Come Join Me At My New Site

Around this time last year, I was encouraged to move my site over to wordpress.org. I wanted to have a more user friendly site for you the reader.

Physical media, you're killing me.

I apologize, that when this transformation took place, that you all wouldn’t be instantly transferred over to the new site with me. If you have noticed you haven’t been receiving my posts, I’m sorry. After all this time I’ve been trying to figure out what I said or did that I haven’t heard from you all. Dah! It was my fault.

You’ll find that if you’ve been following this blog, it has been going into your wordpress reader. If you’d like to receive email notifications again, please come over to my new hosted site at http://www.susanlower.com and sign up again.

Once you have confirmed your sign up, I will send you a personal email with a coupon code for 50% off my new release Forgotten Reins from Smashwords. Although I welcome new readers and provide contests and gifts for those in my reader’s’ club, this bonus is only for those of you transferring your subscriptions.

You can also sign up for my monthly readers’ club newsletter and download my story Emma’s Dilemma for FREE as well as receive opportunities to receive advanced copies, free stuff, contests, and more.

I’ve missed you and am looking forward to reconnecting with you over at my new site.

Can’t wait to see you there!

Susan

TAKE ME TO THE NEW SITE!

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Compassion Sunday

Today is Compassion Sunday for many churches. If you don’t know what Compassion is, it is a sponsorship program for children around the globe.

Jeff Goins wrote about his recent trip to Uganda, here. He speaks about Compassion on his blog as well.

My family and I have sponsored Compassion children for the past fourteen years. We currently sponsor four children in the Compassion program.

When I first married my husband, we hadn’t started our family, yet, and in some ways we had. We started sponsoring a teenage boy in the Compassion program from South America. This boy wrote us letters, often. In return I wrote letters back and sent photos of travels.

Almost two years later, I received a letter from Compassion and I was heartbroken. The letter was to inform me that this boy, who we’d sponsored for all this time, was no longer in the program. Immediately, I wanted to know what happened to him. Compassion told me, his family moved out of the area to a place where Compassion did not operate. They asked me if I’d like to sponsor another child. I told them to give me the child that had been waiting the longest for a sponsor. It didn’t matter what gender or age, just that they had waited long enough.

Over the years, we’ve sponsored numerous children that have come and gone in the program. A child must be five years of age to enter the Compassion program, so when each of our children turned five, we sat down with them and sponsored a child their age. We wanted them to grow up together as pen pals and learn from each other through their culture and teach our kids what it meant to bring hope to someone else.

Two years ago, our oldest daughter’s sponsor child lost their father. Upon the news, our daughter grieved for her long distance friend, and soon after she had to say good-bye, as I did with that very first child, when the family moved to another area away from Compassion’s reach.

She, too, has a new sponsor child. She sends her pictures, mostly, but she sends her something several times a year. They even celebrate birthdays close together.

We’ve always had the rule of “If you open the letter now, then you must sit down and write back when you’re done reading it.” This way it’s always important and never forgotten.

Our Compassion children have become as much a part of our family as we have to them. It’s so much more than giving your money, but filling a child’s life with hope, no matter their situation, and keeping them in your prayers.

We have been so blessed by the children in our lives thanks to Compassion. If you have a child you sponsor, whether through Compassion or another program and wish to share how sponsoring a child has changed your life, I’d love to hear about.

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Crafting Puppets

A few weeks ago, Boy and I walked into the craft store and walked out with a pattern for making puppets.

 puppet craft

 

We spent an entire Saturday afternoon crafting up this frog and girl puppet. Boy dug through my scrap fabrics and pulled out enough to make his frog in black and green.

Better than the frog, is the little fly on a string that pulls through the frog’s mouth.

frog mouth

Boy got his first sewing lesson helping put together his two new pals.

Today, we’re crafting up the boy puppet. I can foresee a skit coming along in the future between Boy and his sisters.

But for now, here’s Boy’s 30 sec video debut with his frog puppet “Stealth Frog”.

What’s crafting at your place today?

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Writing the About Me For Your Etsy Shop

Since leaving my job as a financial controller in August 2013, I’ve had the opportunity to assist many creative entrepreneur set up and evaluate their Etsy shops.

I’ve loved these opportunities to help see others bring their beautiful talents from within and place them on the online market. It’s been so joyful watching these shops blossom and connecting with creative people living their dreams and working from home.

Although, one of the biggest hang ups I see with a lot of shops and their owners is the about me page. Many times I’ll come across a shop with outstanding photos of their artwork, and appealing set up, but when I get to the about me page, it’s either not there or doesn’t serve the customer’s best interest.

 etsy shop about me

WHAT SHOULD AN ABOUT ME PAGE BE ABOUT?

An Etsy shop about me page is more than a bio like you’d see here on my page or another author or influential person.

Your about me page is a place for your customer to become acquainted with you, your shop, and your style. It’s like a first impression at a party.

When I’m shopping on Etsy and I find something I really like, I place that item in my cart. Before I buy it, I like to go find out more about the person and the shop I’m making the purchase from. It’s not like eBay where I’ve ordered from China or was the highest bidder. Nor is it like buying from Old Navy and if it doesn’t fit I can take it back to a local outlet since it’s a national brand.

YOUR ETSY SHOP ABOUT ME PAGE SHOULD INCLUDE THREE THINGS:

1.  Who you are. This is your opportunity to make friends with your customer. Just like going to the party mentioned above and starting a conversation. Tell your customers what you’re passionate about, what you love and don’t love, what inspires you, and what your dreams are. This is where you and someone new connect and have a same interest or appreciates an in-common belief.

2.    What your shop is about: This is the ‘why’ part of your about me page. What special meaning does the shop name have for you? Why do you make the things that you do or pick the items that you pick for inside your shop? What hopes and aspirations do you have for this venture? How will buying from your shop make me, the customer, a better person or help me in what manner?

3.    Where does creation come from: This is where you sprinkle in some of your creative process? What materials do you use and why. What is your favorite part of the creation process? Where do your ideas come from?

It’s a lot about YOU, YOU, and YOU. It can feel uncomfortable to some to write all about themselves. The best thing about an about me page on your etsy shop is that it isn’t set in stone. You can update it with changes in time that occur in your shop.

WHY SHOULD I EVEN BOTHER?

Not everyone’s creative talents or aspirations to sell on Etsy come with writing skills.

I’ve come across countless shops with blank about me pages. I’ve removed the item from my shopping cart and found something else I’ve liked, maybe not the same, and purchased it from a shop I could read and learn more about.

You’ll find that customers who shop on Etsy are a different category of customer that shop elsewhere. They’re willing to pay the extra dollar for something that’s been handcrafted. They appreciate the time, inspiration, and energy you’ve spent to create that special piece or hunt down that vintage find. So, if they’re willing to give a little extra for you, shouldn’t you be willing to give them a little extra about you and your shop?

When people find they have things in common, they tend to stay connected. You may just find that your about me page not only opens you up to online sales, but building a fan base for future creations.

I recently wrote this about me page for a client, you can check it out here.

If you’ve got an about me page and you’d like me to take a look at it, place your shop name in the comments section below.

 I’m looking forward to visiting all of your shops.

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How Do You Carve out Time for Creativity

The clock is set to go off at 5:30am in our house. Some days, I hear the alarm, some days it never gets turned on.

Life is so full of commitments. They can pile up and suffocate you when you least expect it. We live in a world where time never ceases; it’s constantly on the go, as are we.

There is never enough hours in the day, and it feels as if we’re always racing against the face of time.

 

photo credit creative commons im elsewhere

Yet, the solution to finding more time is not stopping time itself, but something we have within our grasp with each minute and second of the day ahead.

 Each morning when I get up, I groan. I glare over at the bright red numbers that seem to mock me in the morning. I know if I don’t get up, I’ll lose my time to work on my latest fiction masterpiece. Otherwise, should I ignore the clock and go back to sleep another type of wake up call will come in an hour later and snuggle into bed beside me. My son has an internal alarm and it would seem no matter what time you allow him to stay up at night, he still is awake by 6:30am. Then by 7am the entire house begins to rouse for the day.

Rather than attempt to stop time, I’ve learned to move forward.

MAKE THE CLOCK EVOLVE AROUND YOU

Life is more than what happens at our day jobs between 9 and 5 everyday. Sure, we get up and go to work and come home to relax for the evenings. But does it make you happy? Or do you let the joy of your dreams get sucked out of you by the consistently depressing news on television each evening or reality tv that makes us feel as if our lives are supposed to be dreary and awful because everyone else lives that way.

When my children have activities in the evenings, I struggle to put aside the things I think I should be doing in order to take them to the places they need to go. Years ago, I decided rather than chomp at the bit of time; I’d go with the flow. If I couldn’t be at home to write, I’d take my writing with me. So while I sat at baseball practices, dance lessons, and scout meetings, I pulled out a small tablet and worked out the next scene of my novel or a short story, and sometimes just a list of ideas or plot points. Whatever I’m jotting down on that paper, moves me forward to completing the things I want to accomplish.

DON’T WAIT FOR THE RIGHT TIME TO COME

For almost a decade I sat with other mothers from infants through preschool age in about three different MOPS groups due to various moves our family had to make for my husband’s employment. I loved to sit and listen to the women’s dreams. All of them had something they wanted, whether it was a new house, a bigger car, a career they’d put on hold, or a trip to a distant place. All of them ended their vision with, “maybe when the kids get older.”

I’ve never been a patient person. I’m always in the “now” mode, much like a lot of children I know, mine included.

As time passes, life changes to a new stage, and we have little or less time than we did before. Our lives are swallowed up by commitments and obligations and we still can’t catch up with the appointed hour in which we wanted to do something.

YOU CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH AND BE IN SO MANY PLACES…

As a young mother, I felt torn between my children and my household obligations. My husband was working and going to school and I was left alone with a baby and toddler who couldn’t be left alone for a minute. I had groceries to buy, letters to mail, people to visit and help, and doctor appointments that I needed to keep. A quick flash of supermom dressed in a cape dissolved after many nights of staying up to do laundry and wash the dishes and try to get the sticky goo of who-knows-what from beneath the kitchen table.

If you struggle to find time to accomplish the day to day things, then take a moment to re-evaluate what you’re doing and if they’re necessary. Becoming burnt out from your job, your family, or your outside commitments isn’t going to open the storage units of time for you in the future.

Ask yourself what it is you want NOW, find a place for it, what are you willing to swap for the time to make it happen?

THREE WAYS TO CARVE TIME FOR YOUR CREATIVITY

1.    Create a schedule. Pull out a calendar and pick a block of time that doesn’t conflict with major daily events. It can be a 30 minutes or up to two hours. Maybe you can split the time in two different slots of the day or make an appointment with yourself once a week.

2.    Manage your tasks. Is there anyone else in your house that can help you do a few of the daily chores or is there someone else available now that is better suited to take over a commitment or two that you’ve had in a volunteer setting or group that would benefit both the organization and your time?

3.    Resist distraction. Say no when asked to do things during your time set aside for Creativity. Avoid internet if all possible to prevent from getting drawn into social media or mindless videos. Don’t answer the phone, unless you fear it might be an emergency. Put a sign on the door so your family knows when you’re in your creative time zone and when you’re able to focus on them.

Every morning, I get up around 5:30am, I don’t turn on my email, I don’ turn on any application on my computer except for my scrivener or MS Word. From that time until 7am, Mom is invisible (unless someone is bleeding or the house is on fire). My son brings me tea when he gets up at 6:30am. He doesn’t say a word. Just a hug and places the tea by my computer. Then at 7am, the timer goes off on the microwave in the kitchen and the time I’ve carved out for my creativity is gone. If I sleep in, or a child is sick, or something happens during that time that I get pulled away, the time is gone. I have to wait until tomorrow.

This schedule has served me well over the past few years. I’ve had to tweak it and prioritize my day, but I’ve managed to get my creativity on each morning.

What is the biggest struggle you encounter trying to carve out time in your day for your creativity?

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Hold Fast To Your Dreams

Dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Langston Hughes

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons: Chandricka221

 

Somewhere inside all of us is an all-consuming obsession, a purpose, a burning desire to create something, obtain something, and achieve something.

Call it a dream, and remember that dreams can come true.

I once had a mentor figure in my life ask me what I wanted to be in life and where I saw myself in the future. When I told this person I wanted to be a bestselling author like Nora Roberts or Frank Peretti, they simply informed me, “We can’t all be bestselling authors. You still need a day job.”

Like most fiction writers, I started writing stories when I was young. In high school I sent a few to magazines and shared them with classmates and teachers. I played a little with flash fiction in college, but I was working, going to school, and falling in love with my husband.

Then after our son was born, my husband handed me a pen and reminded me that I’d wrote in my high school year book that I wanted to own my own business, be an author, and have kids.

It’s been nine years since I took that pen from my husband and wrote that novel. The novel my agent is marketing and the one that I wrote, rewrote, and rewrote again as I learn what it was to revise my writing and perfect my craft.

And for a short time, I tucked my dream away and tried to convince myself that I should give up and accept that the desire in my heart was only that, a desire… a dream.

Yet, it only brought heart ache and misery not to write, not to create. I’d rather not sleep then not have the time to do what I love. And when I sleep, the dream is still there.

Napoleon Hill once said, “Without developing an all-consuming obsession, a definite purpose, and a burning desire, you won’t find the motivation to succeed.”

When we truly believe in our dreams, we hold fast to them. There are always those who would rather pull you further from your dreams then boost you higher within their reach. Many have tried, many have failed, and only you know whether you will succeed.

I am who I believe I am. I’m an upcoming bestselling author. I’m a creative entrepreneur and a wife and mother. Sound egotistical? Perhaps to those who have never dreamed or allowed themselves to peruse the desire of their heart, but to someone who has, then believe in the dream and hold it fast.

Whether your dream involves writing, art, creating something with your hands, or climbing the corporate ladder—hold fast to your dream, for as Langton Hughes puts it so poetically, “For if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”

Finish this sentence:

I’ve always dreamed of …

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If Children Are Our Future, Then Why Are We Letting Them Govern Our Parenting and Family Life, Now?

When I first heard the news about the girl who decided to sue her parents for school tuition, my first thoughts were, “what is the world coming to?” Not only that, I knew like so many other cases in our judicial system, that this one would set a precedence for parents throughout the United States.

 

photo credit: Tim Samoff Flickr Creative Commons

Growing up, my parents taught me three fundamentals of life:

  • 1.     If you wanted something you had to earn it.
  • 2.     In order to earn what you wanted, it takes hard work
  • 3.     Even if you didn’t agree with Mom and Dad’s rules, you still obeyed as long as you lived in their house.

When I was in high school, I didn’t think I could go to college. No one in my family had gone before me. I was the daughter of a dairy farmer, and by society standards I had been labeled “dirt poor.” Yet, despite going to a vocational school my junior and senior years of high school, I still went to college. Another one of those, if you go to a vocational school, then you’re not college material lies that society sets on us.

When it came time for college, I never expected my parents to pay for it. Why? Because of #1 and #2 fundamentals I’d been taught all my life. They didn’t necessarily have to be spoken aloud; they were there in our everyday life.

There is no credit on life.

When my ten year-old came to me and demanded that I buy her an iPod, I asked her why. She went on to tell me I had to buy her an IPod because her other friend had one and her parents had bought it for her. I told my daughter if she wanted an IPod she would have to save up her own money to buy it. But she didn’t have any money and said if I bought it now, she’d do extra chores. How many times have we heard that one before?

Well, not in our house. If you want something, you work for it now, and you pay for it later.

Whoever came up with the line about “keeping up with the Joneses” had to have been a retail marketing expert.

Paying It Forward

The years I went to college were not filled with memories of parties and hangouts. My days consisted of commuting to classes, working part-time, and studying at all hours of the night. When my classmates were headed to hang out in the lounge, I was headed to work or to the library.

When I graduated college, my student loans were less than half of the debt my other classmates had accumulated throughout the years.

Never once did I demand my parents pay for my college tuition.

Now that I look back at those years, I feel a great boost of self esteem. Not only did I go to college and graduate with a four year degree, but I paid my own way and I did it on my own.

Just like the odd jobs my ten-year-old did the summer before her eleventh birthday and saved up for that IPod she wanted.

It’s so much more valuable to her now, and then it would have been if we’d just given it to her.

Respecting the Rules

Waiting is an exceptionally hard thing, especially when you’re young. As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to wear make-up and go out on dates. I listened to the stories of other girls and their exciting tales of sneaking off to meet boys and fun things they did together in groups, and I couldn’t wait.

Like a calf getting ready to run out of the shoot, my sixteenth birthday couldn’t come fast enough. It meant make-up and movies with boys. It meant late night curfews and getting to drive a car.

While I got those things, they came with rules. Ones, which if got broken, resulted in the loss of those privileges.

Oh yes, life can seem so unfair when you’re sixteen and grounded. We’ve all been there a time or two, don’t deny it.

It’s understanding those frustrations, yearnings, and futuristic outlooks that motivate us, as parents, to govern our families and determine the type of family we want to establish for our children, not subjected to the whims of babes.

“We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

What is the one thing you wanted most as a kid and are now thankful you’re parents didn’t hand it to you?

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