Think and Be Brave {You’ve got a friend in me}

Ahhh … Do you ever wonder … is this my right path? Is this where I am supposed to be at this point in my life?

I wonder. A LOT! Really, a lot.

This summer — 2017. What a whirlwind! It is now going on the second week of August, and I feel as though the relaxation and reflection part of my summer has just begun! Why, you might ask? Well, I will share.

There have been vacations. (Yes, plural!) In June, my family joined my sister and her family, along with my dad and his wife for an amazing, truly wonderful trip to Disney World and St. Pete Beach, Florida. Dad and Bridget pulled out all the stops, and sprung for what can only be aptly called a “vacation of a lifetime.” At Disney there were Fastpasses and VIP Services; character meals and rides upon rides. The overwhelm and joy of it all reduced me to tears on several occasions. (Okay, I get that this is not difficult for me. But, understand, my friends. This vacation was UNFORGETTABLE!)

I love my daughter

Me and my “Minnie”

Dad and grandkids, Disney castle

Gramp and his loves

Donna Bear

Donna Bear!

Thankfully Bridget had the foresight to schedule our visit to St. Pete Beach after Disney. The Don Cesar was pure heaven.

St Pete beach

Dad and Bridget … ❤

sunset at St Pete beach

The Gulf coast of Florida has the most beautiful sunsets!

My second vacation was spent with my boyfriend and my two young ones at Ocean City, New Jersey. This is tradition. My favorite vacation spot on the planet. And I go here every summer. On the beach, listening to the sounds, and smelling the salty air is a place where I can experience a peace like no other. Particularly, spending time in late afternoon, say around five or six is my pure happy place. It is also a time for my brain to recharge and get excited to return to my handmade sewing business. 🙂

Ocean City NJ (2)

My daughter and me … last day on the beach

Ocean City NJ

Me and the kids waiting for the train ride

There was a long weekend camping trip with my friend Cathy, her daughter and my two littles. Our Girl Scout skills were a little rusty, especially when it came to starting the campfire, but we had fun. And we even got to relax (before the girls got too nuts). Plans are already in the works to make this happen again next year.

group

The gang’s all here!

kids around fire

Kids around the campfire

There was fishing — a first for Rhianna and James, and a resurrected family activity for me. James and I tried to go again, but I think I took all the wind out of his sail — maybe by “slightly” overreacting when taking the fish off the hook? Maybe. Hey, this was new for me, and it was not an especially seamless string of events from reeling in the fish, to letting that little buddy go free again. I just need some more practice, that’s all. And Brian said he would come along next time, just to be sure. I could use a good fishing teacher!

James and fish

nan and turtle

And someone caught a turtle!!??

There was a visit to my mom’s in late June. Just for a few days. But it was so nice. My mom always spoils us when we make the trip down to Bensalem. And she has a great pool in her housing development, so that hit the spot.

me and mom

Me and my momma!

I completed sewing orders in between all the summertime festivities. Such that any free time I had, like when the kids were with their dad, was spent catching up on and getting out orders. Not a bad thing, by any means. But I felt like I was always just one step ahead of my sewing game. Not exactly a peaceful, energized feeling. I didn’t vend at one of the summer craft shows that I typically go to. That one occurred on the day we left for the beach. The weather was beautiful, and I am sure it would have been a profitable show for me. But a girl can only do so much, ya know?

apron

Dollar Dance Apron all ready!

local delivery

Local deliveries, too!

I have also added a few extra side gigs to my income stream this summer, including tutoring and cutting grass. I really enjoy tutoring, especially Latin, so this is like a fun activity for me. 🙂 And I also really enjoy yard work. So this has worked out well, too. Since my dad is unable, I have been maintaining his yard as he and Bridget plan to sell their house.

Oh, speaking of Dad and Bridget selling their house, that means they have to empty out the house. And the attic. And cellar. And the garage. Well, yes. It does. I wouldn’t say that my dad is necessarily a full-blown hoarder. But let’s just say he has amassed a great amount of “stuff” over the years. And now, he and his wife are moving to a more manageable (for them) townhouse with very little storage. Woof. This has been difficult to say the least. Physically tough (90-degree July days, anyone?), but mainly emotionally difficult for me. Plus the fact that every time I go there, I come back home with a truck full of stuff. Where to put it? Ahhh …

giant pumpkin

Like, seriously. LOL

Now, my little ones are with their dad for the next two weeks. And there is a lull in the action around here. So, now … finally, I have a bit of time to myself. Time to catch up on a few orders. Time to create new products for my shops. Time to try to get an ever-loving grip on my business social media presence. And time to think and reflect.

That last use of my time can tend to be somewhat dangerous for me.

Because without the busyness of all the hullabaloo this summer, my brain and my emotions have space, and they tend to go into overdrive. I feel that I am not yet completely healed emotionally (will I ever be?), and without life’s distractions I tend to get a little dramatic in my mind.

So I wonder, am I doing it right? You know, IT — life, my existence, my purpose? Yikes, self-doubt is a dreadful thing. But I look at it this way. God is leading me on my earthly journey. And I am certain that these kid-free, vacation-free two weeks are by His design. Emotional introspection is hard work. But God is on my side, and I will view this time as a gift. Looking deeply at myself, and working through my fears, my doubts and anger — all of that is tough emotional work. But I am the only one who can make peace with me. So I must do this work and know that God is right alongside me. And I am right where I am supposed to be.

I hope your summer is somewhat productive, yet somewhat carefree. I hope you have some time, too, to think and reflect. I totally get it … life is hard sometimes.

Be brave and do the work!

And I hope that we can encourage each other in this walk. I’ll hold your hand. You’ve got a friend in me! ❤

 

Advertisements

“I Cried Because I Had No Shoes, Until … {tips for cultivating peace and contentment}

I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. — Persian quote

My dad says this all the time.

These words remind us to be grateful for what we have. We should not lament what we perceive as a lack, for there is always someone who is making do with less.

This saying has been on my mind lately. And while I can certainly apply these words to material possessions, I am coming to realize they are pertinent to more intangible life circumstances as well. Continue reading

What Keeps Me Going {Reflections during Small Business Week 2017}

As Small Business Week 2017 draws to a close, this is an opportune time for me to reflect on why I press on with such drive to make my small business a success.

While I may not be widely famous as a sewist, nor have made fortune enough to retire on, I do, indeed, love what I have going here in my own small business. Being in business for myself is wonderful for a few reasons which are blazingly obvious to me. I am in charge of my life when it comes to my sewing world. I make my own decisions regarding what products to offer, how to market them, what to charge, and when to work. That, my friends, is powerful. I also love the learning process. As a small business owner, I am basically a one-woman show. I do have some consulting and labor help occasionally (on a minute scale), but basically, I’m IT! I absolutely enjoy educating myself about the ins and outs of running a small business. The learning is a never-ending process, and I love that. It keeps me motivated, and encourages me to try new things. Continue reading

Life Events, Stress and the Color Purple

 

My favorite color has always been blue. It is calming, and peaceful. The color of the sky, and the ocean. Of heaven. I love it.

But for today, I am purple. Purple is the combination of blue and red. Blue is tranquility and calm, depth and stability. Again, I love it. Red is a stronger color. It is energy and danger and strength and power. I am purple today. Here’s why. My default is love, and kindness and minimal conflict. But, damn, there are some hard things going on in my life. Things that make me angry and really sad. So I call upon my inner red. I am strength. I am the power I need to deploy in order to survive. In combination of peace and strength, call me purple!
Continue reading

I am an introvert …

I am an introvert.

But I love people.

Is that weird? Is that even possible? Yeah. I think it is.

With many courses in Psychology under my belt, you can bet that I read a LOT about introverts and extroverts. I used to think it was a simple, linear concept — introverts are shy, extroverts are outgoing. And that one could define her personality by placing a virtual finger somewhere along this horizontal continuum. Now I have a more complex understanding of these personality traits.  It is one thing to read and study from journal articles or chapters in a textbook, but it is quite another to truly LIVE … and learn.

In my maturity and wisdom, I understand that introverts tend to recharge best alone, while extroverts recharge best among people. Still a simple definition, yet, not quite linear anymore, in my mind. Now I see that as an introvert, I am refreshed with “alone time.” I feel at peace and am able to ponder my thoughts. I enjoy solitude and am okay with not having to be “social” all the time. (I used to think that was a flaw in me.) I actually feel kind of mentally exhausted at large parties, or when being entertained. I tend to prefer a book over charades. Texting over calling. Cuddling on the couch over a dinner party.

But not always.

There are times when I want to talk — to my boyfriend, or my mom, a friend, or my daughter. Sometimes I tend to keep too many things inside and it’s not good. I give the impression that I am fine, when I may be dying inside. Or that I don’t have an opinion, yet I can certainly think — I’m not stupid. But one might not know this, because I don’t verbally share. Sharing is tough. I don’t have many friends. It’s not that women haven’t tried to get close — invite me for coffee, call me just to chat, want to shop together. I think I give off friendly, compassionate vibes. Like I said, I DO genuinely like people. But I recoil from these invitations. They give me anxiety. They make me go numb. I just don’t have the energy. Ugh …

introvert

There’s this quote by Audrey Hepburn. I get it.

I do not want to be alone. The thought kinda terrifies me, and has put me in situations of poor judgement in relationships past. And it paralyzes me to consider being alone in my future. But absolutely I want to be left alone at times. That is, I don’t need to hear thinking out loud. I don’t need to be entertained incessantly.

Hmmm … a seemingly impossible dichotomy. But not really …

Which are you? I’m guessing that you aren’t black and white along this introvert – extrovert continuum either. ❤

My Babcia {the Inspiration for my Polish Bridal Items}

Today is my Babcia’s birthday — in heaven. She would have been 99 today. Wow, right? She passed away in 2006 at the age of 88. My older daughter Lauren had the privilege of knowing her. My two little ones were not yet born, and it weighs heavy on my heart realizing that they have never known my stubborn, hard-working, generous gram.

It takes time to know and understand this wonderful woman. Helen Budzinski  was born in northeast Pennsylvania of Polish immigrants in 1918 during the world-wide flu pandemic which was particularly deadly during that year. My dad says that it was her exposure to this flu virus that may have caused Babcie’s poor hearing. And, yessiree, her hearing was poor. Communication was mainly through shouts. No hearing aids for this woman. Did I mention she was stubborn? Hoo boy. And subsequently her speech was difficult to understand as well. She completed school only up to the eighth grade, during which time she quit her formal education to stay home and help her mother care for her step-father (a coal miner) and younger siblings.

30176f3de626d10d1b9bc7fed7c1dcb1

An ivory Bridal Apron, embellished with a hand-rolled rosette. Available in my online store StoLatAWeddingShop.

Babcie wed in her early twenties, gave birth to a daughter a short time later, then went off to Maryland to work in a munitions plant during World War II. Her baby daughter (and  husband? I am unclear on these details.) stayed behind in Old Forge. A few years later my dad was born, and a few years after that Babcie’s husband vanished for good. This woman was now left to raise two children on her own. I try to imagine the difficulties her situation posed. She was essentially uneducated, very hard of hearing, and trying to secure employment in a man’s world. Her “handicaps” instilled a sense of paranoia in her, making it quite hard for her to trust anyone.

download-2

The Bridal Dance is not complete without a beautiful lace Babushka for the bride! Available in white or ivory at StoLatAWeddingShop.

I only have sketchy details in piecing together my babcie’s early life. Occasionally my dad recounts memories of his childhood. Some times seem to have been happy, family-oriented, and fulfilling. But if I listen carefully, or if rarely I get to hear the not-so-happy stories of his childhood, I learn about times of sadness, fear, anger and poverty. I listen. I absorb. I imagine. I allow my heart and soul to open and to soak up the daily life of this woman and her young family. Babcie’s life certainly was not for the faint of heart. I ponder some more. Hell, any hardship I encounter in my cushy life is not nearly the tough times my gram and her two children went through. Press on, I can!

apron

I have sold many traditional Polish Bridal Aprons, and I love that I share the same memories of Polish wedding customs as these brides-to-be. ❤

Don’t get me wrong. Babcie had much extended family nearby, and they were a tremendous help and support for her and my dad and aunt. I imagine there were nice times. Times when meals were shared, and happy occasions like holidays and weddings were celebrated. I have certainly been to plenty of Polish weddings, and they are fun and happy like no other weddings! One of my favorite customs at a Polish wedding (aside from the yummy food!) is the Bridal Dance, where traditionally wedding guests must pay money to dance with the bride. The Redovy polka plays as the bride twirls and whirls round and round with each guest. Her maid of honor sits nearby collecting the loot in a pretty apron.

79bcaf97e3d3e9b170dc0394351040de

Oftentimes guests will give money that is tied into tight little knots!

I offer traditional Polish wedding accessories for sale in my online bridal shop Sto Lat A Wedding Shop. Each time I sew up a beautiful Bridal Apron, or a delicate lace Babushka, I not only think of the recipient. — how happy and wonderful her wedding day will be for her, but I also remember my Babcie. I think of the meaningful Polish traditions and customs she passed down to me and my family. I remember her life, her love and her work ethic. And I am strengthened. I love you, Babc, and I miss you. Happy Birthday in heaven. Sto Lat! ❤

On Death … not Dying {my thoughts on grieving a loved one}

I have experienced the death of a loved one before. Of course, I have. Losing my grandparents comes to mind. Also, I have grieved the loss of aunts and uncles. And family friends. I have even grappled with having to deal with the unexpected deaths of younger people, whether through accident, sickness, or even suicide. But I have not known the struggle of grieving the loss of a loved one due to addiction. Until now. Continue reading

A New Product Idea in the Making

In my last blog post I shared with you my thoughts and excitement in finding inspiration to create a new product for my Draw That Pig shop. As I set my scene and prepared for the muses to shower me with creativity, I found myself thinking about my Pajama Eaters. Specifically, I was concentrating on what my customers SAY about my Pajama Eaters. And I realized that it is high time I offer them something more! Something new! Some unique, exciting monster cuteness!img_0449

This, my friends, is product development 101. Firstly, LISTEN to what your customers are saying. Find out what they are saying they need — and, then, fill that need for them! img_0740

I try hard to really LISTEN to what my customers are saying. The two main ways I have gleaned information from my customers is via reviews and feedback from my online sales, and through face-to-face interaction at craft shows. The latter is definitely a more informative interaction. A bigger bang for your buck, if you will. 😉

For instance, at a craft show a customer might approach my booth and pick up a Pajama Eater. Her face brightens as she runs her hand over the Minky softness, squeezes the plump cuteness, and unzips the pocket mouth. “Ooooh, this is a great idea!” (pause) “Too bad my kids (my grandkids, my nieces or nephews) are older. I think they are past the age where they would enjoy this guy.” (regretfully replaces PJ Eater back on the table). Sigh.

Although I may  not have made a sale right then, I DID gain valuable insight from this interaction. It’s not just about pitching your product for the immediate sale (although this would be great, too!); it’s about developing a rapport and building a relationship with your customer so that you can better serve her.il_570xn-366996884_r0xk

So, what was my take-away from that customer interaction? Well, I am confident that the customer likes the quality of my craftsmanship and the materials I used. She also likes the monster idea. What I heard her say, however, is that the Pajama Eater is too young a product to serve her needs. She needs something for older kids.

Think. Think. Think.fullsizerender-9

I need to come up with a product that offers monster cuteness, high-quality materials, and the craftsmanship and packaging my customers have come to expect from their handmade, “buy local” purchase.

How about a DIY sewing kit for older kids? The kit could include hand-cut monster forms and features, cut from high quality wool-blend felt. Some fluffy stuffing, tools necessary to complete the job, and well-written instructions. All packaged up and ready for gifting. Hmmmm ….. I may be on to something here. I am taking an existing product that is a best seller in my shop, and tweaking it a bit in order to fill my customers’ needs.

We shall see. Of course, part of product development is the testing phase. Any takers? If you are interested in testing one of my DIY Monster Kits please comment below or email me at drawthatpig@gmail.com, and we can discuss the particulars. ❤

 

Inspiration for new product ideas {and a quote that speaks to me}

January is an ideal time to take stock of goals, and to create new ones. We know this. How did 2016 go for you? Was it all that you hoped for? (some of what you hoped for?) Did you set goals, work toward them, periodically assess your progress, and learn from your journey? Geez … I want to be that person. It makes total sense, right? Thoughtful. Methodical. Purposeful. Goal-setting and all that goes along with it is a necessity if you run your own business. Do more of what works; do less of what isn’t working. Measure. Tweak. Go at it again.

I am the first to admit that my own 2016 was more of progression in fits and starts, rather than slow and steady wins the race. In terms of my sewing business anyway. Measuring success in sales and revenue, February, March and April were my best months. Thereafter was seen a steady decline over the summer months and into the fall. Sales picked up some for the holidays in October and November. And my craft shows were not quite as successful as the previous year. Admittedly, I all but ignored my business in the spring and early summer, when I started part-time work outside my home, and moved into a new place. I also split my sewing business into two Etsy shops in late summer (here and here). I am certain that this move disrupted my listings rankings, and therefore, sales. new-ideas

But. Yes. Now, that the frenzied pace of the holidays behind us, the time is ideal to take mental stock, and revamp a few things. Do you want to know something? I absolutely love this part of entrepreneurship — the studying, learning, tweaking. So what did I discover about Draw That Pig and StoLat A Wedding Shop? Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • selling available stock is MUCH less stressful than constantly taking custom orders
  • more listings makes my shops more appealing to buyers
  • some of my items are huge hits; others are mediocre in terms of sales
  • product photography is important
  • a reasonable turnaround time is also important
  • consistency in marketing is ALSO important

So, there. I have a starting place regarding setting new business goals for 2017. So exciting, right? One of the first things I am going to work on is trimming my product line, yet expanding it at the same time. Since I started making Pajama Eaters several years ago, they have topped my sales list for Draw That Pig every year. They are super awesome!! (You can read more about their awesomeness here.) They are certainly keepers. So, I am thinking I should offer more to my customers along the Pajama Eater line. I have several ideas in mind. But how do I fine tune my thinking? How do I come up with a great new product idea?

b3b3e3d0c30f4d51cfc0682fad99a542

Famous painter Pablo Picasso reminds us that “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” This quote inspires me as I think about setting goals for my business and particularly as I ponder new product ideas. I believe that inspiration comes and goes on her own time. And I am much more likely to catch that creative spark in my work if I am in a work mindset. In other words, work ethic is just as important as the revelation. I long for the muses to inspire me. But can I really disrespect them by relentlessly hurtling through my sewing business like a wildebeest?  Awful! Nor can I count on their creative assistance if I am just idly sitting by in a dissociative state. No, ma’am. The muses long to offer their creative inspiration, but please, I am begging. They deserve respect. And peace. And thoughtful ponderance in work.

fullsizerender-8

And so. I have been sipping tea (it is Hot Tea Month after all) and pondering some new product ideas for my Draw That Pig shop. I have been thoughtfully considering my beloved Pajama Eaters. Whom and how do they serve? Why are they popular? Why do customers buy them? Are they confined to a specific age group? What might be a new twist on the “monster” cuteness? And huzzah, the muses have not let me down! 🙂 I am working on a new product line to be added to my shop (hopefully) this spring.

fullsizerender-9

Stay tuned for more “monster” cuteness!

Launching a new product line is a big deal. And it is both exciting and scary. I am in the beginning stages of making sketches, examining fabric types, and coming up with packaging. I hope to have a few of these cuties ready for product-testing in the near-ish future. I would love for you to help me out! That’s all the sneak peek you get for now. I’ll keep you posted! ❤

January is Hot Tea Month {and my thoughts on hot tea}

It may seem reasonable that one may be a genuine coffee drinker OR a hot tea drinker. But not really both. I don’t know. Can you be both? Are the two REALLY dichotomous hot beverages? There is a widely accepted generalization, at least here in the Western world, that there are two main camps of hot beverage consumers — coffee or tea — and never the twain shall meet. Hmmm … let me explore this on a personal level. Continue reading