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 the perfect job. Great money. Well respected. The day flew by.

So, what made me turn my perfect life upside down?

For a long time, there was a constant internal nagging. Logically, it felt like this all should be enough. It wasn’t. Conversations played in my head 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.

I came across a quote by Howard Washington Thurman at the time:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is more people who have “come alive”.

Howard Washington Thurman

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 realized 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 scultpure 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. That was, and still is, very cool but there was always this nagging feeling reminding me about my original vision of Big Syd. I didn’t really talk about it much but there was always this sense of, “Oh well, I guess he wasn’t meant to be born.”

Big Syd Brings Big Magic

Deciding I couldn’t give up on Big Syd, I posted something on Facebook to see if there was anyone who knew about making molds. Amazingly, a woman who’d fallen in love with Syd via Social Media pulls in her husband who knows about this stuff. He gets Big Syd scanned on a 3D printer (I want you to know I feel very cool saying that), goes over every detail, and has me send out for bids (which he really did for me using this professional language that I still have no idea what it means). Before I knew it, Big Syd was born, and people were posting pictures and videos of such joy.

So What’s Next?

I will be making accessories to go with Big Syd. He will have outfits and items to put in his palm that can hold inspirational cards. Maybe a jewelry line, like TSM Mala beads. Maybe a Suburban Monk community where we share and help each other create a life that makes sense, feels good, and is so much fun to live so — like Wayne Dyer says — “don’t die with the music still in you”. My goal is to spread joy and hope through Syd. To connect with people and to just keep following my bliss.

#GetMonked and Join the Movement