It had started out like any other day. In my random attempts to marketing, I had haphazardly decided to take advantage of being part of the Kindle Direct Publishing program and signed up to do a promo on my lovely little book, I'd Rather Wear Pajamas. I set a date to "sell" my book for free for five days.
Next, I blindly partnered up with BookBub to help promote my free ebook stint. Then, I went about my life as usual.
That is, until I did my nightly check-in the first day of my promo. I was curious to see if I had sold even a single copy of my book that day (which, as any author knows, is a big accomplishment), Boy, was I shocked with what I saw:
To start, see what I mean by being excited to sell even a single copy a day? The first several days on this graph (and many more before those) are total snooze-fests, amiright? But then, there's that peak. I figured, based on the lines, that I had sold 4.5 ebooks that day. I considered it a huge success! To confirm my findings, my eyes scanned to the "Units" number and keyed in on this
11.5 THOUSAND people had ordered my book in one day. I was as surprised as a baby goat wearing pajamas getting startled by...another baby goat wearing pajamas
I timidly made my way over to Amazon, wondering if by any chance those free copies I sold affected my standing. When I first published my book, I intentionally selected some pretty niche categories to attach my book to, knowing that the smaller the competition in any category, the better my chances of having a bestseller. And that's why my quirky memoir is listed under "culinary humor essay." I mean, I do talk about cooking like...twice...
Unbelievably, my book came up as the #1 bestseller in not one, but TWO different categories. Because, here's the thing - there's an entire section of Amazon bestsellers specifically for free ebooks. Say wha?!
I went from having a book in the top 300 (at best) to being first in its class for FIVE SOLID DAYS. I'm still in shock.
Turns out, people really really love free stuff.
So, there you go. You too can become an Amazon bestseller. It's all about setting the right micro niche for your book, not being afraid to give copies away, and finding someone to help get the word out.
I know people love their minivans. I hear about it all the time; from the mom of a trillion kids who has an after school carpool shift, to the adorable family singing about their swagger wagon in those catchy commercials.
I know how convenient and easy they make your life. I mean, they have a freaking vacuum built into them. Heaven, here I come!
Tired of (thinking about) leaving "sorry" notes every time my kids dinged the car doors into somebody else's car, I timidly said to my husband one night, "I think I'm ready for a minivan."
I expected him to freak out and talk me out of it on the spot, but much to my chagrin, he nodded and agreed that our decision to have that third child forced us into the "not-cool-car club."
The next morning, I went about life as usual until I got a call from my husband. "I just signed all the paperwork for you to pick up your new car tomorrow. It'll be a straight up exchange for our car, just bring the keys!" My jaw dropped. I was the proud owner of a new caaaaar!!! (said in a tv-show type of voice)
My kids were thrilled to pieces about the new family member. They poured over pictures of it online, and I even overheard my oldest daughter telling her friend that "minivans are soooo cool. They're like real vans, only smaller."
But, even with all the buzz, I was mortified. I didn't really want a minivan, did I? I mean, sure, that built in vacuum...(drooling). Alright, twist my arm. I can totally handle it. I don't care what I drive anyway; that's never been my thing. I won't be embarrassed. In fact, I'll rock my swagger wagon like nobody has ever seen!
But, even after my little pep talk, I felt really nervous driving into the parking lot full of mom-mobiles. I suddenly loved my car for everything it was (even though I'm known to complain about it quite regularly). Why was I giving up a good thing for a bubble on wheels?
My fingers involuntarily gripped the key as I tried to hand it over to the sales guy. I needed an out. I had to stall for time until I thought of an out!
"Can I take it for a test drive first?" I shyly asked, as if nobody every wanted to test drive a car before. The salesperson hopped into shotgun and we drove around the neighborhood - getting lost only once, which is a huge success for me. The sales guy chatted about his kids and something about Disneyland or whatever. I wasn't listening. I was FREAKING OUT.
And then, it came to me. My garage! This dumb minivan may not fit in my garage! Because my garage is similar to the bat cave. It's in a tiny alley and you have to make like a 20-point star turn just to get a bike into it, let alone a car.
"So...here's the thing," I said confidently, now that I knew my out. "This monstrosity might not fit into my garage. I need to know that if I take it off the lot and it doesn't fit, I can bring it back no questions asked and get my old car back."
He raised his eyebrow at me - as most people do when they try to imagine a garage that is built to fend off cars instead of attract them. Maybe also because most people don't buy a car first and then say it might not work out. "Uh...sure, no problem."
"GREAT!" My buttcheeks released for the first time that day. "I need to run quick to the grocery store and then I'll call you when I get home to let you know the verdict."
"Perfect! I'm sure you'll fall in love with it once you see how well it does on a grocery trip."
I drove the minivan off the lot, shielding my face in case anyone I knew happened to be driving next to me. I had no idea how self conscious I could feel in a vehicle. I wasn't myself. I felt like I could drive like a total crazy woman and nobody would even bat an eye because, hey - she's in a minivan.
I dug through my purse to find my darkest sunglasses and put my hair up in a way I don't normally wear it - JUST TO GET THROUGH THE GROCERY STORE PARKING LOT WITHOUT BEING NOTICED. Celebrities everywhere, I felt your pain that afternoon.
I did my shopping and looked around before darting back to the car as inconspicuously as possible. Then, I headed home praying that this new car wouldn't fit in my garage.
After a good ten minutes of trying to maneuver that thing, I was relieved to find that I couldn't do it. WHEW! I called my husband - who was out of town and waiting at the airport to fly home - who said, "see if they'll let you keep it overnight. I'll try to fit it into the garage in the morning."
To which, I responded an over-eager "NO, that's okay. I'm just going to return it now."
I took it back and, much to the sales guy's dismay, asked for my old car back. Sometimes all it takes is losing something for a minute to appreciate it even more. A rainbow framed my car and I swear it purred "hello" to me as I got in it to drive home. "I'm sorry, car. I'll never abandon you again," I hugged the steering wheel and cried with joy.
My oldest daughter, on the other hand, ran up to her bedroom and cried for a solid hour when I broke the news to her that we were not the owners of a new van, only smaller.
*Let me start of by making it clear that there was NO problem using InstaCart. It was a delightfully easy service that saved me time. Who doesn't want that? All the faults addressed below have to do with me, the user. Not InstaCart. Thank you*
Technology is awesome. I mean like, amazing monkey awesome. Of course, this isn't news; we all know computers make our lives exponentially better. BUT, we also all have our love/hate relationship with them, amiright?
Take, for example, my (all too common) technology blunders. It's hard living in a world of screens when you're a kinesthetic learner. I know, big word...it means I learn by touching and exploring things. Which is why I'm one of the few nerds out there who loves going grocery shopping. Seriously, a favorite pastime. I love comparing nutrition facts between brands. I love getting suckered into buying crappy products because they have cool packaging. I love guessing what overhead music will be playing based on the time of day. Big time NERD ALERT.
But, I've heard a lot of buzz about these life-changing companies that actually do your grocery shopping for you. You fill out a little online form and an hour later, BAM, your food arrives with a smile. Well, your food isn't smiling, but hopefully your delivery person is. Unless you ordered 20 bowling balls and he has to carry them up three flights of stairs to get to your front door. I know that's not a realistic scenario - he'd probably just take the elevator.
We got home from a trip yesterday to an empty fridge and no time in the day to run to the store to fill it. So, I gave in and created an Instacart account.
Let me stop right there and give you a little background. I'm a complete failure when it comes to online shopping, re: kinesthetic learner. I never have the patience to read through product descriptions and somehow often order multiple times more than I need, or a different item altogether. I don't know.
Take for example our 2010 Cinco de Mustache party. I know. You so want to be my friend right now.
Guys, it was a great party. You really should have been there
One item on my to-do list was "purchase mustaches" (as should be an item on anybody's to-do list). I hopped onto Amazon, found a pack of 50 sticker mustaches and viola! they were on their way. Two days later, a GIANT box arrives on our front porch with not 50, but 500 mustaches inside. 500 mustaches, people. I had somehow accidentally ordered 500 mustaches. Six years later, we still have a box full of about 450 mustaches. Let me know if you ever need one. They sometimes just show up for fun because, why not.
I know, I know - this post isn't about pictures of people wearing mustaches. But, when it comes to mustaches, can anybody really contain themselves?
I have also ordered 5 packages of 5-pairs-of-socks thinking "hey, I want five pairs of socks. I guess I should order five." WITHOUT REALIZING ONE PACKAGE CONTAINED FIVE PAIRS. It's bad.
So, I really shouldn't have been surprised when, at my front door yesterday (accompanied by a very smiley delivery person), these items show up:
- Shredded Pepper Jack cheese instead of shredded cheddar. The look of betrayal on my children's faces was real when I handed them quesadillas without telling them about the spicy addition
- Bizarrely-flavored yogurt. We're talking like caramel with pineapple chunks..? Who even eats that? I guess I will now that it's in my fridge.
- Chocolate flavored coconut water. I know some of you (aka, anyone who eats regular, non-hippie food) may not have even heard of or tried coconut water. It's a health thing. Whatever. But chocolate flavored coconut water? I went to naively pour a glass of coco H2O for my daughter AND IT CAME OUT BROWN. Not what you want to see in your cup if you're not expecting it. You would think it'd be obvious that you're buying chocolate anything when the packaging clearly says "chocolate" all over the place.
So yeah, try out InstaCart. It's great. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy some caramel pineapple chunk yogurt.
I spent the first two years of my eldest daughter's life wearing myself out with making sure her outfits were just perfect. I was strict with the rule: "no dress-ups outside of the house" and only bought articles of clothing that I would want to wear myself.
As soon as she could voice her opinion, my daughter made if very clear that she was notokay with wearing a black blouse underneath a tailored beige blazer. I have to admit, I was not calculated in deciding to let her start dressing herself. Quite the opposite; I was exhausted from fighting about it and just gave up trying to dictate her outfits. But I quickly discovered the awesome benefits that come from letting your kids dress themselves.
I now have three young daughters, and I've held firm to letting each one pick out her own outfit each morning. We've moved their clothes down to lower shelves and drawers to make them easily accessible for even our two year old.
Do our children come downstairs in ridiculously bizarre outfits more mornings than not? Absolutely!
Why yes, those are earmuffs doubling as a belt
Do we have to send our kids back upstairs every so often because their outfits are actually made out of nothing but yarn? For sure.
BUT, do I get to sit leisurely and sip my tea in the morning instead of running around like a crazy lady trying to get everyone ready for the day. YES! Do my kids have better confidence, independence, and a sense of self? YES!
If you ask me, that's a perfect place for a pair of pants...
And so, I will continue to let my children dress themselves. I'm sure someday, I'll have to check their backpacks to make sure they're not planning on changing into more a more scandalous outfit once they leave the house (didn't we all do that?), but for now, I have no problem letting them go to school wearing butterflies and foxes all at the same time.
Astrology. What a funny thing, right? I mean, whoever invented astrology (cavemen, according to Wikipedia) was kind-of brilliant:
"You, Bork. Me, Tuk. We love our birthdays."
"ugg ugg." (Bork hadn't quite learned the art of speaking yet)
"For birthday, Tuk get Bork white blinky things in the sky."
"Based on your birthday, white blinky things mean different things. They tell Tuk all about his personality and what his day will be like." (Tuk had highly advanced speaking skills for a caveman)
Think about it, astrology is a way for any self-centered person (all of us) to have a reason to be crazy.
"I know I like to throw things when I'm mad and I'm sorry I gashed open your forehead with a giant vase, but I couldn't help it. It's because I'm a Scorpio. It's in my stars."
What's even better is that you can read made up blurbs about what your day is going to be like based on the day you were born. Like fortune cookies only longer and with less crunchy goodness.
So, you can see how I was a bit skeptical of horoscopes my whole life. That is, until the boy guessed that I was a Pisces ON OUR FIRST DATE! "I could tell by the shape of your face," he said confidently. Wha?? That's not even a thing... Is it? Maybe it's my charming fish-like smile.
Anyway, after that, I drank the Kool-aid. I knew which signs I was compatible with, and which ones to avoid. I held firm to anything in my personality that proved I was indeed a Pisces.
And then, I started having babies. My first two daughters are Capricorns, which are goats. Perfect. I freakin' love goats. I could definitely handle that. Plus, as any astrology connoisseur knows, Pisces is a water sign and Capricorn is an earth sign...a fancy woo-woo way of saying they get along great. Things were going swimmingly (har har, get the water reference? I crack myself up)
(I mean, come on. Who doesn't want a handful of these??)
Then, I got pregnant with a Ram. She would be born in April, making her an Aries, which is a fire sign. As we all (should) know, fire and water do not coexist well together. My hippie, star-loving mind was nervous. I couldn't handle an Aries Ram!
Why couldn't I just keep having little snuggly goats who hop around bleating and smiling all day? I could knit sweaters for them all even.
"This is ridiculous," my non-hippie mind scolded. "Who cares what sign your baby is?"
"You're right!" I agreed. "I being silly."
And so I bucked it up and stopped caring about the fireball brewing in my belly. Until that one day on the farm...
We stopped to feed the goats, because...well, because they're goats and they're always good for a laugh. The boy noticed a giant llama who was in the same pen, likely protecting the goats because...well, because they're goats. He said, "poor llama, nobody's feeding it anything." So I suggested he leave some grass on the post for the llama (because I'm pretty sure nobody wants llama lips eating right out of their hands). He complied and the now-happy llama approached to enjoy its feast.
But then, seriously out of nowhere, a RAM comes charging at this poor llama full on and butts right into its neck. The llama's whole neck does this rubber-bandy stretch and retract thing and I'm pretty sure it spit a big, fat spit as the wind got knocked out of it.
I stood, mouth agape, as this now-happy ram ate the llama's fallen food as though nothing had just happened.
I cried silently as the little goats continued to frolic and knock each other over in the background - completely oblivious to this head-butting fireball that was also in their pen.
Fast-forward nearly two years and I can say with certainty that I am indeed raising a ram. She even head butts her sisters on a very regular basis. But, I'm happy to say that I love it and (obviously) love her. She keeps me on my toes! I guess water needs a little fire sometimes just to keep from getting too flowy. Or something. Ask me again in another couple of years...
Sounds like a gimmicky ad, right? Get muscles like this guy without even lifting your pinkie finger, let alone a dumbbell. Not possible, you say? Well...okay, fine you're right. But, who wants to look like that guy anyway? He probably can't even feed himself with those arms.
I'm talking about a different kind of strong. Let me explain.
My daughter was born obsessed with princesses. Against all my best efforts—buying her much cooler toys like Business Executive BARBIE and Periodic Table Building Blocks—my daughter stood firm: she loved all things princess. Damsel-in-distress, pink, wearing shoes that kept slipping off her feet...she was the real deal.
And then it happened. She said to me one morning in passing, as though it wasn't the biggest announcement in her little life, "Mommy, my favorite princesses are Mulan and Pocahontas because they're so strong."
I wiped a proud tear from my eye and hugged my daughter, knowing that she would be okay in life.
You see, strong doesn't have to mean strong...err..strong doesn't mean physical...uhhh....I see how this article is going to get really confusing really quickly. Let me start over.
Strong, while on one hand referring to a state of physical well-being, can also mean so much more than that. To me, strong means happy. Let me say that again, with emphasis and standing apart from any other words so you know how serious I am about it.
Strong. Means. Happy.
Did you like the periods I added for effect? Me too. When you're happy, you've got a strength attached to you that is really hard to shake. You can stand up firmly for your ideas and convictions because you feel confident in them. And, how do you feel happiness? This is a serious topic that volumes of books written by exponentially more brain-studying people than me have explored, but one idea (that I'm a big believer in) is that you feel happiness when you feel true to yourself.
I like to call it Owning Your Own Strong. When you follow your true life path instead of listening to the noise of others, you have a chance to find real happiness. And, when you're really truly happy, (let's say it all together now), you are STRONG.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a Pocahontas costume to try to find on Amazon. You'd be surprised how hard they are to track down...I guess there are lots of little girls out there excited to be strong princesses.
I'm excited to announce that I've started a new project!
(passes around glasses of champagne)
I'd be honored if you checked out my new blog, www.bighappyblog.com. It's a site all about celebrating the every day things that make us HAPPY.
(raises glass to propose a toast)
And now, here's to being happy.
Like what you see? Check out my quirky memoir about finding your path in life.
I'D RATHER WEAR PAJAMAS