Mom to Iris. Wife to Todd. Our little family lives at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We love it here and I love sharing little bits of our life.

© 2014 sarahfortune.


Category : Words

The Adventures of Sarah

Once at a business dinner I was a part of one of those cheesy ice breakers that I actually enjoyed. There were about 10 of us and we spent the meal going around the table, telling everyone about the weirdest or most interesting job we ever had. When it was my turn, I had trouble deciding what to tell the group. I finally settled on one, but it got me thinking – I’ve truly walked down a unique career path. So now I wanted to share a few of my endeavors – from my first job, to the odd jobs, to the one that I still love. Here we go…

I first entered the workforce at the ripe age of 15 as the dishwasher of a health-food grocery store in Memphis. As a scrawny kid that was not use to physical labor, I had no idea what I was in for. During my very first shift, no one informed me that I got a break. I was too shy to ask and too new to know. I worked until I made myself sick – literally. I’ll never forget running to the bathroom, where I puked in the toilet, still wearing my grimy apron. After a glass of water, and being told I got a 15 minute break, I continued on. Being a dishwasher, I got paid the least but often felt like I worked the hardest. I was the last one to leave and was beyond disgusting at the end of the night. Making the minimum wage of less than five bucks an hour, I really feel like this job was the foundation for my life-long thoughtfulness about spending. I still remember buying my first clothing item from my first paycheck – a shirt from dELiA*s – and realized that I had worked FIVE hours just for that one item. Still to this day, I think about purchases in terms of $5 for one hour of work and it makes me think twice about purchasing things I don’t need… Although it doesn’t always change the outcome.

Child Advocacy Center Receptionist
One summer, not that long after my days as a dishwasher, my mom had a friend that landed me a summer job working the front desk at the Memphis Child Advocacy Center. It was my first taste at working 9 to 5 and boy oh boy was I not ready for it. I mean, I think I did okay at the time, but this was quite a big deal to walk in to. The building itself was amazing – a huge historic old house that had been converted into a warm and welcoming office for little ones who had experienced unimaginable things. Kids would come through the doors, often with police officers, and I’d be one of the first faces they would see. As they left, I helped them pick out a teddy bear. At age 16 I remember thinking how trivial a stuffed animal seemed in comparison to what they probably went though. Some days I had to redact names from police reports, reading the accounts of all the horrible things they had been through. When the summer came to an end, I was relieved.. But I still think about it to this day.

Besides my current job, this is my longest running career path. I worked at a local coffeeshop, Otherlands, in Memphis on and off for many years and then eventually at Arsaga’s here at the Fayetteville Public Library. Like my very first job, this endeavor taught me quite a bit. Being an 18 to 23-year-old and having to be at work at 6:00 AM on every Sunday morning is quite a feat. To this day I get anxious if I am late, so it’s very rare that I ever am. I also took my latte game very seriously (it’s all about timing the shots).

I randomly Google image searched Otherlands, and a pic I have never seen of me working in 2008 popped up from an article over at Southern Living!

One Christmas I dressed up as an elf at Goldsmith’s department store at the Oak Court Mall in Memphis. My best friend at the time somehow had hooked us up with the gig and we got paid $100 for a full day of prancing around outside of the store. My only regret is that there are no pictures.

Stand-in & Extra on Walk the Line
With my elf performance under my belt, I signed up to be an extra on the set of Walk the Line (kidding… kind of). Filmed in Memphis, they needed hundreds of people to be in the background at concerts and during street scenes. After getting the call, I went for a fitting and required 1950s-era haircut. The wardrobe area was simply amazing. Rows and rows of vintage dresses, shoes, and accessories. They fitted me with a purple dress and I was given a day (as well as a very early time) to report to set. I was instructed to sleep in rollers the night before and had to go through hair and make-up (where they completely covered up my tattoos). For the next 8+ hours I walked and walked and walked. Very fitting, huh? It was all very worth it though, because if you pause the film at just the right time, you can see a blurry purple blob creeping behind Johnny Cash.

Checking that off, I did not sign up to be an extra again. But when they called to ask if I could be a stand-in, I jumped at the chance. On a very intimate set in rural Mississippi, I was the person who stood in for the actors while they set up the shots during the Thanksgiving scenes towards the end of the film. Reese Witherspoon wore her fuzzy slippers and did crossword puzzles between takes, and Joaquin Phoenix is just as weird as you think he is. Bonus, I actually got paid for my work with the movie, but totally I would have done this for the experience alone.

Cashier at Urban Outfitters
When I lived in the Washington D.C. area for a spell, I snagged a job at Urban Outfitters in Georgetown. It was your typical retail misery, but one thing I will never forget is that every time we left the store (for a break or at the end of our shift), we had to show a manager that we weren’t stealing. After clocking out, all employees had to turn their pockets inside out, pull their pant legs up to show items weren’t being smuggled in socks, and have purses/bags searched. Thinking back, this just sounds crazy, but maybe that’s normal?

Vintage Seller on eBay
A few years after my first retail experience, I moved to to my current city, Fayetteville, Arkansas. I didn’t land a job right off the bat, so I was pretty much bored and broke. Turns out, that combo led to something that ultimately changed my life. I searched my closet and listed a vintage shirt on eBay. Shocked when I quickly got 20 bucks for it, I started listing other clothing items. Over time, this turned into more than a full-time job. I began going to thrift shops weekly and listing 25-50 items per week. In my prime eBay years, I could buy something for a dollar and sell it for 100. If this all sounds familiar, you may know about Girlboss, who was doing the same thing during the same timeframe. Todd even quit his job at one point to help me grow my business.

I worked really hard for several years all while going to school full-time. As I got closer to graduation, I could tell that the golden eBay bubble would soon burst. I got an internship at the Walton Arts Center and started winding down my sales. Before I knew it, I accepted my first “real” job. As amazing as my eBay experience was, I knew that I would have to evolve (Girlboss/Nasty Gal style) and hope for the best or I could actually use my degree to experience a job with insurance and paid vacation for the first time in my life. Obviously, I chose the latter. But my time with eBay gave me not only an amazing experience of running my own business, but it brought people into my life that I am still friends with today and is one of the reasons I am still blogging.

Funeral Service
That brings me to what I do today… I often get asked what I do for work, so I wrote a little blog post about it earlier this year. Check it out if you’re curious! My nine year anniversary is actually coming up next month! Minus the 10 month hiatus I took to go work at an ad agency… See, told you I’ve had a lot of jobs. But I take pride in that I’ve had a long tenure at most of them and left each on very good terms, always knowing I would be welcomed back.

I actually don’t consider this a job. For me, it’s a hobby where sometimes I get paid, just as if I were to sell crafts on Etsy or play in a band at a bar. I recognize there’s a definite stigma that comes along with sponsored posts, but I think one day that will change. It’s just all still so new. We don’t question commercials on television shows or ads on websites, but even I admit I feel a little strange posting an ad on my feed. But while I don’t consider this a job, it is a lot of work and it’s nice to be compensated every once in a while. I use that strange feeling and put it towards the creative challenge that comes with making my partnerships feel authentic and honest. Overall though, I’m just having fun with it and I hope that shows.

So there you have it (minus a few jobs that were a bit more boring and a bit less life-changing). Growing up we were not wealthy. In fact, we leaned more heavily towards the low-income side. I watched my mom work as a nurse, raising three kids as a single parent on a shoestring budget. I learned work ethic and the importance of commitment from her, but also out of necessity. Besides my mom going to nursing school, I’m the only person in my family that went to college. College that I will still be paying for even when it’s time for Iris to enroll. I took a very unconventional route to be where I am, but I’m happy to be where I landed.

Dear Iris

Tomorrow is your last day as a 4-year-old. Like I told you over dinner tonight, I can’t believe that we’ve known each other for five years. Somedays it feels like longer, but most of the time it feels like a wonderful, magical blur. In the last five years you’ve taught me a lot, so I feel it’s right for me to give you thanks leading up to such a big birthday.

Iris, thank you for…

– Showing me once again that simple things are beautiful.
– For reminding me tonight that we have known each other for almost five years, since your birthday isn’t actually until Saturday.
– Letting me see the world through your eyes – and your heart.
– Making me laugh at things that I previously was too jaded to even smile at.
– Your full-belly giggle.
– Always finding the spaghetti sauce on my chin.
– Your thoughtfulness and sweetness with everything that you do.
– Always wanting to share your candy with me – instead of hoarding things you love, you want to share them.
– Your unique silliness.
– Your wild, made up songs.
– Helping your friends.
– Helping people, even when they are not your friends.
– Breaking up the monotony of the day with your constant farting.
– Telling me that I’m pretty out of no where. And strangers too.
– Never letting me forget. Anything.
– Keeping me company when I pee. Always.
– Not caring that I don’t know the real lyrics to basically any kids’ songs.
– Being so damn good.
– For being you.

Never lose these things. Try real hard.
Except, maybe the farting. Yeah. Definitely the farting by at least maybe age 12 or 13? I think you will appreciate that advice one day.

Iris Adella Gill, you are my heart and soul and I love you more than you will ever know. Happy almost fifth birthday.


9 Years Ago Today

I steal his socks. I leave cereal boxes open. I drop a trail of clothes and coffee cups behind me wherever I go.

He makes our bed every morning. He washes dishes after every meal. And he doesn’t even mind that all of his socks are missing.

Today, we’ve been married for nine years. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day, but I’m truly so grateful for him and this little life we’ve built together. I love looking back and seeing how far we’ve come together. Our house, our careers, our crazy kid.

Here are a few polaroids from our wedding, which I feel perfectly capture the hot, wonderful summer afternoon of August 11, 2007 at the Clinton House.

The Daily Grind

Around here, every weekday is more or less the same… LONG. I typically wake up around 7 am, start my coffee, drink just enough to get me going, and then spend the next 10 minutes trying to convince Iris to start her day (why is it that kids are impossible to wake up on weekdays, but will pop out of bed like it’s Christmas every weekend?). Once Iris is slowly moving around, I help get her dressed and then we both stumble through the rest of our morning. Breakfast – usually just cereal or yogurt with fruit for her, and more coffee for me. Todd always takes Iris to school, and I rush off to work after haphazardly putting my own self together. I have to stop right here and say how thankful I am that, A) I live less than 10 minutes away from my office and B) my office is super casual so I don’t have to dress up each day. I’m in the office by 8 o’clock and I usually get to leave by 4:30, which means I have just enough time to make it to Jazzercise.

After a full hour of working out, off to Iris’ school I go! Usually with just minutes to spare, I pick her up, dripping with sweat, right before closing time. Should I feel bad that she’s often the last kid to get picked up? Nah. I’m just getting my money’s worth. Well, and there’s the fact that she gets really pissed if I pick her up any earlier. In the afternoon they get to look past all of the “work” and pick the fun toys to play with. Yesterday when I picked Iris up, she was shoving glow sticks into baby dolls’ mouths – and was in pure heaven doing so. Can’t take her away from that!

From school we go home, but not to rest. That’s when another round of work begins, but it’s the best kind. It’s the kind where I make dinner while my family hangs around. Todd’s usually playing a record, Iris is usually begging for a snack, our animals are generally annoying me at my feet, and wine is usually somewhere near my mouth. Finally, we get to eat! And by eat, I mean that we shove food into our faces while Iris sits there eating only her bread, complaining that everything else looks disgusting.

Straight after dinner, it’s Iris’ bath time. After bath time, it’s book time. After book time, it’s song time. After song time, it’s “one plus two equals three time” (that means stay three extra minutes, please). After “one plus two equals three time,” it’s finally MY TIME. Around 9 o’clock I get to take a shower and wash all the work of the day away. From there, it’s time to climb right into a mountain of pillows in bed and watch some sort of mindless television (Real Housewives of ANYTHING). Even though it’s the only time for myself, I usually don’t last more than an hour or so before falling asleep… And then start it all over again the next morning.

Just typing all of this out makes me feel exhausted, however I’m usually excited and ready for each new morning. I realize how fortunate I am to have the family that I have, a job that I love, and to live in a city that makes everything so sweet and easy. One of the very best parts of my day is kissing Iris’ cheek as I wake her up in the morning, even knowing I have a marathon to run until it’s dark. My other favorite part is the feeling of driving to Iris’ school to pick her up in the afternoon. She’s nearly five years old and I still get excited to hang out with my tiniest best friend after work each day. The wine isn’t bad either.

These days, they are long. But more than anything, they are good. In fact, they might just be the best. They will continue to evolve and I will continue to try to capture them, like in this post, because one day I will miss these moments – sweat and all – more than anything.

Working Mom Life – California Edition

I occasionally travel for work. Not too much, just a handful of trips scattered throughout the year. After five days in California, my longest trip of the year just came to an end. Not only is it a lot of work inside the office preparing for our big annual meeting, but it’s a lot of work outside of the office preparing to leave my family for that amount of time. I admit, it’s as much mental preparation for myself as it is running errands, stocking groceries, planning outfits for Iris, paying bills, etc. before I hit the road. While I know Todd can handle everything just fine without me, I always feel a little better about leaving if I can help out ahead of time. Same goes for Iris. Now that she’s older, she understands why I’m leaving and when I’m coming back (and that I’ll most certainly return with souvenirs).

Being a working mom is tough. Being a working mom that travels is even tougher. You miss your people and you miss out on things. I’ve missed a couple school photo days, missed my last two wedding anniversaries, and will never forget being away on Iris’ second birthday. This past week was School Spirit week where Iris was supposed to wear a different themed outfit each day. I didn’t have much time to help think of ideas before I left, but Todd and Iris rocked it without me. As she gets older, I know that I’ll start missing bigger things like school events, sports matches, and more. With a little help from FaceTime and a lot of help back home, I’ll manage just fine. At the end of the day it’s all worth it a million times over. Not only am I fortunate to have a job that I love, but I hope that I’m showing my daughter the importance of hard work, dedication, and being proud of what you do.

Before I left for Newport Beach last Sunday, I made a quick trip to the dollar store and picked up a prize for every day I’d be away. I surprised Iris with a little note explaining that I left clues in envelopes for her to follow each morning. I’m sure she had fun finding her way to a surprise each day, but I just felt good knowing that she knew I was thinking about her a thousand miles away.

Even though I was in California for the full work week, we only had one afternoon to explore. I wandered around Balboa Island with a couple of my co-workers. I want to go back one day and bring the whole fam. It was adorable and beautiful all at once.

I’ll leave you with a few of Iris’ School Spirit Week outfits:
Individuality Day (Iris chose pajamas.. that’s my girl)

Professional Day

School Spirit Day

And of course, Fancy Friday