Talena

Muddled

Muddled

As predicted in my last post, the last couple of weeks have been pretty hard in the grieving department. There have been pretty bad days. And some okay days.

Today is one of those days when I want to do something, but I can't. Or maybe I am doing something. I'm not sure. But I feel like if I actually did something, then I would stop feeling so sad and angry and scared.

Up for the Challenge

Well, the presentation is ready.

The PowerPoint is done.

The alarm is set.

I guess I might be ready for the breakout session on Online Marketing I am giving tomorrow at the Women in the North Conference after all.

And I now have about five more books on my "to read" list that are about social media marketing on various platforms. ('Cause I just didn't have time to read it all in advance. Don't worry, I still have plenty of material to speak on--and will be even better at marketing my own businesses when I get through my new reading material, too!)

Now, I just have to talk fast enough to cram an hour-and-a-half long session into 45 minutes. :-)

Happy Tuesday, friends! What challenges have you faced and conquered this week?

Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful

Crisis is hard. Grief hurts. But I would much rather be a strong, tall sunflower, or an intricate and complex bonsai, each a masterpiece of beauty, than a poor, coddled sprout that dies young in the luxury of inadversity.

Learning all the Time

In the last year, I have been on a journey of learning how to market my personal brand. It has been interesting and challenging, especially as I don't usually have as much time to devote to it as I would like.

Even though I have been a musician for, well, my whole life, and even though I took music in college, most of my business experience has been in fields not related to being an artist. When I went through Red Deer College, their business track was still separate from their other tracks, and I chose Composition. (Thankfully, they have since remedied that, and ALL music students now take a business class, which is as it should be.)

What bits and pieces I have picked up over the years for how to market myself (which eventually grew to include being a designer and author), and the changes implemented, were gained haphazardly and in pieces, without much rhyme nor reason behind them. Okay, so I needed a musician's website. I got one in 2010. Now what? I already had a family blog, which I maintained regularly, and maintaining a separate, "music-only" blog was a lot of work. In fact, by that time, I think I had four blogs on the go that were aimed at each of my different ventures, and the only one I could seem to update with any regularity (or garner much following on) was my personal, family blog. There was just too much to do!

And I needed a Facebook page, apparently. So I got one to go with every blog, plus one more for my Young Living business. Whew! That's a lot of work, too! (I still have all of those. I am seriously thinking of paring down.)

Last year, as I finally reached the lesson in Holly Lisle's "How to Think Sideways - Novel-Writing Course" about building your author platform, I realized that I was spread way too thin to actually have any time at all left to do what I really want to do to earn a living--namely, write books, music, and knitting patterns. So after thinking long and hard, I decided that all of those things were part of me, the creative me, and all of those things (plus my family blog, which I love, and other people seemed to like to read) could live and breathe in the same space on the web, just like they do in my head.

On any given day, I will spend time:

  • working on the revision or formatting of my upcoming story
  • thinking about and/or writing my next novel
  • thinking about and/or working on my next knitting design
  • blogging
  • thinking about and/or writing a song or arranging music I have already written
  • putting in volunteer hours for Heart4Children Canada

Now, granted, I only have SO much time. So those things do NOT all happen on the same day (or rarely.) Usually, 3-4 of those happen on any given day, and I try to make sure that all of them happen every single week.

So, that is why I redesigned my web presence last summer and created the new, improved www.talenwinters.com. Now, instead of maintaining nearly a dozen sites (plus associated social media) really, really poorly, I figured I would have a shot at doing a handful of things well, or at least better than I had been. So far, that's been working out pretty well, but there is still room for improvement.

It was also thanks to Holly Lisle that I started using Twitter for the first time ever. I kinda had to be dragged kicking and screaming, because I already had enough things taking up my time. And honestly, some days I wondered if the time invested in building a Twitter following would be worth it and pay off in the end.

But! It was because of someone's post on Twitter that I found the awesome website of Kristen Lamb, and started following her blog. Not to mention, I really have met some very cool and interesting people on Twitter, and have even met other musical theatre composers (which, strangely, there are not a lot of in the Peace Country!) Kristen Lamb's passion is to teach other writers how to succeed, and a good part of what she teaches is the effective use of social media.

I have lapped it up, in the small bites I have had the time to chew on it.

Then, I got asked to teach a class on Online Marketing. After my initial reaction of "I don't think I'm qualified", I thought about it and realized that even though I may not be an "expert" yet, I do know a lot. I definitely know a few things not to do. However, I thought it might be a good idea to gain a little more information from a real expert. So on Tuesday night, I bought Kristen Lamb's book and started reading.

WOW! The stuff in there is blowing my mind. On the one hand, it has been gratifying to know that some of the steps I have already taken (motivated by the desire to preserve my sanity) such as gathering all my different creative aspects into one place were the right thing to do. There are a few other things I have been doing right, too. Yay!

And I wouldn't say that I have been doing anything wrong, precisely, except maybe blundering around without much of a plan. I had vague notions of what I wanted to accomplish, but no real direction on how to get there, and not much evidence that what I was doing would get me there, either.

I am SO excited about what I am learning. The more I learn, and more experience I have, the more I can see how achievable my goals and dreams are, with consistent work and effort. I know, we hear that all the time, right? But doing the wrong kind of work will not get you what you want. Tinkering with the tractor all day, every day will not get the field plowed.

So often, young artists are willing to put in the work to achieve their dreams (I know I was, and still am), but have absolutely NO idea what that work should be. The advice one receives is often vague and hazy, because those who made it as musicians and writers using traditional models don't know how to do it in this brave new digital world (and they don't really need to), and the few runaway internet successes (like Justin Bieber) often seem to get there more through chance than actual work--but those are what young people look at and try to emulate as "the way to do it." With an actual plan, one knows what steps need to be taken to achieve the goal. Steps that have a track record of success for hundreds of other people. And suddenly, the work required does not seem so daunting, or the dream so frustrating.

Kristen's book is geared toward authors. However, as someone who writes more than just books, I think the advice is applicable to anyone whose brand is themselves. When she talks about selling books, substitute your own product. The advice she gives about how to use social media is applicable across the board--and in fact, I will be able to incorporate parts of that into my retail, investment-capital-business, too.

Do you have any great resources for online marketing that you would recommend? What are your top five favourite social media platforms for your own online marketing?

Happy Thursday, friends!

March Whirlwind

Luigi wasn't done in time for Noah's party.

In fact, he's still not done. I've been working on him as I have had time, which I haven't had a lot of.

This past week, I was running a combination online auction (on Facebook) that culminated in an in-person Silent Auction at my church yesterday as a Heart4Children Canada fund raiser. It was a huge success, which I am thankful for--but it did not leave a lot of time for handicrafts. Or cleaning my house. Or sleeping. So guess what I have been doing today? (Well, not a lot of the sleeping yet, but that's coming soon!)

Noah still doesn't know that he is getting Luigi, so it will be a nice, "late birthday" surprise. And he had a blast at the party, anyway!

Now that the fund raiser is done, I have three big tasks next up on my plate:

  • Choose an accounting software to use - after 10 years in business, my fingers are in enough different pies and my time has become limited enough that I can no longer justify the time required to manually enter everything into an Excel spreadsheet. Any tips on your favourite multi-currency software that imports and exports CSV files?
  • Finish formatting and publishing "The Friday Night Date Dress" - Yay! I finally finished the "Getting Started" tutorial on my new software, and can finally get going on/finishing this project. My next story has been burning a hole in my brain, and I have been feeling severely hampered by my lack of familiarity with the software!
  • Prepare a presentation on online marketing for the upcoming "Women in the North" conference, for which I was flattered to be invited to do a breakout session on the topic.

And that conference is one day before Levi's 3rd birthday. Whee!

Despite the mild weather, it doesn't look like the typical whirlwind on my calendar is going away any time soon. :-)

What have you been up to for the last week, friends?

On an Island by the Sea

We didn't have any definite plans of things we wanted to "do" while visiting Washington, except one: leave. :-) My friends, the Gregory family that we lived with for a month in 2009 after returning to Peace River from Arkansas, had moved to Comox, BC, later that same summer, and we had rarely seen them since. When I discovered how "close" we would be to the Island while visiting Logan (which, at nearly a 7-hour-one-way journey, was still not as close as my imagination originally thought when looking at a map), I convinced my mother and brother that a trip to the Island would be a great idea, contacted the Gregorys, and arranged an overnight stay. The best time for all the schedules involved seemed to be the first Sunday night of our visit.

Great! we thought. That will allow us to get a little sight-seeing in before we leave!

Poor Levi's cold had been leaving him pretty tired, and he had a dry cough that seemed almost perpetual at times. I didn't want to tire him out too much, and I didn't want to spread germs more than necessary, so our plans for the moment were constrained to driving around, walking around, or hiking. (On the plus side: Levi got pretty good at covering his mouth with his elbow with this cold!)

After a little bit of shopping for rain gear at Target (yes, SO touristy) and the health food store, Logan took us to the amazing Coho Cafe for supper. My mother's 60th birthday was the next day, and this ended up being our celebration for it, so I am glad it was memorable. WOW! I am salivating just thinking about the Thai Coconut Ginger Curry dish I had.

Unfortunately, we had had to wait for our table for an hour, and by the time we were seated it was already past the time Levi had been putting himself to bed (yes, you read that right) out of sheer exhaustion, so he spent the entire meal laying against me on my lap and whining that he wanted bed. I ate as quickly as I could and opted to have my companions bring dessert and my leftovers out with them and took the munchkin out to the van so he could rest...

I didn't actually eat my Caramel Apple Crisp for another week, as that night, my throat started getting scratchy, and I could feel the exhaustion of a body fighting an invasion coming over me. Logan started showing symptoms that night, too, despite having only been exposed the day before.

By the next morning, there was no mystery--I was sick. I wasn't up for walking, let alone hiking or leaving the house. Logan must have been feeling a little better than me, because he and Mom still went out to the grocery store (which we hadn't managed to hit the previous day) and did a few errands. I napped. Then napped again.

Levi was super-clingy the entire trip, only getting nominally better by the end when he was healthier and more comfortable with the surroundings. At this point, he pretty much had to be glued to my side, so although he was starting to feel a little better at this point, he just cuddled with me during my naps (and benefited from the rest, too.)

The next morning, we got up bright and super-early so we could assess the situation and see if we were well enough to go to the Island. Logan decided he was not. After all that sleep, I was feeling pretty good, and Levi was starting to have some good energy and be a little more back to his normal self. Mom and I decided to go and let Logan rest (and let his cats have a reprieve from Levi's attentions). We would contact the Gregorys on the way to warn them about the germ invasion, and if they would rather not risk it, we could just go do touristy things and head back. (We had hopes of seeing Craigdarroch Castle before heading back, either way.)

Turns out, it takes more than a few little germs to scare these folks. We had a wonderful time with them, and I am SO glad we made the effort to go. I was sad that my older boys couldn't be there to reconnect with their boys, since they were all pretty good friends once upon a time. Their youngest, Zeke, who is the same age as Jabin, reminded me of the latter so much--they were both only 2 when the Gregorys left, but I bet they would be best buddies if they got to hang out now.

After visiting Goose Spit (not exactly a white sandy beach, but it was still an ocean beach!) and the Marina, we had an awesome supper and introduced Mom to Settlers of Catan, stayed up way later than my sick body would have preferred, got to see Erin's new clinic (from the outside) and Jacob's new studio (from the inside), and just generally had fun.

Erin found a crab on the beach. Levi thought looking was close enough.

Looking at the boats at the marina.

The ocean view from Goose Spit in February.

We had thought of trying to get a tour of Craigdarroch Castle on the way home, but it turns out we didn't allow enough time before we left the Gregorys on Monday. So we drove straight through Victoria to the ferry, and put the Castle on our list of things to see next time we go.

Other than the near-perpetual rain on the drive back to Logan's, we had a great time. Thanks, Jake and Erin! So great to see you all again!

Destination: Washington

Wow, it is hard to believe that it has been nearly two weeks since my mom, Levi, and I left home. The reason I have not blogged about it before now should become obvious.

On Tuesday, the 3rd, we left PR in conditions that were cold (-26C), but clear. We had to get to Edmonton to pick up Levi's passport (which was supposed to be ready after 3 p.m.) before the passport office closed. It looked like we were on track for most of the day, but after a couple of potty breaks, we started wondering if we would actually make it on time. Thankfully, we stopped in front of Canada Place with 15 minutes to spare, and there was hardly any line up so I was able to pick it up quickly. After that, we only had to endure another hour of rush hour traffic before we were able to leave Edmonton.

Levi was feeling a little under the weather that day. And by "under the weather", I mean he didn't want to eat, and barely even woke up. As the day progressed, I became more and more concerned, and by the time we got to my uncle and aunt's that night had determined that if he had not perked up at all by morning, I would be taking him to Emergency to make sure he was okay, possibly delaying our trip by a day--or however long was necessary.

However, on Wednesday morning the Little Man was actually a little more lively and decided to eat, and since this looked a lot like the cold Noah had had the previous week, I figured he was fine to keep travelling.

Day 2: Awake, but mellow

We got started bright and early that day, since it was our longest leg--Google Maps said it was 9 1/2 hours without traffic (or weather) between Lacombe and Summerland, BC, where we would be staying with our friends, the Burdicks. When I realized that we could organize our route to see our dear friends Wes and Serena, who had moved from PR in 2013, I was ecstatic, and thrilled that their schedule allowed for it. The weather was not bad for most of the day, a little light snow here and there being the worst of it--until we actually got to the Okanagan Valley. Then, the forces of nature were unleashed and wet, slippery, fluffy snow obliterated any light trying to penetrate the gloom. So the worst weather we experienced that day was in the "nicest" climate zone.

"Welcome to Winterland!" Serena joked after we pulled into their driveway that night.

Since the last leg of our journey was only about six hours long, and Logan had alerted us to an appointment that meant he would not be home until after 4 p.m., so we had a leisurely breakfast with our hosts--as leisurely as possible with kids rushing around to get to school on time, and Wes having to get to a meeting. However, we sure enjoyed the extended visit with Serena. ("Girl time" is always great.)

We had an adventure as we were leaving. Their driveway is at a very steep slope down from the road to their parking pad. With all that new-fallen, wet snow, our first four (yes, FOUR) attempts only got us up about 2/3 of the way, Serena cheering us on the whole way. Finally, when it became obvious that the maximum distance potential had been reached and we could be there a while, she came and grabbed a shovel of sand from a pile by the shop. When I jumped out to help her, she said that they had just gotten the pile for circumstances such as this.

"Fifteen years in Peace River, and I never had to get spikes on my tires until we moved here," she said, laughing.

Jake wants to play with the shovels, too. Or whatever. :-)

Mission accomplished!

The weather was fine for driving that day. We opted for a route that took us through Stevens Pass over the last ridge of the Rockies into the little town where my brother's new house is, just east of Seattle. The sides of the road were covered in small piles of snow--evidence of a recent dump--and we even had snow floating down on us throughout our trip down Highway 2 over the mountains. That is, until we started descending the western side. Suddenly, gone was the snow. Rain fell in its stead. The trees were green and covered in lush blankets and strings of moss. It was almost as though, in cresting that ridge, we had jumped through a time portal from winter to a sub-tropical spring.

Leaving Canada that morning, I had wanted to stop for coffee at Tim Hortons, but since Summerland is so close to the border, we were crossing into the United States before we seemed to find one. That didn't seem to be a big deal, as a fairly decent night's sleep (and a morning nap in the van) sustained my energy. But now, on the western side of the mountains, we passed a little roadside coffee stand business billing itself as "World Famous Espresso". Well, whether it was or not, I decided I wanted to stop.

As it turned out, the site has a bit of "claim to fame" - it was the site of the filming of the 1986 movie "Harry and the Hendersons" (which I loved as a kid). The proprietor showed me a picture of what it looked like at the time (which reminded me of the movie even more), and said, "That's what we looked like at our worst."

I got permission from the lady to take a few photos of the little museum they had there. It was raining, so I didn't get great shots (I don't have protective gear for my camera and didn't want to get it too wet), but here are a few fun ones:

Ordering coffee from the "World Famous Espresso" Stand.

A coffee stand with personality...

Bigfoot Crossing

Poor Harry, all alone...

We reached Logan's without further ado late Thursday afternoon, and were very grateful to get our butts out of car seats and to have reached our destination.

But with another 10 days to go, the adventures were just beginning.

To be continued...

:-)

We Interrupt This Craziness

Wow. I have been trying for the last two weeks to get a post up here about the craziness of the last two weeks. But said craziness has kept me pretty busy.

So, in brief, I have:

  • run into a snow bank and ripped up the front bumper of my van
  • had someone in Malaysia try to use a copy of my debit card to withdraw from our account. Exciting stuff. I have only forgotten the PIN on my new card about 6 times.
  • had a couple of puking kids. I am SO sick and tired of the kids being sick and tired!!
  • nearly finished with the Snow for Lorelai pattern. Seriously. Maybe I'll even be done tonight, depending on how long I want to stay up.
  • Got invited to hit the road with my mom to go visit my brother. This week. Circumstances aligned and I can actually go!
  • Did a down-and-back-in-one-day trip to Edmonton to get Levi's passport.
  • Finally (mostly) finished my website at Winters Distributing. Not a moment too soon for that January 31 deadline, either!
  • Not gotten enough sleep...

... but then, what else is new?

Snowman made by Jude, his friend Andrew, and Jabin last Sunday.

Pretty impressive, right?

Sweet (healthy) Jude comforting sick, tired Levi on a day off of school Friday.

The other boys celebrated the home day by breaking out the Monopoly game before breakfast!

Happy Sunday night, friends! How have you been, lately?

And so it starts...

I am very thankful to say that 2015 has started with some family time, some fun time, and some rest time for me.

December felt especially frantic, and I was very much looking forward to some "down time" over the last couple of weeks while Jason and the kids were on holidays. Unfortunately, that didn't really happen. I got the flu bug from Levi and had to have Jason take an extra day off of work to help with the kids, as I couldn't really function. However, as soon as I could move again, it felt like I was pushing through water the rest of the week to accomplish the things that needed to be done--cleaning, cooking for the family, last night of Hanukkah, a family dinner, working on my store, working on patterns, working on a worship service, working, working, working...

I had intended to have my "days off" the following week (the one just past), but life threw a few extra curves at me that precluded that. That's okay--life is like that. But it just meant that by Friday of this week, I was ex.haus.ted. So I very firmly decided that this weekend would be a complete "off" weekend for me, especially as none of us had any responsibilities at church (which is a welcome breather).

Last Saturday, I was asked to photograph a sleigh ride at Mom and Mike's for a group whose other photographer had cancelled at the last minute. I was a little stressed out about it, as I have never taken pictures in a professional capacity before (other than for my pattern photos--and the only one to answer to there is me, so I can just keep snapping and tweaking until I am satisfied). Also, I have had a notoriously difficult time taking photos in SNOW that I was happy with. And thanks to the month of fog that we have experienced in the north, plus a little snow on Christmas Day, the trees were all crusted with an inch-thick layer of hoar frost. It was beautiful. And very, very white.

I was thankful that when I was photographing my "Honey Tree" flip-top mittens, my model--the very accomplished photographer Amanda Monette, for whom I made them--also gave me some tips about photographing in snow. So, for the first time ever, I shot the day almost exclusively in Manual mode and put into practice the tips she shared. Here are some of the results:

Drew's team, ready and waiting

Drew's team again

Drew driving the team

Mike and his team of Belgians

Mike and his girls

Trish and Ariel

Then, on New Year's Day, our family and the Magnussons also got a hayride at the Eastons'. Unfortunately, it was much colder, and the hoar frost had all disappeared during some warmer weather we had earlier in the week. That's okay--the kids hooked up a couple of sleds to the back of the sleigh and had fun riding, piling on top of each other, pushing each other off, and racing to catch up the entire time--they were plenty warm!

There was much less of this...

... than this...

... or this...

... or this!

Good times had by all--especially the adults watching and laughing!

The photographer gets shot!

And since I wasn't the only photographer there, I got to be in front of the lens at least once this time. :-)

Happy January, friends! I hope yours is off to a great start, too! How did you bring in the new year?

So This is Love

Ready for Jason's staff Christmas Party, December 6, 2014

It's hard to believe that Jason and I have been together for over fifteen years, now. Not because I still feel like that girl that fell in love with him--I am less rash, more confident, and more patient, in no small part thanks to my husband--but because I am still "in love" with him, and love him more every day. And I am so thankful that my Prince Charming loves me back. We are definitely a couple of the lucky ones.

Jason, you are amazing. Thank you for making my life wonderful.