Monkey-Mind Stress & A No-Monkey Business

fuscia1Hey there! It’s been quite a long while since I’ve had the pleasure of posting anything worth a smile. Not that I’ve been unhappy, but wow, what a year of crazy bumps from one direction to the next with a jungle of surprises around every corner!  I’ll spare you the details and just say that the cup of life had been running over. Much like the fuchsia that hangs in my kitchen, with dripping blossoms that too soon fall to the floor and wait for me to sweep up – so pretty, yet I rebel, “how much is enough “pretty”?

So, I’ve been working on resolving a bad case of “monkey-mind“.  Too much on the brain makes one insane.  I don’t know if that’s a cliche’, but it should be. Sometimes the wheel begins to spin a little too fast in my world, and even though there’s nothing to really complain about, being overwhelmed – good or bad – can be stressful. So, I’ve returned to a daily 20 minutes of yoga and meditation.  I think it’s working. Look! I’m blogging. 🙂

In my last post, I was still recuperating with a broken leg. I’m thankful it all healed well, but by the time I was able to put my leg to use, the city began construction, replacing sewer lines in my neighborhood, and hope was lost for even a brief jaunt to the grocery store in daylight. Fortunately, I work from a home office, so getting to work wasn’t the issue, but getting the work done to the tune of jack hammers, chain saws and heavy equipment was more distracting than trying to relax in a tree full of chattering monkeys. No way could I comfortably write a friendly blog post without relating a few unkind words about my sudden unfortunate situation. It was the summer of hell, to say the least.

roadAs seen in these images, each morning (left) the machines rolled in and dug out the street so the work could continue, and then each evening (right) they’d fill it in again. The non-stop thunderous rumbles, beeps and bangs, while the house vibrated with every bucket drop and roller tamper, drove my patience to the brink. I dashed around the house anchoring every piece of porcelain in its place with poster putty, trying to stay calm, even as I heard bathroom tiles fall into the tub and storm windows fly out of the frames. I endured the misery, hanging on to hope that the noisy chaos would put an end to the mopleakage of mucky water I’d been mopping up in the basement every Spring – then the noise and confinement would be well worth it.  Indeed, this Spring’s thaw brought not a drop rolling down the brick foundation! I did a happy dance with the dry mop and sang a heartfelt “halleluiah!”

During the winter months, I had become overly occupied by a slew of little obligations, as well as new writing responsibilities. Most of my work day is now spent at EmbroideryDesigns.com where I’m happy to be a part of a great support team.  The daily exchange of information with both industry folks and hobbyists never fails to solve puzzles and teach me something new. It then becomes fodder for articles at EmbroideryDesigns.com’s Learning Center.  And the projects I create and post about on my work blog, Stitch and Craft are also an enjoyable task, causing the hours to pass much too quickly.

So, you see, I have been writing, but I’ve missed blogging in my “break room” where I can toss my personal two stitches into the world. Writing keeps my stress factor down – almost as well as lavender, yoga and meditation.  So does food.  Well, the right foods anyhow, and in small frequent meals. Unfortunately, during the past year’s distractions, I ignored the rules I’m to live by. I stuffed myself with momentary good-feeling morsels and neglected the necessities that set my digestive system off on an uncontrollable tangent.

Yeah, that’s what happens in the golden years – your body starts making demands and takes control of that “I’ll-eat-whatever-I-please-and-to-hell-with-nutrition” attitude. On the bright side, I no longer stress over dieting, because if I stick to the health rules, I’m not pillsallowed to count calories or skip meals. Now it’s all a matter of counting vitamins, minerals and glasses of water while timing small numerous portions by the hour. I’ve always known the science to healthy eating, but I must give it keen attention in my old-er age, because if I choose to ignore it, there are physical repercussions. So, I do the list of “14 Foods That Fight Inflammation”  and when I fall short, I reach for the appropriate bottle kept handy on my desk – a display that often provokes the question, “Got pills?”  But snarkiness aside, I’d have to eat twice as much food to get what I get in a few pills everyday, and considering I’m not on the skinny side, it’s a good thing.

Farming Scene by Concord Collections – EmbroideryDesigns.com

I also have been busy this last year, reducing one of the biggest stress inducers I’ve ever experienced – business. First, to clarify any misunderstanding caused by previous statements made here and on other social media, I did not retire from work or stop digitizing, but I did retire my custom digitizing services. I’ve found that “un-marketing” is a feat to be extremely difficult after an online presence of over two decades. Okay, so I have only been one tiny pea in the embroidery pea field, but as the only pea in my pod, I’ve been one helluva busy pea.

No matter how small the business, and no matter how many newfangled things they come up with to help operate one, I’ve come to this conclusion: running a business totally solo without delegating anything is certainly possible, but it’s borderline insane. During buzy-ness you have many responsibilities. During slow-downs, you have the same responsibilites, as well as those you didn’t get done during the buzy-ness. It’s tough to fit in personal time if you don’t choose to hire help. You at least need a monkey – you know, someone who will listen while you plan your week’s agenda or bring you a banana when you need one.

So, to aid in un-marketing, I’ve temporarily closed my web site while I review and revamp, and currently my business domain names are parked at my personal “name domain”.  I will continue to digitize the occasional stock design and deliver private orders while decisions are being made about a new site for Moonlight Design, but until then, in reference to my no-monkey business, I can only say, “to be continued”.

stitches-coverstoryQuoting industry veteran and master digitizer, Steve Freeman of Qdigitizing, who noted in “Back from the Brink”, June’s cover story, pg. 40, in Stitches Magazine, “Sometimes you have to recognize when enough is enough in order to reinvent yourself.”

I suppose that’s what has come about as I’ve tried to un-market, shrink back and just be.  I’m reinventing myself while being content that I remain a part of the embroidery industry.  I will also continue to pop in now and then at Stitches with a bit of “Punching Sense” or whatever else I can offer. Right now, I’m gearing up to participate again as a digitizing judge for this year’s competition and the excitement is building! Do not hesitate to participate in this one, kids – first price is a Melco single-head!

On a closing stitch, to those who are curious, I hope to not let another year go by without posting. I’ve come to the conclusion that venting my two stitches reduces stress – and I’m going with the assumption that working at stress reduction is a lot less chaotic than living with a monkey. Alas, God bless Jane Goodall.

monkey

Baby Chimp by Ace Points – EmbroideryDesigns.com

 

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. 😉

Market Wisely – A Lesson from the Deer Mouse

As I commuted down the hallway to my home office, I caught sight of one of my cats in the bathroom perched on the edge of the tub.  Tator was in stalk position, mesmerized by a likely spider in the vine of satin grape leaves that I had wrapped around the shower curtain rod. (Don’t ask. It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Living next to a woods in the Upper Midwest, the Fall begins a mini-battle with Nature’s critters seeking winter shelter, and evidently spiders like that homey leaf feeling.  With spiders come sticky webs that turn into flying dust bunnies, so it’s best to stop construction before it starts. Well, I didn’t want to kill anything. I was in a creative mood and didn’t want to lose it to a splatter. So, I grabbed a goldfish net, planning to catch and return it to the outdoors where its purpose is more worthy, like chowing on small insects before they get into the house, or perhaps, feed a chickadee. (Let Nature do her own killing!)

A closer look revealed what appeared to be thick web silk poking out from a shaking leaf. And then, as my eyes adjusted to the shadow under the leaf, the wiry strands morphed into long white whiskers, twitching from the end of a pink nose. One big round eye was visible, but closed tightly, either from fear or exhaustion, or both.  A mouse. Not a common grey house mouse, but a brown and white Deer Mouse – the cute cuddly-type that you see on holiday cards wearing Santa hats – the mouse that prefers to winter in burrows and logs, and rarely near people where they also might have to compete with the grey mouse for shelter (if our three cats didn’t do their jobs).  Most likely, it had been attracted to the abundance of crab apples falling near the garage – an easy profit of sweet sustenance – and then strayed through a tiny hole in the door frame where Tator keeps watch.

[Great Notions “Christmas Ball” stock design available at: EmbroideryDesigns.com ]

Earlier, my husband had mentioned that Tator might have brought something furry in from the garage, but after not seeing any evidence he assumed he was mistaken or that the victim had been devoured. Tator is assigned to garage mouse patrol in the evenings and I always know when one has tried to set up house. She doesn’t eat mice. She just torments them.  And after she tires of the flip-and-rip hockey game, she drops the puck of a bloody carcass at the kitchen door – a fair trade for a can of Fancy Feast®, she figures. 

So, after I set the wicked kitty in the hallway and closed the door, I prodded the net at the fur ball, now quivering and sobbing. (I swear, I saw a tear!) I attempted to gently catch it in the net, but it fell into the cleaning bucket I was holding in my other hand and then bounced out into the tub.  That’s when I noticed it was a he – an adventurous young lad out learning a tough lesson.  Obviously, Tator hadn’t done too much damage, I determined, as he sprang back up to the curtain rod with the grace of his namesake.  The 30 minute chase ensued.  Finally, he scurried between the folds of a towel that was drying on the edge of the tub.  “Gotcha!”  I proclaimed, gathering the edges of the towel together like a hobo bag.  Then I carried the bundle back to the woods and released him in the habitat where he can be of purpose – instead of being tortured and annoying me.

About this time of year in the embroidery industry, when business picks up with approaching holiday orders, I see many digitizers venturing to new territories lured by the temptation for fast, easy profits, most especially in the form of unsolicited emails.  Now, I’m not referring to spam from “custom digitizing factories” offering $.50 per K stitches (a subject for another day).  I’m talking about the spam obviously sent by new, independent digitizers who assume it’s the best way to get started.  Sure, I read it – or at least what I don’t assume is from the factories.  I want to know who my new colleagues are!  I have survived in this industry for 25 years by networking and exchanging information with other digitizers, both new and masters alike.  We’ve learned much from each other, including the art of successful marketing.  Spam is not on that list.

Digitizers need to make their services known, but sending volumes of unsolicited emails with unrealistic promises and unprofitable pricing is certainly not the answer.  Proving yourself is.  Word of mouth is the most valuable marketing tool.  Find your clients through trade organizations like NNEP, attend industry events, connect on social networks and run ads where embroiderers will see it, such as Stitches Magazine.  Correspond with an occasional email, yes, but make it a pleasant introduction with basic information.  If you include sample pricing, choose numbers fair to both parties; be aware that too low can mark your service questionable.  Perhaps offer a sample of your work, but never attach a file to the introductory email or you’ll risk immediate deletion.

If you produce quality at a reasonable price and in promised time, and you are willing to make necessary revisions immediately, embroiderers want to know who you are.  Concentrate on skill and ethical business practice and there will be no need to compete – and I won’t have to sift through my spam filter to find you.

So, to all the digitizers out there who are just starting a new business:  your skill and eagerness is most welcomed by the embroidery industry, but take a lesson from the Deer Mouse.  Don’t be tempted by the illusion of fast easy profits found in the mound of crab apples where there’s the probability of a short life. The industry needs you where you are most useful – where your skill can grow and contribute to the continued existence of quality embroidery. Choose to build your business by focusing on one client at a time, one design at a time; learn from each and excel.   Word will travel and the work will follow.

Top Photo Deer Mouse: courtesy of CreativeCommons.org