For 15 years, Dorothy Atkins kept a diary during her long train rides back and forth to work as a project manager at a large San Francisco bank. "I always used commuting time to write out my hopes and desires," Atkins says. She also did a lot of drawing, illustrating "pearls of wisdom" imparted from friends and family, sometimes even making a card for a friend from the scribbles.
When Atkins was offered a buyout in 2002 at age 60, she was caught off guard. "The package scared me to death. I had not planned for not working," she says. After meeting with human resources to discuss her options, she went to Nordstrom (JWN) and took comfort from a little shell-shocked shopping, buying a pair of shoes and some Godiva chocolate. Later that week, after reality had sunk in, she consulted her wish book and realized she wanted to turn her doodles into greeting cards.