Turning the Page

January buzzed by without one word from me. Considering that it was my blog “anniversary” month, now at three years of babbling, I feel a bit disappointed I’d let it slide, but I won’t be too hard on myself. It was only a temporary blog pause that was necessary to make way for the “new”.

My recent leg injury forced a few changes that have helped me take a good, hard look at where I’m headed. Although I’ve always felt it best to live in the moment, I think I had been a bit too ignorant of particular consequences.   Artists are like that.   If not for keen focus, many contracted works of the masters would not be completed. (The Sistine Chapel might be bare, if not for Michelangelo‘s passionate discipline.) But there comes a time for all of us creative types when the reality hits – when you realize your own creative needs are being neglected while everything that you are accomplishing is for someone else. Yes, getting paid to be “someone else’s pencil” is pretty cool and a great way to make a living, but there has to be balance. Without equalizing the playing field of creating for self as much as for others, one might be led to cut off an ear.

Self Portrait - Vincent Van Gogh(Okay, so I’ve heard that Van Gogh actually may have lost his ear at the hand of his rival Gauguin, but it definitely reveals the time bomb reactions that can churn inside the frustrated mind of a working artist.)

During the last few months, I found it impossible to take on any new custom digitizing orders and I couldn’t even allow myself to give an “I’ll be back” notice. Instead I placed an announcement on my web site stating, “Custom services are no longer available.” And after all the changes that occurred in January, I’ve decided that notice will remain permanently. No, I am not leaving the embroidery industry. I am simply putting custom services at Moonlight Design to rest.

Actually, I’ve been planning my retirement days since I purchased my first digitizing system at the shocking cost of $25,000 (in 1995 that was considered a bargain – one half the cost of the previous decade). At that time I was employed as the in-house puncher for a 50-head embroidery shop, Write-On Embroidery, a great place to work, run by wonderful employers. But I was looking to find a way to work from a home office, believing I’d be more productive in my solitary peace, away from daily business interruptions and roaring machines. I was also hoping to establish my future “retirement job”. (Who in today’s world can completely retire? Besides, I’d shrivel without a job to wake up to, and flipping Mc-Burgers or greeting Wal-Mart customers are not of my forte. I am more capable of creating their logo and need those particular folks to make my lunch and point me in the right direction. Alas, we each have an important purpose in this world.)

The only way to afford such a luxury of having my own digitizing equipment was to take on custom orders, which indeed helped pay for the machine, computers and necessary software programs. When the payments were complete, I found myself obligated to an established client base whose work generated profits on a roller coaster margin as it followed the erratic economy. During the up years, it was necessary to resign my position at the embroidery shop, and then during the down years I had a choice: walk away from digitizing completely and find another line of work; or market, market, market and work a zillion hours to meet a zillion deadlines in order to stay afloat. I chose the latter. I didn’t get much sleep.

So a few years ago, I decided to take a part-time position working from my home office as a customer service rep for EmbroideryDesigns.com, which offered a steady income to count on when custom orders were slow. Every day since I’ve enjoyed conversations with EmbroideryDesign.com’s customers who need help shopping the web site, using their designs, and while sharing my knowledge about everything embroidery. In return, I discover what embroiderers like or don’t like or what they want to see on the design market – inspiration for my own stock design sales. They reveal their hair-pulling woes, offering ideas for my articles in Stitches Magazine or issues I can address in this blog. And at the same time, I am representing the work of some of the highest quality digitizers; many of whom I’m fortunate enough to call a colleague and whose work I respect with the highest regard. I love that job!

Last November when I injured my leg, I was suddenly forced to reduce the hours I sat in front of a computer each day, and even though it was during the time of year that custom orders bring in the highest profit, choosing to work only for EmbroideryDesigns.com was the most logical decision to make. What a wonderful freedom I had found – no burning the midnight oil to meet those “yesterday” deadlines or contacting clients with the disappointing statement of “sorry for the delay”. It even allowed for more time “playing” with the ever-evolving I-Cliqq software, taking my time and having fun with my own creative expressions.

So recently, when I was offered a full-time position at EmbroideryDesigns.com, I accepted without hesitation. I’m not sure how my physical time clock is going to handle 8:30-5:30, Monday thru Friday. My body and brain may very well panic, but it’s time for me to take charge of such things. I have to look at the bright side. For the first time in years I will be working a routine schedule of weekends off and will actually have opportunity for those 4-day weekends that I hear most folks cheer over; not to mention I’ll finally understand the true meaning of TGIF. But I doubt if I’ll be a Monday hater – without a day to begin a new work-week, surely, the alternative would be to sit idle, feeling useless. No, thank you.

Digitized by Machine Embroidery Designs

I admit I have had a bit of an argument with myself with this decision, fearing I might be deserting a few favored clients, but I am wise enough to know I am not the only master digitizer out there who can handle their work. I’ve never been a competitor, but a team player, and I’m most confident my colleagues, as well as the promising new punchers, won’t mind if I leave custom services to them.  After all, I’m not closing the book, but simply sailing on to the next chapter.  

Today, I saw a status on my Facebook stream that said something similar to: “I’ve reached that age where my brain went from You probably shouldn’t do that to what the hell, let’s see what happens.” Yeah, that’s where I’m at. The future may hold a bit of mystery, but I’m now quite certain that I won’t be cutting off my ear any time soon – or anyone else’s, for that matter. 🙂

Strolling through the Stitches

snowI couldn’t decorate this year for Christmas – no tree, no tinsel, no lights, no pretty shiny bulbs with ribbons and glitter – but I sure had a lot of cheer. That’s something folks in the apparel decorating industry rarely get a chance to experience during the holiday season. But I was more or less forced into it during my long and “hoppy” month since my tumble from the step stool. My leg injury has opened my eyes to many wonderful things, but it’s been an up-and-down ride. A couple of weeks after the X-rays determined the damage was no more than a hefty sprain, the clinic called with a different story.

Further investigation of the X-rays had been done as a routine double-check by the Mayo Clinic (the parent clinic to our local Mayo Clinic Health Systems, lucky me). They had determined the X-rays revealed what might be avascular nervosis. Geez, sounded bad. (Even spell check doesn’t recognize it.) Well, all big medical words sound bad to me, considering the biggest word in my vocabulary for the last 27 years has been “digitizing”. But I’m not one to take chances with health issues, so, without hesitation, I agreed to add “MRI” to my schedule.

Now understand, this was my first MRI, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or how long it would take. I had heard horror stories from the claustrophobic, but assured myself, that I’d never had that problem. I envisioned perhaps a half hour inside a tube and convinced myself it would be a dandy opportunity to meditate. (HA!)  I was wheeled outside in the cold to the large heated trailer that is parked in front of the clinic once a week (our rural facility is serviced by a “MRI-mobile”.) The technician explained how the process worked, while dangling a metal washer on a string in front of the white tubular opening. The washer flew up and danced around like a drunk fly until it glued itself to the inside opening of the tube. Eerie.

I then realized why the doctor had asked if I had any metal in my body, to which I had answered, “only if it was left behind the last time you guys were digging around and cutting things out.” She had snickered in a slightly devilish tone and remarked that we’d soon find out. Touche. I watched the tech pull away the metal washer and let it spring back a few times to display just how strong the magnetic current is, and imagined my body slamming up to the top of the cylinder, glued at the abdomen, limbs flailing, helplessly. I was so very relieved to be told only my lower body need be scanned.

I shoved the ear plugs in my ears as instructed, which then muffled the tech’s voice as she pointed to various digital panels on the front of the tube. So I pulled out one plug requesting she repeat the instructions and she replied, “I know, sorry. I’m like the dentist who asks you a question when they are digging in your mouth,” after which she promptly walked away to another room of the trailer to engineer the process.

No wait! Really, what did you say?!! The words got stuck in my throat as she disappeared too quickly behind a wall. I didn’t dare move. She had told me not to. And I recalled the metal in my dental work and didn’t want my head slamming into that thing. I struggled to read a tiny notice on the tube, “Do not stare directly into the light … severe damage ….” What light?! The one right above the notice? Maybe that’s not a light, but it sure looks like one. If that’s not the light, which light and just where am I not to stare? Why did they make such a warning so damn small?!

Then my attention was directed to the digital panels she had pointed to as they lighted and I discovered they were count-down timers that I was able to watch – something to keep the mind busy, I suppose, perhaps an attempt to comfort the patient, but they only reminded me of the digital count-down for a bomb. And then suddenly I found out what the ear plugs were for. As it scanned in 3-5 minute intervals, its swishing rat-a-tat-tat began, a sound similar to a worn out washing machine I once had when it went into the spin cycle – the one we had named “Old Tommy-Gun”. For 15 minutes I pondered, why in this new high-tech world does this sophisticated device have to make such a racket? What the hell goes on inside that thing? Well, I’ll probably never know the answer to that, but I decided that an MRI experience is certainly not the ideal time to meditate!

A few days later, a day after I was limping around the house, catching up cat-chairon domestic chores, the clinic called again. The specialists determined that they didn’t find what they were looking for but indeed, trouble was lurking on the inside where X-rays couldn’t go; a couple of small fractures in the area of the knee cap and one in the ball of the tibia. Long story short, I am now on crutches, wearing a knee brace and still very thankful for that chair on wheels that I had traveled on (to the dismay of one cat who had decided the new chair in the hall was hers.  I actually had to fight her for it.)  “You were lucky,” said the physical therapist, “if you hadn’t used your office chair to get around for the last few weeks, we might be talking about surgery.” … whew!

He instructed to not put any weight on it for two weeks, and afterward, only a bit at a time. And then he gave me an approved application for a handicap parking sticker good till April.  April?! It’s going to be one long winter!  I felt some relief when he said I need not use the brace, if I can remember to not bend or put weight on the leg when trying to get around on the crutches. I have one cat who has claimed that particular leg as her bed for the last 15 years and another cat who found the brace so disgusting she has tried tearing it off with her teeth. After spending a good amount of time trying to pick cat hair off the Velcro straps, I tried the “no brace method”, but quickly found out how easy it is to forget the rules. It was quite frightening to find myself standing in one part of the house, suddenly aware my crutches were no where to be seen.  I had been so preoccupied I couldn’t even recall if I had babied the leg and limped there!  I now keep the furry brace on as a reminder. I do not want surgery.

Fortunately, I’ve found that my work station for EmbroideryDesigns.com is the most comfortable place to sit because it has ample space for my leg to stretch straight out with my foot resting on a pillow. But I hadn’t given much thought to needing such a position when establishing my digitizing station. Punching has been slow-going because it’s very difficult to concentrate and let creativity flow when uncomfortable. I’m planning to set up my I-Cliqq digitizing software soon on my laptop, so I can punch while stretched out on the couch. Perhaps I won’t move through a design as swift as when working in my office, but I intend to take advantage of my forced slow-down. Digitizing is more enjoyable when you can stroll through the stitches, instead of rushing without recall to the end.  And so is life.

Although the dust and cat hair are merging into puffy bunnies, my husband is learning to do laundry and at least trying to cook something other than toasted bagels. I am sincerely appreciating the snowflakes drifting by the windows, the serenity and moments of silence.

fluteI even took my Native American flute out of its case, a custom made Christmas gift from my husband that I have only spent time with when creating a design to embroider on buckskin.  I had been thrilled with the gift and had vowed I’d start learning how to play it “as soon as the holiday rush was over.”  I was shocked to realize it had been hanging there for 13 years, waiting to sing. My name is engraved on its underside, followed by the name of its maker, friend, Lakota George Estes, dated 12/6/00. “A flute should be played,” George had told me.  I wanted to.  I just did not.  No time for play, I had to work.  Didn’t I?

After more than a decade, it’s finally being used for its intention other than a wall decoration; a personal quest for my ears and spirit only, but I am now committed to not stop until I learn to play Love Mountain – Wayra the Wind.  So that could mean I’ll be trying till I die.  Alas, a flutes I may never be, but I’m definitely finding a wonderful, inspiring peace within the process.  And that’s what it’s all about.

Yes, it has actually turned out to be the most enjoyable month of December I’ve had in 27 years. Not once did I have to crawl out of bed before 7 a.m. and if I stayed awake past 10 p.m. it was because I wanted to. I have not fretted over lost or delayed orders, and by gosh, it hasn’t hurt at all. So, let me also take a moment in this post to suggest you all learn to gear down a little during the holiday rush; something I know well is so very difficult to do for those who are in an industry of “Santa’s elves.”

If your holidays have been zipping by blindly, now is the time to take stock of how you handled things these last few months – or how things controlled you. Acknowledge where changes can be made for the better, and then resolve to make those changes next Fall! Don’t let the years of precious holiday smiles get smothered during the stress of deadlines and chaos of caps, polos and jackets. Slow the pace a notch, enjoy. Stop the machines now and then and step away from the computer to smell the pine and and taste the peppermint. Don’t wait to break a leg to remember how special the holiday season can be!

Wishing you all a most prosperous and peaceful New Year! 🙂

Good Intentions – Dusty, Hoppy Endings

by Concord Collections – EmbroideryDesigns.com

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with family and friends! Personally, I ate a scrumptious plate of turkey, with all the fixin’s that my husband handed to me when he returned from his family’s dinner. There I sat in the middle of the kitchen on one of my office chairs, devouring every little morsel, deeply grateful and not even noticing that dear hubby had dashed down the stairs to the Man Cave to get his football fill; nor did I care that the three cats were circling around me, hoping for a share. Ah, yes, exciting as it does not sound, it truly was a grateful moment for me!

Now, I know that might sound a bit odd, so let’s back up a few days to the previous Sunday. It was a glorious morning. I felt great and eager with a well thought-out plan. By golly, this Thanksgiving Eve was not going to be a terror trying to get things done! I was determined to get the house cleaned, bake a few goodies and maybe even put up the Christmas tree – something I normally don’t do till December, but since it fit on the agenda, why not?!

I finished a brief, early morning shift as customer service rep for EmbroideryDesigns.com, and closed the office door with a to-do list in my hand. First on the list was to fetch my grandmother’s holiday dishes she used for cookies down from a top shelf. I recently acquired them after finding them on Ebay (among those finds I previously blogged about). I climbed up one step of the step stool, found the dishes and set them on the counter. Then I noticed what appeared to be the top of a salt shaker that had been lost for years and took another step up to get a better look. Cool! I grabbed the silver top, along with a few plastic straws that didn’t belong there and descended by taking one step back down.

The straws flew from my hands; one straw landing inside one of the toaster slots and I immediately worried that hubby may have just used that for one of his favorite breakfasts of French Toast Bagels. But thoughts of a melted plastic mess disappeared, while an excruciating pain shot from my heal to thigh, forcing my knee to buckle.

With my right leg still in the air, my body came down in what felt like slow motion, while a million thoughts raced through my head. No! Don’t break the fall with my hand and arm! I don’t want another shoulder wound! Last time it took almost two years of diligent Yoga to heal – I couldn’t type, I couldn’t digitize, I couldn’t do anything without pain. Think! what to do? The answer came from somewhere in the recesses of my mind, stored from a 1960s gymnastics class.Tuck and roll!

Well, I couldn’t completely tuck, and rolling was certainly out of the question, but I managed to bring my head down and pulled both folded arms inward to my chest. The outside of my right shoulder hit the linoleum with a THUMP!! and my right leg hit the stool, which toppled to the side with a crash, coming to rest on the left leg. I heard the silver shaker top bounce on the floor and land – somewhere. I listened to the reverberating tinkle as it came to a stop, and then I zeroed in on my shoulder. Immediately, I began to massage it with a little prayer, and after a few seconds realized no pain. Whew! Lucked out!  I then decided it best to lay still a minute to be sure and rested my cheek on the floor. Oh, geeez, look at all the cat hair and kitty nibbles under the counter cabinets – I’ll tackle that later. Now, where did that shaker top go?

by Embroidery Patterns – EmbroideryDesigns.com

I turned in the direction of where I’d heard the shaker top drop, getting as far as laying on my back. Check: back is okay. I tried to move my left leg that was now trapped under the stool, and let out one helluva yowl. Egad! The possibility of a broken lower limb had not crossed my mind. Maybe it’s just bruised. I pried the stool up with my right foot and wriggled away, as a sharp pain raced upward, closing my left eye and then the right. Anger exploded.  Nooooo! Dammit!  I had also just recovered after limping for a year with broken toes on this same leg that then put stress on the other leg, causing my PAD to flair. After heeding to a healthy diet and Yoga, I had just gotten to where I was finally walking on two legs again and feeling spiffy.

I tried to calm down, acknowledging that anger can make one sick; while on the other side of things, gratitude induces healing.  As well, smiling has its benefits, even if pried by a pencil clenched sideways in the mouth. … sigh … well, it was a nice last few months of balanced walking, thank you God; at least I’m used to this. I smiled, teeth clenched.

Obviously, I wasn’t going anywhere, yet – not in a vertical position, anyhow. Just a little traumatized and likely bruised, but I better get Kevin to help me up. I wonder where he is. Surely he felt the house shake when I hit the floor!  I gave a shout to dear hubby who, as usual, was downstairs in his Man Cave watching football (something he loves more than life itself, but I knew that going in.) I’ll rest a minute and I’m sure he’ll be up at the end of the play. And as long as I’m down here, I can check around for that shaker top. Holy cow, the bottoms of the stove and fridge really need scrubbing!

Not seeing the shaker top and getting tired of staring at the red dots of some sort of food that somehow ended up on the ceiling, I gave another shout for help. Maybe he’s napping. Well, I can’t lay here all day. I propped myself up on one elbow and reached up to the counter, dragging the wounded leg – smiling, teeth clenched, eyes shut. I managed to get up on my right knee when the pain produced a loud, angry, guttural scream, followed by, “Where are you, you son of a … no … now, don’t get angry Bonnie, this is your own fault, so chill.”

As I returned to the floor I opened my eyes to look at what was making my hand stick to the side of the counter. Chocolate milk. HA! And he said he cleaned that mess up.

I decided to make my way to a kitchen chair, crawling like GI Jane, dragging one leg, grunting with each “step” forward. (What is it about grunts that just seem to help?) By the time I got there I realized I couldn’t get myself up on the chair alone.  What to do?   If I headed for the living room couch, I’d never get up again and I had work to do, so I figured if I’m going to get on any chair, it best have wheels on it.  I slithered on down to my office at the end of the hall, looked inside and realized no way was it possible to get one of those chairs out through the narrow paths between desks without lifting them.   This sucks.   And good grief! Look at those dusty cobwebs between the two desks where all the peripheral cables are tucked!    Hey, there’s that pen I was looking for!

I crawled back down the hall to the sewing room where two other mobile chairs resided and opened the door to see the big box of Christmas ornaments I’d brought upstairs earlier. I also noticed the sun streaking in right down upon six cones of thread that I was using on my last project and had neglected to put back on the shelf. Oh my, that’s not good, but I can’t do anything about it now. I can’t get past this blasted box!   I started to cry.  And then, because I’ve never been a whiner, another loud scream of total frustration.  Wait!  I saw the floor vent at the end of the hall.  I crawled nearer to the vent, yelling for Kevin as loud as I could – and whispered a few expletives.

by Digital Giggle – EmbroideryDesigns.com

Through the cross-hatched metal I could see him in front of his computer, playing Texas Hold ‘Em and I could clearly hear the football game on TV. Intensely staring at the monitor, he began to smile and his right fist came up with a shout, “Royal Flush!” His head jerked up to view the TV and his left fist came up, and with both fists pumping he shouted “YEAH!! Touchdown!!”

Oh lordy. I’m about to really crap on his day.

I sat up and leaned against the wall. Check: I can sit, no problem.  But I refuse to sit in this hallway till the end of his games!    Look at that track of dust that the vaccuum misses along the floor boards!    Suddenly I pondered the cost of contracting a “help-I-can’t-get-up service” but quickly banished the idea. I don’t need that yet –do I? Well, I can’t afford it anyhow.  I took off my right shoe and started banging on the floor vent. Kevin turned down the TV volume and finally heard my plea, rushing to my rescue with a worried expression. Oh, he does care. Now, don’t get snarky, at least not till you’ve got your butt in that chair.

He brought the chair out to the hallway, and then asked if I broke anything while lifting me with his hands placed under my arms. The seat of that chair was so very close, when he suggested, “See if you can put any weight on it.” So, I did. And when the pain shot from toes to nose, my knee buckled and I screamed.  He backed away.  I dropped to the floor.  I looked up at him with that expression of what the hell is wrong with you?  He shrugged apologetically, saying, “I thought I hurt you.”

Go figure … must be the crashing rush from winning games to a sadness when realizing I wouldn’t be making cookies. “Just hold the chair still, no matter how loud I scream,” I demanded, making a painful climb into the chair.

He then insisted on X-rays, which I put off until the next evening after finding that even with the help of the R.I.C.E. treatment I couldn’t ignore the pain while trying to work. Our little journey to the clinic could take another blog post to write, so I’ll brief it up to no fractures, perfect blood pressure and no sign of arthritis in the knee – a plus report for the money. But, unfortunately, I indeed bruised and ripped something and wouldn’t be walking for awhile.

Thanksgiving dinner in my house, of course, was cancelled, but thanks-giving was not. By Thursday, I had become so very grateful for so many things – a verdict of no broken bones and no need to miss work, a couch that I could comfortably sleep on next to my laptop and a cordless phone, a bathroom so small that I can use the vanity counter and the towel rack to hop to the important place, a dust pan and brush set and a Swiffer brush in every room, chairs on wheels, an excuse to not do heavy housework, a mother-in-law who’s kind enough to send me delicious food including cookies made during their family tradition, a husband who has made sure my office coffee pot is ready to go before he leaves for work, a porcelain Christmas tree light of my grandmother’s (another Ebay find) to light my way in the dark, while offering a little cheer, and (perhaps from the help of Vicodin) many things to smile about. I even found that little silver shaker top (again) in one corner when sweeping up the kitty nibbles.

Yep, as I sat there on the office chair, eating my Thanksgiving meal with my fur family, laughing about my stupid move of not thinking before stepping, I acknowledged things could have been much worse. I concluded that life is perhaps a bit dusty, but very, very good, for which I am very, very thankful. 🙂

Falling Leaves, Writing Copy & an Apology to the Girl Scouts

My recent walk in the woods revealed the wonders of Nature’s seasonal preparations for Winter. Squirrels are darting from tree to tree, gathering nuts to bury in their earthen pantry and bunnies are tucking fresh sticks at the doors of their burrows. A few insects like bees can be seen buzzing about the last of the wildflowers, collecting the last drops of nectar, and flocks of geese are heard honking overhead as they make their way South. Critters are bustling, burying and battening down the borrows, signaling the change of season.

For me Autumn brings about the busiest time for custom digitizing orders, but business seems to take care of itself if I’ve kept up my routine duties. Things just come at me a little faster and I only need to keep appropriate control. It’s the personal responsibilities that I’m pressed to tend like domestic chores that never disappear, but could become frightening by Thanksgiving, should I let them lag.

The real priorities are seasonal like raking leaves before it snows – or before Girl Scouts leave nasty notes on the door.  Yes, I realize their little bulletin was meant to educate folks in regard to the phosphorus released from dead leaves sliding into the storm drains that in turn affects the wildlife environment.  Loving Nature as I do, I truly agree that efforts must be made.   BUT … I do think a little thought might have been given to the boldly printed question, “What’s the problem?”

I quickly scanned the bulletin that was illustrated with leaves, rake and leaf bag, contemplating its intention.  At first I was embarrassed as I looked up at the gold, pink and brown blanketing the yard.   Egad!   Hubby attempted the job last week, clearing the storm drains and rock beds with a leaf blower, but his bad head cold has delayed  progress.  Surrounded by trees, the job in our yard is never really done anyhow until the branches are bare or until it snows. My work hours only allow raking at midnight, which I’m sure the neighbors would not appreciate, so I planned this weekend to at least clear the entryways before I had to sweep up leaves from the kitchen floor.  Alas, the sky decided to cry and I refuse to dance with a rake in the cold rain!

Disappointed with the weather, I retreated inside, still miffed with the seemingly snide request to rake my leaves.  I was feeling a bit guilty.  My yard hasn’t seen much attention most of the summer, because I’ve had indoor responsibilities, like cleaning up the basement after the spring flooding. (There’s a mucky chore I wish on no one!)  But the Scouts had no idea who lives inside or what my story was.  What if I was an old lady?    Wait. I am.    Well, what if I were completely incapacitated?  How dare they make such a snarky accusation?!  At least in that moment, that’s the way I had read the question … what’s the problem, are you too lazy to rake?

Then I recalled the spirit of Scouts-gone-by.  What happened to the days when they offered to rake leaves to achieve a good Samaritan badge?  Heck, if they would have inquired, I would have paid them for the job!  I examined the bulletin a bit more closely to find an informative environmental message in faint tiny text that I actually didn’t oppose, but still, I was so put off I didn’t want to read the tiny print. “I’ll tell you what the problem is,” I snarled, tossing it into the paper recycling.  “It’s the people who leave pieces of paper to blow away and litter my yard!”  Then I surfed directly to the Girl Scout web site and left a hasty, nasty email about how appalled I was at their insinuating, rude bulletin.

This morning I stared out the window while stopping a sneeze with a tissue and realized I’d lost the battle of trying to not catch my husband’s cold.  He stood next to me, staring and sneezing as well, promising to finish the leaves tomorrow, while noting the bare trees in the front yard were now “done”.  I remarked that at least the part he cleaned up near the storm drain was okay yet, to which he replied, “I thought you did that. What I did last week filled right in by the next day.  Must have been one of our great neighbors.” (We do have wonderful neighbors!)

After a moment of ponder, I marched to the recycling bin and took another look at that bulletin.  It gave no indication that perhaps the Girl Scouts were out cleaning up leaves. It only gave a good reason to keep the leaves out of the storm drain, explaining what problem it caused, and on the back it gave directions on how to clean them up, where to dispose of them and a web site where it should be reported that the job had been done.

So, I returned to the Girl Scout’s web site and found yesterday’s announcement “Centennial Day of Service is today and thousands of Girl Scouts are out cleaning up organic matter to prevent phosphorous from polluting our lakes and streams” along with pictures of the hard-working crews whom I obviously missed seeing while occupied in my office.

Oh.

Due to personal circumstances, I had obviously misunderstood the tone of the question on the bulletin and reacted – over-reacted – defensively.  Marketers, take a lesson, choose your words carefully.  One must always consider every possible scenario when writing copy.  Just because a phrase is sure to grab attention, the way the words are received by particular folks in particular situations may not be what is intended.  And it must be acknowledged, not everyone can just surf to a web site to clarify information, and even so, some simply will not.

The reason the Girl Scouts have for passing along the message is undeniably good – to educate in ways to protect the environment, which indeed I support.  And I certainly do appreciate their commendable efforts, especially for lending a hand even in the cold rain.  My sincere thanks to the Girl Scouts who cleaned up a bit of my mess, and I humbly apologize for quick assumptions, and most especially for that nasty email.

Nevertheless, I really do think someone missed the mark on that bulletin … just my two stitches, along with a leaf or two zillion.

Available in the September 2012 collection at Masterpiece Embroidery

Inspiration in the Woods

© 2012 B. Landsberger“Look deep, deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything.” – Albert Einstein

During sunny seasons I want to lay in a patch of violets and clover, look up through the trees at the blue sky and watch puffy, white clouds float by. But I know better. My allergy problems are so unpredictable during the warmest seasons and I’ve had to accept that “smelling the roses” is not always the wisest activity for me. I allow myself to get caught up in the daily indoor grind, while stifling the feeling of being cheated out of outdoor pleasures. It’s not until the temps drop to the 60s and leaves © 2012 B. Landsbergermorph from the deepest greens to earth tones of orangey-reddish-browns that I’m pulled outside uncontrollably with the hope to find something remaining of Summer’s splendor.

Last week my big break finally arrived and I dashed out for a © 2012 B. Landsbergerwalk in the woods, camera in hand, hoping to capture the sustaining summery stuff. And indeed I found a few flowers, bees and a bunny or two that scattered faster than I could point and shoot. Startled by my rare presence in their domain, they sprang from under fallen branches and dove into the surrounding brush or below another pile of fallen branches. © 2012 B. Landsberger

© 2012 B. LandsbergerThe storms and flash floods in recent months have certainly made their mark. Splintered branches are dangling overhead, tethered by spiraling grape vines as thick as the branches they entwine. 

Many of the stately trunks bare scars that © 2012 B. Landsbergercause the mind’s eye to see faces with expressions frozen in time, revealing the pain endured when their branches were ripped away.  Their scars display the © 2012 B. Landsbergerstruggles that they had no other choice than to push through, and push they always do. I imagine it’s one reason they can survive for hundreds of years.

Some “tree expressions” take on a more extra terrestrial appearance after woodpeckers have their way, digging for bugs and creating coves perfect for winter nests – one of many ways Nature takes care of herself.

© 2012 B. Landsberger

Nothing goes to waste in Nature. That which falls to the forest floor is always put to good use as shelter for a variety of critters or it serves another purpose, as the fallen leaves that blanket the wild grasses, insuring the forest floor will return in Spring.

And there’s just something special © 2012 B. Landsbergerabout dead wood. Not one piece looks like the other; each with its own unique details of © 2012 B. Landsbergerlines and dots in a swirling grain of marbling tones.  I could meditate, ogling these images for hours, studying the shapes and flows of colors as the inspiration is absorbed.  It takes me on a non-drug induced, artistic high, reduces my stress factor, while at the same time, ideas are born … peaceful, yet motivating. And of course, I even ponder how these wonders might be digitized for embroidery or how to describe them in words. I find each piece of dead wood unique with a “story” that is incredibly fascinating.

So too is the bark of a living tree that continues to stretch and crack, evolving into vignettes of merging images only the mind’s eye can see.

© 2012 B. LandsbergerToo often I overlook the most brilliant beauty around me, believing if I don’t see what I yearn to see, then the beauty must not exist. But when I recognize the beauty that does exist – when I really look – it’s amazing!

“Look deep, deep deep into nature.”  What do you see?

[I see many things in the bark of this tree — turtles, faces, snakes, butterflies, Leprechauns, Angels, Jesus and more.]

all images © 2012 B.Landsberger ARR

Blog on Snooze

Absence makes the heart grow fonder … right?

Recent months have been just too impacted with this and that, making for very little blog time. Seems it’s when I have so many things to chat about that I don’t have the time to get it written.

Such is life. I’ll be back soon. Till then, wishing you fun in the summer sun and many, many smiles!

Annoying Technology & Click Ripples

The last time I posted anything other than photos was the end of May and now it’s July. What happened to June?! Well, it certainly was a month to write about – quite eventful for me.  But I have to tuck most of those events and photos away as fodder for a number of future posts. Too many stories and too little room to cover it all in one post.  Besides, I’ve always found moving forward a much better idea.

That’s what I told myself when I realized technology had me by the consumer butt once again. I must move forward with technology. I was digging through the refurbs looking for an inexpensive replacement for my personal laptop and couldn’t find what I wanted;  The laptop I have still works just fine, but it’s mostly dedicated for graphics/photo use now and things are getting a bit cramped for writing.  I was in search of one with a WinXP OS because it’s not complicated and I’m happy with it, but it appears that it has become the new dinosaur in the refurbished choices, with Vista not far behind.

I often buy refurbished/recertified computers because I’ve found that they usually last at least as long as the 3-year expectancy of a new one, as well as the current operating system. It really makes no sense to me to buy new, especially for personal use, when a new one isn’t going to last any longer. When electronics are refurbished, they have simply switched out the bad part(s) and then they are tested and re-certified, bringing them back up to the manufacturer’s standards of new. Sometimes (though rarely) there’s a little cosmetic damage – a scratch here or ding there on the external case – but that’s okay. It saves me the pain that occurs when I make the first scratch myself.

I didn’t want Windows 7 even though it is supposedly faster, because WinXP and Vista are more familiar to me, and I’ve never believed either to be slow when properly maintained (delete the cookies and unnecessary files, and scan for bugs routinely).  I have noticed that Windows 7 loads a little faster, but I never thought WinXP or Vista to be slow.  (Why do people need to move in lightning swift blinks, anyhow?!  A brain should pause now and then.)  But there are very few computers available with anything lower than Windows 7 pre-installed, now that Windows 8 has been on the scene awhile.  Windows 8 appears to have been created with a focus on accommodating touchscreens – something I doubt I’ll ever have a use for on anything larger than my Kindle Fire screen.  But the way technology moves, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll all be forced to use a touch screen eventually, with hand input peripherals antiquated. (Well maybe not.  Artists who are not fond of finger painting would rebel.)

I’ve had Windows 7 on one of my work computers for the last year and I’m just not fond of all the bells and whistles – a bunch of stuff to simply pretty up the view and frustrate the stitches out of me. When I decrease the size of a window and move it up close to the edge, I want it to stay small and out of the way – not blow up to cover the entire desktop. It might be a fast undo with a short slide of the stylus across the top bar, but it’s a stumble that drives me up the wall.  And when I pass the cursor over the top of a minimized window in the task bar, I don’t want to be startled by little windows popping up. Okay, I admit that one is a great feature at times when I need a lot of documents minimized, but that situation happens only for a brief time during my work day and usually never on my personal laptop.  …  So where, oh where, is the option to switch to Classic Windows?  Or is there one?

Well, there’s not much I can do about technology advancement – some is great, some is bad – but the continual change is annoying.  Right after I’ve learned something well enough, they just switch things up again. So, after searching through the refurbs at Tiger Direct, I gave into buying an HP with a Windows 7 OS for $299 (priced new at about $500). At least the price didn’t hurt, considering it included a 2.3 GHz Pentium processor, 320GB hard drive and 3 GB DDR3. It even has a web cam – though I’d only use it for Skype and only to call my son. (I do not want to spend an hour with hair and make up to call clients and I do not want to scare people.)

As well, it has a 64 bit processor. Now, I’ve been looking at that phrase “64 bit” for some time considering what that exactly meant for me. I know the advantages: increased memory support, enhanced security features and increased program performance (albeit only for those programs written for 64 bit). I’d never wanted a 64 bit, because it meant much of the old software I use couldn’t be installed without a lot of tweaking with new drivers and/or other adjustments as noted at Microsoft support:

What to consider when you install a 64-bit version of Windows Vista

64-bit device drivers may not be available for one or more devices in the computer.

Device drivers must be digitally signed.

32-bit device drivers are not supported.

32-bit programs may not be fully compatible with a 64-bit operating system.

It may be difficult to locate programs that are written specifically for a 64-bit operating system.

Not all hardware devices may be compatible with a 64-bit version of Windows Vista.”

But I decided that I shouldn’t find too many conflicts, because I won’t be installing anything except what I need for writing – Firefox for surfing, Thunderbird for email, both free from Mozilla, and the free download of Apache Open Office software. (No offense Microsoft, but I do not like you or your price.)

Now, if I could just disable the “pen feedback” to stop the “ripple effect” every time the stylus hits the Wacom Bamboo pad, I’d be ecstatic. Each click causes tiny little ripples that look like rain drops hitting the water surface – very annoying. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened on computers I have my design systems on.  (Thought of horror: digitizing between the ripples.)  I don’t like using a touch pad and I find using a mouse is like holding a potato, so after I had discovered the comfortable freedom when using a stylus for my digitizing, I installed a Wacom pad on every computer I use for any length of time during my day.  (And bye-bye carpal tunnel syndrome!)

In recent years, when click ripples first appeared on the screen of one of my PCs with Vista and then on another with Windows 7, I found a way to disable the pen feedback. I even blogged about how I fixed it, but the same directions I used then now disable the Wacom pad (something is different or else I’m missing something).  I’ve tried all the forum tips found online, but they appear to be outdated and those that are current are unanswered complaints, such as mine. I’ve heard it’s not a Wacom issue, but a conflict with the pad caused by Windows touch screen features, and at this point I’m not sure whose side of the fence the responsibility lies. (If you have the answer, please comment. The ripples are driving me mad!)

I’m wondering if an easy solution to this aggravating ripple feature (that no one seems to like) has been included in Windows 8. Perhaps, I need to consider taking advantage of the $14 upgrade I was offered from Windows to buyers of a computer with Windows 7 pre-installed. (I’d include the link, but apparently it’s only available currently via my purchase.) The offer is good thru January 31, 2013 so there’s plenty of time yet to find peace with Windows 7. Then again, it might be a good idea to keep moving forward – if I can keep frustration at bay.

For now, I think I’ll just send my complaints to My Granny Geek and then go find a happy place – somewhere very far away from dripping ripples.