Monday, January 28, 2013

Essential Oils: Resistance is Futile

When I first heard about Essential Oils, I thought they were something long haired hippies used in place of real medicine so they could stick it to the man shortly before they died due to lack of proper medical care. Then I realized that some of my neighbors were using it and I’d never once seen any of them running naked down the street singing freedom songs. (For that I’m extremely grateful.) And it wasn’t just one or two neighbors; it was like a Borg infestation of naturalness. Essential oils were everywhere and I was quite determined to not be assimilated.

When my son was stung by a wasp last summer, and I realized my Benadryl had expired, I called a neighbor to see if she had any on hand.  My family has a history of severe bee allergies and while he hasn’t ever had a reaction to a sting, I wanted to be cautious.  My fabulous neighbor brought her Benadryl over along with a little bottle of Lavender oil. (Gasp, she’d been assimilated.  I still let her in. She had Benadryl.) My son was screaming in pain. (Always the dramatic one.) I don’t like giving my kids more than one medicine at a time, so Tylenol was out of the question.  Benadryl was more important.  The Lavender wasn’t something he had to take internally so I put a drop on the sting hoping for a good placebo effect.  He stopped crying and didn’t swell up like a balloon. (Win-win!)

I get anxious when I have to drive to new places, meet new people, and be in the spotlight. It's not anything major, just minor stomach upset.  Needless to say, I was worried about the book signings last month. I didn't need to feel sick on top of feeling nervous. That was when I decided to try Essential oils on myself.  Smells can be calming and I’d already used them on my son.  I didn’t even mind if it was just a placebo effect.  After all, the anxiety was all in my head anyway. So I decided to try the Balance blend. (Thereby proving that resistance was futile.)

 I have to admit the Balance blend is pretty awesome.  It totally took care of my anxiety and I made it through all my book signings without running away or screaming freedom songs at the top of my lungs while running through the bookstore. Before Balance, I often felt tired and rarely wanted to exercise.  After the Balance, I started feeling like I wanted to exercise (which some may argue is actually a sign of craziness.) I’ve found myself more on task and less on Facebook. (Sorry friends.  I still love you.) I decided to try it on my kids.

Parent teacher conferences are always a joy (I even typed that with a straight face.) Every teacher tells us the same thing.  “(insert name of my child here) is really smart.  Look at these amazing test scores,” shows us amazing test scores. “If only they would focus and turn in their homework. And that’s why I had to fail them.” Okay, so they don’t actually say that last part.  But their grades do not reflect how smart they are.  All three read way above grade level.  Their CRT scores are perfect.  My oldest skipped 7th grade math and went straight to 8th grade honors math.  We’re talking brilliant kids. Why can’t they turn in their freaking assignments? (Sorry about the bad word. It just gets frustrating. Wait, assignments is only a bad word for my children. I don't need to apologize.)

I’ve been using Balance and In Tune for my youngest.  He’s my biggest wild card.  You never know what you’re going to get from him.  Usually he’s contest to read his kitty books or sit on his bed spinning things. I like to think of this as a sign of his brilliance.  Geniuses are quirky, right? He actually told his first grade teacher during one of those super fun conferences that math would be more exciting if she would teach division. (On a side note, if you’ve ever watched The Middle, the youngest kid, Brick, is totally my son if you mix his personality with the friend who thinks he’s a cat.) Anyway, last week I asked his teacher if she’d seen any difference in him and she said she had noticed that he was actually finishing, and turning in, assignments. (Win!) I’m also seeing assignments come home that are graded instead of blank. (Another win!)

My daughter doesn’t need the oils as much as my boys, but since I started using Balance on her, she actually remembered to talk to her teacher about all the Social Studies assignments she was missing. (Which would be every assignment minus one.) Then she brought them home and finished them. Today I will find out if she remembered to turn them in.  Baby steps. My oldest has own bottle of Balance that he keeps in his pocket and rarely uses.  He is also still grounded because of his last report card.

So there you have it.  A brief rundown of why I started using Essential Oils. I’ve been using other oils than the ones mentioned here, so I’ll keep posting about the different kinds as I learn more.  My kids still lose their focus, but the oils help them regain it.  I’ve also noticed that they have a better hold on their emotions when they use the oils.  Traditional medication for ADD or ADHD can make kids lethargic and the science isn't complete.  I like having something natural that helps my kids, but doesn’t change them. We still have challenges, but now we have a tool to help us get over the hurdles.

*Please note that no freedom songs were sung in the writing of this blog. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Year: New Goals

I've mentioned before that I don't do New Years Resolutions.  Resolutions are too absolute.  I will eat healthy this year! Yeah, right.  One look at the left over Christmas goodies, and you've broken your resolution.  That's why I do goals.  I'm working toward something.  I don't expect to have it mastered the moment I decide to do it.  

My goal this year is to teach my kids to work.  I'll do this through follow up and example. The example part is the hard one.  I told them that I would have the entire basement organized by the end of the year. If you've seen my basement, you'll understand why this is such a daunting task.  I don't plan on doing it in binge cleaning sprees.  I'm going to do it in 15 minute intervals a few times a week.  It doesn't sound like a lot of time, but it adds up.  You can do a lot in 15 minutes. (I must thank Flylady for that bit of enlightenment.)

I realize I just said that the example part is the hard one.  Actually, they are both hard.  I have to remember to follow up with my kids. I found a book on Pinterest called Cleaning House: 

A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. It's a monster of a title.  Anyway, you can find it here if you're interested.  I really liked some of her ideas for getting her kids to stop expecting everything to be done for them. 

In the book, the author put a jar with 30 one dollar bills in each child's room and then removed a dollar when an expected task was not completed. By the end of the month, the children got to keep what was left.  I thought that $30 was way too much allowance so I went for $20. My husband thinks $20 is too much, but then his allowance was $1 a month.  I cannot believe he and his siblings did as much work as they did for such a pittance. (We grew up in the 80s and 90s, not the 50s). 

Anyway, we had previously been giving our three children an allowance based on their age and then deducting whatever we thought was fair based on the lack of work they contributed.  They didn't really care.  However, since we've put a bag of money in their rooms, they don't want to lose that money so they're more willing to do the work.  I've also explained to them that since their allowance is considerably higher, they'll have to buy some of the extra things I'd been buying for them.  I get them a certain amount of clothes and if they want more, they pay for it.  The trick here is that I have to remember to check their work.  O_o

We actually started this in December.  All they had to do was make their bed in the morning.  I even reminded them. If they went to school with an unmade bed, I took a dollar out of their bag. Then when they got home from school, they had to complete their chores.  Each kid has an assigned task every week day.  They have a chart on the fridge to help them remember.  If they didn't complete their chore, and have it pass parental inspection, they lost another dollar.  There was a lot of grumbling, but December was ultimately a success. All three kids are now making their beds consistently and completing their chores.

This month they have to make their bed neatly (I was lenient that first month on the wrinkles.  Baby steps), have their room generally picked up, complete their chores, and help cook dinner once a week.  It is a little harder for them, but they are doing it.  This morning I was actually able to get the vacuum into the two younger kid's rooms.  I am rejoicing in the cleanliness. Each month I will add something else to their list.  I haven't followed exactly how the book went.  My kids already knew they were supposed to make their beds, clean their rooms, and do their chores.  What's different is that I'm following up and there is an immediate consequence if they don't do it.  Also, having them help with dinner has been a learning experience all around.  I learned that my youngest didn't know how to operate a can opener yesterday. Now he does.

I'll update about how it's going as the year goes by.  I'm not including a lot of detail here because I'm not sure if anyone is really interested.  I guess I'll know by the number of hits this post gets.  I always welcome comments too. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What I learned from all those signings

I did five signings in the month of December.  That was crazy.  It's also what happens when your book is a Christmas book.  You only get one month. Here's a shot of me at my first signing.  I'm totally giving the camera a 'just hurry and take the picture look.' I couldn't believe how crowded that store was. 

Two of my three kids came to see me.  My youngest proudly declared to anyone who would listen (not that they had a choice) that I was his mom and I wrote The Candy Cane Queen.  I have the cutest cheering section ever.  My teenager was at home doing homework. He did come to other signings, just not this one.

Here's a shot of my freshly painted candy cane striped nails. There were some spots I needed to fix, but it wasn't bad for a quick job.  I hand painted those stripes on both hands.  Not an easy task.

My book is a 16 page Christmas story.  It's a little pamphlet that comes with an envelope and is easy to mail.  They make the perfect long distance gift or inexpensive gift for neighbors. Some things I learned with these signings won't necessarily help with a traditional book.

I sold over 80 copies of my book at my first signing in Seagull Book. That was phenomenal. The next Seagull signing was 40, then down to 20, and the last was about 15.  I also did another signing at a university bookstore.  I'll go over that one later.

The first signing was in a crowded store on the first Saturday in December.  People were there to buy and not only to buy, but to buy in bulk. I had several people buy 8-15 copies at once.  They went to the store specifically to buy a stack of those little booklets to give as neighbor gifts, home teaching gifts, and gifts for visiting teaching sisters. The books sold for 2.49 each.  They make great gifts. The best time to sell these booklets is at the beginning of the Christmas season.  I sold half as many books at my second signing because most people already had purchased their bulk gifts.  I was amazed at the number of people I talked to who said they'd already bought my book.  (They also said they loved it, which is nice.) I didn't sell any multiple copies at my third and fourth signings.

If I ever do one of these pamphlets again, I will cram pack signings into the first two weeks of December and leave the two weeks before Christmas to my family. It would probably be good to do that for a traditional book too.  Most people were in a hurry and just needed a few things they forgot by the time those last two weeks rolled around.

I will very quickly touch on the university bookstore.  The people in the bookstore were very nice.  The students were nice too, but they were going to class, not shopping.  I wouldn't recommend doing a signing at a university bookstore unless you are there for a conference and there are several other authors signing with you.

I am not a super social person.  That is why I brought my bin of candy canes. It's easier to ask a person if they want a candy cane than to ask them to look at your book.  I'm not a saleswoman.  Most people would take a candy cane and then the adorable cover would catch their eye.  I sold the majority of my books by simply offering customers a candy cane.

Location made a really big difference. The best spot to sign is by the entrance.  From there, I was able to offer customers a candy cane when they walked through the door.  Some locations had me by the checkout line, which wasn't optimal since people were already done with their shopping by the time they saw me.

A lot of people noticed my fingernails.  As strange as it sounds, it worked for me.  My book is The Candy Cane Queen.  I had candy cane striped fingernails and was giving away candy canes.  Gimmicky? Yes, but it worked.

One thing I had to work on was my one sentence spiel.  People asked me what it was about and at first I just handed the book to them and had them read the back cover.  Lame.  I know.  I forced myself to work on a hook after that.

My kids' enthusiasm also contributed to sales for the short time they were there.  Their cute little faces and smiles attracted attention. Just having people there, draws attention.  If something is going on at your table, other people will look.  If they like what you have, they will buy.

My family and neighbors are awesome.  I could not believe how many of them showed up to see me and buy my book.  A few of them even bought in bulk.  Most bought one or two.  The important thing is that they took the time to come see me.  How cool is that?

I spent two to three hours in each store, but the employees work up to eight hour shifts.  I worked hard to make sure they liked me.  They're the people who actually sell my book.

I got hit with the flu for that last week before Christmas so I was sick during my last two signings.  I kept hand sanitizer next to me and washed my hands frequently.  I wanted to share the joy, not the germs. I also turned down a chance to do a sixth signing.  I looked like death warmed over.  It's not the best way to sell books.

The last thing I want to talk about is something I think is common among writers: anxiety.  I have mild anxiety and get physically sick when I go to unfamiliar places and have to talk to unfamiliar people. This is not optimal for book signings.  I heard about something called essential oils.  I thought they sounded kind of weird, but it also made sense that a scent could be calming.  I may blog a little more about them later when I know more, but the important thing is that they worked for my anxiety.  My point on this is not that everyone should run out and buy essential oils.  It's that you need to do something about your anxiety (if you have it) before you go to book signings.

I would love for any other author to post their favorite tips for signings in the comments.  I hope to have more books published and can use all the advice I can get.