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July 27, 2015

Announcing: Streetlights at Midnight

I mentioned in my last post that it's hard to believe there was ever a time I didn't know what Etsy was. It's also hard to believe that I am now announcing my third Etsy shop!


It's true: I began with Katya Valera in 2011, added KV Designs last summer, and now Streetlights at Midnight is born!

While this is my third shop, it is the first where I feel like I might actually be putting my degree to use! You know, that thing I killed myself worked four years for. And while I have had a couple of greeting cards published by a greeting card company in the past, I have tons more where they came from. But I've found submitting greeting cards to be difficult, time-consuming, and disappointing. So why not sell them myself?

"Hard to See the Sun" card available here / / / Also available in a quote printable here

This new shop offers original, instant download, super-freaking-affordable, just-print-and-fold-in-half greeting cards for all kinds of occasions and also 5x7" and 8x10" printable wall quotes. Plus all the designs currently listed are black and white--perfect for us lucky ones without color printers!

"Big Hug" card available here

I've been working on filling this shop for a while and there are plenty more to come. But to quote Monica, "I am just one tiny person!" so just hang on as I add more, very slowly but surely.

"My Healer" quote printable available here

Currently offered are Birthday, Encouragement, Love, Miss You, and Thinking of You Cards, along with Chronic Illness Cards. That's right--cards written specifically to give to your chronically ill loved one. I know it's hard to know what to say or do to help--so I've made it easy for you (in addition to writing this post). And being ill myself, I have a good idea of what we need to hear! Plus, my Faith, Life, and Love quote printables also include chronic illness-related quotes. You're welcome!

"Don't Know What to Say" card available here

Plus, as if the prices weren't already insanely low, I offer four Bargain Bundles on purchases of 2 and 3 cards and 2 and 3 quote printables!

"Coffee x Chocolate" quote printable available here / / / Also available in a card here

"The Bird" quote printable available here

You might be wondering what on earth Streetlights at Midnight has to do with Katya Valera and KV Designs. Well it doesn't. ;) It's its own happy thing for its own happy reasons. You can read the story behind the name on my shop's About page.

"Happy & Blessed" quote printable available here

And one disclaimer I must include: In case you're thinking "How on earth is she running three shops? I thought she was sick??" Please take a look at this post. :)

I hope you'll hop on over to Streetlights at Midnight and take a look around--everybody needs a card for some occasion or another. And this way you don't even have to leave the house to find it! And quote prints are the perfect touch for your bedroom or collage wall! I'd also love for you to give my shop a like on Facebook so you can see all the new additions as soon as they're listed. You can also follow me on Instagram for such updates. Happy shopping! :)

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New to shopping Etsy? Take a look at this post for 5 tips to make your experience much smoother. :)


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July 23, 2015

5 Etsy Shopping Tips to Improve Your Experience

It's hard to believe there was a time that I didn't know what Etsy was. But I still remember first hearing about it in college. You don't want to know how many times I have made purchases there in the last four years (I get most of my supplies there, okay...?) , and I've also been running Katya Valera since 2011 and KV Designs since last summer. It's safe to say I've been around the world of Etsy.

I've had some wonderful experiences and I've also had some horrible experiences as both a seller and a buyer. So I wanted to share some tips for shopping on Etsy that I've been storing up for a while now. I guarantee you that employing these 5 tips in your Etsy shopping will greatly improve your experience--and also that of the sellers you deal with.

1 - Pay attention. This seems so obvious yet is so neglected: Be sure to read the full listing to know exactly what you're getting. If there is any measurement listed or photo illustrating it, pay attention to it. Whip out your measuring tape and double check that it's really the size you think it is. We immediately form a size assumption in our minds, which may be completely wrong thanks to luck or a poor or otherwise fluky photo. I have bought supplies before and been unpleasantly surprised that they were not the size my brain had decided they were.

Also, be sure to look at all the photos of the item. I've gathered from multiple selling experiences that I think it's not a known fact that there are multiple images (up to 5!) of the product in a listing. You can click through them using the tiny white and gray arrows on either side of each photo, and there's also a row of the photo thumbnails at the bottom of the photo you're looking at. Please click through all of them--they often show more detail, size references, and angles that will often answer questions you have and help you envision the product much better.

Once you've read the whole item description, you'll also see if it directs you to do anything when you make your purchase, like include certain info in the note to seller. Don't forget to do this, as that info is crucial to filling your order promptly.

2 - Cover all the bases. At least glance over the shop's policies--a no-return policy may be the tidbit of info that determines whether you check out or not. Also be sure to check the announcement in their storefront and also their social media accounts and blog (usually linked to at the bottom of their about page). There are multiple reasons to check these, including making yourself aware of a production delay announcement or even a sale or coupon code! Always look for the coupon codes. Always.

3 - Educate yourself. This sounds a lot harder than it is. But it's not. Before messaging a seller asking for a price quote or really any questions, take a look around their shop first. Look at their shop sections and click on the applicable ones to see if what you're looking for is there. Or take advantage of the search bar at the top of the shop. I have had more than one potential customer ask me how much two or three items they're interested in would be together--when they're all listed in the shop. So take just a couple minutes more to look around before messaging a seller--your answer might be right there in front of you. You'll save both yourself and the seller time in the process.

4 - Be clear. If you're contacting a seller for any reason, be as clear as possible. Reread your message before sending to make sure it makes sense and that there aren't any gigantic typos.

If you're requesting a custom order, be as specific as possible. Don't assume the seller can read your mind or infer what you're wanting from just a couple details. If you purchase a custom listing, be sure to answer all the items requested in the item description, as mentioned above, and also all the questions the seller asks you. Reread everything the seller messages you to make sure you're answering every single one of their questions. I often encounter customers not answering my questions about what they want in a design, which greatly drags out the process and causes frustration on both ends.

5 - Always Respond. If you ask a seller a question, be sure to thank them for their response. If you're in communication with a seller about a potential purchase and change your mind, whether one or ten messages in, please let them know. Simply tell them you've changed your mind and thank them for their help. If I had a dollar for every time a customer has asked about an item and never messaged me again or even come out and said they would purchase an item the next day and then disappeared, I could probably nearly pay all my doctor bills. Okay not quite, but pretty close.

In a nutshell, pay attention and be considerate. Those two simple rules alone will go very far in helping you have as smooth of an experience as possible shopping Etsy.

Speaking of Etsy, I have a big announcement to share very soon! Since this post is already a short novel, I'll devote a whole new post to it. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, I wish you much happy shopping on Etsy!

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July 4, 2015

5 Things That Don't Mean We're Okay

Life with chronic illness(es) is the craziest, most unexpected tightrope walk. First, life as a "normal" person is turned upside down (which greatly reduces the ability of those around you to identify with you), and often the illness is invisible, which causes many to simply not believe that you're as sick as you claim.  All of that is plenty.

But then there's also this funny little rock-and-a-hard-place struggle: for example, do I let myself appear "okay" by actually putting effort into my appearance when I miraculously do go out (the option I tend to go with) or should I show up looking as bad as I feel, since somehow makeup and clean hair seems to equate with wellness? It's a tricky thing--grasping at chances to live in simple things like posting a well-articulated paragraph on Facebook, having a good laugh, talking about things other than sickness (yes, I do talk about other things sometimes...), or seemingly bigger things like going on vacation (haha) or opening an Etsy shop.

I hate that I even feel the need to point out these things, but it has hit me more than once that my appearance, timed-just-right clarity of thought, or momentary positive mood seem to be, to those observing me, little strikes against their (already low) confidence in the truth of my claim of being very, very sick. (You'd think all my test results would be sufficient proof, but seeing is believing I guess, and you can't really see things like Babesia and metal poisoning, huh?)

So to that end, please soak in this non-exhaustive round up of things that do not mean we're lying okay:

Articulation/Ability to Communicate Well | I have found myself in the middle of a conversation in a rare moment of a clearer-than-usual mind with a large percentage of my old levels of articulation. I often (but by no means always) am somehow able to verbally rise to the occasion. And I can't help seeing myself, and hearing myself, as those around me must. I realize in those moments that I certainly am not talking like a sick person (however a "sick person" is supposed to talk).

Laughing | I've mentioned before that those of us who are sick are probably the ones that laugh the most/loudest. I've found my laughter to just get louder as my years of sickness have gone on--in no way representative of health but rather of my even higher need for something happy and a few-second-long mental break from everything. I laugh a lot. Only because it feels good and I need that. Smiling and laughing have little to do with someone's health or pain levels. To put it honestly, those with chronic conditions simply become so strong from all the suffering that, yes, they can still laugh and smile while in pain, which says not that the pain is low but that the need for relief is high.

Getting Out | I don't have to worry about this coming across the wrong way too much because I'm lucky to leave the house once a week. But when I do, I usually go "all out" as far as appearance. Hair fixed, makeup, jewelry, and a dress. Which often results in me more "dressed up" than those around me. Which must mean I feel better than they do, right? No, all it means is if I'm out, this love-to-dress-up girl is gonna wear what she wants to wear, technically appropriate or not.

Technological activity | Technological socialization is all a lot of us spoonies have. And I find typing on a keyboard almost always easier than holding a phone and talking on it. So my whole body can feel like death, but I'm usually able to at least sit in a recliner and move my fingers at my laptop. Such "activity" in no way suggests any other type of activity whatsoever. When I'm not able to do anything else, sometimes I have to express myself via social media simply in an effort to stay sane.

Further, every time I post something non-health related or--shocker-- something happy on social media or my blog, I can't help feeling like it subconsciously registers with people: "Oh see, she's fine." Trust me: that is never the case. Our illnesses are always, always there, even if we're not talking about them at the moment, no matter how much we wish ignoring them would make them go away.

Announcements that imply activity | You probably know by now I'm a helplessly creative person. I can't believe the creative outlets I've added to my life over the years that I had never even thought of before, and that fact makes me scared wonder about all the things I'll continue to dream up as time goes on. But every new pursuit that is public in any form makes me wonder if, as mentioned above, people see those pursuits or accomplishments and think, "Oh see, she's fine."

But you need to understand: I have no "real" job. None of my Etsy shops are booming by any stretch of the imagination. (And keep in mind: I'm the boss of those shops--my productivity, work schedule, and "vacations" are totally at my body's whims.) And my life revolves around those whims and my very messed up sleep schedule, doing dishes and laundry when I can, fitting in multiple doses of multiple supplements at the right times daily, and attempting to keep both my husband and myself fed. Seriously. All of that is my every day. And as little as that seems to be, to my body, that is a whole freakin' lot. And it gets overwhelming, and some days I can't even do half of that.

But some days--or nights in my case--are better than others. And that healthy girl who lives buried in me somewhere is begging to come out and create, and always sometimes I just have to listen. So when I upload a song I manage to record or share a looong blog post or add a new line to one of my Etsy shops or even open yet another shop, just know: those accomplishments were all done in one lucky day or in momentarily able fragments out of many days and are representative of two things: a fleeting semi-able moment that was seized and the need that all of us have to take a break from the grind of life and do something that we love. And for me that comes in the form of those things above. I try my best to give myself tiny chances to live when I can--and you're probably going to see all of those. But know that they are not the norm. They are just the moments you see.

We are never fine. However well you guesstimate we are based on our appearance, abilities, or assumed activity, one thing is safe to assume: we are probably a lot worse than you think we are.

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