Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Of Santa Parades, Crazy Days, Hurt Hamsters and Introspective Moments...

I’m sure that some of you thought I’d disappeared forever. Maybe many of you even stopped checking this page for entries.. I am sorry. I know that when I hide from my journal or my blog, it is because I am wrestling with issues that just can’t make it into words yet. Being glib and funny seem to come very naturally, but the deeper emotions are so much harder to put into words. It is far easier to get caught up in the whirlwind of daily life and not have to think about things too deeply.

November was a very introspective month. With the rise of the Canadian dollar, the exchange on all of my cheques from the USA suddenly became 20% smaller and ate up the margin I normally relied on to cover the added cost of shipping from Canada etc. This, coupled with a soft market right now in cross stitch really made me spend some time questioning what it was I had chosen to do as a career. Nothing like navel gazing to get you stuck in one of those endless loops of self-doubt or rationalizing. Being the optimist, I also hated sounding negative every time I sat down to write an entry in my journal or for the blog. I started this as a way to offer people a better insight into what the life of this designer is really like (as opposed to the millionaire myths that float around some of the pattern trading groups out there!) and so the last thing I wanted entries to turn into was a giant pity party. Introspection and self-analysis are also things that are much harder to do in public that in private.

Spending time thinking and listening for that still small voice that whispers into the quiet of your questions was a big help. When it came right down to it, I knew that I would never walk away from designing cross stitch completely... it was too much darn fun to play with all the fibers!! There are also things that I can do with needle and thread on fabric that I just can’t duplicate in illustration. But... I did realize that I have to be able to adapt the business to my needs instead of running to try to make the business everything. After a LOT of late nights, I decided not to do the show in Columbus next summer because the chaos this year of traveling to a trade show during the last few weeks of school was just too hard. I hate being pulled in half like that between Mom and business woman. One of the most wonderful things about having a distributor is that I CAN release new designs without being there in person. No... it won’t have as much impact as being there to meet shop owners and show off my stuff, but the sense of stress got much better after making that decision.

One of the other hard things to face was the realization that I was going to have to put my prices up a bit for 2005, something I had put off for over 2 years. It’s not going to be a huge jump, but any time things get more expensive instead of less, there is always grumbling. I did just that in the movie line last week when we went to an evening show instead of a matinee. OUCH!

So, as I was doing all this deep introspective thinking, I also threw myself into a few projects. Nothing like making yourself so busy that you don’t have too much time to think!! Erin and Bethany’s school had a float in this year’s Santa Claus Parade, held last weekend, and I had suddenly gone from doing a sketch of what the float could look like to actually painting the props and spray painting drop cloths for side banners in a garage in almost subzero temperatures. We kept the bay door open for ventilation, but I was still a pretty dizzy dragon by the end of 8 banners. They had talked about getting school kids to cut out letters from construction paper and gluing them on to the banners... but since it rained heavily last year, I knew that was not going to be a very good idea. Grabbing a few cans of spray paint, I got into graffiti mode and even put some of the letters backwards since the theme of our float was “THE SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS OOOOOPS!” We had a house with a chimney and Santa’s boots sticking out, skaters falling down, kids wrapped up in the ribbon from presents, a mom holding a tray of burnt gingerbread men (black foam meat trays cut in gingerbread shapes) and a tree tipping over with a doll sized angel that I made by covering a fabric softener bottle and coat hanger arms with a comical doll stitched from my old pink long underwear. It was the only pink fabric I had in the whole house and no car to go fetch some. Necessity is the mother of invention, but I have warned Nick that a new pair of long underwear might be nice to keep the dragon toasty through the deep dark of winter!! I also learned how to convert sound effects files to mac format and burn them to CD after a production friend of mine mailed me sounds of things breaking to use but in a Windows format! All in all, the time was well spent. Erin had an awesome time singing in the school choir on the float even though it meant repeating the same song for two hours and Queen Elizabeth took first place again in the Elementary/Middle School category!!!

This is the time of year when there are so many events on the calendar that it is hard to remember who needs to go where if you don’t write everything down. Getting things written on the proper day also helps! We had a mini crisis last night because Erin was being enrolled as a Girl Guide, but I had written the event on the wrong week! A quick call to the leader confirmed the real date, but I felt pretty silly admitting I’d written it down wrong!

Amid all this event chaos, we also had the trauma of our hamster Nipper getting hurt! Monday night is garbage night, so in the afternoon, the girls and I always let Nipper out of her cage into a “scurry maze” (made of taped together cereal, pasta and poptart boxes) or into the big rubbermaid bin with a kleenex box house and some toilet paper tubes to crawl through. Last week Erin had also added a Barbie toy castle because it had a little door to crawl through, but I was worried about the steps on it leading to a tiny second level. This time, I asked her to just put in the kleenex box and tubes. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that the castle was also in there until I turned and saw Nipper on the upper level stuck halfway in trying to go over the crenellations of the castle top. I scooped her up to keep her from falling over and put her down in the bin, only to notice moments later that there was blood!! We got her scooped into her clear ball so that I could try to find out what she had hurt, but her back end and feet were so covered in blood that I couldn’t tell where it was coming from!

By this point, both girls were in absolute tears and hysterics that our hamster was going to die! I put on a thick pair of rubber gloves and managed to get a squealing, nipping hamster onto its back in the palm of my hand to check on her and sure enough there was a laceration right in her groin area where she’d gotten stuck on the castle. OUCH! Erin began to wail at this point because she felt guilty but I popped the hamster into the carry box we used to bring her home from the pet store and began to comb the yellow pages for a vet who handled smaller animals. I discovered that Dwarf Hamsters fall under the “exotic” category and made an appointment to visit one across town, then called the cab company. Traffic being what it is in our city from 4 - 5pm, the taxi pulled in almost 35 minutes later (35 very LONG, tear-filled, box-scrabbling, hamster in box in Bethany’s hat to keep it warm minutes) right behind Nick’s van. Imagine getting home from a hard day’s work to two hysterical daughters trying to tell you about a bleeding rodent (a type of animal you have a barely contained loathing for anyway) and how we need to go RIGHT AWAY to the vet. Poor Nick!

We got Nipper seen by the vet and his two assistants (one to examine, two to hold) and were told that she was too tiny for stitches in that area or a bandage (since other things need to be able to get out) but given good tips on how to care for her and what to watch out for. Nipper spent two nights in a rubbermaid tote lined with a soft towel and kleenex box to hide in, but moved back to her cage this morning and has been running on her wheel like crazy. She is eating and drinking well, so we’ll just hope things work out for the best. It is funny how quickly we get attached to our furry little friends.

So there you have most of the crazies of the past month in a nutshell. I’m still going to be designing cross stitch... in fact I am absolutely hooked on stitching the border for my new Dragon of the Deeps... but I have also wanted to do illustration from the time I was 11. It is time to chase that dream as well and diversify a bit.

Life is just too short not to try chasing your dreams with all that is within you.

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