Rescuing a Critter and the Word “Digitize”

treeIn November, one of our cats discovered an unexpected house guest who had bedded for the winter in a potted plant we had brought in for the winter two months before. I was stretched out on the couch with my fractured leg propped up, when I noticed Peter’s gaze, his head motionless and his eyes glued to the plants that are in front of the window. Something definitely had his attention.

Suddenly, he jumped from the top of the couch – his throne, as we call it – and came to an abrupt halt in front of the the plants; his nose daring to sniff at something. I considered it might be a mouse – not an impossibility, but a rarity in a house with three cats, so considering I was in no shape to rise and investigate, I told myself it was just a spider, turning my attention back to the movie running on my Kindle Fire. Through my peripheral vision, I saw his Edward Scissorhands paw reach up slowly, tap gently on the side of one of the pots, much too close to my late aunt’s antique lace curtains. “Nooo!” I scolded, and sat straight up, enduring the sharp pain that shot through my knee, while the Kindle slid to the floor with a thud.  Peter didn’t budge.  Unusual.  Any ding-dong, bang or whistle normally sends him running to his haven under the bed.

But Peter wasn’t attacking as he would a mouse, so it had to be something he found pretty darn curious. Now, I didn’t much care that he was at play with a bug, and would have actually appreciated his effort to send whatever it was to the next world, but the thought of shredded lace was quite upsetting.  I summoned The Man from his Cave.

“A baby toad,” my hubby announced, stretching out his hand to show me thetoad gray, warted little beast.  Don’t get me wrong, I like toads. They keep my veggie garden free of nasty bugs.  But I did not want a toad living in my house!  I looked out the window at the snow falling and back at the helpless critter curled up to the size less than a silver dollar in Kevin’s large palm, obviously too weak to be frightened.  It wasn’t the toad’s fault, really.  I should have run a pencil through the soil of the pot before bringing it inside.  And it’s not like we didn’t have the equipment to offer temporary shelter, having had our share of turtles and lizards (Kevin has a thing for amphibians).  Then I saw the plea in his eyes when he promised, “Just until Spring.”    Geez.   Okay, I gave in, but only if we agreed it was not a pet and it would not get named.  So, he brought out the lizard tank and made a trip to the local pet shop for a few dozen baby crickets.

After about a month I noticed the toad was a little greener some days than others, its eyes were getting bulgy and its legs seemed to stretch out quite long.  Even the tiny warts on its head seemed to flatten and raise again with darker spots coming and going, as well.  One morning, we found it looking very green in one of several puddles on the floor.  No doubt it had made quite a splash when it somehow pushed open the tank lid and escaped with a giant leap to the neighboring, topless, 55-gallon aquarium for a midnight swim.  Okay, probably not a toad, but definitely an amphibian.

PaddyKevin secured the lid and to appease the little critter we put a bigger pool in its tank, replacing the mayonnaise jar top with a recycled frozen dinner dish. It immediately took a swim and jumped to the side of the tank.    Wait a minute.  Do frogs stick to glass like that?    Then I got a good look at its toes – or perhaps “pad-like suction cups” is a better description.  A quick search at some of the web sites where I’d been surfing for emergency amphibian care revealed that the yellow stripes on its legs clarified it was a Minnesota Tree Frog – a species that has warts and changes color almost like a chameleon.  It’s important to know whether it is a toad, a frog or a tree frog to give it proper care.  Although they are all amphibians, they each need a little something that the other doesn’t and if I’m not careful, this rescueTreeFrog operation could turn deadly.  So after four months of calling it “the toad” we began annoying each other with continuous corrections or we would sputter out, “the toad … uh, frog … er, tree … that dang critter in the tank!”

And that brings me to my two stitches for this post:  

I am a digitizer.   I am not a digitalizer.   To digitize is to create a derivative via technology.  To digitalize is to administer digitalis or digoxin.  (Do not ask me to do any digitalizing for you.  I might kill you.)

There is a growing acceptance of using the word digitalize in place of digitize and it has even become the #2 meaning in some dictionaries.  I suppose it’s because everything has gone “digital” in today’s world.  Look up digitalizing or its base word of digitalis and you’ll find a slew of explanations from its original floral reference to the name of a recording studio.  Look up digitize (or digitise, as it’s spelled across the pond) and it has one precise technological meaning.

It’s my observation that the world trends with whatever is most commonly used, I suppose because it becomes tiring and seemingly rude to correct folks.  It’s one thing to not offend a customer, but it’s another to ignore the misuse stated by an industry professional.  While a novice in this industry, I referred to a Melco Digitrac as a “digitalis”, to the repeated frustration of my boss, so I’m not innocent of that error and certainly not trying to judge.  But for the sake of clarity, I’d like to encourage the experienced to kindly correct the newbie.  Don’t let it just slide by.  Maybe my personal plea is a battle I’ll lose in years to come, but eventually, I hope folks will see the value of sustaining a word with one precise meaning and the nonsense of using one with multiple meanings, as well as more syllables than necessary.

In my opinion, if one has trouble getting it right, the word “punching” would be the appropriate alternative.  Although it, too, has many other different meanings, it is quite acceptable, because punching tapes to create an embroidery design was the original method; hence, the original appropriate terminology.

That’s exactly how we are settling our current problem when referring to the critter residing in the lizard tank.  It just seemed to need a word with less syllables than “the tree frog” – a simple, yet more appropriate, word to eliminate confusion (at least that’s what I’m telling myself).  Kevin has named it “Paddy”.     Is it Spring yet? 

Digitized by Oklahoma Embroidery - EmbroideryDesigns.com

Digitized by Oklahoma Embroidery – EmbroideryDesigns.com

 

Advertisements

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. 🙂

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

Celebrating with Art & Spirit

Last week when I officially became one of the golden oldies, I decided a break from the office was in order, even if it was a work day.  It was my birthday. I had the right.  Right?  So camera in hand, I set off to enjoy the blue-sky day, in 70-75 degree temps, and with no signs of allergy-triggered sneezing to stop me.

Facebook Photo – Red Wing Visitor and Convention Center

My first stop was at the Red Wing Arts Association Depot Gallery to capture the view beyond the railroad tracks that run behind the building. If you’ve never visited the RWAA Depot Gallery, understand that the building is exactly that – a neoclassical depot style that once served Chicago, Milwaukee and Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad, where folks passed through the front door to buy tickets and then out the back door to board the train. Built in 1905 it was restored in 1990 and the building is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It continues to be an Amtrak stop and houses the Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau, as well as the office for the Red Wing Art Association.

I could have walked around the building for a pic, but walked inside with another agenda, hoping an art exhibit I’d heard about that had started on May 5th was still there.  A sign greeted me just inside the door, “Visions and Viewpoints – Artwork of the Dakota and Ojibwe People.” It described the free exhibition as a collection of works created by a dozen talented Native American artists. I had missed the events of the opening day that the director described as “awesome”, but although there were no story tellers and dancers on this quiet weekday (as great as that would have been to see) I wasn’t disappointed.  I came for the artwork that sang its own songs and danced its own stories.

There’s just something that tugs at me when I see Native American art. Maybe it’s the impressive works that depict Nature or the materials used from Nature, or maybe it’s the history and inspirational stories each item tells without saying one word.  Perhaps it’s the feeling of Spirit that exudes from the most beautiful, vibrant color combinations ever known to my eyes.  Or it could be that it’s simply a genetic thing, passed down from my Oneida great-grandmother.  But no matter what it is, it is

I turned toward the exhibition rooms while whispering, “Happy Birthday to me!”

The dance regalia held my attention for quite some time, being that I’m drawn to anything stitched. Without a crowd to weave and peak through, I was able to linger and mosey up close to examine every detail.

“Holy stitches!”  my self proclaimed.

Much of the work was not hand embroidery, nor was it embroidered on a computerized machine via a digitized file. The work was clearly free motion (or freehand) machine embroidery – a process that requires a high degree of control and patience, as well as time to achieve the intended shapes without distorting elements. (At least, that’s my opinion derived from one unforgettable experience of failed attempts.)

I bowed in deepest respect to artist Dana Goodwin’s dance shawl “Modern Woodland Floral”, a breathtaking combination of applique, embroidery and serious bling!

Other shawls of beautifully stitched stories adorned the walls, such as one by Chholing Taha, “Moose with Tree of Life” as seen at her website: Shawl Lady Dot Com.

The exhibit by a dozen Native American talented artists including paintings, sculptures and beadwork that reflects their culture, will be on exhibit in the Vogel Gallery at the RWAA Depot Gallery until June 24th.

Exhibiting artists: Nakoma Volkman, MN; Frank Big Bear, MN; Pat and Gage Kruse, WI; JoAnne Bird, SD; Laura Youngbird, MN; Chholing Taha, MN; Dyani Reynolds-White Hawk, MN; Charles Hilliard, MN-WI; Lori Ann Biggs, IN; John K. Sterner; Dana Goodwin and Dennis Williams, MN.

Artwork of the Dakota and Ojibwe PeopleAs for a photo of the view from behind the Depot, this is as close as I got. Lingering inside with this awe-inspiring exhibition of art and Spirit – “Views and Viewpoints” – cut my visit short.   It’s okay.  The outside view will always be there.

I proceeded to take an enjoyable little road trip along the Mississippi to Lake City for lunch on the shore of Lake Pepin. And that was only half of my celebration of gratitude for making it one more year, but I’ll save the rest for another time.  For now, let me just say, Day One of 60 was a very fine day, indeed!

Photos – “Visions and Viewpoints” Exhibition posted with RWAA Depot Gallery permission.

Stitches Magazine is 25!

Back in 1986 I was a contented, part-time print artist without one thought about machine embroidery. It was a nice, peaceful few hours each week at a custom print and embroidery shop where I could get lost in the black ink on white paper that would be magically turned to colors by sublimation or screen-print ink. Ah yes, it’s amazing what can happen with a technical pen while the mind flies away into the rainbow gardens.

Then one day my boss approached me with the proposition of full time hours if I could learn how to use the Melco Digitrac®. (See History at Wikipedia Machine Embroidery.) I looked over at the tall easel-like monstrosity with a sliding T-square shaped crossbar and input pad with a transparent plastic bulls eye that moved on an X-Y axis, devouring the space next to the Melco Super Star embroidery machine, daisy chained to a floppy drive, as well as a tape punch machine. “Ummm, I don’t think so.”

Understand, I already had a career as the local hospital’s head cook and I would soon become the kitchen supervisor after finishing one more month of school for certification. I was set. It was too late in the game for me to start a new thing. He gave me a key to the shop and the manual and told me to “play” any time I could fit it in, and then decide.  “I have school,” I protested.

This is your school,” he replied, with a gesture towards the monstrosity.  Well, what artist addicted to hand embroidery wouldn’t be curious enough to accept the opportunity for at least the experience?!  So I did. And it didn’t take long – a few days, maybe a week – when I knew I would no longer be creating menus and cracking eggs every morning.

But it wasn’t easy!  Back in those days (omg, I’m starting to sound like Grandma!) we didn’t have personal computers, much less the Internet. There were no schools or books for “punching” which was the common term then for “digitizing”, evolving from the tape punch process it required. We thought it a grand transition when we moved up to the floppy drive – the big one that really flopped. Without editing software or even a personal computer, trial and error was the only real teacher. I taped a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the Digitrac and insisted on working evenings to avoid interruptions. Other employees who had a message or question for me knew enough to stand quietly in my peripheral vision until I turned to speak with them, and if they didn’t … well … it wasn’t pretty.

So that first year was quite intense with late nights, punching and watching every stitch sew simultaneously on the machine, which I also had to learn how to operate and maintain to be sure in my testing of work on different fabrics, stabilizers and thread weights that any error was not caused by the punching that created the design. Back then there was absolutely no way to cancel a punched function without eliminating all of the work, so I learned to create very small files to avoid those duh-moments like forgetting to punch the needle down and watching the machine dance in the air for 15 minutes after an hour of digitizing. Then the small files were combined by writing a program using the machine’s keyboard – a process done very carefully, because the only way to test the program was by running the machine – a time and material waster if the program had errors. And I pushed my tenacious self through the turmoil of fabric puckers, columns too wide or too thin, the use of underlay where and why, thread breaks, gaps between objects, disappearing stitches, loose stitches and unraveling stitches, stitches too short or too long, and coverage too sparse or too dense. And I’ll spare you what was involved in creating “special stitches” of motifs and patterns in fills that were created only by manually sectioning each element into multiple objects. Needless to say, I desperately struggled while sinking deep into the land of stitched woes!

And then … that glorious moment arrived when my boss placed into my hands the very first issue of Stitches Magazine. I swear, I heard the angels sing! I wore out the pages of that issue, finding the answers to a year’s worth of built up questions. Since then, each issue has brought a continuous stream of ideas and solutions for all of us in this industry, and personally, I can honestly say I couldn’t have gotten as far without it!

So, with the deepest of my own gratitude and on behalf of those who struggled their way up and through this industry, allow me to wish Stitches Magazine a well-deserved and sincere congratulations on 25 years!

This also seems to be an appropriate time to announce that entries are now being accepted for this year’s Stitches Golden Needle Awards! There are a couple of new exciting rules that will leave no excuse for not giving it a go. From the editor, Nicole Rollender:

Enter the Stitches Golden Needle Awards Today

Our challenge to you: Enter ONE design in this year’s Stitches Golden Needle Awards for embroidery and digitizing excellence. Choose the best work that you currently have and show it off to us. We want to make this year’s contest the best we’ve ever had: http://bit.ly/gAzZ4W

Remember, you don’t have to fit this project into your schedule – just submit the best stuff you’ve already done!!!

And on another stitch … in regard to the announcement in my last blog about Moonlight’s Design Shoppe soon to close, I’ve found it’s necessary to change the word “soon” to “in the near future”. Disassembling a sister domain of e-commerce without affecting the other sister domain for a custom digitizing service, I’ve discovered, will take a bit longer than expected. (I’ll whine about that process another day.) So, in the mean time, I will continue to deliver sales and will see about dusting off some of the cyber-cobwebs with a few page upgrades, but for now, my new stock designs will be introduced each month exclusively at Masterpiece Embroidery. (A big welcome to the newest member of the group, award winning digitizer, Erich Campbell who submitted three wonderful designs to this month’s collection!)  Masterpiece Embroidery is the place to shop for embroiderers looking to increase their stock library with high quality designs created by 15 skilled digitizers at an unbelievable price of $9.99 – and that’s the total cost for over 30 designs! No memberships necessary, no sneaky fees – just one short month before the price changes, so don’t delay!

Till next time kids, keep on stitchin’! 🙂

Pruning for Production … At My Age

A few years ago a crabapple tree popped up outside of the garden edging that keeps the lawn at bay. After the discovery while mowing the lawn, we decided to expand the edging around the little 2-leaf stem for protection while we waited to see what would occur at Nature’s hand. We thought it a nice spot for the tree where it would have a fair chance to grow in the protection of the taller trees, and a convenient way to secure a replacement for one of a few that are beginning to show damage from harsh Minnesota winters.

We have several different varieties of crabapple trees in the yard, and this sprout was growing so close to a white blossom crabapple tree, I worried it might be a root sucker. If so, it should be eliminated to avoid depriving the main tree of nutrients, but I hesitated to remove it, because the leaves appeared to be more of the pink crabapple’s shape. I crossed my fingers and let it be. Then last year the baby crabapple finally produced two small blossoms – just enough to prove it indeed was pink.

Now, mind you, we do not know that much about pruning any sort of tree properly, nor do we do more than trim dead branches and try to keep the trees alive the best we can. But it was obvious from the baby tree’s production of only two small blossoms, the sun was likely being hindered by its neighboring old relatives. So, last Spring when my husband took to the task of clearing away some of the large branches of the older trees that hovered over and near the roof, he made a point of removing enough to let the sunshine through. I admit I was a bit sad to see the larger trees thinned, but this past week, the pruning paid off when our new baby displayed bunches of blossoms on small, but hearty, branches.

The blossoms created smiles that helped me trudge through the rest of my very taxing week. This morning while scanning Facebook over coffee, I saw a Maxine Crabby Road cartoon reminding folks it was tax deadline day and felt relieved my taxes had been electronically filed a couple days ago. Nothing like putting things off close to the last minute, but sometimes the last minute is the only one I find. Nevertheless, even though final calculations didn’t make me jump for joy, it’s a project done and turned in on time. So I win.

I love Maxine. I’ve enjoyed her quips for years and now that I’m starting to look a lot like her, she often gives me advice at the right time by delivering tons of food for thought in a mere sentence or two. Today’s cartoon so graciously stated, “It’s tax day. Of course at my age every day is pretty taxing.” Great chuckle and all, but for me, I gained a little bit more in the phrase “… at my age ….” I am in my last month of my 50’s and have fulfilled the major goals I’d planned in my 20’s – at least all but one: I have not yet managed to retire, which is something I’d planned to happen before I hit 60. Time has a way of changing goals made for the “golden years” and I no longer believe complete retirement is a possibility in my life time, much less the next month.  But I have decided that some parts of my work life must be pruned. There is simply too many other things to do at my age.

So, after considerable thought of the options I’ve been weighing in recent months, I’ve decided to cut away a few things from the schedule. Somehow over the years I managed to give myself too many duties and when one has too many things to accomplish, something is going to be delayed and good service becomes impossible. Moonlight Design has never worked that way and it never will.

First on the cut list, I will soon be closing my online stock design website, MoonlightsDesignShoppe.com. The undecided exact date of closing (except to say, “soon”) will be announced one week prior via various social networks as a courtesy, but without big affair.  The site has been growing cyber-cobwebs the last year for my lack of maintenance and time thereof. Established in 1997, it began somewhat as an online catalog for my regular custom digitizing clients to answer one FAQ, “What do you have in stock?” It was a time saver. It needed no help. Things change. Without the time to maintain the extra web site, and no desire to market hearty to the global masses or hire someone else to do so, the best decision is to drop the unnecessary expense.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m retiring from digitizing!  Be assured, I will continue to offer my new stock designs through a few venues, such as Masterpiece Embroidery each month.  It’s an honor to be a member of such a great group of skilled digitizers!  I also plan to create a few CD collections and make them available through my home base, DesignsByMoonlight.com, which will continue to remain online. Nah, full retirement is not an option – digitizing is something I’ll continue till I can no longer create and click. God knows why. I just can’t seem to stop. But every now and then, one has to prune away those extra branches to let a little sunshine in. 🙂

Blog Data, One Rock Jock & Chicken Embroidery

Yay! It’s post number 30! I think that’s supposed to mean something, but I’m not sure what. I’m not a blog specialist. I just ramble here. Nine months into posting and I’m actually surprised that I’ve managed to get this far. That first post started as a lark, and, back then, I honesty didn’t think that I could obligate time to another task. Isn’t it amazing how all it takes to get something done is to start?

For me the best part of posting has been all of the little perks discovered; both interesting and fun – things that would have otherwise lain to the side under some indifferent rock. Take, for example, the “Summary of Searches” in my WordPress.com blog Dashboard.   I just found it.   (I did mention this blog started as a lark.  Seeking the blog’s marketing and research value had never been a priority, but it’s now being reconsidered.)

I’ve been aware of some of the stats like the traffic graph that shows how many folks read the post, and the database lists the links in my posts that are clicked (currently, EmbroideryDesigns.com shows the most hits, with Stitches Magazine coming in a close second.)  As well, it shows where readers click from, like Facebook or Twitter, and a great deal are stumbling upon my blog when searching for a wide variety of phrases.

The WP Summary of Searches in my blog database reveals what or whom readers are searching for when they end up here. If the keywords and phrases are noted in my blog even once, that post inevitably makes the list of someone’s search results.

Not surprising, the number one search is for my friend, Mindy Collins, who rocks the Florida airwaves via 96.7/101.7 Pirate Radio WKYZ. (We miss Mindy in the Twin Cities! I’m waiting patiently for Pirate Radio to stream.) Besides being one of my favorite fun people and a great friend, she’s always been “there” to make the world seem brighter – it was Mindy’s voice that kept me going through hair-pulling moments of frustration, while learning how to punch a decent embroidery design.  And of course, there’s her great choice of fantastic tunes.  Ah yes, the power of rock!

Second in line of top searches, and the most helpful in respect to digitizing, has been those for particular embroidery designs:

embroidery design for leap year

embroidery designs for newborns

embroidery design pirate

elephant busting through brick wall embroidery design

wagon fill stitch embroidery design

design stitches for sneakers

the very hungry caterpillar machine embroidery design

No matter how odd some ideas seem, knowing what people are searching for is key when trying to create that next design.  If it’s not in demand, it’s not going to sell. (This search thing could definitely pay for the time I spend posting!)

I’m also beginning to find a lot of the search phrases very curious like “droopy petunias” (a phrase found in the title of an earlier post). Makes me wonder – do we have an epidemic of wilting petunias?  Perhaps there’s just a lot of folks new to petunias who don’t realize it’s natural for this annual to droop when they get wet in rain or high humidity and it’s also part of their cycle to bloom, wilt and dry to a crusty brown. [A tip for those petunia growing newbies: if you want to see blooms for the 4th of July, pluck the early blooms in mid-June, even if they’re not yet droopy, and offer them shelter in a hard rain.]

Then, of course, there are search phrases that make me scratch my head, laugh or both:

get my trainers embroidered

two grandmas fighting

cat frowning in shower

worn out keds with toe holes

flexibility in the towns+skice

secret service agents never smile

stressful nature of environment in chicken embroidery industry     [WHAT?!!]

apple pies with apples on the side and elmo

dear santa lets just concentrate on that

embroidery digitizing app ipad

My first reaction: Good luck with that digitizing app! I just could not picture punching with a hand held device!  But I had a quick change of attitude while drifting into retrospect.  I started punching without software and saw it speed to where digitizing is today, and nothing really surprises me anymore.

CHICKEN AND THREAD - Copyright Great Notions; found at EmbroideryDesigns.com

A “digi-app” will likely happen, if it hasn’t already. I sure don’t know of what use it would be to me, though, or anyone else who strives for accuracy while calculating measurements for tiny elements.  Perhaps it would make for a great editing app with the ability to remove or add machine commands like color changes and trims.

But, as for digitizing?  I just don’t think it’s for me. Then again, perhaps it’s something that could help the stressful nature of the environment for that chicken in the embroidery industry. 😉