Monday, January 30, 2012

Time Flies...

Wow! Did I really write that last post in October? Here it is January 30, 2012 and I can't decide if it seems like I just typed it yesterday, or I've lived an entire lifetime since last I blogged. So much has happened! I've been thinking it's time to hop back in the blogging saddle and bring you up-to-date for at least a month now, and this morning I've actually found a few quiet moments to do just that.

First the sad news: my uncle that I wrote about in my last post passed away a few weeks after I shared his health crisis with you. It was so hard to watch his wife, sons and daugthers-in-law struggle with hard decisions and letting go, but ultimately Uncle Dave left this world knowing how deeply he was loved and cared for, and a family got the opportunity to come together and renew the bonds that this busy life tugs at unmercifully.

In the midst of that family crisis I received another life-changing phone call of a more positive nature. After nearly 17 years of being a stay-at-home mom dabbling here and there in creative and intellectual outlets, a real, paying job offer came my way. While not a school counseling job, the position presented me with the opportunity to use the knowledge and skills I gained in grad school and I decided that the time had come to step back into the world of full time work. I am now coordinating a mentoring program for at-risk youth in a rural NJ county just south of where I live. I stepped into a grant-funded program 9 months into its first year and gasping for breath and have barely picked my head up to look around as I've redesigned, retooled & recruited my way through the end of 2011 and into the beginnings of 2012. It's hard, sometimes frustrating work, and I LOVE IT. A friend of my is fond of saying, "Change is easy, but transition can kill you", and oh how right he is. Leading a family of 5 through the transition of mom going back to work after such a long break while getting through the hectic holidays and frequent out-of-town business trips on the part of my husband has not been easy, but I feel like we've finally arrived at a rhythm that works for us.

Etsy continues to be a part of my life, but at a different level. I decided to let ScrappyTudeStudios go and closed it down, at least for the time being. GiftAgainGiftBags kept me very busy throughout the Christmas season, however, and this month I received a custom order from a gorgeous new shop called Skarvery to supply the owner Yana with beautiful custom bags to present her elegant creations in. In my spare time I am working on a new line of Wine & Bubbly bags that I hope to unveil by early spring. I also continue to indulge my crafting ADD and have added knitting (so ZEN!) to my quilting and jewelry making addictions. If I could just figure out how to knit on the treadmill....Blogging time (and energy) is definitely on the slim side, but I do hope to return with updates periodically. Setting my fingers to the keys this morning has reminded me how much I love this medium and need to keep it as a regular part of my life.

Thanks for stopping by to catch up! Don't be a stranger...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What's Important

This will be my last blog post for a few days. Something's come up that needs my attention and I'm pretty sure I will be on the speechless side for the better part of the week.

You may recall that I recently mentioned visiting my beloved Aunt and Uncle. This Aunt is my Dad's sister and she has always been very special to me, and even more so since my dad passed away suddenly 5 years ago. My home situation was pretty crazy growing up--addiction, divorce, financial struggles...We weren't exactly the Waltons (does anybody even know who the Waltons are anymore?). In the midst of it all there was I place I could go that was like heaven to me, and that was my Aunt's house. And when my grandmother died, this same Aunt became the mother of our extended family and all gatherings, celebrations and sorrows were shared at her home. She is just awesome.

Easter, 1970'ish
My Aunt in the center with me in front and her husband behind her in the red jacket,
my mom and grandmother to the left of my uncle, and my grandfather to his right.
My four favorite cousins fill out the bunch.

Not long ago her husband's heart problems became acute and we thought he was lost, but thanks to modern medicine he received this amazing little pump that doctors surgically implanted in him that does the work that his heart is no longer capable of. This device is usually used to keep patients alive who are waiting for a heart transplant, but at 78 my uncle is no longer a transplant candidate. We must satisfy ourselves with the extra year or two that this pump is expected to give him.

Unfortunately I received a call last week from my Aunt telling me that her husband of almost 60 years had a stroke on the way to visit his cardiologist in Boston. Since that initial stroke he's had at least two more and there is no way for doctors to stop the clotting that will soon end his time here with us. Their sons have been there as much as possible, but right now my Aunt is alone and awaiting the inevitable. This is not acceptable to me, so tomorrow I will pack up and head north and east to sit by her side, and my uncle's, for a few days. My focus will be them and their needs, so I'm pressing the pause button on this blog for a bit.

Because people are important. And although death is an inevitable part of life, facing it alone should not be.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Final Search Ads Results, and What a Good Husband Looks Like

My week is up and my budget is spent. My participation in, and experiment with, Etsy Search Ads has come to an end. I find it ironic that the $5 budget I established lasted exactly the one week I signed up for...Here are the final numbers:
  • Money Spent                                                       $5.06
  • Impression                                                           5,125
  • Views                                                                       28
  • Favorites                                                                    1
  • Orders                                                                       0
  • Revenue                                                                     0
Another relevant fact that I think is worth mentioning: the search phrase that generated the second highest number of impressions at 904 was "gift bags". That phrase only generated four views. I'm not sure what to think about that. It's the most relevant term in my list of search phrases. Does it mean that people aren't interested in the type of gift bag I make? Am I over priced? Given what goes into making the bags, there's no way I'm dropping my price, so what should I take away from this experience? So come on Etsians! Give me some input here...Checkout my GiftAgainGiftBags shop and let me know what you think! Pretty please? If you'd like, I'll return the favor!

Yesterday I told you that we were going to get the ground in our backyard ready for a garden next spring. Not long after I posted that the sun came out (well, kind of) and revealed that the weather man was right: it was going to be a washout. So when Kyle got up (that's my hubs) I told him he should probably call and cancel the rototiller we were renting at noon. After only half a cup of coffee I heard him on the phone with the local hardware store we were renting from, but rather than cancelling he asked if he could come pick it up right away so he could be done before the "real rain" hit. That was at about 7:30 a.m. Before he even finished his coffee (can you tell coffee's a big deal around here?) he was off for the pickup, and before he even got back the rain started in earnest. Was he deterred? No way!
Here's what a good husband looks like

He worked through the rain, got it all thoroughly tilled, and returned the rental all before 11:00. Once he got cleaned up (what a muddy mess!) we headed out to run a few errands, one of which included a stop at Michael's (my pick, not his--but then you probably guessed that). Because it was still raining he went out to get the van while I was at the checkout so I didn't have to slog through it. What a nice guy, huh? But that's not even the best part...When I walked out the door of Michael's I was shocked to see an older woman lying on the sidewalk in front of me and Kyle in the process of crouching down to tend to her. It seems she had tripped while stepping up onto the curb and landed flat on her face. There was blood flowing freely from her nose and a huge bump on her forehead. We called 911 and while we waited for the ambulance he knelt there by her side, in the rain, talking to her and keeping her calm for 15-20 minutes. Employees had come out of Michael's to help, so he could have left her in their care, but he stayed. It wasn't until she was safely in the ambulance that we left and went to get the fencing and posts that he then went home and put up, again in the rain.

My garden (notice the sun is shining today...)

So there you have it. What a good husband looks like (well, to me). How about you? What's a good spouse or partner look like to you?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Etsy Search Ads Experiment, Day 6

Man! That alarm went off way too early this morning. I was so tempted to just crawl back into bed and doze a little more, but then I remembered last Thursday when I woke up as my son's bus was rolling by without him in it...So up I am.

I decided to take the day off from posting my Search Ads results yesterday to do my now-regular Treasury Tuesday. I love taking the opportunity to feature some of the other talented artisans on etsy and didn't want to skip a week. I have to say that as dismal as Sunday's results were (posted on Monday), Monday's were much better in terms of both impressions and views. Yesterday was my slowest day since opening, so the change you see in the numbers below is largely from Monday.
  • Money Spent                                                    $4.29
  • Impressions                                                      4,373
  • Views                                                                    25
  • Favorites                                                                 1
  • Orders                                                                    0
  • Revenue                                                                  0
As you can see, still no orders generated from Search Ads.

On the lighter side: big excitement at my house today! Hubby has the day off before descending into the pit of 12 hour night shifts for 4-5 weeks, and we are celebrating by renting a roto-tiller and chopping up a chunk of our backyard in preparation for next year's expanded vegetable garden. Why do it now, you ask? I want to till a bunch of good soil-enriching compost into it and give it the winter to rot and fester :). Doesn't that sound delightful?

Btw, have you seen the new wine & spirit gift bags I now have available in my etsy shop? I think they're looking pretty good!

Make today a great one!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Etsy Search Ads Experiment, Day 4 and the Joy of School Pictures

Happy Monday! It's a gray one here, but that should help me focus on my fabric and sewing machine rather than being tempted back out into the glorious fall weather like yesterday...It's Monday, and it's back-to-work time!

I'm thinking the weather was fabulous everywhere yesterday, because when I look at my Search Ads stats the increase over Saturday is pathetic!
  • Money Spent                                                        $2.86
  • Impressions                                                          2,897
  • Views                                                                       11
  • Favorites                                                                    1
  • Orders                                                                       0
  • Revenue                                                                     0
It's rather disheartening to look at the graph that goes along with these Search Ads stats and see the line plummeting toward nothing. If that line were a heart monitor I'd be asking to have life support discontinued!

Even though it's only day four of seven, I've already reached the same conclusion as everybody else I've heard from about this ad campaign: it doesn't work. So the question I'm always asking myself comes to the forefront for me: What Next? This week's answer: Hit the Pavement! I'm fortunate to live in a cute, historic little town with lots of privately owned shops on our cozy little main street, and this week I intend to knock on some doors and see who would like to feature my gift bags. I will also be launching my line of customizable wine & spirit gift bags and taking them to local wineries to drum up interest.

So, what will you do to market your shop this week?

As always, I can't bear to end my post on such a serious note...About 10 minutes before the bus was due to arrive  we realized that today is school picture day for Brett. I ran to furiously fill out the form & write a check, and then it was time for my major challenge: his hair. My son is blessed with a full head of thick hair (well, for now--my dad was bald by the time he was 20) that features these two incorrigible cowlicks that collide right at the crown. I tried everything to plaster them down this morning! Water + gel + furious brushing and combing. Finally we had to declare it good enough so he didn't miss the bus. It was far from perfect, but I can't help but think that someday we'll look at that picture and have a good laugh!

And here's a little something that will maybe give you a good laugh--one of my school pictures. Let's just say it was the 70s...
Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Shagadelic", doesn't it?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Etsy Search Ads Experiment Results, Day 3

Here we are again! I'm on Day 3 of my Search Ads experiment and can't even begin to tell you how underwhelmed I am at the results. Here are the numbers:
  • Money spent                                                          $2.26
  • Impressions                                                            2,265
  • Views                                                                         10
  • Favorites                                                                       1
  • Orders                                                                          0
  • Revenue                                                                        0
I actually had someone favorite a gift bag through this campain, but as you can see, still no revenue. What I'm seeing here is that people are in fact searching on my tags, but they aren't viewing much and they certainly aren't buying. A question that arises for me is what percentage of the people doing the searches are actually legitimate buyers? I do a lot searches when making treasuries, but I'm not necessarily looking to buy at that time.

Question for my readers: what types of outside (of etsy) advertising have you used and how effective has it been? Have any of you tried Google AdWords?

Ok. Enough with the mercenary stuff. I have a few tasks I need to complete today and am determined to be focused and organized and actually get them done. First and foremost, some time ago I committed to write a post for the EBT Blog. In the craziness of opening the new shop--and life and general--I have allowed this task to fall between the cracks. At the beginning of the week I had an idea that I thought would help get me motivated, and that was to invite someone from the Blog Team to collaborate with me on the article. She agreed and has now submitted her portion to me, so it's time to ante up here. (And thanks to my coauthor for stepping up and helping me :)

So here's a reminder to my coauthor Kristen (you should check out her blog!) who I recently told needs a to-do-list intervention, and to all the rest of us overachievers, that load shared is a load halved.

Peace out!