Thursday, September 16, 2010


I was just told by a Facebook buddy (thanks Julianne!) that I was the
WINNER of Matthew Mead's
product contest he held for his soon-to-be published AMAZING
book-azine, Holiday ... with Matthew Mead, coming out in October.

Matthew Mead is the male-version Martha Stewart. He produces the new Flea Market Style magazine, was the style editior for Country Home, and has worked with Target, Pottery Barn, Dove Chocolates on national ad campaigns. He also has 2 fabulous blogs, and is continuing with these Book-azines -- cheaper than a book, more expensive than a mag; serious coffee table piece -- for major holidays. Pre-order on his site!

These days I find I go into a magazine marketing idea with one intention, one focus, and I come out the other end with a completely different concept. The magazine manipulates my input to fit their needs. Fine with me ... usually works out better. I contacted Mathew Mead to give him decorating ideas for a blue Christmas -- my vintage jewelry tree, Trina's spool trees, my holiday decor. Instead I was selected as having the winning hand-craft item -- the birdy cake plate. I also am trying an ad to promote my web site in this publication -- I have never tried that before!

Here's the link .. and have a ball on his site!

xo, Hillary

Thursday, September 2, 2010

post-Haiti -- Story of my travels & returning HOME

Haiti Mission Group by Bus

Since returning from Haiti,
I am having a hard time processing our amazing,
yet excruciatingly difficult week, as well as re-entering the cyber-sports-work-commitments-back-to-school-phone-calls-doctors-appointments-$300-grocery-trips excessive land I call home. Not to mention, I was proud of my strong stomach in Haiti, especially as 8 of my 20 teammates were sick there .... but, I spoke too soon, and upon my return, I have had to call the doctor, eat bland foods, and really rest.

Many of you followed my preparation for the Haiti Mission trip, sponsored by the St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Sterling, Virginia, through my Chick's Picks emails, the I am Modern article, or Facebook posts, and I want to give a HUGE thank you for your notes of encouragement, humorous messages, and the many, many prayers. I can truly tell you that I actually felt wrapped in love and support, and you gave me the strength to face my pre-trip anxieties ... right up to boarding the plane!

(Read I Am Modern pre-trip article)

Upon arriving in Port au Prince, we were immediately bombarded by the stifling humidity, the shoving, Creole-yelling Haitians in the hot warehouse they called the arrival gate. I accidentally separated from my group and ended up in a customs line surrounded by Haitians 30 deep in either direction pressing into me trying to cut the line and push their way through. As the perspiration started dripping down my back, I was not only scared for my safety, but I was already confused about how to handle my presence in Haiti -- they had been through so much, shouldn't I just smile, and let these poor people through, or should I stand tall, look determined and start inching forward. I took a deep breath and realized the experience of a lifetime was starting. And I was already way out of my comfort zone.

trash2 street
shack trash

There was nothing that could have prepared us --- 20 Northern Virginia missionaries --- for the sites we saw driving through Port au Prince that first day. It was a never-ending video loop of hell. We were surrounded by wretchedness ... dirty, gray filth, extreme poverty, shanty shacks of tarps, cardboard and tin, massive trash piles everywhere, visible exhaust, rotting city smells, large black pigs and dogs trash picking, public urination, and often-barefoot, forlorn, poor, poor Haitians selling scraps of whatever. Internally, we were overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, helplessness and hopelessness ... not to mention our anxieties of how to manage the heat, our stomachs, the impending sleeping and bath conditions. One man got sick 10 minutes into the ride. We all wanted to. The sensory overload had begun.

The shocking part was what we were seeing had nothing to do with January's earthquake. The rubble, cracked palace, and tent cities were alarming, but the street filth and poverty has always been a backdrop for Haiti -- the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I met a nurse who spends her vacation weeks in a Haitian hospital treating, not earthquake injuries, but gunshot and machete wounds. The most telling was when on the plane, I sat amongst 10 nuns from Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity returning to serve the poorest of the poor in Haiti. These sisters had been serving in Haiti for 20 years.

tents palave upclose

Our lodging compound included a church, a 3-story school building (that stood empty because the children were scared to return to a large concrete structure) and a courtyard of UNICEF tents, used for school and bible classes. The surrounding, tall concrete wall, as well as our sleeping and bathing facilities made me think of a prison in an inner city. We slept on a concrete floor, with cement walls, bars on the window and a single dangling light bulb that we had to unscrew for "lights out." We had one sink and 2 toilets for the 70 missionaries that were being housed (2 other church groups). The showers, when water was available, were drippy and ice cold coming out of a single lead pipe. The electricity was equally sporadic, and would often go out in the middle of a shower. (I have to make a silly reference to the first Sex and the City movie .... remember when Charlotte accidentally opened her mouth while showering in Mexico... that's what I felt like ... momentarily forgetting and immediately spitting out the water .. YUK! But, I did get a little giggle!)

Sleeping was tough. We put on deodorant before bed since the night air was so hot and heavy. We should have been exhausted from our grueling days of construction, but the late night and very early city noises -- cats fighting, music, yelling, barking dogs, crying, roosters -- made sleep nearly impossible. We were usually awake by 4:30am. At night, we had torrential rainstorms, complete with lightning and the loudest thunder I ever heard. One bolt shook so hard, I sat up and thought it was an earthquake. That was so scary. Our room got flooded with rain water; my dear friend Beth awoke to a soaked bed roll, pillow, self. The only benefit was that we used the standing water in our "cell" to help drain the toilet that was not working. This was seriously hard living conditions. But no one complained. How could we, when our living hell was so far superior to Haitian street living? How did they handle the rain, the noise, their bodily functions, did they even have a bed sheet?

sleeping sink

Our food, as is often the case on mission trips, was provided by the local church. Breakfasts of hard-boiled eggs, white hard rolls, PB and the sweetest grapefruit marmalade -- oh, and even spaghetti -- was fine. We were told: never eat fruit that was not peel-able, never to bite our nails and never drink the water (needed a sign in the shower!!) Lunch and dinner was the same, and included beans and rice and a local protein -- whole fish with heads still on, conch, GOAT, baby soft shell crabs, chicken legs. That's when people's stash of energy bars, cheezits and beef jerky came out. I tried everything because I wanted to experience the local flavors. I am a big believer of, "when in Rome ..." But I have no desire to ever eat goat again.

We traveled via these crazy, colorful buses that often broke down, got lost, stuck in potholes and had near misses with cars, bikes, pedestrians. We spent hours every day on these buses, or "tap taps," which had very loud horns, broken windows, low ceilings, exhaust fumes pouring in and hard seats (awful with a tailbone or back injury). We even traveled with a Haitian security man riding in the open door to avoid locals from jumping on. Although a young boy did hold onto the window, stood on the bumper and held onto our speeding bus for 10 minutes. He wanted a dollar. We were horrified. Once, on a rainy day, we drove so near a mountain cliff, that tears just started rolling down my cheeks as I envisioned us rolling off the cliff, down the mountain. We were going to die, in that bus, in Haiti, and just be a slight mention on the 6pm news back home. The man next to me held my hand the rest of the ride. I now truly understand faith, and letting go of all control.

bus in bus

Our days consisted of hard physical labor -- like the chain gangs (yes, another prison reference). We were helping to rebuild a school, and at a rural site, dig a level area out of a steep hill so the pastor could construct his home --- I guess he didn't own any flat land? The country site did not have a bathroom, and the school site had a "fancy" hole in the ground (thank goodness for those boot camp squats). We were inches away from tarantulas, black widows, bulls, roosters and goats on these sites. We also saw the most delicate, lovely yellow butterflies. They always seemed to appear right when I was feeling low. As we shoveled, pickaxed, made cement, bent re-bar, and wheelbarrowed thousands of pounds of rubble in the desperately hot sun, we were hoping we were helpful. One of the local church leaders told us that our presence was priceless -- that working side-by-side with the barefoot Haitian construction men meant more to them than we could imagine. Despite language barriers, intense humidity and our lack of construction know how, we became one big unified work team. The workers even sang for us -- imagine that in America? They actually helped US get through the day by teaching us, asking our names, relaying Creole to English words, and vice versa. I remember once shoveling for what seemed like hours, twice wringing out my sweaty neck bandanna, taking many breaks to drink water & replenish my electrolytes and looking at my watch ... it was only 8:37am. These men did this 6 days a week, 10 hours a day -- same smelly clothes, dribbles of water to drink, for just a few dollars a day. And they were the employed Haitians.

One truly bright spot was working alongside a 12 year old boy named Fiddler Cherie. He would literally run with the heavy wheelbarrow we filled with concrete debris, show us the best way to use a pickax, found us shovels, and laughed at our exaggerated "whews" when one job was "fin-e," or finished. I rarely saw him take a break, never saw him drink water, never saw him with a father, and really don't think he was being paid. We were motivated and forever touched by his huge, beautiful smile, his eyes, his industriousness. My friend Paige and I were especially fond of Fiddler Cherie as we had 12 year old sons at home. I have come to realize this is the way to help Haiti. By touching one life, by holding out one hand, by giving a piece of yourself so one person could have a better day and be hopeful of humanity. Our group talked a lot about Haiti's economy, the corruption, the poverty and how we could possibly make a difference? Now we knew.


pick axe fiddler
rebar tom singing
bathroom rob brenda

Sunday was a day of mixed emotions. Sitting in a sweltering church made of tin for two and a half hours on a hard bench listening to the Creole prayer was trying. Watching the children sneak us smiles while they sat still in their Sunday best was heart-warming. Sharing communion with the Haitians was special. But the music was the true equalizer. You just could not sit still during their hymns. After the service, I took pictures of the children and they loved to gather around to see themselves on the digital screen. This was my favorite moment in Haiti.

We then traveled to an entirely different scene, one that will forever pull at our hearts. We visited an orphanage of 28 girls. Don't you picture a building when you hear "orphanage"? When the metal door was pulled away from the long cement wall, there stood 3 tents on a dusty plot of land. One for sleeping, one with a big table, and one with supplies. No blackboards, no toys, no dressers, no books, no kitchen, no toilets, no beds. They were bathing in a distant stream. I hoped it was not polluted like every other body of water we had seen. When they saw us they ran over. The little ones were laughing and trying to get dressed as they ran. We brought crafts, soccer balls, beanie babies. A Chick's Picks designer had given me earrings to share. I wondered, however, if they thought we were there to adopt. The local pastor's wife who cared for them said they need toothpaste, soap, hygiene supplies. (I got her address -- although I am not sure a package would really be delivered. Worth a try.) We played with the girls for hours -- drawing on dry erase boards, blowing bubbles, coloring, playing hand games and kicking balls. It was wonderful for those girls to be surrounded by the kind, thoughtful adult men in our group. The girls sang for us in their pillow case dresses that had been made for them by another church group. We were all thinking about our own children, and their never-ending comforts. What a contrast. What an injustice. Leaving those 28 girls was just heart breaking.



teagan lacey & madison

So as it turns out, the Haitians we met were patient, hard working, spiritual people. They looked deep into our eyes as they spoke. Their smiles were generous. They praised Jesus often. They did not appear bitter or hopeless. We met a beautiful family with 5 happy children. We saw newborns with knit booties. We saw a funeral procession with a crying widow. We hiked over lush pastures, and dipped our toes into their Caribbean turquoise water. Fiddler Cherie even wants to be a doctor. And they gave us what they had -- song and prayer. I know in any society there is evil, but they are people just like us, they live on the same earth, pray to the same god (at least the Haitians we met). Some will still risk their lives on a crowded boat to come to America. I wonder if I would?

Finally, there was an unexpected dimension of my Mission trip to Haiti. I had not considered our group dynamics. I had not thought through what would happen when 20 people were thrown into third world hell together -- working, living, talking, being scared and uncomfortable 24 hours a day. Picture yourself red-faced, dripping with sweat, truly at your worst, (ugliest), working so physically hard, sleep deprived and even getting sick. So many of life extremes happening simultaneously, with "strangers" to lean on. An unbelievable bond came over us. Not like college, not like a camping trip with friends, not even a big family adventure. More like solders in a platoon -- like a "band of brothers." Every single one of us mattered. Every single one of us contributed something that was vital -- motivation, profound thought, experience, prayer, energy, quiet resolve, a loving partner (2 married and 2 mom/adult child couples), leadership, compassion, and much, much humor. We shared something that only the 20 of us will ever understand.

Many debate whether a mission trip is categorized as "humanitarian outreach," or "personal spiritual growth." Anyone that has ever volunteered knows it is both. I know I experienced both. Also, I can finally put into words why traveling to Haiti was on my bucket list. I know I wanted to challenge myself. But mostly, I needed balance in my life. I am so blessed with my surroundings, health, wealth, happiness, freedoms, choice ..... I needed to see, touch, live the world's reality.

80% of the world's population lives below the poverty line --
living off less than $10 a day*. No wonder I feel off-balance!

Albeit a fleeting glance, visiting Haiti will change my life view forever. Now that I look back, we all mentioned at various times missing home. Now that we are here, we realize that we also left a piece of our hearts in Haiti ... and we want to go back someday.

goofy bull beth

Post-script stories ... I am sure you can imagine the details ...

what the children wore -- boys in women's sandals
toothpaste works as clearasil at night
12 of us huddled under a little shade tree ... positively goofy
the pastor walking through a huge cow paddy
to kill or not to kill the tarantula
girls, please don't come out of the showers in just your towels, it IS a mission trip
a love letter from a Haitian Construction worker
2am ... if we throw a battery down, think the door will stop barking?
"It takes a village to get to a village" -- how one 10 minute TapTap ride became a 2 hour journey
baby powder is your friend
giving away our shoes, clothes, gloves, watches -- and a pencil
having lower GI problems in a 3rd world country
HOT cabbage soup for breakfast?
our young team member having the courage to explain her tattoos
children's lottery for the soccer balls
yoga moves with the 6'6" construction worker who looked like a Haitian Tom Selleck
how close can a UN truck come without hitting us
the lovely notes from home we read each night
If my luggage falls out of the TapTap enroute to airport, do I really care?

(*source: World Bank Development Indicators 2008)

hillary and kiddos
Thanks for staying with me during article ...
since Chick's Picks funded this trip, I felt I owed you the story !

Thank you!

Haiti Photo Album on Chick's Picks Facebook

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

pre-Haiti -- packing my bags & saying my goodbyes

Mission Trip to Haiti August 7-13

This article was written for I Am Modern, the award winning
No. Virginia magazine & website for the Modern Woman!



We will be working construction & in an orphanage.

My Bucket List ... Mission Trip to Haiti ... Really?

Right in the middle of James Taylor & Carole King singing "Shower the People You Love with Love," my diva sis-in-law said she could now take a JT concert off her bucket list. Made me think about mine. Was that why I wanted to go on a mission trip to Haiti in the middle of August? I know why I signed up on the church bulletin board 5 months ago. I had just heard Father Robb of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church deliver a sermon about "Taking the easy, and happy route in life. That was ok, but not really the life for which we were intended." I also had one of my best friends and fellow parishiners, Paige Fishel holding my hand. She was the last name on the list. 6 more openings. So easy to sign up when it was 5 months away. A few weeks later another BFF would take a spot, Beth Cascadden, and then a Chick's Picks customer, Sharon Adams, asked if she could join. She is a yoga and fitness instructor; great skill set to have on the trip too! Yep, this IS right .... it was MY payback time. My time to "take the hard road," to challenge myself, my faith. To get OUT OF MY BOX!!

I do live a charmed, wonderful, happy life. Don't get me wrong, we have experienced our share of cancer, divorces and deaths in our family. But overall, I am an extremely fortunate person. I live in the United States with a great husband in a lovely home with healthy, joyful kiddos. I am an entrepreneur with a thriving business filled with beautiful, girly eyecandy. I promote women and their art, I am able to help and contribute to charities. We live close to my mom, we travel and see John's parents a lot, I have a loving, spiritual group of friends that I meet with weekly, I say hi to someone everywhere I go. Heck, I even have 695 friends on Facebook!

So when I was attending Haiti Mission prep meetings, looking over packing lists, getting Hepatitis shots, reading FYI articles from my mom about criminals running loose , Haiti was still ... in the future. Now it is REALLY time to go. That's different. Signing up is noble. Actually going is terrifying.

Maybe terrifying is extreme? How about anxiety-riden? I am anxious about quite a few things ....

We are on a floor in a church, on an air mattress, for 6 nights. I usually get 8-9 hours, and use 2-3 pillows.
the heat
Even with a July birthday, summer is still my least favorite season. I detest the heat.
saying goodbye to my son & daughter
Enough said.
straight bangs
Even with my first Brazilian Keratin treatment ... my bangs can look funky in the humidity!
packing light
I love options, choices, having my favs with me ... this will be hard.
pulling my will out of the file
When is the last time I looked at it? Ever?
communicating with the Haitians
I don't speak French, or understand Creole. But I really want to connect with the locals.
being w/o my blackberry
With a 24/7 web-based business, 350 designers, children's doc appointments, sports team announcements, invitations, new high school updates ... HOW can I be w/o emails for 7 days? reading the bible
Born a christian, go to church, but will I be the only one who has a hard time navigating The Book?
3 hour church service
Yep, that's what we will sit through. And that's when my 14 year old broken tailbone injury is so painful.
I am too high-maintenance
Not in the mani/pedi/latte/nordstrom way. In that some ladies in my group barely wear make-up to church. I kinda want to bring a lipstick. Will they look down on me?
I drink soooooo much water these days, will we be rationing? How DARE I complain!
walking away from my business for a week
It IS named Chicks Picks BY Hillary for a reason. National magazines give me 24 hour deadlines. I work with hundreds of designers, have 5 sub-contractors and am planning 4 promotions for the fall. Can I really put this on hold?
Will I have night sweats on top of sweating at night?
interacting with the orphans
How, how, can I help them the most in just a few days? How can I leave them ?
being strong
I am a crier. Good thing my BFFs are there. They already know this about me.
seeing the devastation
I am so curious about this. How will I live in Northern Virginia with those images in my mind?
can I really go a week w/o accessories?
Sorry, but this is my passion. My business. I write articles about wearing lots of jewelry on the beach. Hard to shake.
taking pictures respectfully
I will want photos for me, and to share. I want to do it right.
being with my blonde buddies
My husband who is trying to find humor to alleviate his anxieties, calls us "Pretty in Pink does Port au Prince" ... my mom says, "You girls are attractive. Wear baseball hats, sunglasses, dress down, don't be too friendly." She is seriously worried about the gangs running loose since the prisons were destroyed.
the mosquitoes
To bring or not to bring the mosquito netting? I already have the lotions to protect --- same stuff that our pets are sprayed with. But what if one buzzes by my ear all night long?
not knowing my other group members
This is going to be a profound, life-changing, as well as physically, pyschologically and spiritually challenging trip, and I am going with 16 strangers. I want to know their anxieties so maybe we can relate. Will they discuss theirs?
I wish my husband was going
John has been my beyond-capable adventure guide for 17 years - he has taken me rock climbing (he proposed in Joshua Tree), canoeing, scuba diving, spelunking, deep sea fishing, camping, bike touring, skiing, boating. I am scared to go with out him.
will I feel helpless?
so much destruction, poverty, orphans ... what can one person do??
coming back to reality
will I be feel differently about my life when I return? will I want to give up my business? my accessories? my nice house?

But then I remember the human body is resilient. I can do anything for a week. The Tattersalls are an adventure family. I have a great husband and a Chick's Picks assistant who will hold down the fort. I trust our leaders, Father Rob and Richard Leach. I did get a blow up mattress. I will communicate with the Haitians using my eyes and hands. As Paige reminds me ... "We have to do this, this happened on OUR watch." I will bring one lipstick. I will be better because of what I have seen. I need to get out of my comfort zone. This is on my bucket list. I have faith.

My Women's Group of 5 years who will be sending us off & praying for us!
Standing: Jan Haugen, Jennifer Chugg, Hillary(Haiti),
Beth Cascadden (Haiti), Theresa Tirella, Paige Fishel (Haiti);
Sitting: Lynne Miller, Karen Dalton, Denise Longo, Lane Bolyard

Friday, August 6, 2010

When Trina visits ...

Trina is the fabulously creative, eclectic indie designer of MANY CP products -- ruffle totes, the watch bracelets that were just featured in Country Living, the zipper flower jewelry, the scrabble decor, bookmarks, the snowmen in jars and one of my favs ... the spool Christmas trees, featured in Somerset Home. But even after all that, my true Trina favorite is her own style! Everytime she comes by (almostly weekly) I get to see her fabulous accessories -- look at the bird ring and those measuring tape bangles!!! Truly a treat to have a tete a tete with Trina!

~ Hillary ~