Monday, November 26, 2012

Thankful, Topped with Pride and Awe

I ate the last turkey sandwich for lunch today.  Which means Thanksgiving is really over, but I’m still feeling thankful. And this year, so is Amelia…which was a delightful surprise.  

Amelia will turn five in a few days. In parent-time, that means about ten minutes ago the friendly staff at the maternity ward watched us haplessly strap her into her carseat and wished us luck. Seriously, it’s been that quick. Except for bedtime. 
This year we hosted Thanksgiving.  Cooking a turkey scares the hell out of me, so I put off thinking about it as long as possible with a few crafts. The thankful pumpkin knocked my socks off. I figured we could do some hokey family bonding and end up with a nice centerpiece. Only it wasn’t hokey at all. 
Note the doorknob in the middle!
The craft is pretty simple, although we improvised some because we didn’t have brads or paper fasteners. Who uses paper fasteners anymore? We don’t, so I substituted an extra cabinet doorknob with a short screw and a flat face at the bottom. If my sister is reading this, she’s laughing her head off that we have an extra doorknob but not a paper fastener.  But we did, and I figured the doorknob would give the pumpkin some weight on the bottom to keep it upright on the table. 

Never fully dressed without a crown.

Start with a dozen or so paper strips.  I wanted a larger pumpkin than the tutorial, so I cut larger strips.  Then use a hole puncher to make a hole on each end of each strip. 

Now comes the pride and awe part. Each member of the family names things they are thankful for, and their words are written on the strips of paper.  A year ago, even a few months ago, Amelia wouldn’t have distinguished between “thankful” and “thank you.”  She’d be thankful for a cookie or a toy or passing the mac and cheese.  But this year, somehow, she understood that thankful is bigger. Without a moment’s hesitation, she told us that she is thankful for our family. For her friends. For love.  
Awe.  And awwwww.

Once I picked my chin up off the floor, we threaded the screw through the holes at one end of each strip of paper, and secured it into the doorknob.  I can’t vouch for the paper fastener version, but a doorknob worked pretty well.

Last, gather up the other end of each strip, keeping them in the same sequence they are in at the base, and thread a pipecleaner (or a paper fastener if you have such a thing) through the top holes. Bend the pipecleaner to keep it in the holes, and for good measure we added a leaf.

That’s it!  A fine centerpiece, simple activity, and endless parental pride in the amazingly perceptive, kind, grown-up girl Amelia’s become in almost five years. Or ten minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Craving more crafty fun? Check out additional posts of A Crafty Mess over at Charlotte Parent. Or stop by my Etsy store, Made by Mommy.  Or better yet, leave a comment here...I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Made by Mommy!

That’s right, it’s sort of my birthday. Or anniversary. Or holy-crap-where-did-that-time-go day. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s worthy of celebration. One year ago today, I opened my Etsy store. I made a handful of aprons, took photos of them in my backyard and on the kitchen counter, and Made by Mommy went live.
The original batch, 227 aprons ago.
How do you measure a year on Etsy? Well, as of noon today, 5,792 people have viewed my store, 165 have been intrigued enough to “favorite” an item, and 79 have made purchases totaling 227 aprons, 6 puppet theatres, 2 sets of burp cloths and a quilt. I don’t know if these stats are good or bad compared with others’ experiences, but I’m feeling pretty great about it.
Seriously, I love Etsy. For a good chunk of the past year, I had a “real” job I didn’t love, and Made by Mommy was literally born out of creative frustration. Each sale reinforces that someone, somewhere, likes what I make. The feedback, thank you notes, blog links, and photos from people all over the country wearing my aprons are like little professional affirmations – which for a while there, I really needed to hear. 
Today, I don’t need the affirmations in quite the same way, but they are a reminder of something I take for granted. I tend to think that if something is easy for me to do, it must be just as easy for everyone else and therefore isn’t valuable. I’ve learned, and my customers have helped me see, that this isn’t true. It is possible to have a talent for something, enjoy it, and make a career of it. This is important to remember if you hope to love your job – doing what you love is possible, and definitely preferable. Just ask an actor. Or an athlete. Or a Mommy who gets to sew during the day, at least some days.  
Sew (haha) Happy Birthday Made by Mommy, and here's to many more!
And now I’m going to make a cake.

Are you looking for more craftiness?  Check out additional posts of A Crafty Mess over at Charlotte Parent!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Productive Procrastination?

I didn’t think this would be a problem.  I thought if I patched together a whole bunch of projects, I’d always have something interesting to do.  If you like what you’re doing motivation comes naturally, right?

Sort of. I like my new work/life balance. I love freelancing, crafting, running my Etsy store, and I really love having the flexibility to do everything else - visit Amelia at school, pick her up early, make lunch dates, volunteer, bake, etc, etc, etc.  So what’s the problem, you wonder?   
I decide what to do when. That’s right, it is all up to me. And my Type A personality gets in the way of realistic prioritization or real balance.
You see, a long to-do list makes me crazy. If there is something on the list that I can do quickly, even if it isn’t urgent, I do it.  I just want it off the list.  It’s list clutter and it must be gone. I have the same reaction to physical clutter. If I have a project with a lot of supplies that are sitting in a corner, just waiting to be used, that pile is all I see.  Even if the project isn’t at all time-sensitive, I do it first just to eliminate that waiting pile of stuff. Today, that’s what happened.
It is Sunday. I have 3 writing deadlines this week.  Job leads to pursue.  A self-imposed sewing schedule to keep my Etsy store stocked. Laundry. Grocery shopping. Not to mention a sneezing daughter and coughing husband who both need attention. So how did I spend most of the day? Reupholstering my neighbor’s sunroom furniture. 

Looking good!
Back in July, I promised her I would do this.  It’s a promise that’s been in the back of my mind, nagging me ever since. But there has never been any hurry, and we hadn’t even purchased fabric yet.  Fast forward to three days ago.  We bought the fabric.  I told her I’d try to get this done by Thanksgiving. She told me there’s no hurry at all. But since Wednesday, a large roll of fabric has been standing in the corner of my sewing room, and my neighbor’s patio cushions have been stacked in the garage.  We both knew this wouldn’t wait a minute longer than it had to.
I love this cushion fabric
And so it’s done. I spent the day cutting, sewing, and delivering patio cushions across the street. Amelia helped, carting cushions and throw pillows between the garage, the sewing machine, and the neighbors’ house. She pieced together scraps of fabric and watched me intently, asking why we make things for people. I told her it’s something we’re good at doing and she proudly agreed. 
So, was this procrastination? The neighbors are happy. Their sunroom looks great, and I checked it off my to do list.  It was cluttering both the list and the garage.
But other items on the list have deadlines. Long term projects that are harder to imagine completed, yet require steady attention. My “real job” is museum planning and writing.  Often there are months or years of work on paper before there is anything physical to see. It’s fascinating to me to delve deep into a subject, to research objects and stories and translate it all into an experience for visitors. It’s interesting and rewarding, and I work with creative teams. It also requires committees and reviews and edits and lots of patience. I think the appeal of sewing for me is that it is just the opposite.  As fabric runs through the machine, it literally creates a finished trail. Progress is visible and the product is tangible. And so it satisfies my Type A need to check things off and know how it ends. 
So…productive procrastination or work-work balance?
Speaking of checking things off, I needed to write a blog post. Check.