Rejection Will Not Stop Me

This week I had a rather discouraging reminder.  People don’t want to pay what a handcrafted item is worth.  I mean, I guess “worth” is in the eye of the beholder – or the beholder of the pocketbook.  Even so, as an artist and crafter, I put my heart and soul into the things I make, so when someone wants to pay the same price they would pay for something off an assembly line or from some third world country, I am insulted and disappointed in humanity. 
My niece, Allie, is a barista at a local coffee shop.  coffeeI had purchased a few of the empty coffee bean, burlap sacks from the place at the local farmer’s market a few years back and made a bag out of one of them.  I carefully cut the bag, centering the beautiful green logo, so the bag displayed the brand.  I lined it with a matching fabric depicting a somewhat Monet type garden print.  I made sure it had an inner pocket, because we all know how important that is!  Then to set it off, I put authentic leather handles on it.   It turned out very “French Country” looking.  French CountryI took it to a holiday craft show, but it didn’t sell. 
A few months later, I listed the bag in my Etsy shop, and when the app offered to post it to Facebook for me, I let it.   This was a big thing for me.  I don’t know why, but I have trouble sharing things or rather – selling things! 
The bag brought about so much praise and appreciation from all of my FB followers, and I ended up selling it to a local person for $25.  The person who purchased it has expressed a wish for two, but I only had one.  Some of my FB friends, who thought the bag was “so cool,” suggested I sell them at a local artsy shop that sells things for people and keeps a commission.  All of this inspired me to make another bag.  Unfortunately,  I had used the other two coffee bean bags to cover my dogs chair cushions.  I asked my niece to check on more bags at the coffee shop. 
Allie texted one day and told me the coffee bean bag guy was there and told me to come down for my choice of bags.  I went there after work and purchased a few. 
Right away, I got to work making another bag.  This time, I decided I put more into it.  I’d give it more usability.  I zig-zagged the burlap to prevent fraying.  I double-stitched the weight bearing seams.  I gave the lining an inside slip pocket AND an inset, zipper pocket.   Then, as an added bonus, I made an attached lanyard with a lobster clasp to hold keys (great for preventing one from digging in the bottom for one’s keys).  Last, but not least, I installed a magnetic closure.  bag
I listed the bag on Etsy, again posting to FB.  Although it got rave reviews from followers, I got no offers to purchase it.  I set it aside with my other Etsy listings (at the bottom of the haystack.  I think listing on Etsy is like putting your things on the bottom of a haystack.)
One evening when Allie and I were creating together, I showed her the bag.  She suggested she take it to work and see if her boss wanted to sell them in the coffee shop.  I shrugged and said, “Sure!”
Long story short (wait, this is already long, so longer story shorter?)  After a week or so, the manager of the store texted me and wanted to know how much I needed for the bag.  She then suggested $10-$15.  I assured her that the bag had more in materials and hardware than that price.  She wanted to know if I could just make some basic ones without all the hardware to sell at that lower price.  (I wanted $30 for my bag.)  I replied that I would throw some together if I got time. 
So, keeping it real, I was actually pretty upset.  It would have been different if she hadn’t had the well constructed, designed and thought out bag right in front of her, but to think it would even be worth my time to bother sitting down at my sewing machine – after work, in my fun sewing time – to spend at least an hour to make a bag to let them sell for $10-$15!   And that would include the price of my materials!  The manager had even consulted with the wealthy owner of the coffee shop on this! 
People don’t know what goes into making things.  They haven’t priced a yard of fabric or know how much time it takes to make things.  I get that.  I’ve tried to sell quilts before, and it is rather insulting what people want to pay.  I guess we can thank Wal-Mart and other stores who sell “faux” quilts for the price of a few yards of fabric. (I call the faux quilts, because they are really just mass produced flat comforters.)
I don’t create for a living.  I guess I can be grateful for that.  No starving artist here, but this all sure explains why artists starve!  I sew because I love it.  I love creating!  I love sharing my craft! 

I guess when you get into selling your creations, the rejection factor jumps in there.  I mean, if you are an artist, sewist, whatever, you know what I mean.  People are always willing to give praise, but it’s when you ask them to get out their wallet that you realize the real appreciation isn’t there.

As an artist and creative person, I remind myself that I create, because that’s what I do!  If someone else likes it, then that’s just icing.  If someone is willing to pay money for it?  Then that’s a great bonus (more money to buy more fabric!)  But rejection will not stop me from creating.  Creating keeps me sane!

Teaching and Sharing

My mother-in-law is back from a month long trip to Florida and ready to get her QAYG quilt done.  She’s doing some straight line quilting to attach the back to the batting and front and give it a little more depth and texture.  It can be quite frustrating for her, because she doesn’t see as well, and she has arthritis.  It’s so tempting to jump in and just do it for her, but she wants this to be her own work, and I don’t blame her.  And teachers teach, right?  They don’t do!img_1176

Last night my niece, who has been busy with college and work, was able to come and work on her wall hanging.  After a quick, early supper of salads with all the fixin’s, we headed to the studio.  She’s decided she’d rather go with a prayer flag, inspired by an article on prayer flags that I had sent her a while back.

Allie is using the same Mary image as I found in this image on this website:  Michigoose’s Gander at Life and Quilts. 

Her center flag is the image of the Virgin Mary.  We took the pre-printed block and ironed on some fusible.  Then she carefully cut out just the Mary image and ironed it on a black print background.  She used a gold satin to border the black, which really set it off.

She left with the block, embroidery floss and more fusible, so she could embellish her Mary block with embroidery and prepare other images for the other flags.  I can’t wait to see where she goes with it!  I’ll share pictures once she gets a little further.  This girl has so much creativity and is quite the artist.

I love teaching and sharing my creative passion!  It’s just about as great as creating myself!

Beer and a Ding Dong!

Cindy Lou (a fictitious name) works for a law office.  She comes into my office occasionally.  She’s my friend on Facebook, and I love to read her posts.  She writes about being a young mom with a tongue in cheek perspective.  She exposes her anger, her failures and foibles, and by the time you are done reading, you are literally L-ingOL (laughing out loud.)  One time, she went so far as to post a picture of her toddler daughter lying in a pool of vomit to illustrate her story. I could not have done that, but it was hilarious!
I think most parents could relate to her stories.  They usually start with her perception (a fantasy) about how expected things to play out, and then how it all crashes down around her.  I love that she sees the irony of it all. Best of all, she finds the humor and shares it with the rest of us who have “been there, done that.”
Cindy Lou’s Facebook posts are always followed with comments and compliments, and many have encouraged her (starting with me) to start a blog.  I know I would follow it.
Today, Cindy Lou stopped in my office.  I asked her if she’d started the blog yet.  She told me she had good intentions, but then her grandmother died.  She said, “there’s nothing funny to write about right now.”
We chatted for a few minutes, and then I told her, don’t let the sadness stop you.  People don’t always want to laugh.  People love stories of perseverance and surviving.  Not everything in life can be funny (- or can it?)  And I don’t think that finding the funny in a person’s funeral or death would be disrespectful.  I mean – I think that once a person dies, they lose their ego, so they would probably love to see that their death brought someone joy!
Anyway, as I spoke to Cindy Lou, I realized that I was probably speaking to myself (aren’t we always projecting our issues onto others?)  Was I taking life too seriously?  Was I making mountains out of mole hills?  Was I seeing the death instead of the life?
My dad passed away five years ago.  He was my next door neighbor, a big support system to me in my adult years and a constant that seemed to hold the cornerstone to the “everything’s going to be okay” building of my life.  I miss him every single day.
Shortly after he passed, my daughter moved clear across the country.  Arizona.  Almost as far as she could get!  Another heart breaker.  She was (and remains) my friend and confidant, and I loved nothing more that meeting her for Starbucks and shopping.  Now, it’s twice a year.
The next year, a fellow artist, art teacher and mentor/friend of mine died. She was the person who always had words of wisdom.  And she was also the person that I thought would always be there.  She was supposed to live forever.
It was at that point that I felt the fantasy of my life crumbling around me.  I was convinced that life (or death) was out to punish me.  All the bad things that are spread sporadically throughout other people’s lives, I felt, were catching up with me.  I’d “had it too good.” I started living life just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  My three kids were grown and gone.  My purpose was done.  I’d hit the top of the hill and just figured this was it – “all downhill from here.”
Through my quilting and creating, I have found new purpose, joy and reason for living.  I make my own sunshine, create my own marshmallows for the next foot to drop on, and I’ve found support in places I never imagined – one of which, by the way, was inside myself. Yes, you can be your biggest support system!  Crazy, huh?  We always think we have to have someone to turn to, but that someone can be our own self!
But back to Cindy Lou; I think I’d like to hear HER side of it.  I’d like to hear the memories she has of her grandmother – and I think that other people would, too.  And more than that, what a great tribute that would be!  If her Nana was anything like my grammas were, there’s bound to be stories of root beer and chocolate covered raisins, quilting and knitting lessons, being told by one gramma to be quiet and stop chewing your gum like a cow, while the other turned up the music loud and watched and clapped, as we ran circles around her living room.
My (ex)husband once told me he loved a strong dark beer with a Hostess Chocolate Ding Dong.  I cringed.  The thought of that bitter beer with the sweet chocolate!  And then I tried it.  AND loved it.  It was a perfect balance of bitter and sweet; each accentuating the other. I think that’s how we have to see life.  The bitter makes the sweet sweeter, and vice verse.  You just can’t get stuck in one or the other.  Too much beer and you’ll be down forever.  Too much sweet and you’ll burn yourself up.  Balance.  That’s the word, I guess.

Be The Change

So, are you a Fixer Upper addict like I am?  We watched the most recent episode last night –  which I believe is the last of this season. (sniff, sniff). We had DVRed it.  Well, I say “we,” but I guess I may be talking about the “mouse in my pocket” and me, because my hubby doesn’t really care about those shows.  Surprised?  Yeah, me, too.  I mean, after all, he’s a contractor.  He’s fixering uppering all the time.  In my mind, I’m thinking these shows would give him ideas and inspiration.  I guess he just wants a break.

Anyway, I almost forgot what I even referenced that show for.  On the show, they had this sign made by Jimmy Don, their metal laser cutter, that said, “Be the Change.”  I sat staring at that wall of decor with that sign in it, and I thought, What’s that mean?  Be the change.  Be the change.  I pondered, Is there a change in my life that I need to “be”?

I thought about how it seems that most people hate changeChange the placement of the products in WalMart and just listen to the frustration!  (I’m one of those b!tchers.  I just want to go get what I want and get out.  Not sniff it out like I’m some beagle in a rabbit hunting competition).

At work, everyone has been freaking out for the last six months, since we changed (magic word there) software.  Yep, the data conversion has required cleaning up; there’s been new ways of finding things; lots of new things to learn; etc.  I’ve had my frustrations, as well, but for the most part, I’ve tried to stay positive and enjoy learning and the possibilities it has presented.  I’ve never seen a group of people so afraid of things changing.  I remember when I first started working here – almost ten years ago – and when I tried to change things up to a more efficient routine, my co-worker let me know, THIS is the way it’s ALWAYS been done!  (Don’t worry, I kept plugging way – or should I say, chipping away – till it was done in a more efficient manner – mind you, there’s still so much more that needs to change.)  Hey, was that me Being the Change?

Think about the word “change.”  Here’s the first definition:  to make or become different; alter.  (Did I hear someone screaming?)

In this world of sheep, change is a dirty word.  Most people don’t want to be different.

How about the word used in “change the baby’s diaper.”? Ugh.  We all know what that means.  Pee and poop, sometimes contained within the diaper, sometimes NOT.  Very unpleasant.

When I was eleven or twelve, I was changing my baby sister’s diaper.  She was my pride and joy, and I loved her as if I had given birth to her.  She was my mother’s eighth child, so Mom was happy to have my assistance in the daily care.  Anyway, one day, I was changing her cloth diaper, and she wouldn’t lie still, so I stuck her with the pin!  I know!  Horrible!!!  Guess that’s why I still remember it.  (And I’m not sure of the significance this story has to this blog post, but I thought it was entertaining.)

And lastly, what about “the change”?  My gynecologist told me, as she gazed at the results of a pelvic ultrasound last year, “Your ovaries haven’t made eggs in a LONG time.  They’re all dried up.”  I wanted to slap her.  I was actually a person who liked to have a period.  It was such a wonderful release.  But now that I’ve entered “the change,” I don’t get to menstruate.  Oh sure, there’s perks (we all know what they are.)  I guess it’s symbolic.  Maybe I don’t like change!  When I had a period, I knew everything was working as it should be.  I guess that’s part of why people don’t like change.  It takes away the security of the known.

Bon Jovi sang, The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.  Seems like an oxymoron if you ask me, but I get where he’s coming from.  The old spiral effect.  Just keep going around and around, and eventually, you do hit the same place again.

I guess I’ve just gone from here to there and back again, and I’m still not quite sure what the change is that I need to be, but I’m sure there’s something to it, or it wouldn’t have got caught in my head.   Maybe “Be the Change” is just a clever way of saying, if you don’t like the way things are, then change what you can change.  Mom always said, “if you act the way you want to be, you will be the way you act.”  Maybe she was saying, “Be the change!”

In Gomer Pyle style, I say, “Well, shazam!” and “golly!”

Well, hope you enjoyed my ponderings.  It did give me a little more clarity.  If I don’t like the way things are, then it’s up to me to make them different.  Or my favorite – it’s up to me to change my perspective (because, let’s face it, there’s things you can’t change.…..)

 

Rebound

Written Friday Night:
Tonight I went to the Southwood vs. Oak Hill basketball game.  I’m somewhat of a homebody, so staying home really sounded more appealing.  But I had not been to any of my nephew, Matthew’s, ball games this year, and I felt a bit guilty for not being supportive enough.  My husband, Mike, had been to several, but most of those were during the week, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep after the excitement of a game, and there’s the reality of having to get up early to go to work. 
Tonight was a Friday night, though, and sectionals! I arrived at the game and found a seat beside my sister.  She informed me that it was going to be an upset if we won, as we had not ever beaten Oak Hill!  At first, I felt defeated and a bit bummed, because I didn’t want to see them lose, but then I remembered that the power of positive thinking can do a lot! 
As you probably guessed by now, we got that upset!  We won!!!  It was a most intense game, and I was impressed with how much Matthew has improved from last year.  My ears are still ringing from the roar of the crowd.  It was so exciting and fun!! 
During the game, I found myself so aware of the crowd and the emotion that they were all experiencing, and afterward, I realized the many reasons that these people go to the game.  Some are old guys who used to play basketball in their youth, and they are there reliving their glory days.  Some are parents who are living vicariously through their children, or just there to support and pray that their child finds happiness in the game.  And I’m sure there are many other reasons, but as I was thinking about all this, and realizing how much fun I had watching and cheering, praying and calling upon my deceased dad to help Matthew find his confidence in his ability, I found gratitude.  Gratitude that these young men get out there and put on a show for us spectators.  Because, you realize, that’s what it is.  It’s not much different than when Matthew’s sisters sing or play musical instruments or perform in plays – only ball games have the goal of winning. 
I wonder if these ball players realize the gift that they are giving to their audience.  The spectators are drawn out of their ho-hum lives, the daily grind, into this excitement and competition, hopes and dreams – if only for that couple of hours.  And it gives them something uplifting to talk about the next day – instead of the usual who has cancer or who just died or what they’re going to eat for dinner or what chores need done or what bills need paid and all the other troubles and routine that seem to build up in adult lives. 
I wonder if they realize – that ball game is NOT just about winning or getting the most points.  It’s much larger than that.  It’s about giving joy to the world.  And I just want to say thank you to my nephew, Matthew, for getting out there, playing the game, doing the work, taking the criticism that others always have to give, and for taking the risk that any performance holds.  And I just hope that he sees the bigger picture.  And I hope that he feels gratitude for himself and his teammates.  Win or lose, it doesn’t matter.  Because you played the game!  And I thank you for that! 
I think a ball game is like life.  It’s not about the end result.  It’s the journey. 
Saturday Night!
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Matthew Holding the Sectional Trophy

Ya Don’t Know Whatcha Got Till It’s Gone

Are you like me?  When you know people are going to be staying at your house, do you look around and see all the things you have been neglecting?  I’ve gotten pretty house blind, as my mother calls it.  It’s my house.  I’m used to it.  I don’t notice the dust or flaws like I used to.  I have better things to do – like sew!  Cleaning and keeping everything updated and organized have taken the backseat to actually enjoying life!

We are going to visit my daughter in Arizona.  This is the first trip that we have gone on since our youngest bird left the nest.  That left us needing a dog-sitter.  My son, Alex, could have come every day – a few times – to let her out, but she hates when I leave anyway, and I thought a week of being here in an empty house would be too hard on her.

So, I asked my mother-in-law, Sara, a dog lover, to come stay here.  She was more than willing.  She’s so excited for a “getaway” and she loves my dog.  I can’t remember if it was Sara’s idea or mine, but as it ends up, a couple of her widowed girlfriends are going to come stay for a few days, too!  They like to do overnights. They watch movies, do puzzles and go shopping.  I’m happy for Sara that my vacation is also becoming her vacation!

But then, you know what happened – I started seeing my house through their eyes.  The shower rod and curtain needed replaced.  The blanket closet needed cleaned out and organized, so they could open the door without being showered with comforters, my dog’s chair in the three season porch need recovered, the front porch windows needed cleaned…..well, you get the point.  So, that’s what I’ve been working on. 

(These are my plants and a nativity scene I couldn’t bear to put away after Christmas. All sitting on my barn door table. The door is from my grandparents barn. )

 To be honest, I didn’t mind cleaning that much.  I haven’t “nested” in a while.  The kids are grown and gone.  We rarely entertain anymore.  And like I said, I’ve used my off work time to sew!


As I was cleaning the three season porch, where the dog likes to sit and look out the window and drool and shed all over, I started to admire all of my things.  I have a bottle collection, birdhouses, etc. decorating the windows.  With each swipe of the dust rag, I was flooded with memories and love for the person who made the object or gave it to me.  The bench my deceased father made for me sits out there, and a cabinet that my grandfather made when I was a little girl.

Sitting on the floor, after an hour or so of cleaning, I remembered my granddaughter, Layla, now 12 years old, playing out in that porch.  It was the place where children loved to play.  My nephews, Luke and Nick, my great nephew, Hunter, my great niece, Lilly, and of course, Layla all found a magical world out there, and I realized that I had kept some of the decorating that I had originally done with them in mind – even though they are all too old to care about those things anymore, and rarely come to visit.

I sat wiping down the child size, white painted chair, and tears filled my eyes.  The passing of time washed over me, flooding me with sadness.  Sadness that I can’t go back and hold those precious little ones again.  Not the grandchildren, nieces or nephews, and not my own babies.  I sat and wept and realized that those were the best times of my life.  And yet, when my children were small, I didn’t know it.  I didn’t know those were such special times.  I never thought about that they would end – only with anticipation when I was feeling overwhelmed.

I guess it’s something one can’t imagine.  As the title says, “You don’t know whatcha got till it’s gone.”  I didn’t know what I had then, so now I wonder, as I look around me – what do I have now that I’m not realizing will not last forever?  

My creativity has become the child in my life. And I guess that’s why I’ve been neglecting my house – I didn’t do that enough when my kids were here. A lesson learned too late is better than never learned at all. 

 

WIP It!  WIP it Good!

WIPs. Works in Progress – for those who don’t know the lingo. I’ve read a lot of blogs written by people who fess up to having twenty plus WIPs. And I’ll admit, when I read them, I think, What??? How could they leave that many projects midway to move on to something better or just different?  

I’m a finish what you started kinda gal. Maybe it’s those strong work ethics instilled in me at a very young age. Work before play and all that jazz. But today I was thinking about the project that I am working on – another Libby’s Log Cabin, because I started one, realized it was going to be too big, so made is a lap size, then had several center star blocks and many two inch strips leftover. So one night when I just needed (yes, NEEDED!) to sew, I thought, what the heck, may as well make another. The first one, I made for my son’s girlfriend, Tara, so I’m calling the second one, Tara2. 

 The first one was a huge hit on the Quiltville Open Studio on Facebook. It’s kind of like when you stand in line at the amusement park for a roller coaster ride. The line is long and you may stand there for an hour, and then the ride is only five minutes! But it was so great that you are willing to walk right around to the back of that long line and wait again!  (Photo from coastergallery.com) 

Anyway, I’m over halfway done, and I started thinking of a different pattern I’m dying to try. It’s a Hilltop Houses pattern that’s been floating around in my brain for a while, but now it is knocking loudly at the door. It wants out!  Suddenly, a thought came into my mind- I could just stack up all the Tara2 components and stuff them in a bag for later! Of course, one part of me when into a panic! Noooooo! You have to finish what you started! You can do the houses quilt next! Just be patient.  

But another voice spoke up – what if there is no next time? What if you never get to make the Hilltop Houses and you wasted all this time making the quilt that you’ve already made – same colors, size, etc.? And that’s when I realized that maybe these multiple WIP people are not so crazy after all!  

I had ten extra minutes before leaving for work today, so I ran back and sewed on a couple more strips on the log cabins. I realized that I am enjoying the process. And I anticipate the finished product. That was refreshing. I never want to be sewing begrudgingly.  

I truly doubt that I will abandon this project for another, but I was happy for the epiphany that multiple WIPs are not actually a “bad” thing. These people are just embracing life, making the most of every moment. It doesn’t mean that they are flighty or indecisive or hard to please. They just want to try it all! And I don’t blame them.  

To appease my wandering mind, I have decided that I am going to make another design wall, and do a little more organization. Then I will start the Hilltop Houses AND continue working on Tara2. The best of both worlds? Or am I becoming a multiple WIP person? I guess it just doesn’t matter. The key is to keep going. Keep creating! Making the world a brighter place! Painting by Mary C. Lengel (my mom)