“Here are my keys. Here’s my phone.
“I might pack my desk.”
What I thought was going to be my routine evaluation was actually a write-up.
- You are suspended for one week without pay.
- When you return, your staff will not be under your supervision anymore.
- When you return, your office is moving from the garden to the administration building.
- When you return you will be on 60 days probation and will attend re-education training.
“I might pack my desk.”
It was December 10, 2007.
I was the Assistant Director at a public garden in Wilmington, NC, a position accepted after earning a BS in Public Horticulture from Purdue University and an MS in Public Garden Management with a Museum Studies Certificate, and a focus on fundraising from the University of Delaware and the Longwood Graduate Program. After spending my entire life up to that point preparing for that job.
Two months prior, my husband and I closed on our first house.
Two days later, December 12, 2007, The Federal Reserve instituted the Term auction facility to supply short-term credit to banks with sub-prime mortgages and the financial crises of 2008 began.
might did pack my desk.
That afternoon I emailed my resignation letter.
The president of the board emailed me that night.
Today I re-read that correspondence for the first time in 15 years.
There is much more to the situation than I want to re-hash now, but one line I wrote to the board member was, “This write up held a mirror up to my face and I didn’t like what I saw. Trying to conform to a management style completely at odds with my training and my personal values made me miserable, and by acting as instructed, I allowed myself to turn into something I know deep down, I am not.”
September 24, 2012, the person who issued my write up was fired for these reasons reported by our local newspaper: “A pattern of creating a work environment that was identified as intimidating, disrespectful, offensive, undermining, and non-confidential when confidentiality was required.”
By then, I had moved on. Way on.
On December 10, 2007 I got in the bed and cried.
On December 11, I created an Elance (now Upwork) account and started The Garden of Words.
We turn 15 this year.
A Bigger Life Than I Ever Imagined
In an interesting twist of fate, in late September 2012, I found myself on a plane from Wilmington to Charlotte with my former boss, at that point, the freshly former Parks & Gardens Director, and his wife. I hadn’t spoken with him for 5 years.
“Hi, Katie,” he said.
“Hey there! Where ya headed?”
“To a work event with my wife. How about you?”
“To San Francisco to assist a client with an event. I hope you have a nice trip.”
“You too,” he said.
Walking away from my job in 2007 was terrifying and sad. I grieved my place in the Public Garden world and I still grieve it to this day.
Being brave and walking away from a situation that was eating my life allowed me to create a business that allows me to help so many more people, help grow so many more businesses, and support my industry in many, many more ways than I ever could have imagined.
By January 2008 I had a job at a local custom printing and embroidery company at less than half my former pay, and I had a growing list of clients on Elance. I worked 40 hours a week at the shirt company and came home and worked 20-30 hours a week to build The Garden of Words. I still work with some of my first clients.
I considered the shirt company job to be a paid internship. It is where I learned the fundamentals of digital marketing that I put to work for clients today. Occasionally the owner would tell me, quite sincerely, that he’d have to fire me if I didn’t produce a viral video for him.
You’re my end and my beginnin’
I was just as obsessed with John Legend’s song “All of Me” as everyone else was in 2014. Probably because of that line.
If you’ve read to here, you’e waiting for the lesson. There’s always a lesson.
First, this is my villain Garden of Words origin story.
It’s the foundation on which our business is built. It is also a stark reminder of what my values are, what I want my business values to be, and how I want to care for our clients. I will be spending a lot of 2023 on shaping and evolving that care, and I’m excited to do that.
Second, in this time of extreme worldwide grief, pain, stress, illness, and financial uncertainty, it is helpful for me to remember that what seem like unbearable choices can, sometimes, (not always), but sometimes, many times, open doors to bigger, better, happier times.
Third, it’s ok to start over. There is no shame in starting from the bottom and working your way up, no matter your age. No matter what you did before.
Turbulent times can be frightening, and they can also offer previously unthinkable opportunities.
I grieved my part in the public garden world harder and longer than I’ve grieved pets I had for 10 years.
In January I will return to Longwood to lead a daylong workshop for the current Fellows and local nonprofits, “Digital Knowledge for Nonprofit Leaders.”
I don’t think everything happens for a reason.
I do think it’s possible to find new reasons when something unexpected happens.
As Seth Godin would say, “That’s my rant. Thanks for listening.”
Our last free fall lunch & learn (or breakfast and learn or dinner and learn) is Tuesday, December 6. It’s all about email marketing.
- What’s new for 2023
- Easy tips to make your emails work harder for you
- Hot seat (I’ll evaluate one of your emails live!)
- How to choose an email service
- Tricks for batching content
No sales pitch, just learnin’!
Feel free to share this registration link with friends and colleagues who could benefit: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_JrdUkh3NQEaQu78yPo7Kvg
Offer CEU Credits: Group-Specific Webinars
Would you like a webinar tailored to your group? I’d love to give one! These are great ways to provide education for your association or marketing team during the winter before things go nuts. Especially if you need to provide CEU credits!
How long are the webinars and what happens?
Webinars are 1 hour and 15 minutes long and can include up to 30 minutes of question and answer or hot seat time and a nifty download handout! We’ll decide together when we plan for your webinar.
What does “Personalized” mean?
It means I’ll use examples (screenshots, tips, and ideas) tailored to your specific industry niche, whether you cater to landscapers, lawn care, IGCs, landscape designers, cut flower growers, and other niches.
How many people can attend?
– Up to 500
How much does it cost?
– $650 per group
How do I book it?
– Send me an email!
Have more questions? They might be answered here. Just scroll down. You can also send me an email with your questions.
What is a webinar with Katie like? Attend our Dec. 6 webinar to get a preview.
That’s All, Folks!
We might have another newsletter this year rand we might not. I have a jury summons for December 12. If I end up on a jury, this is it for the year.
SO, let me make this even longer by including info about January and February events AND December Green Profit and Grower Talks articles.
Let’s Meet IRL (In Real Life)
I’ll be speaking in:
Minneapolis, Minnesota for Northern Green January 10-12
Topics: Digital presence & Click and Collect
Tampa, Florida for TPIE January 18-20
Topic: Cultivate customers with SMS
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania January 25-26
Private daylong workshop
Chicago, Illinois for iLandscape February 1-3
Topic: Spring Clean Your Website
If you are going to be in any of those areas, including southeastern PA, and want to meet up, please email me. We’ll see about a time!
December News You Can Use
Fresh off the press!
Care about SEO: What is it? How does it work? How to improve your website
Each newsletter always has a mix of fun and functional links.
5 Tech Tools
Free calendar templates
Updated Social Media Graphic Size Cheat Sheet
2 For Fun
The Eggcorn database
1 Great Podcast Episode
Is Google sucking more? Well, it depends on what you want and who you ask. This Freakonomics podcast episode is a must-listen if you are curious about how search works, how SEO works, how Google works, why search is such a hard function to program, etc. It’s a great basic “How one piece of the internet works” podcast and the host is a great host.
A handful of good books (Pop the name in search and choose your own bookseller.)
Art and Fear: David Bayles and Ted Orlando
Now is Not the Time to Panic: Kevin Wilson
Understanding Perspective: Stephanie Bower
Design is Storytelling: Ellen Lupton
Lessons in Chemistry: Bonnie Garmus
Two Nights in Lisbon: Chris Pavone
Black-Out and All Clear: Connie Willis (2 books)
That’s REALLY it.
We’re celebrating 15 years in 2023 and are looking forward to some fun ahead to mark the occasion.
Thank you for your support, your grace, and your trust.
I promise to keep earning it.
Do you have a story of starting over or finding a new reason? I’d love to hear about it. Just reply to this email. After all, sorrow shared is halved and joy shared is doubled.
Take good care,