The Blahs

This is what being in the blahs feels like.
This is what being in the blahs feels like.

I wrote this post in my head 60 million times before I actually sat down to write it. Mostly because when you are experiencing the blahs, you don’t really want to do anything. Or care. Whatever. But I was listening to my favorite periscope yesterday when the lovely Sabina started chatting about how she and a few of her entrepreneur friends were chatting about how they just were not feeling it these past few weeks. And after talking about this she pointed out how we as a group of “work all the time” individuals need to give ourselves permission to feel this way. Now I understand that the blahs can be different things to different people. They can be just general melancholy, exhaustion following the holiday season for especially product based businesses, they can be a touch of S.A.D. and they can be depression. So note that if you are feeling that your blahs are more of a serious depression, then by all means seek professional help. Otherwise, I too give you permission to wallow in them.

For me, the blahs are an annual experience that begin right around the new year. I detest all of the New Year, New Start! crap and it typically sets me off. This year they lingered a bit longer, which was made further usual as almost every single day in January I have dragged my butt outside to exercise. That’s the double whammy, two punch cure usually…sunshine AND exercise…all the endorphins! And still, they stayed. I had lunch earlier this week with two amazing ladies (the Jessica’s) who are B2B powerhouses. I have been lunching with Jessica #1 for quite some time (we met through LinkedIn, how cool is that?? I swear I need to do a post on making IRL friends with online acquaintances) and this week she thought Jessica #2 and I should also meet. So Jessica #2 and I were getting to know each other and our respective businesses and I was explaining how I had a bad case of the blahs. That the blahs were so bad this year that I had hardly been getting anything done, not because I didn’t have time, but because I kept just sitting at my desk being sucked into the vortex of nothingness. Anyway, we chatted about this a bit more and I left feeling a bit lifted. The blahs are still hovering about but the next day I got done half the tasks I have been avoiding and that’s awesome.

Ahhhhh, how you feel every time the blah is lifted (even if it still hovers in your head waiting to come back).
Ahhhhh, how you feel every time the blahs are lifted (even if it still hovers in your head waiting to come back).

What is the point of all of this blah blah blah (hehehe)? Basically it is to tell you that you are not alone. There are always other people out there who are feeling what you’re feeling (like Sabina and her friends) and there are also people out there who may not be feeling it, but would love to talk to you about it (like the Jessica’s). This is especially important to understand if you are a solo-preneur, to make sure to get out there and talk to people! You don’t have to hide your feelings and pretend everything is perfect all the time…instagram is not real and no man is an island.

*excuse the fuzzy photos, I felt these images illustrated my point perfectly and didn’t want to recreate them in daylight, as that would take too much effort for my blahs to handle right now. Also, that amazing over sized eye mask that keeps out ALL light and is organic silk can be found on Etsy here.

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Rejection

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One of the realities of being an artist/designer/maker is that in order to sell your work, you have to put yourself out there. In putting yourself out there, you have to be ready to face rejection. The more you put yourself out there, the more chances of selling your work but the more rejection you will have to face. It’s just the way it goes. I’ve discussed with many friends in similar businesses how when they pitch, how often do they never hear back, get rejected and sell and it seems we all have pretty similar experiences. The majority of the time, the process goes like this: you gather a list of stores, editors or whomever and spend a few hours emailing say 10 people (I am using this number for ease of math). Then you usually follow up 2 weeks later with anyone you did not hear back from. Typically you will get a reply from 1 or 2 of the emails over all. Most likely not a straight sale, but at least 1 really promising lead. Maybe 2 more “love it, but not right now” replies and the rest are rejections…almost always by lack of response. To receive 2 replies from 10 pitches within a few weeks of the 1st email seems to be a pretty great rate and what I hope for.

Recently, after a round of follow up emails which contained what I thought was a pretty tight and quick sentence and the original email below, I had responses unlike any other round of pitching. Within 2 hours, I heard back from over 25% of the list. I don’t think I’ve ever heard back from anyone that fast! 1 loved the jewelry, but the store was full, so she added me to her prospects list (this is a solid lead, I can now follow up again with new line sheets when I have a new collection coming out). 5 let me know that I was not a right fit, which is solid feedback, as I was pitching somewhat blindly around the country with only their websites to give me an idea of their style. And 1 gave me the email of the new buyer as she was no longer that person. Besides still being in shock over over how fast so many replies came in, I was also amazed that I was actually excited to get 5 rejection emails. So much of the time you just throw yourself out there and get nothing back, it felt kind of sweet that 5 people took the time to send a quick note letting me know that it was “not me, but them”.

I found myself thinking about how I would have viewed this situation over a decade ago when I first began Manic Trout. I probably would have felt discouraged, although I would have eventually shaken it off (obviously, as I’m still doing this years later). I would not have seen it as such a positive thing though. Now I look at the 5 emails where someone took the time to reply and thought, wow, at least they didn’t just ignore the email and move on. That’s great. I also took it as an indication that this round of follow up emails had a wording and tactic should be used again and maybe the day of the week and time sent were also good for catching shop owners at a time when they can sit down and actually read and reply to emails. All great pieces of information for the next round of follow-ups which I will be doing very soon.

Somewhat along these lines, this weekend I was chatting with a few girlfriends who own businesses and we were talking about there is really no such thing as a “big break”. You need to be constantly hustling, pushing, pitching and trying to get your product and brand out there. It will never end, but it doesn’t have to make you feel bad when you are rejected for trying something. I have been trying hard to get over the fear of approaching people I have no connection to. It’s more a desire to not annoy them than it is of rejection, but so often, I will hold back from reaching out. Understanding that I have something to offer them, that they need products to sell, pitch and use has been helpful in getting over this weird block. It’s also been bringing great opportunities to the table. Having a thick skin in business is essential for sure, but sometimes it takes time to toughen. It only toughens if you keep you trying and failing though. I will sign off the same why I started off, with wise words from Michael Jordan: “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.”

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My luck ran out with my wisdom teeth

My lopsided self on Saturday
My lopsided self on Saturday

I hate going the dentist…as most of us do. Fortunately, I have had a good run of luck for 38 years with very strong and healthy teeth, so the only trauma I have had to endure in my visits was 1 cavity about a decade ago. I however have been waiting, terrified for 2 things to happen. First, I have 4 baby teeth still. Its like I’m a medical marvel to the dentist world and every time I see a new dentist they get really excited when they realize that I have not lost them yet. Then they bum me out by reminding me that I will indeed loose them as their roots are so little. When that day comes, I will have to get implants because they are not between molars. I fear that day so very much as it will cost a fortune and be a long and painful process.

Second, I still have all 4 wisdom teeth and 1 of these is partially erupted (like an iceberg in my gum). Due to my anxious pleading, dentists have let me get away with not getting them removed as none them have bothered me yet, but they have made it clear that one day, that peeking out tooth would become infected.

Well the day of my second fear crept up on me and then threw a party. As I fell asleep thursday night, I felt a little discomfort back there and by Friday morning knew something was wrong as my gums were swelling. I called my dentist (who for some odd reason, is not open on Fridays) and scheduled an appointment asap, which finally happening tomorrow morning. The receptionist told me to gargle salt water and take advil…both of which I was already doing, thank you google. Saturday morning, I woke up early for my first day of attending panels at SXSW and the entire lower side of my face was swollen (see above for proof) and hot and I felt like I might have a fever. Worst timing ever, tooth!! So I did a quick google search and it seemed like an infection caused by the peeking out wisdom tooth had rapidly spread and that if it got into my jaw, I could die. So I woke up Adam and made him take me to the ER up the street. Thankfully as we live about 8 minutes from downtown and it was early on a Saturday morning, so I was in and out of there in 20 minutes after getting a prescription and promising the DR that I had an appointment to get the tooth extracted asap.

The interesting thing is that when I told the doctor about my penicillin allergy, he asked about all the details and long story short, I am no longer allergic to it! About 25% of people who have been allergic to penicillin in the past, grow out of it. This was great news as even though I have not been on antibiotics since I was 19, its just not a great allergy to have. The pharmacist was TERRIFIED to let me have my prescription though, I had to show her all my paperwork and promise her that I took the first dose in the ER and all was fine. I mean she was totally legit in feeling this way, I don’t blame her!

So more happy selfies for me
So more happy selfies for me

So now, Monday evening, most of the swelling has gone down but my gums are still killing me. I’m crossing my fingers that the extraction can be done tomorrow in the office during my appointment because this just needs to be over. I however do not regret that I never had them removed when I was younger. There are more benefits to having it done in my late 30’s as opposed to early 20’s. Reason 1: I have a husband who will wait on me in my pathetic post oral nightmare and reason 2: dental insurance. I do want to note that its kind of odd because I don’t have actual tooth pain, its all gums/cheek which is where the infection is. So eating is not a problem…its kind of like a headache in my mouth.

Think happy thoughts for me tomorrow!

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Deep thoughts about the flu

That look on my face (I'm the sullen one in the group of my happy cousins)...that's how I feel about the flu.
That look on my face (I’m the sullen one in the group of my happy cousins)…that’s how I feel about the flu.

1. Having the flu in October while living in an place with no fall foliage and 90 degree temps is very depressing.

2. The one positive aspect of having the flu is that it knocks you out, so you have no choice but to rest up.

3. The one negative is that it knocks you out, so you have no choice but to rest up.

4. When someone who is always hot gets the flu, massive amounts of sweating occurs. Have back up jammies ready.

5. If you have the standard flu (aches, fever, chills, sweats, sore throat) you’ll need to eat. The good news is that you don’t care at all what you eat as you don’t have an appetite. This is helpful if you find your self unable to move and miss shopping day. Just keep eating random handfuls of things from the pantry when you make your endless cups of tea.

6. You’ll be making endless cups of tea.

7. The two or three days you are bed ridden with the flu will be some of the very few days of your life where you care about nothing going on around you.

8. Being alone while sick is both a blessing and a curse. Its a blessing as it’s quiet and you get the tv all to yourself. The curse is that no one will make you tea, bring you food or listen to you whine.

9. Did I mention the sweating?

10. The flu is kind of like depression in that it sucks all of your energy out of you and leaves you unable to get excited about anything and maybe a bit weepy. Thankfully it only comes around every 3 or 4 years.

Please excuse my absence for the past week, I was at an event at the end of last week and over the weekend and Sunday was struck down with the nasty flu. I hope anyone who is also suffering though it, is doing so quickly!

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Autumn Equinox and its effect on mental states

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Chris Pratt making the best of his own mania in Esquire magazine

Summer is officially over this week. I used to be excited about this time of year, but its kind of lame in Texas as instead of trees bursting with colors, we have crazy thunderstorms and no cooler temps in sight. Even though I now expect both of these things, and accept that it is what it is, I still a feel a tug of home sickness for the north east when pinterest fills with photos of fall foliage. What is lesser know about the equinox is that it’s also a trigger for mania and panic attacks for those us that suffer from that sort of thing. I had a life changing moment the other day when I read this post on Dooce and after a bit of googling realized that the tightness and in my chest, the wanting to jump out of my skin and the overwhelming sense that something is just wrong these past few days is perfectly normal. Well, you know, “normal”. For anyone who suffers from these things, this week will be a tough one, (although perhaps not as tough as the spring equinox as thats the week that suicides are especially high). As we all were reminded from the horrible tragedy of Robin Williams death, be kind, you never know what someone is going though deep inside.

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Having work friends when you work from home

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One of the hardest parts of working from home is that you don’t have colleagues. Besides the inability to delegate, ask for help and share the work of a big project, the issue is really the loneliness. Granted social media helps this a great deal as you are now able to at least easily interact with people in real time, but there is no one there to relate to. When you work with a group of people, there is always someone to feel your pain of a crazy deadline, celebrate big wins and bounce ideas off of. That is what I miss the most when I am in my studio. However, the awesome thing about life is that there are always other people going through exactly what you are, you just have to find them. I have found such a group and we meet once a month on Wednesday nights at my house and over delicious snacks and gummi kabobs, we talk. The idea is to talk about business…share what we’re going though, ask for advice, be held accountable for goals, be pushed further along in what we do by people who know and care about us. But who am I kidding, there is much more than just that going on! We chat about our lives as much about work and are equally as helpful to one another with dealing with personal issues as we are with business.

Gummi Kabobs

I crave these monthly get togethers and sometimes I don’t know how I’d get through the month without knowing that as soon as I let them all know whats going on, it will already start to feel better. Well, that and Gummi Kabobs.

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All I want is to be able to catch my breath…

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It may look like I’m living the life…but the reality involves more crying

All month I have struggled with if I should blog about the behind the scenes of the last few weeks, if I should write about how overwhelmed I am feeling with work and life or if it would just be obnoxious whining. Everyday I look at the blog and decided not to write about it and then decided that I have nothing other then this to say though so I walk away. Then I reread this post about where I want the blog to go and realized that the bloggers I admire the most would be talking about it. Also that if I never wrote all this down, there was a chance I would never blog again. So here I am. Part of the reason of why I have not written anything is that some of what has been going on is not my story. I feel ok with talking about anything that is my own tale to tell, but parts may be vague as they creep into someone else’s story, please understand that.

July which is usually filled with slow days and ample downtime to prepare for the busy season has been the opposite this year. I am crossing my fingers that August gives me a week of idle time so I can catch my breath because right now I am in need of it. We just returned from an unplanned, last minute 3 day trip which involved 2 days of driving with one very squished span of time in the middle where I was trying to simultaneously spend time with a sick family member and work. I never even washed my face that middle day and was still texting apologies to the printers at 11pm that I needed everything that sent to them that evening pretty much rushed because in the chaos of what has been going on, I got the deadline wrong by a week so everything had to done asap. This was our second last minute 3 day trip this month and even though there were little pockets of watching the sun set over the water or even getting to walk on the beach for 20 minutes once, I have come home exhausted, behind in work and stressed out to the point of random bursts of crying at random times. There are good and bad parts about being opposites of your spouse in many ways. In my marriage, the good parts always outweigh the bad, but the bad sometimes can be horrible such as when one spouse has emotional spontaneity impulses that win out over the must plan in advance because I own a business spouse when the health of a loved one is in play. Its been a tough summer.

In the two weeks in between these excursions, work took an unexpected twist and I found myself in major crunch time for a monster wholesale order. A bit of back story there, I am one of the top five sellers out of over a hundred designers with one of my wholesalers. When we began working together, they would send me a weekly purchase order of what they sold the prior week and I would ship everything off to them. This however meant that all of the people ordering from us designers (as opposed to what the wholesaler manufactures themselves) had to wait for four weeks to get their orders. A few months ago, the company decided that in order to sell a higher volume of the top sellers, they needed to reduce the ship time. So we switched to traditional drop shipping…which I hated as it meant a great deal more day to day work in the studio and filling all of the orders each day was taking up a huge chunk of time. Luckily the company decided after few months of this that they wanted the ship time to become even faster (this will be key in maximizing sales, especially around the holiday shopping time, which I am all for) so about month ago, another change was decided on and new contracts were drawn up. They would now send a purchase order every ten weeks for ten weeks worth of jewelry and if anything ran out, send mini purchase orders during that time. Sounded awesome, I was thrilled. I assured them that no problem, of course I could fill these orders within two weeks. Then I received the first purchase order for 1300 pieces of jewelry. 957 of these being rings which are made to order and which also happen to be the only jewelry I design that I have to make myself for the wire wrapping to be consistent. So yeah, crutch time.

Fortunately, after the Real Simple gift guide chaos of 2008, I basically began to rebuild Manic Trout with this level of volume in mind so I was ready. I spent two days planning it all out, assessing what I had in my inventory, what materials I already had, what I needed, ordering materials (which required phone calls to suppliers figuring out how to get everything here fast, but not so fast that it would cost a fortune), printing the specific labels all of the jewelry would need to have on it and so forth. I calculated what had to be made each day and then got started on making what had to be made. Renee thankfully spent a few evenings and one very long night offering up her skills and accomplishing the very lengthy preparation of all of the paperwork that had to accompany this order. That alone was such a huge life saver (and why she os one of my favorite people)! It was an intense amount of work as I was still running the normal day to day business as well but thankfully it was July so not as bad as it could have been…well or as it will be when the next ten week order comes in. I think the smartest thing I did in those two weeks though was still fit in a run three days a week. Every time I went for a run, I came back feeling so much better and instantly thought OMG, I’m learning! You’ll be happy to know that I not only survived the order but I actually shipped it off ahead of schedule.

There were however a great deal of big projects that were sidelined while I was doing the order. One being that my Canadian showroom had sent me the prep list for the Toronto Gift Show in August and I needed to prep all of the line sheets, post cards etc. I had created the US version of the line sheets already, but all of the prices needed to be changed to CAD and it all had to go off to the printer and be back in time to ship. So immediatly following the shipping of the big order, I caught up on day to day orders and got started on this. Then I realized that I was at the deadline for a great deal of big magazine pitches, so I had to drop everything and get to those and well, I basically jumped right into 50 things like this without taking a breath. Which brings us back to this weekend when I was finally getting caught up and I was given 12 hours notice that we were going. I feel so lucky to have a great deal of opportunity and wonderful things going on with work, but I am really crossing my fingers that next week I can finally catch my breath. I have started to dream about a vacation planned months in advance where I go some where alone, there is no cell service and I don’t have to talk to anybody. I think I may have just described a monastery, that’s where I am…dreaming of monasteries.

So apologies on not checking in this July although usually I am complaining that its so slow and how much I detest the slow time of summer on the blog everyday. So perhaps it was nice to be spared of all of that? Anyway, here’s to August and a chance for us all to catch our breath!

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Material inspiration

sharpies in the manic trout studio I was staring adoringly into the cup of sharpies on my desk yesterday when I started thinking about how much the materials used to make art inspire so much creativity themselves. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times that I have over come a lapse in creativity simply by looking at a box of colorful gemstones. Its the easiest way to set myself off on a design binge, cover my desk in materials and bam! I’m off and running.  When I moved to Austin a few years ago, I had to go through a major possession purge so that I could fit all of my belongings into a pod and moving it 2000 miles. There was also a very emotional last minute, we ran out of space and now I have to let go of a few of my favorite worldy possessions because the movers would not unpack the packed pod to fit these things, such as a chair I have had since I was young that I am obsessed with and my easel. I’ll admit, I may have cried a few times these past few years over the lose of these two things even though they are just things, but they are very sentimental things. The chair is irreplaceable and the easel was what I painted on at the end of art school and for my duration as a professional painter (which did not last that long, but still…it was an important landmark in my creative journey). I know they are just things and I have almost gotten over it but they were my favorite things. Somehow during the chaos of having to leave these things behind, I lost the box of “dry” art materials. All of my pencils (there were SO many!), charcoal, pastels etc disappeared into thin air. Again, just things and very replaceable things, but there was something about the boxes of half used chalk pastels that every time I looked at them I wanted to throw myself into making something, anything…I just wanted to get my hands on them. I have tried many times to re-buy the pastels, but I just can’t bring myself to bring home those boxes of shiny new, un broken pastels. It was one things to add a new a box to the mix, but to have all brand new pieces…eh. Sometimes the materials we reach for over and over again, the ones that show the patina of years of work are the ones that take us to that creative place the fastest. Don’t believe me? Check out the photos below that artists have snapped of their well loved materials…so much beauty and inspiration in them! material inspiration 1

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images via

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The slow season

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Summer: Bad for online traffic, great for flowers!

The other night over dinner I was lamenting that online traffic had been slow this week. As I became increasingly agitated, Adam not so kindly told me that this was the third year in a row that he heard me talk about this exact same thing this exact same week (and then tried to tell me enough was enough). I sighed and told him that he better get used to it, because in the 11 years I have had an online business, I have gotten upset when summer hits every. single. year. I talk a big game leading up to it telling myself all of the amazing things I can do in the slow season, but once it comes I just want to crawl under the covers and cry. The good news is that as I have been changing the way I run the business so that it’s focused so much more on wholesale, and I therefore never get quite as slow as I used to.  Actually for the start of the slow season I have been super busy, so hooray for that!  I however am not really prepared for what happens in July, I’m actually terrified of it because when sales start flowing like molasses on a cold day, I start to freak out. For reals.

In other news, I have been picking up sassy sayings like the molasses business from watching Hart of Dixie on Netflix and it has also confirmed a few things.

1. I do not not live in the South (with a capital S).

2. All small towns are the same, regardless of region.

3. Austin is the anomaly of Texas cities.

The show is cute, and makes me not miss living in a small town, at all. Also fun, in season 1 there are cute Friday Night Lights references for Scott Porter.

Oh and one thing that summer is good for? Gardening.  See that big hibiscus flower up there, well we grew that flower. Bam!

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I hate scary movies, but…

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Are you a scary movie fan? I hate them…because they scare me, duh. I have been know to jump out of my seat in the theatre from a trailer. I can’t even handle the preview, forget about seeing the actual movie! The last scary movie I saw in the theatre was either the 6th Sense or Blair Witch, both of them traumatized me. The only scary movies I have ever been into are The Shining and The Exorcist, both of which I have watched so many times that I cannot count and they both still give me nightmares. I’m pretty sure I only watched those as I was forced to against my will.

As you can imagine I have been avoiding American Horror Story like the plague. But it keeps intriguing me so much! Especially when everyone started talking about how unbelievably amazing Coven was and how great the clothes are. So I decided the other night to get over my self and start watching it. Adam jumped on board watching it with me as he LOVES scary movies and is so excited that I’ll watch anything involving a ghost with him. The first night I thought my heart was going to beat out of my body after we watched 2 episodes. I had to turn on every light in the house to walk to the bathroom and made the dog go with me. I should add that as a very young child, I loved in a haunted house. It was in NH and built over an indian burial ground, and weird shit happened there. I’m pretty sure this is why I can’t handle ghost stuff, go figure. Violence, no problem…bring it on, I love crime shows and movies but paranormal freaky stuff just terrifies me.  I am really into AHS though, my heart beats way to fast, my palms sweat, I have to hold the dog and Adams foot to get through an episode, but its really good. Totally worth it. I’m pretty proud of myself too…ah the things we do for fashion. Do you watch? No spoilers!

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