An Awakening

This morning, I came to a realization – I’m not happy. My marriage is good – better than it ever has been, I think, so that isn’t the problem. It’s my business. My weight. My house. I feel like it’s all pretty much spun out of control. When I look around me and see that my house is a wreck, my business isn’t where I want it to be, and as a result, I’ve gained weight … well, it’s time to change pretty much everything except the husband. Him I plan to keep for a very, very long time. I guess you could say he’s just stuck with me.

Before I took a shower this morning, I did the dreaded deed – I stepped on the scale. As I stood there staring at that horrible number, it dawned on me that I’m not happy with most aspects of my life. Only my marriage and family bring me any joy right now; the rest of it just drags on me and makes me feel depressed. I realized that if things don’t start to change, and soon, I’m going to be in some pretty serious trouble. And I also realized that not being accountable is not going to help, either. So, this is my confession, my new beginning, if you will, because today things have to start changing. Today, I have to take control of my life once again and stop screwing around.

I know I’ve said this before; we all have, haven’t we? At some point we hit a wall and we think, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! But this is seriously ridiculous. I am stunned and embarrassed by my weight right now. I would DIE if anyone walked in to my house at this point, and my business … well, yet another weekend of lackluster sales isn’t making me want to run out and sign up for more shows. So, here is my very basic beginning plan for each one in turn.

My weight – first of all, my biggest issue is night time snacking and eating the crappiest of foods. Before I sat down to write this, I threw a Lean Cuisine frozen meal in the microwave – not the best choice, I thought, but better than anything I could have pulled together for myself from a fridge full of left overs that need to be thrown out and a pantry full of things that I probably shouldn’t eat at all. When I took the meal out of the microwave, this is what it looked like …

Believe it or not, overall the taste wasn’t terrible. I added a little Tony Chacerie’s to give it a little more flavor, but after eating it, I was still hungry. I looked at the calorie count – 170 calories. Wait, what? Only 170 calories, and this is supposed to be a FULL meal?!?! Are you freakin’ KIDDING me?? I could eat TEN of these and not even get in the number of calories I can eat in an average day (according to the iPhone app Lose It!), but it would provide me with more than two days’ worth of sodium. And I’d probably still be hungry. So I added a Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt, and I will probably find myself digging around for something else after that, because according to the Lose It! app, I should be eating about 2,000 calories just to lose weight (yeah, I have quite a bit of weight to lose so I get more than the “standard” 1,200 calories that many diet plans seem to think women should live on).

Today’s weight loss goal – go grocery shopping and do some food prep for this week.

My house – Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Honestly, the downstairs isn’t so bad, but upstairs, my bedroom is the place where everything that otherwise doesn’t have a home lands. And it houses a good bit of my business inventory. It isn’t very peaceful or restful, but it IS big. It’s time to do some spring cleaning all over the house, though. I tried to do the FlyLady thing recently, but it was 12 or more emails a day, most of them trying to sell me something. It just about drove me insane. I do like the basic premise, however – focus on one area of the house each week, at first getting to the point where it’s presentable, then doing deeper cleaning as you go along, while maintaining the presentable part. This week, it’s going to be tricky, because we have a show mid-week (this is the first time I’ve ever had a show that wasn’t on a weekend), but my focus spot is going to be the studio. I chose the studio for two reasons – it’s the very first thing people see when they walk in to my house, and it will require the least amount of deep cleaning. Most of the focus will be on clutter, and that’s something I can handle easily. Also, as a “bonus” Chris and I will spend a fair amount of time on getting all the laundry caught up.

This week’s house goal – declutter the studio and get all the laundry caught up

My business – This is the one that’s most difficult for me, because I’m not sure what to do to fix the issue. I’m not sure I CAN fix the issue, because I’m not positive it’s my issue to fix. I’ve been in business for a year now, and sales are lackluster. I thought it was my product, but now I don’t think that’s it, because after talking to several vendors over the last few months, everyone seems to be experiencing the same results, even at shows that were once very good. I don’t know if the problem is that people are getting away from handcrafted items, or if it’s that people just aren’t spending money, but the only booths that seem to have a lot of people looking and buying are those who are selling clothing, jewelry and/or other accessories. I didn’t keep a blow by blow record of sales by the woman across from us this weekend, but I think her weekend was much better than mine (she was selling “boutique” clothing). The couple to the right of us were selling a variety of things – jewelry, purses, and other trinkets – and they seemed to stay fairly busy, though I’m not sure what kind of sales they saw. We did ok ourselves, but not, “I can live on this” ok. We did, “Well, this is nice extra pocket money if I don’t reinvest every penny” ok. And my online and Etsy stores aren’t exactly on fire, either. We also paid for a motel for one night for this show, further eating in to my profits.

I’ve also been looking for a job, with no results. I don’t want to abandon the business, but I thought if I could find a job, I could continue the business on the side. So far, no luck finding a job, and many of the jobs I do see are part time. It’s crazy; I really don’t understand it. At this point, I’m ready to apply for part time bookkeeper jobs and try to get clients to hire me on a 1099 basis, so I can have several at once. I was looking through jobs last weekend and there wasn’t a ton of stuff out there, and then it hit me – I don’t recall seeing any jobs listed with any of the O&G majors, and only a few with the indies. There are a lot of medical jobs – for which I am not trained. There are retail jobs – which don’t pay much, are part time, and would interfere with my show schedule. And there were some accounting jobs, which require an accounting degree, preferably a master’s degree and a CPA (even when it’s clear the job doesn’t need a CPA; they’re doing that because these companies know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of young people out there with a CPA who are desperate to find a job and will work for enough to pay back the crushing student loan debt they accumulated over those years).

I went to a business seminar last year, but frankly I’ve forgotten a fair amount of what I learned, so …

This week’s business goal – Go to the show on Wednesday, and read through the course materials from last year’s seminar. Continue to look for a job.

And there you have it – a week’s plan in writing. I am also making notes in my calendar to help me stay the course for the week. I will try to remember to report back here periodically, because I want to keep track of how things are going. If I were more disciplined, I would do a daily post to keep track of what’s going on and how things are going, because that’s really the only way to remain accountable to myself. Maybe I’ll try doing that … but it probably won’t happen (I may be trying to turn over some new leaves, but I’m also realistic).

Better late than never

On New Year’s Eve, I posted about making weekly goals that I want to accomplish. While I didn’t accomplish much on that list, I did manage to do a fair amount of sewing during the week. I am happy to be able to report that the binding for the fleece jacket is 3/4 done. I am hoping to get it finished by tomorrow night; I would be working on it right now, but there is a wicked western sun coming through the window right where I would be sitting to sew, so I’m waiting for it to go down. Clearly, I need to replace the non-functional Venetian blinds at that window with something that actually works.

In other news, this followed me home last Tuesday …

My new toy, which somehow managed to just follow me home ...

My new toy, which somehow managed to just follow me home …

It wasn’t in the plan to buy a new machine; I had stopped by to take a look at what they had to offer, because the one year anniversary of my Viking Opal 690Q purchase is approaching, and I had until that date to trade it in and get the full purchase price credited toward another new machine, at MSRP. Now, I’ve been watching the machines since I bought the Opal, and let me tell you that it’s not always the best idea to trade in a machine against MSRP, because many times, new machines are marked down more than the amount the trade would give you. And that would have been no different with this machine. In fact, I got an outstanding deal on this machine, paying about half MSRP. It was a machine used at the Houston Quilt Show back in November for classes, but this machine had almost no time on it. It came with the small embroidery unit, which is still a very generous 10″ x 6″-ish size. Down the road, I might just upgrade to the large unit, which has an embroidery area bigger than 14″ square.

This is the machine I’ve been using the do the binding on the fleece jacket, and I will say that I’m thoroughly impressed with the IDT on this machine. Attaching the binding has been a much easier process than I was anticipating on the other two machines I have, and I am very happy with this purchase. But I have to tell you, that really wasn’t the case when I first brought it home. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I was doing the whole time I was making the purchase. When I got it home, I let it sit in the middle of the studio for a while before I unpacked it. Then I let it sit on the table for a few days before I used it. Oh, I ran a couple of sample lines of stitching on a scrap piece of fabric to be sure it would at least do that, but I didn’t actually use it until Friday. And from that first line of stitching, I knew that I would love this machine. But until then, I was pretty much freaking out, which is why very little was done on my list last week – I just couldn’t keep my mind on anything but trying to figure out what I’d do if this machine turned out to be a mistake (my dealer doesn’t allow returns). I’m very happy to report that it isn’t a mistake. Yay!

I will do a full review of this machine once I’ve had it for a while and used it, but right now I will say that I foresee this being my go-to machine for difficult fabrics. The IDT is making the fleece a breeze, so I imagine it will have similar results on other difficult fabrics. The Opal didn’t do so hot on the fleece; the Brother did fine, but the Pfaff just sang. I can’t wait to really put this machine through it’s paces and see what she can do!

Stay tuned … 🙂

New Year Incoming!

I have realized that I am not so good at the finishing thing when it comes to sewing. I am very good at the starting thing, but not so hot at the finishing thing. This is evidenced by all the projects I have “in progress” that should have been finished long ago, but are still languishing in one state or another in my studio. From clothing to quilts to home decor, I am an equal opportunity procrastinator. I don’t know if this is the result of too many ideas, not enough time, or maybe adult onset ADHD, or just too much going on in general, but this year has been one of my all time lows in completions. And it makes me very sad.

Not only that, but I really have not spent enough time sewing in general. I moved my studio downstairs this year in the hopes it would make me more productive, and it did for a while. And really, I have spent more time in the studio this year than I have in recent years but still not nearly enough, and not focused at all, as evidenced by my lack of finished projects. I would like to pretend that I don’t know what’s causing the issue, but I do, and it’s nothing more than a mental block. A mental block I need to get past and stop letting it interfere with my creative process. My kids are grown now, which I always thought would mean more time to pursue sewing and other hobbies, but instead it’s resulted in less time in the studio. I really need to get my head back in the game … err, studio. And I need to quit messing around about it and just do it.

I really don’t like to make new year’s resolutions; I think they lead to bad feelings and they put a lot of pressure on you when you probably really don’t need it. But since I know there are areas of improvement I need to make, I am going to set some goals for myself, on a monthly basis. Actually … I think I’m going to make the goals on a weekly basis, at least to start out. For my purposes, the week will start on Fridays (convenient because tomorrow is Friday and it’s also the first day of the year; see what I did there? 😉  ).

So … goals for the week commencing January 1, 2016 …

  • Treadmill at least 20 minutes, four days
  • Sewing at least 30 minutes, four days
  • Catch up on laundry
  • Remove & put away Christmas decorations
  • Re-arrange bedroom to better fit treadmill

I won’t say, “Now, how hard can that be?” because we all know how hard it can be to commit to something like this. Or to commit to anything, really (except my husband; that wasn’t difficult at all). I’ll report back in a week and let you know how it’s gone, and then I’ll set new goals for that week. I’ve even set a reminder on my calendar to come back and do the update, so I don’t forget.

Wish me luck. 😀

The best laid plans of mice and men …

And apparently, women who sew. I really don’t know why I make plans when it comes to sewing, because the reality is, I never live up to those plans. Life gets in the way, or I get sick (as I am now, with a cold), or I just get sidetracked.

I didn’t get my cardigan finished in September; it still needs to be hemmed, and hemmed it will be – eventually. Instead, I got busy with the Green Eggs and Ham quilt, getting it quilted and starting the binding. I have one side bound, and almost all the quilting done, but once I was finished with all the “planned” quilting, I spread out the quilt and took a look at it and realized that it needs more quilting. There isn’t much that really needs to be done, but I do intend to do it and finish binding the quilt. It was my plan to do that this week, and then both Chris and Travis got sick on Monday, with different ailments, if you can believe it. I was feeling pretty smug about the fact that I wasn’t sick and then yesterday I got hit with a very light version of Chris’s stomach bug, and this morning I woke up with Travis’s cold. So I guess the last laugh is on me. Ha. Ha. Ha. But I digress.

I really need to finish up the quilt, because I need to get it to Julie, and I have other things I want to get done before the holidays. Namely, I have a wall hanging I’m supposed to do for Christmas Eve, a challenge that my mom presented me with last year. I know she’s been working on hers, but while I’ve given mine some thought, I haven’t actually started on it. She’s totally gonna kick my ass in this challenge, I can feel it already. And of course, I want to hem the cardigan. And I have about 12 quilts in various stages of production that I would like to finish, not to mention a couple I would love to start. So yeah … I have a list of things to do.

But every time I make a specific plan about what I want to accomplish and when, it doesn’t get done. I don’t know if it’s the inner rebel in me, or if I am just so disorganized or if I simply waste too much time, but I don’t seem to be able to focus enough energy on sewing and quilting in the average week to finish the things I want to do. I’m not sure why this is the case, because for years, I spent a LOT of time quilting each week, every night after work when the kids went to bed, and on weekends. I think I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m not going to set specific goals for finishing things or getting things done anymore. I have a different plan now.

Instead of setting goals of finishing this, or making that, I’m going to just set a goal to sew for a while every day. Right now, my goal is to spend at least 15 minutes each day sewing. That doesn’t mean that I’ll spend 15 minutes looking at patterns online, or reading Pattern Review, or that I’ll spend 15 minutes looking at fabric to decide what I want to make out of it. That’s 15 minutes laying out a pattern to be cut out, or 15 minutes of actual sewing at the machine. Or even 15 minutes cutting thread off a quilt project (I have several threads that need to be trimmed off Green Eggs).  Nope, not that either. I can do that while I’m watching tv with Chris. I want this 15 minutes to be in the pursuit of actually making something.

In a week or two, depending on how the 15 minutes a day goes, I’ll up my goal to 30 minutes a day. My ultimate goal will be at least an hour a day of sewing, with the option to do more as time permits. There will be days I spend an hour sewing, a few where I get in 30 minutes, and hopefully some where I can get several hours in during a session. I will be keeping track of my sewing time, because how else will I know if I’m making progress toward my goal? The main thing is to sew more often.

And with that, I guess it’s time to get upstairs and see what I can get done today. Hopefully, I can get more than 15 minutes in, but if I don’t, I’ll be happy to actually get just the 15 minutes.

Happy sewing, everyone!

Happy New Year!

Well, the New Year is off to a roaring start! I spent most of yesterday in the studio working on a new quilt. This one employs Dr Seuss fabrics, because what person between the ages of six months and 60 years doesn’t love Dr Seuss? I originally intended this quilt to be for me, but once I started working on it, decided that I really don’t want to keep it – it’s mostly centered around The Cat in The Hat, and my favorite Dr Seuss book was Green Eggs and Ham. So this one will be sold, and I will make a Green Eggs and Ham quilt for myself at some point in the future. I think I already have a buyer for The Cat in The Hat, but if I don’t, I will likely list it on Etsy.

I’ve been contemplating a new sewing machine lately, one that has an embroidery function and that can act as a back up machine to Ricco when he’s in the shop. I’ve looked at everything, and even considered selling Ricco to buy an all in one machine with a wide throat, but in the end, I really think I’m going to stick with what I know and keep Ricco and add this Brother machine to the mix.

Brother Isodore Innov-is 5000

You’re looking at the Brother Isodore Innov-Is 5000 from the Laura Ashley series. What I like about this machine is that it is a combination sewing/quilting/embroidery machine with a reasonable size embroidery hoop (7″ x 12″) and a large color screen. The only thing I’m really not crazy about is the smaller throat space (less than 8″) and the fact that it doesn’t come with a piecing foot. Since this is touted as a quilting machine first and foremost, you’d think it would come with a piecing foot – after all, how much could it cost Brother to include that in the box? But it does come with the circular stitching attachment – which I don’t know what I’ll use it to do, but use it I will. Also, this machine sews in multiple directions – Ricco stitches forward and backward, but not at angles. That may not sound like a big deal, and I’ve had machines in the past that had multi-directional sewing that I never used, but this last year that function would have come in handy while quilting several times.

What I’m mostly interested in, and excited about, is the embroidery function. I sold a Brother 2500D back in 2012, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. And now that I’m going to have a baby to sew for, I think it’s very important to have the embroidery function. One of my first projects with the new machine will be a diaper bag with some embroidery. And then maybe I’ll do some onesies, and a baby quilt, and … well, the list could be endless! I’m thinking of some soft blocks for a Christmas gift in 2014 for the butterbean, too, which could be embroidered with all sorts of cute things. But I digress.

I won’t be able to buy the new machine until March, when I get my bonus, but I will likely be designing projects long before then. And honestly, for small projects I want to start/do right now, I can use the Viking #1+ I borrowed from my Mom. I need to get that machine out and use it anyway. I really like the way it sews, so Mom may not be seeing it back for a while. 😀

I know that “agonizing” over such a decision as which embroidery machine to buy is totally a first world problem, but that’s the only type of problems I have in my life, and I’m grateful for that. Every time I get bogged down in something as mundane as which sewing machine to buy or whether I should buy that bit of fabric, I remind myself how fortunate I am to have such tame problems. I never have to worry about going hungry or whether or not my children will have clothes to wear. And I’m very, very fortunate that both of my children reached adulthood without contracting childhood leukemia like my friend Heather‘s youngest daughter. But I do recognize that not everyone is as fortunate as I have been in my life, and knowing how much it meant to Gabby to have a wish granted by the Make a Wish Foundation (and keeping with the spirit of my 2014, Challenge), I have decided to take part in the Wishes Quilt Along sponsored by Kimberly Jolly at the Fat Quarter Shop. Every month, she’s asking for folks who download the patterns to donate money which will go directly to the Make a Wish Foundation. My plan is to donate a monthly amount for the quilt patterns and then make a larger donation when the quilt is finished at the end of the year.  Even if you aren’t a quilter, this is a great charity, and I encourage everyone to make a contribution, no matter how small, to make these kids’ wishes come true.

2014 – The Year of Challenges

Every year, I make several New Year’s Resolutions, and every year I make little or no progress in attaining them. So this year, I decided to scrap the ideas of making resolutions and instead, choose a word or phrase that would embody what I want to accomplish this year. After a lot of consideration of words like create (as in, create new things), make (ie., make a difference), and accept (you know, accept the things I can’t change), I landed on challenge and I knew it was the right word for 2014.

The challenges I’m thinking of involve things like learning new quilting techniques and taking on more intricate projects. Challenge myself to make healthier choices, and to get to the gym. Once I do start back at the gym, the challenge will be to increase my work out levels. Challenge myself to get more organized, or to clear out the clutter. The point isn’t to make a specific set of goals, but to just strive for … well, I guess you’d call it continuous improvement. The idea is to continue to move forward in life, not rest on my laurels and be content with the way things are right now. I mean, I AM content with my life on the whole, and I’m not looking to shake up every detail in my life, but more to remember that without some self imposed challenges, I won’t get better at whatever it is I want to improve upon – my health, my quilting, my professional life – whatever I may decide I want to focus on during a given period.

Now, this might sound like a recipe for failure, or that I’ve got no goals, and that isn’t true. There will definitely be goals involved, but they will be smaller and more manageable than setting one big goal at the beginning of the year that I will likely forget by March. For example, in January, I am challenging myself to spend at least 15 minutes every day working on my free motion quilting skills. I am also challenging myself to rid the house of high calorie, low impact (well, low impact to everything but my ass) foods. Good bye cookies and cakes. Hello, fruits and yogurt. No specific weight loss goals in January, just a desire to do better with my eating and general health.

If I don’t make it to the gym for a couple of days, or I have a bad day or two of eating, I can challenge myself to get back on track. If my free motion quilting doesn’t look as good as I want it to, I can challenge myself to improve. One challenge I’ve already set for myself is to finish up by mid-year at least three of the UFO (unfinished object) quilts I have in my studio right now. I want to take on more complex quilting projects, too.

So, 2014 will be The Year of Challenges. I’m looking forward to taking on a variety of projects that will push me to step outside my comfort zone and allow me to expand my knowledge and skill set in the coming year!