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

 

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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’! 🙂

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

Droopy Petunias, Thread Breaks & Steam

I am so sad for my wilting petunias!  When the temps hit 100°F last week it wasn’t so unusual for Minnesota in mid-July, but when the humidity factor hit a sticky 86% I cowered inside my protective energy-insulated walls that imprison the AC.  All it took was the foggy condensation dribbling on the office window next to the woods and I canceled outdoor plans.  It’s been a jungle out there!

Fortunately, working from a home office, I only need to worry about the air conditioner dying, and of course, avoiding brownouts and keeping the electric bill down.  So, I immediately went into “energy mode” and shut off unnecessary lights and closed vents and doors to various rooms where air need not be conditioned.  Then I headed out to the attached garage to retrieve supper from the freezer where I was smacked in the face with a wet towel of heavy air that stole my breath.  Steam formed on my glasses as I made my way blindly to the chest freezer, so I removed them for fear that the lenses would break when I opened the freezer door.  The big white box was chugging out a tired, whirring sound, while generating even more heat, turning the garage into an oven.  “Hang in there, girl,” I said with an affectionate pat on its top, and then opened the garage door, attempting to disperse the heat.  I actually pondered the idea of setting a pot of uncooked rice and vegetables out there to be steamed for supper!

For the next couple of days, I especially felt terribly sorry for outdoor workers, like my roofer husband, who has no choice other than to brave the elements and accomplish whatever possible before the snow, rain or scalding sun brings him home.  Even if he could stay hydrated while trying to work on a roof top, the humidity causes equipment trouble, besides the difficulty of handling melting shingles and hot tools.  He’s just relieved he makes it home okay, considering all of the stalled vehicles littered along the roadsides. High heat is definitely a machine killer!

By mid-week, I continued working as I would if it were 10 below in December — I  hate the cold so I hibernate.  I didn’t give much thought about the weeds shooting up in the garden.  I knew the watermelon was probably flourishing, so why chance battling the skeeters that were surely hatching in all the hidden rain puddles.  My drained, tired husband came home around noon and I began testing a custom design that had to be finished before I could continue judging design entries for the Stitches Golden Needle Awards ™ (great stuff this year, folks!).  All seemed to be going well until suddenly, thread began breaking and the water soluble stabilizer became somewhat sticky.  When the machine started stalling and beeping mysterious error messages, I noticed the trickle of sweat that was running down the side of my face.  A quick check of the thermostat revealed someone had turned the setting up from 76°F to 85°F and it certainly wasn’t me!  My machine had to run its best for the judging!

There are so many things that can go wrong in the embroidery room when you ignore the condition of air. I’ve even seen things like thread looping and birdnesting, as well as a machine that refused to power up.  Mr. Logo USA briefs it up nicely online at How to Succeed with Your Own Home-Based Embroidery Business, “…. you may be wondering about the issue of temperature and humidity. Embroidery thread typically sews more efficiently when the humidity is in a normal range. When the humidity levels are too high, the thread takes on moisture and changes consistency, and tends not to travel through the eye of the needle and along the thread path smoothly. This can result in thread breaks and frays on every head and every needle of the machine. When are the humidity levels too high? If you are sweating and the machine is breaking thread, turn on the air conditioner or dehumidifier and you will quickly feel and see the difference.”

So, I stomped down to the basement to chat with the man in his cave where it was a peachy 70°F and where the extra space humidifier was rattling, straining to carry the load alone. “What have you done?!” I demanded. His apologetic expression was accompanied by a mumbled excuse of being a little chilled. “Put on a sweater! You do not change the setting on the thermostat at this time of day when Moonlight Design is in operation!”

My tone may have seemed a little harsh, but his nod revealed he understood all too well how important it is to keep the temp and humidity under control.  During a previous heat wave, he came home from work early and decided to help me out with the laundry, which led to a power-surge while I was working at my computer and he was at his computer holding a Royal Flush during a game of online poker.  Our screams in unison when the monitors went black were so frightening that our three cats scattered and hid for hours.  Shortly after, a rule was created: energy and climate control to maintain machinery is priority!

This steamy weather doesn’t look like it will come to an end any time soon, so I’m planning to get a lot of work done inside by starting each day with a prayer of thanks for the hum of the air conditioner.  And while I’m at it, I’ll be tossing in a little prayer for keeping everything else happy in this heat like those things forced to fry in the sun or drown in the humidity.  It must be tough some days to be a petunia.  I’ve been avoiding the view out my kitchen window of my potted friends, fearing their once perky little heads will be hanging low.  I had moved them under the deck bench for a little more shelter without relinquishing the sun necessary to dry up their muddy pots, and today a few buds stood tall along side newly opened blossoms.  Small treasures, big lessons.  Keep reaching for that sun, folks — but stand in the shade!

The Box – It’s Showtime! Stitches Golden Needle Awards™

Well, there it is, taunting me from the coffee table ever since it arrived on Friday. I haven’t opened it. I’m afraid to. Oh, I’m quite aware of the contents and it’s not something that is truly frightening – it’s actually quite exciting – but it scares me, nonetheless.  I’m afraid if I begin investigating, it will suck me in, robbing my attention until the task is completed, and I’ll surely forget all about top priorities on the to-do list.  This task in the box does have a deadline, and although it’s not as immediate as the custom designs that need to be digitized and the column that needs to be written, it’s certainly of great importance and priority. This somewhat magical box that will certainly make a few wishes come true, holds the hearts, hopes and hard work of the digitizers who stepped up to meet the challenge – it contains my share of the entries to judge for the 2011 Stitches Golden Needle Awards .

But I wanna open it!” the little girl inside my head whines, while I walk slowly by, gliding my fingers across the tape that bars me from satisfying curiosity. I had intentionally left the box on the coffee table, far from my office, so as not to be tempted and distracted from my digitizing. Usually, the only work related tasks allowed in my living room are reading Stitches Magazine and writing this blog; a rule necessary to retain sanity for anyone who works where they live – every task has a place and each task is done in its place.

But now that it’s time to relax in “my little piece of heaven” the box is in my sight, beckoning with a siren-like song. Or perhaps, I’m hearing the tinnitus that grows stronger as my blood pressure rises from excitement.  Nevertheless, the box calls.

So off to the office I carry the box, set it on the desk, while deciding I really should open it to see if it’s all there (as if I’d know if something was missing). Yep, looks like it should be everything – a return shipping label atop a neat stack of entries confined within their own white, 8 x 10” sealed envelopes. I counted the entries, of course, simply to calculate an approximate amount of time I’ll need to accomplish the task, lifting each out gingerly, one at a time. Then, before setting them in a stack on the desk, I weighed each envelope in my hand, as if it’s supposed to mean something – like the curious child, shaking a gift found under the Christmas tree.

Oh, the temptation to open just one! “No!” I cry aloud, dragging myself out of the room and closing the door. “This is Sunday! And there’s but a few hours left that I might relax!” Then the parent in my head directed my attention back to the current task at hand. I returned to the couch with a cup of chamomile tea and opened the laptop to write about a completely other subject. But now, all I can think about is the box. I know there’s some fantastic goodies inside those white envelopes and I look forward to examining and watching them run “with my nose to the hoop”. I want to give each entry the time it deserves, which my schedule won’t allow for at least a few days. But I will fight the temptation to peek!  The freedom of time to delve into each entry will be worth the wait.

I suppose my anticipation stems from the confidence this will be an enjoyable task. As a judge in previous years, I have never been disappointed, and instead, have always been impressed with the many differences in techniques, and the outstanding creativity and skill revealed in every entry. So, I’ll keep my patience and proceed as scheduled, while looking forward to judging some mighty fine designs!  As well, now that the curtain is about to go up, I wish all the contestants the best – may you each “break a needle”! 😉

Finding Fun on a Sick Day

I started the day with a bug of some sort – most likely the allergy type, though I’ve considered perhaps it was my own spirit forcing a mini-vacation.  After all, I rarely get a day off, and I’ve had an unusually stressful last week. I’ve had one problem to solve after another without a solution in sight, making me feel like I’ve been held prisoner in a batting cage without a bat!  So, I decided, maybe I do need a good rest, but I get so very annoyed when I’m immobile.  I’ve never been a willing couch-potato without something to occupy my hands like a book, pen, or at the least, a crochet hook.  What to do?

This is your chance!” my self said.  Finally, an opportunity to simply play – not work – online like others do.  Normally, a good portion of my day is spent online for the purpose of marketing, connecting with customers, ordering supplies and research, as well as paying the bills.  So, after dragging my sorry self out of bed around noon, I put on a pot of coffee and pushed the cat off the sofa where she usually spends the day in front of my personal laptop, waiting for the Decorah Eagles to appear.

At about 17-years-old, I suspect Stinky thinks she’s smarter than my other two cats who watch out the windows for yard critters.  If she waits long enough the blank screen in front of her reveals the biggest birds she’s ever known.  She gave me a look of disdain as I refused to let her move to my lap, but of course, that’s my fault, as the two of us have become quite addicted to cuddling while observing the raptors in my off time.  I even keep an eye on the Facebook page, Raptor Research Project, to stay informed of updates that occur while I work.  I recalled a contest they were having ending today requiring the entry of an image profiling an “eagleholic” – so I decided to enter a photo I’d taken of Stinky in her hypnotized mode.  Up went the image and within a few minutes it collected about 20 Likes and a few comments! “Yay! This is fun!” I proclaimed.  I was even starting to feel a bit better, or at least enough to ignore the swollen sinuses.  But too soon the fun fizzled as the moderator commented on my post, noting that pets were not allowed.  “But you don’t understand!” I protested.  “She really is an eagleholic!” Then, poof! … it was gone … sigh.

Well okay, on with the search for a few smiles.  There just had to be something fun to do that I usually can’t fit into the work day.  I surfed on over to Ancestry.com, finding no messages regarding leads I’m waiting for and I had no motivation to dig deeper into the archives to research blinking green leaves.  I read reviews of various SLR cameras, but already know I want a Nikon and it’s just a matter of finding the extra bucks – and that sure ain’t gonna happen on a sick day!  So, off I surfed to get a numerology reading from the Tarot.com reflection pool, hoping to release a little stress.  In a nutshell, the report told me to be as productive as possible and avoid any reason for sluffing … to which I began sneezing uncontrollably.

No sense in fighting it, I decided, while blowing my nose and drying my sneezy tears.  Perhaps I should try to achieve something productive today.  I’d already read the latest Stitches Magazine cover to cover on and off line; nevertheless, it did seem like a good time to read.  So, I surfed on back to Facebook to see if two of my favorite bloggers, Kristine Shreve and Erich Campbell, had announced anything new, because their blogs are always informative to people like my busy self.  Kristine keeps me up to date on what’s up in the industry and Erich never fails to grab my attention while sharing his design observations.  But it wasn’t to be.  A status post of Kristine’s admitted her lack of opportunity to finish a blog today and it was echoed by Erich who claimed interruptions wouldn’t allow starting one.  Well, krimony!

Then it occurred to me … I remembered I had recently established this little corner on the web … and maybe – just maybe – it was my turn to say, “I started and finished a blog today!”  And so I have.  Now, that was fun! (she says with a sneeze.)