Friday, July 28, 2006

Rebounding Gophers, Chewed Peas and Losing Money on Postage!

It was just one of those days... Nick got home yesterday from the conference, but looked absolutely green around the gills and was suffering from either a flu or food poisoning. He seemed a bit better today, but went back to sleep for almost 3 hours after I got the girls up so that Erin could get off to her last day of sports camp.

He got up to shave and looked out the window only to bellow “He’s BACK!!!” Sure enough as I ran to the kitchen window, I caught a glimpse of familiar gopher butt disappearing under the shed. Remember those Disney movies where the pets travel incredibly long distances to be reunited with their families? I guess a few city blocks just wasn’t far enough. The furry little devil even got half of my pea pod crop before we managed to trap him again. This time Nick and a friend took him for a LONG drive to a local gravel pit/ wooded area just outside city limits. Be a nice rodent and go make friends in the WILD!!!

I did also promise that this blog would be a realistic peek into an artist’s life. Here’s a good example of how hard it can be not to freak out when pattern sharers tell me I am being a greedy designer to get upset over them sharing a “few” patterns with their closest friends all around the world.

I head off to a major trade show in 2 weeks and like many other Canadian designers, I have been wrestling with the need to adjust my prices. When the US dollar was stronger, my cheques from the US used to get multiplied by 1.5. The last batch of cheques went through at 1.12 which is a huge change. That extra exchange used to cover the fact that postage from Canada to the US is outrageously more expensive than mailing things from within the United States.

Today, I took 3 orders up to the post office to ship out. The first one could go regular letter mail, which is a bit scary because I cannot track or insure it once it leaves the country, but it only cost 50 cents more than the 10 percent shipping and handling on her order. The other two contained button embellishments which need to be protected and therefore had to go in a box instead of a padded envelope. The first one cost 6 dollars more than the shipping covered and the second one cost 10.75 more than I actually charged.... so on the three orders I shipped out today, I actually paid 17.25 extra to earn the money from those leaflets. How does that make sense when the news reported that Exxon made 10 billion dollars in profit last quarter? Maybe I should train those gophers to dig for oil in my backyard!!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

New Steps, Sticky Drawings, Happy Birthdays and Flying Photocopies...

Today started VERY early around 4 am when a massive thunderstorm ripped through our area and dumped a deluge of rain and ground shaking booms that had Erin and I resetting our clock radios by flashlight while Bethany slept soundly on. Erin and I were a bit groggy once those alarms did go off a few hours later.

This morning, during a wonderful phone call with my patient sister, Bethany came tearing down the stairs to the office to ask if it was OK for there to be men in our driveway yanking the steps off the front of our house with a big truck!! I’d done some logo work for a company here in town and got a great deal on replacing our front step, but we’ve had no idea when that would happen all summer... so today was the day!!

I spent the rest of the morning working on the last drawing of the batch that Nanny Kay will review tomorrow morning, but had a “disaster” smear that I will have to take out in Photoshop once the image is scanned in. It’s on the very edge of the drawing and into the white space, so very easy to fix, but I know better than to try to hide it under a layer of gouache or liquid paper. That’s more likely to show that leaving it there. Still, the perfectionist in me is just totally annoyed. It was also very hot and humid, despite the storm that rolled through, so trying not to stick to the drawing or sweat on it was a challenge!

Once Erin got home from the morning sports camp, we called my niece in Provence to wish her a Happy Birthday. Juliette is now 5 and sounded SO grown up with her little French accent on the phone that I was worried I had the wrong number! Aunty Dragon was sad that she couldn’t be there for the occasion, but my Mom and John who are over there right now shared that the 45 (113) degree heat is a bit much even with the pool.

Suddenly, the humidity over hear didn’t seem so bad. I wish I could have kept my temper cool an hour later when the girls got into a massive fight over someone taking someone else’s Lego creation apart... I timed myself out for a good cry and soldiered on with very contrite girls who felt bad about making Mommy “blotchy”.

Erin even helped batch some leaflets tonight for an order, but we ran into a real problem. When you have the big fan on to keep you from dripping and sweating on things, it does tend to cause sheets of paper to fly about the room when you least expect it!

Just one more crazy episode in my life as an artist. When the pressure starts to get to me, I just watch an episode of Hell’s Kitchen!!!
How Do Single Parents Do It???

OK.... I’ve had enough!! Not that I would mail my kids to Australia in a box with teeny, tiny air holes, but being the only adult in the house is starting to get to me! I miss my husband and the tossing and turning on the other side of the bed. I miss having someone else as a sounding board as I get ready for this trade show in just over 2 weeks. I find myself wondering how single parents cope, let alone keep their sanity... and I have great kids!!

Today was just a comedy of errors and perhaps that’s part of the problem. I had a great morning at Weight Watchers because it was a fun topic to do as a leader and I was really proud of being down 3.8 lbs. this week as I get the extra from my visit to Mom’s off!!! Bethany came with me because Erin was off at a sports camp for the morning and was a great helper, but by the end of the meeting, she was starting to pace a bit. Once we picked the gang up from the sports camp (my turn to do pickup) and got every one home, I fed them and hoped to get an afternoon of drawing in. Erin and Bethany desperately wanted to have a Barbiefest, but the basement just “wasn’t what they needed”... In a fit of desperation and creativity, I took the bowls and baskets off our kitchen island and let them convert that into a Barbie condo. The only flaw with that theory was the soap opera saga game they were playing was too noisy to be next to!!! The dragon scurried down to the basement and hid in her office getting one more chart ready to output for the show in Charlotte! Things went well for a while then the mayhem kicked in and I had to resolve a fight that left Bethany “accidentally” falling off Erin’s back because she let go!!

I actually teamed up with another Mom on the block whose husband is away on business and has kids of a similar age for supper. Like me, she was craving some adult conversation and rational adult company!!

The evening was fine except that the kids just seemed to want more and more. We walked up to the new local candy shop for a gelatin and stopped for a play in the park on the way home, but all of our kids gave us grief when we said it was time to go home. It is nice to have another mother on the block who is willing to be “ a mean mom” and set boundaries for her kids!!!

I got some stitching done tonight, but I have also learned when it is better not to push my hands and try to go on to some drawing. Instead, I have set aside tomorrow morning to finish the last colour illustration of this batch so that tomorrow night I can work on pencils of the last few illustrations. I’m not sure why I left some of the hardest ones for the end......

I really miss my best friend tonight, even though I know that this conference will teach him things he needs to know as a principal. Isn’t it wonderful to realize that you shouldn’t take someone for granted??? Isn’t it educational when the shoe is on the other foot?? I have learned so much about what Nick goes through when I am away at shows. I have great kids... and yet they will still try to be kids every chance they get. My mom always said that I would understand when I had kids of my own and every so often I phone her to tell her how right she was. I now use that line on my own children because it is true. Only when you are a parent, trying to juggle all of the adult things, do you TRULY appreciate what you put your parents through when you were young.

Kudos to any and all single parents out there. You have more courage and strength than you know as well as my admiration and respect. I have walked a few days in your shoes several times this summer and my feet hurt!!!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sore Hands and Rodent Temptation...

I’ve been working SO hard on book illustrations, computer stuff and stitching that my hands are sore and stiff every morning when I wake up. For an artist, there is no greater terror than to have something happen to your hands... and for someone who is now in her 40s, a shadowy specter looms on the horizon for the first time. Will there come a time when I am still mentally alert and physically healthy, but with hands that are no longer able to create things? It didn’t help to find out this summer that my mother’s grandmother, a brilliant knitter, had such severe arthritis that she had to give up everything like that in her early 60s!

I try to give my hands a rest as often as I can. I take small breaks and Nick does a wonderful hand massage, but the fact remains that I am dependent on what these hands are capable of creating and like any other body part or talent, then can get strained. Last night I went to bed wide awake but knowing that my body, and hands especially, needed the rest. “I wish I could clone myself!” I wailed to Nick as I imagined a copy of myself that would stitch quietly through the night. He just shuddered and said “I don’t think so!”

I am lucky enough to have wonderful model stitchers who can help me bring stuff to life, but there are times when I am unsure of a design or it evolves as I am stitching it and needs changes, so those models are ones that I must stitch myself... and I am such a SLOW stitcher.

It has felt like a great defeat somehow to know that Santa’s Dragon won’t be ready for the show in Charlotte. I try not to look back over the last 4 months and wonder where I could possibly have found more time, slept a bit less, stitched a bit more, ignored other things that needed doing to have the model ready and framed by now. Nick reminds me that some things just need a bit more time and that if the design is truly something that I am proud of, which it is, then it will be worth the wait. Thank goodness he is there to ground me in my life!

I woke up early this morning and tiptoed down to the office to work on a few things before I begin another day of stitching and drawing. Reading the Yarn Harlot’s blog for the 21st of July certainly helped!! The way in which she captures the angst of writing could certainly describe creating art as well. The silly things that others imagine about life as an artist or needlework designer do apply as well. Self Doubt? Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that I face that same demon, I just may not describe it as well as she does.

Amid all of this chaos, pre-show panic, Nick getting ready for yet another conference this week and life in general, a little furry rodent temptation has been thrown our way. We stopped by the pet store where we’d bought our dwarf hamster Wuffles, who though old and creaky is still fine, and discovered that there is a batch of baby midnight black dwarf hamsters that will be old enough to go home with owners in just over a week!! They are just ADORABLE!! Barely an inch and a half long, these little furry bundles were zipping about the cage playing tag as my daughters let out super sonic squeals at their cuteness and reminded me that we have an empty cage now....

My head and heart are a bit more practical than that. Perhaps I am not ready to replace Jellybean so quickly, especially right before we go away, even though we have a fellow dwarf hamster owner to look after them. We will go back in a week or so and see if any of the males seem really friendly. I have told the girls not to count on getting one.... and yet little names like Soot, Midnight, Shadow etc. are already rumbling at the back of my brain.