Tag Archives: work-life balance

Pottering along

I have been tagged in a blog-along thingy to write about why I write.  This is not the post that will address that.  However thinking about the blog, my business and how it all fits together has been bubbling away in my mind.  When I started the blog I worried that I posted too often and bombarded my followers.  Now I feel that I have abandoned my blog, and my readers.  I have been reflecting on why this has happened and realised that writing here at some point shifted from something that I loved to do, that was like therapy, to something that I had to do but couldn’t seem to find time for.

I have decided that I want to rediscover some of the joy I had from blogging, so will try to post little bits and pieces more regularly.  I think I have also been trying to balance not writing about all the hard stuff in my life, and when things are really hard it means that I don’t write at all.    This, then, is a quick snapshot of what is happening in my life at the moment, with little bits of the hard stuff included.

After years of juggling a high pressured career, and being an organised single parent, and having a neat and tidy home, cared for garden, and an organised house, now that I am home full time I seem to run late for everything, never catch up on folding and sorting the laundry, have truly dirty floors, and forget important dates on a regular basis.  I don’t seem to have time to blog, to sew, to bake, to hang out with my friends, and yet I am allegedly a ‘lady of leisure’!  Now part of it is getting sucked into the vortex of the internet and losing time that way.  But there is more to it than that.  I suspect it is going to take me a while to adjust to this whole concept of creating my own structure, rather than responding to the structure of an office job.

I am setting myself small targets this week.  First of all to clear the back order of custom orders that I have.  Then to spend a day working through the house from front to back and returning it to order and cleanliness.  (I almost added five more things to the list, but if I can do these two I will be very happy!)

A custom order that has been waiting for a while to be made!

A custom order that has been waiting for a while to be made!

I am also back to wondering about the ‘scope’ for my business.  After deciding that I would focus on bags and accessories I find myself making bibs, doing a custom order for bunting, making up heat packs stencilled for another custom order, cushion covers for yet another, whipping up a pillowcase for another, and generally drifting back to making anything that comes along.  This might be contributing to my feeling of being overwhelmed!  I can’t make everything that exists under the sun, no matter how much I want to!  What I can do is choose my scope, and stick to it, and make those things really well.  (Gee – did that sound like a pep talk to you? )

Custom ordered appliqued bunting.  (I love the colours she chose!)

Custom ordered appliqued bunting. (I love the colours she chose!)

Bags and accessories and bibs.  That is a broad category.  It is enough.  This might be my new mantra!

On the topic of bags I can share that I designed and made a laptop bag for my eldest chick earlier in the week.  She has her own laptop now, in preparation for starting high school next year, and in moving between her father’s house and mine it has looked a big too naked and vulnerable being carried in her arms!  I decided that she needed something that reflected a bit of her personality, but could also grow with her.  This is the end result!

The front of the laptop bag showing the detail on the flap, and the red leather base.

The front of the laptop bag showing the detail on the flap, and the red leather base.

Under the flap you see the lining, and another handy pocket!

Under the flap you see the lining, and another handy pocket!

The back of the bag has another pocket, plus a bit of personalisation.

The back of the bag has another pocket, plus a bit of personalisation.

I have had some great feedback on the bag and am thinking that adding this style to my bag range is worth a try.

I can also update you about further developments for the artist in residence.  After her successful appearance at the exhibition, and being approached to sell her painting, this week she had one of her drawings appear in our local newspaper to launch a survey of the Gang-Gang – a native bird that is the faunal emblem for Canberra.  Needless to say she is thrilled and I couldn’t be prouder.  I am going to have to start recording a portfolio for her!

Gang-gang

Gang-gang

My beautiful boy is still struggling with school, and with coping that anything that changes the direction that he thinks he is following, but we have managed to have one fantastic day this week, and a couple of good recoveries from incidents.  The good moments, or days, make the not-so-good ones easier to cope with.  He is now living with me 100%, after some changes in his father’s life meant that it was best to change our care arrangements.  I shared on Facebook that I was fortunate to have him living with me, then added that I am not trying to be a hero, or downplay how difficult it is to parent him, but if I don’t see myself as fortunate I will probably break.

So here we are.  Pottering along with life, trying to work out how to survive financially, caring for my children, and having a creative brain that is in constant overdrive with new ideas of things to make.  I am pretty lucky really!

I hope that you are having a good week.

Real stuff

Although I have plenty more to tell you about and share with you about my human brochure experience (which continues to be quite awesome) it is time to return to regular programming and talk about sewing, or not sewing, family, growing, learning, etc. All the fun stuff that makes being alive interesting!

The last two weeks have been a bit tumultuous in the nest.  We tried a change in the boy’s medication and it was less than successful.  While we seem to be back on the right path now, it has been a rough road for him, the school, and the family.  He has been at home with me most days for the last fortnight, and has needed a lot of support.  And that means very little sewing.  I have custom orders cut out and ready to go…. but haven’t quite got to the machine.  Luckily I am keeping an eye on all my time lines and don’t think any of them will be late……. if all goes to plan! Instead of sewing he and I have built some impressive indoor forts.

The first indoor 'fort', including bedroom area.  (Lasted one day)

The first indoor ‘fort’, including bedroom area. (Lasted one day)

 

 

Second indoor fort built with better engineering, having learnt from the first.  This on had 'office spaces' and has lasted 5 days so far.  (Its days are now numbered.)

Second indoor fort built with better engineering, having learnt from the first. This one has ‘office spaces’ and has lasted 5 days so far. (Its days are now numbered.)

However, once again, the stress and trauma have provided life lessons and room for growth. I was very stressed, and felt under pressure in dealing with the boy’s father, worrying about my inability to work (and therefore earn income), and not being able to keep up with other commitments.  I let it get to me, and felt that the sky was falling.  Strangely enough this was not helping the situation at all.  (Yes you can imagine me rolling my eyes at my self at this point.)  Unfortunately I let the eldest chick (the one who carries all our worries on her shoulders despite my best efforts) see my stress, and become a part of it.  It has weighed heavily on her when I have calmed down and moved on.  Big lesson there about not catastrophizing, and keeping some perspective!

I also sat down with the boy and talked to him about how he and I needed to work together to help each other to find a way through these problems.  It gave him and I a new perspective, and we have spent the last two days celebrating the good in each other, and helping each other to deal with things going wrong. He has been coaching me in kicking a football (so supportive and encouraging with his non-sporty mother) and I have been helping him with strategies to stay calm when he feels frustrated. Between the two of us we have had some good days.  The house is chaotic, I have done no work, and I am behind in all sorts of things, but my stress levels are much lower, and he is much happier.  Big reminders for me about focussing on the important stuff, and letting go of the small stuff.

Through all of this there have been some wonderful moments.  I had a meeting with one of the owners of Handmade Canberra (you know – the place where I sell my bags and bibs, the people who organise the markets that I attend, and the place I rave about) and have agreed to do some work for them.  A bit of admin work, background stuff, and advertising pieces.  All ‘stuff’ that I enjoy, and a nice little piece of steady work to help balance the books with the bank!  I am very excited about the possibilities that this work will bring, and working with these lovely ladies, so am doing little happy dances up and down on the inside!  Plus it still leaves me time to sew, to grow my business and have flexibility to be with my family when they need me.

I was also fortunate enough to accompany the eldest chick on her interview to attend the high school that we have chosen for her.  She spoke with poise, grace, intelligence and a nice level of humour.  The principal who was interviewing her was warm, intelligent and caring.  I am hopeful that our application will be successful as I think this school will be very good for her.

The artist in residence has attended her first school camp this week and returned dishevelled, tired and very happy with her adventures!

I also made it to one human brochure experience at a new boutique brewery that I will write about in more detail soon, but which was a delightful experience (and this from someone who doesn’t really drink beer).

Two beers and one apple cider as part of our taste testing and experience at Bentspoke Brewery - more to come on this!

Two beers and one apple cider as part of our taste testing and experience at Bentspoke Brewery – more to come on this!

 

Spherical sculpture outside the National Gallery of Australia

Spherical sculpture outside the National Gallery of Australia

Then tonight I was able to have a last minute RSVP to an amazing experience at the National Gallery of Australia in an outdoor installation called ‘Within Without’ by James Turrell.  We had a talk from the curator, with background on the artist, the installation, etc, then were able to watch dusk through the skyscape.

The top of the entrance to the Within Without installation.  You enter a stoop, then the skyscape chamber.  Beautiful!

The top of the entrance to the Within Without installation. You enter a stoop, then the skyscape chamber. Beautiful!

Walking into the installation "Within Without" at the National Gallery of Australia.

Walking into the installation “Within Without” at the National Gallery of Australia.

The gardens and ponds surrounding the Within Without installation are beautiful pieces of art in their own right.  With ducks.

The gardens and ponds surrounding the Within Without installation are beautiful pieces of art in their own right. With ducks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am going to do more research on this installation and then write more about it, as this will rate as one of the best visual experiences I have had in my life.  Photos don’t do the experience justice – it is something that you need to see for yourself.  It was calm, peaceful and moving.  Just what I needed to help recentre myself.

While this week has been less than fun on many levels, it has also shown me that my decision to forgo a big salary and ambitious career, and to instead be self employed and not very wealthy, but to have the flexibility to have time with my family, to support them, and to make a new path for us was the right one.  Now if I can just manage some sewing……..

The first day of the rest of my life

Today marks a ginormous step in my life.  Three weeks short of 22 years as a public servant, from today I am, by choice, self-employed.  (Well I did hint at changes that were coming!)

The last couple of years have been particularly challenging at work and at home.  One challenge on its own would have been fine, but being challenged on both fronts left little room for respite – which is how I came to be in the state I was at the end of last year.  With amazing support from my employer I have been able to take leave for the first half of this year, to rest, recover, and think about how I want to live my life.  Having green fields in front of me has been an uplifting experience – I have sorted through so many different possibilities in my mind (sea-change, tree-change, runaway-from-it-all-change) and am very happy that I have settled on the right path for the chicks and I.  I am going to spend my time focussed on my family, on building my creative business, on supporting other creative people to reach their potential, and on living life in a meaningful way.

And that, my friends, is why I died my hair blue!  That outward expression of claiming my life as my own was a small step towards looking at how I want to live, who I want to be, and how I want to grow.  The sense of freedom is immense!  My biggest fear is I will get into a habit of slacking off and playing instead of working – but I suspect that my bank account will motivate me to get over any tendencies in that area!

The first step is getting past this weekend successfully.  It is the second Handmade Market for the year, and I am working very hard to prepare new stock so that I can have some wonderful selections on offer.  The new sewing machine has been in overdrive!  It arrived last week, and after a bit of learning, tinkering, adjusting, etc I am getting the hang of it!  I will write more next week to give you all the details and do it justice, but for now – some shots of the arrival and set up!

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Two very big and very heavy boxes!

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I did it! (All by myself!)

I have also been able to use my new teether bits as a result of the new machine.  I am very happy with the way they look, feel, and handle – so will be launching them at the markets this weekend!  I had a bit of a production line (manned by my staff of one – me) yesterday so have a good range of colours and patterns to showcase the new bits!

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It also sews leather and denim beautifully so I am working on executing some of the ideas that I have been carrying around for a very long time in my head!

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This bag is made from supersoft leather, with the fabric detailed flap. Sewing the leather was a dream with the new machine!

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Other exciting news in this very brief summary of an amazing week, is that the launch of the Human Brochure that I spoke about last week was extremely successful.  Since then we have attended a number of delightfully wonderful discovery events and started to get to know each other – and really I cannot imagine a nicer bunch of people to be hanging out with!  I will write more in the next week about the events so far as I want to do them justice.  At the moment I can happily report that I have a huge crush on a part of Canberra called New Acton, have had my eyes opened to so many, many, many wonderful things in my own town, and am learning on a daily basis!  If you are interested in seeing what we have been up to have a look at the Human Brochure website where you will see so many beautiful photos from my fellow humans you will want to visit here straight away!

Phew – this might be the shortest summary of the most exciting week I will ever write – but the sewing room is calling me, and the Market countdown is on….so stay tuned for more updates!  (and if you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, following @alittlebirdmademe is a great way to see quick snapshots of what is happening during this exciting time!!)

I hope that you have had a great week, and that you are also finding little bits in your life to give you joy and excitement.  Just remember – today is the first day of the rest of your life too.  Get out there and embrace it.

 

Its the little things

Half way through the week already? The long weekend means that while the week feels like it is just starting, it is half way over. Which, on a cold, wet day, when staying in bed with a good book, or curling up on the couch with a dvd and some crochet is more appealing than venturing out to school and work, is a good thing!

Tonight I am pondering the little things that can happen in a day to turn a frown into a smile. While my day was not a bad day (I didn’t have to leave work to address issues with any children – yay!) by the time I got home I was feeling a bit flat. Contemplating the ongoing juggle of trying to be a competent employee and leader while also being a supportive parent to a child with ‘issues,’ and the way this is perceived by my colleagues, had me overthinking my work-life balance once again. This is not a struggle special to me – so many parents face it on a day to day basis. Trying to be a good employee, and a good parent, when the two don’t always sit well together. Combine it with a healthy dose of judgement from the media, other parents, extended family, and so many of us feel that we can’t win, no matter which way we turn.

Of course, my life is actually quite good. I have a supportive work environment, where I can have flexible working arrangements, where my staff understand that sometimes when my phone rings I need to run out the door, where I am paid very well to do a job that I like. The ‘issues’ that my family face are not insurmountable. No one is terminally ill. My children are healthy, intelligent and loving. We have a warm home, good food, warm clothes and the ability to be safe. I have found a creative outlet that keeps me sane when the walls seem to be closing in. The fact that some of my colleagues don’t see it that way is really about them, not about me.

But my mind was working through all of this, and I was wondering whether I was kidding myself that I can keep making things, be respected professionally, keep my kids safe and supported, when one little thing came along to make me stop, celebrate a success and remember that, in fact, I don’t really care about my ‘image’, but I do care that I am succeeding in many ways in my life.

The little thing? I opened up the Etsy website, and there, on the front page, in a handpicked treasury of bright and lovely things, was one of my bags. Yes. One of MINE!! The kids were thrilled, I was excited, and the world stopped spinning out of control and returned to it’s normal axis.  (It was featured as part of a treasury that you can see here.)

I let go of all the overthinking, all the teasing the problem until a new angle could be found, and just smiled and got happy. Perspective is a wonderful thing!

And having a clear head means that I can celebrate my other small successes of the last few days, and that we had a lovely family evening because I was no longer flat.  At dinner we have a tradition of each of us reporting our ‘best thing’.  The artist-in-residence had us enthralled with the report of her drama class, the boy had a list of 16 ‘best things’ that had us all smiling, and the eldest chick waited patiently to tell us the news of her class’ work in preparing for their theatrical performance.  So lovely to just sit and enjoy our time together – no TV, no fighting, and no stress.

On a personal level, I  had my first appointment with a personal trainer yesterday in a new bid to start improving my fitness.  I was very upfront about the need for the children to attend the sessions with me, and I think (hope) it is going to work.  The amusing part was watching the boy, at 6, spending most of his time wanting to lift weights in front of the mirror.  It starts early!

My recent efforts in getting more organised about this blog have paid off too, with a few new followers (hi and welcome!) and realising that sometime this week I passed the 200 follower mark (combining facebook and the blog). Another sign that I am doing okay in my own small way!

On the crafting front I am making up a custom order for a colleague who wants a bag for weekend wear, and wanted a zip up pouch to go in it (at my suggestion). So, here is the pouch I made – without a pattern. Something small – but I am proud of it!

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And finally – I offered to crochet a beret beanie for a friend who dropped in the other day and was admiring the black one I made for the artist-in-residence. While the children were training at martial arts last night I sat and started a new hat. And, in a first, did not have to unpick it once! I have about three rows to go to finish it, but for now – looking a little like a purple sea creature – here is the beret.

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So, as the mid-week ‘hump’ goes, my week is alright.  As I fall towards the weekend my approach will be to continue putting one foot in front of the other, remembering that my family is more important than anything else in my world, and that I am one of the lucky ones.  I wish you a great second half of the week, and lots of things that you can celebrate as successes.

Ladybugs and quiet time

This week I am playing with appliques of ladybugs.  I have put a couple on a library bag for a special little girl in Melbourne, and one on a special bag for my middle chick.  As part of a strategy to help her through a rough time she has a bag with special things that she chose in an afternoon of op-shopping on Monday.  When she needs time to collect herself, she can take her bag of special things and have time alone to play with them.  So the bag needed to be a bit special too.

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There are days when I would quite like a bag of special things and a bit of quiet time myself.  Today is definitely one of them.  Children who are tired and upset, with a mother who has to explain to them that I am human and make mistakes, means that it has been a long evening.

The return to work brings new challenges – I am only working part-time hours this week to continue to support the children in their transition to school, etc (gee an ‘etc’ can cover a lot of things) – and I had forgotten how hard it is to work part-time.  I feel like I am hardly there, and just getting the hang of things when I have to zoom off again.  I have a longer day in the office tomorrow, and actually move into my new office, so that might help the settling in process.  I suspect that this is just the next lesson in how to find balance in other areas of life.

The return to work means that there is a small slowing down in the creative process…..although being at work has allowed me to sit with a couple of people and nut out what they want in their custom orders, so it has upsides too.  But for tonight the machine cover stays on, children who are a bit overwrought have had extra cuddles, and I am going to bed early.

More ladybugs might be in order – a special bag for me for when I need quiet time (I am thinking it can hold a crochet hook and some yarn…..and perhaps chocolate.)

Changing plans

If I have seemed a little quiet over the last few days it is because my internet provider, through some weird clerical error, managed to release a modem to a new customer on Saturday that had the same number as mine – so my internet died when they connected his! It was out for about 48 hours, but my withdrawal symptoms were sad to behold….clutching at my phone, checking mail every few seconds and squinting at facebook….. before recognising that the world was probably still turning without me there to monitor it……and letting go!

The forced break from one of my addictions was quite good – I started watching the DVDs of season 3 of Downtown Abbey that I borrowed from a friend. I am not normally a fan of ‘period drama’ but this one has my attention! So I sat and crocheted and folded washing and enjoyed watching other people dealing with changes in their lives and their world, and regained some more of that precious balance I am always chasing.

I also took a break from ‘sewing with obligation’, as one of my friends puts it, and instead finally did some work on the blocks for the quilt for the boy. I am being a bit adventurous with this one and making up the pattern as I go.

Block4  Block3

Block2

The ‘big blocks’ are based on a tutorial for a pineapple block that I pinned on Pinterest, and I had drawn up an elaborate plan of what little blocks would go with them…….but on the weekend I started playing with the pieces as I was sewing them, and came up with some different blocks, so am rethinking the whole plan for the quilt!

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 It was always going to be a scrappy sort of quilt, so that all the different things that the boy loves could be reflected in it. Then my mother sent me some of her stash and included leftovers from his cot quilt – so they are in the new quilt now and I love the ties between the old and new – and he does too! I am glad that I have taken some time with this one – it means that I have had time to think about what I want it to be in a more measured way.

The children returned to school today for the start of their new school year. There was much excitement and anticipation this morning, and quite positive reports this afternoon, so I am hopeful for a smooth year. The boy had a few issues last year that the school and I have been working through with him, so we are all praying for a better year for him, and today seems to have started well. After 6 weeks of holidays it is a nice change for us to be back to our familiar routine again!

I am playing with ideas for changing our routine slightly, and had a chat to my ever-supportive boss today about a new role and some new hours. I will go into the office later in the week to sort out the details, but it looks like I will be able to take on a great new role, keep developing my non-crafty career, and be able to pick the children up from school most, if not every, day. If that comes off I will be very happy – I just have to firm up the ‘before school’ arrangements so that I can start work early. Babysitters are being called, so the plan is starting to take shape!

I have a few more days before I return to work, so am now drawing up the next lot of lists – the ‘things to get done before full time work intervenes again’ type of list. Grocery shopping was ticked off the list this morning, along with a trip to the charity shop to deliver bags of clothes, toys and shoes that the children have finally relinquished. (The girls voluntarily gave up all their dolls – without me suggesting it! Yay! All those ghastly “monster high” and “Barbie” dolls that I objected to have gone without a fuss!!!!)

Achieving things on the ‘ household to do’ list means time for crafting tomorrow I think! I am toying with some ideas for pillowcases for my Etsy shop – possibly with crocheted edges (which could work well as the kids have a martial arts class tomorrow night!) and am also playing with ideas for birthday gifts. The children have hit the ground running with party invitations – they have come home with one each today – plus a beautiful friend of mine has a birthday with a zero this weekend, so I am playing with fabric, sketching up ideas and putting the creative thinking cap on.

A bit of creative inspiration arrived in the mail this morning with a gorgeous fabric order. I got smart this time and ordered a bit more yardage of each, so that I have room to play and make things for myself as well as for selling!
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So stand by for some bright creations over the next few days (if all goes well and the school doesn’t call………)