I usually try to come up with a couple Haiku’s during NaBloPoMo. Here’s a reference to a subject I plan to write about in detail!
A hook made of bone
glows white under UV light
Bakelite hooks do not
I usually try to come up with a couple Haiku’s during NaBloPoMo. Here’s a reference to a subject I plan to write about in detail!
A hook made of bone
glows white under UV light
Bakelite hooks do not
I sit here sipping my cup of grog and cannot help but be reminded of this month 9 years ago – the month my husband deployed overseas.
It wasn’t our first deployment. But it was the first overseas deployment and it was the longest. And I’m sorry to say I don’t feel I handled my husband’s absence all that well either. Oh, don’t misunderstand me. I supported my husband then and now in everything he has done. I am proud of his service, proud of my part in it, and I regret nothing. My husband would never have enlisted in the Guard without me supporting him. It was a decision we made together, and not an easy one, since we were already in our 30’s and he was almost too old to join. We had kids and a mortgage on his single income and piddly extra from what work I did from home.
Enlistment wasn’t in our original “plan” for our life together at all, nor easy to consider financially either. Being a soldier meant a cut in pay no matter what. And I received a lot of criticism for supporting my husband’s enlistment. For “letting” him go.
Still I would make the same decisions again. And honestly, I felt he had a purpose, even a calling, as did I in supporting him. I believe with all my heart that there are young men alive today thanks to him, even if only for his training or watching out for them.
No – that is not where I had trouble handling it. It was that I discovered that being separated for so long was incredibly painful. Emotionally, spiritually and even physically. I think it surprised us both just how much it hurt our souls to be separated, how much we had become a part of each other. I’m not sure if being “older” and with many years of marriage and life experience behind us helped or maybe added to the pain.
Perhaps we become less adaptable as we get older and settle down.
But I also have to think maturity as individuals, as well as in our marriage, had to have played a positive role though. I couldn’t imagine being like some of the young women I looked out for, fresh out of college, newly weds really, new baby, husband now gone. Barely starting out life as “adult.”
However, as pretty down to earth, hard-working folks, my hubby and I weren’t prepared for the idea that we might struggle so much emotionally about being apart. We knew it’d be hard, we just weren’t prepared to feel despair in being separated.
Something I couldn’t have truly understood until going through it. Part of me was missing and all that was left was an oozing wound in my heart that wouldn’t heal.
I never realized how important his presence could be. For myself, or for our children. A father really makes a difference in the home. And in all honesty, I know our relationship is richer, and wiser for the experience; and I am too as a wife and mother. Though it scared me, because it gave me a peek into life without him.
There were days where I really was simply numb. I hadn’t realized that over the years my husband had become such an incredible part of my foundation and source of empowerment. As a woman, as a mom, as a professional. Physically not being able to just call him whenever I wanted was hard. Not seeing him, not being able to talk everything out. Not just… even having him by my side. No hugs, physical touch, no holding me when I cried. I suddenly found my usual more confident self not so strong anymore.
I got through it with a handful of friends who made a point of looking in on me. Lord knows that no matter how many people say “call me if you need anything” to you when you’re really in pain, you won’t. I know I was too overwhelmed. I didn’t have the bandwidth to make that first move and pick up that phone first. So it was good there were those who weren’t hesitant to drop by or make that first call themselves to check on me. It showed me how today people have irrational fears about being there for others.
I got through each day by staying busy. Though sometimes it was all I could do to get the chores done, get the kids through homework and feed them. And they needed me to hold and comfort them when they missed Daddy too.
When you’re a soldier’s wife and a mom, you have to hold yourself together for everyone. Besides the fact that your soldier also needs more than anything for you to be strong, so the last thing they have to worry about while trying to do their job is you. Distractions are not healthy on the battlefield or in training.
I learned many things about myself. Including that I could dig up my own plumbing, and handle a myriad of other strange house repair problems that began to surface practically the day he left town. You know that military curse they talk about, where everything breaks as soon as your husband deploys? It’s surreal, but still real none the less. It happens. Can’t explain it. It just does.
I also got through it by writing, especially poetry. Here’s a piece I wrote for him while he was gone that he especially liked.
Good Morning My Love…
I go to bed now
Keep watch while I sleep
My full moon is high
And your sun is up
Across the oceans deep
My coldest night
Is your warmest day
With soldiers roosting near
I go to bed
Knowing you will wake
And soon will join me here…
Written 2-12-2006, 10:37pm
Copyright © 2006 – 2014 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.
Seven years ago this month my husband finally finished his tour of active enlistment. I give thanks to have him by my side and be able to watch our children grow up together and live the future we put on hold.
Happy Veterans Day y’all.
Yeah, so I thought after all the graphic work I did for my post yesterday (yep – every single graphic in that post is one I designed), today I would do a post that was less intense from my end.
I’m going to share my secret to keeping fresh-cut basil alive and fresh longer.
I love basil. In fact, I really love basil mixed in with my spaghetti squash, along with a little butter. Super delicious. Great in gingerale, gin and tonic too, btw. Or infused in just a cold glass of water. And it happens to be a very strong natural anti-fungal and infection fighter too. And I have some serious mold allergies. So, I like to keep it around for many reasons. But doing so was a pain in the tush for a very long time, because it always went bad so very quickly in my house. Like some kind of basil curse. Until I discovered a secret. All on my own.
Before I go any further, let me explain an inherently important part of why it matters that I figured out how to keep my basil longer.
It all starts with the family green thumb. Which I didn’t inherit.
I am not a plant whisperer. I end up killing plants I try to take care of. I read up, get advice, try this or that and it does little to green up my very brown thumb.
I have no idea what plants want from me. <insert visual of me insanely screaming at a plant – I can’t take this anymore – what to you want!>
So usually we (the plants and I) resign ourselves to making a pact: I tell them – you’re welcome here as long as you like, but you gotta fend for yourself. Because you’re a frellin’ mystery to me. And I ain’t killing myself for you.
So that [insanity] is the setup you need to keep in mind as I explain this literal secret, as in hidden knowledge that nobody shared with me, that I STUMBLED upon. In my kitchen, doing my own thing (not online).
Before you suggest it, I tried the whole “living basil” plant too. I tried the ones at my regular HEB grocery store, my local Sprouts grocery store and I tried the ones at my local Whole Foods. I read up and I got advice from the produce department people. I was told put it in the fridge wrapped in paper towels, put it in a dark dry place wrapped in damp paper towels, stick it in a cup wrapped in a cold damp paper towel, let it sit out where it can get light, etc.. I tried all the ideas and advice. And in every case my basil started dying pretty much immediately.
After all this cut and “living” basil wasted, it didn’t take long for me to realize, hey – buy the whole flippin’ plant in a pot already. Even if you eventually kill it, it’ll survive at least a while and it will be cheaper than buying cut basil all the time. I felt a little guilty, but not too much. After all, plants are living too. And it must suck to get stuck with me sometimes.
OK, so after I have my potted basil plant, I learned from a friend who loves to garden that basil has to have the tops cut off before it flowers, or it’ll stop producing leaves. So you look for a place on the stem where two baby leaves are budding out and you snip the tops off just above that. Which I dutifully do.
And anything left over, I try to preserve just as unsuccessfully as before. Once it’s cut, it’s flat-out giving up on me. So I basically managed it by only snipping just exactly the amount I want for a recipe and nothing more.
Until one day, I realize that both my plants are about to go to flower and I need to cut a bunch of tops. And there were way too many tops than the recipe could possibly use up.
I didn’t have room in the fridge and I didn’t want to throw them out yet. So I grabbed a bowl and did something with them I used to do with the kids when they were little and would bring me the tops of flowers with no stems. I put a little shallow water in the bowl and set the tops in it and left it on the kitchen cabinet.
As it usually goes, I got busy and forgot about the basil sitting on the cabinet in a bowl of water.
Let me tell you, I’ve tried putting full-blown stems of basil in water, and it did not work. They just rotted. But with just the tops in a little water sitting out and they will eventually root, leaving you with plenty of time to use up those beautiful leaves in your recipes.
So there you go. Secret to the basil universe. Go forth and use it well.
♫ I crucify myself every day and my heart is sick of being in chains… But I gotta have my suffering so that I can have my cross. I know a cat named Easter he says will you ever learn? You’re just an empty cage girl if you kill the bird. ♫
- Crucify, Tori Amos
“My heart hurts so bad because I don’t have time to do what I love,” she said.
“It’s a sad thing really. I feel like my soul is dying.”
“Well?” I asked. “What’s stopping you?”
“I have to clean my house.”
I listened for awhile as she laid out a systematic thought process on why one thing or another had to happen, and in what order, before she could allow herself to feed and nurture her own soul. Several times I offered an idea, some resource information, a different perspective, only to be shot down every time. Task, after task, after task she listed. And the way it sounded, it wouldn’t be weeks, but years before she would finally have time. Maybe.
It’s not a new conversation for me. I’ve had this exact kind of conversation, or better described – listening session, a multitude of times with people over the decades. Sometimes there seem to be good reasons and logic as to why one thing or another must wait. But most of the time, the logic is actually false and the reasons only excuses dressed up to look important.
“I can’t begin writing a book unless I learn how to write to a publisher first.”
“I can’t sell my house because my husband hasn’t replaced the shag carpet, so there’s no point in talking to an agent until he does.”
“I can’t spend time with my kids because I haven’t made enough money first.”
“I love to paint, but I can’t. Because the people at work stress me out, so when I come home I’m not in the mood. Why even try?”
“I can’t exercise because my boss gives me too much work to do. I know it’s hurting my health, but I’ll lose everything if I try to take time.”
“Who can afford to buy organic milk?” someone asks, with two bags of Doritos in their grocery basket.
“I’d like to take a class, but it’s too far away.”
“I know I need more sleep, but I can’t get everything done if I do.”
“The only way I’ll ever get to stop to breathe is if I win the lottery or something. Of course I don’t play. I’m not an idiot.”
“I’d love to do ______. But, you know, I’m a mom. So I can’t.”
And frozen in this false sense of logic, we decide there’s only one way things can work out and so we do nothing to act. We do nothing to better our selves or lives. We stay stuck in a rut that we (supposedly) hate.
How did we manage to lock our true selves away and set such bad priorities?
At no point will stuff be more important than your relationship with your kids. At no point will the dusting be more important than your soul. At no point does anyone have more control over your life than you do. And maybe if you ditch the Doritos, you can buy two gallons of organic milk, not just one. If you really want to.
I want my life to have meaning – how about you? There are many ways around and over and even through that mountain we see in our lives. And if we don’t put the real things that matter in life first, our lives will never seem fulfilling. We have to stop putting the meaningful stuff off and stop making excuses. Stop putting off our relationships. Stop ignoring our souls.
Our priorities should reflect what we value. Otherwise we become our own jailers.
It’s true – sometimes our choices are very, very limited. Sometimes “urgent” and “important” converge in a place that must take priority. But not all the time. And certainly not every day.
So how do we achieve better priorities? How do we – in the face of everything on our to-do lists – still fulfill the needs of our body and soul and live a life that’s more aligned with happiness and meaning? And grasp our highest potential?
Judith Manriquez, an inspirational coach I know, put it best:
“An hour a day: you first.”
Even in the face of the worst, that’s it. Simple really. Because without nourishing yourself, how can you ever expect to thrive? Without saving yourself, just how much will you really achieve. How can you ever be there for others if your own needs aren’t met? Just one hour out of your waking day – for once – set your priorities and feed your soul right.
Take at look at what you say you want to do in life, compared with what you actually do.
If those are not in alignment, then somewhere you’re lying to yourself and the world. Your priorities are not what you think they are, or they are misplaced.
And worse yet – they’re stealing your life.
Life is a series of choices.
We start out (ideally) with parents who provide the initial structure and control in our lives.
But there comes a point when we must provide our own structure. And when we must accept the fact that we can no longer blame anyone but ourselves.
We have what we do in life largely thanks to our choices. Sure, there are chance happenings and anomalies in life. But when push comes to shove, it’s all about choices. From the tiny to the big. And most of them with our own name attached.
There are choices of apathy and neglect, choices of value, choices of compromise and choices of rebellion, etc..
But here’s the thing. Make it yours.
Don’t whine. Don’t pretend you didn’t make the choice. Don’t give up your freedom. Embrace every choice with conscious awareness.
Responsibility for the choices we make is a gift of freedom. It means that we direct our destiny. For better or worse. And it also means we have the right to fail.
Don’t let anyone take that away.
♫ Do you know what it’s all about? Are you brave enough to figure out? Know that you could set your world on fire, if you’re strong enough to leave your doubts? ♫
- Walking On Air, Kerli
There’s a game I like to play on my Kindle called “The Secret Society – Hidden Mystery.” Weird name, I know. But I like it.
It’s essentially full of all different kinds of timed brain puzzles: seek ‘n finds, memory games, literal puzzles to solve. You start out with a couple of puzzles to play and then work your way up to unlock more.
One of the eventual puzzles you get to unlock is called Gem Match. It’s another rip-off of something like Bejeweled or Candy Crush, but it differs in one main way. The goal of the puzzle is to clear before the timer – there are no points or ranking otherwise gained by anything. There’s nothing keeping track of anything you do, simply a countdown to beat. You either win in the allotted time and move to the next level, or you fail and stay stuck at the current level until you otherwise succeed. And the higher you go, the more artistic and complex the puzzles become to clear. And the more difficult it gets to physically match the speed of the clock.
Again and again I have repeated many a Gem Match level, drawing heavily on my ancient Bejeweled skills, burning a frightening path from block to block, sizzling down to the end with only a few more steps to go – only to have the last second expire forever before I can complete the quest. At that level, it’s purely a physical brain speed and coordination challenge. And sometimes the puzzle borders on physical impossibility.
That said, the game has “artifacts” that you can earn (or buy), which when used, essentially serve as cheats to help you clear a puzzle faster. So you can get down to the end of a Gem Match with only a couple of gems and seconds left to clear and – bam – use your artifacts to win the game.
It’s easy to build up a collection of these artifacts from other completed puzzle quests in the game. Plus you get one free every day you play the game, etc.. So once you have a collection of them, it’s easy to spend them like chump change burning a hole in your pocket.
As frustrated as I’d get sometimes, burning a path to victory only to have it snatched away at the last second, once I was properly equipped with artifacts, it often felt good to pull the rip cord and assure my victory with cheats at the first round of any level. Bam! Done! Whoot! They only help when you need a few seconds, but that’s all I needed to whiz on through.
But I began to notice something. Clearing a level too fast meant you missed stuff.
Cheating with artifacts was an effective strategy to win a game whose only point was to beat the clock. However, each level I repeated and repeated and repeated again (I think I repeated one level around 30 times) – built skills, nuances and even interest. Because there’s no one way to clear the game. Pattern after pattern, repeat after repeat, failure became an opportunity to explore the nooks and crannies of a challenge in different ways.
And I found, I enjoyed that. So I stopped using cheats. I stopped stressing and wanting to bust through the level as fast as possible. I began to enjoy a steady pace of curiosity instead.
Failing again and again, I started looking forward to exploring the same landscape a different way, learning the nuances and personality of each level, flowing through every corner and nook, like water playing the edges of a fall. Until finally I knew everything about each level inside and out.
Instead of blowing through one door just to exit out another in the first try, I was intimately getting to know the different patterns, artistry and landscape in each room. There was depth and curiosity where before there was simply speed. I was becoming a true expert of the behavior inherent of each level as I failed and repeated again and again.
And it hit me. About how important the not-easy journey can be. How quickly we can by-pass life in the name of “winning.” When really our lives and minds are enriched by understanding the very depths and possibilities of the not-straight line.
What makes someone an expert and a success isn’t an overnight rise to fame and fortune. It’s the exploration of the depths and nooks and crannies that an area of Life has to offer. It’s the curious mind who takes the time to test the failures as well as the successes. You miss out when you only go for the “win.”
Again and again, the religions and philosophies of the world seem to all tell us one main theme – slow down. Be pure of heart. Listen to the still soft voice.
Take the path more interesting.
1. I like to do things with purpose, with my undivided attention and without feeling rushed, to the point I’ll put it off until I feel that I can. Letters, phone calls (and yes, even something as silly as this….) Simply put, I give my undivided focus. And I can also be rather detail minded when I write…..
2. I will take someone seriously first before I finally go – ok, they’re joking. I could never tell when my father was joking when I was a kid. And it didn’t go so well for me once. And sometimes, I can’t read between the lines.
3. I’m a crochet geek. I love Doctor Who and Calvin and Hobbes. I have a love/hate relationship with spiders. I love *good* Rock ‘n Roll. I love to dance. And I miss dancing, games of spades and hearts, riding my motorcycle and most of all: a lot of real friends I was blessed to make at college.
4. I absolutely love motherhood. But nothing makes me sadder faster than seeing the look of discouragement on my child’s face. And nothing is scarier sometimes either. Even when they’re teens.
5. I can forgive just about anything you do to me. But be a threat to my child and you’d better run. Then again, that’s mostly for anyone old enough to know better. Just because my kid comes home and says “Johnny hit me!” doesn’t mean I feel it’s appropriate for me to always jump in. Kids also have to learn to figure things out too. Keeping that in mind, dead seriously I am a momma bear and you will not get between me and my young. If you don’t have kids you just don’t know.
6. I am very much like my astrological signs. The Scorpio side of me is fiercely independent, (impatient), discerning and loyal while the Libra part of me is the mediator and truly does just want everyone to get along. So the two of them just want to smack you around when you don’t behave around me.
7. I despise gossip and liars and have a high tolerance to pain.
8. I actually lived through the tornadoes of “Terrible Tuesday.”
9. I graduated high school at age 15 and attended my first local university as a Piano Major.
10. I have been too close to personal danger and near death experiences for my comfort now as a mother.
11. Yes, I actually wore a dress and heels on my motorcycle to church, and gracefully without showing anything too. And was purely stupid for doing it. But at the time, it seemed my only choice being my only mode of transportation. I also learned how to carry a gallon of milk strapped to the gas tank, a formal laid along the back and two bags of groceries safely 45 miles one way. Not to mention some luggage once for a girlfriend I won’t name. If you ever saw a motorcycle go by with taffeta flying in the wind, it was probably me….
12. I was once asked to remove a beer can full of flowers from my dorm room desk because of prohibition on campus.
13. There are three main personal goals I still wish to pursue in life. A family garage band. Publish several books and actually making some money for it. And getting my music compositions into some sort of print format. I also still want to finish pursuing becoming a piano technician and joining the guild.
14. Because my motorcycle was in the garage in need of repair…for so long…John starting saying I’m not BikerMom anymore – I’m PartsMom. (Sigh – and he’s right…)
15. I can’t watch horror movies or read horror books. No really… I can’t.
16. My school principal once told me she wanted to travel across the country with my voice. But the same principal said I had no talent for piano. And that my brother had no talent for art. To this day I wonder if she said those untruths on purpose knowing we’d strive to prove her wrong. I don’t know how mad my brother got, but it ticked me off to no end.
17. I cherish memories. I’m a little romantic that way. My earliest memory was proven to be at the age of about 18 months. I also vividly remember portions of the day my brother was born about a year later. I remember my grandparents magically showing up at the hospital and one of them asking me “Isn’t he cute!” and me distinctly wondering what on earth about a screaming baby was cute. Unfortunately, there are more pot-holes in my memories than I’m comfortable with. And one of my lifelong fears is losing my memory.
18. I have been interviewed by local news live, in studio and in published writing more times than I have fingers to count, both as child and adult.
19. I held the 4-H county reporter’s office one year, but was unhappy to only *happen* to find out about my appointment to the office (which I never applied for) in the county newsletter. Thank goodness I actually read it. I was 16.
20. John is the love of my life and a total support to me in all I do. While he was deployed, it really hurt, way more than either he or I thought was possible. I am far more confident and effective with him than apart.
21. I crochet. Not knit, not weave, not macramé. I CROCHET. And I’m a Ravelry geek too. But like all social things, I tend to go in spurts.
22. Some fond memories from college involve the double-takes and comments I often got while strapping my basket of crochet to the back of my motorcycle before leaving the dorm. I also used to be known for pranks and some pretty cool mystery dates. I set up 25 dates in a single day for one guy. Of course, this was long before the days of speed dating. And my girls made it into an adventure across campus for him.
23. I am not a slave to my phone or my doorbell. I have no problem unplugging the phone if necessary.
24. In 2005 I walked away from a car accident I probably shouldn’t have. But not without consequence. Within 2 hours I was completely numb on my left side. After a year of physical therapy and a whole bunch of hard work and tears, I regained most use with only occasional numbness and less pain. But I still have occasional issues with my hand going numb if the nerve cluster under my shoulder blade is impinged. And I’m still angry at the man who literally ran over my car with a giant construction truck sporting a frontal demolition attachment, and my lawyer who failed to show up at a hearing which cause my case to be dismissed. And not only did he fail, he led me to believe he was working for me trying to get my case reinstated. Until it was too late. I was never at fault. Someone ran over the back of my car at 65 miles an hour with a rig that looked like a snow plow, destroying the back seat and channeling the force of everything into my body. It should never have been that bad. And I should never have lost my case. But I tried to pick a “nice” lawyer.
25. Black is a staple in my wardrobe. But because I like good tools that work. Not because it is my favorite color. I have no real favorite color. But black hides a multitude of sins, it looks good on me and it goes with everything. It’s also one of the only colors that does not take away from other colors when put together. (In other words, it does not change how your eye perceives any color put together with it.) So logically and practically, it saves me money and time. Therefore, black is a staple.
♫ Please don’t you wake the monster. This home
is happy when she sleeps. Her only motivation is staying strong to keep me weak. She’ll hold my head down to the fire, to watch me burn awhile. ♫
- Playing Dead, Bobaflex
So… as if I don’t already have enough to be behind on… I agreed to co-author a book anthology with a group of friends. By mid-December. This year.
The theme is Emergence.
I haven’t even finished one of my own books yet. So part of me wants to know why I’d put someone else’s project ahead of my own, again.
But the other part of me wants to kick my ass and hard. Because my books are long overdue, my writing suffers, and my reasons grow more plentiful by the day. Like losing a piece of my very identity, sacrificed on the altar of necessity and time.
So committing to a smaller project like this, albeit not my own original, is seed energy to rectify my own need to write.
I also wanted to help support the project (spear-headed by a friend) to see to it that it gets off the ground. Because I’m good for helping to get ideas off the ground. Thank God in this case I’m not in charge too. I just have to write, a personal story, by the end of the month. The same month I’m doing NaBloPoMo. And then later I’ll help promote the book.
What the hell am I doing.
And what value can I possibly add to the subject of Emergence?
I’ve been sent an example idea from someone else’s article, but I’ve not looked at it yet. Not sure I will.
It dawns on me that I’m probably the youngest in the group, at 43. And that the theme everyone else is mulling over has a lot to do with revealing a suppression or an evolution in some way.
So, like an Honor Society speech cliché, I looked to the dictionary for a bead on the subject. Some sliver of insight that would make sense for me.
1) the process of coming into view or becoming exposed after being concealed.
2) the process of coming into being, or of becoming important or prominent.
Yeah, not quite that helpful to me yet. Then I came to the Great “Not-A-Source” king of all, Wikipedia. Where I found this:
“In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is conceived as a process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties.”
Perhaps that strikes upon something. I’ll sleep on it and see what comes up.
Today’s NaBloPoMo post sort of bleeds into my “official” work life, where I hock my writing, social media and graphic skills for daily ad jobs.
The need for good graphics in the blogosphere, as well as the entire social media network, is undeniable. However, not everyone has an expensive designer at their beck and call. So like most good makers, many people try to come up with their own graphics. Sometimes they work. A lot of times they don’t. Here are a few tips that might help you when you know just enough to be dangerous, but find yourself struggling with the final result.
Once you have finished your creation, you can always shrink the display size, while maintaining the integrity of the detail. Higher resolution and larger image size does mean more data, but the payoff is better images to work with. For social media work, I generally ask my clients to send me files between 200px and about 500px wide. I usually work with 800ppi, mostly because it’s better for book covers and printing (other freelance work I do too) and I like to do things well, but once – with built-in options. I can always shrink a photo. I can’t always expand it. At minimum, use 400ppi if you want a crisp, easy to read result that has enough play in it to be manipulated as you need it.
For instance, when you’re designing a click-through banner or graphic, too much information on the visual will not increase the likelihood of someone clicking the link. In fact, it almost guarantees the opposite. You want just enough info and a good visual. The goal for this kind of ad is to get people to click-through to your site for more info, or for people to share it. Too much info is a distraction from these goals. When it’s an ad, like a banner, the temptation is to put everything on that graphic. But you can choke people with information if you overwhelm them. Whatever link you are sending banner clicks to will have room for way more information anyway. The graphic’s job is to funnel people to that page. Then let the landing page take over once the clicks make it through. Here’s an example of a banner ad I designed. See, not too much to it, but it definitely has appeal.
Btw, this is just an example of an ad I’ve designed to illustrate the above point. It is not a live ad, nor do I sell ads on my blog here.
I’m an artist. I get it. We right-brainers love those cool fonts. But they are not always best for digital marketing and should be used sparingly. When I create a banner ad for someone, I’m trying to capture the attention span of someone flipping through the website it will be displayed on. Think of the speed necessary to communicate your main offer in a glance and the general energy and mood your market prefers. Marketing art is not the same as marketing insurance. People buy each for very different reasons. Crisp lettering is important. Colorful is helpful. But not too much or your message might be lost.
Today’s graphic demands are pretty substantial. Good tools help make great things. That doesn’t mean you have to get the most expensive thing. I used to use Photoshop for everything. Today, I mostly use Gimp, which is a free open source program sort of like PS. It takes time to learn, but it can do quite a lot.
If you don’t have great software to design with, for smaller, simpler things try using http://PicMonkey.com. Pic Monkey a nice quality free online tool that saves at high res. Just remember to save your original file in .png for better quality and save at least twice the size of your final desired result.
I hope these tips help! If you have questions, let me know in the comments. Later!
And I’m not talking about the current portable speaker product produced by JawBone. (Which is not a bad product, btw.)
No, I’m talking about the good old 80’s style dual speakers, dual tape, maybe a CD player too, boombox deck. The kind that could be totally used, abused and ported anywhere.
The thought struck me this morning, while listening to my daughter sing to her Kindle tunes in the shower. You know, with the Kindle on the counter, not in the shower.
With the use of good headphones, I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised about the sound quality that Kindle and Amazon Music provides. Seriously, if you haven’t checked it out, it’s worth doing. But without headphones, it leaves so much to be desired.
I used to carry my jambox to the bathroom to help me wake up and time my showers too. And it sounded better than what I heard this morning. And while you can get speakers to plug into the Kindle, like the Jawbone product above, it somehow doesn’t have the oomph. Not to mention, it adds all these gangly wires and such to contend with. Not exactly super easy to port around. Plus there’s the fragility of carrying such stuff around. I could drop my jambox on the street and it’d still run. It was totally covered in scuffs before it finally died, after at least a decade of use, and only because a thunderstorm energy spike got it. Best money I ever saved up and spent as a kid.
But today, we wonder what’s wrong with someone when they don’t upgrade their tech every year.
I watch my son shove his Kindle into the leg pockets of his jeans with his headphones in. But I think, it’s nothing like hoisting a box on your shoulder while you ride your bike down the street. Or like I did most often, rigging up a shoulder strap for my music box – anchored to the handle bars of my bike at college, or slung over my shoulder as I rode down the street.
Listening to the music emanating from the bathroom door this morning… it was like listening to mono-tone radio on an AM station.
I don’t know. Touch screens are awesome and all. But sometimes I just want a box.
I stress when people are coming over. Torn somewhere between the desire very much to entertain friends, be a perfect housekeeper, a great mother and a business woman helping to provide for her family too. Torn between being down-to-earth and polite and tidy. I so love it when things just flow with grace and ease.
I couldn’t entertain much in my old house. Not enough room or privacy. Here I have some space finally. Guests can even stay overnight.
But I work from dawn ’till midnight most days. Constantly behind. The dishes get done and some basics, but that’s it. Here and there, customers get first crack at my attention. Kids next. The school needs what now? Hubby and I make it work somehow. He’s working his things too. The kids are busy with homework, every day, even on weekends. Then there are the volunteer things and other obligations too. And the kids can’t drive yet. Who can afford it? The load has to be shared by just us two.
Then I start thinking about people coming over, look with different eyes and – OMG, is that cracker crumbs in the corner? Then I rush through and cram in a giant clean session for the coming gathering. If I had my way, I’d pace it little by little every day, routines saving most of my life. It’s my preferred modus operandi. But when life is one long series of emergencies, with no space to come up for a breath of air, pacing is a luxury not often realized. And routines fall by the wayside.
The truth is, no one can do it all. Not without support of some kind. Somewhere you have family who help you, babysitters, a church congregation to lean on. Heck, some churches are almost like country clubs. Pay your membership fee and look at the benefits. Even those who don’t have a church network to draw from sometimes hire out help, or otherwise delegate tasks that make life work. Or they exist with different circumstances that require less effort to maintain a home, like officing somewhere else besides home. Or eating out for most of their meals, etc..
And well, I have none of that. Except the kids doing their chores and the occasional guest who pitches in. And it’s OK. It’s the life I chose to lead. Free, hard, better for my kids, and all mine.
But I love Sunday after a Saturday gathering at my house. The stressing is over. Everyone’s gone. The house is clean, mostly. And nothing screams too loudly.
Suddenly I can breathe. Suddenly I can put my feet up and rest my throbbing ankle. Suddenly time slows down. Time passes more slowly away from the computer too. It’s wonderful.
For just a bit, worry can be suspended on a Sunday like that. Not even the mail screams at you on Sundays. And today the weather is so fine. I love the fall.
And there was one more gift today. Daylight savings ended and gave us back the hour it stole earlier in the year. We slept in, had coffee and a slow morning, and felt great knowing it wasn’t as late as it seemed.
And it got me thinking about that whole thing: An extra hour – what a luxury.
With just one more hour, what could we do? If all we knew was that we only had one hour left, what would we do? And during the last year of my child’s high school career, what do I really want to do?
Because I can tell ya. The answer ain’t stress.
So I figured you might want to see photos of what we did for Halloween this year.
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, then you already know my Halloween obsession with spiders and crochet spider webs. Ah, but I did much more this year. Much. More. Mwahahaha.
See, I’m not just mad about crochet. I also happen to be mad about Doctor Who. (I grew up with Tom Baker for a hero.) And well, I have a new house, with a TARDIS blue door now. So you know it was meant to be.
If you don’t know who The Doctor is, I’m sorry. You must go on your own pilgrimage and find out. It is not a journey someone else can take for you. But for those of you Who know, and are awaiting the blue box rapture, I present testaments.
I finally found and unpacked the rest of my webs this year. And giant spiders. It’s hard to see everything from the street, but here’s my yard. There are many much smaller spiders everywhere too. Oh and the largest spider, to the right side of this photo, is at least 6 feet in diameter. To give you an idea.
Next I glued rare earth magnets to a bunch of plastic spiders and put them on my front door. Inside and out. And added more spiders on every other metal door in the house.
I had trouble finding an angel in my budget. At all. Not even cheesy ones. But then I found this cute little pair at a local thrift store. Ripped off the plastic plant and fake pearl bow glued to it and voilà, I give you terror. Someone added a MineCraft pig nearby. Not sure which kid from last night’s party, but it’s all cool. And delightfully geeky.
Yesterday was the teens’ party. Tonight we’re hosting the family/adult party. Everyone’s downstairs playing Cards Against Humanity and I’m the designated driver so a few could stay longer than their better halves could. Which is probably a good thing. Because it’s 20-some minutes to midnight and I might have missed out on…..
Yes, my friends… it is here. And just in time to kick my ass.
Two years ago when we were moving, I had delusions of finishing the challenge. As soon as moving from one house to the other began, I was a goner. Last year, I was determined not to let a broken ankle keep me out of the race. And of course, I won my challenge. Aside from the year we moved, I’ve accomplished my challenge every year.
This year is different. I’m actually not too confident. A lot has happened to keep me from writing. Not because I didn’t want to write. In fact I crave it. But because it wasn’t possible. Such an odd year. And my routine is so different now.
And not to mention… one of my babies is getting ready for college. And there’s a lot going on with that this month.
Not fair. Too soon.
It’s day 4 of my Gratitude Challenge. And as I went about my day, both at work and at rest, some very specific things jumped out at me that I am really grateful for.
You see, it was just a year ago on July 27th, 2013 that I fell down my brother’s staircase and broke my right leg (just above the ankle). It happened at the tail end of an incredible 4-week cross-country road trip with my teens.
Unlike most people who break their ankle/leg, I didn’t just twist it to break it. My foot ended up caught on the stair case behind me. As I fell backward on top of it, I slid down the stairs with my foot trapped behind me. Which of course, did a bang-up job. It wasn’t just a spiral fracture and a couple of bone chips. My ankle had separated and required serious surgery to put back together.
1. Today as I showered and scrubbed my feet, looking over my scar, I felt deeply grateful for my surgeon Dr. Parker who put my ankle back together.
Because I can maneuver a wet surface without slipping today.
Have you ever watched the TV show “Royal Pains?” Dr. Parker is totally like Dr. Jeremiah Sacani. My surgeon is really a surgical puzzle genius, but he’s not the most conversational doctor in the world. He has assistants to handle that. Mostly, he’s interested in putting you back together.
It took a long while for me to recover, as I suffered some complications. First, my body tried to reject some of the stitches. There was a subsequent infection. Then I developed an allergy to the antibiotics plus a DVT in my leg from the surgery, and had to be on a blood thinner called Xarelto for 4+ months. (Expensive stuff.) Which really slowed down my recovery. (Not to mention the drug made me feel weak and senile.)
As a result, my incision didn’t fully heal until January of this year when I finally got off the blood thinner. Five months is a long time to deal with a large incision like that.
However, getting past it all, my ankle is strong and I almost don’t notice it anymore. It’s not quite as flexible as it was, and it doesn’t feel quite the same as it did, but it works and works well. I can even dance now, though my pivoting is not quite where I’d like it. And I know I got through the whole thing better thanks to the skillful Dr. Parker.
2. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m grateful that my husband was laid off shortly after my surgery.
It was not ideal from a financial point of view, by any means. But he was able to be there for me and take care of me and the kids. I don’t remember much of August or September last year, and thankfully I didn’t need to. And when his dad was hospitalized, hubby was able to be there for that too. I honestly am not sure how we would have been able to deal with things if hubby hadn’t have been home. Not to mention, he’s a great cook and no one starved!
3. In spite of the physical and financial set back, I got to go to Spain with my daughter on her high school trip last spring.
It wasn’t some last minute decision, in case you’re wondering. We’d signed contracts and started fund-raising 2 years prior. So it was the culmination of a lot of time and work.
We finished raising the money, some amazing people donated and my leg held up with all the walking. I was a little slow, but I was there. It was my first time to ever see another country besides the U.S.. And the experience was amazing. I didn’t see all the crochet I’d hoped to, but I did get to see things I couldn’t have imagined and I did meet a fellow Raveler in Barcelona.
And the architecture – let me just say there’s nothing like being somewhere in person.
And that’s it for tonight. Sleep well friends…
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My day yesterday was such that it was impossible for me to write on my blog here. So today will be my day 3. The challenge said nothing about consecutive days, so I’ll take it.
I did think about what I’m grateful for though. It was on my mind yesterday. So I haven’t really skated on the job.
And this isn’t NaBloPoMo after all (few things are). Though this week has me pondering on how easy NaBloPoMo will be (or not) this year. It’s less than 2 months away. And I always, always compete. Even last year in a medical haze of medicine and recovery from a broken ankle, I competed. And won my challenge. But I wasn’t seeking and taking all the contract work then that I am today. Hmmm….
1. I’m blessed to have good friends who don’t let the time and space between us dictate the quality of our friendship. Friends who are just as real today was they were 5, 10, 20 years ago. Friends who have no trouble picking up where we left off, no matter how long it’s been and don’t somehow expect our friendship to evaporate if it’s not constantly stroked and entertained and plied with drinks.
In general I believe that when I make a real friend, it’s for life. It’s not a whim, a fad or a mood. But I am a physical being with limitations and there are only so many hours in a day. (Btw, this does not mean I support staying in a damaging relationship of any kind with anyone, because I don’t.)
Our modern world has made our circles of reality both bigger and smaller. Smaller in reach and bigger on the inside. Kind of like a TARDIS. I’m grateful for friends who get that and believe in the same quality of friendship I do. For the most part, I really have no fear when it comes to seeing old friends. Our souls are the same.
2. I’m grateful for the plethora of positive people who continually cross my path in the social and blogosphere. Not to mention the amazing collection of just cool personalities, interests and information shared. The support, encouragement and kindness of people never ceases to astound me. People who don’t know me have helped me when I really needed it. I’ve seen moods lifted, attitudes shifted and suicide thwarted… ON THE INTERNET.
Some say our fascination with digital life and technology is a sign of cultural degradation and bad for our psyche. I’m not sure that I can ever really see it that way. I realize I roam in a small niche of creative personalities in a sea of possible experiences, but gratefully, my experiences have taught me things and added to my life. And I can’t say any have taken from it.
Again and again I see the inherent goodness of people and appreciate it. It makes my day, reminds me to lift others too and keeps me going.
3. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, nor have the skills I do if it weren’t for many mentors who provided love, guidance and foundation in my life. One in particular was Mrs. Kay Johnson, my school principal and classroom teacher for 4 years.
Mrs. Johnson wielded one of the largest influences in my writing and research skills and an attitude of pursuing excellence in everything. I would even say she gave me some personality traits I might not have otherwise picked up. And she taught me that even tiny people can command respect and move the world. As a kind of runt, and an almost painfully shy child, I needed that living example. She was one of the smallest and most powerful women I’ve had the blessing to know in my life and sharp as a tack. I’d love to tell her in person some day. I’m sure she doesn’t realize she impacted me that way.
To you Mrs. Johnson. You weren’t easy on us and you always expected the best. And I know I sometimes frustrated you. But you were one of the best things that happened to my childhood and I thank you.
Well… so there it is.
Time for me to get back to work now.
Y’all have a great one!
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In keeping with my 5 day Gratitude Challenge, I’m to pick 3 things that I’m grateful for every day. At the end of my 5 day challenge, I then pick 3 other people to take the challenge and keep the gratitude flowing.
I could keep this simple. Just bullet point it, leave it at that and bam – I’m outta here.
But I’m not likely to.
It’s hard for me to see the worth in the time. Because to be grateful, you’re supposed to spend a little time on that feeling, right? Marinate a bit, let it sink in, and maybe let it transform your attitude a little. And also because I’m starved for writing for the love of it. (Someone please just hire me to write interest pieces like this all day long.)
Well, so here goes….
Today – after 19 hours of errands and work yesterday – I have some very specific things in mind to be thankful for.
Truly. Hook, line and sinker. I wish there was a perk for me to write about this, because I’d absolutely take a new pillow top. Hell yes. But there’s not and the fact remains, I can sleep thanks to you and I’m grateful.
Back in 2005 I was in a terrible highway collision. One of those events you aren’t supposed to walk away from and yet somehow you do. I was on a road trip to see my grandparents. Thank God I decided at the last minute to leave the kids home with my husband, because the entire backside of my car was destroyed. Within two hours of being hit by a construction/demolition truck, with a demolition hitch on the front (which looks like the front of a snow plow), I was completely numb on my left side. You never realize what a gift being able to have sensation in your hand is, until you don’t have it. The truck was so big and so high up, it missed my bumper altogether. It center punched and ran over the back-end of my car, slamming me into the guy ahead of me. My air bag never deployed and my shoulder and neck sustained major injury. And without a normal grate on the front of his truck, none of the energy was defrayed like it should have been. It all channeled right through the center of my car to my body, which tried to fly out of my shoulder belt.
Two surgeons wanted me to have spinal surgery, but I’m allergic to a lot of the stuff used in the surgery, including most antibiotics. One of my surgeons believed it was worth exploring other options. So I spent over a year in physical therapy, chiropractic care and massage therapy just working to regain feeling and strength in my left arm and hand again. I couldn’t crochet for months. It hurt for my kids to lean on me, much less sit in my lap. It sucked, in so very many ways. Not to mention, my husband deployed for overseas duty right after it happened. And I still have problems with my left shoulder and arm from it today.
But Sleep Number – you were there for me. Towards the end of my therapy, I was blessed with a prescription for one of your beds. I finally began to sleep, not just pass out. And it still cradles me to sleep today.
It’s probably because I’m exhausted, but I have to be grateful for the knowledge and availability of melatonin as an important factor in quality sleep. Did you know that melatonin governs the quality of your sleep and has a relationship with serotonin? That it may boost your immune system and help prevent/treat some cancers? And that light destroys melatonin in your body, especially the blue spectrum of light? Yeah. All that late night computer work is not helpful. So melatonin supplementation can be a very useful thing for someone like me.
You really need to be able to sleep at least 6 hours if you’re going to take melatonin though, because it helps you get into deep levels of sleep that you need time to wake from. It’s not about making you sleep longer; it’s about regulating your cycle and getting to a deeper level of sleep, which is more effective than light sleep. It also increases dreaming, especially if you haven’t dreamed (or recalled one) in awhile.
Melatonin supplementation is a modern convenience I am very grateful for. And those people who study that stuff – you rock!
F.lux™ is a computer app that helps your computer screen simulate sunlight according to the time of day, removing the blue spectrum for a warmer glow at night. It gradually fades the light into a more relaxing warm tone and it definitely makes it easier for me to disconnect from my work and sleep better when I use the app. It also has an option to delay its launch, say when you have graphic work to do, etc.. But it’s a great little tool, a free one at that and I’m grateful for it. Again, I’m not gaining anything by telling you about this little invention, but I appreciate that someone thought it up! Thank you! :)
Oh, and F.Lux™ also has a nice little page full of research articles about light and sleep here. You should totally check it out. I only just noticed it when I was grabbing links for this article, so I’m just looking through it too. Sweet!
Yeah, 4.5 hours of sleep last night is kind of on my mind. (But hey, not only is the project done, but I rocked it.) And while in a perfect world I’d be sleeping 9 hours every day, these guys above help me along when I can’t. What would I do without you?
So thanks Mr. Sleep Number Melatonin F.lux™ guy. I salute you!
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I have been nominated by my soul sister, Laurie Wheeler (a.k.a. Fearless Leader of The Crochet Liberation Front) to participate in the Gratitude Challenge for the next 5 days. Each day I am to post 3 things I am thankful for, and then nominate three friends to take on the challenge.
This started on Facebook, but I decided to share it here too. What better way to reboot my blog than with gratitude? Here goes….
1. I am grateful for social media. It sounds like some sort of modern cliché, but the fact remains, be it Facebook, Twitter or Ravelry, I would not be in touch with a whole lot of cool people (and some cool family) if it weren’t for social media. And sometimes that’s what keeps me going. Keeps me praying for others. Helps me to remember.
2. After years of a completely different reality, I’m grateful to now live in a well-built home that isn’t threatening my sanity every day. And there are fish ponds! :) I ♥♥ my house!
3. I’m grateful for work. Nearly every lick of which has been brought my way thanks to a friend and word of mouth somehow. Because the people I know rock. And I will give them my all for believing in me.
Now to pour myself a cup of energy, dust off some courage and get to the day….
Tomorrow, April 10th, 2014 will mark the 35th anniversary of an event that changed my life forever.
When as many as 38 confirmed tornadoes danced the Red River Valley. More destruction from the same weather cell would spill into the next day, affecting parts of Arkansas and Missouri for a total of 59 tornadoes confirmed.
They later called it Terrible Tuesday. Many remember that a mile wide path was carved through Wichita Falls, TX, killing 42 people. But another tornado also came up through the edge of my hometown of Lawton, OK a few hours before. And we lost 3 people too.
I remember it being called an F4 or F5 long ago, but it seems that time has downgraded it in the records to an F3.
They say that particular tornado split into two, possibly three tornadoes after it hit town.
I always get emotional when I remember that day. I was 7 and a half, and I remember the day like last week’s trauma. The jewel green look of the sky when we were at the Safeway grocery store on Ft. Sill Blvd. The way the air tasted, tingly like a weak 9 volt battery playing in the back of your mouth. The way everyone ignored the weather in Oklahoma and went about their business.
You gotta understand. Tornadoes were no unusual thing. However, usually they were small. Maybe they take out a barn or something. Maybe they never touch the ground. Maybe we get a little excitement, but rarely was it that big of a deal.
I remember standing at the back glass door, staring at the heavy rain when we got home. Watching the hail come down and get louder and larger.
My mother worked for the American Red Cross at the time. She helped train folks in disaster preparedness. I’d watched every film our local chapter had to offer at the time. We knew well that the safest place in the home was as close to the center as you could get and away from windows. And we had regular drills at school, filing into the hallways, crouching on our knees with our heads face-down towards the floor and wall, our open textbooks held to cover our necks and heads.
On Monday night before, there was a PTA meeting at Will Rogers Elementary School – the school I attended and lived across the street from. Mom and her director gave a presentation to our school and parents about tornadoes, what to look for, where to go, what to expect. The biggest thing I remembered from that meeting was the Red Cross director talking about hail and rain. He held strings of white beads in front of a poster to represent hail as he described the pattern progression of a storm.
It’s because a tornado sucks everything up.
I stood at our back door, watching the rain and hail get harder and larger. Suddenly it was like a switch had been flicked and there was a stunning moment of silence against the jewel green sky. My mom hung up the phone and yelled “Kids, hit the hallway!”
The hallway in our antique home, a house old enough that it still had some of the gas pipes for lighting in the walls, was a tiny 4-5 foot circle that our bedrooms opened to before spilling into the living room. I grabbed my cat Taffy and my little brother’s hand and we sat down low. There was just enough room for us and mom. She managed to flip the breaker before the first crash.
But I never heard it.
I heard my swing set crash through my bedroom window. Nearly every window in the house broke. The sound of glass and boards flying through our home filled my ears. As did the sounds of my little 5 year old brother screaming as he writhed in my hand and tried to get away to run.
Of course he was scared. I tightened my grip on my brother’s wrist, and suddenly my cat bolted from my arms.
And somewhere, in the middle of all the crashing noises, there was a sudden pounding on our front door, just maybe 20 feet away. Mom got to the door to let my friend Francis in, along with her brother and sister, from across the street. We didn’t get to play real often, and she was a little younger than me, but Francis was one of my best friends. Her father was in the army and her mother was at work, so the kids were home alone that afternoon.
I heard Francis’ sister say over and over, “The table fell on me. The table fell on me!”
One of them was barefoot (or was it two?). And somehow, they made it through the storm and across the street to our house before their home collapsed like a pile of cards.
And then, as they huddled into the tiny circle of our hallway with us, it was over. And somehow, our home filled with debris, none of us were hurt.
Mom had grabbed our radio. An announcer emphatically urged the public not to panic, that reports of a tornado were false. “There is no tornado. There is no tornado.”
Dad had seen the tornado from downtown where he worked, just a few miles away. He raced home. Mom said he kicked in the only undamaged door left in the house. My grandma lived a block away. She saw a board come at her through her hallway and managed to get into the hall closet in time. It would be three days before I saw my cat again, thankfully alive.
Stepping out into the world after that was surreal. Destruction and chaos surrounded our still standing home. We lived on a corner diagonally across the street from my school. Surveying the damage, half the school gym was peeled away and gone. On one side across from our corner, a neighbor’s house was missing its entire roof. Francis’ house on the other side across from our corner was a pile of rubble. And the house across from us next to hers had completely vanished.
Trees, rubble and power-lines were everywhere. The neighbor’s old tall tree beside us just missed crashing through my parents’ bedroom. Our old sycamore tree looked shaved on one side. The apple tree didn’t survive.
Bits of someone else’s swing set were in our yard. Unbroken dishes that didn’t belong to us had miraculously shown up inside our house. Even food had been blown around. For decades our neighbor had a saltine cracker framed that was put through their ceiling. I heard that it finally fell out one year when her husband was fixing the roof.
The day took on an even deeper experience as it was also Passover night for our family. We weren’t Jewish, but our church at the time kept Passover services after sundown on April 10th that year. I forget why it was a day earlier than other Passover services. Some sort of argument about the right way to figure the date.
Normally, children were not allowed at these solemn services. But there would be no babysitter in our home that night.
We were late for the service, but I remember the deacons and other volunteers helping us in. My brother went with my father and I with my mother for the foot washing ceremony. I watched as a woman removed my mother’s shoes and washed away the mud and grass from her feet. I watched as the symbolism impressed itself upon her. Tears were in her eyes and suddenly everything felt raw to me.
Some of our church members drove up from Texas for the service. I heard that one of the families returned to Texas that night to find their home completely gone. They thanked God they were at services instead. Everyone murmured how we were all indeed “passed over.”
I remember sitting in a little diner that night, mom and dad talking, trying to figure out what to do. We couldn’t go home to sleep and we didn’t really have the money to eat out or get a hotel, but there wasn’t any choice in the matter. I remember hearing mom talk about how the mattresses would have to be replaced, that there’ve been cases of glass being embedded in mattresses by tornadoes. The diner had those little juke boxes on the tables. “Don’t Say Goodnight Tonight” was playing at a table nearby. It was really popular back then, but to this day, that song feels like a haunting to me.
To my knowledge, our neighborhood and school district on the edge of town was the only part of town affected. I’ve often wondered how many people were saved thanks to mom and her director’s lecture at our school the night before.
As the weeks would pass, our community would come together to help each other. I remember the American Red Cross bringing relief bags with food and toiletries and the irony of it. Grandpa came and helped my dad fix our roof. The repairs seemed to go on forever. And I remember how a year later, it still seemed like we’d never recover.
Our neighbor who lost his roof fixed up his house and moved away. I can’t remember his name, but I remember that he had red hair and had been so kind. I liked him and was angry that the tornado took him away from us. The new neighbors never could compare.
Francis and her family also moved away and I never saw her again. Never got an address; don’t even know her last name. It felt like injustice and I’ve always wondered about her ever since. I remember when the cranes came to clear away the rubble of her collapsed house. I kept hoping she’d come back. But it was like a curse had fallen on our neighborhood. Her home’s lot remained empty for a long time. And the empty lot left next to Francis’ home (where the whole house had disappeared) remained empty for the longest.
And for years, my brother and I cringed with every swirl of wind, every time the leaves blew into curls, every time a storm pounded our roof. And for years it was hard on our parents too. It took a long time to balance the trauma we all felt. And the financial blow was no small thing.
I would later grow up and move on. But every once in a while, there’s a look in the sky and a taste in the air that throws me back into the memories of a serious 7 year old child who would never forget.
“Starving” artists, charities, yoga teachers, writers, massage therapists, musicians, holistic practitioners – I tend to lump us all into the same basic category because often our struggles are the same. These are the things we do for the heart of it and often it’s not the easiest path. Business doesn’t always feel easy when you want to put love first. And yet, we still need healthy business practices if we’re going to thrive.
We get this. We know we need to charge for our work and get paid for our services. We know we need to value ourselves and put a price on our amazing talents. But… so how do you know when you’ve got it right? A friend of mine has a good answer! But let me introduce her first.
I’m really blessed to know some incredibly talented people in Austin and around the world. Lynn Scheurell of Creative Catalyst is one of those excellent people who just happens to also be an excellent teacher in business and marketing. She teaches people from literally all around the world. She’s both creative and business minded and she’s a writer, publisher and inspirational speaker.
I also trust her with anyone I send her way. (That’s a big deal to me, btw.) And one of her recent newsletters just happened to really hit on some of the very same points we were discussing just a few weeks ago about pricing and valuing our work as creatives.
Now the letter is one that Lynn only sends out to people on her list and it is about services she offers. So I want you to know that up front. However, I felt it had some really good points y’all would appreciate. So I asked her if it would be OK to share it with you. And she said yes!
Here it is. Enjoy and check out her credentials at the end!
(And if you talk to her, tell her I sent you!)
Here’s how you know if you are pricing your offers properly…
- you feel good about your work with clients.
If you feel drained, resentful, anxious, frustrated, watch the clock, stressed about money, feel like you can’t breathe, pushed or hurried in your time with clients, then a boundary around your worth is being violated through your pricing.
The inside secret is that you are the only one who can set and honor your boundaries. You are the only person who can set your fees.
Tragically, most entrepreneurs under-value their work by at least 10% – and that likely includes you.
You may not have a pricing strategy in place, or have one that doesn’t serve you, or have pricing that doesn’t connote your true value.
In fact, I have a personal story about that to share with you… from wayyyyy back when, I was a practicing Feng Shui consultant. (Feng Shui remains one of my true loves to this day… but I digress!) ;+)
Anyway, at the time, I was charging $75 per consultation (without time limits!) – and I couldn’t GIVE them away!
I worked with a business coach, who told me I needed a higher fee. I thought she was out of her mind – raise my fees when I wasn’t attracting business as it was??? Holy cow… but, per her instruction, I meditated on a number and got one.
She was on vacation for about three weeks but I decided to put that number into action immediately. (I am a Catalyst, after all…!)
The first time I said it out loud to a potential client, I’m not sure how he heard it over the sound of my knocking knees! But over the course of the next three weeks, I had more consults using that new fee than I’d had in the previous three months at the lower fee!
When my business coach returned from vacation, we had a session. Of course, she asked if I had a new number and I said yes and that I’d been using it already.
She asked what it was – and remember, she knew my fee was $75. When I told her $450 – and that I was GETTING it! – I’m pretty sure she fell off her chair!
The point is that, once I was charging enough, people believed that I was offering something of value. I was more in line with the market in terms of fees. I didn’t need to ‘wait’ for some reason to justify my new fees based on filling my schedule at the lower rate first. And I was getting booked right and left at the new rate!
It felt great to actually be receiving my value professionally. But it took me honoring myself and following my intuition and then claiming my worth before it could happen. Only when I did could my business take off… and I haven’t looked back since (except to share this story!). ;+)
How this applies to you… you must know your value and claim it through your fees. And your rates must make sense within a strategic framework, or business model.
If you don’t have a business model, you’re flying blind and it’s likely that your business feels scattered. If you can’t predict your monthly income in advance, it’s time for an overhaul.
The fastest way I know to upgrade your fee structure and business model is to work with someone who understands revenue models AND understands you and what you bring to your clients. It’s actually rare to find that combination in an expert. (I know because I searched for that very resource early in my own business!)
Fortunately, that’s one of my signature specialties… I offer Business Vision Mapping for forward-thinking entrepreneurs who really GET that it is vital to price their offers properly within a strategic business framework.
These Catalysting sessions are designed to answer your questions about implementation, neutralize personal fears, limiting beliefs and obstacles and/or address sticky situations as you gain new momentum in your business. And they are invaluable as you begin taking action into new territory to grow your business.
Pricing your offers properly also means that you are honoring your clients.
If you undercharge, you feel drained and will look to shortcut your time and energy in delivering the product or service.
If you overcharge, your client will feel taken advantage of and look to maximize their investment in ‘creative’ ways that won’t serve either of you in the long run.
You really do owe it to yourself AND your clients to properly price what you do…
To Honoring Your Clients And Your Worth ~
Changing the world through business starts by understanding your motivations, inspirations and purpose; in other words, changing the world starts within you. Only then can you apply your intensity through strategic business models, systems and focused action to create conscious, and often dramatic, results.
Lynn Scheurell is a visionary pioneer, spiritual teacher for entrepreneurs and authority in the area of conscious business. She is a leading proponent that entrepreneurship is one’s highest calling made manifest through service and that one’s business is the ultimate tool for personal growth. And she has a rare skill as a gifted communicator with solid experience in business models and systems.
Internationally known for her empowering and inclusive approach to conscious business, Lynn teaches entrepreneurs how to identify, align and express their true nature at every stage in business to accelerate results. Learn more at www.MyCreativeCatalyst.com.
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I read a really good article from Entrepreneur Magazine today. It’s called: “12 Successful Entrepreneurs Share the Best Advice They Ever Got.” I wanted to share it with you because it’s good stuff!
I like reading about other entrepreneurs, because that’s what all we handmade artists and writers are, even if we don’t really think about it. We are entrepreneurs. And even if we’re not in a more traditionally recognized “business,” our struggles to get started and to thrive are much the same as anyone’s.
I love the entrepreneurial path as one of the most life enriching paths there is. Being in business for yourself presents you with perspective and challenges you would never otherwise choose. And with experience like that you can’t help but grow.
There were two stories in this article that I especially liked. The first was Dilbert creator Scott Adams’ story about advice from Jack Cassady. I love that a successful man took time to reach out to someone just starting out, encouraged them and reminded them to never quit. It’s just a wonderful example of how someone can help not only enrich the life of a single man, but of a whole generation of people. Read the story and then imagine if Mr. Cassady had never taken the time?
The second story I really appreciated was Dane Atkinson’s advice about creating clarity for your business.
He says the following: “One thing that I’ve slowly come to realize is that focus is so critically important…. Saying ‘no’ to great ideas is necessary to get to the brilliant ones. At every step of the way you have to cut towards one path. It’s such a hard thing to do as an entrepreneur because you don’t really have the confidence in where you’re going yourself…. We all expect services to do one thing right…. It’s a very simple formula that you just repeat and rinse all the way to success.”
It strikes a very personal chord for me. I have seen more business failure based in decisions that spread a business (or organization) too thin and keep them from specializing in what they do best.
And I’m here to tell ya – artists are guilty of this!
A business or an artist gets a good focused start, enjoys some success, then starts looking at what others have, trying to do what others do, then fails and everything is lost when they would have grown if they instead stuck with honing their focus instead of spreading to areas that aren’t really them.
We talk about it all the time – know your purpose. “Know Thyself.” It’s the crux of all success.
A business needs its purpose as much as any person does.
Don’t covet what others have, don’t try to be something else because you see others succeed at it and you think you should have a piece of their pie. Don’t get off in the weeds and leave your purpose. I am capable of doing a lot of things. I like the idea of a lot of things, but my focus stays pretty clear. And I’m not just content, but excited to let others be experts in other areas for me! Because we all thrive then.
How do you serve? What’s your passion and purpose? What do you love? What fires you up! What do you bring to the world table?
Now be the best at that you can be, pouring your heart and soul into it! Don’t add anything to your mission that doesn’t feed that!
As soon as you covet the path or success of others and try to add their purpose to your path, you water down your own success and ability to serve. You water down your own value to the world, because you’re supposed to be you, even as a business! Success doesn’t revolve around serving multiple masters. I’m not talking about getting too comfortable or never challenging yourself, I’m talking about getting clear about your purpose in the world, without trying to be others. Learn from others, then be yourself!
Clarity is the key. Find your unique business path. Does your business do X, Y or G? Because it can’t succeed doing all A-Z. Unless you’re God. You don’t think you’re God, do you?
Find your own path. The rest is for someone else to do and make their own – and thank goodness!
Special note here: One of the worst things you can put on an application to a show (and I suspect other types of applications too) is that you “do everything.” Don’t do that. It’s like applying for a college scholarship and saying, “I want to major in everything and specialize in nothing, please award me money!” You need to choose a focus or a specialty. That will best help you and the show director (who is responsible for planning a successful show for everyone) the most.
You are an investment. Clarity is king.
So what’s your one thing?
It’s been four weeks since my last post. Like that yellow bird, I fell right off the NaBloPoMo wagon face first into the dirt. And it’s a wonder, because I really enjoy writing here more than I enjoy all my other work. You’d think I’d be playing hookey all the time just to be here. But no, I get side-tracked with the serious and the mundane things in life. Why do I have to pay taxes and mop…
News I’ve been aware of for a few weeks, but have been remiss in passing on. Did you get the winter Interweave Crochet issue and wonder where the 2nd article is? Well, that 2nd article on crochet hand holds has been moved to the Spring 2014 issue! Just about in time for me to go to Spain! So hang on another season and look for it then. :)
I stayed busy in December with a couple shows and madly crocheting for Christmas gifts. These are just a few of my projects that actually ended up in pictures.
I’ve been working on this new stitch idea. I have no idea what to call it, but it involves making some stitches in a diagonal pattern and stretching them kind of in the same way you stretch the loops in a Solomon’s Knot when you make it. It requires some definite discipline and consistency to get the stitch to come out evenly for the entire project. I had to practice it a bit, because during my first run, after putting the project down for a couple of days, my continuation turned out completely different in gauge than my beginning. This project, while considered advanced in skill, is fairly consistent once you get the hang of it, because the entire piece is this one stitch.
My sister-in-law saw me working on this and really fell in love with the texture, so she asked if I could replicate this pattern for her in purple. Remember my quest for a very specific yarn? Well, thanks to T-Rex from Ravelry who was kind enough to sell me her Taki Savoy, I was able to create this for her. The way it’s photographed here, it might look like some sort of ladder stitch, but it isn’t. It’s exactly the same stitch as you see in the red, just redone in this lovely eggplant yarn.
You might also notice the necklace she’s wearing. That was another crochet project that I finished for her.
The pendant is a large piece of charoite that I found on a trip to Arizona a year and a half ago. There’s this sweet little town called Jerome, about halfway between Prescott and Flaggstaff. Getting there is a nightmare for anyone with vertigo of any kind as the roads to get there are not only winding through the mountains, but there are steep drop offs just off the edge of the roads with no shoulders. Jerome itself is an old copper mining town that’s built right into the sides of the mountain cliffs there. And it’s aptly called “America’s most vertical city.”
Today, the town is very artistic and full of interesting shops and yummy little places to eat. Walking around the town didn’t bother me a bit, but driving the roads – well… let’s just say that I had no idea I had a problem with heights and steep drop-offs until we took this trip. Of course, why would I think otherwise. I grew up in the Great Plains where the only mountains nearby are amongst the oldest and most worn down on planet Earth. I’ve never been faced with roads the likes of these before. And I didn’t like it.
Anyway, back to the great parts about Jerome. While we were there, my dear hubby noticed a yarn shop, up on the second story cliff above us (seriously, it’s an oddly built town). “I’m probably going to regret this, but let this be proof I truly love you. Dear, there’s a yarn store up there – do you want to check it out?” My hubby is so awesome! “Yay! Of course I do!” The name of the shop is Knit 1 Bead 2, and not only did they have a variety of specialty high-end yarns there, they also had some amazing beads!
That’s where I found this sweet little (ok, not little at all) pendant. And what I decided to do was instead of simply putting the pendant on a leather thong or a silver snake chain, as would seem more typical, was to instead crochet several separate strands of cotton thread to put together to create the necklace for the pendant instead. These photos don’t do it justice, but I like the texture they create and of course I like the comfort and lack of metal reaction that crochet jewelry can offer. My sister-in-law is much like me, allergic to many metals. That said, I did still use sterling silver findings for the clasp in the back (not pictured). Believe it or not, this took many hours to make.
I had some fun getting things together for a couple of small shows. I didn’t get into any big shows this year thanks to breaking my ankle and surgery at the end of summer. (I guess I haven’t really told you that story. Sigh, OK, it’s on my list.) Anyway, thankfully(?) the deadlines for all the big shows are in the summer. And well, I knew I couldn’t handle my usual crazy hauling and churning out product this year. So I didn’t. I focused on walking again. However, I did have an opportunity to sell a bit of my stuff off in December, including some old inventory.
Every year I add new inventory and every year some of it doesn’t sell. It’s part of doing business. However, I have come to realize that holy cow! Between moving last year, packing the winter before that and breaking my ankle this year, I still have inventory from – get this – 2009!
I do not like to carry inventory very long. After too long, it feels like stagnant energy itching to find a different home. So it’s past time for me to clear it out. Which is also a cue to watch out for some sales, because this is one time I completely advocate slashing your prices and I will be doing it. And every penny will be going toward Spain.
Amongst new things I added to inventory this year are my ruffled gothic muffs and a few more eared hats. Here you can see just how much my kids love me, as I test out a hat to make sure I didn’t make it too long. I would almost say my life is like a musical, but that would really be a little too normal. Although, seriously… we’re all musical and we all do sing. Perhaps a better description is that my life is a comedy, but I think it would only appeal to a small few as most of the laughs are inside jokes and there seems to be an awful lot of work. So I guess really, it’s a surreal sort of thing. Oh and that shirt I’m wearing, is indeed a Doctor Who spoof on Michelangelo’s cherubs smashed up with the Weeping Angels. I love it, though I try to remember not to wear it around little kids.
Anyway, so in this other photo you’ll see not only the pair of my ruffled gothic muffs, but a copy of Hyperbole And A Half that my kids’ English teacher snatched up for Christmas. I didn’t know she was a fan, but I’m not surprised and even pleasantly pleased! (I know some of you are HAAH fans!) The book was just released a couple of months ago and it has both new and classic favorites! Btw, if you have not heard of Hyperbole And A Half, and if your humor is remotely like mine (and you can tolerate some coarse language), then seriously check out Alie Brosh’s blog and book. And let me tell you, the book does not disappoint. It’s super thick and full of full color pages of Allie’s artwork and stories. I’m so glad they didn’t try to edit it down for space and fewer pages! The God Of Cake is one of my favorite stories. Go check it out. You are welcome.
As far as the ruffled muffs, I didn’t realize that’s the only photo I have of them! So I guess I will have to figure out making another pair. Besides the fact I have yet to write that design idea down either. Hmph…
The weekend between Christmas and New Year’s is here and I am catching up. Lot’s of work to do and Spain is only a couple of months away. And I am working on details there! Turns out there might be a yarn store close to us in Barcelona! I am totally stoked and will fill you in as I set things in stone, or at least have a clearer idea of what I hope to pull off. Btw, if you’d like to help me out with a few dollars towards my trip, you can find the secure link here. I just discovered I will have to buy new suitcases for us.
Ah well, I guess it’s about time.
In the mean time, stay tuned for more world of handmade talk. I have some nuggets of support for you that I think you’ll like.
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I Want To Travel The World And Meet Other Women Through Crochet!
Help Me Find Some Yarn? Pleeeeeaaaassseee?
Help Me Find Some Yarn? Part 2…
When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?”
Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?
Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2
Display And Pricing Your Art And Handmade Items At Shows