Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Over the Hill

I imagine myself on the "highway" of life, with freedom to move around (mostly forward, I hope) and even take a path off the main road from time to time. This is probably a very Western view - that I have so much control. I'm not upset about this reality, but today I envisioned myself in more of a narrow corridor where life is the thing doing the navigating and I really have no choice but to follow its course. This occurred to me as I realized all the times I've considered myself different or even above the habits and rituals of aging (or more precisely, those more aged than me) and the same number of times I've been proven wrong.

Harold and Maude, my favorite young-old people. 

I wonder what it's like for older people to read along as I come to these conclusions and if they try and remember what it was like NOT to know what I have only just figured out. Like I said before, I don't really resent the fact that I'm not in control as much as I used to, and perhaps that's the first part of being an adult - you stop being enraged when you realize that you're powerless. Instead, you just adjust your path (or rather, your thoughts or feelings about THE path) to best accommodate what you can't change.

I've written about getting older in terms of appearance and wisdom before, but in the past few months I've had a few realizations that really made having "arrived" at adulthood come in to focus. I'm currently 24, and I've heard that 25 is the big shift, so it looks like we're right on track. It doesn't feel bad or sad to be getting "old", but the shift is noticeable and it does feel kind of strange. I didn't expect for there to be such palatable changes, nor for them to happen so early. It doesn't seem to have come because of having children, either. I wasn't feeling this way last year, and it doesn't feel like very long ago that I felt like a high-schooler mascarading as an adult. Which leads me to realization number 1...

1. Time is a black hole. The things I think of as having happened "last summer", actually happened four years ago. The Sandy Hook shooting happened in 2012!!! What?! Lupita Nyong'o won an Oscar 3 cycles ago instead of in the previous cycle. See also, movies that "just came out", aka I've been to the theater about twice in the last three years.

2. My taste in music has ceased to evolve. I peruse the new releases every week and my response is, "what is this junk?!" I now know what "mom's music" is going to be when my boy's tell their friends: the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Killers, the Shins, Modest Mouse... I do listen to a wide range (including more current music), but those are some of the bands that will remind me of "being young".

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, literally the coolest pregnant woman of all time. 

3. Fully cognisant human beings don't remember 9/11. Something about 9/11 came up at the dinner table the other night and my 16 year old sister referred to "the bombs" (not planes). Freshman in high school today were not even born when 9/11 happened!

4. I'm no longer the person with all the answers about technology. How does Snapchat work? Does ANYONE know? Does anyone that I know know? Do I care?

5. I no longer think being stuck in my ways is entirely negative. I highly value the ability to change ones mind, but I find myself with solid and lasting views on spiritual and political topics and I don't worry about whether they're unpopular to voice in public. Andddd... I am loving this!

I hardly recognize myself! (image

6. I'm now as old as people who I used to think were old. I recently met up with an old youth leader of mine and was startled to realize that when I met her 11 years ago, she was 24. Even though I'm writing all of this, I still feel unsure about a lot of things in my life, but I thought my then-24-year-old leader was as adult as they came! Also, 50 is no longer old to me, 90 is old.

7. "Those snatched eyebrows? So sus, she must be turnt to try and throw shade at me like that!" If you didn't understand that at all, don't worry, I had to study for like 20 minutes to translate it into: "Those amazing looking eyebrows? So suspect, she must be drunk to try and dis me like that". Not that that makes any sense either, I'm just trying to illustrate that when my brothers visit on school breaks, I don't know half the words they're saying anymore. My slang is stuck in it's own era. I don't swear around my mom, so I say "cool" a lot.

8. Famous people are now younger than me. Karlie Kloss and Kate Upton? Yeah, I'm older than them. Justin Beiber, Kylie and Kendall Jenner? Babies. And that is weird. I hear the year people were born in and I'm all... "wuuuuut? I was already x years old!" It's especially weird to admire someone and realize they're younger than my youngest brother. Similarly, the stars that I had crushes on are now old. Leonarda DiCaprio, I love you, but you're really starting to look too old for me.

Jonas contributed that older people now talk to him in conspiratorial tones about "young people"...

Reading Business Insider probably makes me old-ish too, but at least I know where to go to figure out what's cool and what's not these days! What I learned: Thank goodness I don't say "bae" or "on fleek", and Bernie should run again next election cycle if he loses this time! I also downloaded that app Wishbone and I've gotta say, it's kind of addicting. I'm currently plotting how to monopolize the scene with more sophisticated WYRs (Would You Rather) and simultaneously realizing how few poos I give about which prom dress is prettier (neither). I've even stopped trying to figure out who the male celebrities are that it's trying to make me choose between.

What makes you feel like an adult, or otherwise old? Not responsibility stuff like paying bills or learning how the heck to invest money, but cultural stuff and identity shifting!? What music defines your youth? What newfangled thing can you not wrap your head around? 

Friday, January 22, 2016

How to Sell on Instagram

This is a really long instructional post. To break up the text, I'm going to post pictures of some of my favorite things I've seen while browsing the Instagram shop universe!

I've been selling vintage items and books on Instagram for about a year now, and I continue to love it! I've never done an expense report to find out exactly how much I'm making, but on average, I'd guess I bring in about $300 per month. That doesn't sound like a ton, but it's enough for me to buy new inventory and pay for enough expenses (some groceries, occasional gas, clothes and books for the boys, an occasional item for myself, etc.) that I don't have to take any money from Jonas' account. It goes a long way toward making me feel productive and somewhat independent. It also alleviates any guilt I would feel for taking money Jonas earned at a really hard job to pay for something frivolous like thrift store trinkets for myself.

Yep, coulda bought my wedding dress on Instagram, of all places... 

I notice that a lot of SAHMs (including myself) have tried the direct sales approach, be it Stella and Dot, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, LuLaRoe, Keep, etc. I can think of 1 (mayyybe 2) people doing that who I think are probably making good money off it (and by good money, I mean the same or more than I am making off Instagram). I don't say this to belittle direct sales, It's not impossible to be good at or make money at, but for me, being successful at it negated the whole reason I needed a job like that - it was stressful and a big time and energy commitment, which took away considerably from being home with my boys. I also felt constantly pressured to cold-call and generally be a sales person in a way that was very uncomfortable for me. I learned some excellent skills and lessons and ended up with a kitchen full of amazing products during my time with the Pampered Chef, but ultimately, the costs outweighed the benefits for me.

Around the year mark of being at Pampered Chef, Jonas' boss told me that his sister made a killing selling thrifted items on Instagram. I asked him to clarify because I'd never heard of people selling stuff on Instagram before. I also had someone offer to buy a sweater that Ira was wearing in a picture on my personal Instagram account, which struck me as weird and maybe creepy. I found out after a few months selling on Instagram that that is a highly coveted limited-edition Baby Gap sweater. I also started looking at the feeds of two ladies I know who sold on Instagram, and started following a few shops on my personal instagram.

I already have hoarding tendencies, but I'm also pretty good at getting rid of stuff, so I'm constantly trying to figure out how to make a buck off of clothing or other junk that my boys have outgrown or we no longer need or want. I also have a decent eye for style, if I do say so myself, and I was confident that I could bring a stronger (more desirable) collection of items to the table than a good percentage of other shops I was seeing. Not least of all, reselling thrifted items gives me an excuse to shop as much as I wanted and make money.

These are the two pieces that broke my heart the most not to call mine. I stalled on buying the quilted dress because I was hoping it would go on sale (it was out of season at the time), but someone else bought it out of the blue. I think the baby leotard was posted in real time and I just didn't claim it fast enough. Waaaaa! 

If you love to shop and/or you end up with a lot of good-quality cast-offs from your kids, here are the basics of what I've learned about how to open and run a successful shop on Instagram.

Starting out:
  • Set up a PayPal account. It can take a few days for your bank to confirm all your information with PayPal, so you want to have this squared away before you open shop. 
  • Start a new Instagram account with a thoughtful name. I personally find it very cluttered when people try and mix their personal and shop accounts. It's also confusing for your customers if you decide to switch your account name once you are established, so don't just make any name up without pondering it for a while. 
  • Set up your shop rules and keep them posted. I started off just copying what I found in other shops as well as throwing in a few ideas I had, and then adjusted them as I gained more experience and found out what was really needed. To give you an example, some shops require that you comment with your email in order to claim things. My shop rules specifically state that asking for more information about an item will hold your place, even without an email. Unfortunately, sometimes buyers get catty over a particularly desired item and it's difficult to resolve arguments without making people angry if you don't have pre-written rules to direct people to. 
  • Consider posting other basic information. The IG selling/buying community is pretty friendly and even close-knit in some cases. People want to know you as a person and they also want to make sure you're not a scammer (there have been instances in which people sell items and then never ship to you). Consider posting a picture of yourself and/or your family and doing a small introduction! 
  • Post a few teaser images of items you'll be selling before officially opening for business. This can feel torturous (I waited until I had 200 followers), but you will also be much more confident when you start selling things during your first sale instead of trying to sell to 5 followers.
Gain exposure:
Some people prefer to keep their accounts private, but I highly recommend having a public shop. I can see how in some cases, a private shop could create enough intrigue that you'll follow just to find out what they have (and then maybe forget to unfollow!), but most of the time, a private shop is enough of a deterrent to me that I'll never bother requesting access. Private or Public, networking is essential for IG shop success. There are lots of ways to increase traffic to your feed.
  • Make friends. I'm quick to be chatty online in general, but often a comment will turn into a mini-conversation, and several mini-conversations can turn into an allyship with another shop. Besides gaining a new friend, these allyships are very beneficial for your business, especially if they are with a well-established, well-respected shop. IG friends are always quick to promote one another's shops and tag each other when they come across giveaway sign ups (more on those later), etc. It always helps to have a few extra ladies on your side and extra pairs of eyes looking out for you! My IG shop friends also keep me informed about good new shops or buyers who are not worth the trouble, and even scammers to watch out for. 
  • Share for Shares (S4S). S4Ss are the less annoying cousin of "follow for a follow" that random people on Instagram may have solicited from you before. You, or any other shop, can post a S4S (usually the actual text "S4S" or "Share for Share?" on a photo or blank background) at any time, and anyone who responds agrees to post one of your photos in return for you posting one of theirs - it's an easy way to "cross pollinate" your followers and get new eyeballs on your feed. You can even specify exactly which photo you would like other shops to post for you. Even better than S4Ss are Circle S4Ss. These are much less common, but often more effective and efficient - in a Circle S4S, everyone who comments shares every other commentator's shop as well. It's a little complicated to understand if you don't have much of a context for IG shops yet, but trust me, they're cool. My other S4S tips are to be brave in requesting a S4S from shops you admire, even if they haven't put a call out for one (the worst the can do is say no, and at best, you get your shop shared by a popular shop!) and to be strategic about when you ask for a S4S. Don't overuse it and do pay attention to the high-traffic times of day/week (for me, weeknights from 6-9pm PST). Also, follow S4S rabbit holes. If you see that shop A has just shared shop B, check both shop A and B to see if either of them have posted a S4S so that you can jump on it too! 
  • One strategy for gaining followers is to follow a lot of other accounts. I love using Instagram's Search page to see what accounts are suggested based on the things I already like, and that's a good place to start. I also look at who my favorite shops are following. Overall though, I don't like the mass-follow tactic - some of the people you follow will follow you back, but real customers will find you on their own. I'd rather have that than an extra 1000 followers who are hanging around but never buying, and then having all that extra junk they post show up in my feed. On the other hand, when real customers see that you have a lot of followers, they feel assured that you're worth following. 
  • "Steal" customers from shops similar to yours. This is not as bad as it sounds. When a shop that I like and carries similar things to my shop is having a sale, I follow along in real time and see who is buying. Then, I tag those customers on items of my own that are similar or that I think they will like. This works especially well with books. DO NOT actually steal business from other shops by tagging shoppers on the exact same product that you are selling, or you will quickly be hated by other shops. Sometimes, there will be more than one person who wants something, and if I have one, then I will tag a backup buyer on exactly the same book or item that someone else is selling. However, it is nicer to wait until the item the other shop has actually sold, so that that shop doesn't lose business from the backup customer in case the first customer bails on paying (which happens fairly often). 
  • Tag lists. A tag list is a photo that you post (it should say "tag list" or "master tag list" on it) on which people can comment if they want you to tag them every time you have a sale - it's basically your loyalty club comprised of customers who consistently likes what you post. It can be a pain in the bum to tag everyone once you get a robust "loyalty club", but sales are much healthier when you do. People on your tag list generally tend to buy regularly, and it pays to notify them when you are posting rather than risk your images getting lost in their feed. Many shops/shoppers are following at least 1000 accounts, each posting around 30 images in a row every time they list items. Tag lists are also excellent if you're a buyer. As both a buyer and a seller, you can also turn on notifications for accounts that don't offer a tag list or if you want to make sure that you see a "discount" posting. If you choose this option, your phone will let you know every time they post a photo (people think I'm extremely social because my phone is constantly making noise). 
  • ISO (In Search Of) Lists. This is one of my favorite parts about selling on Instagram! Get to know what your followers collect or are in search of, and REMEMBER IT! You can do this by memory (tricky), or keep track of it in the comments of a special photo in your feed. That way, when you can't remember who wanted what, or you're at the thrift store trying to decide on whether to get something or not, you can check the notes people have made about what they want. For example, in my bookshop, I keep track of certain authors that people collect, or just that so-and-so likes books about ballerinas. Even if I don't find everything my followers are looking for, I tag them on things I think they will like in other people's shops and they really appreciate it. 
  • Giveaways. Instagram shoppers love a good giveaway, and it's a great chance to attract new followers. I generally center my giveaways around a specific holiday or when I'm reaching a milestone follower number. I usually team up with other shops for a giveaway to take full advantage of cross-promotion - it's like a S4S on steroids! I could write a whole separate post on the intricacies of giveaways (what works, what doesn't, how/who to collaborate with, how to count entries, how long to let your giveaway run, etc. etc.), but perhaps another time. I will, however, mention the loop giveaway, which is where multiple shops join together to do a giveaway and everyone who enters must follow all the shops in the loop. It's called a loop because once they've liked your photo promoting the giveaway, they can tap the photo to see what fellow-giveaway-shop you've tagged, go directly to that shop and like their promotion photo, and repeat until they've been directed back to your feed, thereby completing the giveaway loop (another thing that is easier seen than explained). 

Everyone asks me how I find such cool clothes for my boys. This is how! 

Conducting a Sale:
The following section is probably the most personalized of this whole process. Lots of IG shops are "outlets" for brick and mortar shops (aka, already well established and generally higher end) or Etsy shops. Some shops do periodic sales, in which they do a live succession of photos at a specific time (my shops run this way). Buyers will be watching your feed at the appointed time and claim items during or soon after your sale, while you are around to answer questions. Other shops simply post an item here and there on no specific schedule, or post photos of items that are cross listed on Etsy or Ebay. Still other shops post sporadically and then you contact them via a private email to inquire about pricing (I find that method stressful because I feel like I'm asking them to do a lot of extra work when I'm not at all sure that I'll be purchasing from them). Then there are shops that mainly sell vintage, and other shops that mainly sell modern gently used clothing that their kids have outgrown. While there is some crossover, the audiences for those two kinds of shops differ (as do kids shops vs. lady's shops - most of the brick and mortar outlet accounts are for ladies). With those distinctions in mind, here are some guidelines that I adhere to because I find them the most efficient and successful as a seller and as a buyer.

One other note about shops - sometimes there are multiple versions of one shop (I have a regular shop and a bookshop under similar names). Some categories of merchandise, like ephemera or books, can be overwhelming to post along with other items, due to sheer numbers (I usually post at least 30 books at a time, compared to 15 or so items of clothing per sale). I split my bookshop off from my regular shop about halfway through my first year, which was frustrating a first, but ultimately the right business move. If you don't do this, the people interested in clothing (the heartbeat of the shop community, in my opinion) start unfollowing you when you spam them with books. The book-buying community is smaller, but very loyal.
  • If you're selling clothes, measure your items with a measuring tape as well as providing rough modern size estimates. Vintage items often don't have tags, or don't have a size on the tag, or run smaller than modern sizes. The most common requested measurements are length (shoulder to lowest hem), STS (shoulder to saddle), and PTP (pit to pit). If you're selling non-clothing items, consider leaving part of your hand or a coin or something in the photo to provide scale. 
  • List your items in order of size (smallest to largest makes the most sense to me). I don't actually do this, but it's a good idea. Buyers who are looking for specific sizes don't have to wait through your entire post to see what appeals to them if they know that the size they're looking for is at the beginning or the end. 
  • Treat stains and prewash. I also very rarely do this because I'm by no means an expert on vintage fabric (many vintage items are too fragile to machine wash, and there are many methods of soaking, specific to different kinds of garments). I'm afraid that items will shrink or that I'll set stains or make colors bleed, and I'd rather sell items as-is and let the buyer fix things up to their liking. Because of this, I am upfront about the condition of items and take detailed photos of any flaws. 
  • Group your wares in themed posts. There's a lot of variance on this point among shops, but I quickly found that posting out-of-season clothing was not lucrative. Kids grow too quickly to buy clothing 6 months in advance! When I'm selling books or home decor, I like to group items by theme (like a "Rainy Day Sale" of activity books for kids, or a "Treat Yourself" Valentine's sale of jewelry and vintage fashion magazines for women) or category (such as vintage baby dress slips, or hardcover picture books). Personally, I think this tactic intensifies interest and intrigue. It does require some hoarding and long-range planning, however (both of which I'm good at ;)). 
  • I prefer to post one item for sale per photo. Some shops post photos with multiple items in a photo for sale (which means they don't have to post as many photos), but I think it ends up being counterproductive. If one item in the photo sells but not the other, then you have to specify that in the caption and continue updating it if more items sell, and it can be annoying for buyers to click on a photo thinking that some or all of it is for sale, and then find out that that may not be true. 
  • Promoting a sale vs. Flash Sales. I like to post a teaser image(s) of what I'm planning to sell in my next sale and promote it for a few days before the sale. This builds up excitement and concentrates your orders (more people will show up in real time to shop if they're prepared for it). It also gives buyers the chance to ask for a sale-specific tag, even if they're not on your master tag list. Flash sales, on the other hand, are unannounced, which I rarely do because you miss out on all the benefits that I just listed. As a buyer, flash sales can be fun (especially if you're getting notifications from a shop) because there's a lot less competition for items that might be in demand. 
  • Be as prepared as possible before doing a sale. I write down the captions (prices and any flaws on an item) for each photo/item before each sale, and I write them down in the order that I will post them. I also like to take my pictures in order so that I can retrieve them from my phone picture album in the order that I plan to post them. Having everything ready like that allows you to post all your items in a sale fairly quickly. Because sales are in real time, I don't want my customers to lose interest or be interrupted by something going on in their lives or homes - I want them to see as much as possible of what I'm posting, and if I have to come up with the caption, take the picture, and edit it in the middle of the sale, I run the risk of them having to move on to the next part of their day before I'm done. 
  • Specify any special buying instructions. Most of the time, the rule about claiming/buying an item on Instagram is first-come-first-serve, aka "fast fingers" - the first person to put down their email (you need an email to invoice via PayPal) or otherwise indicate that they wish to purchase wins the right to buy the item. For items that a lot of people want, you must specify beforehand (in the caption of the photo) if you're selling that item with a raffle or OBO (Or Best Offer). In a raffle, you set a price, and everyone who wants to buy it puts down their email. Then you select a winner at random, and they pay you the set price. OBO is more like Ebay - you set a time that the bidding will end and prospective buyers can outbid each other until the time runs up. The winner pays you whatever they bid. 
  • Specify shipping and handling fees. Shops either include shipping in the prices that they list, or add it later. Make sure you prominently display which method you decide to go with (in your policies and/or the info section at the top of your profile). I charge 50c per order to cover what PayPal charges me for using its services and add on exact shipping (by weight) in addition to the prices I list. I always provide people a shipping estimate upon request before they purchase an item. 
  • Sell unlisted items via DM (Direct Messages). This is related to the ISO lists that I covered in the "exposure" section. As I get to know what customers like, I will often sell directly to them via Instagram's private messages without ever publicly posting those items for sale. Particularly with books, I'm often DM-ing people pictures of the inside of books they're inquiring about, and I always ask, "is there anything else you like or are looking for?" Based on their answer, I often suggest books from the boxes that I haven't listed to sell yet and if they buy the books I pick for them, they get a sense of having found a hidden treasure, and I don't have to do the extra work of preparing and listing it to sell. A note about DMs: if you're sending or receiving a DM from someone you've never had a private conversation with before, the receiver must go into their DM inbox and accept your message request. I sometimes fail to see these requests, so make sure you tag that person in public to let them know you're about to send them a DM. 

The 80s never looked so good as they do on that lilac turtleneck. Swoon! I've also fallen in love with psychedelic prints, particularly by the designer Alex Coleman. 

Misc. Tips:
  • Pick a niche style, and stay true to it. I post a variety of items (modern and vintage books, modern and vintage kids clothing, vintage toys, ephemera, vintage home wares, etc.), but I stick to what I like rather than trying to appeal to the masses, and trust that buyers who like my eye will find me. I do buy some things for specific customers, but I don't, for example, sell Little Golden Books or Disney books because I don't like them. Even if I could make a few extra bucks by attracting customers who want those books, I don't have as good of a sense of what to buy in those categories because they don't interest me, and that tends to backfire in terms of profit anyway. 
  • Not all vintage is created equal. Some shops post a LOT of stuff - just about anything vintage. I, on the other hand, am a cautious buyer. I aim to resell most of what I buy, so I don't buy it if I'm on the fence about whether my customers will like it. I also don't want to have to list it and then continue discounting it until someone gives in and buys it for next to nothing. Vintage stuff isn't hard to find once you know what to look for, but some of it is outdated for good reason. 
  • Keep your feed short. Once I've shipped an item that has sold, I delete the photo of it (though I keep a photo on my computer). Buyers do not want to scroll through hundreds (or thousands!) of photos in your feed to see what you have available. The lower an item is on your feed, the less likely it will be seen and subsequently bought. If an item that I've posted hasn't sold after quite some time, I will often take it down and squeeze it in to another sale (perhaps with a new theme!) a few months later. Sometimes sellers do want to keep images posted of what they've sold so that you can get a sense of their eye for style, but if you go this route, I suggest that you at least make collages of "sold" photos and repost them as one new picture to help condense your feed. Some shops even open a separate account for the express purpose of archiving sold items. 
  • Instagram is NOT the place to list truly rare or valuable vintage. Instagram buyers are not the same community that buys from Ebay or even Etsy. People on Instagram expect lower prices - they're in it for the love less than the collectability of an item. Most of the buyers are also poor-ish moms doing this for fun or for spending cash. There's a high turnover for vintage kids clothing (a lot of dibbs-ing and sharing going on) so clothing, especially, sells much faster on Instagram than it does on Etsy, but again, for slightly lower prices. Even if you find an amazing item, no one on Instagram is going to pay you $200 for it. 
  • Lady's clothing is much harder to sell on Instagram. I think this is partly because women's vintage tends to be pricier than children's, but it's also a much finer science. Truly successful women's shops know a lot about vintage clothing history (and trust me, there is a LOT to know), travel frequently to acquire clothing from private estates, meticulously clean, mend, and style items, dress mannequins, take professional photos, etc. Prices tend to reflect all the work that goes in to it and the collectible nature of many of the pieces. It's also much more difficult to find women's vintage that fits a modern women well than it is to find well-fitting children's vintage, which is another reason why I suspect that it's difficult to half-assedly sell women's vintage. 
  • Get to know brands and vintage tags. When I first started this business, I was baffled by how people could tell when thrifting whether something was vintage or not. As it turns out, all you need is a little bit of time to get used it (seeing tons of vintage being sold by others certainly helps). You'll get to know a certain look that vintage tags have, especially the "information" tag you find under the brand tag (narrow and white, almost "papery", with plain black type). Unfortunately, lots of kids vintage no longer has tags, I suspect because some kid didn't like the feel of it on their neck. In that case, you learn to tell by the kinds of fabrics used (synthetic fabrics were much less common back in the day) and the general style. Some kid's vintage tags/brands to look out for are union tags (also in adult clothing), Cinderella, and HealthTex (there are so many more, but I'm blanking at the moment). Buyers love it if and when you can find a vintage piece you're selling in a vintage ad! Handmade clothing is also a good bet - they usually have no tags (or even evidence of one) and the inside seams are prominent - you'll also get to know the look of handmade after a while. As for modern clothing, Tea Collection, Baby Gap (especially certain lines or patterns), some Old Navy, and HandM sell well, among others. There are many higher end brands like Mini Rodini that people go crazy for, though that's a slightly different buying community and you'll probably never find those at a thrift or consignment store!. 
  • Learn the discount days at your area thrift stores, and follow estate sale businesses on facebook (to find out when and where they are and see photo previews of what's inside). If you're intro thrifting for fun, you probably already do this. In my area, the last day of an estate sale often has 50% off everything, even though it's generally picked over by then. I usually get their as early as possible for Estate Sales, but I definitely shop discount days at thrift stores so as to make as much profit as possible when I resell. 
  • Harness the power of the hash tag. Hashtags have two great advantages for shops - advertising and organizing. I use organization hash tags such as #3r_caldecott to note books I post that have won the Caldecott Medal (an award for children's illustration). The hashtag needs to be unique to you, but once you've tagged all the applicable books in your shop, your customers can easily click the hashtag and see all the books that have won the Caldecott. I also check out what hash tags are trending on IG and add them to any photos of mine that are applicable. Finally, I use hash tags in conjunction with giveaways or other shops when we do joint sales. That way shoppers can click a hashtag (such as #tbt_vintagesale) and see what multiple shops have posted under the same category. Again, this is a good way to get crossover traffic from other shops (just don't use a hash tag like that without permission). 
  • Screenshot everything. Not literally everything, but any time you're nervous about something (any arguments that erupt), or promise to do something for someone, or someone else promises to do something for you (you win credit in their shop, or they offer to give you free shipping because they goofed on your order), screenshot it so that you have proof later, if need be. In general, communicate with people as much as possible. If you don't let someone know that it's going to be a few days longer than usual before you can ship their items, for example, let them know sooner rather than later. Most people will just ask you if they're wondering where there stuff is, but sometimes people assume you're a scammer and report you to PayPal. This has never happened to me, but it does happen. If anyone accuses you of something fishy (that DID happen to me), make sure you report your own side of the story to PayPal as well so that you don't look like you're "running from the law". 
  • Transfer money from PayPal into your actual bank account. If you're like me, PP money will easily be spent shopping on IG if it sits in your PP account. To combat this, I transfer money into my actual bank account every time I hit about $100 in PP. I'll transfer $80 out and use the remaining $20 to buy things that I want and pay shipping costs for packages that people have just bought from me. 
  • Live thrifting. Live thrifting is where you let your followers know that you're headed to the thrift store and then you post pictures while you're at the store and buy anything that people claim. It's kind of fun, but ultimately not very profitable for me. I usually will just buy what I think will sell, but I occasionally livethrift items that are cool, but pricier than I would buy normally (I don't want to buy something I'm not sure I can make a profit off of and then have no one buy it). The one disadvantage is that you have to estimate shipping cost on the spot and then stick to your quote, even if you lowballed. It's also a good way to gauge interest if you're trying out some new ideas about merchandise and you're not sure what the response will be and therefore don't want to sink a bunch of money into it right off the bat. 
Packaging and Shipping:
  • Get thyself to Walmart and buy a postage scale. They cost about $20 and mine weighs anything up to 3lbs. When you ship through PayPal, you have to report the exact weight of your package (to the ounce), and then you pay the post office via PP, and print the unique-to-each-package paid shipping label from home. If your package weighs more than 3 pounds, you either have to borrow a bigger scale (or go have it weighed at the post office) OR if there are multiple items in the package, weigh them one at a time and then add it up on paper. That situation is only really applicable for books because you can't ship anything weighing more than a pound from home unless you're shipping with Media Mail (which only applies to books or other media). Also, the scale comes in handy when baking. ;) 
  • When shipping books, weigh before you tape/seal the package! I can't tell you how many times I've built some crazy paper bag parcel packaging for a stack of books, only to realize it's too heavy to weigh in one piece on my scale, have to cut open the package, and do it all over again. I had to tape a reminder to my desk to help me out with this one. BUT make sure you count the weight of the packing material too. 
  • Shipping rates can be really confusing. To start with, you have the option of which service to use. PayPal works with USPS, so I do too. Next, which service within USPS is right for your package? Media Mail? First Class? Priority Mail? I always want to make shipping as affordable as possible for my customers. Media Mail is the clear way to go for books unless you're shipping one paperback or something, in which case you can sometimes send it cheaper using First Class (under one pound). For an easy and thorough breakdown of rates for each type of mail, I rely heavily on this lady's wonderful post. I bookmarked it on both computers that I use and reference it constantly. For larger, non-book, non-clothing packages, flat rate mailers are almost always the best way to go. Flat rate envelopes and boxes come in several shapes and sizes and you can order them from USPS or pick them up at your local post office for FREE. You pay a flat rate to ship in them (starting at $5), regardless of weight. Well, I say flat rate, but it's actually a little bit of a cheaper flat rate if you ship from home using a flat rate package than if you use flat rates at the post office (yippee!). I use flat rate mailers for clothing sometimes, but often, I can fit clothing into a polymailer and still have the package weigh less than a pound (before the 1lb mark, First Class is a better deal than Flat Rate/Priority). 
  • Polymailers are basically plastic bags with a glue seal that you can order from Amazon in multiple sizes. I ship smaller books and objects in these and it's SO nice to have a ready made bag to ship in. For larger books or stacks of books, I usually end up building a package, which takes time. I build packaging out of paper grocery bags, bubble wrap (sometimes), and tape. I HARDCORE recycle packages that I receive when I buy books or other stuff or when family members get something from Amazon in nice (non-box) packaging. Don't even get me started on shipping vinyl records or large format magazines. AHHH. You can buy bubblewrap polymailers too, but they're kind of pricey.
  • You can estimate shipping for larger (or any) items by weight and dimensions using USPS's shipping calculator. Prices may vary depending on where in the US you're shipping to. Shipping in boxes is almost always a bust. The box needs to be big enough that you can affix a label to it, but boxes quickly become too heavy or too large to be efficient in terms of shipping cost. 
  • If you mail from the post office, make sure you get a tracking number (usually on your receipt) and a customs form if you're shipping overseas (I very rarely do). I think you might be able to get a customs form online, but I've never done it. Tracking is included automatically when you ship through PP.

World's best keyring holder, hilarious apron, fantastic quilt that gives me hope for learning to quilt myself, and a crazy cool gumball "machine" just like the one my husband's grandpa made! 

Paypal Details:
PayPal isn't too complicated, and you'll learn the ropes best with a little bit of practice and a little bit of checking it out on your own. There are options to refund customers when necessary (in full or in part), remind customers that they haven't paid their invoice yet, cancel an invoice for someone who hasn't paid and doesn't respond to your prompts, and even get your postage money back if you mess up a shipping label you've already paid for. Those things are all fairly intuitive, so here are the ones that you need to know right away or that might not be as obvious.
  • Invoicing. Congratulations, someone wants to buy your stuff! They'll most likely have claimed an item by commenting on your IG photo with an email address. Within your paypal account, you're going to want to go to Selling Tools - Manage Invoices - Create New Invoice. Just plop their email into the "bill to" section and plug in the item description and price for the item(s) they claimed. Don't forget to add shipping and any notes to the buyer that you may want to include. Hit send, and wait for that cash to roll in! ;) 
  • You can ship any packages from home without an invoice by going to This is perfect for when you need to ship personal packages (like a Christmas gift). 
  • To avoid PayPal fees, you can gift money instead of invoice. I don't like to do this because I think it's dishonest in most cases AND you don't end up with an itemized receipt like you do with an invoice. If you gift someone (or they gift you), they'll have to print a separate label (using /shipnow, above) and then there will be two half paper trails instead of one complete one like you'd have with an invoice. I often need to go back and check that I'm packaging the right items that someone paid for, or make other adjustments, and it's much harder to track those kinds of details without an invoice. 
  • Taxes. PP does require you to submit your Social Security number at some point for tax purposes, but I have yet to go through tax season since working this little business, so I'll have to update this later if it comes to anything. 
  • As I mentioned before, PayPal takes a small percentage off of every dollar you make with their help. Some people just work that fee into their prices, but others (including myself) add up to $1 to each invoice to help absorb that expense (I charge 50c - sometimes that's more than PP is taking off that invoice, sometimes its less).
If you have a shop and just read this (bravo!), did I miss anything important? Do you disagree with anything? If this is your first introduction to selling on IG, is there anything that you still have questions about or are confused about? I'd love to know so that I can fine-tune this guide to be as useful as possible. I hope this is the beginning of something exciting (and profitable!) for you. I love this "job" and I think you will too!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Evolution of a Wedding Dress

I'm forever grateful not to be planning my own wedding anymore, but I never tire of building weddings in my head. I never found The One, in terms of my wedding dress, though I had been dreaming of wedding dresses since I was quite young. My fourth anniversary with Jonas is coming right up, so I thought I'd do a little wedding-themed post and chose to look back on some of my dream dresses from various periods in my life. You'll find a lot of links sprinkled throughout that you can follow to see second-tier favorites or dresses that inspired me along the way.

The first dress I fell in love with was from Reem Acra's Spring 2006 collection. They even made a Barbie with this dress! I have the oldschool paper-copy ad saved and everything! The only detail I'm not crazy about (then or now) is those swirls on the front of the skirt.

I didn't start really looking at dresses again until I was engaged, and I settled on this dress by the Spanish design house Pronovias (2011). This dress went perfectly with the wedding theme I was planning for my real wedding, but the whole thing became too stressful and I called off the wedding (not the marriage). I decided I just wanted to go to the courthouse instead, but as it happens, our county courthouse in Santa Barbara is incredibly beautiful and my mom talked me back in to having a very small wedding. The only available size left in the US was a 14, and it was in New York, so that wasn't very practical.

I never found anything I liked in Bridal shops (I'm a professional pain in the butt), so I decided to build my own dress through a service in China. To keep cost and confusion down, I chose something really simple. I wanted to wear pants or something colorful that would show my personality or at least show off my legs (just being truthful...) but that was a little too wild for some of my immediate family (and fiance), so I decided on a sheer-skirted dress, which was very fashion forward at the beginning of 2012. ;) The image I worked off of was this 1999 Vogue editorial - the dress is Chanel.

The whole dress cost me $180 (including international shipping) plus about $50 in alterations.  It still didn't fit in the bodice after alterations and it was almost impossible to sit down in. I actually requested that the netting have swiss dots, but that wasn't an available fabric. I also changed the neckline to make it less 90s. I wish I'd splurged a bit on the quality of the dress and got some beading  or something other than mosquito netting. I loved the look of my cape-train, but again, it was the absolute cheapest sari I could find. Here's me in my custom wedding dress.

If I had to pick today, I might wear this ensemble, by Amsale (I love every dress in this spread, a true rarity!). I'm going to call 2016 as the year that Bridal HATS make a comeback. So Bianca Jagger, amiright?!

But more practically, I would wear vintage (one of a kind and generally cheaper!). I think Shop Gossamer has incredible dresses, including ones you can rent. Edwardian (1910s), 60s and 70s are my favorite vintage eras. I think I would strongly consider a dress with floral elements as well.

You can see all the bridal looks that I'm fond of on my Pinterest board Best Dressed Bride.

I'm not as attached to my wedding dress as I used to be - and I wasn't all that attached to begin with - but I still have it and I wonder about whether I should upcycle it or try and alter it again so that it will fit my post-baby hips. It would make a fun outfit for a special anniversary!

What kind of dress did you wear? Would you wear something different if you had to choose again? Where is your wedding dress now?

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 5

Friday, January 8, 2016

How to Win Arguments and Influence People

Hello, election year. I hope you're lovely, but I bet you'll be ugly.

I've been thinking about the way I talk with people about politics, as well as some situations in which I've been hurt by the way people have talked to me. I also just read two articles that had some excellent information about how to present information to a potential "opponent", so I've decided to mash it all up into a post that I hope you will find both insightful and helpful. I think we will all need an extra dose of kindness and patience this election cycle.

"How to 'win' arguments" might be a little misleading. I'm not sure anyone has ever said to me, "hey, you know what? you're right, you win", though I am proud to say that I've been the one to say that once or twice. In fact, when I put one of my previous "soapbox" posts through an analyzer, I was informed that I "can be perceived as critical" (and also that I'm "unlikely to buy healthy foods", lolzzz). This is an unfortunate side-affect of being an extremely honest person and also being right all the time (joking, joking). 

As much as I would love to win an argument once in a while, I don't expect to change people's minds. Especially Jehovah's Witnesses, those are some tough nuts to crack!  

I want to be challenging, not belittling. As E.B. White put it, "the role of a writer is to lift people up, not lower them down" (source). In my own writing and speaking (and when I take in that of others), I find that making an issue black and white is a blind and lazy practice, often reducing another person to their set of political beliefs. It's quite easy to tell someone else that they are wrong or to reiterate my carefully crafted stance. Yet as a consumer of ideas, nothing turns me off more than being called an idiot by association to my political camp. When people take that tone with me, I a) lose respect for them, and b) think to myself, "you don't know me, and you don't care to". 

What's difficult and stretching is to open yourself up to the possibility that you could be wrong about some things and to present your views in such a way that allows other people to put down their shields and at least consider that there is room to tweak their beliefs. 

Sometimes, after someone has taken the time and effort to explain their point of view to me calmly and thoughtfully,  I still disagree with them. But other times, I am brave enough to change my mind. Of course I can't find the reference anymore, but my mom once showed me a quote, "All women, and some great men, change their minds." To adjust your beliefs when given new information is logical, not shameful. There's a word for people who refuse to change in the face of new evidence: pig-headed. 

Most of the time, we stick to the beliefs we already had going into a conversation. But if I'm open to the possibility for change or I  respect the person I'm talking with, I at least come away from a conversation with a better understanding of how the other person's life and experiences and beliefs have led them to the stance they hold. 

The one situation where I feel this mindset breaking down for me is when I think that the other person is simply parroting what their parents/friends/pastor/professor/preferred blogger has said without really thinking about whether they believe what they're hearing or why. I'm guilty of not fully understanding some of the things I repeat sometimes, and because of that, I will be the first to admit that I don't know much about some topics or headlines when people challenge me on them. 

There are some issues about which I feel so strongly that I DO think that anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. But my dad pointed out that the beauty of unique giftings (and in a way, democracy too) is that while I vehemently believe that an open immigration policy is the right reaction to the Syrian war, someone else may believe that military involvement is the key to peace. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and only by people of both opinions pursuing their version of what is right can some combination of probably-both-needed approaches be reached. It may drive us crazy to be challenged by people "getting in our way", but checks and balances, both political and relational, are what keep crazy people or ideas from gaining all the power. Mr. Trump can only do so much damage if the rest of us continue to oppose him. 

When I'm open to LISTENING to other people, sometimes I hear an idea that had never occurred to me that I can test against my core assumptions. For example, I'm a pretty firm believer that the modern political nation of Israel has little to do with the Biblical nation of Israel. Based off that belief, I don't think that modern Israelis have any "right" to the land they're on any more than the  Palestinians do, in part because that land only became modern-day Israel because Europeans carved it up that way post-WWII . 

My sister Annelise believes differently and suggested that maybe God still does have a special nation of Israel and that He used the colonialist aftermath of WWII to make a place for the Israelites, much as He used pagan Biblical nations to shape the Biblical group of Israelites.  I still don't agree with that (I think God's nation of Israel is global, much like what we call the Church, if they are not indeed one and the same), but the idea did get me to concede a possibility that falls outside of a pretty firmly held belief.  

I'm sure that my respect and my affection for my sister had something to do with my willingness to consider something that contradicted my general belief system, but I also take note anytime I hear myself saying, "that never occurred to me before!" There is such a thing as you or I not knowing everything

Now, if I could only have that affect on other people more often... 

One of the articles I was reading had some concrete tactics for how to debunk false information. I think it applies to voicing your opinions publicly, too. 

1. "One way to get around the tendency to retain false information is to tell people not just that something is false, but tell them what is true". 

2. Give the person you're challenging an opportunity to self-affirm their beliefs ahead of time. "Affirm that they’re not idiots, that they're not dumb, that they’re not crazy — [so] that they don't feel attacked. And then try to present the information in a way that’s less conflicting with [their] worldview." In other words, ""please tell me it matters how I feel."

3. "Deliver information by way of a messenger who is consummate with your beliefs". In plain English, "get a liberal to talk to liberals and a conservative to talk to conservatives".

4. Cite the majority: "In general, people are very sensitive to what they perceive to be the majority opinion around them. For example, 97 out of 100 scientists agree on the basic notion of global warming". I do want to note here that if you're wired like I am, being told what the majority thinks may actually push your listener further in to his/her firmly held 3% strong opinion. 

A few extra tools:

I read about another concept I'd never heard about called, "Calling In". It's the gentler twin of "calling out", as in "to call someone out" on something. I'd also never read a live-tweet discussion/transcript, and found the format a little bit cumbersome, so I've just pulled sentences out that I found helpful (there is a lot of great stuff in this discussion, you should read the whole thing if you get a chance!). 

"Calling Out has its place: Against unrelenting repeat offenders. Against malicious opponents. Against real enemies. But when an offense, violence, or ignorance is committed by someone in our communities, someone we call a friend or wish we did, someone who is invested in their allyship, Calling In may be more appropriate....Calling In is also appropriate with an ignorant stranger, with an unknowing other, with anyone who might care to do better."

Calling In, in my own words: if you don't have something nice to say... at least say it gently. 

We generally have three layers of interaction with others: comfort ---> learning/stretching ---> panic. (source)

"Stretch Zone is the only place that learning happens. Here, we are engaged and curious, integrating information and sharing ourselves. Panic Zone is where we are so uncomfortable that we are disengaged, and just trying to survive. Fight and flight, freeze and blame all live here. Calling Out lives here. Indignation lives here. Distancing and demonizing lives here."

I want my political conversations to put both me and the person I'm talking to in the learning zone. I'm CALLING OUT Mr. Trump, but I want to Call In my friends and family who may sympathize with some of his ideas or feel the fears that he is playing on. There are many things to be afraid of in our world, but there is also a lot of misinformation that compounds that fear. 

This paragraph really stuck out to me the other day. I don't find it true of many that I know personally, but I have recoiled at the general reaction of much of our nation in the face of the slightest "threat", and I do use those quotation marks with the utmost seriousness. "I smell fear among Christians in America. Why do I say it’s fear? Because fear breeds irrationality. Fear doesn’t listen to facts. Fear looks to others to justify itself. Fear sees conspiracies in every corner. Fear gets caught up in group-think which, in our saner moments, we would scratch our heads at and wonder how we sold our thoughts in the slave market of sheep herders." (source)

{back to quoting from here] "It's gotta be OK to admit that systemic injustices wear us down, and that we have to do vindictive, vicious things in retaliation sometimes. But it's gotta stop being OK to pretend that it's the be-all and end-all of activism. That that is resolution. Or healing. Or making real change."

Sometimes, realizing that I might be wrong puts me into the panic zone. Not because I hate being wrong (not that I love it), but because when that shift happens in a conversation, I become overwhelmed with how this new information I'm considering is going to affect the way my beliefs are constructed. I envision my thoughts and beliefs as being a structure made of toothpicks. If one is removed, how much damage will it do to the main building? If many are moved or replaced or rearranged, will the entire direction or shape of the building change? How does that affect who I am and what my life looks like? That transition makes me panic until I'm able to stabilize my toothpicks.

Somewhat related, how I react to being wrong or being in the learning-verging-on-panic zone depends on who I am learning from. I'm much less likely to learn from an arrogant, ignorant person, though it does happen - sometimes those kinds of people trigger a realization for me, rather than me learning from whatever "information" they're trying to force-feed me with. Sometimes it is too shameful for me to show that I'm learning from an bigot. Being in my panic zone forces me to analyze why I'm there, and that sends me back into the learning zone, but I can't admit that I'm in the learning zone because the teacher is so odious.  

"The size of our Stretch Zone, and our ability to get back into it, change all the time. They depend on the day, on who's involved, on the issue, on everything. Already on a good day, it's not easy. "

"Strategies to go from panic to stretch: journaling, deep breathing, looking at options & choosing less triggering things, identify and accept that you are in the panic zone, have a person to help you be self-aware. It can also really help to move around briskly, to get into your body, take some space and ground yourself. It can help to talk to someone who loves you, to sing, to cry, to quiet yourself." 

One of my new tactics is just to chant "learning zone! learning zone!" when I start feeling panicky about what someone is saying. Just tonight, we had some dinner guests who I was meeting for the first time, who are much older than I am (they start off with a higher level of respect), and I was unsure of their politics (though I can guess). At one point, I very respectfully mentioned how unAmerican I find Mr. Trump to be, and one of our guests began to explain to me the perspective that he thinks Trump is coming from, and how it feeds off of a basic economic fear in America right now that many of us have - a sense that we are unable to keep our personal/family well-being afloat in terms of opportunity or security (no matter the threat). I can identify with feeling powerless, and although that pushes me in a different direction than Trump's politics, I chanted "learning zone!" to myself and I truly appreciated that perspective and the opportunity to sympathize with some Americans that I have a very hard time loving. 

As I was mulling this post over in my head, it came to me. The Golden Rule. This whole essay could probably just have been a status message: speak to others the way you want to be spoken to. As I type this right now, I'm feeling pretty calm and optimistic. I've changed my perspective several times recently and I remain in one piece. I'm still able to be confident about what I believe in, but I'm also more able to hear people who don't agree with me, and therefore, I am more able to see them as being of worth and then treat them with love and fairness. 

I think that it's likely that the political scene in America will explode before it resolves peacefully, but I hope to be here when that happens and in the aftermath, reaching out to everyone who is scared and confused - myself included - and Calling In that we can build something better. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 In Review & 2016 Goals

If I had to choose one word that summed up how I felt about 2015, it would be "content", which is a pretty huge deal for me. We've been living with my parents for well over a year now, and it can be hard at times, but it's also an enormous blessing in our lives. Ultimately, I've learned to be so grateful for what I'm given each and every day, and not worry about not knowing what may happen down the road. I admitted to being poor, and then did a relatively good job at not letting money (or lack there of) control me. 

Despite being somewhat in limbo, we made good progress in figuring out what me might want to do and where we might want to go and then making some concrete steps in those directions. I also sense that I'm starting to solidify as an adult. I want to write more about this later, but there are aspects about that process that I like, and then some that I don't like. I've become more open, and in some cases more staunch, about both my spiritual and political beliefs, and I've even dared to let those two become entwined, and often in public. I'm also less embarrassed about that being unpopular. 

Even though I'm bidding 2016 goodbye feeling good, there were some really terrible and/or stressful times in 2016 too. It was a very bloody year the world over, and that weighs on me, even as it has driven me to make important actionable changes in my life. It was also a devastating year for several of my closest friends, and I struggle with how to adequately share such great burdens. 

In my personal life, I realized that I was almost certainly dealing with postpartum depression. I wasn't feeling sad so much as indifferent or angry (which is less of a textbook manifestation, and therefore not one I was on the lookout for) and only once I was out of the woods in that regard (at least a year after giving birth to Ira) did I notice what a toll it had taken on me and on my marriage. Especially taking that into account, I feel content with the size of my family as it is, and surprised at how I only feel more certain of that as time goes on. {image}

Hand in hand with having PPD behind me, I've felt that I've come alive again, enjoying my work selling vintage items and books (@retroriot/@retroriotreads) immensely and all the knowledge I've gained through that experience. It's also allowed me to be a part of a new-to-me community that I've greatly appreciated. With the shops and other things as well, I feel like I'm succeeding at something again, which makes me less anxious to set goals for myself, which in the past have sometimes been a way for me to convince myself that I wasn't flailing around in life, doing nothing and going nowhere. 

Still, I remain a believer in lists and the idea that goals are more likely to be met if you set them. 
Here is a look at my goals from last year and some ideas for things I would like to start on in 2016. 

2015 goal assessment:

  • Earn the Pampered Chef incentive trip to the Bahamas. (nopeee, and I have not missed that job since quitting in February, even though I'm glad I gave it a try) 
  • Complete at least 3 more classes at APUS. 
  • Make progress with Jonas's school/our future situation. 
  • Build up a nest egg - have more in the bank at this time next year than we do now.  (I think we do have a little bit more, despite two cars dying and an unplanned international trip) 
  • Not let other's opinions be my standard - not that I don't care about other people's opinion at all, but not let my goals be molded to their goals for me. 
  • Focus on being a good listener. (needs more work) 
  • Yoga 1x/week. (I did a little bit, but far from once a week)
  • Visit a museum I've never been to before.
  • Have friends over for dinner once a month. (epic, epic fail) 
  • Cook something I've never cooked before from a hard-copy cookbook, once a month. (I didn't hit once a month, but I did do one or two recipes from a book)
2016 goals:
  • Begin collecting art
  • Begin investing money beyond my 401K/IRA
  • Submit writing to a publication I haven't submitted to before
  • Read the Koran, at least in part, as well as read the Bible 
  • Become involved in my local Muslim community 
  • Visit the CRM plant in San Diego
  • Jonas apply to Otis
  • Figure out when/how to get Ishmael started in school
  • Have $10k in the bank by Jan 2017
And in very brief, non-exclusive form...

Best of 2015:

  • Tasted: Chai Lemonade, Mian Pian, Summer Spaghetti Salad, Goshi Sushi (SLO), Imperial bar (Goleta), Industrial Easts (Buelton), 85C Bakery (LA area) 
  • Watched: Peaky Blinders, Big Hero 6
  • Read: The New Bohemians (Justina Blakeny), Fire in the Blood (Irene Nemrikovsky), and many, many fantastic articles which I made an effort to make time for this year
  • Heard [will remind me of 2015]: TV on the Radio's album "Seeds", Japanese House, Lianne Le Havas' album "Blood", Melody Gardot 
  • Browsed: Messy Nessy Chic, Hither & Thither, Vox
  • Experienced: Road trip to Oregon to visit Jonas' brother and his family, got to meet some dear friends from online high school in person for the first time, was honored to be in two weddings - my sister Annelise's and my childhood friend Danielle's, spent Christmas in CO while Jonas went to Japan to be in his long-time friend Chris' wedding 
Happy new year, friends! If I sent out holiday cards, this would probably be the family picture you'd get. 

Sometimes my impulse is to wish people a "great" or "wonderful" year, and I do wish that, but more than that, I wish for each of you that when the disappointment and hurt comes, that it will shape you to be stronger, wiser, and more aware of how precious you are to our great God and to those who love you.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Instagrammies 12/15

I'm stunned that it was FEBRUARY last time I did an IG account roundup! Since opening my IG shop @retroriot/@retroriotreads in January, I guess I've spent most of my time on there, missing out on my "pretty" feed. But I still follow lots of amazing accounts as I come upon them! Here are some recent-ish favorites. You can find previous roundups under the tag "Best In Show" in the sidebar to the right.

1. ShopGossamer. I found this account as I dove into the world of vintage on IG, but I think the eye candy here will appeal to many. Had I known about this shop 5 years ago, I probably would have bought my wedding dress here.

2. OurOpenRoad chronicles the travels of a family with two little girls, who live in their van and trek all around South America. A different life style for sure, but pretty neat!

3. I follow a lot of florists, and VictoryBlooms' dreamy close ups are some of my favorites.

4. Anna.Rastorgueva does fun copic marker drawings in her art journal. Jonas uses copic markers, so I enjoy seeing all the ways that other artists utilize them.

5. I can't get TylerThrasherArt out of my head. It's so incredible, and I'm determined to acquire one of his creations someday. He grows crystals on skulls and creatures, and the result is mesmerizing.

6. Dream house alert under #thisantiguahouse (@luna_zorro)! Her whole feed is a tropical paradise wonderland. Seriously, I'm dying over her house in every way.

7. Katherine_Sabbath's personal style is on point, and her confections literally make me tear up a little bit. And I know how to use the word "literally".

8. I like some of OanaBefort's pieces more than others, but her floral alphabet is gorgeous.

9. WrightKitchen is an account where I can't possibly choose one favorite photo. I gawk over every single one. What is it about rainbow produce that is so alluring?

10. Desserted_in_Paris. I love a clever name, a good theme, and a better-than-usual take on the "places my feet go" trend. Also, NOM NOM NOM. Here was my runner up photo.

What Instagram feeds have blown you away recently? 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

November 2015

I seem to have a very selective long-term memory (and I don't feel that I'm in control of what I remember), which makes me anal about trying to record things - pictures, moments, funny sentences, feelings, etc. Still, I have not found myself very motivated to do these monthly reviews. I've already modified them to be less rigid, but I hope I can modify them again to make them both interesting to write and properly archival. I've been thinking about my annual year-end post too, which I am looking forward to because I'm sure I'll be reminded of some things I'd already forgotten, but as I was thinking of my dedication to goals over the past few years and my lack-there-of this year, I realized that the more content and fulfilled I feel with where I am right now, the less pressure I put on myself to be doing more or better in my life, and that's a good thing!

Miraculously, I finished a hard-copy book! I've been making a point of reading more articles, but a book is a whole other level of commitment. The book was Katherine Boo's "Behind the Beautiful Forevers", about a community of slum dwellers in India. I wish that the afterward had been the forward, because I was very confused by what was happening in the book for almost the entire time I read it. Never the less, it was an interesting, in depth (not pandering) look at extreme poverty. It was startling to read how inconsequential life and death seemed when surroundings were so brutal, but I did appreciate the humanity (both the good and the bad) Boo showed through her reporting (it's non-fiction) on a group of people who are usually just pitied and/or ignored.

I didn't watch or eat anything mind-blowing in November, but there was SO much good music (in the moments between listening to Adele)! New music from Grimes, LP, the Japanese House, Sia and maybe-new-maybe-not stuff from Salt Cathedral, Highasakite, Kurt Vile, Gillian Welch, Vaults, KING, Dawn Golden, Lapsley, Labrinth and Alabama Shakes. Listen to all my favorite picks here.

I finally felt that my bookshop (@retroriotreads) was back in full force in November, after having split it off from my main vintage shop (@retroriot) and having to rebuild my customer base. The shops keep me moderately busy, make a bit of income, and provide me with experience and a sense of "doing something" that I greatly enjoy and need.

I've also been taking my writing a little more seriously and have been pitching essays here and there to different publications and websites. I enjoy it - especially the community of writers that are my support group - but I'm also trying to gain confidence about putting myself out there as any sort of "professional". I'm very nervous about being rejected if I really put a lot of effort in to it. I worry that what I have to say is redundant, and probably not as well worded as people who write for a living.

Since I am taking the boys to Colorado for Christmas with my family, we decided to spend Thanksgiving exclusively with Jonas' side of the family. We enjoyed it a lot, and I cooked the main meat course as well as a soup and a side. I really enjoyed getting to play a larger role in planning and helping, but it wasn't so much responsibility that I was unable to enjoy the holiday (even though I did have a stress dream about it the night before!). We also got to spend a fun meal outside with our church family.

The day after Thanksgiving, I went down to LA with my family and we hit up a bunch of sites (the Griffith Observatory, the Palm Thai restaurant, the MOCA) and we played this horrible game where you have to eat jellybeans with yucky flavors. I almost won the cash jackpot, which may have made it worth it, but never again! I spent an extra day driving around Christmas and inventory shopping and had dinner with some old China friends who I haven't seen in almost a decade! It was a very special evening, and I'm THANKFUL to live near a major international hub-city.

In less exciting news, but a point that feels defining recently, is back pain. I've started doing yoga every other day or so (a specific back routine) and I try and limit how often I carry the boys in my arms while standing, but I dread the thought of this being some kind of new normal or the fact that it is too painful for me to try and reverse years of bad posture.

You probably want to hear about the boys, which is a big reason I try and keep consistent "journaling" going. I failed to take down specific notes during the month, but my general impression of them lately is as such: Ishmael's hair is getting long (hopefully finally past the horrible in-between stage), and his head seems very large to me. He is getting pretty emphatic about choosing his own clothes and he can put full and proper sentences together. He loves to sing and jam on his guitars (including imitations of screeching electric guitars) and is generally doing a much better job of sharing and listening than he has been over the past several months. Ira is as cute as ever, but he is incredibly strong-willed and disobedient. His favorite word is "no", which he says with his lips poked out like a fish. He's getting good at drinking out of a lid-less cup, and generally refuses to eat meat. He "reads" out loud to himself and occasionally babbles a "sentence" and waits for you to respond. He loves to push around a doll stroller and.

In November, a few of my favorite things were drinking martinellis, cooking with cranberries, gawking at vintage jewelry at the Griffith Observatory, and belly laughing with my bff over funny Instagram pictures.

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