The “perfect” Christmas 

Hi Everyone! Hope you are warm and safe and dry. If I have any readers in Alaska, I hope you are safe and suffered minimal damage up there.  This was another week where on Monday I thought to myself, ” I will finish my blog post tomorrow”, which somehow turned into Saturday!  

I have finished the Christmas decorating and been subjected to hours of non-stop Christmas music by Miss L.  As always happens right before or just after Thanksgiving, I began to feel my inner Grinch seep out. This time I decided to stop and get to the bottom of this yearly phenomenon and to POSSIBLY exorcise it once and for all. If you are lucky you won’t have to read about it here next year and maybe I can redeem myself to my kids and future grandkids. Put your seat belts on because I’m down to about 10% of my original filter and have reached the Age of Honesty. This may turn into a series before the season is over.

First, I think somewhere in my lineage there is either Scandinavian or Shaker ancestry. Our modern Christmas is overwhelming to me. Too much stuff, too many lights, people, food, traffic, etc.  I’m pretty sure I can trace that back as far as my teenage years and at heart I am a minimalist that can’t seem to shake (but by George I’m trying) literal and figurative baggage. My idea of decorations for Christmas is a green tree with white lights and white ornaments, white candles on the mantle and some greenery. Boom. Done. Simple. Elegant.  When we get the new house finished  I will probably add a Moravian star on the porch. I have been told more than once that I don’t get the Spirit of Christmas. If it involves the above excess, then I don’t want it. The only Spirit of Christmas I have any desire for is the company of friends and family and the candlelight midnight service at church. 


Second, the expectations of what Christmas “should” be have been blown so out of proportion that there is no wonder people are depressed during the holidays. My parents tell of getting AN ORANGE as their treat for Christmas. My guess is that they savored every bite of that orange. What do we really savor during the frenzy of shopping, cooking, parties, ripping open piles of gifts? How the heck are we supposed to Martha Stewart our way through the holidays with a spotless house, hundreds of cards mailed, perfect hair, gourmet home cooked goodies and angelic (though sugared up) children? It’s a myth people. Concocted by marketers who each year are expected to out tear jerk last year’s Christmas advertising. I spent my whole career in advertising, marketing and retail. That is where Grinches are born! 

Gifts. In my perfect Christmas there would be no gift giving. The financial burden and stress that this causes so many people every year is the antithesis of what Christmas should be about. Gifts should be given spontaneously during the year and only to show thoughtfulness and true affection or appreciation. I can tell you that in my years as a young parent and later as a single parent, the cost of trying to gift everyone at one time AND make them HAPPY was nothing short of a horrendous burden. I worked two jobs for years just to pay the bills and tried to squirrel away money all year long just to try to have enough to buy gifts for my kids that would come close to what their friends would get so they would not feel different THEN prayed my car didn’t break down or an appliance quit on me and I would have to spend the Christmas money. 

Pay attention to the people in your circle. Is there someone who gets sick or has a conflict with that party every year where a $25 gift AND food is expected to be brought? Do they “conveniently” miss the meeting where everyone is expected to pitch in for the bosses’ gift? Do they “forget” that they needed to bring items for underprivileged children? Guess what. They are struggling to keep THEIR kids’ names off that Christmas tree! People, give up the gift and money expectations. Do what you can and leave everyone else to do what they can…AND DONT GOSSIP ABOUT THEM. They are losing precious sleep wondering how they are going to DO Christmas AND pay the freakin’ power bill. If you can’t understand why someone isn’t out fighting Black Friday crowds or throwing lots of Christmas Spirit money in every charity  pot that gets passed around, then appreciate how blessed you are not to be counting every quarter and give some grace to those who have to. When I say “grace” I don’t mean a handout. I mean understanding. Understanding that people deal with many different challenges during the Christmas season. Depression and grief don’t leave much room for joyous shopping or giving. Caregiving can suck the lifeblood out of others. Single parents deal with financial burdens, social stigmas and loneliness during the holidays. The Christmas Spirit should be giving understanding, support and non-judgement instead of expecting Starbucks cards, extravagant gifts and constant holiday enthusiasm. 

I practice the Christian faith, the teachings of Jesus Christ, who didn’t do much of anything that was a societal norm. He was born in a dirty barn. The only ones who brought him gifts were three wealthy men. The shepherds and the Angels simply worshipped a miraculous birth and savored the moment. That was the perfect Christmas. 

Wishing you a week of miracles. 

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Do not open that door yet!

Why does it seem to be the “simple” things that turn out so difficult?  Monday gave me a false sense of mastery I guess. I managed to get our taxes done without too much pain and agony even with all the life changes this year.

Then Tuesday I decided to upgrade this website to a new and improved version with a new theme and bells and whistles. Let’s see, five and a half hours later I gave up and requested a refund for the upgrades I paid for. Yes, I over estimated my technology skills!

If you have been a reader you may have noticed I did make some changes (and more to come), but nothing major.  Just a slightly different theme.

What I did realize a few days later was that I wasn’t ready for any major changes here yet.  I got ahead of myself.  I had been on a roll with artwork and then putting some work in a consignment shop, then making changes to my Etsy shop.  There hasn’t been enough time for those improvements to kick in yet.

Am I the only one that rushes into things?  I get an idea and run with it before I have thought the process out.  Tuesday was one of those times when the door stayed shut for a reason.  Eventually I would have had to cancel the upgrades because I don’t have the income to support them yet and I’m not sure I would have been able to come back to this free version at that point.

At least I learned how to backup this site so I don’t lose all this valuable (ha, ha) content in case I do something stupid in the future.  One baby step at a time!

I did get in a chicken drawing this week though!  Yes, I’m using my skill with a pen to pacify my bruised ego right now. I think after Tuesday’s debacle I will go draw the rooster too.

hen-drawing

Have a great week and don’t go through any doors you aren’t ready to have slammed behind you!

 

 

 

 

Door photo credit – Adam Birkett

My Pinterest addiction

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Two years ago this month I cut the cord of cable tv. The only reason I did not do it earlier was because I still had one teenager at home who thought he couldn’t live without it. As I watched him play hours of video games with his friends and grow to the sofa, marathon watching a series on Netflix, I was pretty sure he could survive without it but indulged him for the last year I had him at home. Ok, I admit to a weak parental moment.

With him off to his first year in college and me having downsized for the second time, I finally bid goodbye to the 150 channels of which I only watched two. I bought a Roku and a digital antenna, kept my subscription to Netflix and Amazon (I use it primarily for the shopping/shipping but it’s there for the watching) and waited for my HGTV withdrawal symptoms to start.  That was my only real concern about giving up cable.

As a lifetime maker/diy-er I got endless ideas from HGTV. I wasn’t sure I could live without it. But, like any addiction, there are many ways to get your fix. Pinterest entered my life. I blame my daughter for my newest addiction which has completely surpassed the HGTV problem. I am a HEAVY user.

Check out the number of pins I have. I think it's safe to call this an addiction.
Check out the number of pins I have. I think it’s safe to call this an addiction.

So why is Pinterest a problem for me? Because it has not only invaded my home improvement life, but my cooking, gardening, art, design, hobby and pet life as well. Forget Google. If I need to find something I do a search on Pinterest, then I have to start a new board to keep all that new info. I have given up reading novels before bed (what had been one of my great loves since I learned how to read) and Pinterest myself to sleep now.  As I write this I have over 15,000 pins!!!

I use Pinterest to inspire my design work when I am stuck on a work problem and to keep up with current trends. I find new recipes to perk up my cooking when I’m in a rut. There is the Art board, the Mixed Media board, the Mosaics board, the Fabric board, the Travel board, even the Critters board. In total I have 40 boards right now. Heck, I have recently culled a few  boards and deleted many pins that I decided were highly unlikely to ever be done in this lifetime.

How could you not just love something when you can find things like this! (Hey, I did some serious research to find these 😉

Facebook does not corner the market on bad jokes.
Facebook does not corner the market on bad jokes.
No explanation needed for this one.
No explanation needed for this one.
I think I had this same outfit back in the 70's.
I think I had this same outfit back in the 70’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have started to dip my toes into the Pinterest business marketing, but still have some learning to do.  I would love suggestions or information about how you or other businesses you know have used it and if it has worked.  I should at least try to make some money with all that time I spend on there.

With my most serious warning combined with my highest recommendation, if you need some inspiration, motivation, instruction or amusement I suggest you check out Pinterest if you haven’t discovered it yet. And now I have stepped into the realm of Pinterest pusher.

I think I know what I will need to give up for Lent this year 😳.

A typical day in the life of…

wheat3If you have been reading my blog at all, I’m sure you might be wondering what the heck this crazy woman does for a living.  She is all over the place and none of it seems to be connected. Let me try and explain it.

For thirty years I have been a graphic designer.  That has taken many forms.  I worked for a newspaper as a designer/illustrator, an art director at an ad agency, production artist at a printing company, a freelancer, co-owned a printing company, did sales and some design at another printing company and now am a self-employed designer and print broker.  Whew!

But wait! That’s not all!  I have also often worked a second job in retail and currently as the office manager at my local community theatre part-time and am also an artist/maker (which is what you get to read about here).  I usually sell a few pieces of art each year and get a commissioned piece or two in that time frame.  I have an Etsy shop that is slowly growing and bringing in more income.  What may be on there when you visit is a changing assortment of my creations.  I seem to like to work in everything! I try to narrow it down, but I have creative ADD.  I paint, draw, work with glass & metal, fabric, etc.  Maybe one day I will limit myself to just three things.  I don’t think I can do less than that.

I listen to several podcasts about creativity, art, etc. (I will list those for you soon) and happened to hear one artist explaining how so many of us creative folks survive.  She called it “cobbling together” a career.  That’s about as good as I can visualize.  Maybe the game Tetris would evoke a good visual of that as well.  We piece together some crazy mixture of things that suit us and that brings in enough income to allow us to continue along our merry way.

There also seems to be a fierce independence that we are born with that makes it very difficult to work in a corporate world or even just for someone else.  It’s not that we are bad employees.  Often we are extremely hardworking people.  We just work vastly better on our own.  It seems we work when others are asleep, either early morning or late at night.  We require strange breaks to do odd mundane errands that often give us those “AH HA” moments of insight to solve a problem. We need constant novelty for inspiration so we will be found delving into some new obsession until we have it firmly encased in our brain, only to have it come out as some new version of our art.

It is not an easy way to live.  People don’t get it.  Especially those people who raise us.  They don’t understand why we don’t go to a normal office job with health insurance and retirement plans.  We don’t necessarily like living on the edge of disaster where one illness or accident could wipe us out.  Those of us who are single are especially vulnerable with only one household income.  But eventually, it is either “cobble together” a way of life that gives us a life or slowly disentigrate into depression and illness.

In my strange assortment of jobs over the years I was able to fulfill one very important goal that I do not regret.  I was able to be with my kids as they grew up.  I’m not sure they were thrilled to have to sit through business meetings at the Chamber of Commerce or help put together dance program books at our printing company for hours on end, but I knew where they were, what they were doing and who they were with.  As I sit here now with both of them having recently flown from the nest, I don’t have one second of regret that my choices were not always the most monetarily lucrative.  The years passed in minutes and I look at the people they have become and know I did the right thing. I am very proud of those two who have set out to make the world better.

I tried for many, many years to fit into “normal”, but inevitiably I would be miserable which would turn me from an optimistic, cheerful person into a resentful, depressed and short-tempered shrew.  Evidently, God got tired of listening to me complain and five years ago, pretty much pried my fingers off the railing of the Safe Ship and threw me into the raging ocean.  It was scary, especially with two teenagers to feed, but He also threw me a couple of life savers to keep me afloat until I gained some swimming strength.  Since then, I have been the happiest I have ever been.

My cobbled life fits me.  It’s not safe, but in this world “normal” isn’t safe anymore either.  My life ebbs and flows like the seasons.  I have the ability to shift with the winds when necessary. Actually much easier than if I had a “normal” job.  Success is not measured in dollars in the bank in my world.  It is measured in the satisfaction of knowing I have poured out my talents to the best of my ability every day and that I have not neglected people in exchange for money.

Where are we going?

How are things going at your business these days? Is your job secure or is it gone already? Is the marketing you’ve been doing for years still working for you?

I have been in the printing industry for over 20 years now. On the news the other day I heard that it is now much more cost effective to send a Kindle (if you don’t know what that is, look it up. Online, not in the dictionary) loaded with 10,000 books overseas than to actually send 10,000 books overseas. The days of actually holding a real book in your hand are disappearing. Ink on paper is disappearing. What do you do when your industry is disappearing or shrinking dramatically?

Most of you reading this are in my generation. We still like paper and ink. Now, I haven’t actually tried to read a book on a Kindle so I can’t say that I dislike the experience, but I do know that I love books. When I’ve tried to read a book on my desktop computer I found it uncomfortable and eyestraining.

So, do I continue to work in the same way I always have and wait until there is no more work available? The conversations I have had recently with my peers have us all competing for the position of Walmart Greeter in a few years. I have been listening and watching my two teenagers. Yes, that’s part of my job as a parent, but I have noticed that they are watching more TV on the computer, keeping up with friends on Facebook and texting, doing all their homework research online as well as often turning in their assignments online. They do not have the attachment to ink and paper that I do, so I decided to do what I always do when I want information. I headed to the library (I love those too) and got some BOOKS!

I just finished reading “Six Pixels Of Separation” by Mitch Joel. If you are willing to be open to new ways of reaching and connecting to potential new customers, I highly recommend you read this. It is written in conversational language, not IT talk. It makes you think about where things are headed. Our kids are not becoming socially inept. The opposite is happening. They are able to reach people a world away and grow the relationships. They do it differently than we do, but remember when our parents didn’t like (understand) our generation? Do you really want to admit that you have become your parents?

Here is your first lesson on connecting online. Below is a place for comments. Please contribute your thoughts. I would love to hear them and I suspect so would others. An economist I heard speak yesterday doesn’t hold out much optimisim for the economy to turn around in the next two years. We need to help each other not only stay afloat, but to grow and thrive.

Have a great week,
Christel