Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing an inspiring lesbian couple based in Portland, OR -- Carrie Welch and her wife Jannie Huang. Welch is the Co-Founder of Feast, Portland's annual kick ass festival of food and drink and Huang is the Creative Director of the now beloved event.
Along with putting on Feast (with co-founder Mike Thelin), the two also run a fun and funky PR firm called Little Green Pickle. And, when I spoke to them last year, they had just recently welcomed a new baby boy into their lives. Needless to say, this past year has been a little different from the last.
These two continue to be one of my favorite lesbian power couples. So I was curious to see how things have gone since baby made three...
How would you characterize this year as compared to last?
Carrie - Well! It's been quite a year. I remember feeling like we were on the precipice of a huge change last year going into Feast. Taylor had just been born, and life was feeling crazy, painful (after an unplanned C-section) and just wild trying to do the festival and get to know this incredible little being we'd brought into the world. The reality of that didn't set in for a few months. Feast last year is a total blur for me -- there are so many parts I remember clearly and so many I don't remember at all.
This year is a different year for so many reasons. We have a new, extremely talented team at Feast. These ladies are getting it done and then some. I am so proud of the strides we've made and that we've updated our Saturday night event, Smoked! and sold it out earlier than any other year.
This is also the year before our 5th year, so we are actively planning next year at the same time. It feels sophisticated and less start up, though we all still have our hands in everything. I'm excited to use this year as a warm up to continue to surprise people with what we can do in year 5.
Jannie - Way less hectic. We are not the brand spankin' newbie parents. Granted we still have so much to learn, but at least we have a system or sort of schedule with Taylor. Plus my wife is the best partner to raise our son with.
What's been the hardest adjustment you've had to make?
Carrie - What hasn't been adjusted is probably more accurate! I used to be a corporate gal -- in at 9am, leaving at 6, 7pm or later. I LOVE to work. I have worked since I was 15 years old; my first job was as a waitress at Denny's and since then I've always been motivated to get things done. My parents owned their own business working out of our house growing up and I imagine that had some kind of osmosis impact on me.
I've adjusted my outlook on work. I still love it, but it can't be the only thing in my life. I do what a lot of working moms do -- I leave the office at 4:30pm so I can relieve the nanny, I work from home with Taylor Mondays and Wednesdays, I check my phone a lot, I work furiously and as efficiently as possible on his naps (luckily he's a great sleeper so far), I work late at night. You find ways to make it all happen, and you're that much more motivated because you want to be with your son too.
Jannie: Not being with Taylor every day and going to work four and half days a week.
I'm sure you got all kinds of advice from all kinds of people are balancing work and a new baby, what was the best piece of advice you received?
Carrie - Don't worry about being perfect. Be yourself as a parent. Don't give in to mom peer pressure on what you should be doing, what you're missing, what other parents and kids are doing. Go your own way and figure it out. Because really, when it comes down to it, that's what all parents are doing. These beautiful children, where everything they do is magic, are everything and we're all just trying to do the right stuff for them.
A reporter friend emailed me a list of parenting tips when I was pregnant, which was only slightly overwhelming because when you're pregnant, the thought of actually parenting is so foreign, you're just trying to move your big body around... Or at least that's how it was for me. And it wasn't even what the tips were, it was that people are thinking about you, wanting to help you, reassuring you that yes it's going to be crazy hard but crazy beautiful and you bond with others in a way you never have before. The best advice has been don't judge, do your own thing and support each other in this parenting game!
Jannie - Read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby by Marc Weissbluth M.D. Cry it out. It's not for everyone, but it's the number one reason we have been able to get some sleep, be awake to play with him and get everything done! He is on a regular sleep schedule and that allows us to sleep a little more than most parents.
What has surprised you the most about being a new mom?
Carrie - How much I wholeheartedly, without question love it. I was never one of those I-have-to-be-a-mother people. I knew I'd have kids, but I wasn't really hot on it until my mid-thirties. I am surprised every day how much this little man makes me fall in love with him over and over again. Now I can't imagine life without him. How he adds so much to our lives and how much more perspective on the world I feel I have now. I know a lot of people say these things, and they seem corny or trite, but they are totally true.
Jannie - How much I could love a human being. They say you can love your kid, but this is more than I ever expected. My heart melts every time I come home to my family. My family means the world to me and there is nothing I wouldn't do for them.
Do you feel like being a new mom has informed how you do business in a new way in any respect?
Carrie - Yes, I am a big softie now. The other day I actually pulled my car over because a spider was struggling on my window, and I got out to be sure it made it to the grass. A woman and her young son were asking for money on the street in Downtown Portland last night as Jannie and I were leaving dinner. The hardened New Yorker in me would never have given them money, but now I gave them $5 because it doesn't matter. If it was a scam, if they really needed it - it doesn't matter. That's a woman and her son out there and I needed to help.
In business, I think I am more patient. Not totally patient but more than I used to be. Once you've been through birth many thing seem a lot easier! I try to understand more where people are coming from, listen and then decide what to do. Some of this comes from living in Portland for five years too!
Jannie - I have a completely new respect for working parents, single moms and single dads. I do not know how they do it. Carrie and I have a hard enough time doing it together let alone doing it on our own.
We make sure we make time for him first. No phones when we play with him. Utilize the time when he is sleeping. We don't dwell on the little things anymore. He has really helped us realize what's important and it's okay that person cut me off on the highway.
What is the one thing you wish you had known before having a baby?
Carrie - How hard it really is. It's what people always say, but it's a reality. It's hard in unexpected ways. You are now responsible for another life and there's a ton of feelings and emotions and logistics that go with that all day every day. You can't watch TV or movies about children in the same way again. I turn the channel when they have the stories about children in hot cars and things like that. You have completely new worst fears in your life that you never knew were possible. You understand how other parents feel in almost any situation with just a glance or a nod. It's enlightening and you see why we have children, but it's also terrifying on a daily basis. The comfort comes when your baby curls that little arm around your neck when you're holding him and you know everything is going to be ok.
Jannie - I wish we saved even more than I planned on and started looking for nannies/daycare as soon as you can! We had no plan, but we got lucky and found an amazing nanny.
Even though you live in what I would call a pretty LGBTQ-friendly city, would you say you've faced any challenges in terms of being lesbian moms?
Carrie - Not yet. I took Taylor to the science museum here in Portland last week -- it's ridiculously kid-friendly and they have a great space for crawlers. He sat up on his hind legs and started screaming at the top of his lungs, "Da Da Da Da!" And I realized that I'm going to have to get good at explaining that there was a sperm donor and yes there is no "father" and no that's not how we refer to it, we call it a donor and there was a sperm and an egg and a doctor's office...
Right now Jannie and I are enjoying the time before he can ask all of those questions and everyone we encounter in Portland just loves him to pieces. He's an outgoing boy and so far so good.
Jannie - Hearing "What color was the father's hair?" When we first started the fertility process we were required to go through a counseling session. Don't worry, it's for straight people too.
They teach us to say donor sperm, not the father. And now I know why.
What are some Feast favorites that returning Feast-goers can look forward to?
Carrie - Two of my favorite events are always the Sandwich Invitational (Thursday, 9/17) and the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting (Friday 9/18 and Saturday 9/19). Feast is a big festival, but these events feel really laid back. The Sandwich Invitational is sandwiches and beer under the stars in Director Park in Downtown Portland. This is a good example of how our events have a real sense of place -- you know you're in Portland and feel like you're in the center of it all. Widmer Brothers Brewing are brewing four new beers for us this year and the sandwiches are outrageous and awesome so you can't lose at that event.
At the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting, this is THE gathering of the up-and-coming makers who are doing cool ass stuff around the state and beyond. Jacobsen Salt Co., Bee Local Honey and new guys like Red Duck Ketchup, Pitch Dark Chocolate and Eliot's Adult Nut Butters are all going to be there sampling, plus the best Oregon wines and beers. The wine tent is a best kept secret -- you can try the tipity top reserve wines from Oregon's award-winning wineries and it's part of your all inclusive ticket.
Jannie - Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting. It's the lowest cost ticket and this year there is a new format. You'll have to buy tickets to find out!
What are some surprises that Feast-goers can look forward to?
Carrie - We reimagined our panels this year and the Drink Tank discussions you'll see this year are bigger, badder and more fun than ever. One I want to see and that I know will be full of surprises is the Bon Appetit Shaken, Stirred and Buzzed: Why We Really Like Booze. Why do we really like booze? I have my theories, but I'd rather hear Bon App's!
Also the fire dancers at the Night Market weren't wearing underwear last year. Just sayin'...
Jannie - What the Smoked! event will look like. Our director, Emily Crowley, and team, has gone above and beyond to make this one look amazing. The food and drinks will be incredible!
What advice do you have entrepreneurs with brand new editions?
Carrie - I'm thankful every day we run our own businesses. It can be a blessing and a curse as you set your own schedule so you can work whenever you want, which usually means you're working all the time. I don't mind that part because I love what I do and I want to work. My advice would be do what you have to do for your family and make the work, well, work. I have drawn more boundaries between work and life than I ever have before and I think that's an important part of it. I leave when I have to and I don't apologize or feel bad about it. You have to live your actual life and be with your child. That is paramount, and if your child sees that you're happy and successful in your work, then it's a positive all around.
Jannie - Set up your team! We couldn't have done it without the Little Green Pickle team and Feast Portland team. They are like family and we have been lucky to work with such amazing people.
Enjoy every moment. From working in the late night hours to waking up to the cutest smile in the world. You'll figure it out as it comes. Don't worry too much. It always works out!
Will the little man be making an appearance or two at Feast?
Carrie - Most likely! Last year he was two weeks old and he circled the Sandwich Invitational and Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting because no one, I mean no one, can bring babies and strollers into Feast Portland -- even me! This year, I think he'll make a brief appearance, say hi to his fans and then get back to trying to open all those kitchen cabinets.
Jannie - Unfortunately, no kids allowed at the events. But you may see him at the entrance or strolling around town!