Hitting the Refresh Button (on Life)

We’ve all experienced a slow-loading internet page and the magic that is the refresh button. Or when the computer’s lagging and a little restart fixes everything. Or my personal favorite–how taking the battery out of a cell phone and putting it back in cures 97% of problems (including acne.)

Don’t you wish there was a refresh button for life?

You may have noticed that I haven’t been as chatty as usual. I slipped into a little period I like to call “Bare Minimum Mode,” which was a combination of many many preschool obligations, an increased effort to organize my home, a sudden change in routine with preschool ending, and an unexpected work slump. I felt simultaneously overwhelmed and underwhelmed.

Bare Minimum Mode can be useful–temporarily. I gave myself permission to do only what absolutely needed to be done and took a break from the things that are nice to do, but not essential. I reminded myself that my bare minimum of keeping a business running and raising a toddler is probably more than someone else’s 110%! The danger of Bare Minimum Mode comes when it goes on to long. Once the preschool yearbook was printed and distributed, the closet was organized, and we were settled into our new summer routine, it was time to step up my game again.

The problem was, I couldn’t. I was feeling really stuck. I had let myself slide too deep into the sticky mud of Bare Minimum Mode and I was starting to feel depressed.

Fortunately, a couple very well-timed emails landed in my inbox. Who knew a little email newsletter could have a real impact in someone’s life? But these both seemed to speak directly to me.

The first was from April Bowles-Olin. She and Mayi Carles are launching a 21-day program called Busy-to-Happy that starts on July 1st! It sounds like exactly what I need to screw my head back on in terms of my business! A refresh button for work. They challenged their readers to set a goal and make a public declaration on social media and blogs. So here you go! My slightly grainy selfie holding my declaration to launch a fun and beautiful new line of invitations by August 1st! (And I won’t let those evil gremlins Fear, Procrastination, Exhaustion, or the super evil Facebook stand in my way!)

Image

Somehow the Universe knew that I needed even more of a forklift to get me out of my slump, though. A few days later I got an email from Sage Grayson inviting me to be a beta tester for her new Life Editing for Beginners program. It starts June 30th, so I was a bit hesitant to sign up for both programs (does an overwhelmed person really need two programs at the same time?!) But I wrote to Sage and she reassured me that the two programs actually complement each other very well. So I signed up right away. Life Editing is going to be my refresh button for my life!

As I get older it feels that time is slipping by at a faster and faster pace. I keep finding myself saying “How is 2014 almost halfway over already?!” I’m certainly not halfway through my goals for the year! I think these two programs will be just the refresh button I need to make the second half of the year AWESOME!

 

 

Daily Design Challenge

When I started this challenge a few days ago, it was just something I was doing to give myself a kick in the pixie pants. But then something pretty super happened. I posted a couple designs on instagram (to hold myself accountable) and mentioned I was doing a “daily design challenge” and people perked up! They weren’t just interested in my journey–they were inspired to challenge themselves too! How freaking rad is that? So I’m making it a thing.

Daily Design Challenge by Fresh Paper Studios

Join me on instagram @freshpaperstudios

Before I get too carried away, let me pause, rewind, and start at the beginning.

A few days ago I was listening to some of Sean McCabe’s podcasts. (Side note: if you are a busy work-at-home type and you feel like you never have time to learn, take classes, read books, podcasts could be your new best friend. I listen while cutting paper. It’s awesome.) He mentioned this “Early wake, daily write” thing he’s doing. I thought “Ooo! I should wake early and write daily!” I actually really like getting up before everyone else. Pre-baby, I was an early riser by choice. Post-baby, I was an early riser by force. So when Olivia started sleeping until 7, I followed suit in an effort to catch up on 3 years of lost sleep. But I’m finally at the point that I can go to bed a little early and wake up even just half an hour before everyone and really enjoy that time! So wouldn’t it be great to use that time for a daily challenge?

Only I could feel in my gut that writing daily was not the challenge for me at this time. Down the road? Sure! I love writing and I’d love to do it more often. I think it’s super important. But there’s something more important and more urgent for my personal fulfillment and my business right now.

See, I’ve been feeling a little slumpy lately. Or maybe a lot slumpy. I’ve mentioned before how easy it is to fall into the routine of working IN a business rather than ON it. And despite all of the time I spend reading about business, I’m not actually making time to follow through. Sure, I have legit excuses. Toddler. Busy shop. Dishes. But at the end of the day, they’re still excuses.

And while there are a lot of things I’d like to do to work on my business, (make a marketing plan, systematize various processes, define my vision,) at the heart of my slump there’s this: I don’t feel creative anymore. I think a huge part of that is that I don’t devote time to designing new stuff. Sure, I take on custom projects here and there and that’s fun. But I have never made it routine to just spend time designing for the sake of designing. There’s always an end-goal in mind, and sometimes I think that gets in the way of being truly creative.

So before I talk your head off, here are the rules of the challenge!  Please join me! Sunday is June 1st, so if you like to start things at the beginning of the month, you can wait until then. But I’d urge you to just start now. (If you’re reading this at the end of a busy day and “now” means tomorrow morning, that’s fine too!) There is nothing magical about the first of the month–and please please don’t wait until the first of the year! Start now while you’re thinking about it. While you’re motivated. Before you have time to find a reason not to.

Daily Design Challenge Rules

1. Wake up early
2. Design something

And that’s it! Okay, really, I need a few more guidelines, so I’ll share those too. But if you just do those two things–imagine how you’ll feel at the end of the week! At the end of the month! At the end of a whole year of just waking up and designing something!

More rules if you’re a person who likes rules:

1. Wake up early – it doesn’t have to be really early! Just 5 minutes earlier than you typically get up. You can increase it to 10 later, then to 20 or 30 or an hour. But start with 5 minutes. The key to the challenge is getting your design on before doing anything else. (You can make coffee first. Let the dog out if you must. But don’t check your email or facebook or instagram or pinterest.) So unless you already have plenty of down time in the morning before you start doing your daily thing, you probably have to get up a few minutes earlier.

2. Design something – ANYTHING! If you design invitations, sure, design some invitations. But also try designing a logo. Or a mug. Or wallpaper. The goal is not just to design a whole bunch of new products you can sell–although I’d bet money that you will end up with several! The goal is just to exercise your creative spirit. Like if I were a sporty type I might make the metaphor that athletes don’t just show up for the game, they devote time to daily practice.

3. Starting is better than not starting – You might not have enough time to complete an entire design each day. Don’t let that hold you back from starting. 5 minutes of designing still stretches your creative muscle more than 5 minutes of checking facebook. Partial designs are totally acceptable!

4. Perfection not required – I really struggled with today’s design (I wanted to make an image that’s about the challenge. A design that represents a design challenge? Talk about pressure!) But I’m putting it out there anyway. It’s not perfect. It’s not my best work. But it doesn’t have to be. The point is that I got up and I designed something. And it doesn’t SUCK. (Right? RIGHT?!) But even if it did suck, it’s important to just do it–just for the practice.

5. Share – Everyone knows the best way to hold yourself accountable is to tell people you’re going to do something. I’m posting all of my daily designs on instagram. And I know there are at least a handful of people expecting to see my design each day. That is so much more powerful than just having a goal in my own private head. I don’t know why we let it be acceptable to let ourselves down, but I know I’m constantly breaking promises to myself. Strangerfriends on the internet, though? Well I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them down!

fresh paper studios daily design challenge days one through three

Days 1-3 of my daily design challenge

So there ya go! That’s what I’ll be up to for a while. (Don’t worry, I’m still going to do my mompreneur thing too! Sorry I’ve been absent for a couple Mondays.) I haven’t set an end date like a month or 100 days or anything. I guess I’m not ready to give myself permission to quit just yet. Please join me in the challenge! Everything’s more fun with a friend, so I’d love to see what you’re up to. The easiest way is to get hashtaggy on instagram. Post your designs each day and tag with #dailydesignchallenge And if you’re like me and doing this to get yourself out of a slump, the adorable Polkadot Paper Company came up with #getoutofthatdesignslump (cute, right?)

I can’t wait to see what you design!

Don’t Waste Another Minute Working Toward the Wrong Goal

What’s the “wrong goal?” Anything that doesn’t push you closer to living your dream life. If you are spending 60, 70, 80 hours a week working because “successful business owners work 80 hours a week,” you’re probably working toward the wrong goal. If you’re making money but you can’t spend it doing what you enjoy because your business won’t allow you to take a vacation, you’re probably working toward the wrong goal. If you quit your day job because you wanted freedom and working for yourself feels like prison, you’re probably working toward the wrong goal.

Whether you’re just thinking about starting a business or you’ve been running a company for years, it’s time to sit down and really articulate why you do what you do. And I don’t mean why your business does what it does. I mean why do you even have or want a business?

Heavy stuff.

But necessary stuff. If you don’t know what you’re working toward, how will you know when you get there? I know, that sounds super cliche, but it’s true! Many of us start businesses because we have a great idea or we want to work from home to be with our kids or we make something cute and friends say we should sell it. And at first business is probably slow. So we work and work and work to get our names out there, to market, to sell, to grow. And then we start actually making money and it feels so thrilling! But somewhere along the way we find we’re still working and working and working. And now we’re making some money… but we’re not loving our lives. “But this is just part of the process,” we tell ourselves. “I need to get through this part so I can be successful,” we say.

And then what? How will we know when we got there? When our bank account hits a certain number? When we’re featured in a certain number of magazines? When Oprah gives us her official stamp of approval?

Well let me tell you a secret. Unless you change something about the way you work–and define WHY you work–right now, you’ll be even busier and more miserable if and when you hit that (arbitrary/monetary/outside-imposed) benchmark of success.

So today we’re going to take the first step toward getting on the right path. We’re going to define what the “right goal” really is for each of us.

The first step toward living your dream is defining it

Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited (my fave!) calls this your “Primary Aim,” Sarah Jenks and Nisha Moodley (who host a retreat that sounds like heaven) call it your “Why.” Call it “Define Success For You” or your “Life Goal,” I don’t really care what you call it, I just care that you write it.

This is different from your purpose and it’s different from your mission statement. Your Primary Aim is the big picture of what you want your life to look like. And this is how I wrote mine:

1. Go somewhere quiet, pour yourself something tasty to drink (coffee, lemonade, wine, whatever sounds good), and sit down with a journal and a pen. Close your eyes and picture your life in 10 or 20 years. Your dream life, not your “I’m going to be chained to this cubical for 50 years” life. Where are you? Reading on a secluded beach? Skiing the Swiss Alps? Diving off the deck of your lake house? What are you doing? Who are you with? What do you smell and taste? What do you feel on your skin? Sit with this for a minute or two or five. Wait for the smile to come across your face. What emotions are you experiencing just dreaming about this?

2. Open your eyes and write it all down. Keep writing. What’s your typical day like? How are you spending your time? What kind of home do you live in? Who do you see regularly? Write for as long as you can. Make that picture clear. This picture of your dream life is the foundation of your Primary Aim. If you are not actively working toward having that dream life–then what the hell are you working toward?

Don’t get hung up on whether this feels selfish. It’s not selfish to dream or want a magnificent life. And don’t bother trying to make your dream life look how it’s “supposed” to. I don’t dream of living on a tropical beach. I like to be warm, I like visiting tropical beaches, but I don’t need to be washing sand out of places day in and day out. My dream life involves a comfortable home with a large deck. A deck with a view. I dream of drinking coffee on this deck in the mornings while I write and sketch and read and just breathe. I envision entertaining friends on this deck in the evenings. I imagine watching shooting stars with my family from this deck late at night when reasonable people should be in bed.

My vision of my business 20 years from now doesn’t include me clocking in at 6am and crawling home at midnight. I pop in and check in to make sure things are running smoothly and our customers are loving their invitations, I give hugs and pep talks to my employees, I connect with people, I remind everyone to take a break and have some fun. Then I go home and eat dinner on my deck!

3. Take this dream life description–and you may even choose to wait a few days or weeks to really let it sink in– then try summarizing this dream. In some ways this summary will be more concise because it’s fewer words, but in others it will also be more broad. The way I approached this was writing a bulleted list that completes the sentence, “In my dream life I get to…” For me, my answer is

  • Be creative every day
  • Have time to enjoy my family
  • Have the money I need to do what I enjoy
  • Live with my family in a beautiful and comfortable home (with a big deck!)
  • Set an example (for my kids, other women, and young people around the world) of living my dream

4. Now summarize it even more. Write a paragraph or a series of short sentences that really clearly defines your Primary Aim. WHY are you doing all of “this?” (And “this” is whatever it is you’re working on right now.) It might not actually be much different than the list you made in Step 3, and that’s fine! Just think of it as the “pocket size” version of your dream life’s big picture. Something you can memorize and articulate. Here’s mine:

Remember: The point of ALL of this is… To live in and enjoy a beautiful home and life with my family… To have the time and resources to create, laugh, and play… To be an example of dreaming, risking, and achieving.

That’s it! So simple, seemingly attainable, but really what I dream of! I mean how many people can honestly say they spend as much time as they want to with their family? Or that they’re making the money they need to take vacations and just play? So your primary aim might be bigger or it might be smaller–for me, this is it!

5. Write it down and hang it up. Hooray! You just defined your Primary Aim in life! That’s huge! But it means nothing if you’re not looking at it every single day. It’s amazing how quickly we lose sight of our true goals in life when we’re stuck in the routine of just doing doing doing. You have to have a physical reminder of your Primary Aim to keep you on target.  It can be as simple as a post it on your mirror or a card you carry in your wallet, or you can go all out and design a pretty print that you frame or hang on your bulletin board. Whatever’s going to work to get you to actually look at it and think about it.

6. Use this as your filter. You get to make about a zillion decisions every day. Some are easier than others. Some will keep you up at night. When at all possible, use your Primary Aim as a guide to help you make those tough decisions. Ask yourself, “Which path will lead me toward that dream life?” (And if the answer is “both!” then you probably can’t make a bad choice here. If the answer is “neither!” maybe it’s time to bring in an alternative choice!) I find the times I’m most frequently paralyzed by indecision is just in the basic question of what task to do next. My Primary Aim acts as a guide to help me prioritize. When I’m staring at a list of ten tasks–which of them actually allow me to experience my dream life right now? (Playing whole-heartedly with Olivia, going out to dinner, drinking coffee on the deck.) Which will move my game piece forward on the path toward living my dream life daily? (Working on my business, taking risks, putting $20 in a savings account.) Which tasks really don’t align with my Primary Aim at all? (Scrolling through facebook, comparing my work to others’, perfecting my list of excuses for avoiding exercise.)

7. Use this as your pep talk. Sometimes we still have to do things we don’t love doing. Sometimes our daily tasks are monotonous and boring–but still necessary. For example, I really really hate doing dishes. It’s just one of those daily chores that is so unsatisfying because while the dishwasher is running, someone will inevitably use another dish and the sink stack begins again. But the alternative is not doing dishes at all and that’s even worse than doing them. So how does this relate to my Primary Aim? Well part of my dream life is to live in a beautiful home. And to me, part of living in a beautiful home is having a clean kitchen. So while I may not live in my ultimate dream house right now, I can do everything within my power to make the home I do live in beautiful and comfortable. I can clean the damn kitchen. And it may seem silly, but somehow changing my thinking from “I’m doing the dishes because I have to,” to “I’m doing the dishes because I will enjoy my beautiful home when they’re done,” really helps it suck a little less.

Will defining your Primary Aim make you rich or famous or super smokin’ hot? Probably not by itself. But dreaming, writing, and reminding yourself of what your real goals are–your honest, selfish, if-I-could-have-it-all goals–you’re setting yourself on the right path!

Now it’s your turn! I showed you mine, so you show me yours. Go pour yourself a glass of whatever, write your primary aim, and come back and share it in the comments below!

And sometime in the future I may even start sending out weekly or monthly tips and updates! Wouldn’t that be awesome? Sign up now so you don’t forget to sign up later!

What’s Going On Around Here – Random Updates!

So on Tuesday I wrote a whole post, outlining the process I’m going through to take my business to the next level. And while I was writing it, it started taking on a life of its own–it was forming into a little e-course of sorts! What? I never planned for that! But as I wrote and wrote it became clearer and clearer how great of an idea this was!

It would be different than any e-course I’ve seen because I am not a self-proclaimed expert or guru. I’m a student, just like you. I’d be learning along with you and sharing my notes. We’d be study buddies!

So I got super excited and my brain started spinning. I wrote and rewrote and started and started over and started over again.

Then I took a step back. Because this idea was getting away from me. And I tend to jump into things without a clear plan or a real direction. And while there’s something to be said for lovely spontaneity, if this e-course of sorts is going to be any use to any one at all, I think it should be real. It should be planned and thoughtful.

So here’s what I’m doing instead. I am letting you in on the behind-the-scenes reality of crafting an e-course. I’m going to spend some time working on my business. Making it better and bigger and more authentic. I’m going to let you know what I’m doing and how it’s going. Where I’m struggling and where I’m soaring. And as I go, I’ll be crafting lessons and organizing them so that I can launch something real and useful for you.

Doesn’t that sound fun?

Also, over the last few weeks it’s become clear to me that I really have two different blogs here. I have my “mompreneur monday” thing and I have my wedding stuff. (Which I’ve been neglecting! Sorry!) And while they’re both part of ME, I feel like blogging about both of them in the same place feels disconnected and weird. I want my blog to be cohesive and feel natural. So it’s time for a change! Are you ready?

I am moving all wedding- and product-related posts to my website blog. The blog is not beautiful, but it is functional. And it makes more sense to me to bring brides to that site. (Head’s up, there are two posts on there and they’re old!)

Then this blog, will be more of a passion project. Just a behind-the-scenes look at my business and life. What I’m making, what I’m working on in business and at home. My thoughts on mompreneurship. (So pretty much what it already is, plus a little more “lifestyle” stuff.)

I already know I’m crazy to think about taking on two blogs. But really I feel like this is a way to let go a little. I’ve been dropping the ball on “Wedding Wednesdays” and now I have permission to drop that ball completely and just pick it up again from time to time on my website. I also feel like this move gives me permission to blog and talk more freely and transparently on this blog because I’m no longer thinking about it as part of Fresh Paper. It’s just a part of Emily. Connected to Fresh Paper? Of course! But not a part of it.

Essentially, the Fresh Paper Blog will be geared toward customers (and potential customers) and this blog will be geared toward creative people who run or want to run their own businesses. And people who just want to read about what I’m up to because they think I’m so awesome.

Which brings me to a big big question! I don’t know what to call this blog! Now that I have a new focus, I really need a new name. (Well and let’s face it, I need a real domain name.) I want something short and sweet and easy to remember. Cute and clever and fresh. It’s more about me, so do I give it my name, or is that too self-involved? I’m stuck! So I’d love your help! If you have an idea (even if you don’t think it’s a good one!) I’d love to hear it. Comment below!

I can’t wait to take the next step of this journey with  you!
Emily

Wedding Wednesday – Fresh Modern Wedding Etiquette

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about wedding planning and etiquette and I think it’s time to start up a brand new column: Wedding Wednesdays! In this series, I’ll share tips and tricks, highlight real weddings of couples I’ve worked with, and answer your burning etiquette questions.

So I can already see you rolling your eyes. Yes you, the one over there who thinks etiquette is antiquated and stuffy. I hear you mumbling “etiquette shmetiquette. It’s my wedding, I’ll do what I want.” And I say, “Yes! It IS your wedding and you should do what I want!” And I’m here to help you do that gracefully without pissing people off. I think the word “etiquette” gets a bad rap–it’s right up there with “Politically Correct” and “Salad Fork.” But etiquette isn’t just for rule followers and traditionalists. Sure, you can look to etiquette to dictate the proper placement of your water glass and napkin or to advise on the traditional way to address a wedding envelope. But I think it’s really about so much more than that.

To me, etiquette isn’t really about “properness” anymore. It’s not about doing what’s expected or about pure avoidance of offending people. It’s just about respect and grace. You can solve almost any etiquette question by asking yourself, “What will show my friends and family that I love and respect them?” Here are my top 3 wedding etiquette tips to help you navigate sticky situations:

  1. Put Yourself In Their Shoes – You have probably been a wedding guest at some point in your life. Have you witnessed wedding behavior that has rubbed you the wrong way? What did you most appreciate as a guest? If you’re facing an etiquette question, ask yourself, “How would I feel if I was a guest and the couple did/said/wrote this?” If you think you’d feel icky or hurt, think twice before you do it to your friends.
  2. Ask People Directly – Sometimes seemingly touchy subjects really aren’t that big of a deal. If your etiquette question only affects a handful of guests–try asking them what they’d prefer! For example, a lot of couples still address their invitations super formally, but may worry that their independent, forward-thinking cousin doesn’t really want to be addressed as “Mrs. Benjamin Johnson.” Instead of fretting about it, try calling her up and saying, “Hey! I’m addressing my wedding invites–can’t wait to see you guys–Do you mind if I address yours to Mr & Mrs Benjamin Johnson or do you prefer just Ben and Allie?” Not sure if inviting your bestie “and guest” will make her feel pressure to go out and find a date? Talk to her! You can say, “Hey, we have enough room for everyone to bring guests if they want to, and I wasn’t sure if you had someone you wanted to invite. There’s no pressure, a bunch of our friends are coming stag, I just wanted to know how I should address your invite!”
  3. When in Doubt, Love Trumps All – If you make a decision based on love and respect for your partner and for your family and friends, it is usually the right decision. And this goes both ways! If you’re worried that the etiquette police are going to be analyzing every aspect of your wedding, remember that your guests are there because they love you and want to celebrate with you. They are most likely not nit-picking every single detail of your wedding. (And if they are, are they really the people you want to spend time with?) So do your best to keep etiquette in mind, but at the end of the day, cut yourself some slack!

And for those questions that are a little trickier or more complicated–I’m here for you! Today’s world and today’s weddings are infinitely more complex than they were fifty years ago. Weddings range from casual backyard barbecues to million dollar black tie affairs, family structures have gotten more dynamic, and the “who pays for what?” rules have gotten more flexible. So sometimes the old school rules don’t make sense with your new school wedding. If you’re not finding the answers to your questions in the traditional etiquette resources that are already out there, hit me up! I’d love to answer your question in an upcoming post! You can comment below or email me at customerservice[at]freshpaperstudios.com

 

Protect Your Investment! How to make sure your invitations survive the mail and arrive looking beautiful

stamped addressed wedding invitation

You’ve spent hours flipping through magazines, poring over albums, surfing the web, and repinning pinny pins on pinterest to find your perfect wedding invitations. You’ve approved proofs, signed contracts, paid invoices, and waited for the mail carrier to knock on your door. You’ve invested time and money to ensure your invites are uniquely you and perfectly capture the spirit of your wedding.

And now they’re here! A beautiful box of invitations that practically sings when you open it is sitting on your dining room table, just waiting to be stuffed, stamped, addressed, and sent. You know that the invitations are your one chance of making impression and get guests pumped to attend your big day–and you’re prepared to make it a great one!

Now would be a really bad time to eff it all up. (No pressure or anything.)

So how do you protect your investment? How do you ensure your guests receive your invite in pristine condition so that you can make the impression you want to make? Here are a few tips to get those beauties from your hands into the hands of your guests looking as fab as the day they were printed.

1. Store them somewhere safe and dry. This may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Moisture is the enemy of paper. If you’re not going to address and send your invitations the day they arrive, put them somewhere safe. Do not keep them in the truck of your car for a month. Do not leave them spread out on the kitchen counter where your fiancé will spill coffee on them. Do not store them in a curious toddler’s room. Do not bathe with them or take them for a walk in the rain. Instead, keep them in the box and tuck them in a closet (not the closet where you keep your bowling balls and ice skates. And not high up on a shelf that you can’t reach.) If you’re a super planner and you bought your invites really early, keep everything closed up tight so it doesn’t get dusty.

2. Address them accurately and legibly. In the olden days, invitations were always addressed by professional calligraphers. And while I still love this tradition (and can recommend some phenomenal calligraphers for you), it is completely acceptable to address your own invitations (or even print addresses right on the envelopes!) I totally love the look of super creatively addressed envelopes. Big swooshy letters in gold ink on navy envelopes? Yes please! The post office, however, doesn’t love it so much. Make sure that even if you get artsy, your guest’s address is legible. If you have the handwriting of a third grader, consider hiring a calligrapher, printing the addresses, or bribing your maid of honor with wine to address them for you. (But make sure she waits to start drinking it after she’s done addressing.) The easier it is to read, the faster it will go through the mail system.

Please also triple check those addresses! Especially zip codes! And please please please put your return address on there. Of course you’re going to do everything right so that no mail gets returned, but if for some reason there is a problem with an invite–you want it to come back to you so that you can resend it (and not risk someone thinking they weren’t invited!) Otherwise it goes into a vast sea of undeliverable mail. I imagine this is also where all the socks go.

3. Affix proper postage. Your invitation is your wedding’s handshake. Its show-stopping outfit. Its winning smile. What kind of first impression are you making about your wedding when your invitation arrives (gasp!) postage due? If this has happened to you–I’m not judging! It happens! But let’s spend an extra few minutes and an extra few cents to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If your invitation (with accompanying parts) weighs more that 1 ounce, it needs extra postage. If it is square, it needs extra postage. If you’re sending a fancy envelope with a tie string and a button, it needs extra postage. If it is going across the world (or even just to Canada) it needs a bunch of extra postage. So how do you figure out how many stamps you need if you aren’t a mail ninja with your very own postal scale? Take them in to the post office. If you follow the tips 4 and 5,  you’re going to have to go anyway, so while you’re there, make sure they weigh your invites and confirm that your postage is correct!

It is also customary (aka totally mandatory) to pre-stamp the response envelope for your guests. If you want anyone to actually mail their response card back, make sure you put a stamp on there so they can do so! And unless your response card is made out of rocks (and hey! maybe it is, that would be creatively awesome), a regular stamp should be fine. You can even save a little bit by skipping the envelopes and going with response post cards.

4. Take them in to the post office. (See, told you.) I know, I know, I hate going in to the post office more than anyone. I have a toddler and the packages I send are heavy and awkward. Bad combo. And they don’t even have slightly uncomfortable seats and a take a number system like the DMV! You have to actually stand in line. So while I rarely recommend putting yourself through this type of ancient torture, this is the one time I’m going to insist. I know how tempting those big blue boxes on the corner are. I use them all the time to drop off packages! And that’s exactly why I don’t want you to put your invitations in them–people drop packages in there! Once you drop something down into that mysterious blue box, you have no idea what’s going to happen to it. People will drop their large, heavy, pointy package right on top of your invites. The mail carrier will toss everything in a large bin as s/he’s emptying it and things get stuck and bent and manhandled. What if someone mistakes it for a trash bin and throws their coffee in there? (Ok I’ve never seen that happen, but what if?) So do yourself a favor and walk those babies in to the post office and hand them to a human being. If you live in a big city and the post office is always torturous, you may be able to find a small, privately-owned post office near you! Those are great and tend to be way less crowded.

5. Consider asking for hand canceling. The machines that process mail are a little harsh. They roll and squeeze and squish and sometimes mail gets damaged. Hand canceling just means a human being stamps each invite instead of running it through the machine to get those wavy lines printed on it. So not only will you save your invites from being poked and prodded, but they’ll also look prettier with the hand-cancelled stamp. Hand canceling is especially important if there’s anything unusual about your invite that might gum up the machines. Strings tied around things, rhinestones, wax seals, anything that you wouldn’t typically see in the mail. If you’re using a dark envelope or have a dark invitation, hand canceling will help keep the color from rubbing off on other pieces. Even if your invite is pretty straightforward, I still love the look of hand canceling and everything arrives nicer.

How do you do it? You just ask. You walk up to the counter at the post office and say, “Can you please hand cancel these?” They should not charge extra for this service! If they want to charge extra, just politely say, “Oh no thank you, I’ll go somewhere else.” And take them to another post office. I suggest going during a quiet time (middle of the week, middle of the day) or to a small, quiet post office to increase your chances of this request being accepted with a smile. (I should note that your invites may still go through sorting machines on their way to their destination, but they aren’t quite as harsh as the canceling machines. If you’re concerned, speak with the post office to see if you can pay a little extra to have them entirely hand processed.)

Want to go the extra mile? Here are a few other things you can do to ensure your invitations arrive perfectly perfect!

  1. Allow plenty of time for the process. Addressing, stuffing, sealing, going to the post office–it all takes longer than you think it will. Order your invitations so that they arrive with plenty of time to complete these steps without rushing.
  2. Address the envelopes without the invitations in them. You’ll avoid getting indentations on the invite itself.
  3. Get an envelope moistener. Save your tongue from all that licking! Envelope moisteners are less than $2 and easy to use. (You can also use a small damp sponge.)
  4. Order extra invitations. If something does happen to an invite or two–either while in your care or during the mailing process, make sure you have some replacements on hand.
  5. If you have time, mail yourself an invitation to see how it arrives after going through the mail system. You’ll see if there are any potential trouble spots and can adjust accordingly!

And if this all seems a little overwhelming–don’t worry! Your guests love you and are excited for you no matter what. So kick back and have a glass of wine–just make sure you’re not anywhere near your invites when you drink it!

Calling All Mom-preneurs!

work at home mom fresh paper studios

I’ve always been a dreamer. As a kid I pretty much lived in my imagination–I had a thousand career ambitions (ok, still do). Artist, princess, spy, astronaut, actress, teacher, and author all seemed equally attainable and simultaneously possible. To a four-year-old, the future is vast and one can hold as many careers as she wants.

So dreams, dreams are not new to me. Living dreams? I’m a fan! For most of my childhood I dreamed of being a teacher. (And a princess spy, but mostly a teacher.) So when I grew up, I became one! And that was super rad. I was living the dream.

Then it was time to realize some of my other dreams–to be a mommy, to own a business, to create and design things–I went for it. I like living dreams.

But there’s a dream I’ve had for a couple years now and I haven’t been working toward it much. I have a dream of helping other moms live their dreams. On my mellow days I just dream of writing helpful blog posts, maybe even a little magazine article. On my wild days I dream of hosting conferences for mom-preneurs and raising up a generation of powerful women who juggle babies and businesses. I dream of book tours. I dream about what I’ll wear for my appearance on The Today Show.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to change careers. I love design, I love working with people embarking on new adventures in their lives, I love running a business. It’s just that I love it so much, I want to help other people find what they love and do it too!

I meet a lot of moms who have great ideas and they haven’t implemented them because they’re scared. Or they work outside the home and they want to be home more, but they don’t want to leave the security. Or they’re stay at home moms and they want to find a way to pursue their passions, but they haven’t found the time. I feel like I can be a cheerleader for these women. A listening ear. A friend. Maybe even a guide. I also want to start conversations–maybe even a community–of people who are in the same boat. Juggling entrepreneurship and motherhood.

I’ve had this idea for Mom-preneur Mondays for a while. Kind of a long while. So… why haven’t I started? I guess I’ve been scared! I’m really not one to shy away from dreams. Or at least I didn’t think I was. Then I read this little gem by my friend Beth. When I first read it, I thought only about Fresh Paper and the things I want to do with it. What I envision for the company, what I might have to let go of to make those visions reality. Yeah, it can be scary stuff!

Then after a few days of thinking on it, I realized… there are a lot of dreams I haven’t pursued! And why not? I like to say it’s because I don’t have time, but we just talked about that. If I really didn’t have time, I also wouldn’t have time for facebook. And instagram. And Project Runway Allstars. Somehow I’ve found plenty of time for those things, so why am I choosing them over actionable steps toward pursing my dreams?

Maybe I’m afraid.

I mean who am I to be doling out advice? To be coaching or mentoring? What makes me so special? I’m no guru, no expert. I’m not doing it all right. In fact, I think that I’m doing it completely wrong about 87% of the time. So who am I to have this dream?

Well screw that! Who am I not to pursue this dream?! Or any dream? If a friend of mine said to me, “Hey Em, I have this dream of helping other moms start businesses, what do you think?” Would I say, “Wellllll, can I see your resumé?” Of course not! I’d say “Go for it girl! How can I help?”

So I’m going for it. Consider this the first Mom-preneur Monday. With no real advice other than… have a dream? Go for it. (Kind of a theme with me lately.)

And since I’m going to go for it, I need your help. I need to know what you want to know. What questions do you have? As moms, as entrepreneurs, as moms who are entrepreneurs, as people who are just in the beginning stages of thinking about starting a business… what do you wonder? What do you struggle with? What do you want to talk about? Leave a comment below!

*Just as a side note, I’m not trying to exclude anyone. Not dads, not moms who are not entrepreneurs, not entrepreneurs who are not parents! I’d love to open this conversation to everyone as I think we all have things to contribute!