Tag Archives: health

New directions

I was going to start this post with a lovely poetic piece about the rain.  But while I was writing it I had a phone call from the boy’s school.  Again.  His father is handling the situation, but the very fact of the call is enough to make me change my direction.  For the post, and for my/our life.

I have been on leave from work for some months now for a combination of reasons.  Trying to support a child with special needs, getting more and more worn down myself from constantly keeping all the balls in the air – working full time at a high level, being a full time single parent, the boy’s need for extra everything, the fact that the girls miss out on so much when the boy needs so much, keeping everyone fed, clothed, alive……  It all got too much at the end of last year and I fell apart.  So my leave (thank goodness I have worked as a public servant for so long) was needed to get me back to ‘normal’ (whatever that is) so that I could go back to juggling the balls again.

Except that I have realised that, as a wise woman I know says, ‘If nothing changes, then nothing changes.’  If I go back to juggling, I will fall again.  And next time I might not get back up.  Something needs to change.  The boy and his sisters won’t change.  They will always be my top priority.  Whether we live in this house or another, the same basic level of housework, maintenance, and general ‘home-ness’ will not change.  Although my ex-husband is back living in the same country, so I am not a full time single parent anymore, that change is not enough to balance it all out.  That leaves work – my paid employment and my creative business.  I am not yet sure what the answer is about which of these will need to change the most in order to build a new direction for me/us but it is obvious that one or both will need to.

I have applied for some further leave (of the long service type – again – so glad that I have worked for so many years!) so that I can work this question out.  Because life as a parent of a child with a disability can’t follow the plan that I previously had.  We have to find a new path, and a new approach, and a new plan.  This plan has to put my health near the top of the list of priorities, to allow flexibility so that the boy can have the support he needs when he needs it, to produce enough income to pay for the necessities in life, and to be manageable.  Expect to see a lot of idea bubbles floating around above my head, growing or popping as I work through all of them, weighing up, assessing and looking at how to build a new life for the chicks and I.  Although it is daunting, it is also exciting.  The possibilities are endless!

Meanwhile, back in the sewing studio (sounds posh doesn’t it?!) in between periods of intense chaos, some goods have been produced!  I have completed some custom orders, delivered a pile of bibs to restock the Handmade Shop (the first lot almost all sold out in under a month!!), and am ticking things off the list I made on the weekend.  This custom order was delivered today, in time for the birthday of a girl who loves Dr Who, and who loves the willow pattern.  I can’t wait to hear how she reacts to it on her birthday!

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And, after all my protests about bibs not being ‘in scope’ they are selling well, I like making them, and I have some plans to expand my ‘range’ for older children and teens.  Stand by for that development (once my new fabric order arrives!!).  In the meantime how gorgeous are these fabrics?

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Another thing that I ticked off my list this week was listing my new stock in my Etsy shop.  I was so busy making things in the lead up to the Markets at the beginning of the month that I didn’t stop and photograph many of them – a good lesson for the future!  Here is a small selection of the newly listed bags.

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And finally, my big news of the day is that I have been accepted to sell my bags through Shop Handmade!  This was part of the plan that I created last year, so I am proud that I have followed my plan, and that I have been accepted to sell in such a wonderful shop.  The biggest danger is that each time I deliver stock I will have to be careful not to leave with just as many pieces of other people’s work!

This week’s plan is to finish more custom orders, sew up some new designs, and get some planning happening!  I hope that your week goes well (and that you get the rain that is so badly needed if you are in Australia!)

For now I am off to think about new directions over a cup of tea.

 

Catching Up – and my lessons

Between moving the website, writing my business plan, re-installing my website, and various other necessary evils like sleep I feel that I haven’t had a chance to sit and write a proper post for weeks!  (That would be my overly dramatic side showing through again.)  So many little things have happened that I would normally share with you that I thought it was time for a catching up post!

First of all I hope that you all had a peaceful holiday period.  I certainly did!  The chicks were off visiting their grandparents with their father and I had this quiet, clean (except for my mess) house where I didn’t have to be responsible for anything or anyone except the animals and myself.  It was just what I needed after the turmoil of the weeks/months/year before Christmas and just what my health needed.  I didn’t do any sewing until about the 4th of January!  Then I made this bag which was a custom order left over from last year.  I love the colours that she chose!  I also made myself a new cushion cover, given that all my sewing recently has been for other people.  I love this fabric!

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I did however set up a new sewing room.  I have commandeered the spare room that had been occupied by the eldest chick earlier in the year, and then by the au pair, and then my mother when she came to our rescue.  Although it would be nice to give the chicks a room of their own each, I have decided that I need to start putting myself first a little more (one of my recent learnings) and that most of us survived sharing a room with our siblings until we left home, so the two chicks who are sharing a room will be just fine!  I have a little tweaking to go with the set up, but so far am really enjoying the space.  It also has the best light in the house – especially in winter when it becomes a sun trap.

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I also spent a few days focussed on working on my business plan.  You know – the one I started back in July and then kept meaning to work on?  I am still not finished, but I do now have a clear vision of what I want to achieve with my making and selling, and how I need to think about overheads and pricing.  The Right Brain business course that I did encourages you to make collages to capture things like your competition, perfect customer, brand values, etc.  I enjoyed that much more than I thought I would!  It also helped when I was writing an application for a Handmade Market – I just had to turn my pictures into words!  Another good lesson learnt!

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Part of the planning process is looking at your money.   Hmmmm…..at worst depressing and at best thought provoking.  That process prompted me to also look at setting up accounting software etc….. but after a day or so of trying to do that I realised that I am not ready for any of that.  My buying, making and selling can be accommodated in a simple excel spreadsheet.  When I become a mega-industrial mogul with warehouse sites etc maybe I will need to use the software products I was exploring but until then keeping it simple is just perfect!  Phew – one less thing to worry about, and another lesson to add to my list.

One of the ideas that I have been playing with for a long time and that I am putting into action soon, involves developing some graphics that are precise (like pattern pieces for example).  So I downloaded a trial copy of Adobe Illustrator and did some tutorials to see what I could do.  Many, many hours/days later I finally came to the realisation that I am not a graphic designer and that I need to outsource that to someone who is!  The upside of all of those hours?  I now understand what is needed to give really good instructions to the graphic designer!  Yep – another useful lesson!

In the midst of all of this I realised that I wanted to move the site to be self hosted.  In hindsight I could have taken a different approach to that and made it easier on myself, but after learning all sorts of new jargon and processes it seems to be up and running!

I also did a bit of assessing my stock.  I took an inventory of my fabric (boy was that hard – trying not to get distracted by pieces I had forgotten I had!), and of my bits and bobs – zips, slide buckles, etc.  A bit of time on Ebay saw most of that addressed, so the parcel man has been a regular at the front door and will be for another week or so!

All of that really did take up a lot of time and headspace!  I was a hermit for most of the holiday period, with the exception of a lovely dinner with friends on Boxing Day, and visits from Ms C, one of my dear friends who also helps me to brainstorm and problem solve.  I was feeling great and thinking that perhaps I didn’t need to be on leave for long while recovering from all the events of last year.  I got a bit cocky, forgot that I have limitations on what I can and can’t do, and organised a bit of socialising.  I caught up with the MIML, and a couple of really good friends, and that turned into eating three meals out in one day.  Mmmm…fun but very, very foolish.  A good reminder that I can’t run around like I used to, and need to pace myself and do only one thing at a time.  Really.  Timely really, as the chicks are returning this week and I need to be able to look after them properly, on my own.  So my mantra is two edged.  Keep it simple.  One thing at a time.  Wish me luck!

All of this means that my sewing, despite my very best of intentions, has been slow.  However the small bits that I have done have also helped me to look at my processes, assess them and think of ways to refine them.  Two more purchases have resulted.  (And probably the last for a while given that there is a lot of spending going on and not a lot of making/selling!).  The first is a photographic light cube tent – a white polyester box that pops up and is used to take product shots with even light etc.  After having my professional shots done I realised that my own photography is very inconsistent, so this is the first step towards addressing that, and reducing the time spent trying to get it right!  (I just keep learning don’t I?)

The second investment?  A steam press.  One of those gadgets that irons your clothes/fabric etc between two surfaces.  I am hoping that it will dramatically cut the time I spend attaching fusible interfacing and fleece!

Oh – and a third purchase as a result of a request by a friend to make up a particular product for her (that I will share if it works) is a cast iron press for attaching plastic snaps to fabric.  The potential for replacing hook and loop was enough to make me think that it is a good long term investment!

Now that the bank balance is so drastically reduced it is probably time for me to simply knuckle down and get back to the stuff that I actually love – sewing!

Oh – I had another lesson during this time.  It is VERY difficult to give chickens oral medicine.  The ridiculous antics that I got up to in trying to achieve this were worthy of a comedy sketch, but completely hopeless at actually treating my poor chooks who have been infested with lice.  However today the vet set me up with syringes with needles to inject them and that took seconds to administer, required no antics, ridiculous or otherwise, and will hopefully see them healthy and well again very soon.

I also had to break it to the boy that his favourite climbing tree is a little less than it was following a big storm.  Think we will be off to the garden waste place with a trailer this weekend!

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You might have seen that I have started a newsletter subscription thingy.  My plan is a monthly newsletter with links, tips, some giveaways, etc.  I am gathering together all my ideas for the first one, so do sign up so that you can enjoy the things I am finding for you!

Now it is time to go and sew.  I hope that your week is going well and that any lessons you are learning are positive, affirming ones!

Creativity of different sorts

During the course of today, as I was sewing metre after metre of burgundy polycotton into costumes for the school theatrical production I was thinking about this blog entry and what to write.  I mulled over different thoughts that have drifted through my head in the last week but was feeling that I had no photos to share, and that this was going to start becoming the ‘photo-less boring blog’.  So I took some shots of the piles of burgundy polycotton and tried to think of ways to make them seem interesting.  And then I turned around and realised that what was happening in my house was far more interesting, both visually and creatively, so took some more photos and hey presto I know what I am going to share with you tonight!!  (Ooooh the suspense will kill you won’t it!)

In good news I appear to be fully recovered from the virus that had me floored this time last week.  I had two good days in the office and am back to full strength, so that is a huge improvement!   And to top things off in the feeling better stakes, the sun came out today!  I think I have mentioned before that I am really not coping with winter this year and I think it is because of the fog, the rain and the long grey days.  However today was a delight – sun and clear skies all day.  The children and their friends played outside for the first time in a long time – and did some great experimenting with vinegar and bicarb soda – including using it to inflate balloons – that shot around very quickly when released!  So much fun, discovery and laughter (and I am kicking myself for not getting photos!)  I was desperate to get outside and do a number of jobs that have been put on the back burner while the weather has been so dismal – repacking the camper trailer, raking the leaves, trimming the roses – you know, all the exciting things.  But those piles of burgundy polycotton were calling my name……

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Do you think I have mentioned them enough?  I have made 15 tunics (and perfected my technique beautifully if I may say so!) and even managed to adjust a pattern to make it larger (including upsizing the sleeve!!!) but it just doesn’t feel as satisfying as my normal crafting.  I think I ‘might’ be a fabric snob.  I am too used to sewing with lovely cotton, and delightful designs, and the 16 or so metres of the (now) dreaded burgundy got a bit much!  I am not quite finished yet – I need to ‘bling’ up four of the tunics for a particular group of students, and make capes for each of the tunics.  (I can’t remember if I explained that these are tunics for Trojans and the story they are telling is the Trojan Horse.)  Before I can start on cape construction I need to see what the Greek tunics that other people are making will cover when they are worn over the Trojan tunics.  Details, details, details!  I will be quite happy when they are all finished and I can return to my usual programming!

The more important things I want to share with you tonight?  The creativity that is happening all around me, even when I am moaning about that particular coloured fabric.  First of all the great backyard experimenting in the sun, and then the eldest chick (who is only 10) announced that she would cook dinner.  And she did!  She experimented earlier in the week in making a Jamaican chicken dish, and as it turned out so well, she repeated it again.  It is delicious!  Each time she has cooked the chicken to perfection!  She served it with rice and vegetables and her brother and sister cleared their plates!

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Using the stool to reach the microwave!

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Jamaican Jerk Chicken

(Imagine the dinner table discussion about what kind of jerks these chickens must have been!)

The bonus to her cooking was that I got to give my new workout program a go.  Now that I am healthy again, I finally made it to see my personal trainer for my first official session.  We agreed that I need a program I can do at home, that involves the kids, otherwise I will continue to not exercise.  So the middle chick ran the timer and she and the boy counted my ‘reps’ for each exercise.  The boy was hilarious and started yelling ‘encouragement’ in the style of a drill sergeant!  I say hilarious, but it could easily become dangerous!  I suspect my body will be complaining loudly tomorrow but for now I am feeling suitable virtuous.

The other creativity in my house was on public display at school on Thursday and Friday.  On Thursday the eldest chick had her annual piano recital.  Her teacher is delightful and ensures that all students, even the youngest and newest, get to play a piece that showcases their ability and makes them feel special.  This year the eldest chick emulated many senior students before her, and chose to play a piece from memory.  I was a little dubious about her decision, especially as her piano practise has dropped away recently.  However, she made me very proud with a lovely rendition of a classical piece called “Climbing”.

Late last week the middle chick and two of her friends auditioned to participate in the ‘performance assembly’ held at the end of each term.  On Friday students chosen from years 3 and 4 put on displays of martial arts, piano playing, drum playing (!!!), hip hop dancing, ballet, skipping, and singing.  The middle chick and her friends performed a piece that my chick had scripted, that was a news report, reporting on the state of their school.  It included lines such as ‘the level of cool in our school is 100%.  We are not too school for cool, or too cool for school.  We have nerds here too, but they are cool.”  They also went on to explain that the reason that their school is so great is due to the teachers and the principal.  Hmmmm….. a good way to score points in the good graces of said teachers and principal!  It was delightful, and they were all appropriately proud of themselves.

The added bonus of attending the assembly was that I was able to be there to see the boy presented with an award (that I didn’t have advance notice of).  He was so proud being up there on the stage and immediately presented me with his certificate (part of a peer growth program in the school called Making Jesus Real) before returning to sit with his class.  Much happiness all round.

Now that was worth waiting a few paragraphs for wasn’t it?  Far more interesting that the other topics I was considering (which may or may not have included mid-life crises, the gender issues in Australian politics, and/or internet dating.)  None of them in any way related to crafting!

On a final note I can report that it appears that my judgement as a parent, that I was beginning to question a couple of weeks ago, is still working.  (Phew!)  It doesn’t make our issues disappear, but it reassures me that I still have perspective on those issues.  I can also predict that there will be much of my own crafting to report soon, as the children are going to visit their grandparents for the holidays so I will have free time, and it is time to start making ‘stuff’ for the school fete craft stall.   Hmmmm……I can feel more lists coming on – some might even make it onto the blog.

May your week be delightfully creative in many different ways!

A change of pace

Tonight is certainly a night of changes in Australian politics with a change in the leadership of the Labour Party, and therefore in the role of Prime Minister. Not our finest moment as a country. The changes that follow will be interesting, especially as it is likely that the election will happen sooner. I am not particularly ‘political’ but being a public servant, and working in the nation’s capital, you end up being a bit of an interested bystander to it all! On a very superficial note, our just-ousted Prime Minister had just had a series of photos done where she was playing with her dog and knitting. They were the best ones yet as far as this little crafter was concerned! Oh well – wonder if the new Prime Minister will take up crochet to corner the same market? Probably not.

The other change of pace in the house is that I am putting down my personal projects for a short time while I concentrate on making costumes for the eldest chick’s class entry in the annual Wakakirri competition. This is a national competition which, for the primary schools, is a story dance competition. Our school enters with the Year 5 classes each year, and this year is our first as a family. Parents and teachers help out with costumes, props, sets, etc. Sort of unsurprisingly, but still a bit sad, only 5 parents (out of a possible 50+ households) indicated that they could sew…… so the five of us are responsible for making the 80 odd costumes (apparently they change during the performance.) So over the next two weeks I am making tunics, capes and other wonderous things. To keep costs down we are using polycotton – and after months of only sewing with 100% cotton it feels quite strange!

I am not the organiser of costumes (I am realistic enough about my restricted availability that I have finally learnt not to put my hand up for everything!) but did have one moment of success in contributing on the weekend. My friend who is organising the costumes said that she had been looking for a wedding dress in the charity shops, but they were still relatively expensive. She didn’t want to ask anyone at school to donate their dress as they are traditionally kept. I agreed, saying that while my marriage might not have lasted, I was still keeping the dress for my girls to have, if they want it. Then, while sitting through the hours of martial arts grading on the weekend I had a brainwave and put a call out on the freecycle network. I had two responses within half an hour! I picked up one dress that had been handed down as a ‘back-up’ through a family member and then stored for a few years, and another that had never been worn, and came with two bridesmaids dresses, also never worn. (I didn’t ask for the full story but was intrigued!!) So we now have plenty of fabric for the costume that is required, plus metres and metres of tulle and satin rosettes to be used for our craft stall later in the year! My girls were quite intrigued with the older dress and how ‘big and foofy it is’. I explained the concept of the ‘meringue dress’ (a la Four Weddings and a Funeral) to them and they were highly amused!

The good news is that the other change in this house is that I am finally healthy again! I had my first day back at work today and although I am exhausted, I made it through the day! The virus was nasty but I appear to have beaten it! I knew I was well again when I was able to sew. A personalised superhero cape for a little girl in Tasmania was finally made and sent yesterday. I think we should all have one tucked away in our wardrobes, no matter how old we are!
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Being sick did give me time to think about this blog more though and I finally worked out how to have a link at the top of the page straight to my Etsy shop, and one to my Pinterest boards! A little change, but one that took me ages to work out!

I have also found another way to combat the winter blues in a small way and have finally bought a heated clothes airer (a drying rack that heats up)! So that is one less basket of wet washing sitting around the kitchen (and a bit more dry washing for me to fold!)

Even with all these little changes, the week is going well (unless you are in the Australian Labour Party of course!) I hope that your week is going well too!