Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response- ASMR

I could smell the Cheetos residue on her fingers.  She tugged them along the skin behind my ears and raked my hair down my back.  I momentarily thought about the Cheetos getting into my hair but the thought melted.  The teacher opened the book and looked up at the 15 lunch-heavy 3rd graders waiting to hear the story.  She began in a quiet voice as Jessica began braiding my waist length hair.  The back of my head began to prickle.  My eyes became glassy as the sensation spread throughout my scalp.  My thoughts slowed.  I hoped the moment would last forever.

I have Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR.  Recently I was working on a blog post where I wanted to mention the strange sensation I have lived with my entire life.  I had tried to google it in the past with no luck, but the other day I googled "head tingles" and finally found an answer.  It turns out there is an entire community now, including preliminary researchers trying to explain it.  I have finally found other people who can understand something that is difficult to explain.  Here's what I can tell you from my experience with ASMR.

1.  How it feels
When ASMR triggers it begins in the back of my head, right above my neck.  A tingling sensation starts. It continues to tingle with occasional bursts of the sensation.  It is not goosebumps.  My eyes generally go blurry, my thoughts slow, and I feel relaxed.  It is a very very good feeling.  I have read it described as a trance and I suppose it could be described that way.  However if a person in real life is triggering my ASMR there is a sense of control as I am acutely aware of not letting the person know they are triggering something in me.

2.  Why don't we talk about it?
Most people don't talk about this strange sensation until they are well into adulthood, even though they can trace their first triggers to childhood.  My oldest memory is my friend Jessica playing with my hair.  I think there are two reasons for this.  The first is that everyone's first question when you tell them about ASMR is that it is in some way sexual.  This is NOT the case AT ALL.  There is no sexual arousal whatsoever and I've never met a person with ASMR who says they experience sexual feelings with ASMR.

The other reason people don't tell you about ASMR is because it can be slightly embarrassing.  For example, when someone is triggering my ASMR I want to tell them, and somehow convince them to be my friend forever.  However because most people's first impression is that it is sexual, I would imagine some very strange or even hostile looks.  When I told my boyfriend about the tingles, or when a man triggers me, his only response is "I don't like it".  Honestly I don't blame him.  It's a strange thing, that many people just don't understand.  It's interesting to me that even as children people with ASMR were aware that most other people were not experiencing it, and therefore they feel different or strange.  A woman on This American Life explains this point very well in their episode called Tribes.  The ASMR part is in Act 2: A Tribe Called Rest.

3.  My triggers
Even before I discovered the world of ASMR videos I knew what my triggers were.  While people with ASMR are triggered by different voices and different scenarios, many triggers are very common.  Common triggers include; explaining something in detail, soft or whispering voices, accents, haircuts,  survey type questioning, physical exams, and facials/makeovers.  For me I knew when someone was going to explain something to me in detail, or do a survey, I would have the possibility of a trigger.  I am triggered at makeup counters where the saleswomen explains the makeup to me and applies it to my face.  I was triggered once at the physical therapists office when they did a carpel tunnel exam and then instructed me on how to use my wrist braces.  I can even be triggered by non audio or visual stimuli, such as an email from someone explaining something in detail.

4.  The future
I actually hesitated to write this post because I still feel slightly embarrassed.  Now that I found ASMR videos on Youtube I do find myself watching them every couple of days.  To the average person I imagine they are strange, silly and boring.  I don't want people to think I'm weird I suppose.  But if you are interested, here is a link to my favorite ASMR video artist and one of her videos that is my favorite.  

I recently joined a Facebook group for people with ASMR who are interested in the research that is starting to take place.  I think it's exciting.  My interest is in how ASMR can be used in therapies that might reduce stress, frustration and anxiety.  We will have to wait and see, but for now I just wanted to share with you something about myself that you might never have known existed in the world.    

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to Advertise on Blogs

Did you read this news story that was published recently?  The woman asked for a free Christmas dinner for her family of 5 in exchange for her promotional services via Facebook, her website and Instagram.  For some reason this was reported as scandalous.  People started commenting that she was "tacky", "tasteless", "a joke" and more.  For me I really felt the scandalous part was the restaurant releasing her email.  Why didn't they just decline and move on?

I think part of the problem is that there is a phenomenon of average people starting blogs in order to get free stuff and it's somewhat nauseating.  I've had a few bloggers contact me over the years asking for a free doll in exchange for a blog post reviewing my product.  I don't think I have ever said yes.  I didn't say no because I have anything against anyone asking, or because advertising on blogs isn't successful.  I have had many successful experiences advertising on blogs.  In fact the reason I am writing about this topic is because I'm gearing up to start another advertising campaign at this moment.  I'm looking into different options on blogs and other sites. 

First and foremost, blogs are looking for content.  Less known blogs are looking for stories to fill their posting slots.  This means you shouldn't always need to pay something, or give away something, in order to get onto a blog.  On Tuesday Mr X Stitch featured me on their blog for their "Too Cute Tuesday" slot and I don't consider them an unknown blog at all.  Post your photos on Flickr, join groups and post your photos to the group, post on Pinterest and Facebook, all of these will get your work seen by bloggers looking for content.  You can also email blogs directly, but if you employ this strategy make sure that your content is a good fit for the blog.  Have a professional letter that lets the blogger know why your product or idea is a good story for their blog.  For more on how to pitch your product to a blog read this article.  

Of course it's much nicer when wonderful blogs like Mr X Stitch approach you first.  I wish more awesome blogs would approach me so I don't have to do all the searching and writing myself.  Above I told you I have never said yes when a blogger approached me for a free product.  Here is why I said no:  

1.  Amount of followers/visitors on the blog
You can usually see the amount of followers a blog has on their page.  In addition, the blogger approaching you should give you some statistical information such as their amount of monthly page views, unique visitors, etc.  For me this number has to be over 1,000 AT LEAST but preferably over 5,000.  I have 123 followers on my blog.  I'm pretty sure the only people who read my blog are my Mom and the lovely Carla.  I would never expect anyone to pay me money to advertise on my blog.

2.  Infrequent posts
I saw a review blog during my research yesterday that had 22 posts in 2103.  That's an entire year of 365 days and the blogger only posted 22 times.  If you only blog 22 times in a year no one is reading your blog and therefore won't read about my dolls either.

3.  Posts are only reviews or giveaways
If your blog is only a front for receiving free things I won't advertise with you or give you product.  The main reason is because most likely all your readers want is something free.  Those are not customers.  If there isn't interesting content on your blog, no one is reading it.

4.  Review photos
Once I received a solicitation from a blog asking for a free doll so she could review it and feature me.  When I went to have a look at her blog I was appalled by the review photos of the products in her posts.  One product was positioned on a dark dirty carpet with a dog walking by and visible dog hair on the carpet.  Another photo showed her baby laying on the same carpet wearing whatever product it was she was reviewing.  The photos were dirty and unappealing.  Never give your product to someone that will show it in a bad light.

The bottom line is to weigh the cost versus potential customers.  If you don't feel that the review will result in viable future customers then its really not worth the money.

Oh and hippity hop the bunnies are coming...

Monday, February 17, 2014

How to Make a Teddy Bear Pincushion

     When I first came to Mexico I spent a lot of time working with materials I had never used before, because it was hard for me to find the things I needed here.  I think I have mentioned before that the fabric stores here carry fabric more for clothing and household needs (towels, curtains, etc).  While "crafting" is becoming more popular in Mexico, most stores are small and don't advertise on the internet, making them difficult to find.  I only happen upon them while out and about.

     One of the first things I made when I came to Mexico was a teddy bear pin cushion because I didn't bring along my old pincushion.  It isn't actually a cushion, because it is made from styrofoam but it holds all my pins securely and is cute too!  I decided to offer a tutorial here on my blog for anyone interested in making their own.  This is a very easy creation and would be great for older children too.  Enjoy!


Styrofoam ball cut in half (I imagine different sizes would work but I used one with a diameter of 3 inches)

2 calf length socks
Coordinating thread
Black embroidery floss (or any color you like)
Fabric paint for eyes
Red ink for blush


1.  First cut your styrofoam ball in half using a sharp knife.  Be careful not to destroy the ball in the process.  Carefully trim the flat part to make it as even as possible.

2.  Cut the toe off of the brown sock.  The piece should be about 3.5 inches but doesn't need to be exact because we will trim it more.

3.  Put the styrofoam half piece inside the toe of the sock and pull it down snug, positioning it how you would like it to be.  Be careful not to make it too tight or you will see too much of the styrofoam underneath.  I like the toe seam of the sock to be right at the bear's eyebrow level.  Now make a mark at the bottom edge of the styrofoam piece.  You will cut carefully around the styrofoam so that the top of the bears head will be ready to sew to the bottom.

4.  Use a piece of the left over sock to cut a circle.  This will be the bottom of the pincushion.

5.  Hand or machine sew the circle piece to the head piece with right sides together.  You will be sewing the piece inside out.  Make sure to leave a space big enough to turn the piece and also big enough to insert the styrofoam.  Socks are very stretchy so you should only need to leave about an inch and a half opening.  Turn right side out.

6.  Now insert the styrofoam and adjust the circle piece at the bottom.  Add a little batting or polyester stuffing to the bottom to fill in the uneven parts of the styrofoam.

7.  Sew the opening closed with a ladder stitch.

8.  Use some of the leftover fabric to make the ears.  Turn the leftover piece of brown sock inside out with right sides together.  Draw your ear on paper to the size you want.  **Tip: If you want pieces to be symetrical, draw your pattern piece on paper first and then fold it in half before you cut it.**  Draw the pattern piece onto the brown fabric using a fabric marker and then sew along the line, leaving the bottoms open for turning.  Turn the pieces and sew closed with a ladder stitch, leaving a piece of thread to attach the ears to the head.

9.  Cut a slightly smaller ear pattern and make another set of ears with your contrasting fabric.  Sew them and close them the same way.  Match them up and sew the lighter color to the front of the darker ears.  Then pinch the ears at the bottom and sew the two bottom ends together with the black thread to make a cute crease.

10.  Decide your placement of the ears.  Different places will give you a different expression.  Experiement with where you like best and then sew the ears in place.  Use a long needle to sew and secure the ears through the styrofoam.  If you do not sew some stitches into the styrofoam the ears will be wonky.  It is hard to sew into the styrofoam and you don't want to break it into pieces so use a long needle to go deep into the styrofoam.

11.  Now decide where you want your nose and trace a triangle onto the face with a disappearing ink fabric marker.  If you use a real marker you can have a mess because it is very difficult to sew on sock material in the exact place you intend.  The disappearing ink will provide a guide but disappear if you don't quite have your stitches fall were you meant.  Use embroidery floss to make the nose, mouth and eyebrows.  Embroidering on stretchy stock material is tricky.  You cannot pull too tightly or the fabric will be stretched very awkwardly.  Go slowly, adjusting as you go.  I'm sorry it is hard to see in the photos.  You can use a more contrasting floss to see the nose better.

12.  Use the eye color paint you chose to paint a circle for the eyes.  Paint the color first, then the black for the iris, and then add white accents.  I use a ball pin dipped in the paint and then I dot a perfect circle onto the fabric.

13.  Add ink blush to the cheeks and ears.

14.  Stick your pins in and your done!  Try using different colored socks for fun combinations or try experimenting with other animals.  If I had the time I would make a lot more but I need to be working on BeBes!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Life in Mexico and Christmas in February


Every now and then I want to give you a little taste of my life in Mexico.  As you know I have a hard time finding all the things I need for my business and also personal things in Mexico.  For example, Chapstick is nearly $3 for 1 stick.  I am addicted to Chapstick.  So my lovely Mama has been collecting things like Chapstick for me and she finally sent my box about a week and a half ago.  I was tracking it online and saw that it was at the post office to be picked up today.  I made the trek to the office near the center of the city.  Receiving it went fine and off I went on my return trip home.

I don't have a car here in Mexico which makes traveling with large items somewhat tricky.  Walking is fine but the buses are another story.  The buses do not wait for you to sit down before they take off at top speed.  Luckily there was a seat near the front but I knew getting off was going to be tricky.  As we approached my stop I attempted to squeeze myself and my box through the kids on their way home from school.  Everyone stares at me in Mexico so I can feel the eyes watching me struggle.  I know my stop is coming and if I don't get to the button he won't stop for me so I signal a kid to push the button.  He does so graciously but at the same moment I lose the box which has been slowly falling from my grip.  You need one free hand to hold on as the bus flies down the street jerkily.  My other hand was attempting to balance the box between my hip and arm.  The box broke free and flew down the steps of the bus.  Feeling my face turn red, I shrugged like "oh well" but then I realized the box was at the bottom of the exit stairs and the door was opening while the bus was in motion.  The door flew open and the box flew out onto the street.  I figured it would just hit the sidewalk but it rolled toward the back bus tire.  The people on the back of the bus took an audible breath and made small shocked motions.  Fortunately the box did not go under the bus and I jumped off, scooped it up and walked hastily away in embarrassment.  I hate the buses here.

With lips and face burning I opened my box to find the Chapstick mother load.

And a sweet note from my Mom.

And a cool bracelet my stepdad made me.

But I was also so so excited to receive another special gift.  My friend Sharon at Kerria Rosette sent me a beautiful Blythe doll to use with my new line of BeBe Baby miniatures.  Sharon is one of the most amazing internet friends I have ever made.  She is caring, thoughtful, generous, smart and super talented!  I can't wait to start playing with my new Blythe and using her in pictures.  Her clothing packaging is so sweet I don't even want to open them!  One reason this is so special to me is because when I moved to Mexico I sold my doll collection, including my Blythe that I coveted for years.  It makes my heart happy to have a Blythe again.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Copyright and Protecting Your Work

Well this wasn't going to be my next blog post but because the drama today has put me in too bad of a mood to do anything else, I have decided to write about my copyright.  A couple years ago someone sent me a message on Etsy alerting me to a woman that was copying my Bundle BeBe  design.  She had favorited my design recently and recreated her own.  When I contacted her she was very rude and told me I had no copyright.  She also deleted me from her favorites to hide the fact that she had seen my work.  She claimed to not know who I was.

Copyright is a very misunderstood thing.  First, you own the copyright to your work without needing to register it with the government.  This includes photos.  The best way to prove ownership is to upload your photos to a site that will clearly show the date the work was created, like Flickr.  However, if you want to file any type of claim in court you need to have a registered copyright.  Also if you want Etsy, Pinterest, Flickr or other sites to remove the infringement, you have to have that registration.  So because this woman would not remove my design, and she was being combative, I registered my work.  You can find me here.

Fast forward to yesterday.  I received another message on Etsy from a lovely customer letting me know that she saw one of my dolls in someone else's listing.  Sure enough a woman on Etsy was using my picture in a listing for a custom soft sculpture doll.  I immediately messaged the owner of the shop as well as filed a claim with Etsy.  The photo was removed immediately and I heard nothing from the shop owner.  Etsy did respond with their steps for filing a claim which I was already aware of.  Because the shop owner removed the photo I considered the case closed.  However she then messaged me today with the question "Casie, who did you authorize to sell your pattern?".   Well first I thought this woman was just trying to cover her tracks by pretending she unknowingly used my work illegally, but then she responded that she found my pattern on Pinterest.  After a quick "BeBe Babies Pattern" search I found this.

My blood started to boil.  The "pin" is from this blog.  Notice she has put HER watermark on MY photo.  She does not have my pattern.  In fact, my patterns wouldn't be recognizable by anyone but myself.  They are a jumble in my head and on pieces of paper in an envelope.  I hate watermarks but I suppose I need to start using them to further protect myself.

I have since filed a claim with Pinterest, although after looking at the pin closer I do not think it was pinned by the person who owns the blog.  I'm not sure what happens in that case.  I have also emailed the owner of the blog but it isn't in English so I'm assuming she is not in the US, and may or may not understand what I said to her.  I don't know how international copyright works but I am assuming I can do nothing about it.

Looking at the Facebook page of this person I noticed we have 3 friends in common.  This is upsetting to me.  Also looking through her photos I recognize other artists.  Please if you have the time to help me look at this stuff, and you notice other artists she is doing this to please contact the artists!  She has since removed my comment on her blog and blocked comments for approval.  If you want to stay updated on this case please follow me on Facebook.  Otherwise the bottom line is do what you can to protect yourself and try to protect each other.

Monday, February 3, 2014

How to Overcome Fear

     I stood below the towering loop, my neck cramping from the height.  The roar of the cars drowned out the sound of the park each time they passed.  AAaaaaaah ROAR AAaaaaaah ROAR.
     "Well Case?" my Dad said mockingly.
     I don't remember what I said back but we turned and walked away.  My Dad giggled triumphantly.
     "At least I thought about it" I said.
     I didn't know at the moment that I would remember that sentence for the rest of my life.  There's nothing else I remember about the year I was 9 years old but my Dad never let me forget what I said that day.  Christmas dinners, my birthday, he will recant that story.  In a bad imitation of a 9 year old he will say, "At least I thought about it."
     When I sat down to write about fear it is the only story that came to mind.
     I have a lot of fears.  I use excuses to hide them.  I don't have enough time, knowledge, talent or popularity is what I think, but really I'm just afraid.  Many of the things I'm afraid of are holding me back in my business.  Here are a few:

1.  Blogging
     I used to think I didn't blog because I didn't have time, but then I read this post.  Now I realize I don't blog because I am afraid to be honest.  I'm afraid to effect my business negatively.  I'm afraid to lose my day job.  I'm afraid to cuss.  I'm afraid I'll hurt someone's feelings.  What I realize now is that the best blogs are the honest blogs, the blogs people can relate to.

2.  Rejection
     I'd like to think I don't care what people think of me but then I realized that is just an excuse to not participate.  If I don't participate people can't think I'm stupid.  I can't fail.  This is a horrible way to live.

3.  Failure
     If I tell everyone my goals, and I can't reach them, I will feel bad.  No one likes to feel bad, but most "successful" people fail many many times.  Failure is where we learn.

4.  Asking
     This is a big one for me.  I don't like talking to strangers.  I don't like asking for anything, from movie tickets to a raise.  Most of my friends and family know I will gladly let them step in and do it for me.  I think this is a result of my fear of rejection and failure.

5.  Control
      I have a hard time letting anyone do anything I can do myself (except talking to strangers).  But I find myself without enough time in a day to do everything.  If I'm going to run BeBe Babies like a business I'm going to need help. I have to find that help and let go.

     I eventually got on the loop-de-loop roller coaster.  I can do this too.  I'm not going to just think about this anymore either.

Special new design for a good friend.  She is a draft stopper and will be fighting the cold in an old drafty window.