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

 

New Blog Day & Hungry Critters

New Blog Day – Sundays in Summer and Fall are too fun to be blogging – at least until the snow flies.  Most of us in the Upper Midwest have to get outside when we can! So to accommodate the weather, I’ve decided to move blog posts to Tuesdays.

It seemed a good time to make the switch, considering a minor accident has temporarily put my right hand out of commission and typing with the hunt-and-peck method is not my thing.  So for now, I’ll leave you with a little something I had prepared earlier that was intended for a post elsewhere.  My Two Stitches will return Tuesday, August 16.  Till then, enjoy all that your day offers – beauty can be found in the smallest of things.

Hungry Critters on My Lunch Hour

After trying in vain to get a clear still pic of a hummingbird at the feeder, I turned off the camera that was attached to a tripod on the kitchen table. I then proceeded to eat lunch but one bite of my tuna on whole grain and of course the flitter-critter returned. I didn’t want to move hastily, because it seems they are alert to all motion around them – even through the blur of UV protected glass. One little move from me or one of my cats and they disappear fast!  I was getting tired of playing this focus-camera-and-dart-away-game, so, without taking any time to adjust settings and focus, I just hit the video record button and hoped for the best. Eventually he noticed me – or seemed to – and took a couple more drinks, then moved to the outside of the feeder, popping his head up and down, as if curious about me. He filled his belly and then sped away, but I knew he’d soon be back – a hummingbird needs to sustain the energy required to keep its wings in motion, consuming up to twice its body weight in nectar every day.

Oxeye Sunflower

I got up to fill my empty coffee cup and looked straight into the eyes of a Cottontail Rabbit or Hare (not an expert – it’s a “bunny” to me).  It froze on its hind legs near the sliding glass door, hoping to blend into the old deck, I suppose.  Seeing a few bunnies is common after a lot of rain and the yard is need of mowing.  Notice, I did not say “lawn”.  Our yard has been invaded by the adjacent “forest floor” of the woods – wild flowers, catnip, clover, you name it.  Bunnies tend to get lost in this sweet pasture, grazing their way up from the woods to the deck.  Slowly, I set the coffee cup on the table and grabbed the camera that was still connected to the tripod, the extra weight making it hard to hold the camera still.  I turned it on and awkwardly aimed, but by the time I got the bunny in the view finder she had braved from her instinct to freeze and hopped off to the garden.  Drat!  So I dashed to the garage, and while struggling to focus through the dirty window, I caught the fluffy vandal snooping around the garden, eventually creeping through a hole in the netting that covered the strawberry patch.  It’s okay – no berries till next spring again and she’ll just chow down the tall sweet grass that appeared from the seed “dropped” by the crows that ate the last of the strawberries after getting through the hole of the netting that the squirrel  manage to make.

Baby Watermelon

Baby Watermelon

Never a dull moment around here.

As long as I was out in the garage, I decided to put a few slices of dried bread on the flat feeder.  I opened the garage door and the bunny shot out of the netting and headed for the woods while I emptied a cup of seed onto the flat feeder along with a few slices of the dried bread.  Then, since it was so nice outside at about 80 degrees, but no humidity, I removed the tripod from the camera and made a quick inspection of the yard, calculating work for the damage done from all the wet weather.  The radishes have “gone to seed”, the peas had been devoured (I assume, by the bunny) but the humid-loving watermelon is doing okay, for having been planted late.  A patch of wildflowers were “dropped” along side the garage by one bird or another, grapes have invaded and imprisoned every and anything!  Found a strange teeny-beetle type of bug on an Oxeye Sunflower, a white spider on a Coneflower, and gnats on a huge mushroom growing in the hollow of an old oak tree – all critters looking to find a bit of lunch. A few wasps seemed to be having a party on the grave vine that suddenly appeared on the evergreens, but they wouldn’t sit long enough for the camera and refused to preform much in video mode.  I took that as my cue to get back to my lunch, so I could get back to my office.

I finally poured that cup of coffee and managed a quick sip before seeing one of the neighborhood squirrels zeroing in on the dried bread. Grey Squirrels look so skinny this time of year, having shed most of their fur in the heat – such a difference from their puffy, fuzzy winter-wear.  They actually remind me of wet rats!  But after all, they are a member of the rodent family.  As soon as he saw the bread I heard the loud piercing call of a Blue Jay overhead.  Evidently, they both had the same plan.  So up the tree went the squirrel to fend off the squawking Blue Jay, twitching its tail to file his chow claim. Then the squirrel’s attention was taken by a ground foe to shoo from the scene (I suspect the bunny who may have been hiding beneath the deck) – or else, he just fell from the tree.  No matter the reason, the Blue Jay took advantage and made a grab for the bread, but changed his mind when he caught sight of the squirrel making its way back to the feeder.  (No worries for the Blue Jays, as they returned later for theNapping Squirrel seed and corn, while the squirrel took a nap in the crabapple tree.  After more seed was put out, the squirrel filled up again and then napped in another favorite place, the birdhouse where Catbirds nest in the spring.)

I shut off the camera and turned back to my own lunch just in time to see Tator, the “irri-tator” as my husband calls her, now gingerly pawing at the remaining half of the tuna sandwich, perhaps thinking it had surely been abandoned. “Shoo!” I scolded, having fed her not just five minutes before making my own lunch.  Startled, she jumped in mid-swat, sending the top slice of bread into flight, which landed and slid along the floor, collecting the cat hair like a Swiffer ® Duster. (During the summer shedding season, cat hair is an occasional, unintentional condiment in this house, even when we observe the “no 3-second floor rule”.) She dashed to the bedroom in shame – or more likely thinking like any other critter, “until the next chance I get”. I picked up the hairy bread slice and tossed it into the drying bucket, settling for fewer calories.  Just as well, anyhow; it was time to get back to work. Grabbing an apple from the fridge to take back to my office, I concluded that the camera, perhaps, should be banned during lunch hours – but then again, perhaps not.

If you’re curious, here’s the combined attempts of the lunch hour shoot: Hungry Critters – not the best quality even for an amateur, but safer than looking out the window for 5:24 minutes and leaving your lunch at the mercy of a mischievous cat.  By the way, there are no cats in this video.  And, no critters were harmed during the filming, with the exception of a skeeter who attempted to chow on me.

Google+: Getting to Know the New Cloud on the Block

Egad! Do I really want to join yet another social network?  When the topic of Google+ began appearing in network streams and feeds, I sighed and then whined like many people. But then after getting over the fact that I’d have to buck up and learn new things and find more time to poke around cyberspace, I decided, hmmm, perhaps.  After all, Google+ does bring a few goodies to the grid that I’ve been wanting to see on other clouds – any other cloud – Ning, Twitter, Linked In, to name a few, but most of all Facebook, the place I’d pretty much settled into these past few years.

I hate change. But I also know that without conceding to change, there’s no way I can move forward, much less survive online. So, I accepted the invitation to connect on Google+ and began the process of learning how to float on this new cloud. It’s slow-going, as every new online venture. I operate on the principles of the turtle who whipped the hare in the infamous fable; its moral: slow but steady wins the race. I poked around, read help links, googled for reviews, and dug up whatever info I could before clicking links or even adding profile info. I’m a careful surfer. I haven’t stumbled on any irrelevant apps for Google+ yet, although there is mobile apps, but I don’t much care for either one.  I don’t do mobile gadgets and I don’t like Farmville (yeah, I know, bah humbug).

So far, I’m not finding something super different than other social networks, but I will say I’m more impressed than I’d anticipated. Some people are reporting that it’s just another Facebook, but that’s debatable. Oh sure, it has features similar to Facebook, but there’s no way to post on someone’s “wall” or profile page (at least, I haven’t found it yet).  Actually, I consider that a huge plus+. I’ve grown weary of those particular folks who think that posting ads for embroidery digitizing on my Facebook wall is cool. I don’t even pin up my own ads except on my business page where they belong. But it would be nice to remember birthdays – or perhaps not.  There are likely many who would prefer no reminders of age, such as myself (my mind refuses to acknowledge age – except, occasionally, it does come in handy when demanding respect or a senior citizen discount).  Besides, indicating a birthday can lead to stolen-identity issues, and the bottom line is that a private e-mail or Hallmark via Postal Mail is more meaningful.

Google+ has Pages. I haven’t made one for Moonlight Design, but I’m waiting as advised at Pixability’s “Don’t Create a Google+ Page for Your Business … Yet”.

Google+ has Hangouts. Same idea as Facebook Chat with a sophisticated face-to-face feature. Not a fan of chat. (The turtle needs time to reply.)  And never have been a fan of web cams or anything else that exposes my face pre-Avon (just not enough primp-time in the day).  Face-to-face or not, chat distracts me from work like an elephant walking by the school’s first grade window – just try getting the kids back in their seats after that!

Google+ has Sparks. This is still a bit foggy in my understanding, but referred to as a “recommendation engine” it appears to be similar to Facebook’s recommendations (and/or ads) based on interests shared with other friends. From what I understand so far, Sparks brings up results closest to your own interests when searching Google+ with keywords.

Google+ has little +1 boxes. Evidently, to +1 is to Like. But there are differences, such as I can’t find a way to +1 a reply made on a comment, which I’ll miss because it’s a nice fast way to tell someone you read and appreciate their reply. Then again, it gives reason to visit that person’s profile, see what’s up in their world and give a +1 back.

Update: Thanks to Erich Campbell, I have learned that the button to +1 a reply appears when hovering over the reply/comment.

Google+ has pictures and videos. I’ve heard that it takes longer to upload photos than on Facebook, probably because uploading more than one at a time isn’t possible (yet). It didn’t take long to upload my profile pic, so I’m wondering if the rumor is caused by something else I heard – that Google+ works best through Chrome and Firefox.  But I’ll give it time.  One has to remember: Google+ is still beta.

Google+ has Circles. I’m in love with this feature! The Official Google Blog states, “we found that people already use real-life circles to express themselves, and to share with precisely the right folks. So we did the only thing that made sense: we brought Circles to software. Just make a circle, add your people, and share what’s new—just like any other day….”  No one sees a comment who isn’t in that Circle, unless you choose to make the comment public, which then everyone sees — even those who aren’t in your Circles.  After a few years of trying to keep my comments to family, friends and business contacts separate through using Facebook Groups and Lists, (which by the way, help only to organize and view particular posts faster) this is the one feature that has sold me on giving Google+ a fair full-fledged trial run.

If you’re curious about this new cloud on the block, check out “Google+: The Complete Guide”.  I will be doing the same and poking around the net for more help, I’m sure.  I have so much more to learn about Google+ stuff, and it will take time for this ol’ turtle to get a grip on it all, but I think I might just have to hang around.  It will be interesting to see just where this cloud is floating!


Creativity Awaits Outside the Window

Watching the raindrops hit the leaves of the Crabapple tree outside my office window today, I considered how fortunate I am to actually have a window.  I’d spent at least 20 years employed at various jobs working in spaces without windows.  Three of those positions required that I create, either by writing or designing or both, but rarely did I find muse while on the clock.  Inspiration necessary for motivating creativity was acquired during outside walks during breaks and lunch hours or at home – where there was a window.

For about 18 years I’ve been working from a home office with two large windows; one is half-draped to keep light hitting my computer monitors and the other is devoured by the Crabapple tree.  I can’t see very far beyond the window from my chair, but what I can’t see, my mind’s eye can.  The seasonally, changing view is embedded in memory, as I routinely walk over to the window every hour for a Yoga stretch.  (CTS and PAD will not be my downfall if I can avoid it!)  Within minutes after opening the window – even when it’s Minnesota cold – for a relaxing daydream, along with a meditative, breath of fresh air, my mind kicks in with an uplifting fervor and the creativity flows!

Not being able to steal a glance at nature every time I have a mind-block would be so drastically stifling!  I’ve spent a good deal of dead time staring at a blinking cursor on a white doc page or canvas of a graphics or digitizing program, and then, later during a walk or gazing out the window, I’ve been hit with an epiphany.  I jot a note or capture a picture to examine later and it’s the image that helps me recall exact details of my bright ideas, because it triggers what I was thinking at the time.  I’m then able to move forward in my project at a faster pace and with more clarity.

I never question why it works (I’m a firm believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”) but sometimes I wonder if it’s actually nature that turns on the switch of creativity or just the physical act that tells the brain to take a break so the “juices” can flow.  I only know that when I find myself just sitting there trying to squeeze out the next paragraph, design or digitizing solution, staring at my pencil cup just doesn’t cut it as well!  The weather can be sunny or snowy, or rainy and cloudy in a blue sky or grey, and after a brief gaze at the Crabapple, the wheel of creativity never fails to turn.  Oh, sometimes a Cardinal or squirrel interrupts my focus, but the experience usually enhances inspiration, which sometimes leads to an idea for an entirely new project I can tuck away in the slush pile.

Curious to know if this is a common or personal experience, I did a little research and found that there’s actually a study of the affects to employees at work places with and without windows called “A Room with a View: A Review of the Effects of Windows on Work and Well-Being” by Kelly M. J. Farley and Jennifer A. Veitch.  Now, I haven’t read the entire study (yet); however, a statement in the abstract told me I wasn’t alone.  “Windows with views of nature were found to enhance work and well-being in a number of ways including increasing job satisfaction, interest value of the job, perceptions of self-productivity, perceptions of physical working conditions, life satisfaction, and decreasing intention to quit and the recovery time of surgical patients.

Fresh air from an opened window is also said to spur creativity, because it enhances brain power, according to various claims.  If you can’t open a window, brief outdoor walks should be mandatory, because it helps you get your Vitamin D, as well as “’Vitamin G’ – what experts call time spent in green spaces”, explains Prevention Magazine in The Fresh-Air Fix”.  The article also offers six ways you and your family can benefit from being outdoors, which by the way, spending time socializing has also proven to be another way to pump up creativity.

If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a window in your office and find it difficult to arrange hourly breaks outdoors, try taking a few tips from the ancient Chinese system of Feng Shui.  Whether you believe in its laws of aesthetic energy or not, many of its principles are in agreement with scientific facts, as well as the results of health studies.  Good air quality is the first thing on the list in “Create Good Feng Shui In A Small Office with No Windows” followed by displaying various types of art, including a wall mural depicting nature.  That would be my preference, along with a small aquarium, if forced to work in a windowless room.  I must have some place to look where my mind can take frequent walks – my body is just not that ambitious!

If you have one or more employees whom you depend on to produce great creative works, provide nature in the environment, but give them more than a potted plant.  (Yes, plants do improve air quality, but it’s simply not enough!)  If possible, arrange for an office with a window or hang a large photo of the Rainforest or of somewhere a mind can tip-toe through brain-titillating tulips.  And by all means, allow brief, outdoor breaks for rejuvenation as frequent as reasonable.   Sitting still for too long can cause dead stares into pencil cups.

Finally [and I suggest this, of course, at your discretion] cut a little slack when your hired “creator” occasionally appears to be dawdling in daydreams, while staring out the window or other focal point on your dime.  Have patience.  Surely, a masterpiece is about to be born!

Welcome to my humble blog!

Hello to all who have been bitten by enough curiosity to step inside my observations, opinions and occasional eccentricities. I’m not promising the best blogging on the net, but I will certainly try to offer something of interest now and then. On a good day, possibly a worthy digitizing or embroidery tip might tumble from these dancing finger tips. So come on in, bring your favorite break-time beverage and pull up a chair for a stitch or two. Who knows? Perhaps we will even share a few smiles! 🙂