This holiday season started off for my Florida family with a trip to Massachusetts (brrrrr) to visit my father, who was in a rehab center after having his knee replaced, and the rest of my family who all gathered at my brother’s house in Hadley (the asparagus capitol of New England). My brother, I remember when he was born, I was nine years old. Now Alan and Christina have a family of their own, three boys under the age of nine. As I watched my brother interact with his kids, show them how to pound nails and peel carrots, I couldn’t help but reflect on just how important family is.
Family, that’s what the holidays are all about, a good reminder to be thankful for what you have right under your pierced nose and might even be guilty of taking for granted at times. They may drive you crazy, they may stress you out and wear you out, but nobody loves you like your family. One year my Dad gave me a very special birthday card with a sentient that went something like this: “No Matter how HARD You Try, You’ll ALWAYS be a Part of THIS Family” I think it had a photo of Eddie Munster and his family on the front. Dear Old Daddy Boy thought the card was applicable and hysterical. Probably because we put the “fun” in Dysfunctional.
After our “fun” visit to Western Mass, where we took in the original Yankee Candle Factory (madness and mayhem there, who’s idea was this?) and froze to the bone, “Excuse me but THIS is not cold,” explained my brother as I was running toward the entry way to the warm candle village, leaving my family behind. After that, we returned to FL and I started thinking about how far I ventured from my home in New England all those years ago, and about the life and family I have built here in Florida over the past 20 years.
I came to FL after spending 4-years at Syracuse University and learning the true meaning of lake effect snow. Big Al (my dad) told me to head south after I graduated, he said “If I were you, and I nothing holding me here in this cold climate, I’d go somewhere warm.” That man has good advice most of the time, so I took it and headed to Orlando. When I got here, I was on the hunt for advertising design work. I earned a BFA at SU but my practical side made me major in advertising design so that I would be able to support myself. In this travel and tourism hub, I figured I had a pretty good chance.
Warming my Heart
I met my husband at work. I answered a blind ad in the Orlando Sentinel for a graphic artist and a small ad agency on West Colonial Dr called Richard Sibley Advertising, called me in for an interview. When I went to meet the folks at RSA, it was Doug who told me that he called me in for an interview because he was also and SU grad. As it turned out, Doug and I overlapped two years at SU and even had the same photography professor. We actually had many of the same professors and classes, just at different times. My interview went great and I really thought I had a chance, but they hired someone else. Six months later when she didn’t work out, they called me back.
Through The Years
Doug and I eventually got married, and it never even bothered us that we talked shop on our free time. “Wow the kerning on this menu is just amateurish!” “You could drive a TRUCK through the spacing between the first letter and the rest of the word, what were they thinking?” “Wow, I really love the paper and the quality of the photos on this piece, nobody spends money on collateral like this anymore…” And on and on like that. We were so in tune with graphic design and art together that we decided to start our own business. In 1997 Nelson Creative was born and in 1998 Emilie Nelson was born. We started a business and a family and it was amazing.
Yep, just like that. I was 29 and Doug was 31, we didn’t have a lot of time to make babies, so we got to work right away. We had a lot of time to make ads and layout magazine articles and design web pages though. We’ve been doing that for almost 20 years together now. What? you didn’t know I had a dual identity of graphic artist and fine artist?
A Family Business
Doug and I have worked together for almost 20 years, side by side. That’s an accomplishment isn’t it? We have created billboards on I-4, he has illustrated park maps for Splendid China and Kennedy Space Center, he’s even designed and illustrated the graphics for a Lynx Bus! We make a great team, both at work and in the family. We have strengths that work well together and we have learned how to collaborate and succeed as a team. Heck, if you can be chosen to design one of the original pieces of collateral for Bahama Breeze Restaurant when it very first opened and design the Book of Seasons 52 for the top executives on the project, you can figure out how to carpool crazy kids to dance and swim and make dinner in the middle.
These days Doug spends a LOT of time running our business. Yeah sure he gets to work on AT&T Wireless ads and store graphics to the point that his work is everywhere up and down the East Coast, but… he also does all the behind the scenes paper work and taxes that would drive me to drink.
Which is probably why he does not let me do it.
Being your own boss is great though, you always know you can take vacation time when you want to. You can also run late from lunch. Our family takes full advantage of our flexible self-employed schedule. We run kid carpools in the middle of the afternoon, all the while wondering how families with two parents working off-site actually manage. Connor swims and Emilie dances and we drive them back and forth every day. We split the driving of course, always better as a team.
One thing we have learned over the years is not to get so caught up in working (and carpooling) that we don’t take advantage of that flexible schedule we are so fortunate to have. Doug and I and the kids love to travel and we have done some amazing trips. We took an RV across Route 66 from Orlando to the Grand Canyon, We stayed in an Ice Hotel in Québec, we went to Hawaii, and we’ve spent a week almost every summer in the Outer Banks of NC.
We need to plan our next big trip, and take a new family portrait.
We will be home for Christmas this year, here in FL. As much fun as we had in New England for Thanksgiving, we are looking forward to opening presents in our pajamas in our home that we have remodeled and added on to over and over since 1997. Doug is an amazing interior designer and this house is a super cool tribute to his artistic ability.
Everyone needs to stop and remind themselves once in a while what is most important in life and for most all of us, family is right up at the top of the list. Upon return home from our trip, we decorated the tree with the kids. As tradition would have it, we listened to Christmas music for the first time in the season, we drank egg nog, and the kids argued about what ornament was going where and who got to hang which one. Santa in the volkswagon beetle was always a source of argument when they were little.
Going through old family ornaments always brings back wonderful memories.
Pull your family tight this holiday season. Embrace the love and acceptance that comes from your family and those who love you for who you are. Stinky feet, fowl breath and flannel PJs will never deter my husband Doug from giving me a kiss on Christmas morning as he hands me my coffee and smiles at the kids tearing through presents.
All under our white plastic Christmas tree.
Hey, it’s artistic and tacky and bling, all at the same time!