Saturday, November 29, 2003

I Love Planning Surprises!

I just can’t help it... I love planning gifts and surprises this time of year (well... OK... all year long!) for everyone from the stitchers who visit our website to members of my family.

For the next 3 weekends, I am adding a sample chart to our newsletter page each time for a total of 3 charts which stitchers can enjoy. The first one is the little tiny dragon that I had prepared to submit to the JCS Ornament issue until my invitation got eaten by the mail :(
We gave it out to shops in Charlotte this summer, but it is now up for stitchers all over the world to enjoy.

The only hard part was writing the copyright notice. To think that when I first started putting charts up on the site for stitchers to enjoy, I only put the copyright symbol with the date and our company name. Sigh! Then they started showing up elsewhere on the Internet or being kitted up for sale on Ebay... Now I have to write more than I want to just to be sure I spell things out. Does it stop the most determined pattern sharers? No... Does it make people more aware of how much copyright abuse has hurt our industry in the past 2 years? I’m not sure the message is getting through. Most people are far more willing to blame the economy or just the cyclical nature of the industry (both of which are valid points...) but when I look at how closely our plight matches that of the recording industry (without the big dollars and deeper pockets) I can indeed see a parallel. When you find something to enjoy on the Internet that doesn’t cost you anything, it is like finding money in an old coat pocket... or getting an unexpected present in the mail. Everyone likes getting something for nothing... or for a good bargain. I know that this is why many of us designers began putting up small charts on our websites in the first place - we wanted to give something back to those who had made supported us.

Then... someone discovered that you could put the actual patterns purchased from a store onto scanners, scan them in and start sharing THEM with others... just like MP3 files of hit songs. Why buy a whole magazine or hard cover book when you only wanted one pattern?? Why buy a whole album when you really only want the single you hear on the radio?? If you look at a newsstand now, you’ll see that the number of North American stitching magazines has dwindled. I’ve watched editors come and go, magazines be bought out by larger companies or fold completely. Now, there are fewer magazines for new or non-stitchers to stumble across.. so less people have exposure to the craft. How do you know that one of the other designs in the magazine might not have been a perfect gift for someone a few months later? How could you ever fall in love with another song on the CD that you ended up liking better than the “hit single” if you only downloaded the one file??

I certainly haven’t found the answers to this issue yet... but I do keep hoping that the words I write will be respected by most... even if they are ignored by some.

I’m also planning stuff for Nashville, which will be here before I know it. The Runekeeper Saga is being stitched by one of my talented model stitchers as I try to sort out page layout with the printer to fit story and charts into one booklet. I’ve added a border and some other fun things, but I’m trying to keep it to 16 pages instead of 24 if I can...

My favourite Fantasy designers and I have also decided that we want to make Nashville a FUN place for shop owners to come. Many shops prefer not to travel to events like these anymore since they can find most of the new things on-line... but it is the camaraderie, the chance to exchange ideas about how to help our industry and the one on one contact between members of the industry that can really help you grow in what you do. So last year a few of us sat down and thought... what could WE do to make this show more fun?? We decided to have a FANTASY FAIRE... so we’re all going to be in one row of the hotel and have a TON of surprizes and fun. All I will say for now is that it involves special things for shops to collect and many of us in costume. I’ve even found a 41” sword (dull edges... don’t worry) to wear and I can’t wait!! Now we’re just going to leak little clues and details a few at a time. Heh! Heh! Heh! I love it!

I also can’t wait until tomorrow (the first Sunday in Advent) when I get to put my tree up and get out the Christmas music......YAY!!

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Reality vs. Fantasy.... (or Gamers Never Really Grow Up)

About 25 years ago when this game called DUNGEONS and DRAGONS first came out and I started playing with the other fantasy-reading kids on our block, there was much concern about the fact that this would encourage kids to “escape from reality”. There were stories of kids who had gone down into New York Sewers or gotten lost in woods trying to live out the game. Depending on what your source for these stories were, some of them took on an almost Urban Legend like gruesomeness. We all had fun, laughter and a chance to stretch our imaginations. Many of us went on to have interesting and even fantasy based careers. One of my fellow players ended up being a programmer at MicroSoft and I continue to doodle dragons just like I did waiting for my turn to roll the dice.

Then, I went off to University which was not only a hall of higher learning, but a chance to meet other gamers and stay up most weekends until the wee hours of the morning on adventures as well as assignments. I even met my husband, Nick, at the very first D&D game I ever played at Mount Allison. The gang had been gaming together for a whole year before I arrived as a gangly freshette wearing my artist’s tam and trying not to look to awestruck being away at University at 17. I didn’t pick up on many of the game’s undercurrents for weeks and I wasn’t sure if Nick was a very good actor playing his paranoid fighter... or whether the man really wasn’t quite all there. (His first impression of me was equally appalling, so you never can tell what will happen sometimes!)

Even though I devour Mercedes Lackey books instead of rolling dice or doodle fantasy designs instead of character sketches... that gamer side of me is still lurking very close to the surface. A few of us have decided that we are going to make the show in Nashville next February a bit more exciting for the shops who attend... and a bit more fun for ourselves. Only other gamers or SCA people will understand when I tell them how much fun I am having planning what I will wear.... because I have found a SWORD long enough to match my 6’5” frame!! (no sharp edges... Nick teases me that ALL my dexterity is in my fingers rather than my feet!!) I’m not going to say much more for now... but I can’t wait to see the looks on some faces!!

In the midst of planning Fantasy stuff, and watching the “Big Lie” episode of Survivor last night, I got to thinking what a misnomer “REALITY TV” really is. Though I will admit, rather shamefacedly, to watching CUPID while batching orders this summer and am known to rearrange my schedule so as not to miss an episode of THE AMAZING RACE... Survivor has always fascinated and repelled me the most. As a Photography major and former copywriter/editor, I find it fascinating to think how they actually craft our entire perception of the people involved and how each episode will play out, simply by how they edit the footage and which bits they choose to keep. If that is not creating Fantasy from Reality... then I’m not sure what is.

Was I the only one who kept waiting for the host, Jeff, to announce John’s lie to the rest of the players to see their reactions? But then I remembered that the camera people all have to promise not to interfere with anything, even if there is an injury... so I guess that includes not revealing falsehoods. I just know that after watching someone play that kind of game to get ahead no matter what.... I’ll take the dragons, a paladin’s sense of honour and the escaping into a good fantasy tale over reality any day!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Smells and Memories

Isn’t it funny how certain smells can take you right back to a memory or a moment in time? Ivory Soap will forever remind me of my grandparents house in Connecticut. I hold a bar of that soap in my hands and suddenly I am a little girl in a bathtub full of bubbles, looking up through their bathroom skylight as my grandfather points out Castor and Pollux in the night sky. Oatmeal cooking makes me think of staying over at my Nanny & Grampy’s house in Montreal and my Grampy stomping down the stairs saying “Somebody’s been sitting in my chair!” to his little golden-haired granddaughter who is shivering with excitement and terror, her bowl of warm oatmeal in front of her.
Tonight, as I mixed up the dough to make my Gingerbread people for the Christmas Tea on Saturday, Bethany came up and leaned over the bowl to take a big sniff. She looked at me with her eyes shinning and said “Mommy, that smells like Christmas!!”
I know that there are all kinds of scientific explanations for why smells trigger memories... but all I do know is that certain smells are like little keys back to precious moments in time. Tonight I got to treasure mine and watch one of MY daughters make her own memory that I am sure this smell will take her back to many times.
Of Cookies, Consequences and Sweating The Small Stuff....

I actually took most of the weekend to just do stuff with my family...and it felt wonderful! Since the girls have missed most of this swimming and gymnastics session due to the chicken pox, we decided to skip the last day when all the badges were handed out. Nick went for his workout and then I went off to teach the Circuit class at 10 am, but not before the girls and I had made a batch of squares for the Christmas Tea next weekend.

I had one meeting after lunch that couldn’t be moved, so Nick dropped me off and took his girls on a movie date to see Looney Tunes (and they have been trying to describe the WHOLE movie scene by scene to me ever since because they feel sorry for me missing it!) then we all baked a few more dozen cookies to ice later this week for the same Tea. Now that Erin is reading, following recipes becomes a read and do the math exercise (not that I tell her she’s working grey matter....) and Bethany is at the “I’ll HELP Do IT!” stage where the dumping of flour requires MUCHO supervision and cleanup.

Sunday I led the craft station for Erin’s age level at Church because they needed an extra set of hands and I almost NEVER turn down the chance to play with art supplies, especially stamps, drawing and glitter glue! We were making up gift certificates so that the kids could “Give of Themselves” this holiday season and some of the things that they thought would be helpful were priceless. Almost NONE of them would do the “Keep my room tidy for a week” option... I wonder why??

Sunday night was a bit hard for Erin. She was caught telling a lie that could have gotten another friend in trouble with her parents when she hadn’t even been involved in the incident, so after finally getting the real story straight, I walked over to the friend’s house with Erin so that she could apologize to the parent and child in question. I know how hard those last few steps up to the door to ring the bell were... I could feel how tense and scared she was, and yet how much better she felt once she had admitted her lie and said “I’m Sorry!”
Who says Learning Experiences are only hard on the kids? At least she went to bed with the matter resolved instead of dreading the next day.

Today I learned how difficult it is for me to “Not Sweat The Small Stuff”. I’ve always known that I have a real perfectionist streak... Nick helps to point out that I am a bit of a control freak, with obsessive tendencies, but that can also be a strength when you ARE your own company. I do need to know when to set that “super quality control” streak aside. Erin’s school is doing a float for the Santa Clause Parade and the Home & School President found an old banner at the school which she and a few others cheerfully cut up so that it could be turned into a long horizontal banner instead of the gigantic wall hanging that it may have once been. They asked me to sew up the ragged edges and then make two side channels so that a pair of broomsticks could be inserted as poles..... sounds simple enough, right?

This morning, when I get home and unroll the huge bit of fabric that I was handed at the bus stop, I discovered two things.... It is larger than any area in my house where I might actually lay this whole things out flat... and that someone else’s idea of straight and mine differ greatly! I managed to get the ends rolled under and pinned to stitch, but there was just NO WAY that this was ever going to lie perfectly flat or not look puckered (the old felt on the banner was already creating that effect without my help!) I was ready to despair when Nick looked at me and gently said. “How close do you think people are going to be looking at this when the float goes by??” BINGO!!

So is there a way to turn it off?? I’m not sure. At least I am more aware of when it is happening on the “small stuff”.... but it has been a thought provoking day. Just as music is boring when it is all played at the same intensity...I can’t always apply the same exacting standards to EVERYTHING I do.... that is just too draining.

Ahh.... but it is sometimes so hard to find the OFF switch!!