Handling Change with Grace

Today my second post is up on The Wild Revival blog!! I was so excited (and a little scared) to share about a topic that I really am not entirely qualified to talk about: change.  I know it well, but the handling it well part is fairly new.  But I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I’ve mastered it! Ha! I also just finished reading Kristen Strong’s new book, Girl Meets Change, which gave me some great insight on this very topic and did so much for my change-fearing heart! Head on over to The Wild Revival and check out my best advice for handling change with grace!

Thank you so much to Marrissa and Amanda, the girls over at The Wild Revival, for letting me join in your conversation! I’m so happy to be a part of what you’re doing for the kingdom!




Joining The Wild Revival

During the month of February I will be guest posting over on The Wild Revival Blog! I am so excited to join these ladies who have such a heart for building community and reaching out to women and meet them where they are in every season of life! I am going to be talking about grace and how much it impacts the little everyday things AND the big life- changing things!  Hop on over to their blog to check out my first post!! It’s kind of like a fast track “get to know me” post! I can’t wait to connect with more of you! Leave a few comments on their blog and we’ll get the conversation started!




The Craft of Cooking

I can’t cook worth a darn.  Just last night I attempted potato soup for the first time and after finishing, Josh so nicely said, “This was good but it seemed more like a casserole. Hmm?”  Yeah, I know babe, you’re not supposed to have to use a fork and chew up your SOUP.  Somehow it got super thick and turned into loaded potato casserole. Ugh. Kitchen- 143247983 Dana- 5. (I’ll be kind to myself.) After his comment we also joked about a moment at the very beginning of our marriage when I broke down crying in the grocery store and then again in our kitchen on the floor because I couldn’t find anything in the store, forgot half of the ingredients I needed for meals, and then realized I bought 5 boxes of cream cheese, 100% believing it was sour cream.  Josh told me I’d laugh about it someday, as the tears were streaming down my face about how I’ll never be a good wife or mother.  Three years later, I’m getting there.2016-01-20 18.22.32

I swear I’m not totally incompetent.  I know the difference between cream cheese and sour cream.  I just got so overwhelmed in that moment.  I panic about things that have to do with the kitchen.  How much food? How long? How do you prepare 2 things that both need the oven and 5 things that need the stove without using the microwave that’s going to give all my family and guests cancer.  Deep breath! Phew.  And too bad about the microwave people.  It’s my lifeline.  I cooked spaghetti on Monday and you would have thought the Duggar’s were coming over.  How the heck are you supposed to measure how much spaghetti to make?!??! I think we have 3 lbs of LEFTOVER noodles.

2016-01-20 18.22.29When meal planning, I prefer 10 or less ingredients and lots of pictures.  Case in point, why Pinterest is my favorite “cookbook.” When I was out on my own, yes I grocery shopped, but mostly for the same 5 things: granola bars of some sort, cereal, milk, cheese sticks, and a fruit option.  I think I covered all the main food groups there.  I’m a carb-oholic so sometimes I’d add bagels, crackers, and bread for grilled cheeses in there for kicks. Money was tight, people! And when you’re only one person with a busy schedule, it was always just easier and sometimes healthier to eat out. Not (always) fast food, but yes sometimes fast food. I know you feel me with the Chic-fil-a. Can I get an amen!?

This brings me to now, when I have a family to feed and a home to serve food in. No, I still don’t like to make dinner. But I do like to have people over and have them eat, talk, and relax in our home.  I love the smell of something cooking that you’ll share with others that will be coming over hungry, the candles burning that you light right before they arrive.  I love attempting pies and cobblers.  (Secretly someday I may have an interest in baking.) I love refilling cups and the dirty kitchen that’s stacked with empty plates.

Our little rental is small.  Not like smallllllll small but there’s basically only one room for people to congregate in.  Our table is a tiny square with 3 chairs and most of the time it’s covered in wood boards and paint. When people come over we end up eating on the couch the majority of the time.  Sometimes I wish it could be more formal, maybe not formal, but definitely more normal.  That I could have a table for people to gather around, that I could work on beautiful centerpieces and place settings and add special touches for them to notice when they take a seat.  But thennnn I get off Pinterest because I’m sidetracked and it’s the thief of joy for me (sometimes).

I’ve realized its not about the complexity of my table and my space or the craft of cooking for me. It’s about the community I’m serving.  It’s about the relationships.  This is something I am just now beginning to learn about myself. I always thought being in isolation was what I preferred.  I think as an only child, it comes naturally.  But really that’s not me at all. Satan says, “Be alone Dana. You can’t cook. Or make friends.”  See now I don’t prefer the small talk or surface chatting that comes with the daily grind of meeting and greeting.  I’m horrible at it.  I’m like stick-your-foot-in-your-mouth awkward.  I could write a book with the lines I’ve used during awkward silences.  WHYYY DO THEY EXIST?!? Music should come on or something when that happens. Seriously!

2016-01-20 18.21.47BUT the real, honest, hilarious, life long friendships, those are what I’m made for.  I love my people. The people I’ve clung to in every stage of life that are still there now.  I love when you meet someone that you instantly click with that you know can be in your tribe for life.  When they actually love eating on your couch more than at the table because then we can be all together, under blankets.  The friends that know where the blankets are and just get them, and if I don’t refill their drink, they do it themselves.  Mmmm I just love it.  Friends that know cooking scares me so they pitch in and we tackle it together.  Friends that sleep on your couch because you don’t always have to be filling the silences.  AMEN!! THANK YOU  BABY JESUS!!!

2016-01-20 18.21.32Thinking about leaving our WV people makes my heart hurt.  The same way my heart hurt when I had to leave my Pittsburgh people.  But I take comfort in the fact that even though I left them, they are still my people, because the relationships were built for any storm or circumstance.  What is built around our tables, couches, porches, or floors, isn’t about the food. Because *most* people don’t remember how bad or good my food was. But they do remember how they felt at home when we were all together.  My people are funny people.  We laugh so hard.  We give each other a hard time but we love each other harder.


So maybe it’s not so much about the craft of cooking but the craft of creating community for me.  And for those of you that can do the cooking part too… can I come over??






*photos were found on Pinterest*

18 months.

18 months.  That’s the number of months left of Josh’s residency.

While dwelling on this number for the past few weeks, I started to realize how much my life has revolved around numbers, or the amount of time left before (blank).  For me it’s always kind of been like: Well in 6 months when I leave for college, I’ll start really figuring out who I am… Once I graduate from college I’ll have an idea of how real life will look and I’ll start living intentionally… Once I find “the one,” I’ll find my worth…  When we get married, life will begin to be easier…  Once we have kids, I’ll find more fulfillment… and most recently… Once residency is over in 18 months, life can really begin.

All of these thoughts have turned into MAJOR life lessons for me and I’ve grown so much along the way.

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I didn’t really figure out who I was in college like most people. I’m just beginning to do that now. At 28 years old.  I didn’t really start living intentionally after graduation and I don’t think I really even understood what that means until now.  With God’s graciousness and provision, He placed a lot of people in my life that interceded and really taught me about my worth and how to see myself through God’s eyes and not the world’s.  And about how I don’t need a man to validate my worth.  AND that I needed to find my happiness and worth in Him before He could bring me “the one.”  But when He did bring Josh to me, it couldn’t have been any sweeter.  Getting married and moving away from family and friends BLEW. MY. MIND. way more than I ever though it would.  I cannot express that enough.  Life began alright, but not in the way I fantasized about in my head.  Oh Boy! Thank you Lord for leading us through that first year! When I had Rowan I did feel this amazing sense of fulfillment but it was not in the ways I imagined. My buddy changed my life for the better and added so much joy to our lives but those empty spaces that you think will be filled, will not.  And now here we are 18 months away from another “life changing anticipated moment” that I’ve built up in my head like the others.  I know it’s not going to be this big, “WOOHOOOO!! We are so fulfilled now that Josh has a semi normal life and we can afford takeout dinner without me crying about blowing the budget!!!!!” moment that I’m imagining.

Throughout the years, I’ve missed a lot of right now moments because of my frame of mind. The act of me anticipating and waiting for those next steps has left me spending my “right nows” worrying, planning, control freaking (that’s a thing, right?!), and placing little trust in God for my future and the future of my little family.

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Yesterday’s entry in my “Savor” devotional by Shauna Niequist talked about this very topic and God used it to kind of slap me in the face about my “living for what’s next” attitude.  She talks about how when we are constantly waiting for what’s next, we end up on the sidelines of our own lives.  I have all of these big dreams and goals and I’ve convinced myself I can’t do any of them until after residency or after kids.  But I’ve also told myself a lie, that if I don’t complete some of them by 30 years old then I’ve failed miserably.  WHY DO I ALWAYS LIE TO MYSELF?????? This is what Shauna says about waiting for life to start. “I believe there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day.  There may be a thousand tiny moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered like tiny flecks of gold.  The big moments are the tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another. The big moments are in every conversation, every meal, every meeting.”

2016-01-12 20.05.22We shouldn’t wait for the best version of ourselves or our lives to show up in order for us to show up.  It’s like I need a new chapter of life to change my frame of mind but I know that’s just another lie.  I battle the thoughts telling me that where I am in life presently, is not enough.  But I don’t want that to always be the case. I want to be present with our friends here in WV, present with Rowan while he’s my only baby to focus on (no, I’m not pregnant!), present with the community at our new church, present during these times of pinching every single penny to make ends meet. Josh says I’m going to look back and see this time as the best time of our lives.  So because of that, I want to savor the moments we have left.  It’s ok to dream about what life will be like and what we will accomplish in our next chapter but that doesn’t give me an excuse to miss the one were in.

I challenge you to join me in not missing the moments that are happening right now around us.  As a mom and wife this can be hard but it will be so worth it! Let’s look at Christ, not ahead to what’s next. WE can do this!

And a final sidenote- The “Savor” devo is awesome! I’ve been going through it since this past summer and God has really used it to speak into my life! You can get your own here! It doubles as a cookbook with some recipes that sound AHH-mazing! BUT since I’m scared of the kitchen, I haven’t tried any yet. This hot mess can only tackle one thing at a time and the cooking fear is like 435438th on the list. Why don’t you try them and let me know how it goes!!!




A Year of Grace

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Yesterday I had a small panic attack when I saw that pretty much everyone on my Instagram and Facebook feeds had posted their resolutions, words of the year, blog posts, or new signs/merchandise.  I was no where near ready to post any of that.  I was still in rest and recovery mode.  We had a GREAT Christmas break and I did zero painting and zero worrying. It was awesome! One of my best friends got married on the 2nd and I was the MOH and we had the best time celebrating her and her new husband all weekend.  So that brought me to yesterday, when I just didn’t have it all the way together yet.  I wasn’t ready for the grand entry back into real life.  Piles of laundry were everywhere and there was no food in the house.  I had no inspiring words to write or quotes to paint, and I immediately starting beating myself up about it.  I rarely let myself off the hook when it comes to resting or taking a break.  If I watch tv or read a book during nap time I feel guilty about it all day.  Like there were so many other things I should have been  doing and how dare I sit down.  I know I’ve talked about this in past posts but it’s been a problem lately.  Especially with how busy I was with sign orders before and during the holidays.  I didn’t allow myself to rest for a second.  Don’t get me wrong, I love being busy painting, but it’s ok to not paint while Rowan sleeps sometimes! So with all that being said, I saw a post yesterday on my Instagram that was actually the opposite of the ones I was talking about previously and it was so encouraging to me!!

“With all the words of the year, vision boards, and goals filling our feeds, we wanted to remind you of some truth today: GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME! Today is the first Monday of the new year and if you don’t do anything to meet the goals you wrote out, or if the day doesn’t reflect the carefully- picked photos found on your vision board, give yourself a little GRACE.  Because at the end of the day, grace is what we all need more than anything.” -The Wild Revival

(This came from Amanda and Marrissa, the girls behind The Wild Revival blog.  You need to check them out! http://www.thewildrevival.com  They are West Virginia ladies like myself who are doing great things for the kingdom by connecting women through events and their blog and are creating an awesome community in our area!)

That quote was exactly what I needed to hear. This year I want to give myself GRACE.  During these past few years of marriage, residency, motherhood, teaching, creating, budgeting, eating, pregnancy, and on and on, I have given myself little to no grace.  I stress and worry and feel like I’m holding my breath probably about 80% of the time.  And I know, 100% of the time, that’s not what Christ wants for us.  When I do that, I tell Him that I don’t trust Him, rely on Him, or believe He’s in control.  He gives me the undeserving gift of grace and I need to open my arms and accept it. Josh always tells me that no one is demanding I be perfect or putting pressure on me. I do it to myself. WHYYYY?!?!  This need for perfection and control is a habit that needs to be kicked.

This year while I’m working on giving myself grace, I do have a few goals as well.  (I can’t help it! I’m a planner, producer, and thrive on productivity!)  I want to be more consistent at pouring my heart into this little blog space.  I have SO. MANY. FEELINGS. As I think I’ve mentioned before haha! and I want to share them with you.  I want to keep dreaming BIG and stop listening to Satan who tells me that if I don’t accomplish all my dreams and goals this. instant. then I might as well not try at all. BECAUSE… GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME! And sometimes “my time” is not the “right time.” Which I’ve learned the lesson of many times in the past! (You’ve realized I’m a type A+++ already right?!?) I want to keep creating for you and for myself, fiercely love my husband and baby boy, be a good steward of our money and my time, and work really hard to love the home I have over the next 18 months before we move onto our next phase of life.  But most of all, I want to do those things while giving myself GRACE.  Small baby steps towards BIG, giant, God given dreams.

2016 will be a year of GRACE (and progress) not perfection.



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I have always struggled with the way I handle the expectations I put on myself. I’m a very hyper-motivated person with an intense fear of failure.  If I’m going to do something, I want it to be awesome. If it can’t be awesome, I beat myself up about it and sometimes I give up totally. I’ve always had a little of this in me but it came on full force in college. The anxiety that it produced actually brought on some very serious health issues.  I’ve since got some of that anxiety under control but it still rears its ugly head every now and again. Who am I kidding?? Like almost weekly… meh… daily. Well I guess I can say it’s not to the same severity but let’s just say that, to this day, I can really only drink decaf coffee because my heart does enough racing on it’s own. I wanted to pinpoint some of the areas where I am really struggling and some areas where I’ve made some progress.  I am going to be totally honest in this post, in hopes that someone who also has ridiculous expectations for themselves, can be encouraged.

Areas I Struggle:

Social Media- This is the definition of a love/hate relationship for me.  I love the connections you make, the networking possibilities, the inspiration and encouragement, and I love seeing life through pictures.  BUT I hate the pressure I feel sometimes from it, the insecurities that come out when people don’t like a sign I’ve worked hard on, when follower counts don’t grow, the time it steals from my day, and the fakeness of it that sucks you in and makes you fall HARD into the comparison trap with the 1,000 other perfect small businesses, houses, and cool stuff.

Ambitions- I have a million things in my mind I want to do! Have a small business making signs, have a legit blog, build a platform, end world hunger, save all the babies, stop human trafficking, protect all of the women and children that are victims of violence, and the list goes on.  Then I look at that list, get super overwhelmed, have no idea where to start, feel like a failure, then say to myself, “maybe tomorrow.”  I feel like the laziest, most motivated person in the world.  Does that make any sense to you? Because in my mind it does. I want to do BIG things.  I want to have a BIG impact.  I want to leave a legacy to my children in more ways than one.  But wow that sounds exhausting and overwhelming and I lack resources, time, and money.  EEK! Butttttt then I’m like oh wahhhh Dana! Just do something! Do you see the battle I face in my mind.  You don’t want a day in this brain HA!

Parenting- I’m a teacher for crying out loud, so there should be projects, and reading activities, and sensory integration happening all over my house right?? Well um no. Sometimes, yes. But not as much as I think I should.  We do lots and lots of play and reading and all kinds of stuff but none of it is really planned out.  Maybes it’s the teacher in me that makes me feel like I should have some sort of lesson plan set up for my kid but I don’t.  Because that’s not real life.  Rowan has had physical and occupational therapy since he was 9 months old because of some leg/ankle/hip issues and some eating issues. Now, 6 months later he has made great progress but now we are facing what could be some speech issues.  He’s super talkative with babble and has great cognitive skills but zero words.  Yes he’s only 16 months old and yes we are just being very proactive but still.  It hurts my mommy/ teacher heart. I feel like I should be able to fix it and I want him to have every opportunity to learn and grow.

Body Image- I am so unbelievably hard on myself when it comes to working out and eating right.  But the thing is, I’m hard on myself mentally but I don’t really ever make big changes or strides to do something about it.  I meal plan, I try diets, I try workout plans. I say TODAY IS THE DAY I WILL START!!! (which is pretty much every Monday) But then I eat pizza or Chick-fil-a and EVERY Milky Way from the Halloween candy and beat myself up about it because to me that it being a total failure.  I know I’m not overweight, but I do like to be fit, and I never really had to work hard at it. Que pregnancy (aka death by puking for me) and I stopped working out completely AND I ate whatever I could hold down (aka hot fudge milkshakes). What they say about not bouncing back as well weight wise after a c-section is no joke!  I can still feel my abs like hit me in the throat when I touch my toes.  At this point, I’m at a now or never crossroads so I can be somewhat in shape before holding the toilet 15 times a day.  AND NO I’M NOT PREGNANT.  It’s just in the back of my mind. But still, I need someone to stand in my living room and yell at me while I work out, so I actually DO IT!!

Areas I’ve Come a Long Way:

Marriage- I was a hot. freaking. mess.  I had no idea what I was doing.  Add in a new state, new job, no friends, and residency and you get the perfect storm for a disasterous first year of marriage.  Josh will say it too, so it’s not new news.  We went to war a few times.  Unhealthy yelling, words you don’t mean, doors slammed, storming out.  The whole enchilada! But I’m here to say that after those first 11 months, when we decided it was time to GET IT TOGETHER, we did.  We found our jam.  And it was loving unconditionally, being more available in every sense of the word (josh), and not being such a spazzy psycho person (me haha). Josh refers to me now as a “transformed woman.” I’m still nowhere near cool, calm, and collected, but surprisingly enough sometimes it feels like I’m headed in that direction.

Social Situations/Relationships-  “ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!” Is all I hear in my mind when I’m trying to talk to someone that I’m not entirely comfortable with in like a one on one situation.  Oddly enough, as much as I hate the clausterphobia of crowds, I’d rather speak to 100 people instead of 1. Probably because there’s less pressure for conversation (and less room for error and for me to say something ridiculous but seriously WHO LOVES AWKWARD SILENCES? I WANT TO KILL THE SILENCE… and I usually do with something SO ridiculous.)  Basically, it boils down to- I’m scared of meeting NEW people.  But that makes life hard when you live new places or try to go to new events because, well, um, IT’S ALL NEW!  Que the panic attack.  Josh says I’m going to have to go out to dinner with some of the surgeons he’ll be interviewing with and their wives and it seriously makes me want to vomit.  BLAH! Oh wait, I put this under “making progress.” Hmm… I go to MOPS and be semi social, I’ve been talking to people I don’t know non stop about making their signs, and played outside with Rowan a few times while the neighbors were outside too. BOOM! Progress.

Finances-  It’s hard to believe I can even say this but it’s true.  With as much anxiety that money has always produced for me, I have actually gotten better.  I used to literally be a Nazi about it.  At the beginning of our marriage I cried and totallyyyyyy lost my cool because I was away and Josh bought $8 Chinese food without seeing if we could afford it first.  I entered Crazy Town.  I take care of all of the money in our house.  I’ve always loved managing my own money, even before we were married and Josh has always hated it so it just happened naturally.  Sometimes the pressure is horrible though.  Especially when it’s more bills than money at times or not enough for this or that.  Soooo I’m the money manager but I’m also the money spender.  Josh NEVER buys anything.  Very, very rarely.  So when I think we need something or want something, a lot of times I’m like oh we can just make that work. When most times I just need someone in charge to say, PUT IT BACK NO NO NO!!! (Dang you, Target Dollar Spot!) My expectations mellow out when we meet goals I set for us.  But truthfully, I mostly just live in money panic mode but try to let the occasional Chinese food slide.  PROGRESS.  I’m looking for positives here people.

What Do Unattainable Expectations Produce: fear, self doubt, anxiety, anger, sadness, and lots of other BAD characteristics.

What I’m Learning:

1. STOP IT! I’m learning that I need to stop doing this to myself. It’s as simple as that.  Nothing positive comes from unhealthy expectations.  I’ve always known that it’s not healthy physically but now more and more I see that mental side of it.  Maybe I’m more in tune with myself or something.  I’m a mom of a 16 month old, with a husband in residency, on a really tight budget, and never a minute to myself.  Maybe I won’t save the world right this minute. That’s OK! Someone tell me that’s ok.

2. EASE UP! My yoga instructor read a passage last week at the end of our practice that really hit home for me.  It talked about how we all need to EASE UP! We cannot let chaos, fear, and negativity control us because then we will never live in the moment or make forward progress.  If I don’t ease up and stop worrying about the way things are, I’m going to totally miss what’s happening right now.  These moments with just Rowan will be gone someday and I don’t want to think about to them and remember how nuts I was about life and money and trivial things.

3. FOCUS ON JOY AND GAIN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE. I need to find joy in the now. I need to find joy everyday.  Even when its gloomy and dark by 5!!! I need an eternal perspective that changes my way of thinking.  None of this is about me at all.  It’s about helping others and leading them to Christ.  It’s about giving other people eternity.  I forget that daily.  I think I need to find joy and contentment for myself and our family and I forget to look outside of us.  And the moments when I do look outside of us and see a need, I rarely act on meeting that need.  We are called to serve and to lead others to Jesus.  Even if I meet every expectation I have for myself but bring no one to Christ, what have I really done.  Nothing.  Think eternally! Are there people you know you won’t see in heaven but you want to meet them there?  Go meet with them now! I’m talking to myself mostly but I hope you will be inspired to change your way of thinking also.

4. KNOW WHAT DEFINES YOUR SELF WORTH. And it’s not any of the things that I have written about above. The only expectation that I have for myself that really matters is my relationship with Christ. And that should be my focus.  You can’t fail at it either which is awesome news! You just have to pursue a God who is already pursuing you.  I saw a quote the other day that said something like “Why do you care how many followers you have? God only had 12.”  And He made a profound impact on those 12 and they changed the world.  He made us for a purpose and though we may stumble along the way to finding what that purpose is, He will always bring us back to the path that leads where we need to go.  IF we trust Him.  My worth is found in Him and He tells me I am His beloved.

5. TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE.  2 Corinthians 10:5 “…take every thought captive to obey Christ.” I need to start putting my thoughts and expectations through a sieve and take them captive.  If they do not obey Christ then they do not get through.  THAT’S SO HARD.  I start over like every day because most- READ ALL- days I fail.  I simply need to ask myself, is this thought kind, will it motivate me or someone else, does it build someone up, will it let people see Jesus in me, does it move me forward or make me regress?  There are so many more questions to ask about your thoughts but that’s a start.  I want to glorify Christ in my thoughts and actions.  Thank goodness for His grace. I need grace upon grace.

So ladies, with all that said, let yourself off the hook! Breathe! Spend quality time with your family, away from your phone.  YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH!  Let whatever you did today BE ENOUGH!  We need to take the time to enjoy the good and stop putting unrealistic expectations on ourselves and others.  I’m all about raising the bar.  But you have to be able to recognize small victories! Today my victory was having lunch with Josh and Rowan, accomplishing a few things on my to do list during nap time, and enjoying sunshine!! Normally I would say I should have done more “work” but today it was enough.



Top Ten Craft Show Takeaways

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So I survived my first 3 day craft show! It was a total whirlwind! Now that all of the dust has settled, I’ve decided to put together my top ten takeaways from the whole experience and share them with you! Ready and go….

10. The “Wal-Mart Mentality” struggle is real. It’s sad but the majority of people these days think they should be getting what they buy, no matter where they go, for cheap.  Listen, I want a deal as much as the next person, but you cannot expect something that is handmade and took hours for someone to sit down and make and is not mass produced, to be $9.95.  And it’s also not ok to say “I could so do that myself!” or “I can’t believe she thinks that’s worth that much.” when you are within a 2 ft or even 6 ft radius of the crafter herself. RUDE. I can admit to being someone that is constantly thinking of how I can make things instead of buying them, but it’s down right insulting to have someone say that basically to your face when your blood, sweat, and tears are all over the products in front of them. When you come to a craft show and see things that are hand made (which a lot of the merchandise at this show, unfortunately, was not) you should anticipate paying slightly more for those items.

9. Crafter/vendor “cliques” are a force to be reckoned with. We were definitely outsiders! Oh mannn! These people see each other every weekend all over the country! It was super intimidating at first.  We were getting the evil eye and so many off the wall comments about being first timers at a craft show.  It was like they were shocked that someone new had entered their world. Aside from that though, we did end up making friends with a few of the crafters by the end of the weekend, some of which really helped us learn the ropes! The folks that ran this show from an administration standpoint were amazing to work with also! I’m just trying to forget about the old man that snapped at Rowan during set up on Thursday and was still trying to run me over with his dolly on Sunday!

8. Don’t count on sales until you have the money in your pocket.  We knew this beforehand but it was reiterated at the show.  So many people say “Ohhhhh I love that, I’ll be back!” or on Facebook they are like, “I want that please hold it for me until I get there.” Um no sorry.  You cannot count on people buying your merchandise until they are there with the money in their hand, trading you for their item.  The “be backers” raaarrrely ever come back.  I knew this because I AM A BE BACKER!!! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but it’s true.  I have to think on everything I buy.  I get it honestly from my mother who used to wear a winter coat around the store for 2 hours to see if she wanted it and thennn deciding that she needed to go home and think about it some more. People also don’t want to feel pressured and that’s fine, no pressure.  But I’m sorry we can’t hold a sign or chart with your name on it until you’ve given us the payment.  It’s just not wise on our part.  If they really want it, they’ll buy it then. And if they don’t and they come back and it’s gone… you give them the ol’ “I TAKE CUSTOM ORDERS!” schpeel and BAM! you close the deal.

7. There is no science behind ANY of it. We spent a lot of our time trying to figure out the science of the craft show.  Don’t waste your time.  It’s IMPOSSIBLE! So many things impact your success and there are so many variables. Andddd it will be different at every show you go to. Does it matter that you’re in the front or the back? Do people walk to the left or the right when they come in? Do the “be backers” actually ever come back when they say they will?  Should you stand or sit? Should you talk to people or leave them alone?  Are shows slow on holiday weekends? Does daylight savings effect attendance?  Does the SES in the area matter? Will people from out of town travel to the show?  Is it busier when the sun shines or when it rains? And on and on and on. THERE’S NO WAY TO KNOW ANY OF IT SO JUST STOP. (or you’ll exhaust yourself like we did.)

6. Stand by the price you think your product is worth. it is important to value what you do but also equally as important to be realistic.  We went back and forth with our prices before the show, during the show, and after the show.  You’ll never know for sure what the “right” price is because as you try to figure it out you’ll be considering all of the sciences I just spoke of in #7 and you’ll hurt your head.  It’s always going to be “too much” for someone and, at the same price, someone will pay no problem, and maybe even comment that it’s “a steal.”  As we were talking to one of the other vendors, she gave us some really great advice.  She said that we just need to know that someone is always going to complain about the cost of handmade items but to never be wishy-washy with our prices because then people can sense that you don’t believe in your own work.  She also added that, unfortunately, you will probably never make back the cost of the amount of time you put in.  Ashton and I put in so much time!!! All while wrangling toddlers and a million other things, and as we were calculating our costs we were trying to figure out how much we’d make “an hour” or something to that affect.  When you give up time with your family and kids, there will never be enough money for it.  But if you are doing something that you love doing, then it makes it worth it.  Just know it is highly unlikely that you will “make back your time.”

5. Your display matters. It’s totally my happy place to decorate and plan this sort of thing. I was all about it! It kind of snuck up on me because you spend so much time prepping merchandise and all of a sudden it was a week out and we hadn’t thought of how we’d even set it up. We ended up bringing every decoration between the two of us that we thought had potential and put it all together on Thursday morning. With Rowan as our side kick. YIKES!  Our booth was definitely the only one of it’s kind and it took some skills (and barely any decor) when we realized how small 10×10 really is.  In our minds we had all kinds of room. And walls. For some reason we thought there’d be walls around us. Um no! But with a few pallets and some folding tables we were in business.  The pallets saved our lives and all the veterans just looked at us like crazy people with our drills and duck tape trying to put together make shift walls. And in the end we made it exactly what we wanted it to be.  We knew we wanted it to look good but we didn’t realize how much the display really mattered until people were giving us compliments about it and they kept saying how they saw this booth on Facebook and it looked so cute and that’s why they even came to the show. You want your display to draw people in. You want it to feel spacious but cozy and most importantly, you want it to be you. You should be proud of what you have set up and proud to bring people to your booth to see your work.

4. Find your people. The majority of the people that attended this show were not “our people” as we ended up branding them. What I mean by that is, unfortunately, there were not as many people as we had hoped that had an appreciation for our style of work.  Now don’t get me wrong, we met so many amazinggg people that were super encouraging, so fun to talk to, and we loved sharing our creations with them! And when those people that were “our people” found us, they were just as excited because we were the only ones of our kind there. But on the other end of that, we learned a big lesson.  It’s important to really research the show you are interested in before you apply.  Look at pictures and descriptions of what they other vendors are bringing, look at pictures of years past, and read reviews about the show from previous shoppers.  This will help you figure out if you are drawing in a crowd that will love what you have.  It’s not enough to go on the fact that they have a large attendance if most of who is attending will walk right past you.

3. Share the experience with a friend. Do not do your first show alone! I could not imagine having gone through this whole experience without Ashton.  We figured out every. single. thing. together… from building, to marketing, to where to stick a price tag.  You need someone who understands what you’re going through and who you can bounce ideas off of with every detail.  We were closing deals on each others merchandise by the end of the weekend.  It can really be an emotional roller coaster throughout the show (before and during) so you need a friend you can vent to, celebrate with, and someone to help you figure out what to do with your hands. Thank you for that.

2. Have a great support system. I could not have done all that I did, without the support of my family and friends. Josh was constantly telling me, during my “what was I thinking” meltdowns, that it doesn’t matter if I sell one thing.  He was still proud of me and as long as I was enjoying it, that was all that mattered.  My father-in-law helped me build and cut pallets and taught me how to use a nail gun and a table saw. Everyone else was cheering me on with kind words, offers to babysit, and just lots of love.  Now, although they all lied to me and told me I’d sell out, I still love them and am very thankful for that extra boost! HAHA! (maybe someday when I find “my people” I’ll have a sell out!) I also have the motivation that is to help my family stay afloat while I stay at home with Rowan.  I love being at home with him and when you have to still pay the bills (and there are more bills bc you just have a baby and now have a child to care for eek!), it’s motivation to give it everything you’ve got.  We went all in this time and the return was awesome!

1. The rewards might not be measured in sales. Although we had a successful weekend, the best advice I can give is not to measure your success or let your worth be decided by your sales.  That is VERY hard to do.  You think the second someone walks in your booth and walks out empty handed that they hate you and you should stop doing what you love immediately.  LIES! It’s easy to think that if you don’t sell every thing you bring, you fail. Also a lie! Even though our sales were great and, on Sunday, totals were all I could think about, today that’s not what’s on my mind.  Now I’m thinking about the woman who is expecting who bought a sign she loved and told me she plans to build their nursery around it. And the college girls who walked through once and loved everything and came back to visit again and just stood and talked with us about life and the funniest part of the whole weekend is them looking at each other and saying “#goals” about our lives! If they only knew! haha If you’re reading, girls… look back at a few posts and you’ll see I’m actually a hot mess! 🙂 We were told so many stories about the way grandparents had written on their walls to measure height in old farmhouses and about the memories that are going to be made around Ashton’s growth charts. So many people were so supportive, telling us how beautiful our work is and that they were so happy to see us.  That is what made the show.  That is what kept us going when we felt like we couldn’t be social with one. more. person. So thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who came and cheered us on and gave us kind words and lots of encouragement! It did not go unnoticed! So with all of that being said, do not underestimate your impact, no matter what your totals tell you.

Hope this helps all of the people who have asked what I thought or what my advice would be for them! It was totally chaotic but that’s life and I secretly love it! Go Big or Go Home…  None of this halfway stuff!  If you want to give something a shot. DO IT! Make it happen. There will never be a “good” time and you’ll never know unless you try! I’m sure you’ve heard it all before but it’s all so true and I’m so glad that, for once, I took all of those words seriously! I’m excited for what’s in store for My Paper Nest!

Stop by my Etsy site if you want to see what’s up for grabs! Get your Christmas shopping done!! http://www.etsy.com/shop/mypapernest!