*All photos taken with my favorite iphone photo app: TiltShift Generator
*All photos taken with my favorite iphone photo app: TiltShift Generator
How sweet is that? I'm loving these free overlays from Pugly Pixel via True Love Found, which I just now realized is run by Buggie & Jelly Bean. Gah! I can't keep up. I'm lost. I need GPS for bloggers.
Anyway, the point is I really want to make these ornaments with Max this week.
I started a Pinterest inspiration board for all the handmade gifts I want to make in the next two week. Time to get cracking!
I miss my blog.
I'm making a comeback and devoting this space to my love for Different World reruns, offensive calypso music, and the J.Crew warehouse sales. IN THAT ORDER.
Starting tomorrow, of course.
Don't forget to download this year's Holiday Obscura Christmas album over at the Chicago Public Radio Website! It's free until January 1st, then it's gone - so hurry! I was absolutely over the moon about last years album, (which I still have saved on my PC, if anyone wants is - just email me!)
These old holiday songs are cazy, kitschy, groovy, often creepy, and always awesome. You gotta get in on this. God Bless you, Andy Cirzan!
Amanda fun-fact: When I was 14-ish I was OBSESSED with finding a long nightgown exactly like the one Claire (Karen Allen) wears in the flashback scene of Scroodged. I never found it.
I'm posting this video because my mom says I never post on the blog anymore.
Harumph. So there.
It's about time I check in over here. I haven't been in the mood to blog lately, but I suppose I'm feeling a bit reflective today. Maybe it's all the Lifetime Original programing I watched yesterday. Can you believe we actually got cable?! Mike and I have never had cable, and we've lived together for almost 10 years now. At first, there were financial restraints. Then I suppose after a while we just got used to not having it. We still watch lots of movie, so we were far from TV-free, but I still believe that movies and TV are a world apart, the main difference being that movies have a beginning, middle, and END. Emphasis on the "end."
So, it all started last week when I received a telemarketing call at a very bad time. I was down. Beat. Stressed. Hanging on by a thread. When the cheerful lady asked me if I'd be interested in the Charter Cable Bundle, instead of blowing her off, I actually stopped to think first. I was interested. I guess I didn't respond right away, because she inquired again, "hello?....I said is this something you'd be interested in?" I broke down, almost sobbing, "Yes! Yes....yeeeesss! I am interested. I really, really am." The thought of being able to watch Mad Men at it's regularly scheduled time, and to listen to Food Network shows while I answered emails, gave me the strength, hope, and courage to keep going that week. Now that it's all hooked up, I am enjoying it, but I don't think I'll get addicted or anything. Somehow in my romanticizing of the whole affair, I conveniently forgot how God-awful annoying commercials are. Time to learn how to work the DVR.
Cable TV...an interesting change for us. But not as big Max's big news. He started school today! It's a really big deal and so far, I think we are all pretty ecstatic about the whole thing. I never talked much about our decision to homeschool on my blog. Our family is always changing and evolving, and this year has been a little bonkers for all of us. In the end, I love homeschooling, and I hope we get the chance to do it exclusively again someday. But there were several reasons why it stopped working for us right now. Mainly, though I know it's not impossible, I think it's extra hard to homeschool an only child. Especially when Mike and I are both quiet, homebody types. I figured I'd just have to change who I was and become more social....but it's hard to change who you are, and not really fair to everyone involved. We also have been utterly overwhelmed with the business these last few months. I blame myself for not seeing this coming, who'da thought the first year of a building a brand new business from the ground up would be tough?!? Since this is exclusively what we do for a living and what supports our family, we can't exactly shove it to the back burner. Mike and I are both taking steps to make sure the business grows more smoothly and that we have the help that we need, but it's going to take a little more time before things are running like clockwork. The Shop isn't a sacred cow or anything, but neither of us want to give up on it just because we hit a rough patch. We know we can work it out, but we can't both focus on the shop and homeschool Max properly at the same time. We're just not that awesome, (and I require more than 3 hours of sleep a night.) Plus, I've had a few health issues lately (nothing terrible,) but my stress levels have been all over the place and it's been a very new, and humbling experience for me. Not to say I've never had stress before, but I have never encountered this kind of work-related stress in my entire life and WOW...it's really thrown me for a loop. I'm dealing with it, but it's a strange new obstacle for me, and not feeling like I was able to be an adequate teacher for Max was making it all even harder. I'm sure that many people will argue me on this, but I personally feel that Mike and I are not able to both work full-time and successfully homeshcool. Homeschooling/Unschooling is hard. Wonderful, time-consuming, amazing, and hard. It's really a full time job on it's own.
Happily, we found a dream-come-true school for Max that seems to be the perfect fit for him and is also reasonably priced. We are so grateful to have the ability now to pay the tuition, (which was never really an option for us before.) It's a Montessori School, and their philosophies on learning are very agreeable with Max's temperament. The classes include a range of ages, so everyone learns from and helps eachother - something that Max definitely has missed out on by not having siblings. Max just had an awesome first day, I'm so excited for him. Our policy has always been, "Do what works, until it doesn't work anymore." I will miss the freedom of homeschooling, but honestly, we all need to get a little more scheduled right now. The beginning of this year was like a big free-for-all, and now it's time to settle down and find a rhythm. I hope it all comes out in the wash. I think it will. I'll still miss my baby terribly every minute he's at school. I've always been like that, though. :) Max, however, doesn't miss us for a second. If anything, I think he's grateful to escape.
On the Biz-side.....still trucking along. Making big strides these days. Hiring employees, looking for a new commercial space, and a big website update on the horizon! Super stoked about that. Speaking of something "working, until it doesn't work anymore?" That's sort of what happened with Pappashop (our ecommerce provider.) We have totally outgrown it, and ooooh...the technical difficulties. We lost so much ground over those these last few weeks due to those issues, I can't even tell you. At one point, we just sat back, waiting for the locusts. I'm excited to be moving on up, but I really wish I could just blink my eyes and have all of the work done and the new website up and running smoothly. It's gonna take time to move 1000+ products over to a new site, and get used to the new, more complicated software. In the end though, it's gonna be so very much better. Lots of fun bells and whistles for the customers, easier checkout and a more professional layout, and time-saving features that will give me the ability to do what I love best: finding unique, new products and updating the blog with tutorials and fun stuff. It will be such a relief to get the site going, and a real milestone for the whole business!
Growing the business has been hard. Mike said it reminds him of Croatan. It's a little piece of beach that's one of the only decent places to surf in Virginia. When he was a kid, it was relatively a secret-spot. Hardly anyone knew about it, so it was never crowded. Then one day, everybody found out. And it wasn't a secret anymore. There were so many people trying to cram in and catch waves that nobody could really have any fun. Ok, not the best analogy, but you catch my drift. I miss being the little, secret shop that Mike and I could run ourselves, and ship orders out same-day, and make almost everyone happy all of the time. Now, we are spread far too thin - and I know that will get better as we get help, but right now it sucks. We're sold out of popular items all of the time, we can't ship fast enough, and I have hundreds of emails and dozens of phone calls every day that I can't answer fast enough. Even though I know we're doing our best, it's bad customer service and it drives me crazy. But what to do? Shut down for a while and "retool", so to speak? Thought about it. Might still happen on a small scale, but the Internet is strange like that. you can't just say, "Sorry, we're closed. We've got enough orders for the day, thank you and goodnight!" Internet means 24/7, baby. I've tried to keep popular items "out of stock" for a little while so we could catch up, but then I get 100's of emails asking when the products will be back in stock. The only solution is more man power, and we've learned that the hard way. Still, training people takes time, so we're still not out of the woods yet.
It sounds like I'm whining about being successful. I hate to sound like that. I don't want to make excuses for what's going on, but I do feel it's important that our customers understand who we are and where we are coming from (and that we did NOT know BH&G was doing a full page mention until the day it hit newsstands!) As of now, we have one person that answers phones and emails. Me. The same person who is working like a crazy girl, and also getting her kid to school, and (occasionally) doing laundry. So if you don't get an instant reply, that's why. I'm not saying that's right or wrong, it's just where we are right now. And now I really need to help with packing and shipping orders to get them out faster, but I can't if I'm on the phone/email all day! It's so frustrating - I wish I had about 8 clones! (It worked out for Michael Keaton, right?)
I'm rambling on here, but it's good to get this out a little bit. This business means so much to me and I find myself lamenting a lot lately about not being good enough, smart enough, or organized enough. Not working hard enough, not being sure how to proceed in the future. Not knowing how to be the boss that I need to be. Not knowing how to stay small and still make customers happy. Not knowing how to grow without changing who we are. Not knowing how to do the things I love, and not have them do me.
In a nutshell, running a business is hard. Did I think it would be easy?! I don't know. But I'm glad we have Max. He grounds us. We'd be insane workaholics if it wasn't for him. And that's no good. We don't want that, but it's just so easy to get caught up in it all. Especially when it's all around you, all day. But things are not as desperate as they seem. I told you, it's the Lifetime made for TV movies! They're infesting me with melodrama, I tell you! Maybe one day they will make an original movie about a whiny girl who selfishly complained about starting a successful business and blogged about how frustrated and wimpy she was.
It just might work.....
Ok, so that's what we've got going on these days - thanks for lending an ear.
I hope you are all enjoying what's left of your Summer!
Do you miss me? I've missed you. I can't believe the Summer's almost over and we never got to do all those things we planned. We didn't drive out to that fishing pier where they make the good crabcakes. We forgot to transplant those sweet peas we started in April. And I never finished that macrame plant holder you were so kind to help me with. Wow, time really flies. Ha ha ha. I'm sure you've been busy, I remember you mentioned you were taking a pottery class, and although I still think it sounds dangerous, I hope that you're having fun with that. Remember that time you lost your quarter at the gas station? Boy, me and the gang are still rolling over that one, let me tell you. That reminds me, we never did talk about what happened that afternoon at the Pizza Hut lunch buffet, but I think it's for the best, don't you?
Oops, looks like I'm running out of room. Write me back if you can find the time.
Love and other indoor sports,