Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Pain Of Growing-Up...

Thursday was a rough day for Erin. After the high of receiving her Grade 5 essay award for the entire province of New Brunswick on Monday night, the week went downhill from there. She’s getting into those mood swings as she heads towards puberty and the thought of eventually having 3 females in the house to tiptoe around during certain times of the month already has Nick thinking of switching to plastic cutlery or putting up a bed in the baby barn!

She came home in tears after school and wouldn’t really share much of what had happened until late at night after I got her tucked into bed. It turned out that she’d been teased for several things; playing football with the boys, starting this campaign to clean up the school property, singing so well in class during the National anthem and finally for still believing in the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa.

Sigh! Any parent who has already had this conversation with a believing heart, knows how difficult the next little while was. Many of my friends found the discovery that such things didn’t exist a minor event in their lives. I can remember feeling sad for each holiday that first year... as if some of the magic had gone out of my world.

Then, as I grew older, I realized the importance of keeping that sense of wonder alive in my heart. Who is to say that there might not still be some corner of the world, undiscovered by our rampaging civilization yet, where unicorns can still graze? Who is to say Nessie or Sasquatch might not be out there? The quote on the bio page of my website contains one of my favourite quotes of all times from author Madeleine L’Engle:

‘The artist, if he is not to forget how to listen, must retain the vision which includes angels and dragons and unicorns, and all the lovely creatures which our world would put in a box marked Children Only !’

So there were tears and sobs, questions and sighs, cuddles and insights into some of the realities of growing up. There were also reassurances about what it is to be a believing soul, of how we become part of that Spirit of Giving that the first Saint Nicholas embodied, and how I don’t ever plan to stop believing in some things completely.

There were also promises and admonitions not to thrown these facts out in her younger sister’s face during some fight, so that Bethany may have the time to believe until she is ready to ask me the same questions.

Will the magic of Easter be any less tomorrow morning? Not at all! I will finally have one child free from this ridiculous new notion that the Easter Bunny brings toys just like Santa. I will know that for me, this is the most important day of joy and wonder in the whole year that has nothing to do with chocolate (though that is tasty!), and I will also find a way to look across the room as my oldest daughter and catch her eye. The smile I send her will be one that welcomes her on yet another of the milestones in the adventure of growing up.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Learning To Appreciate What You Have...

After all the challenges of these past few weeks, I can honestly say that it has taught me to be grateful for what I do have. Every day there are tangible examples of why I should practice gratitude as an attribute.

Learning that friends of ours are going their separate ways after trying for almost a year to hold things together for the sake of their children. It has made me tell Nick how much I appreciate him and all the ways in which we manage to make our marriage work.

Knowing that as all these wonderful new opportunities and challenges come Nick’s way, as he prepares to assume the Principalship of Magnetic Hill this summer, it is ok to feel a teeny bit jealous of your own husband when everything in his career seems to be gaining the recognition he deserves and new opportunities for growth when I still feel like I am fumbling for what to do next.

Understanding how many lives a single person can touch as I get set to bid farewell to a colleague from my radio days. Local newsman Dave Lockhart passed away suddenly this week at just 60 years old. Remembering him and how he touched my life as well as listening to the many tributes that poured in was a reminder of what legacy we will leave once we are gone.

Believing that there must be dark times in order to understand the times of joy and be grateful for them.

In the past few weeks I have received e-mail telling me that I am a spy, harassing innocent people who are just trying to share with others, that I am greedy, selfish, foolish for wanting to try to make a living from designing, that I am actually as wealthy as Martha Stewart, that I should get “a real job” that is hard like they have, that I am charging way to much for something that is just made of paper, that they are not hurting anyone by sharing patterns, that I probably break all kinds of laws myself by speeding or cheating on my taxes..... I almost dread seeing those e-mails more than the ones that promise to enlarge things or hot stock tips!

When it comes right down to it, I know that Integrity cannot be bought. If I spend my life trying to create images that make people smile or look for wonder in life, whether it is in watercolour or with thread... If I try my best to stay true to all that I believe and all that I am... then that is the ultimate work of art that I share with the world.

I stumbled on a quote tonight that I’d written down in a journal over 22 years ago.

“What you ARE is God’s gift to you. What you BECOME is your gift to God.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It Was A Daniel Powter Kind of Day...

Surely by now, especially if you watch American Idol, you know the song BAD DAY by Daniel Powter? If you haven’t heard it, spend the 99 cents and download it on iTunes because it is the perfect song to play if you have a day like I had today. It’s playing in the background over and over as I type this. Actually, any of these little oddities would have been annoying on their own. All together, they were a bit overwhelming!!

I had a Weight Watcher’s meeting to lead this morning and arrived to discover that our centre had no flip chart paper to write on. Engaging people in discussion is so much easier when you can write down their responses!! I checked with my Regional Manager and she asked me to pick up any paper I could get at Walmart. Luckily, I knew my topic well and I had the van today, so off I went. Neither Zellers nor Walmart sell flip chart paper, but I did manage to buy a big “Dino Doodle Pad” of newsprint paper and get back in time for my meeting.

After this I went over to Shopper’s Drug Mart and bought 2 dozen eggs which were on sale 2/$3.00. A great deal when you consider it isn’t Easter for our girls unless they get to dye some hard boiled eggs. I went to the bank to deposit the Hoffman cheque from February’s sales to discover the dollar was at an all-time high, so the exchange rate was 1.12!!! Not much profit on exchange there anymore.... and that’s what used to let me absorb the higher shipping costs from Canada. I came home around noon and set a dozen to hard boil on the stove when the phone rang and a panicked graphics client proceeded to tell me about an ad they’d been unable to put together by themselves and e-mailed the pieces to me for a rush job! I went down to fire up the computers and make sense of what they were saying, downloaded the e-mails, opened the file that they insisted would “be really easy” and stared in horror at what they had thrown together! This is the problem. I just can’t copy and paste their monstrosity into an ad without needing to fix it (especially the bad english grammar) if it’s going to be a file I send on to a printer somewhere. Of course in all of this chaos, the eggs got totally forgotten until they boiled dry and started to burst, making fairly loud popping sounds that had me racing up from the basement office just before the air could get thick with smoke!

Looking at my watch, I discovered that I had about 10 minutes to scarf something down for lunch before I needed to pick Bethany up at the bus stop. Thank goodness for cereal and milk! Once I picked Bethany up, I went back to Shoppers to buy another 2 dozen eggs to re-boil while I was up in the dining room/ kitchen area helping Bethany with homework. The cashier was the same one who’d served me just hours before and wondered why on Earth I needed more eggs... so of course I had to explain that my house now smelt like burnt eggshell... which set them off so much that they forgot to give me the $17.00 change from the $20.00 I’d given them. Of course, I didn’t discover this until I got home and put the eggs away then went looking for my change! I had to pull out the phone book, call the store and ask them to check if their cash was over by $17.00. They called back about 1/2 hour later to say that yes, indeed it was and that the money would be waiting for me in an envelope near cash #2.

I helped Bethany get her work done then the phone rang and Wichelt wanted to know what new fabrics I might need for any summer releases. I told them about “Santa’s Dragon” that I was working on and we discussed some possible colours, but then I also had to let them know what was going on with the recent round of copyright infringement. They were horrified when I told them that I was thinking of taking a break from designing after my 100th design... but I had to be honest with them about how I feel trying to be creative knowing that I make something that is easy to steal!

After Erin and Bethany’s homework was done, I went down to check e-mail to see if the contact names I needed for an advertorial article that I am writing for the local paper had arrived yet, I found a second and third e-mail from the same client promising the printer that I would adjust a file of cover artwork for them as well... but it is a file that I didn’t create for them!!! Nearing my breaking point, I e-mailed my client back to point out that I would have to recreate the whole file from scratch since that wasn’t a job they’d assigned to me... therefore it wasn’t possible in the 12 hour overnight turnaround they were giving me. It’s hard to tell a well paying client that you can’t do something, but I’m also not responsible for someone else being behind schedule!

Since Nick was down at his school for the Internal Review Process that each school in the District is facing, I drove Erin to Guides with Bethany in tow. We went by the self-store to drop off some leaflets and pick up others. I stood there in the setting sun and stared at a 10 x 10 self-store full of printed leaflets and cardboard shipping containers that I had to have made for dealing with TLC that I now pay almost $150.00 a month to maintain and started to cry. If I had had a match at that point, I would have been roasting marshmallows over a lovely fire!

But now, as I sum up some of this days lunatic events, when the moon isn’t even full for another 2 days, I have to laugh at it all. I still have my health, my family and my sense of humour, even if my passion and my future seem questionable sometimes. What artist ever truly feels secure?? How many dreamers and doodlers even try to make a living from what they do??

Yes, I had a Bad Day. Yes, it felt as if “ the magic is lost, as if my blue skies have turned to grey and my passion has gone away” but this is only 24 hours. My life may feel off-line today, but a day only lasts 24 hours and this particular one shall never come again in my lifetime. The house now smells of scented candles, everyone is asleep except the hamsters and I... and after 20 times through, I can finally put Daniel Powter to rest along with this blog entry.

Monday, April 10, 2006

One Publisher’s Facts Say It All...

One of the publishers in the cross stitch industry who knows that I started a blog on to try to educate pattern sharers as to how much their actions were hurting the industry they claim to love and promote sent me these scary facts and powerfully written message. They did ask that they not be named, but I thought this information too important not to appear on my Dragon Musings Blog too.

In 2000, we published 52 cross stitch books. These ranged in size from leaflets to 48 pages. By 2002, we were down to 31 cross stitch books. In 2003 as scanning and posting charts began to get really bad, we started devoting our publishing dollars to knit, crochet and quilt because the copyright violations seem to be less prevalent among those consumers. We published 26 cross stitch books that year. In 2004, we published 25 cross stitch books. Last year we published only 11 cross stitch books. Through the first 5 months of 2006, we will publish only 3. I don’t know how much more proof you need to show what copying has done to the cross stitch business.

There are other implications beyond the atrophying of our cross stitch book output. Very few of our profits are reinvested in cross stitch, as they have been for 30+ years. What little dollars we do spend on cross stitch are spent on kits which, of course, are far more expensive for the consumer to purchase. We have a higher profit margin on kits than we do on books, a lower initial investment, and when the kit chart is scanned and posted online, it’s only one design, not 103 that we’re losing the sales on.

The few cross stitch books we have published in the last couple of years have been published at a higher retail. We expect to lose a certain percentage of our sales to copying. Therefore, we have to raise our retails to make up for the lost margins. This is identical to what retailers have to do to make up for shoplifting.

And sadly, we haven’t been able to publish any of our big 48 page books, which are such a tremendous value to the consumer, in nearly three years. We simply can’t afford such a huge investment that we know we’ll never be able to recoup because of copying.

The irony here is that these women, who so clearly love cross stitch, are single handedly destroying the pastime they love and, in the process, ensuring that designs cost more and more to buy. Their mentality reminds me of litterbugs who so blithely toss a coke can out the window and say to themselves “It’s just me and it’s just one coke can. It won’t make any difference.” Oh how wrong they are!

What can I add? Those kind of numbers speak for themselves!