Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scalability and Our Handmade Business (Part IV) - what to do when we run out of hours

follow your bliss locket - shira sela and polarity
See the previous parts of this series HERE, HERE AND HERE.

If we scale our handmade business and the thing we love most is the making of our whosee whatsee, then chances are we won’t be doing the thing we most love as our production numbers increase.

That is when we either get real with ourselves, delegate stuff we don't want to do to free up time for us to make stuff, streamline our processes, figure out a way to make our hours for dollars the highest $ possible and decide that is enough

(yes, you can actually turn away business and survive)

or we train someone else to do enough of our production that we can produce greater and greater quantities without killing ourselves.

(no matter how popular our whosee whatsee, no product has a shelf life of forever anyway)

And yes, there will be a learning curve with this and yes, production will slow at first and yes, there may be weeks when we will be paying someone else more than we are making ourselves

(owners get paid last folks)

If we dream of a really huge order and our plan if we were to get that really huge order is to "do whatever it takes" which is the kind of un-planning many of us call planning (raises hand), well, this is the thinking we want something we don't really want stuff that just makes us and our business weaker.

We send life mixed signals. Mixed signals cancel each other out.

We don't get what we want because some part of us - the part that thinks we are not ready for it or thinks it will be too much work or knows we are out of our comfort zone with this - some part of us doesn't want it.

But, what if we actually made plans for that huge order and got ready for it - what if we made it feel welcome. What if we took the time to bring that unconscious part of ourselves that feels this is outside our upper limit into the game. We could write out a plan to adapt to sudden market changes. We could calculate exactly what supplies we need to buy to produce X amount of whosee whatsees, we would draw up orders for these supplies, we would find backup suppliers and production help, we would know exactly how many hours of production such a large order would take and we would have this information ready to go. We could make files marked 100, 250, 500, 1000 so a large order brings us to our sudden market change file and we would know exactly what supplies to order, our time frames and the steps we will take to make this order happen.

(we should also have pictures of our makings with white backgrounds ready to go, too - I have used Pixc for background removal - only $2 an image and they do an excellent, fast job)

This is the kind of action that attracts what we want- not just pinning pictures of what we will do with our earnings on vision boards (although if that helps with your focus do that, too).

If your business is going to scale you might have to speak in public - how can you get ready for that? Is there a public speaking class near you that you can take? If we hate networking, how can we get more comfortable with that? If you are a "go big or go home" kind of maker, then getting ready to go big is the surest way to make it happen. Just don't pigeon hole yourself - stay flexible and available to what life offers up as you take action.

If we are a maker who is more in love with creating a business than the actual making of the whosee whatsee we are producing is it possible to recreate our business in order to scale? 

Zappos shoes is the biggest online shoe retailer. If you haven't heard this story you might be surprised at how the founder of Zappos got started.

He didn’t start by stocking up huge amounts of shoes and investing in an expensive back end website. Instead he went to local shoe shops. He asked the owner’s permission to take photos of the shoes they sold and he put those photos online. When an order came in, he went to the shoe shop, bought the shoes and shipped them ... all by himself.

This is not a scalable business model. But with this model he learned that there was a demand for the service he had created. Then he recreated his business to scale.

Maybe if we are in love with the business creation more than the whosee whatsee creation we could think of our current business as a way to test our assumptions about what people want. Maybe we can then recreate our business to scale. If our love is the business making, then we can make anything.

Can we create a service from our makings business? What have we learned that other people might be willing to pay for? Can we create an add-on that would work with the "make it once sell it again and again" model? If we love the business making more than the making - can we turn our making into a kit and sell that? Less work always = scale. Should we stop thinking product and start thinking service?

The best of kickstarter 2012 is HERE - what we can learn from them? This is my favorite project right now.

To wrap this up our handmade business (without outsourcing production and I am not even going to get into that one with this post except to say it sounds like a very slippery slope to me) may never be able to create the kind of scale that has us lying on a beach during the month of November, but there are ways we can create scale and stay true to ourselves and our makings.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Uranus Pluto Square - or battling Gods will cause the house to shake - plus New Moon Solar Eclipse in Scorpio

fox bracelet - cork and steel
If our birth charts are our contracts - our imprints of that moment we took our first breath - we literally are the universe at exactly that second -

then maybe we have set this all up already and just have to live it out, maybe some things we are going to encounter and deal with this go round are just not up to us anymore.

Of course, it is always up to us how we react and process things, the actions we take, the way we release things - not always so much the actual stuff it appears that we lose.

Some charts have a couple major themes, in other charts there is more going on as if we wanted to get a lot covered while we are here; to burn through a lot of old stuff.

When people suddenly appear to "lose it all" or life takes a total turn, often you can find in that person's chart a kind of integrated life - it's as if they decided OK when I am done with this (ie learned or experienced what I came into that experience to learn) move me right on to that.

Of course, the person living this thinks their life has just fallen apart.

(When I first started looking at charts when I was in banking, over 15 years ago, I looked at charts of many senior citizens because most of my clients were long retired and I didn't see many integrated charts - mostly all charts had a couple major themes. Now I see almost all integrated charts. Recently I saw a couple baby charts and they looked less integrated and I wondered if they would be growing up in a simpler time. So maybe simpler times are coming but what that looks like depends on what all of us do now. Freedom and oppression are both simple states in a way.)

Anyhoo, we have all been living with this intense revolutionary changes and karma burning stuff that is Uranus Squaring Pluto for a while now. This started in June 2012 and continues into March 2015. Right now we are in the exact peak energy of this. We have controlling Pluto and freedom loving Uranus engaged in a 3 year war! At their most extreme, Pluto digs in his heels and Uranus leaps without thinking - so many people are scattered and unsure of what direction to take. And because this is karmic for all of us - it is felt as deeply personal.

If we are tearing something down (Pluto is the phoenix rising from the ashes) we need to allow ourselves the space and the time to soul search and get clear on why. We can use the best of Uranus and the best of Pluto to create positive change. We don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater now.

I had to do the exercise below for a class I am taking and thought it might be helpful to someone else to post it here - this is the place the current square hits your chart based on your sun sign, if you know your rising sign check that also.

If you are an Aries - Uranus/1st house of your identity vs Pluto/10th house of career - I don't think it is a coincidence that two Aries I know both told me the recent changes at Etsy made them feel like they were 'fired'. This square will be about male authority figures vs your own voice, staying true to yourself while fitting in with your career, breaking out on your own in some way vs maintaining the company line.

(and this is not a judgement that one way of being is better than the other way - there is no right or wrong with Pluto and Uranus - both sides will come away from this battle changed - if I was a betting woman I would bet on Pluto though)

If you are a Taurus - Uranus/12 house unconscious, fear, karma vs. Pluto/9th house education, philosophy - this is about dealing with unfinished business before moving into a new space, getting stuck in the past, old fears keeping you stuck, more compassion for yourself, probably hiding or leaving vs actually dealing with what is happening

If you are a Gemini - Uranus/11th house friendships, opportunities vs. Pluto/8th house sex, shared resources - this is the struggle of getting close with people, feeling safe with intimacy, the me vs us struggle of relationship, this can be about dealing with jealousy issues - when to fight for what you want, when to let go

If you are a Cancer - Uranus/10th house career vs. Pluto/7th house of relationships - you have the balance of work vs relationship, also the power struggle within a work hierarchy or a relationship, standing up for yourself within your career or a close relationship, career vs marriage issues

If you are a Leo - Uranus/9th house education, philosophy vs. Pluto/6th house health, work, service - this square for you will likely be about claiming your own power, tooting your own horn (time to roar Leo) , not saying yes to things you don't want, over-committing and not following through vs keeping your word, honesty, service to others vs your own health

If you are a Virgo - Uranus/8th house sex, shared resources vs. Pluto/5th house pleasure, children, art - you will be dealing with letting your walls down and trusting others, how you make money from your creative ventures, recognizing when you are being manipulated, revealing more of yourself through art, creation issues - children and creations that are like children to you

If you are a Libra - Uranus/7th house relationships vs. Pluto/4th house family, home, roots, physical structures - you might be dealing with pregnancy or children vs relationship, moving out of the space of needing your family's approval or working with how that approval fits into your life, becoming secure and rooted personally, changes in your relationship affecting your foundation

If you are a Scorpio - Uranus/6th house health, work, service vs Pluto/3rd house communication - you are dealing with your words literally creating your reality now - you need to be walking your talk now, thoughts literally making you sick, adjusting to change, letting go, allowing systems to work instead of being a control freak

If you are a Sagittarius - Uranus/5th house pleasure, children, art vs. Pluto/2nd house possessions, earnings, values - this square will be shaking out any fears about money, being creative in spite of money fears or needing to get serious about money, confidence issues, keeping a cool head, stepping into your power, handling the spotlight, finances vs creativity

If you are a Capricorn - Uranus/4th house family, roots, physical structures vs Pluto/1st house identity - you are probably dealing with your role in the family changing, moving, uprooting yourself or creating a new image for yourself, women shaking up your world, letting your voice be heard, identifying with issues involving women's rights and children's rights

If you are an Aquarius - Uranus/3rd house communication vs Pluto/12 house unconscious, fear, karma - so this square is about healing, the connection between the mind and body, the law of attraction, forgiveness, compassion, overcoming fears through communication

If you are a Pisces - Uranus/2nd house possessions, earnings, values vs. Pluto/11th house friendships, opportunities - the issues of your self worth vs what your friends think of you, standing up for yourself, not being dominated by someone, working freelance or in a less structured way, dealing with issues of your work in the world, working with technology or learning new technology

Realize these are the spaces in our lives where we may find more questions than answers right now and that is OK. We are all in this space between the old and the new and wheels that feel like they are spinning in sand will find something to grip - when Mercury goes direct and this latest exact square moves by mid November we should be able to be a bit clearer on all of this or it will just not feel as important.

AND we have a New Moon Solar Eclipse this weekend, but I will have to get back to that because I got carried away with this square - I blame Pluto! xo all

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Scalability and Our Handmade Business (Part III) - what to do when we run out of hours

look the world straight in the eye
Scalability makes some makers nervous. It makes me nervous, too.

This is the working on your business and not in your business thing we talked about here.

Of course I talked about the reverse; the importance of working in our business vs. on our business and I still believe that building yourself a job instead of an empire is a totally acceptable and sometimes the most appropriate thing to be building.

It is also the difference between building a business with the goal of selling the business (and not just the whosee whatsee our business produces)

and building a business we want to grow ourself for a long time or even leave to our children, if anyone still does such a thing - this used to be the main reason people started businesses, when I was in banking I heard this all the time - it does not so much happen anymore, which is probably a good thing, kids don't need empires.

Or maybe it's easier to say it is the difference between a business that runs itself and a business the owner loves to run.

(and some kind of balance of both these things may be the ideal)

Most makers I know set up their businesses for the second scenario - the build a life as well as a business scenario - but they did this totally unintentionally, so may have allowed the business to grow in unintended ways and maybe it has become unstable.

They might actually prefer the first scenario at some point - maybe not the selling part, but the business running itself part, but didn't set things up that way and it is hard work to transition.

When I was in banking I told business owners, "make yourself unnecessary" - they couldn't always do this and now that I have worked both sides of this thing I know why.

(it's the passionate heart part of making this thing that ropes us in, folks)

There is no right or wrong answer here.

What I do know though is that when a business reaches a certain level of activity it will actually become less stable without scalability. 

Are there ways to scale and still do the thing we love to do? Yes.

Start out asking yourself what it is you truly love to do.

(think about your ideal work day -
what is it you are actually doing?)

1. Some makers who love the physical part of making their makings have to do that part. There is no question about this. If that is you - you can still make things run smoothly as you grow

(and yes, you will have a limit to your growth; limiting growth is often a good thing - it is called sustainability - unlimited growth is not always good, it is what cancer cells do)

by streamlining your operation, hiring the right support people, charging premium prices by packaging your work in a way that it has a higher value to your customers (this is the part where your story comes in, too) and setting up the right systems.

(we will talk about these systems in Part V)

There are only so many hours in the day. If you are this kind of maker you have to know your limitations. You have to embrace them. You have to know you are building something bigger than something big. You can't take on too much or you will make yourself ungrounded and unstable - you have to be happy with enough.

(I usually find that people who cannot be happy with enough are not happy with 'more' anyway)

This doesn't mean you cannot build something truly amazing and powerful and important.

2. Some makers will find they love the building a business thing more than the actual building of their whosee whatsee.

We will talk about these makers in Part IV later this week

(and thank you to Kathy for letting me know this post had somehow posted empty, which was not some kind of new marketing ploy, but if it makes me sound smart and cutting edge to do this, I will totally take credit)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Scalability and Our Handmade Business (Part II) - how do we get to be spidey-woman and still make stuff?

white heart studios - get your spidey on
I wrote a series of posts a couple years ago on different ways to make money on Etsy, but it was really a kind of whine about how tired I was. You can read it here.

Burn-out is an occupational hazard of working from our hearts and with our hands and heads and I don't believe it is totally preventable. It is one way we know it is time to change things.

Scaling our business is something lots of makers start thinking about when we are burned out or our businesses become unsustainable; sometimes because we are selling more than we can make but sometimes because we are making more than we can sell - the smart ones work it into their model from the start.

For those of us who haven't, raises hand here, redefining our business later is a lot of work. It is like trying to comb your hair in a hurricane. Our business still needs to stay open and making money while we make changes in the background. This takes time and time is the one thing we think we don't have. Time is kind of stretchy though - if we need to make changes, we need to figure this out.

It's like spending more money now - for example buying your supplies in bulk - to save money later, spending time now to save time later works the same way.

One maker model of scalability is the make something once and sell it again and again model - the illustrator who sells prints of his work for example. He still gets to do what he loves which is draw, but he doesn't have the one for one maker model that limits his sales to how many drawings he can produce in a day and he has the bonus of still being able to sell his originals for much more.

(of course he still needs the traffic and he still needs to be producing original things people want to buy to make this all work for him)

Anytime you can make something once and sell it again and again you have created scale. Anytime your fixed costs or the time it takes to make the next one of something you make is reduced from the first one you made, you have created scale - it can take me as much time to make 1 of something as it does to make 3, for example. So every time I make 3, I create scale (of course this assumes I can at some point sell 3).

Some ways for makers to
start thinking about scale:

1. Sell a pattern or tutorial (the old create it once, sell it again and again thing)

2. Sell 3 things to 1 person - Upsell to existing customers. It is cheaper to sell 3 things to one person than 3 things to 3 people, so set up your site to make this easy.

For example a customer looking at rings should be shown a link to other rings or maybe a customer looking at a ruby ring should be shown a link to other ruby jewelry, you decide what you think they want to see, and pics are always better than words when it comes to links and selling online.

When thinking scale it is always better/cheaper
to focus on existing customers ... or is it?

3. Sell 3 things to 3 people (you know my rules are always bendy) 

Create a referral system - more happy customers create more good word of mouth which creates more customers that you didn't have to do anything to get (other than be your amazing self, of course)

For example - try a send a friend deal with a coupon code for people who refer people - you might not totally be able to police this, but who cares.

4. Create a mailing list - this is very important because it is so much less work to sell to people who already love our stuff - just ask your customers if they want to be added and make it worthwhile for them. Give them sneak peaks and discounts and information they want.

I wouldn't email them more than once every 4-6 weeks - when people using mailchimp email me more frequently than that I almost always remove myself from their list - the emails, just like every interaction with a customer, should always reflect your brand. Don't just throw something out there.

For example - Email customers a coupon for a discount on something in your store and in the email include a downloadable simple card they can give with it if they purchase it as a gift. I have found this works better than just a coupon.

5. Keep track of your existing customers' wants and needs - remember, the less time and money you have to spend finding new customers the more you are thinking scale.

For example - Soap lasts, I don't know 30 days - can you sell auto-renewals or subscriptions? You have probably seen this genius viral campaign for this genius tampon delivery company.

Someone who bought mittens from you last year will almost certainly have lost them by now.

Someone who bought cufflinks from you for their wedding a year ago will have an anniversary right now.

Ask customers for their birthdays and email them a birthday card and a coupon two weeks before.

This stuff will take time and maybe money to set up in the beginning, but if you do it right will more than pay for itself later. Hire someone local on TaskRabbit to help you get this set up.

6. Streamline your makings

for example - if you sell on Etsy, maybe you created certain whosee whatsees that you don't sell much, but they drew customers in who maybe bought other things - or this was your thinking anyway, well, maybe now that search is so different and so crowded this isn't true anymore and you can just ditch this stuff and save yourself time, money and headaches

7. Think passive income

For example - sell blog advertising, create a subscription service, etc

8. Hire help; any kind of help that saves you time - if you can pay people less to do things than you can charge someone else, you have created scale. You may not technically create scale if you do this solely to save your own sanity, but in a spideywoman world it totally counts. So if you save 4 hours a week, by having someone clean your house and can put that time into your business, or into wth a nap, and need to do it - go ahead.

Spidey-woman is not superwoman. 
Superwoman burned out.
Spidey-woman is just getting started.

The best thing we can do is build scale and passive income into our business in the beginning - this does not have to be something gigantic.

Big thinkers do not always look like big thinkers to the outside world because our thinking is more broad than tall - we are thinking deep. We are not leaping tall buildings anymore - we are scaling them. This allows us to move over here and over there when we need to, so we get to have an actual life as well as a business.

Spidey-woman has taken superwoman down, folks.

Of course the problem with dollars for hours has always been that if you create a successful whosee whatsee you will run out of hours.

Next week - part III what to do when we really run out of hours

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mercury retrogrades today - let's add non-reactive to our list of "re's" for this one

unless it's the last of the milk and mercury has just gone retrograde

Mercury is the messenger; the magician - the god of mind, intellect, voice and language. Mercury is about what is being communicated to us

(it's the stuff we take in that literally makes us who we are - did you see this Jimmy Kimmel video - he asks kids the worst thing their mother has ever said and boy after boy say it was when his mother called him stupid - this might be funny on Kimmel, but not so funny that this is what our boys are hearing - I am sure their mothers are well-meaning and it was probably something like "well, that was stupid" when the boy did something, well, kind of stupid, but this is what the boys remember - we always have to be mindful that it is what we take in that makes us who we are)

Mercury energy asks the question "what are we a voice for?"

This is powerful stuff. 

We honor Mercury when we speak our truth, when we think through our thoughts before we say our words, when we say more and talk less.

We dishonor Mercury when we are glib or hot-headed or rude, when we believe that talking about something is the same as doing it; when we say what we think someone wants to hear when it isn't what we really believe.

I have had a few crazy confrontations with people lately myself and probably the only reason I have not had more is that I do not get out much. I am not in the mood to take any baloney from people these days.

(unless it's wunderbar - I know this stuff will kill me, but it's addicting - good thing I only eat it when my sister visits from Portland once a year - it's like our secret handshake)

I really need to be with people who walk their talk right now - who just do their jobs. We are all working so hard now. Excuse makers please exit stage right. Maybe I am not the only one feeling like this.

Now that Mercury is retrograde until November 11th it is probably best to be more 'non-reactive'.

This one is in an earth sign. It feels like some kind of balancing of our connection with cyber reality and our connection with actual reality is happening. We need to get outside and stay grounded. Actual physical environments will change now for some people.

As always a retrograde is a good time for the "re" stuff. Redo, reconnect, rethink, repeat, revise, redesign, recuperate, repair things or buy recycled (rather than new) - stuff like this (warning shameless plug ahead) amazing jewelry.

It's best to spend these weeks gathering information - not so much acting on it. The information communicated to us will be in constant flux now, so working with it will be like trying to hold on to jello - oopsy. If we stick to the "re's" now though, when this retrograde ends in November we will all be in a great position to get our holiday groove on and make some ka-ching.

(at least it's not hitting us during prime shipping season again)

More on Mercury here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Scalability and Our Handmade Business - how do we get to be spidey-woman and still make stuff?

round and round we go - polarity locket
So, as makers we have been kicking this scalability issue around forever.

And since our businesses are living, breathing entities (not in a businesses are people kind of way, of course) that evolve and grow maybe this is something we can look at now with fresh eyes.

You have probably heard that you might be able to increase profits by making your business scalable (or that you do not really have a business if it isn't scalable) and maybe

you are kind of picturing yourself climbing a mountain or maybe being carried up a mountain on the shoulders of a hardy sherpa.

(which is probably the only way I could climb a mountain right now - NOTE TO SELF - put the inflatable bed away, the guests have been gone for a month and pull the elliptical machine back out, oh and actually get your ass on there Cat).

When I was in banking being able to scale a business just meant the business was efficient enough to be able to grow and work just as well in a large 'scale' situation - when a business model or design failed with a quantity increase we said the business will not scale - so no loan for you good buddy, see you later, have a nice day.

Today more commonly when someone talks about scaling our business they mean we add more business (the ka-ching part) without adding more work or increasing our (proportional) costs - our business becomes more and more profitable without us expending more and more energy (energy = money or time).

Scalability refers to the ability of a site to increase in size as demand warrants. Businesses are extremely scalable if the costs to operate the business are relatively fixed and more customers do not significantly increase our costs but they do significantly increase our profits. This is the perfect business model but doesn't work for everything.

It might be easier to picture what scalability is with an example of what scalability isn't.

(and usually the best way to learn anything from my blog is to read what I have done and then go ahead and just do the opposite)

I used to sell from seasonal mall carts.

This was in the days when people still did most of their shopping there. I started with one cart (see my story about that first season from hell here) and worked it myself six days a week, insanely long hours as the holidays got closer, and then had my brother and his friend work on Sundays.

It was totally exhausting, but a short enough season that I somehow managed to survive and lived to do it again.

That first year I grossed X amount of dollars. Let's say the X was $100,000 - it was probably not that much but this number will be easier to work with. Now because I sold something for $20.00 that cost me $5.00 to make which is about the minimal kind of mark-up you needed for a mall cart in those days - so it was something like $100,000 gross minus $25,000 product, $10,000 rent, $10,000 start up costs, $2000 salaries and $3,000 out the window who knows where costs, let's say I made about $50,000 (before Uncle Sam took his cut).

The next year I became one of those 'go big or go home' kind of girls and rented two mall carts.

And because I am the kind of compulsive thinker who thinks 36.5 steps ahead and because these two malls were an hour away from each other I hired enough people to cover both carts all the time (I think I hired 12 people) so that I was never scheduled to work and would be available to race to a cart if someone didn't show up for work or something went wrong or we just got swamped somewhere, any one of which I saw as a high probability.

Anyhoo, to cut to the chase. The second year I did not work quite as physically hard but mentally I had more stress and worked harder - more people to manage, more situations to manage, more inventory to manage, yada yada.

The second year my numbers looked totally different but because of the salaries I paid people (and when you pay people salaries you also pay half their social security and FICA and need a little thing, which is not such a little thing, called workmen's compensation insurance) and some inventory miscalculations, I ended up netting almost exactly what I had netted the first year.

Almost to the penny is the way I remember it.

Now, I did expand my business - I almost doubled my sales and my customer base, but I also showed myself it wasn't a very scalable business model. I slept through most of January.

I thought about scale the 3rd year (although I didn't actually think the word 'scale', I thought the word 'exhausted') when I planned for 3 carts and a manager to run them, but life twisted on me again - my mother's illness worsened and she moved in with us. I did one cart and hired some help. I have never really been a "go big or go home" kind of girl anyway - I was always more of a stay small and nimble kind of girl.

(except I have never been either small or nimble, but this is kind of how I see myself, go figure).

Today, we are mostly selling online which is great for scale because we can potentially reach more people without outlaying more energy (time, money) but we are also selling things we make by hand which is not so great for scale because usually we can only make so much.

Scalable is definitely possible for us, too, (it will likely require help, most good things do, we didn't come to this planet with 6 billion other people to go it alone, folks) although if we have not set ourselves up this way, it will be some work for us to get this scale thing going. And a product based business will probably never be highly scalable, but there are things we can do to increase profits without increasing energy (time or money) expended.

Later this week - part II - So how do I get to be spidey-woman and still make stuff

let's get our daughters into this scalability thing early girls


Friday, October 18, 2013

Manufactured Goods and the Fishing Boat Captain - part lV (the treasure)

paint and ink
"What are we pirates now Sully?" Captain Mooney asked.

"No, we aren't pirates Mooney. We are still fishing boat captains."

"But maybe there is something we could learn from pirates Mooney. Maybe a little pirate magic." Sully looked around the room.

He unfurled the 5 foot long map and slammed empty mugs on to the map corners to keep it open.

"What do you see?" he asked them.

The fishing boat captains gathered around the table. They looked from Sully to the map and back again puzzled. The moon light began to flow through the pub windows, slowly growing brighter and brighter until the map was almost blinding. Sully stepped back. The men shaded their eyes and leaned in.

The bartender, who had been pretending to busy himself with a dishtowel saw that the crazy fishing boat captains were standing around an empty table, each one staring at a different place on the dark table top, transfixed by ... nothing.

"These guys have finally gone off the deep end", he thought to himself.

Suddenly, the pub's lights flickered and dimmed. The bartender reached under the bar for his flashlight and when he looked up, the lights were on and the bar was empty. "What the hell?!" he screamed. 
Epilogue (1 year later)

Captain Mooney helped the dozen little girls and their mothers off her boat. "These boating birthday parties are so much fun", she thought to herself. One of the mothers asked Captain Mooney how she came up with this clever idea and how long she had been doing this. "Hmm, well, it just came to me about a year ago. The industry I was in had changed and I decided I needed a change, too." "Well, we're glad you did - this pirate party at sea was so much fun for the girls".

Mooney waved good-bye to the party-goers and headed down to the pub for a drink. She looked over at the Etsy Marina sign. Mooney didn't dock there anymore, but she knew some of the old-timers who were still there and doing OK - and she was happy for them.

She didn't see any new faces - the fishing boats were mostly guided electronically now that hands were not required to be on the ship's wheels and although she saw customers boarding those boats, there were still some customers who wanted a real-deal fishing boat captain with her hands on the wheel of their charter boat. The bad news for the old timers was that it was harder for the customers to find them, the good news was that all the competition looked the same.

The place was different, but this was ok because Mooney was different, too.

It was almost a year since the night she had been in the bar with Sully and the other Captains. She must have had too much to drink because all she could remember was a HUGE moon and looking at a crazy treasure map Sully had found and seeing ... something about treasure ... she could never remember ...

She remembered waking up the next morning feeling slightly hungover and well, let's just say it, Mooney thought to herself, "pretty freakin' fearless." Like, she knew her future was totally in her own hands and instead of that thought scaring the hell out of her like it used to, it made her totally anxious to get started. They were the hands that had held the wheel until now after all. She just knew her treasure was out there, hell she'd seen it! Or she thought she had, she wished she hadn't drank so much ...

She had only talked to one other fishing boat captain about the night Mooney had blacked out and Captain Jim hadn't remembered anything either. He did tell Mooney that night was when he decided to start his own little marina and Captain Jane had decided to take that job with the local company, the one who's stock had exploded and she bought that alpaca farm up in Maine. "I can't believe we were all so worried last year Mooney", Captain Jim had said, "it seems like all our sea legs landed on stable ground. Even the marina people who jumped ship have landed safely, I hear."

The only thing Mooney still worried about was Sully. She hadn't seen him in almost a year - not since the night with the map. People did catch sight of his boat now and then - Mooney had heard he had a pirate flag on his mast now - and that was enough to let them all know he was ok - they knew his hands would always be on that wheel.

Mooney finished her pint and headed for the door looking at the faded fishing rules sign on the pub wall - it's funny she thought, I wonder if the marina people had seen our rules before they changed theirs, if we had been able to get them to understand us, if that would have made any difference.


Outside, the moon was shining brightly and a newspaper reporter was interviewing worried people about the latest wash up of 'hands' down at the marina. These guys are here every month, Mooney thought shaking her head.

"What are they this time?" Mooney asked him."Female, maybe a size 10, leftie", the reporter answered before catching sight of the marina spokesman and taking off after him. As Mooney pedaled away on her bike, she could hear the marina spokesman saying:

"This is no cause for concern people. Hands are not as needed as they used to be. Machines can do the hands-on part for us all now. This is not a problem."

Mooney couldn't help noticing the spokesman had a metal hook where his right hand should have been. For a second Mooney thought she caught sight of a pirate flag on a ship heading out to sea ... no, she thought to herself, it couldn't be ...

(disclaimer from Olive -  all characters and companies appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons or companies, living or dead, is purely coincidental)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Full Moon / Lunar Exclipse in Aries on Friday - hold onto your integrity everyone

solar system magnetic necklace by polarity
I promise to finish up Captain Sully tomorrow.

(notice I didn't say finish off Captain Sully, but you never know what will happen since I am channeling Stephen King right now)

I want to get this post that I wrote a couple weeks ago up tonight for tomorrow's full moon.

Yes, we have a full moon - YIKES

(this one may or may not talk to us like Captain Sully's moon - it's in Aries, so I'm thinking if it is talking, it won't be holding anything back and we may have no choice but to listen and may not like what we hear)

and a lunar eclipse in Aries (remember the full moon is always in the opposite sign of the sun, so we have sun in Libra now so Aries full moon) - we had the Aries new moon last spring so something from that time is finishing up.

We also have Mars (Aries ruler) recently entering Virgo so it's a great time to put that energy (Mars) into Virgo stuff like organizing things, cleaning up, healing ventures, helping others. Virgo gets alot of heat as a fuss budget type of energy but that is far from the truth of it. This is where Mars landed last November so you may have a sense of deva ju right now depending on where this all lands in your own chart.

Virgo is ruled by Mercury so the retrograde coming up in a couple days (that energy is already with us) will ease some of the nastier Mars stuff with this - but we may be finding people saying unkind things, stuff we say being taken out of context, we'll be taking things too personally, saying things we immediately wish we could take back, etc. I have found some of this in my own life for the last couple weeks - mostly communication stuff, even crazy family nonsense with Facebook postings that have created some mini, short-lived feuds. Mars will be sitting here until December when it moves into Libra and we probably will be wishing he was back in Virgo!

So this full moon is lighting up the Aries/Libra polarity stuff in our own lives and the eclipse will help us more easily eclipse out what isn't working.

Think of Aries as the self and Libra as the other - we have "me vs. us", "assertion vs. compromise" here - all the stuff we have seen played out in our government is happening in our own lives and heads, too. We probably won't be able to sit on our feelings right now or the sidelines either. There is also this Uranus Pluto square that has a similar vibe and is causing a conflict between independence and connectedness then we have Jupiter kind of hanging around the fringes like the great cosmic cheerleader she is, in this case making things even more dramatic.

An interesting side note to this, not many astrologers talk about fixed stars much but my old astrology teacher was obsessed with them and it was contagious for me and maybe will be for you, too - anyway an interesting side note that relates back to my boat captain series for anyone who could figure out what the hell I was talking about with that one - is that the fixed star Fomalhaut which is the artist, magician, innovator Aquarius/Pisces energy is currently doing battle with the star Regulus which is the Leo kingly, royal, "one in charge" energy. This is a battle for the hearts and minds and has a sobriety aspect to this for many - maybe a wake up call that all is not as it seems.

Anyhoo, this eclipse will certainly dissolve anything in our life that is being held together with threads.

That was a long ramble. I hope something in here is helpful to someone. I am thinking of moving this stuff onto another site where maybe we can check the transits together and people can see how it fits into their own lives so this stuff will be more personal and useful. It can be very helpful to have a little peek around the corner at times.

Here's to clear skies and long walks in the moonlight everyone! xo

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Manufactured Goods and the Fishing Boat Captain - part lll (a fable in 3, now 4 parts)

skilled sailor cork ring
Captain Sully and his fishing boat captain friends, feeling the weight of a thousand other fishing boat captains on their shoulders, stumbled into their local pub.

The bartender who was used to people stumbling out and not so much used to them stumbling in, stood speechless.

Outside, a storm was kicking up. The wind howled. The sliver of a waxing moon filled the sky.

Sad Irish music (this) wafted from the jukebox although no one had put in any coins and hey, the bartender thought to himself, when the hell did that thing start working again?

At first the other patrons didn't notice the sudden storm and the determined and slightly vacant look of the fishing boat captains slowly filling the pub.

All at once they stopped their conversations mid-sentence and cocked their heads.

They looked at their watches. The guy in the john dropped his cellphone down the toilet and flushed it away. He was late - there was no time to lose.

The words pounded in his head. The word pounded in all their heads. LATE.

Most couldn't remember what they were late for - although some had vague memories of kid's soccer games missed years ago, papers not turned in on time, deadlines missed at work and then the promotion going to that jackass who always threw his empty water bottle in the trash can instead of the recycling bin.

One became haunted by her father's funeral, which she had missed 5 years before when a freak storm just like tonight's now that she thought about it - had delayed her trip home. LATE filled their heads until they thought their heads would explode if they didn't get GOING.

Outside as they stumbled onto the sidewalk, each head turned toward the moon in unison. The moon which had been only a sliver just minutes before now filled the sky over the Etsy Marina sign. The moon mouthed "YOU'RE LATE".

(cue the scary music here)

The bartender may have thought for a moment how strange it was that everyone was leaving at once but recovered quickly, filled frosty mugs with Guinness and handed each fishing boat captain a drink in turn as they stumbled past him on their way to the corner booth.

These were not folks taken to complaining. They were women and men of the sea after all and they had learned long ago that a smooth sea did not make a skilled sailor.

Tonight they sipped their pints slowly and nervously. Many didn't speak. A few grumbled about customers who wouldn't know a hands-on captain from a hands-off captain until the ship they were fishing on capsized. At least there would be no captain to go down with the ship, they muttered.

Captain Sully, a man of few words, looked each fishing boat captain in the eye (all at once, yes, all at once) and pulled out a ... treasure map.

(I guess this is a fable in 4 parts now - laughs mischievously and looks at the moon)


Monday, October 14, 2013

Manufactured Goods and the Fishing Boat Captain - part ll (a fable in 3 parts)

amos trout studio print
The marina had only one rule (see part 1 here) - the captain of the fishing boat must actually captain the boat - hands on the wheel, that sort of thing. The captain could have help of course, but the captain still needed to be the captain after all.

(the marina hoped not the kind of captain who went down with her ship, but that part was up to the captain as it should be)

Over time, more and more fishing boat captains were parking their boats at this marina.

The marina got bigger and bigger and hired more people. The marina took down the signs that said this marina was a great place to be a fishing boat captain and put up signs that said this marina was a great place to make money.

People who had never even thought about being a fishing boat captain decided this fishing boat captain stuff sounded like a good idea and joined in, too.

Over time there wasn't room for everyone's boats to be viewed by the vacationers who could choose which boat they would charter for their fishing trip. The marina solved this problem by making different boats visible to different vacationers at different times based on stuff that even the smartest and most cunning fishing boat captains were unable to totally figure out.

There came a morning -

(a storm out of a clear blue sky will probably be the way the story is told later, although any fisherman worth his salt could tell you there had been storm clouds brewing for years)

when the fishing boat captains reached their docks and noticed the marina's one and only rule - the rule that said the captain's hands must be the hands on the ship's wheel - the one rule that fishing boat captains had lived by for as long as there had been fishing boats to captain - well, that one rule had been erased from the marina's welcome sign.

The marina called a meeting to explain the changes. They assured the fishing boat captains that this was really a good thing. The fishing boat captains could grow their hands-on businesses now that their hands didn't have to be holding on to the ship's steering wheel.

Most captains were upset. Some were scared. Many were angry. A few were relieved that they could stop pretending to be fishing boat captains, expand their fleets publicly and hire other hands for that pesky "hands on" part.

Captain Sully (yes, I decided the fishing boat captain from hub's trip was named Captain Sully; the most trustworthy name for a captain after all) who had been a fishing boat captain for so long he measured his time at sea in decades and the other equally crusty fishing boat captains had their own meeting at the pub that afternoon.

Now this is where my tale grows darker I'm afraid dear reader - this blog can't be cork and car parts all the time folks, I'm sorry - sometimes life is ... treacherous.

back tomorrow with part III (you may want to make like a lighthouse or a red roof inn and leave the light on)


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Manufactured Goods and the Fishing Boat Captain - part I (a fable in 3 parts)

fishing locket - artwork by the amazing rbwatercolors
When hubs and I went on vacation last spring, George joined a boat charter for a 3 hour fishing trip. On the boat were hubs, the boat captain, one hired hand and 3 other vacationers.

One of the other vacationers (why do I want to type vacationeers, maybe because this took place in Florida), a guy who quickly let everyone know he was a "very successful" entrepreneur, was going on and on about what a great opportunity the boat captain had here and how he could be making a lot more money with his business.

The boat captain, a salty dog from way back, just kind of smiled indulgently at the businessman and asked him "why would I want to do that?" and the businessman was totally flabbergasted.

(this may be the first time I get to use the word flabbergasted in a blog post - I have been trying to work this word into my daily conversation for years, I just love it, you have to overlook the fact it kind of sounds like flatulence though)

Anyhoo, the businessman was getting himself all worked up. "You could have more boats! You could sit back and watch the money roll in! You wouldn't have to do so much work!"

The boat captain looking up at the sky and out at the sea, taking a long breath of clean ocean air and waving to the captain of another charter boat that passed them, his friend Jim who he would be having a pint with later on that afternoon, calmly replied, "I don't work now".

Now because I am that boat captain, but more importantly because I used to be that businessman, I understand both sides of this drama from my gut and my heart and 

I also understand how a boat captain (the artist in this little parable, in case I haven't been clear enough) who's never been a businessman (or at least not a "very successful" entrepreneur type businessman)

and a businessman who's never been a boat captain (the artist), can both shake their heads at the other guy's way of thinking about "success".

"Well," said the "very successful" entrepreneur, a man who prided himself on getting in the last word in any type of business negotiation, "If you don't do it, someone else will. Someone else will come in here and put all you guys out of business."

Now, here's where hub's fishing tale turns into a Stephen King novel

(yes, this is about to get gory readers, hang on to your breakfasts and don't get all squeamish on me later and claim I didn't warn you) -

the boat captain chuckled a little at the "very successful" entrepreneur who got to do for 3 hours what the fishing boat captain got to do every single day of his life.

He steered his boat back to the dock and parked in his designated spot in the marina, the marina he and his other fishing boat captain friends were so happy to call home - a marina called Etsy.

part II tomorrow - the marina gets bigger

Friday, October 4, 2013

New Moon in Libra - time to think about what we are committing our energy to plus can Etsy really call an apple an orange and make us see an orange

with brave wings she flies
Back to this new moon because the ritual of having a new moon intentions process is very powerful.

Moving into Libra from Virgo takes us from an earth sign into an air sign so those of us already living in our heads tend to get more ungrounded (and also catch head and chest colds), have less energy and be less able to finish things.

Some tips on grounding here.

Of course, new moons tend to be low-energy times anyway, so just go with it right now.

Think of the new moon a little like a blank page - this one in balancing Libra is focused on finding peace and equilibrium and an excellent time to set intentions for what we need to have more balance and harmony in our lives.

Setting intentions and making affirmations are one of the first steps to making something happen

(after releasing resistance to it and creating the space for it) - 

people sometimes think of the intention as separate from the action, but intention, particularly when part of a ritual, is an action itself. 

It welcomes the thing we are focused on into our energy. 

Now is a great time to focus our intentions on Libra stuff : relationships, marriage, negotiation, harmony, teamwork, social activity, beauty, Libra health stuff : adrenals, sugar imbalance, kidneys

Some examples of stuff I am working with:

1. I easily see and follow the path to create a happy marriage
2. I feel internally balanced and peaceful
3. I easily cooperate with others in healthy, happy and tactful ways
4. I make decisions easily
5. I easily attract, absorb and implement the information that leads to a total healing of my low blood sugar

then I add my 5 most important intentions, more specific stuff, worded with a Libra focus (astrologer Jan Spiller always suggests 10 intentions - she calls then wishes - and 10 is a nice number to work with so I try to go with that).

AFFIRMATION TIPS: get into a happy frame of mind - always make affirmations from a  positive place (positive meaning both happy and certain) - write your affirmations down by hand, speak them out loud - I always write my affirmations on strips of paper and put them into a bowl of rice so I can mix them around every now and then with my fingers if things get stagnant - then release your attention from them knowing that your intention is known. Know these things are already yours.

A couple words about Etsy's announcement this week since it will affect different sellers in different ways and celestially speaking couldn't be better timed. Etsy's solution to the factory stuff that litters it's pages now, is to find a way to make that stuff fit even if it means redefining handmade to include factory made.
 
They can decide what is allowed on their platform - but they can't just call an apple an orange and have it become an orange. 
 
(unless, of course they have some kind of Monsanto genetically modified fruit seed patent we don't know about in the works to do exactly this ...)
 
If your Etsy business feels like it has been built on shifting sand it is only because everything is shifting now - you would be feeling this stuff no matter where you had planted yourself.
 
This new moon in Libra, the part of our hero's journey that is all about balance and other people, is the perfect time to step into our authentic power - which is always sourced by spirit - to co-create better relationships and more harmony in our lives. It's also a great time to sacrifice whatever it is that causes us to sit on that fence!

(which reminds me that I recently sat on a white fence without realizing it was vinyl and bent it - my neighbor's brand new fence now has a forever impression of my left buttock which must be heavier than my right buttock now that I think about it unless I slouch leftie and I can't say the word buttock without hearing Forrest talking about his battle injury ... xo and have a nice weekend all!)
 
 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Moon in Libra - a grand cross call to action this month

Sullivan is rocking his Libra mommy's world right now
I have been AWOL planning and throwing a baby shower (yes, I threw the shower and not the actual baby) and hosting family in from Oregon!

Anyone who reads astrologer Susan Miller knows she has been predicting a bumpy October for most people.

This is not your typical New Moon because it is going to not only activate the Uranus/Pluto square but form what is called a Grand Cross.

This Grand Cross is where the action amps up big time and it plays out with the New Moon and Sun together in Libra on one corner of the Cross - Uranus opposite in the sign of Aries on another point of the Cross - Pluto squaring up in Capricorn on the third point of the Cross - and Jupiter in Cancer sitting the fourth point of the Cross.

Grand Cross configurations want something to change, move forward, rev up, and with New Moon energy behind the cross we are in for a real call to action

(we can see this all being played out in Washington right now with healthcare and Etsy with Chad's announcement this week and in our own lives).

If it feels like some kind of stability is ending for you, remember that stability is not the experience we are here for (we still want to be grounded though). The ego seeks to keep us safe (that's the ego's main job after all) which doesn't sound like a bad thing until you think of the toddler who would never take her first step if the ego had its way. On the one side of the coin, there is no inherent safety now for any of us (there never has been, the danger was just hidden from our view before) - on the other hand, nothing real can be threatened, so anything that looks like it is being threatened isn't real anyway.

Pluto (Capricorn, the authority) seeks power, Uranus (Aries, the warrior) seeks freedom - both are stubborn, tenacious cardinal signs that stand their ground and make things happen. When Pluto moved into Capricorn in 2008, our financial system crashed - when Uranus entered Aries in 2010, and then moved to within a few degrees of its square to Pluto revolutionary movements began to spread throughout the world.

Personally right now we may be reacting to something new happening or steering our ship into new waters ourselves (always better to grab the wheel - not to try and turn the boat around but to best avoid the rocky shore).

The New Moon gives us a full 2 weeks to make something happen or deal with what happens and it really culminates 6 months from now with the Libra full moon.

We also have mercury about to go retrograde so it's a good time to follow this new moon to its completion this month and wrap stuff up before the 21st. For most people, even though this is a new moon, it might be better to hold off and start new things in November when the new moon isn't followed by a retrograde (especially if you are a fixed sign person - I'm talking to you: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius).

I'll get back to all of this tomorrow (our new moon affirmation stuff as we makers journey through Libra and some stuff on Etsy's announcement), but just wanted to post this now.

Happy Thursday all - baby shower pics are coming! xo