Thursday, March 16, 2017

Small Business Owners, I Need Help

Question for Etsy shop/small business owners of over 2+ years: Is owning an Etsy shop (or just doing your own small business in general) even worth it?

Etsy takes a portion of your sales, which I am fine with because it is user friendly and beats the alternative of building/buying your own website and paying for an annual domain and website fee. But by the time you file your taxes, have you even made any money at all?

Do you end up OWING money for all the hard work, sweat, and sleepless nights you poured into selling your work?

Oh, and how to do you even keep track of all of your supply expenses vs. what you earned back? 

I'm just an artist who loves to create, and who wants to spread my wings and fly. However, creating the kind of art that I want to create takes a lot of time, patience, practice, rendering, creativity, money, and late nights. That, and I am completely clueless when it comes to business smarts.

Lately, I've had ideas pouring out of my ears, and no time to put them into fruition. Working full time, having daily personal responsibilities, fulfilling church callings, and most importantly, making time for my family usually means that (unfortunately) art is a last priority. I often go weeks or months without working on anything, even though it nags at my mind every day. It has been the most frustrating thing in the world.

In order for me to dedicate the kind of time I want into my passion, it often requires burning the midnight oil, which then results in a very exhausted Annika. It also results in a very messy/neglected house. This in turn, makes me very ornery.

There is also very little reward in terms of appreciation for the art I have created. I could spend hours, days, maybe even weeks on a project, and literally make pennies on it (and that's if I'm lucky, haha).

Here's the thing though. I have wanted to be an artist for sooooooo long. My entire life, in fact. But that's just it. I am an artist. Or at least an aspiring artist. I am an aspiring artist who works full time. I am NOT a business woman. I have studied, practiced, trained for, and loved art since I was a kid. I am creative, but I am not business savvy. I can barely organize my underwear drawer, let alone my business and business finances. Time management, focus, finances, and organization of ANY kind are not and never have been strong suits of mine.

I don't know who to talk to or where to turn to find help on how to do things from a business or financial aspect. And if I'm being honest, I wish I didn't have to worry about any of that stuff. It's too adult, too overwhelming, and too over my head. I want to stick to the creative side of things, but I am realizing that if I want to do what I love, I have to do a whole lot of what I don't love along with it. I need SO much help.

Sadly, lack of time and the "adult" technical part of things holds me back and makes me second guess trying to make a business of my art. And suggestions or encouraging words are appreciated.

Thanks and good day!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Paget Family Photoshoot

Last spring while Vance and I were in the midst of IVF treatments, I had the privilege of taking family photos of the Paget family. Peggy and Thad are some of my best friends, and their son Rockwell is sooooo cute! They found a gorgeous location in SLC, and the weather was perfect. I know they are not great, but I am pleased with how they turned out...especially considering the photos were taken with an old point-and-shoot camera.

It only took me six months to edit the pics (I am a BIG TIME slacker/procrastinator), but I finally did it. Here are a few of my favorites.

Save the best for last. This is my favorite one!

Note: I have no intentions or desires of doing future family photography or photo editing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

From the "Unexplained" to the "Explained"

As mentioned in past posts, Vance and I began our journey to start a family shortly after our one year anniversary, (October 22, 2011). Although it was scary to make that decision, it was mostly exciting. After 3 months of trying, I was getting discouraged and upset. It was taking so long! We had friends who were pregnant, a new baby niece, and young nephews. We were really hoping to get pregnant soon so that we could have kids around the same time as our family and friends.

Fast forward 1 year.
A year after trying, we started getting tested to see if we could figure out what was going on. We were both so sad, scared, and hopeful. Everything checked out okay on Vance's end, so my doctor started putting me on clomid and monitoring me with ultrasounds.

Fast forward 3 years.
3 years into trying, Vance had been tested several times, I had gone through multiple rounds of clomid and femara, we found our new doctor, I had X-rays and ultrasounds done on me to test everything out, and we had gone through 2 rounds of artificial insemination.

Fast forward 4 years.
At our 4 year mark of trying, we had 2 more rounds of artificial insemination under our belt for a total of 4 rounds (6 if you count the 2 other times we stopped the process right before the transfer date, due to my body's reaction to medications). We started applying for the Miracle Fund so that we could hopefully try IVF.

Fast forward to the present day.
At 4.5 years, life events finally led up to our desired IVF. Up until this point, we were still labeled as UNEXPLAINED. I bold that word and put it in all caps because it is an absolutely infuriating and haunting word for someone who has tried to find answers for as longs as we have. We went through the intense process of IVF as a couple diagnosed with unexplained infertility.

Almost 5 years of trying and one round of IVF later, we think we finally have an answer to the unexplained.

Vance and I have spent so many years being labeled as "unexplained" infertility, that it seems unreal that we now know the answer. We now know the reason behind the WHY. And even though I finally know the reason why, it all still feels so unexplained. I'm so grateful for the new knowledge, but I am also surprised with how little assurance and peace it has given me to know the answer. Perhaps I am just so jaded? I'm sure I won't accurately explain it, as a lot of what my doctor explained to me went over my head, but here it is in a nutshell:

Due to certain genes I carry, I guess my eggs have a very difficult time maturing.  It is unexplained how or why this happens to some women, but for whatever reason...they don't mature. Thus they don't become fertilized and grow into humans.

They were able to find this out about me because of IVF. After all of the medication I was on during IVF, I still had very few eggs to collect. Of the 7 eggs they did collect, only 2 were mature. Of the 2 that matured and fertilized, only 1 survived. He said that normally, if 7 eggs were collected, 5-6 of those eggs should have been mature and survived to the embryo stage, while 1-2 might have died off. I was just the opposite: 1-2 survived to that stage, and 5-6 died. If my body had that hard of a time producing mature eggs while taking all of those medications that are catered to egg stimulation and quality, just imagine how slim my chances are on a normal month with no medications? Next to none.

It is possible that the one surviving embryo (Nemo) that was transferred to my body had issues due to the my egg condition, which caused it to die off inside of me. But at any rate, after receiving and pondering our new information, I have so many new questions. The main one is this: Have my eggs been this way since birth, or did my condition develop over time? Is there something I could have done differently to prevent this from happening? He mentioned "genes" that cause my eggs not to mature, so does that mean it was a predisposition?

We can try another round of IVF that would be much more tailored to my body and what Dr. Moore discovered, and thus could have better success the next time around. Finally discovering WHY we haven't been able to conceive has helped our doctor know how to specifically treat us. It is just a matter of money at this point.

We may or may not do IVF again in the near future. We re-applied for the Cycle Plus Money Back Guarantee program, so that we could hopefully try again (1 fresh cycle and 2 frozen if I have any embryos left to freeze) and get a portion of our money back if we don't become pregnant. However, I just got an email back today saying that the committee had time to review our latest records, and now we don't qualify at all.

Finding out that we didn't have embryos left to freeze was a huge loss for us. Finding out that Nemo didn't make it was a huge loss for us. I can't imagine trying this again, and going through that loss again, along with a loss of $18,000+. We would be much more willing to go through IVF again if we knew we could get a portion of the money back if it doesn't work. Not qualifying for the Money Back Guarantee makes me very reluctant. It's a huge game changer for us, since we are less willing to "gamble" that much money away.

I want anyone reading this to know that I am doing fine, I just wanted to finally update this chapter of our journey. I am focusing my time and energy right now on possible fundraisers we can do to help raise money for a future round of IVF. But even more importantly, I am also focusing on ME right now. I turn the big 3-0 in a couple short months. I want to be happy with myself and where I am at in my life as I hit this new mile-mark. I've dreaded turning 30 for a long time now, but I am learning to embrace it, and in return I am trying to love myself as I continue to grow up. I am doing so by exercising and finally getting my body into shape (for the first time in my life), and by re-connecting with my art. It has always been a dream of mine to be great at my passion, so while I am far from being a great artist, I am trying to get back on track.

Good things can and will happen for us. It might not come in the form of baby dust, but good things will happen because I am so driven to become a successful and talented woman that others can look up to.