Starting to write a story is dangerous. It leads to discoveries. You might end up face to face with obvious things you just never noticed. Like how I never realized how much of my family has been involved in some way or another in this business over the years.
TRIVIA: I was born in Seattle and am the youngest of eight kids. I have three brothers and four sisters.
Dad, Mom and Debbie: $
At some point during my hardest years of transitioning from a well-paid employee with a corporate Amex to a broke, clueless entrepreneur burning rapidly through their 401(k)...
...When my kiddo was young and my husband was sick and I was passionately pouring my time into advocacy and education and just about anything except figuring out how to make a business viable...
...My dad loaned me some money. Then not too long later (after he passed in 2005) my oldest sister and mom also did. I can't imagine how they trusted me, in the circumstances, and I was terrible with repayment, but I'm so grateful for their generosity in helping keep the shop going in those early times.
TRIVIA: Dad is from Champaign, Illinois. He and mom were college sweethearts. Debbie lived for years in the Cayman Islands, working for the company I used to work for.
John: Design, design and more design!
John is the middle brother. He did free-lance graphic design work and had done graphics work for me from time to time at my old job in aviation finance. He also designed and ran my original site and forum for people with laser surgery complications (LaserMyEye, and D'Eyealogues, respectively).
When I started the DryEyeZone and DryEyeShop in 2005, John was invaluable, and fully entered into the spirit of things. On the DryEyeTalk forum, he worked as site admin including creating tutorials and kindly hand-holding new users and answering tons of questions. He ran the DryEyeZone website on Dreamweaver and through all his technical expertise made it possible for me to focus on content. For the DryEyeShop, he created all the marketing materials for Dr Holly's Drops and did all the original graphics on the internet store.
John designed all our logos, including the big blue eyedrop that you see on all DryEyeShop shipments.
The last major project I remember was a 24-page catalog about ten years ago. It's the only time we've ever had a catalog. I couldn't afford to get it actually printed but we could print out the pages or send people a PDF. It was handcrafted to be as helpful and informational as possible... I have great memories of that project.
At some point he stopped working in design and moved on to other things, but I always thought we were a good team when it came to evolving ideas and concepts. We certainly inherited the same perfectionistic genes.
TRIVIA: John did all of the framing and roofing work on our tinyhome nearly ten years ago.
Willma: Eyeball peeps!
Willma is John's wife. She's been doing all the eyeball people illustrations for the Dry Eye Foundation's Dry Eye Happy Hour sessions. I've been fantasizing about commissioning her for a mural in our Dry Eye Foundation room here at the office.
TRIVIA: Willma once worked at Boeing, illustrating pilot training materials.
Lindy: Brainstorming! Customer service! Graphics!
Lindy is "one of the twins", siblings 8 years older than me. Lindy and Vicki (Melinda and Victoria, properly....) have been bursting with creativity and energy since earliest childhood. They are super fun to brainstorm with about ideas, individually and together.
Lindy hired on as customer service, telecommuting from Portland in 2016 at the height of the Unisol 4 saline crisis. I was simply dying that year, it was all so hard. Lindy was like a miracle, walking in and taking over the phones and email. I don't know what we would have done without her. She also came to the rescue on lots of graphic design needs that came up during her 2+ year stint here. What I remember most about Lindy in customer service is that she was a heavenly listener - she sympathized so deeply.
Lindy even came up with a DryEyeShop cocktail:
Well, not just that, there were other things. I can't remember what year it was when I went off to California to a conference and Vicki and Lindy together 'manned the shop' doing the shipping, tending phones and email etc so that I could be away.
But what is most memorable to me about Vicki and the business is that after we moved up here to the Kitsap peninsula, every now and then she would just quietly sale in and clean up. Some of those years were quite difficult, stressful times, when I struggled both to look after my little family and to keep the shop and advocacy work afloat. Vicki would walk in, no judgements at all, and just start picking up, tidying and organizing. She's the sort of person you could let loose on the most frighteningly overpacked garage... she would have everything sorted and classified in no time flat and be handing you a list of options to deal with everything.
Tim is sibling #7. He came to work for me briefly in between jobs - way back in 2005. He had a penchant for marketing. He created a sampling program for us and cold-called optometrists all over Florida, then faxed them information and sent them eye drop samples. Tim is the opposite of me - extraverted and a great marketing personality. We didn't continue marketing to doctors, so that role (not to mention the funds to pay for it) dried up before long, but it was fun while it lasted!
Funny story: Thankfully, Tim is also really good at keeping records, because just a year or so later, after my family and I moved to Washington in late 2006, one of those faxes came back to haunt us. Would you believe, one of the optometrists that we dealt with had re-trained in law and went into business threatening to sue people for sending unsolicited faxes. If memory serves, he was advertising this 'service' to optometrists specifically. To this day I remember his first letter demanding $9,000 and outlining how that was supported by Florida law. Talk about extortion. But because Tim kept good records, I could prove that we had asked and received permission to send a fax to the optometry practice in question. I had to pay a lawyer $500 to make them go away, which was annoying but money well spent.
Husband and child
Panos is my husband. He's Greek. I moved to Greece in 1988 in a fit of teenage wanderlust, and liked it so much I just stayed... for most of my 20s. I taught English and Greek and did translation and interpretation work. It was so much fun.
In December 2021, deo volente, we'll celebrate our 30th anniversary!
Panos ran the stockroom in Florida when we first started the business in 2005. Health interfered, so there were years after we moved up here when he wasn't involved, but he's back now, semi-retired due to disabilities but sometimes packing orders, sometimes doing electrical work or extra deep cleans on the weekends. He gets a lot of satisfaction out of careful painstaking work of all kinds!
TRIVIA: Panos has volunteered at the Turner Joy museum ship in Bremerton for more than ten years now and was named volunteer of the year in 2019.
Chaidie is our only child and was born in England. After moving from Greece back to the US (Bay area), we followed my job to London for a few years. Chaidie was born during our first year there, in 2002. We later took a detour to Florida for a couple of years - that's where we were when I started the shop. After that, we ended up back in the greater Seattle area - first in Silverdale, then in Poulsbo, where we've lived since 2008. Poulsbo is on the Kitsap peninsula, a ferry ride plus short drive from Seattle.
Chaidie grew up saturated in all things dry eye. As a home-schooler (through 8th grade - and by home-schooling I really mean unschooling or self schooling) they overheard all my phone calls and knew not just all about dry eye but names of clients and customers and their stories. When reaching mid teens, Chaidie came to work part time - everything from the stockroom to my bookkeeping (really excelled there!) and of course social media. Chaidie's now in college. I have to confess it's really hard to say the word Stanford without feeling like I'm bragging!!!
The hair has not always been pink (that's a post covid innovation), but Chaidie has an intrinsically colorful personality and I am intensely proud of them!
TRIVIA: Chaidie has a beautiful chameleon companion.