The Tickle Trunk Turns 10 - My Favourite Memories
The upcoming 10th birthday of the Tickle Trunk store has me reflecting on everything I've done in the past 10 years.
Every job has its benefits, but this one comes with some very strange and particular ones that I hadn't anticipated when I started. I've been able to do some very cool things over the past ten years. Here are some of the highlights.
Visiting the Fun Factory. This was, hands down, my favourite thing I've ever done as a part of my job. In 2011, I planned a trip to Germany to visit the trade shows there - to see what might be different about a European show. Because the shows were taking place close to the Fun Factory, in Bremen, Germany, they invited anyone who was coming to spend two days with them, hang out, and see the factory. They entertained us in style, taking us on a very fun GPS treasure hunt through the town; treating us to a gourmet dinner, which we actually cooked ourselves; and then touring us through the actual Fun Factory. I was lucky enough to get my tour by the owner and creator of Fun Factory himself, Dirk Bauer. Seeing how those products are designed and made by the originator himself was something I will never ever forget.
Meeting Jocelyn Elders. Dr. Elders is one of my personal heroes. As the US Surgeon General, she did a ton to help stem the rising teen pregnancy rates and to support inclusive sex education and access to birth control in the early 1990's. She continues to work on these issues, even in her retirement. I went to CatalystCon in Los Angeles in 2013 specifically because she was the keynote speaker. I could not turn down the chance to hear her speak. After her address, I was sitting outside relaxing when one of the conference organizers came over and sat Jocelyn Elders right across from me!!!!! I had the chance to thank her for all she's done for sexual health education and to talk to her about her continued work. I treasure that moment - she is an incredible woman and a passionate advocate and has been an inspiration to me since I first learned who she was early in career with sex education.
Partnering with LitFest to bring Dan Savage to Edmonton. I started reading Dan's column way back before I even was into sex toys. I have always loved his attitude and I loved watching the way his column changed as his knowledge and attitudes changed and evolved. When I found out LitFest was bringing him to Edmonton, I jumped on the chance to sponsor. They had said they would work out a meet and greet at the Tickle Trunk in addition to their event, but that didn't seem to be happening. Liftfest's director said Dan's organizer was not getting back to him about it so perhaps I should try him directly. I emailed Dan's regular Savage Love email and within an hour, he wrote back to me personally and said he would love to come. I still have that email. Dan did visit the store and he was fun and professional and kind and gracious, and it is a wonderful memory for me and the many people that came to the store that day.
There have been many other special guest visitors at the store over the last 10 years. That is such am important part of the history of the store that I'm going to save it for another post.
Visiting the the centre of Sex positive arts and culture in San Fransisco and meeting Carol Queen. The freaking mother of the modern sex positive movement! Before I even had the store, I was planning a trip to San Francisco with a friend. Carol had just started the centre for sex positive culture there. I wrote the centre and asked if I could come and visit. I expected there were several staff and one of them might have time to tell me a bit about the place. Carol Queen wrote me back herself!! Carol freaking Queen! I met her in San Francisco and she spent over an hour with me telling me about the centre and how it started and what she hoped to accomplish. I have since run into Carol several times at a number of events. She is always willing to spend time chatting and sharing info and ideas with other sex positive activists. Sadly, after almost 15 years, the Centre is closing. I'm feel fortunate to have visited it in its infancy.
Touring the Stockroom. Just a few years ago, I attended the ANME adult toy show in Los Angeles/ I had the chance to chat with a couple of reps from JT Stockroom, one of our biggest suppliers of BDSM gear. To my surprise and delight, they invited me to visit the Stockroom for a tour. My partner and I headed there that evening and they showed us the entire place - which is so much bigger than the small retail store in front. We got to see their huge warehouse where they stock all their items for picking orders and their production room where they sew and assemble their beautiful cuffs, harnesses, and other playthings.
Winning the Women of Distinction award from the YWCA. This was something that took me completely by surprise. Two of my lovely customers (who later became very good friends) nominated me for a Women of Vision award in the Entrepreneur category. This blew me away and meant the world to me because:
- someone loved my little store enough to nominate me for it without me even knowing
- I worked for the YWCA earlier on in my social work career so I know what they do and how important it is. Winning an award from them was incredible.
- I was in the company of such amazing people!!! When I spoke to Lisa, who organized all the nominees, the first thing she did was thank me for accepting the nomination. She said it is hard for them to get women to accept the nominations because they do what they do out of love and necessity. They are so unused to acknowledgement that it feels strange and uncomfortable for them. I have never forgotten that.
Sitting at the awards night and listening to what all those amazing women were doing was inspiring to me. The next year, they asked previous winners to announce the current winners - that was also a great experience - almost as great as getting the award myself.
Going the medical students conference in Banff. The year before the store opened, I got a request from a med student at the U of A to come do a speak at their annual conference. This is a weekend where medical students from Calgary and Alberta come to get a break from their heavy workloads, spend time with each other, learn a bit, and have some fun. It was a fabulous experience - I got to talk to 100 students about how play can help improve your sex life, and your overall health. At the end of the day, the student who invited me (thank you so much by the way!!!) thanked me and said perhaps they would call me again in the future but not right away because they usually tried to change up the speaker list each year. Well, I have been invited to conference ever single year since then. I just completed my 12th trip to the AMSCAR conference. Talking with these students, who will be our future doctors, is always an enjoyable experience and it gives me the added bonus of a beautiful weekend break in the mountains every year.
Writing a sex column for VUE Magazine. The year after the store opened, I was approached by one of the editors of VUE magazine about writing a column. They wanted to replace their existing sex column with a local writer and I my name came up in the conversation. They asked me to submit samples of what I would write. I poured my heart and soul into those samples because this was something I really wanted to do. It was one of the most excited things that has ever happened for me when they let me know they wanted me to write the column. They said they wanted it local, and I knew what was going on with sex in Edmonton, so my first column was about all of the amazing sex-positive groups, activities, initiates that were happening right in our own city. I wrote that column for 6 years. It gave me the opportunity to talk to people I never would have, to investigate ideas and issues that I might not have taken the time to do, and to learn a craft I did not know before. I met several people because of that column that I continue to work with to this day. For one of my first columns, I did a phone interview with Dr. Marty Klein, who's work I'd followed for years. I got a lot more out of the column that I ever gave and I'm thankful to VUE for the opportunity.
Having my lovely little dog in the store with me for 5 years. One of the great things about owning your own business is you get to make the rules. One of the rules I made is 'dogs allowed'. In 2011, I adopted the greatest dog ever. Misery, known as Mizzy to most, was a beautiful West Highland Terrier who came to work with me every single day. She acted as our greeter - coming to check out everyone who came in the store. If they weren't into her, she didn't mind, she'd just park herself back in her usual spot on the couch. If they liked her, which most did, she was thrilled to accept some pets, and ear scratches, and maybe even a belly rub. Mizzy's presence made the store feel more warm and relaxed. I believe she helped people who were just a bit nervous coming in for the first time, to feel more comfortable. Mizzy was very much loved by all of our staff and customers. The day she died in 2016, my heart broke into pieces and hasn't quite recovered yet. But I will always be happy for the joy she brought to the store. Perhaps one day, the store will have another dog, but there will never be another Mizzy.
It's been a wonderful 10 years of having great times that I never ever anticipated when I started this company. I'm thankful to everyone who's seen my vision for the Tickle Trunk and wanted to be a part of it. Without you, we would not have been able to continue for all these many years.