The inspiration for The Suburban Monk came from a time of major transition in my life, where the past was gone . . . but I wasn’t quite sure what the future held. That void can be so uncomfortable. I led a “normal” suburban life. I married a great guy who is still my husband 28 years later, have 3 kids, and the adorable family dog, Murphy. The Corporate world was where I lived for 30 years. Yes, I had thoughts such as, “You can do this job with your eyes closed, Ellen. Don’t you want to see what else is out there?” When I thought about quitting, “What would I do?” always popped up and with no answer at hand, I’d get pulled back into the busyness of life. Those voices became shouts, and the day after we took our son to college on August 30, 2007, I finally quit. I still had no explanation for my family and friends. Well, none that was logical….
I knew it would be hard, but I never realized how hard. I felt like “Alice” from Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole. I tried being the “perfect mom” (Oh, that went well. Ha.) I tried yoga, volunteering, organic juicing. You name it, I did it. Eventually, I couldn’t run from myself — or my unhappiness — any longer. There were no more activities that could keep the waves of despair at bay. I couldn’t figure it out with my head. What I really needed was to surrender and be still with my sadness. It was in this stillness that something magical began to happen. Syd was born.
What struck me was that I was in my early 50s, but didn’t know what made me come alive. I knew how to multitask and be responsible. I was a Virgo and a CPA, after all. But . . . what about fun? I made it my mission to find out what made me happy. I started to notice anything that gave me pleasure: a word, a quote, a picture, or a color. Anything. I ordered a few Monk statues (the jolly kind with big bellies) and they always made me laugh. I surrounded my life with anything that made me laugh. The Monks not only became my companions but my daily inspiration. I would dress them up. A dishtowel became a shawl, a mop became a hat. It was my new hobby that quickly became a passion. I started taking Monk pictures and sent them to friends. The response was amazing. Everyone loved them! We all started to realize how little we laughed.
The UPS guy loved seeing the statue on the front porch with various outfits and messages duct-taped to it. The one in my kitchen would have a funny or inspirational message for the day. They were always bringing me back to joy and laughter. I put a monk in the garage that I would see every time I pulled up. It would immediately snap me out of my seriousness as if to say, “Laugh now, Ellen. Feel better — and then we can deal with life’s issues.” The monks were helping me feel inspired, creative — and actually happy. Little did I know this would be the start of a business.
The Suburban Monk is Born
I grew tired of duct-taping messages to my monks. I wished they had outfits and a place to hold various items. So, I decided to create one. I envisioned a unique big laughing Monk statue with a thumbs-up and an open palm to hold a crystal, or inspirational sayings, or maybe your car keys. We are The “Suburban” Monk, after all. I designed Syd (yes he was named early on) with arms that don’t touch his torso so he can be dressed easily, an open palm to hold daily inspiration so I didn’t need to use duct tape, and a hole in his thumbs up to hold a flower or a flag (so many fun details!). He would also be waterproof because I wanted him in the garden, on the porch or inside … his larger-than-life joy would live wherever it is needed.
DETOUR, the journey is never straight
On May 2nd, after 9 months of back-and-forth with the sculptor, I declared it was Syd’s birthday because he was perfect. OMG, this was Syd! But wait. The sculptor told me he doesn’t make molds. What?!! Did he look in my refrigerator, or why were we talking about Jello? You mean no one told me making a mold for Syd was part of the process. Oy Vey. Since I was short on resources, and we had made little Syd as part of the sculpture process, I decided to start there. And, as you might know, he took off. Little Syd made his way all around the world from the Middle East to a Western Australian town that only gets mail on Saturdays to everywhere in between. He comes in 14 colors, each with a color meaning card.