What gives us inspiration? Moonlight on water? Flowers in bloom? In Carol Schiller’s case, it would be the copious drool of her son Jacob, 18 months.
“The inspiration was definitely my son,” says Carol, who has launched a line of drool-busting bibs for the teething set. “My girls drooled [also], but my son was born a champion spitter and graduated to Olympian-level drooler.”
Carol was frustrated by the cost of buying bibs, which had to be changed frequently and did not keep clothes dry, as well as by the amount of laundry she was doing.
She wasn’t happy with the material of most bibs, either.
“Everything was plastic… and you don’t want a kid wearing it all day,” she says, “or else they were cotton and got soaked.”
Other moms told her they owned 30 to 40 bibs.
“You shouldn’t need 30 bibs,” observes Carol.
Her drool-inspiration is Baby Chaleco, a bib that pulls over the head and looks more like a shirt or frock. Made mostly of velour, which looks dry even when wet, the bibs are lined with coated nylon which keeps moisture off of clothes.
Schiller worked on the business side of fashion for many years in New York, at Kenneth Cole, Ralph Lauren and Anne Klein. She works with a designer to create the fashionable bibs.
The collection of six styles with names like “Dribble Buster” and “Bubble Blocker” can be viewed at www.babychaleco.com. Different styles meet different needs, including that traditional activity, eating. Locally, they’re at Hush Baby in Redmond Town Center, Tottini in South Lake Union, and Once Upon a Time on Queen Anne.
Born and raised on the East Coast, Carol attended Barnard and Columbia, then worked in Japan for a few years. She used her fluent Japanese extensively in business, and Japanese aesthetics influence her designs.
She and her husband Dice Ikezawa came to the Northwest for his work and stayed.
“The Jewish lifestyle out here is terrific,” Schiller says. “It’s very open. I’ve been really happy with the community.”
The family, including daughters Ariela, 7, and Talia, 4, belongs to the Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation. All of the children are bilingual in Japanese and English, and Ariela is just beginning her Hebrew studies.
Does a budding entrepreneur with three little kids have time for extracurricular fun? “No,” Schiller deadpans, but she does volunteer at synagogue and her daughter’s school.
“I do a lot of laundry,” she adds, but points out that it’s a lot less since the advent of her bibs. “If you look at it compared to other bibs it’s expensive,” she says, “but I saved the cost in laundry alone…you can buy fewer clothes, the diaper bag is lighter.”
Wrapping up a life of work is Jean Colman, recently retired from her long tenure at WROC, the Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition.
Jean started as an organizer about 20 years ago.
“At the time we were part of Catholic Community Services, but our goal was to become a freestanding, tax-exempt 501(c)3,” which they became in 2000.
Colman helped to organize and train low-income parents (recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and advocate for themselves to get the benefits for which they were eligible. The organization also worked to make state and federal programs more responsive to the needs of parents.
“Women were routinely denied benefits and help at the welfare office,” Jean says, “for no reason.”
They also trained welfare recipients to speak to their legislators and to the press about their situations. Colman says she “fell into” being executive director of WROC.
“It became obvious that someone had to do the fundraising and administrative work,” she says.
She left the organization in the spring to focus on her health. “I developed breast cancer seven years ago, and it metastasized five years ago and I realized that I wasn’t doing either of us any good.”
Frequently debilitated by chemotherapy drugs, she says, “by the time I left, I was happy not to go into work when I felt that crummy.”
On the days she does feel good, Jean enjoys gardening, and she is happy to have more than a few hours a week for her favorite activity. She reads more and adds, “my honey and I plan at least one major trip every year.” Last year they went to Turkey and next year it’s a toss-up between Alaska and Mexico.
Even though she hasn’t been active in the Jewish community, Jean says she had a solid Jewish education growing up in northern New Jersey.
“The rabbi I grew up with was a teacher and [he] believed that Jews had a responsibility to make the world a better place…He and my Quaker English teacher were my biggest influences,” Jean remembers, “and [they] got me into the women’s movement and the anti-war movement, which led to my work in economic justice.”
Sadly, Colman feels that the welfare situation in this country has become worse since the repeal of the AFDC in 1996. The biggest problem is that current welfare laws deny funding for education needed to get better paying jobs.
“Our state made it very difficult for women to go to school,” she says. “Even if you can’t speak English, or are functionally illiterate, the focus has been on ‘everybody gets a job, nobody goes to school.’”