of course is not anywhere near as easy as Amazon, but you can find new and used options on it, and I can either order it online or call them. I prefer calling. I don’t remember if they had shipping options, but when my books arrive they call me and I swing by to pick them up. But I also I totally had forgotten about all the fun and unique stuff they have there.

While I was picking up the books I saw this sign there that said something like “commit to three” and asked people to commit to intentionally shopping at three local businesses. I have been thinking about that, and although of course I want to shop somewhere that does a good job and has products I want, I think I’m willing to spend a few extra dollars, not only because I’d miss them if they were gone but also because I actually find so much more unexpected pleasure vs being on a website. I tend to forget that until I end up there again.

It took some intentionality to make it happen, but it was much easier than I imagined and I’m committed to it now. Now working on thinking of two more…

Many drops make a shower

To quickly go back to this metaphor, I wanted to share with you a personal accomplishment and goal, not to brag but hopefully to inspire:
My life goal is to learn a new language every 10 years. And I just finished up with Italian.

Am I fluent? No. But also I totally forgot about this goal until four years ago.

I was a horrible student in Spanish at Sehome (thanks Mrs Diaz for your help though!) but became fluent in my five years in Mexico.

And I thought that if I gave myself ten years to learn another language, that should be WAY more than enough time. And so I set that goal.

And then forgot about it completely. I remembered it on my 36th birthday, and panicked and googled “what is the easiest language to learn.” Answer: Esperando. Then I googled “what is the easiest real language to learn if I know English and Spanish” and Ms. Google said: Italian. And so I launched into it. I am to the point where I feel good about what I can understand, but I’ve had only one chance to use it practically.

Anyone want to chat in Italian with me? I’d love to speak it more!

I start into Mandarin Chinese tomorrow.

What goal do you do have for 2030???

My theory on why maybe America is so bad at this Covid thing

I read an article a while ago that said something like “is American too stubborn to survive this pandemic?”

I have thought a lot about that. About why we are doing the worst job in the whole world keeping our people alive.

I think there is something to that stubbornness theory, but here another theory I have: I think it is easier for, say, Africa to make communal decisions to prioritize life because they are closer to memories of what it is to have nothing. And they are able to be ok with that. With losing everything to keep people alive, because they (or their parents) have had to do that and it isn’t hard to imagine, nor hard to imagine getting back to where they are at now.

Think about someone who has a decent life standard, but not too long ago their parents (and neighbors and friends) dealt with starvation and droughts and being on the edge of the razor between surviving and not. If you can’t imagine this, read the quick and easy read “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kwamkwamba, a GREAT read.

I think that when that is your life experience, the idea of intentionally sacrificing your living standard vs helping your neighbors and family survive, is a concrete idea that is helpful because you know where your floor is and what it is like.

Perhaps here in America, first and foremost we can’t imagine where the floor is. But we have “worked so hard,” we have tried to have more than our friends have or spent years working for that raise or house or whatever, and the idea of losing everything is more like a fall into the abyss, where we can’t imagine what it would be like to give anything up, but it seems unthinkable. Maybe even beyond our actual imagination.

But also, and similarly, the “floor” isn’t even an idea we can imagine. Most of us don’t have recent memories in our family of losing everything. We don’t know what that would really look like. And perhaps it is just too terrifying, and we just hope that others will do better than we can.

Probably not the whole explanation, but I think about it a lot when I’m talking to friends and family in Mexico and listening to their experiences (not that Mexico is doing that great either…)

Lastly, two things I am looking for help with:

1) I am having a hard time finding someone to build us this series of boxes I want to create out of wood for behind the bar. I was hoping the ReStore would, but they don’t want to. I have asked a number of people, and those people were too busy. Get a hold of me if you want more details!

2) If you are a fourth or fifth grade teacher in the area, I have some questions I am looking for answers to. Please email me, if you don’t mind chatting with me! patrick@elizabethstation.es

I’ll have another email out in a week or so, and one of the topics will be the idea of taking a scheduled alcohol break. Most of us here take a month or so off of alcohol each year, to make sure we feel ok and just to check in with our bodies. We all know this has been a heavy year, and that alcohol has selling in record quantities. We have some thoughts and want you to know that if you want to change some habits, we fully support any choice you make (and if alcohol is a problem, we recognize that coming around here may not be the best idea… but we want the best for you!).
One of our top 10 best sellers of the year was even a non-alcoholic beer…

Once again, have a wonderful New Year! Thanks for being a part of this incredible community.