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Friday, June 21, 2013

sugar sisters

There's a dance in life.  On a good day it's a smooth ballroom glide when everything is going as you think it should be.  Then there's the fast paced quick step that comes when things fall out of balance and you're moving those feet as fast as you can just to keep up...trying not to stumble or fall because then you might as well sit down and wait for the next song;)  I had a quick step moment a couple of weeks ago when I found out that not just one of my dear friends here were moving, but two of them!

I'll be honest.  I didn't handle it well.  I cried for two days.  I couldn't really talk about it.  I was a little angry.  I wanted to move run away.  I questioned God and why He was allowing my people to leave.  And then just like with any grieving process the shift happened and acceptance finally sunk in.

These are the girls that were my saving grace when we first moved to VA two years ago. I'll never forget the moment that we went beyond the surface. We originally met at a "moving on" group and clicked, so we scheduled a lunch at TGIF's. I remember the booth, my meal...everything.  I was on some sort of diet at the time, and was being really picky with my food. We had the place to ourselves.

We sat off to the side, hunkered in and just started spilling all that we were going through. There were some laughs, but at that moment in time there were more tears. At the end of the meal (they shared some sugary dessert), before we went our separate ways, we joined pinky fingers and swore that we'd be there for each other. We'd listen. We'd share. We'd go beyond the fluff and pray. It was a defining moment, one I'll never forget.  As dorky as it sounds we named ourselves...the sugar sisters;)

At first I had to remind myself to call and text them when I wanted to share life stuff.  Having just moved it was easier to go back to my old friends and not take the time to invest in the new.  Those relationships were already established.  The work had been done...the foundation poured.  Making new friends was exhausting and risky.

But then slowly over time and experiences we formed our sisterhood. Our face time was occasional.  We all lead busy lives, but our bond was strong and I fell in love with these girls.  I've got a storehouse of memories...jammin' in the car with Lenina...thumping to her gospel music.  Going gun shopping with them;) Junking with Joannie. Tea time. Many a heart to heart:)

I hate that they are leaving me...

BUT I'm honestly so very excited to see what God has in store for them/me in this next chapter.  Even though they won't be 3 minutes down the road I know we'll always share that pinky swear day.  We'll always be sugar sisters.  Maybe the next dance will be a salsa...sounds spicy:))

Be a blessing.

no ugly cry at the farewell party, ugliest cake on the planet, giving your heart away...
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

the feel good zone

You know what I love most about summer?  The pressure is off.  I'm slowly unwinding.  I can actually feel myself relaxing.  Every little twitch...anxious taking a backburner.  I'm letting go of the time crunch.  The constant goooooo.  This leaning into real life is what it's all about.  It's liberating.  Seriously summer has been good and it's only the first week:) 

We've already established a little routine.  I get up before the girls.  I sip on my black coffee...oh yeah if you don't have Instagram you don't know this about me.  I've gone black girls;)  Seriously I never thought I could do it, but I just did!  And it's not that bad.  I add a little Stevia and it's doable.  I did it because I'm a sugarholic.  Even that little bit in my coffee sort of triggered me for the sweet taste all day long.  So I'm cut off.  I know this about myself and I can change.  I can! 

Anyhoo I get up before the girls...have my coffee, read my devotional, bask in the sunshine on my back deck.  Then they get up, eat and play Barbies together etc...while I hit the gym:))  I can feel my mojo coming back.  In the afternoon they read or play separately and I do my organize my office!  Hopefully there will be many an afternoon of pool time, painting, exploring our area.  I {heart} summer!!!! 

I don't have any important things to talk about.  I've been feeling a brain meltdown lately.  It's a good meltdown.  I'm just "off" right now.  My body/mind is resting.  I'm much more patient.  I'm making dinner, and actually taking the time to explain things and cook with my little chick.  Maybe during this "vacation" season I can figure out the secret for staying in this peaceful/relaxed place even in the midst of the hectic.  I want it so badly.

Next week we take off for home, Illinois, and I can hardly wait.  The girls and I will be gone for two WHOLE weeks.  I've been missing my people.  Missing the wide open spaces...the super slow pace.  The lazy days in the country are calling me:) 

I'm anxious to have my mom and dad dote on me;)  To sit on the porch swing and gaze into miles and miles of open farmland.  We'll hit every antique/thrift store in a 50 mile radius.  I'll get to have some face to face friend time.  We are sneaking up to Michigan too!!  I can hardly wait.  If you want to follow along...check me out on Instagram farmgirlpaints is my name:)

Be a blessing.

belts galore, my little helper, the "find" shipping station;), hearing from You through nature, a sweet friend that tromps around town in the pouring rain...blessed
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Monday, June 17, 2013

the love auction

Several years ago I attended a Steven Curtis Chapman concert.  It was pivotal.  I sat there weepy eyed as they showed children in need of a home.  My heart started racing a bit as he talked about his story and experiences with adoption.  I felt that tugging, and I knew that we had a home.  That we had lots of love and rooms for shelter.  At that moment I really thought I felt the call to adopt. 

I went home and immediately shared my excitement with honey and quickly discovered we didn't share the same vision.  So I started praying about it.  I left it up to the Lord and asked Him to change my honey's heart if it was something we were supposed to do.  But it didn't change...and I'm 100% okay with that.  In marriage we have to be on the same page.  You can't force children, chickens, airstream campers etc...on them;)  One can dream though and one can be a part of sheltering children and nurturing and loving others even if it isn't first hand. 

I have a friend, one I met briefly just last year...Kimberly Taylor.  Her and her mom are going to Uganda soon to help set up a home for orphans.  They are providing kitchen supplies, basic necessities, food...small creature comforts.  They are hauling as many suitcases as they can with them and gathering the rest of the supplies once they get there.  They are welcoming these children in and lavishing love on them.  They are doing what I would love to do.  What I'm sure many of us would love to be a part of but can't. 

She's hosting a fundraiser for this love endeavor on her blog today.  At 8:00 am PST an auction will start and run until Wednesday, June 19th at 6pm PST.  She's rounded up some really fun items and I'm honored and proud to have a cuff from my shop be one of them.  I hope you take a minute and search your heart.  How can we make a difference?  How can we help even if we can't physically be there?  It doesn't have to change our lives...but it will most definitely change theirs.

Be a blessing.

father's my is just better because of you

my daddy who smells like old spice and makes me tear up when he hugs me...forever grateful God chose him to be my earthly daddy.
those who have a call to action
having a matter how small
shopping to save;)
schools out!
a recent switch that flipped with me again...
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

what works for me...Etsy tips

Well heeeelllllloooo:))  How are my sweet peeps?!!! Seriously I've been missing you girls.  I can't believe I haven't blogged since May 31st.  That's a record for me.  But with all honesty I feel like I just climbed out of a fox hole and I'm a little shell shocked!

I'm talking about my "occasional" shop that has turned into a big deal in my life!  It's a weird thing...this blessing/curse lol!  I have to just laugh because I'm totally not prepared for a full time j.o.b., but that's what my store has become.  I thank you for the support.  I'm humbled by the love.  I honestly can see God's hand in it.  I just have some major growing pains.  Hopefully I can figure it out before my family disowns me and I'm drivin' to drinking.  Just kidding...sorta;)

(**Hire someone amazing to help you get to the next level)

So you know what blesses my socks off??  It's letters from people who've bought a cuff and they are wearing them as a witness.  You know what else blesses my heart.  That you guys are gifting these to people and they are meaningful...word affirming.  It's love come down, it's reminders from's a beautiful thing.  And I'm beyond overwhelmed to have even a little bitty part in it! 

I occasionally get letters from people asking for business advice.  This totally cracks me up because I'm a "trial and error" kinda girl.  If it's painful and I hate it then I change.  So what works for me might not work for you, but here are a few things I've learned over the last few years:

1.) Pray for favor 
If He is behind whatever you're doing it will be successful.  I'm just a vessel.  I want to be used by the Lord.  When I turn it over and give Him the glory...He blesses it.  True story.

2.) Be generous
I don't know how many cuffs I've given away...a lot.  Just do it and don't think about it.  It will come back.  He blesses generosity.  Also cheerlead and root others on.  Be generous with supporting your peeps. 

3.) Make friends 
I have the most wonderful blogging and instagram friends in the world.  Seriously I don't deserve these people.  Each month I ask some of them to promote my shop and they do...because they are generous and that's what friends do.

4.)  Ask for help!!
When I first set up shop, a friend of mine who owned her own Etsy space practically walked me through every single step.  I remember that night on the phone.  I was a nervous wreck and she took me under her very capable wing and told me how to do it.  She encouraged me so much, and I think she was my very first Esty sale.  Find that friend. 

I find this step challenging because I'm a little control freak when it comes to work. But when friends offer to help you...take them up on it. I'm beyond blessed that I have a Tamara girl. She'd jump through hoops to help me and I appreciate her so much. Taking her up on it was/is the hard part.  Now I have SIX helpers.  SIX!  If I never would have been obedient with this step it wouldn't have grown. Pray about it and then JUST DO IT!

5.)  Give discounts 
I did give-aways for a long time.  When I switched over to discounts my sales did a huge jump.  People love a bargain.  I know I do.  It makes sense.

6.)  Provide great customer service
I try to answer questions as quickly as possible.  We do our best to give a fast turn around.  I send out shipping notifications.  We work really hard to make our customers happy.  The Golden Rule unto others. 

Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, blogging etc...  I can't say enough about this.  My social peeps are my marketing team.  My success lies in them.  Thank you!

8.) Be specific in your listings

9.) Invest in a nice quality camera 
The pictures definitely help sell the product.

10.)  Buy wholesale if you can 
Finally after much hunting I found most of supplies online at wholesale prices.  This helped the bottom line a lot.  Do your research.  Having a dependable supplier is major!

11.) Simplify shipping
 I used to dread shipping.  Like majorly hated it.  The post office wasn't close.  The lines were long.  It was a real pain in the rear.  Then I bought a regulated USPS scale, and started buying postage from Etsy...even international orders...and it's cheaper!!!  Hallelujah.  No more custom forms.  Amazing.  I bought the scale right at the post office for around $40.  Then I made nice with my mailman.  If I have too much for my mailbox I put a sticky note in there and he walks up to the porch and grabs it all for me.  I love my mailman:)  Finally it's easy.  You just have to find what works for you.

12.)  Be obedient
I felt like the Lord was telling me to pull back long before I actually followed through.  Once I went occasional is when the demand really spiked.  Make sure your priorities are in order and He will bless your efforts.

13.) Figure out how to relax and let go!
Since every single thing I make is custom, it can be demanding. There are usually multiple emails ironing out details. It's time consuming. I'm texting and emailing customers at all hours of the day. It's not a 9-5 job and sometimes it can be stressful.

I haven't mastered this last step. I tend to take problems personally. I let myself go a bit when I work, and sometimes I feel like my shop is running me. Like I said "trial and error", but I'm working on it;)  I think pacing myself...allowing grace for mess ups (which are inevitable) and down time are vital. A bubble bath, a walk around the block, maybe a phone call with a friend...anything to take a mandatory break throughout the day is important. Baby steps...

When I started out on Etsy (several years ago) I was painting a little.  Then I started making glass pendants, and then eventually I added the cuffs.  I took a stamping class at a jewelry supply store. I fell in love with the whole concept of words on my jewelry. I'm a word person:) I brainstormed different ways to wear them and started turning belts into cuffs for myself.  Pretty soon all my friends wanted one and people would ask me about them at the grocery store etc...  That's how it happens.  Make something you love and others will too:)  

15.) Pay attention to detail
Either make a pretty Etsy banner or hire someone.  The cost is minimal and it really makes all the difference.  I hired Jill at Sweet Sycamore to tweak my Etsy Banner.  I painted it and she helped design it.  We made a nice team. 

(**Buy a Dymo you never have to cut labels again!)

Brand yourself a bit.  Have nice business cards/inserts/logo/watermark etc made up.  I painted my design, then had my amazingly talented friend Jill (hire her!) help me do some logo and brand design with Vistaprint printing them. They did my notecards too for thanks yous.  Office Depot made up my address and Farmgirl Paints stamps.  They did a great job.  Really the sky is the limit to making it personal.  Pay attention to detail when you package your product.  Make it pretty.  Be thoughtful, gracious, and always...always say thank you.  It's the little things...

So there you have it, some Etsy tips that have worked for me:)  I'm sure there are some things I failed to mention, but you get the idea.  Good luck to you girls wanting to start something.  Being creative is a wonderful gift.  It's worth the hard work doing something you love.  It's a privilege working from home...serving others.  Put in the time and effort, and eventually there will be a beautiful reward!

Be a blessing.

weeks to relax and let go
a plane ticket home
future plans to visit a dear friend
a few new summer items in my closet
that i made it through my june shop time;)
cuff sales that exceeded my imagination
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