A Brief Look at 2019

When I reflect on this past year, a whole lot of negative emotions flood my mind. This was a hard year. I spent so much of it feeling behind, overwhelmed, stressed out, resentful, misunderstood, ignored, confused, and helpless. I think I’ve been having a bit of an identity crisis about what I’m “supposed to be doing” with my life and it’s taken up so much of my mental energy, leaving me with very little left for everybody and everything else. I’m also still in constant pain from my ankle and on again off again plantar fasciitis, perpetually leaving me with such a desire to change my life while being so frustrated with my physical limitations. I feel like a failure as a parent every single time one of my kids has a meltdown or is disrespectful (so, basically every day), and I’ve been pulling back and hiding, rather than finding successful ways to deal with our problems. I have been driven by my own personal agenda and to do lists above all else at almost every moment of every day, never prioritizing the people around me, and almost never having any FUN. Most of 2019’s negativity stems from my own internal struggles, and honestly – I don’t really want to think about it anymore. I want to move on. 2020 is going to be better, I am going to change, and I’m going to put this year behind me.

The best part of 2019 is that I managed to do a lot of travel! Which, to be honest, is also the reason I always felt so behind – because taking four to five weeks away from a business you run on your own really does put you behind. There’s no way around it. But after not being able to do much at all in 2018 thanks to my ankle, it was fun to make up for it this year. In February we took a drive to Omaha to visit my brother and family, which was really fun – except for the WORST DRIVE OF ALL TIME coming home in a major snowstorm on unplowed icy roads. Later in February we went to Florida with Greg’s parents for Universal Studios and Harry Potter World over Shepard’s 8th birthday. In May, Greg and I went to Colorado to celebrate our 13th anniversary. It was more beautiful than I could have imagined, and I really enjoyed seeing a part of the country that was new to both of us. In July I took the boys on a mini vacation to a hotel a few hours north, just the three of us. It’s always an interesting and more bonding dynamic when Greg isn’t with us and our kids actually transfer some of their interest to me. We had a good time. In August I went to Texas for the first time, spending half my days at a resort for Book Bonanza and half the time wandering around Dallas in extreme heat. I loved Book Bonanza, I thought the Dallas Farmers Market was the best I’ve ever been to, but I could definitely do without ever seeing Texas in August again. And in November I took another solo trip to North Carolina, spending half the time at my first Hope Writers conference and half the time driving across the state to stay at a relaxing beachside hotel. It was quite the fortunate year, taking FOUR huge vacations, requiring flights across the country and seeing a lot of new places. I cherish the years like this, when we have the opportunity and freedom to choose the trips we want to take, without a lot of limiting factors.

It’s taken me a long time to work through my bitterness and hurt, but I’ve come to the realization this year that I don’t need to let people have the power to hurt me anymore. There are a handful of people in my life – friends, not family – that I’ve given way too much power to and I’m taking it back. I’m distancing myself from the people that flat out ignore the ways I’ve tried to connect with them, the ones that cancel all the plans we make – or just plain don’t show when they promised they would. It’s not worth it. I have other friends who DO show up, who DO care about me, who DON’T diminish the value of female friendship. I’ve learned – and will continue to work on – stepping back from the harmful relationships and focusing on the ones that only bring joy and connection to my life. I think one of the greatest things I’ve done this year is having the occasional coffee morning at my house. It’s something easy that people can do to come together and connect. It’s even spurred some of them on to start issuing their own invites. This group of friends, we used to do so much together when our kids were toddlers and preschoolers. Then life got crazy and we lost our way. And now we’re getting it back. We’re all giving each other what we can in the ways that work out best in this season of life.

This past year has also been a health related rollercoaster. In October 2018 I was diagnosed with fatty liver and told I needed to lose weight. So that’s what I focused on and it sucked. I felt deprived and hungry all the time, but I DID lose some weight. But then in January my uncle died. And helping to clean out his apartment and seeing the physical evidence of what it looks like to die alone with mental illness was honestly really, really traumatic. And I’m not blaming my weight gained back on that, but it was a catalyst for going back to my well known lifestyle of emotional eating. I stopped caring. I REALLY stopped caring during the summer when every day felt like just another battle and I was living in survival mode. And then in September when I got my freedom back and could go to ANY RESTAURANTS AT ANY TIME and totally went overboard. Which resulted in my next annual visit in October weighing more than ever, a referral to a different doctor, the scare of having an incurable autoimmune hepatitis diagnosis, a liver biopsy to confirm it’s – so far – only fatty liver, which all led to the conclusion that I NEED TO CHANGE MY LIFE. Yes, losing weight would really help. But I’m not focusing on that because that’s an end goal. That’s a conclusion that I would maybe eventually reach and then decide I didn’t need to make those choices anymore. So it’s been a huge learning curve with a ton of overactive emotions, but I AM changing. I’m doing the work to be a different person in how I eat, how I cook, how I shop, and how I deal with all my mental stuff in a healthier way than eating chips and chocolate. It’s only the beginning, and this past week around the holidays has been a bit murky. But I honestly and truly feel great about making these changes. Not deprived. Not hangry. Not depressed. But good. Hopeful. I’m nourishing myself and learning how to better nourish my family so they don’t end up on the same path as me. All that sucky stuff was exactly what I needed to change my lifestyle.

The biggest issue that plagued me this year was where to devote the bulk of my daytime hours and what career direction was right for me. I thought I could make it work being both a doll maker and working toward being a paid writer. I assume most writers don’t have the luxury of devoting all their time to writing at the beginning – they still need to get paid. But I’d guess that a lot of new writers are not also trying to run a totally different creative business completely on their own. The lack of boundaries in my life and constant pull between one or the other, never feeling like I could give enough to either (or ANYTHING in my life) – it was too much. I was briefly wooed by the writing life at my Hope Writers conference. I definitely do not regret going, but I’ve also come to realize in the two months since that I don’t think that particular community is for me. At least not now. I’ve also had a bit of an epiphany in the last couple of days as I continue to mull this all over. I don’t actually want to be a working writer. I mean, yeah, writing a book and having that sense of accomplishment would be AMAZING. But the minute I started focusing my blog posts and instagram posts for “my reader” I became paralyzed with anxiety. I don’t WANT to focus all of my posts toward other people. I don’t want to schedule my social media updates. I don’t want to network with other people. I don’t want to devote time every day just trying to build my platform. I don’t want to constantly be hunting down ways to bring in money for my words, always wondering if what I have to say is worth anything. I just want TO WRITE. For ME. I love to write, I’ve always loved to write, and I believe I always will. But my biggest purpose in writing is simply to figure out my own thoughts. It’s my therapy, my cathartic release, the only way I can move past most of the things that happen to me. I do like writing a lot of those feelings in this public space in the hopes that I will make connections with a handful of people and maybe someone will read about my messy life and know that they’re not alone in theirs. But this doesn’t need to be my career path. It can just be something I really like to do.

It feels like a huge relief to come to that conclusion at the end of this confusing and stressful year. I am a doll maker. I’m a pretty good one too. It’s a weird career, and one that most people don’t understand or think is just some cute little hobby to keep a homemaker busy. Sometimes it’s easy for my own thoughts to lean in that direction as well because I don’t get a lot of validation for my work in the real world. But I’m proud of what I’ve built and I’m excited to continue it with a stronger sense of direction and purpose in the coming year. I’ll still write. I’ll still read. I’ll still cook. I’ll still be a wife and a mom and a friend. I can be it all without needing to profit from it. My profit will come in the form of a connected, well balanced, creative, and joy filled life.

And that’s all I have to say about 2019! I’ll be back soon with my READING reflections on the year, something I’m much more excited to share!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions (x 2) 12.01.2019

I have two weeks of recaps to run through today! I’ll try to stick with the highlights. Like this bread (lol). My neighbor gave me the recipe of this gluten free bread she loves to make – as well as a couple of slices. It was really delicious! I never would have guessed it was gluten free. So I bought the supplies and made my own loaf. It turned out perfectly! Unfortunately, the second day, after eating a few pieces for breakfast, I did NOT feel well. I was having pretty intense stomach pains and the only thing I could think of was that it was the bread. So I waited two full days until I felt fully better and then ate it again – a glutton for punishment. But I didn’t have the same symptoms, so it’s a mystery. I’m a bit hesitant to make it again, but I’m sure I will! Though I’m also trying to put my focus more on actual whole grain breads, since those are what’s best for my liver. I’m still not very clear on if gluten free flours are actually whole grains, or just NOT gluten. And gluten’s not my issue, the WHITE refined flour is.

One of my only real work related accomplishments this month was curating six beautiful themed “gift baskets.” I had SO much fun doing it. Plus it justified all my many TJMaxx random purchases! I sold four of them right away, but the other two are still currently available! 🙂 If I had all the time and space and the right customer base who was ready to spend tons of money on such things, I’d make gift collections like this for a living. SO much fun.

I had a sign painting party! I was really excited about hosting it, but then was a bit overwhelmed that I had to keep nagging people and practically begging for more participants. I don’t like feeling like I’m forcing people to do something! But we met the required 9 sign ups (plus one extra at the last minute!) – whew! And it was such a great evening!! I prepped a big cheese tray and flourless chocolate cake and then we all gathered for painting and conversation. I’m not sure I’d ever want to host again, but I’m still addicted to the creating part!

This is the sign I did. I painted it exactly like the example because I loved the color combination so much.

I was feeling a bit blue by this long and melancholy month that really felt nothing like FALL, so I decided to go ahead and swap out my Christmas mugs a few weeks early. They bring me so much joy!

My food adventures continued with a loaf of grainy bread and my favorite granola recipe. The bread was just okay. The flax seed made it taste very…healthy. It wasn’t awful, but I don’t think I’d make it again when I can buy a loaf of pretty healthy whole grain bread at the store that tastes a whole lot better. The granola recipe is delicious, but also not the healthiest. But I swapped the original pecans for red walnuts, which are supposedly the healthiest of walnuts and best nuts for people with liver disease.

Last Saturday was Caden’s Lego League competition. It started at 7:30 in the morning and went until after 5 at night. Greg and Caden were there from the start and Shepard and I went with the grandparents a few hours later. It was a really long and emotionally draining day for him. But I’m proud of him for sticking with it, despite how frustrating it sometimes was. He was going through a lot of mixed emotions throughout the day because he didn’t want to do well enough that they moved on to sectionals – he wanted to be DONE. But he also really, really, really hates not being great and getting recognition for things, so he was upset at the same time that they weren’t doing amazing or won any awards. But overall, they got in about the top 40% of the 38 teams there, which is pretty great considering they only had three members, they were all fifth graders (it went up to eighth grade), and it was their first year competing.

On Sunday, I had SO many things to catch up on. I was really feeling the impending deadline of BLACK FRIDAY and desperately needing a larger inventory so I could have a sale. I barely sewed at all this month between my vacation and liver biopsy related stuff and hosting and attending various get togethers. I had a pretty good plan for the day, but also made the suggestion that maybe we could bring the tree upstairs and get a start on it since Thanksgiving was so late this year. Greg proceeded to bring up every single Christmas decoration we had, giving me no choice but to ditch my agenda and spend the entire day swapping out decorations and setting up trees. Once it was done, I was thankful to have done it and to have done it early (it certainly made this past weekend so much more relaxing!). But at the time, I was basically on the brink of hysteria. I don’t like my agendas being messed with. I couldn’t have done anything I had planned anyway because every surface was covered in Christmas stuff! Anyway, for the record, I am thankful Greg made us power through and was quite helpful with the setup – not to mention carrying all those boxes and trees up and down our precarious basement steps so many times. But it was a stressful day.

By the end of the night I had the living room completely done. Greg set up the family room tree on his own, though I guess I haven’t taken a photo of that one yet. But we got enough done that all the boxes could go back down and I could sigh in relief!

On Monday I had a ton of errands to run. I knew I was going to be out the entire day, so I made a plan to go to this new restaurant Ancho and Agave that opened last month. It’s in Middleton, so I’m not there very often and didn’t know when I’d next have a chance. Anyway, the restaurant was really cute and the food was delicious! I loved all of it except the pork taco, which was cold by the time I ate it and kind of fatty. But I was so full by that point it didn’t really matter. I’d definitely go back. I like that I made myself go to a really tasty sit down restaurant rather than just grabbing something fast and terrible for me, the way that I used to do on long shopping days.

On Tuesday I set up my treat box for the delivery drivers! I’m so glad I saw this idea online a few years ago because I always feel guilty for how many packages I get. At least I can feel a little better by giving them treats the last five or six weeks of the year! Though I think it’s kind of funny that I decided to put pretzels and popcorn in the box to start, thinking maybe the delivery drivers would like slightly healthier options than chips. Nope! The only things taken all week were the Little Debbies and Oreos. I’ll pick out some different things when I get to Costco this week. (For the record, right after I wrote this paragraph a FedEx driver dropped off a package. Earlier today a USPS woman brought a pile of packages. So apparently it no longer matters that it’s Sunday, they’re still out working.)

On Tuesday I finished up a couple more Christmas dolls and then made a squash curry soup for our at home date night. I got the inspiration from Antoni on an episode of Queer Eye, but didn’t follow any specific recipe. I just roasted butternut squash, onions, and garlic with curry seasoning, salt, and cumin in the oven for awhile, then mixed it in the blender with chicken bone broth, put it back on the stove to simmer with a little bit of heavy cream, and then topped it with a teeny swirl of sour cream and cilantro. Anyway, Greg and I are not typical squash eaters, but we both loved the soup. I’m actually just really not a soup eater, but it’s kind of blowing my mind how easy and healthy it is to whip up something from scratch without a recipe, so it’s turning into a weekly occurrence.

Wednesday was more of a kitchen FAIL day. My only assignments for Thanksgiving dinner were to make rolls and one dessert. My favorite part of Thanksgiving meals are just eating little turkey sandwiches dipped in gravy – I’m not such a fan of all the traditional sides. So I wanted to make something I could eat without feeling guilty and chose a honey wheat recipe that looked fool proof. I also made some honey butter rolled Parker house buns, but it only made 12 and we were going to have 10 people there and I assumed most of them would want the white option. So then I decided to make a cranberry walnut loaf of bread with an 18 hour rise time – but with wheat flour instead. I finally moved on to the pecan pie cheesecake, only to forget to add the heavy cream at the end – which I had poured into the measuring cup, but for some reason didn’t add to the cheesecake! I think it turned out fine without it, but of course I didn’t know that until the next night when we ate it! Meanwhile, Greg came home and asked if he could have a wheat bun. He took a bite and said “Is this from a bad batch?” And then I burst into tears and immediately started hunting down other recipes. I proceeded to spend the entire night making pretzel buns – very untraditional, but also the only rolls I never mess up – and a new beer cheese roll recipe. And of course during all this I was also trying each roll, even though I shouldn’t be eating three of them, but I needed to make sure they were servable. What sounded like a pretty easy baking assignment this year turned into twelve solid hours in the kitchen with the only thing that seemed to really work being pretzel buns, and I was kind of a wreck by the end of it. I baked the cranberry walnut bread in the morning, but decided not to bring it with me. (This is my all time favorite kind of bread and changing it to wheat was a sad disappointment. I’ve still been eating a slice for breakfast every day, but it’s definitely not the same!) In the end, I realized that everyone else really just wants to eat the sides and after sitting on the counter untouched for the last few days, I dumped them all last night. What a waste of my emotional energy! Remind me next year to just make pretzel buns and be done with it. 😛 Or just BUY SOME. Caden and I are very similar in this regard (and a lot of things) – I want to be really great at everything I do, and I am not great at roll making. I should stick with desserts because I’m actually good at that.

Thanksgiving Day was really nice! I took Annie to the dog park in the morning – our tradition. Then we took our Christmas card photos by the tree. The boys would only cooperate for two rounds of 10 shot photos, but we actually got a really nice one right away. I was able to order cards for super cheap on Friday.

We spent the rest of the day at the in-law’s, just relaxing and eating! I was mostly reading because my brain couldn’t handle playing board games like everyone else. The food was delicious, as always! I tried my mom’s sweet potato casserole for the first time this year and am mad at how many years I was missing out on something so delicious! The cheesecake also tasted great, though as usual I seemed to be the only one actually interested in dessert because I don’t go crazy overboard during the meal. Overall, it was a really nice day together with family.

Earlier in the week I had a great idea to solve my lack of new inventory Black Friday problem. PRE-ORDERS. Every year I get so many people asking me for ornament sized dolls and every year people are disappointed if they didn’t get one. So I had the grand idea to offer pre-orders this year, rather than a discount. And I think it worked out perfectly! I ended up with 18 doll orders. Enough to feel very successful, but not so many that I’m crazy overwhelmed by it. And it hopefully made everyone happy! On Saturday I offered a 20% off sale that was supposed to end at midnight, but is still running today, apparently. Oh well. There might be one last slightly better deal tomorrow for Cyber Monday. My hope is that I’ll make enough sales this weekend that the pressure will be off to produce a ton more new dolls in December.

On Friday afternoon I met my in-laws at the theater and we saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It was a really great movie!

On Friday night we went to Columbus’ Christmas parade, like we always do. It seemed slightly bigger this year! The weather wasn’t too bad and it was a fun time. Our neighbor friends came with us.

Yesterday was a fairly relaxed day. I have a zillion different things I should be doing, but I’m trying to force myself to let it go and just do what I want to do on weekends. I recently finished reading a book about managing and reversing liver disease and one of the biggest factors in diseases starting up or not getting better is actually just plain stress. And I’m stressed ALL. THE. TIME. And most of that stress is self-inflicted. I HAVE CONTROL. The problem is that I’m very controlling of myself and my time and I think it’s maybe destroying me. I need to let loose more often. Or…just do nothing.

I did participate in the local wine/soda walk yesterday with my friend Laura. It was so much fun! We were mostly interested in just checking out the fun little gift shops around town and spending a few hours hanging out. I purchased a few little items at every store, making me feel like a great Small Business Saturday shopper! 🙂 It was a really enjoyable event.

And now it’s December! Twinkle the Elf made a re-appearance. All week long the boys have been talking about how they can’t wait for him to come and bring donuts. With all these new healthy mindset thoughts CONSTANTLY on my brain, I had a tough time buying these donuts for them. But it’s apparently one of their all time favorite traditions, so it needed to happen. We also got to open day one on our five advent calenders! Greg surprised me with a hot sauce advent! Jack was very jealous of Annie’s calendar, so we had to bring over a bag of cat treats so he can get something every day too.

Shepard and I set up my last little rainbow Christmas tree this morning, so now we’re officially decorated. The rest of the day has just been very chill! I wrapped up orders, made a pizza, and took my first nap in ages. I’d like to get a jump on my pre-order dolls tonight, but we’ll see how I’m feeling. I need to meal plan too.

Sunday Intentions

I think it’ll be a pretty low key week! Annie has a grooming appointment tomorrow, so I’m hoping to really devote the whole day to sewing. Tuesday will be errands. Wednesday more sewing. Thursday sewing and cleaning. And Friday prepping for my Favorite Things Party that night! Friday’s also St. Nick’s Day. It should actually be a pretty great week.

My biggest goal for the week is to get to Friday and feel prepared. I still have no clue what St. Nick might be bringing everyone this year. I also need to gather and wrap my favorite things for the party. I don’t want to spend Friday feeling like a crazy person trying to get everything cleaned and set up last minute, the way that I did before my sign painting party. If I can stay on track all week doing little things here and there, it should all go smoothly without too much stress.

My other goal this week is to go through a stack of cookbooks I bought about a month ago and haven’t even opened yet. I want some serious inspiration AND A PLAN for cooking whole and delicious foods this month. I want to be prepared so we’re not resorting to frozen meals. They’re fine every once in awhile, but I want to really focus on feeding myself and my family nourishing food at home to counteract all the other things we’ll be eating when we’re out of the house around Christmas. Balance!

Anyway, no meal plan yet since I’m hoping to go through a cookbook yet tonight. But first – treadmill time!

Have a good week and happy December!

2018: Celebrating a New Year

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Happy New Year!

Last night we celebrated the way we always do – staying home with food and movies. We had a big taco feast followed by a creme brulee tart for dessert. As a family we watched Captain Underpants, Boss Baby, and a bunch of Netflix countdown videos as we ate popcorn and drank sparkling juice. The boys went to bed around nine and Greg and I finished the evening watching Logan Lucky and half of Battle of the Sexes. He drank a beer, I drank some of the amazing ice wine I found at Costco last week. It was about the least exciting celebration ever, but at least we were together. And hey! I actually made it to midnight. I NEVER make it to midnight.

Anyway, like most of the world, I’ve spent the last week contemplating the ups and downs of the last year and what I would like to do differently in my life and approach to 2018. I re-read my resolutions from last year and realized that I basically feel exactly the same way as I did a year ago. If anything, I’m even more of a slave to my to do lists. The frustrating thing is that I’m completely aware of it and still struggle day after day to just let some things go. I so often link my worth to how many things I accomplished in a day. I set impossible standards for myself and am constantly wracked with guilt and disappointment in what I wasn’t able to check off my list by the end of the night. And quite honestly – I’m sick of living this way.

In the midst of trying to just DO all the time, I’ve really lost sight of what’s truly important in life. Family, love, laughter, joy, contentment, connection, dreams, acceptance, and simple happiness. I somehow want to find my way back to all of that this year. I want to live by my the words of my current favorite book and choose ONLY LOVE TODAY. Again and again and again. That is what matters. I only have this one life and I want to make it count. For me. For my joy. For my acceptance. That will be my focus this year.

Personal

  1. Practice Self Care. 
    I want to learn how to love myself this year. I have a lot of self hatred, especially with how I look. And sometimes with aspects of my personality and how I treat other people. I’d like to take a journey this year in finding things that make me happy. Looking for joy in little moments. Being completely in tune to what I actually need to loosen the stress and smile more. Let go of the to do list slavery. Show gratitude for the best parts of myself. Learn to accept and even love the parts of me I sometimes can’t stand. This is all so much easier said than done. But I think it’ll be my highest priority for the year. And also my hardest.
  2. Take Better Care of Myself. 
    My first goal is to take care of myself emotionally and mentally and my second goal is to take care of myself physically. I would love to lose some weight. I need to lose some weight. But I’m not going to give myself a number or even any extreme pressure to do it. I do want to start making better decisions. Remember that the food I put in my mouth not only affects my size, but also my blood and my heart and my ability to live (or not live) a long and healthy life. I want to move more too. If it ever stops being negative temperatures, I need to get back into taking long daily walks. Preferably in the morning, but at night if necessary. I’d also like to find some sort of online exercise program that I’ll actually enjoy and stick with. Especially on these cold winter days when spending long hours outside just isn’t possible.
  3. Be Happy With What I Have.
    I think this became a real problem last year. I always want more. Whenever I found myself stressed out and overwhelmed with life I’d often go to my computer to at least window shop on amazon and other various websites. Shopping shouldn’t be my solution to anything, but especially emotional turmoil. Though I will say that going to thrift stores and antique shops is an active way that I DO give myself self care. But shopping just for the sake of shopping, because I’ve had a bad day? I need to cut myself off. I don’t need more books. I don’t need more clothes. I don’t need more clutter. Whenever the urge to mindlessly shop hits, I want to stop and take stock in what I already have. I think this is a weird habit that maybe only people with the same love language can understand. Gift giving (and receiving) is my love language. And in many circumstances, especially around my birthday and other holidays, I like to shop for myself. I like to give myself gifts because it does fill me up, even if it sounds to people with all other love languages like a ridiculous excuse. That’s how my love tank works, though. I just need to cut back.

RELATIONSHIPS

  1. Get My Family Back.
    I feel like I’ve lost them this last year. Or…they’ve left me behind? You know how in most families the mom is the glue that holds everyone together? That’s not really the dynamic in our household. Yes, I do all the organizing and shopping and cooking and school things- all the behind the scenes stuff that makes a household run relatively smoothly. But I’m not there. I’m not actively present for so many little life moments. Part of the reason is because I just don’t feel like I fit in with them. They love video games. They love Legos. They love complicated board games that always end in screaming and tears. I don’t want to sit in a room with them and watch them play video games all night when there is ALWAYS a huge running list in my head of other things I want to do. Another reason I’ve lost them is that I’ve honestly just stopped trying. The truth, which I should stop using as an excuse, is that Caden never wants to do ANYTHING. I love getting out of the house with my kids and even the tiniest request is always, always, always met with extreme outrage from him. I got really sick of fighting it. If he doesn’t want to do things with me, then what’s the point of fighting it out? It’s SO MUCH EASIER to just drop it. Walk away. Go live on my side of the house where I can at least spend my time doing something productive, even if it’s not the connecting activity I was hoping for. But it finally occurred to me the other day that I’m still the mom. I’m not allowed to give up on my kids. I try so hard to almost never push him into doing things he doesn’t want to do. But it’s come at the cost of me feeling emotionally empty with my own family. Empty and a more than a little resentful because it feels like they’re not letting me live the life I really want to live. They don’t need me anymore. They certainly don’t want me. Daddy is their everything. But it’s time to do a little fighting back and not give up.
  2. Prioritize Marriage.
    I was looking through all my instagram pictures last night trying to pick out the best memories of the year. One of those was a picture of Greg and I when we cut out of someplace we were supposed to be to do something for ourselves. It was definitely met with a little outrage, but for once we didn’t care. We have to stop letting our need to please other people always make our own relationship slide to the back burner. We also need to stop letting our kids rule the roost. I just want to approach our relationship as being one of my highest priorities this year. Because it’s not, for either of us.
  3. Make Friendships Important.
    It’s so easy to let this slide in the craziness of family life. You begin falling into the trap thinking that you don’t actually need friends because your life is so full and busy with your family. And the reality is that making time for friends is HARD WORK. No matter how much fun you had the last time you were together, it’s still so hard to get out the door the next time something comes up. But it’s important. It really, really is. And even though I know it’s going to require ME to make the effort, I’m not going to give up this year. I need my friends. And I’d like to hope that they might need me a little too.

WORK

  1. Set Work Hours – It’s just a job!
    This is a really hard for one for me. Without the clearly defined boundary of leaving my house to go to an office, I am surrounded by and often consumed by work all the time. I often think of it and act like it’s my entire life. Especially when I’m in the middle of a big batch of dolls. Setting it aside for anything feels like a huge loss to my productivity. But working from the minute I wake up until the minute I go to bed does NOTHING for my personal happiness. It burns me out, stresses me out, and makes me feel extremely resentful of everything I’m missing out on. The ridiculous thing is that I put all of this on myself! I have no clock to punch and no boss to demand more of me. It’s just me. I have the freedom and because of that I feel like I owe it to everyone to put in my absolute best effort every waking minute. But I don’t want to live like that anymore! So set work hours it is. Preferably – just when my kids are at school! I’d really like to end at 3pm when I go to pick them up every day. And maybe a little bit more until dinnertime if they’re busy doing other things. But I really want to limit myself to only working one evening per week and one weekend per month – and only if I absolutely feel like it’s completely necessary. It’s just a job. And I’ll have a much richer life and a lot more joy if I start treating it like it’s not the be all and end all of my existence.
  2. Give Myself Grace.
    Sometimes it’s hard to remember that I’m just one person in an actively creative and artistic career. If I want to do my best and maintain a level of care and precision in my dollmaking, I can’t produce hundreds of dolls a month. Yes, the income from a hundred dolls a month would be incredible! But it’s just not going to happen. I also need to remember that there are a few months of the year (May, September, December) that are just SO busy with actual life events, it’s really hard to keep up with sewing. I want my life to be my priority. And I want to give myself the grace to let up a little in those months. Take breaks when I need them. I DO have this freedom and I should let it GIVE me freedom to do what I need instead of letting it restrict me to feeling like I’m never doing enough, the way it has this last year.
  3. Work in Smaller Batches.
    I also need to remember that this is actually a business and I’d like it to continue being successful! And while I can’t produce hundreds of dolls a month, I can do my best to continually produce my best work. And my best work is often done when I only make a couple of dolls at a time. I get excited about all the details and really make my most precious dolls when I’m not struggling to get through a never ending pile of arms and legs. It’s also a lot better for business to be releasing new dolls every few days instead of every few weeks. When people are always watching for something new they get a lot more excited and immediately purchase those new dolls. It often feels counterproductive to make three dolls vs. twelve, but it’s worth it in the long run. For business and for my own wellbeing!

HOBBIES

  1. Read, read, read!
    Reading is my favorite thing ever. But lately when I’m stressed I find myself reaching for my phone to mindlessly scroll instead of picking up my kindle which is also always within reach. Books are going to enrich my life a whole lot more than my phone. I mostly read for entertainment and escape, but this year I’d like to put a little more emphasis on the nonfiction books that could uplift and change my heart. I have so many of them already in my possession, it’s time to crack them open!
  2. Write, write, write!
    I’m really loving having this blog as an outlet for a different form of creativity. For awhile I was hoping that it might grow into something more. But I’m realizing that’s probably a whole lot harder than I expected. And that’s okay. I’m making a small, but valuable income making dolls. And I love doing that. I don’t need to make money writing. It’s worth it for me to just have the availability to pour out my words on a page. Even though I’m pretty sure the only people that read this are my mom, my mother-in-law, my neighbor, and my best friend. (Hello, and thank you!) But that’s okay. It’s more about what writing can do for ME. I love it and I’m not going to stop.
  3. Bullet Journal!
    Because I apparently don’t have enough creative outlets in my life already, I decided to try out bullet journaling again this year. And I’m super excited about it! I’ve found ways to integrate actual journaling, habit tracking, and lists galore so it’s more than just writing down my daily to dos. I don’t want to get ahead of myself the way I did last time I tried this out a few years ago. But I’ve invested in some fun stencils and washi tape to really make the book more of a fun and artistic expression that I guess I can’t find in sewing or writing!

Well, I think that’s it! Longest New Year’s resolution list ever. You’ll be happy to know that in the middle of writing, Caden came up and asked me to play a board game with him. I immediately stopped and we played. Progress already, on day one!

My New Sewing Room!

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A couple of weeks ago, Greg and I decided that it was time to rearrange the apartment so I could have my own sewing room. I was starting to go a little bit crazy constantly stepping on the legos surrounding my desk and always needing to move things around every time I wanted to have a little workspace. Scissors and needles could never be left out, for obvious reasons, but it was really frustrating having to get out and clean up a huge pile of supplies every time I wanted to work for even half an hour. Greg has offered in the past to change places with me, giving up his very poorly utilized office space. I just wasn’t able to get past the fact that moving all of my things in here would mean moving all of his very ugly things (multiple computers, hundreds of cables and wires and any other weird techy things he needs) into the very public and open living room. My space in the living room was crowded, but at least it was pretty!

At any rate, I finally weighed my limited options and this was the way to go. We’ve lived in our apartment for three and a half years now and plan to live here for probably another year or two. I often feel like I have to apologize for that fact because living in an apartment with a family of four in a very small town is definitely not the norm. But it works for us. In many ways I think it works a lot better for us than living in a house. So I decided it was worth the time and effort to make the switch so I could have a space that was entirely my own as I continue to grow Heartstring Annie and just plain need an escape from all the mass chaos my kids are forever creating. I think I can be happy here for a long time. 🙂

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So back to the room! This is my newest addition – a beautiful handmade table from my favorite store to buy random furniture, Twisted Sister. One of the things I was most excited about when I got this room was realizing I could actually fit in a cutting table! I hate cutting fabric on the floor or at the kitchen table, but just assumed having a cutting table in the apartment would never work out. But it did!! I saw this table a couple of months ago at Twisted Sister and fell in love with it. I’ve been back to visit it multiple times since then and finally decided after a profitable craft fair that I could just go ahead and buy it. It makes me happy! And my cats, who think they just got a brand new bed.

Not that pretty, but now I’m able to get all my embroidery supplies (top bin) and mohair out in the open where I can use them more often. There’s a closet next to the shelf that’s mostly filled with all my shipping supplies, rarely used craft equipment, and my giant box of polyfil.

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The actual sewing area. FYI, I also got my sewing table and desk from Twisted Sister. I’d buy all their furniture if I had room for it! I plan on painting that big shelf with some chalk paint one of these days. I just haven’t had a chance yet.

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My happy place!

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Just another view of the beautiful wood on top of my table. I’m hoping to buy a shelf or two for this open wall space. Ideally I’d love a way to get my fabric in this room too, but I’m not sure it’s possible. It’s currently taking up a full dresser in the bathroom, four boxes in my closet, and a bunch of more rarely used fabrics are boxed up in my garage. I have a small white bookshelf in mind that I saw a few weeks ago at a store that is only open every few months. If my mom doesn’t beat me to it, I’m thinking of getting it for right next to the sewing desk to put my most used fabrics on. Maybe.

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One more picture.

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And finally, this guy. 🙂 For quite awhile now I’ve been greatly admiring a few people who create artist bears and other animals. I never understood how they made them so tiny until it finally clicked in my head that obviously they just sew everything by hand! So in between doll making I’ve been experimenting with some little animals myself. I made a tiny teddy for my mom’s birthday which was pretty cute. Then I found a place to import mohair to make them even cuter and sewed a tiny elephant for my friend Dianne’s birthday. And finally, over the weekend while I was doing a craft fair, I made this bunny for myself! I love him so much. I want to make him a friend, but it’s been a very busy week! Anyway, I’m not sure I’ll ever sell these, but they’re fun to make for myself and family and friends when I need a break from business stuff.

So that’s my new sewing room! And a bunch of ramblings. 🙂

Save

365 Day Photo Project – May

I’m late again! It’s been another super busy week with very little computer time. Which is good, for many reasons, but I’m also extremely behind in all photo related things, which is very frustrating! But here it is – my photos for May!

That’s it for May! Such a busy and event filled month. I kind of feel like I should put a little disclaimer in here that not every single picture in this project is taken by me. Like the ones that I’m in. 🙂 But I feel like this project is more a personal reflection on what my year has held, so even if I didn’t take the picture myself, it’s still important to the overall story. Just to make that clear. I felt like I was cheating by posting some pictures that I didn’t actually shoot. 🙂

And in other news…

So I’ve decided that I’m not above begging. I started Heartstring Annie last month and have yet to make a single sale. It’s starting to feel a little discouraging. How do you build a customer base without putting a lot of money into advertising? I know everything takes time, but I feel like I’ve already run out of ways to reach new people. So since I seem to be getting a lot more traffic on this blog I thought I’d post this little blurb to ask (beg) some new people to at least look into what I’ve been making lately. I’m pretty proud of this last batch! Thank you. 🙂

Heartstring Annie on Facebook

Heartstring Annie on Etsy

Just Launched: Heartstring Annie!

I have some exciting news! After a few weeks of working madly, I am officially opening my very own etsy shop Heartstring Annie! Most of you probably didn’t realize quite how serious I was about making Annies, but I’ve begun and now I can’t stop! I finished up my first one less than a month ago and have made twenty-eight more since then. Hopefully this is just the beginning of many, many more to come!

In this first month I’ve realized that I most enjoy making Annies with specific people in mind. I like fitting the fabric and theme of the dolls to what a certain recipient might like. For example, I made Annie and grandson sets for my mom and mother-in-law for Mother’s Day. I also made a set for Caden and Shepard’s godmothers. My friend Liz, who loves Alice in Wonderland, got a mom and son set with an Alice in Wonderland theme. Now that I finished up enough to stock the shop a little I’m going to make alphabet and number themed Annies to give to Caden’s teachers as end of the year thank you presents. I also plan on making dolls to go along with each upcoming holiday and season. In the next few weeks I’d like to start some patriotic and 4th of July Annies. I’ve been busier than ever in the last few weeks, but I love it and I’m really excited to see what becomes of this little business.

You can find Hearstring Annie at:

heartstringannie.etsy.com

You can find my Heartstring Annie facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/HeartstringAnnie

And you can find a new blog at:

http://heartstringannie.blogspot.com/

Check it out!

And thank you for supporting this new little dream of mine by caring enough to read this. 🙂 


My First Annie!

I finally did it! I completed my first handmade Raggedy Annie doll! I’ve been extremely obsessed with these dolls since last summer and really wanted to try my hand at making one by myself. I made it one of my new year’s resolutions for 2013 and really wanted to be able to say I did it by the time this year came to a close. I’m thrilled that I was able to complete it now!

My in-law’s gave me a sewing machine for Christmas. I wanted one with this specific purpose in mind. I was terrified of learning to use it, though. Week after week went by and I was too scared to even take it out of the box. Scared that I would fail before I barely began. I’ve used a sewing machine in the past, but it’s been at least ten years and I’ve never had to set up the thread or deal with the problems on my own. My sister-in-law, who has the same machine, was going to help me set things up on Easter, but then I got sick and wasn’t able to see her before she flew back home to California. So I was once again on my own and too scared to begin.

On Saturday I was super bored, it was raining and cold outside, and Greg decided IT WAS TIME. I wasn’t overly thrilled with the prospect, but he forced me to do it (for which I am glad). He got the machine out, read the manual, and then told me everything he learned. Together we spent about an hour figuring out how to begin and then I was off!

I did a few practice stitches and then decided maybe I’d make a pillow or something easy to begin with. But…all my Annie supplies, which I purchased months ago, were just sitting there and I couldn’t stop myself. I started on my first doll!

I was actually pretty surprised at how easy the first part was. I mean, I HAVE used a sewing machine before and this wasn’t terribly complicated. I had all my body parts ready in a matter of minutes!

Stuffing my Annie seemed to be the most time consuming. I was so glad I purchased a hemostats, which my favorite doll maker Raggedy Old Annie recommended in the instructions that came with her pattern (this is her pattern, by the way). I was confused about how to stitch on the face, so I did it before I stuffed, which resulted in being able to see the thread underneath the material a little bit. I figured out later how to do this correctly. By this time it was pretty late at night and as much as I wanted to keep going I had to call it a night.

Early Sunday morning I was ready to continue! The next step was painting the legs and shoes. After I started I realized I forgot to hang up some sort of line for them to dry. So Caden was my temporary drying rack.

Then I had to get creative since it was time to go to church and the shoes were still wet.

Her face is complete! I painted on the eyes since I couldn’t figure out the button thing. Most of the Annie’s I own have button eyes, but I thought the painted eyes turned out pretty cute!

The biggest problem I had with this entire process was trying to sew lace on to the edge of the dress. For whatever reason I could not get the sewing machine to sew them together. Maybe somebody who knows a lot more about sewing various materials could help me with this problem. I eventually just gave up. It still looks cute. I also had a really hard time figuring out how to make the bloomers. I’ve never sewn any type of clothes before and my mind couldn’t get around how to do it. The dress was easier because it’s really just a skirt. I need to figure out how to make a true dress next.

Time for the coffee staining! I was shocked at how dark it looked when I started painting it on, but I went with it. I love the coffee stained look. The dolls just look more treasured to me this way.

While I was staining (very late at night!) I realized I still hadn’t hung up a type of drying rack. So I yelled for Greg to rig something up for me. I meant a clothes line. Instead he hung strings straight down from the ceiling. I couldn’t stop laughing over it. Jack thought we hung up a toy for him.

Funny, but it worked!

I pretty much spent all of Sunday night thinking about how to make the bloomers. I realized it really wasn’t that hard. So the minute I woke up on Monday I was back at it! The only problem I had was making the leg holes too small. I really had to force the feet through them.

And finally, after tying on the clothes and sewing on the hair I had a completed Annie!! It only took me a couple of hours over the course of two days and that thing I wanted so badly, but thought nearly impossible, was suddenly right in front of me! I learned so much doing this and I’m so incredibly proud of myself. And now that I’ve learned how to do this, I don’t want to stop! I may or may not have made two more dolls in the last two days, but can’t show any pictures because they’re for a certain holiday coming up next month. 😉 I’ve pretty much been sewing nonstop the last four days, ignoring all my other duties and responsibilities. I’m trying to spend today catching up on laundry and cleaning, but all I can think about is what kind of doll I want to make next! This is so much fun!