rubber stamping


Most of you know when I visit your blog, it is sporadic and I try to catch up what I have missed. This is not because I do not feel like blogging/visiting or because I am goofing off.  It is because I am busy. Granted, much of it is self-imposed busy, but busy I am.

Last week I looked at my life since Thanksgiving, and there have been THREE days since then in which I did not have a specific deadline of something that HAD to be done on a day. Now I do not have a “real job,” so my deadlines are not usually reports or presentations; they can be anything. (For my church treasurer job, I do have reports and presentations due at least monthly, however.) It may be a Friday, and those days always mean a ton of food has to be made because I cook for Friday and Saturday on Fridays.  My point is that the things I have to get done may not seem like deadline material, but for me there is always a reason something has to be done by a specific day.

So I thought I would show you some of what I have been doing for the past three months. (It is MARCH? Christmas is just around the corner!)

It started with Chic’s birthday. Since it was the Christmas season, she requested poinsettia cupcakes for school.

There are 13 children in Chic's classroom, but her teacher refuses to do cupcakes before school is out. (What's wrong with lunch?) This irritates me because when Chic gets cupcakes for a birthday, there is never one for her sister. I made sure every sibling of every classmate had a cupcake, too. (I wanted to leave out the teacher, but I was polite.)

Remember my Elf Escapades? Here are a few things I made for that.

Clockwise from top left: Napkin rings, box to hold napkin rings, "Merry" bag for the 12th night, tree bag. I made all the things shown. I loved it, but it does put a dent into one's time.

Clockwise from top left: 1) Napkin rings. 2) Box for napkin rings. 3) "Merry" gift bag for the last night. 4) Evergreen tree gift bag.

This was the best Elf Victim yet! On the 9th or 10th night, I was met at the door by this.

Sorry for the lousy picture, but I didn't want to get caught! This was the 12th night of Elf Delivery, and the front door and garage door of this house were OPEN! I took Chic with me for the experience, but it didn't help with the stealth. On the door are all the notes I left with gifts (the notes appeared on the 9th night), and there was a gift for me, too. I have never been so wonderfully welcomed!

Next is the Christmas ornaments and boxes. Since 1995 I have made a Christmas ornament yearly. It started as a gift to the infant daughters of very close friends and has grown to a few other girls (some now in high school) like my daughters and niece and some other special friends/family (aunts, etc.).

This year I made 36 "icicles" and boxes to hold them all.

For the staff Christmas party at school, there was an ornament exchange. This is the box I made, and inside was one of my annual ornaments, left over from about 3 years back.

This box was very last-minute, but I just loved how it turned out.

This is the holiday treat we give E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. They are called pizzelles and are Italian, waffle-like cookies made in a special iron.

I can't remember how many of these we made, but I know it was over 1000. I made the first 1/3 of them, then Prince Charming did the rest. (Bless him!)

Don’t forget the school treats. I made about 30 of the ones on the left for Chic’s classmates/friends plus the kids in my class at church. (She painted the sticks.) Chicklet’s class treats were on the right. I only had to make about 10 of those.

This is one of my favorite things–a gift for my nephew. When we visited Missouri in November I learned that he (who is Chic’s age, eight) is really into seeds. I was walking around my yard one day and noticed so many seeds. I started to gather them for him, then I thought I would just make that his Christmas gift. So I made seed packets (with pictures if I had them–stamped or drawn if I did not) for all of them and instructions for growing.

I never realized how many seeds I had in my own yard!

Next is the annual gift. Last year I made “winter” banners as holiday gifts for close friends/family. This year I did “spring.” (Can you guess what it will be next year?) I made 17 of these. Each one takes 2-1/2 – 3 hours. Call me an idiot!

Another rotten picture; I was pressed for time. But the good (?) news is that I have an extra of these. If you would like to be in a drawing for it, e-mail me at louisestamps at aol dot com to let me know. You have until Monday, March 8, to e-mail me.

Let’s move to Valentine’s  Day! (We left shortly after Christmas to drop off Chic in Tennessee. I was home one day before a business trip, then 1-1/2 weeks before visiting Chic. January was a blur.) These are the boxes I assembled for my Valentine’s for all the students in my art classes.

I made up about 55 of these boxes.

These are the cookies that went in the boxes above. VERY. BAD. to have these things in my house! Very bad!

I have no idea how many cookies I made, but it was about 8 or 9 batches. (I did double/triple batches in the mixer so I cannot remember.)

These are boxes I made for special people such as my friend in TN who is taking care of Chic and some special people at church. I made them from flat, chipboard hearts.

I made 8 of these boxes.

Something had to go in these boxes, so I made homemade truffles. It was a first for me. Slightly time-consuming, but really no more so than anything else I do.

The dark ones are Oreo truffles and the light ones are Italian truffles.

As I was making the heart boxes above, I kept thinking of other people for whom I would like to make some. The problem was that I only had chipboard hearts to make eight. But I had regular chipboard, so I die-cut square scallops to make four more boxes.

The left one was for someone VERY into brown, so it does not look much like Valentine's Day.

There were also quite a number of Valentine treats for classmates of which I forgot to take pictures.

The below items are also for special people for Valentine’s Day. They are super fuzzy socks wound to resemble ice cream. I made “cones” for them and packaged them. I also put chocolate oil on them. One recipient still has not opened hers because she thinks it is so cute. I made 18 of the bigger ones for adults and 6 of the smaller ones for children.

Clockwise from top left: 1) All of the socks put into their "cones." 2) The finished packages. 3) Notice the finished packages have "sprinkles on the cones. I made them by punching out holes. 4) This is some of the paper left over after the punching.

Being so industrious means that eventually the holidays will slow down and I can move on to other things. The next two are “name frames” I made for girls I visited a year ago. I took pictures of their rooms and just now got around to making the 8″ x 10″ art for them.

Clearly Kendra's mom is good at decorating!

Kayla is Kendra's older sister who had just redecorated her own room. (The decorating thing must be genetic.)

Just last weekend Chicklet was invited to a birthday party. She could not go because CHIC IS HOME FOR SPRING BREAK THIS WEEK!!!!!!! But I made a container quickly to take on Friday and filled it with craft items. I thought it turned out well.

This is a large canister that used to hold SlimFast. I love the size of these so I collect them to decorate at such times.

This week I am not doing anything of the sort because CHIC IS HOME FOR SPRING BREAK!!!! We have had several other activities already and have more on the agenda.

If you comment, be honest with me. Tell me if you love this or hate it. Tell me if you think I am insane. If you knew me in real life, would all of the above make you love me or love to hate me? (Your answers do not matter that much because I do these things because I love to do them, but I am interested in perceptions. I have all viewpoints in my “real life” acquaintances.)

Next projects? Easter!

As if I am not absent enough from this space (and yours), today I am heading east for a few days. The official reason is a stamping event, but the real reason is that I will get to three states I have never been to before (thus making me three states ahead of Prince Charming on the count, a position where he will likely never pass me–47 total). Going east in the fall is not exactly a stupid thing to do, either. Although I realize I am going to FREEZE, I can hardly wait to see the colorful leaves.

And to add icing to this lovely cake, I will be meeting Mrs. Chili and O’Mama during my trip. How exciting!

It is unlikely I will do much blog visiting, but in the event you came here to see something for

or

I am leaving you with a picture of my recent sky and the one tree I have that gets pretty in the fall.

Sunrise two days ago. The sky was amazing in every direction. (I say that too much, don't I?)

Sunrise two days ago. The sky was amazing in every direction. (I say that too much, don't I?)

This is some kind of ash tree in my front yard. It is still small--maybe 2-1/2 times as tall as me--but it really is pretty in the fall.

This is some kind of ash tree in my front yard. It is still small--maybe 2-1/2 times as tall as me--but it really is pretty in the fall.

Hopefully I will have some things to show you when I return (and I never finished my Utah trip in the blog.) Have a terrific weekend!

PaperCake
Today is someone’s birthday. Not mine. I never talk about my birthday. But I love to talk about others’ birthdays. And today, Donald Kinney from A Photo A Day (and some other terrific blogs) is 62!
Kitty would make something like this for Don if she could.

Kitty would make something like this for Don if she could.

If you have never been to his place, GO. NOW! He lives near San Francisco and is one of my very favorite photographers. He gets great images from the city, and many more from surrounding areas. My favorites are usually his captures of wildflowers, but he makes art of anything.  Worth the visit. Tell him Happy Birthday, and send him some virtual cookies!

Cookies

For some randomness, I first need to clarify two things from this post. First, Chic is 7. I said she was 8. She will be 8 in a few months. I am not even sure what made me think she was 8 when I was typing, except that all the cousins  “her age” are already 8.

The second thing is that the picture of the bike wreck was a re-enactment without Chicklet in the trailer. I actually had my camera with me when the crash occurred. (I am lucky it did not get banged up.) But when my dramatic, overreacting girl is silent and not moving after a potentially bad accident, a camera is not what I am thinking about. So when I decided to tell the story, I tipped over the trailer after a later bike ride–after Chicklet was out–to get a picture. (She was all too happy to not actually be in it when I did that.)

And thanks for all of your kind wishes. For something so bad, it really was fine.

My last piece of randomness today is about tomatoes. I love home-grown tomatoes, and I grow them every year. My climate is not conducive to this, and the last two years I have not gotten any to speak of until mid-August. This is just wrong, but I continue because I need them, if only for a short while. And by now–only two weeks later, the nights are getting cool enough that they are already slowing production. I barely get enough to use for ourselves, definitely not enough to can, and rarely enough to give away. BUT… I LOVE to give away tomatoes. It makes people happy, and that makes me happy.  So I thought you might like to see this.

TomatoBag

Since I do not have that many to give away, only 4-6 at a time (plus a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes), I decided to put them in cute bags. I made a bunch of these so when I have tomatoes, they are ready to go. This makes me even happier.

Now about a different me. This was me a while back.

LongHair-March

I have been getting more and more tired of my long hair. I love it when I do something with it, but it takes more and more work to do that. Drying time if I style it is 45 minutes – 1 hour. (If I do not style it? Pretty much all day to dry.)  Needless to say, my schedule does not accommodate this regularly, so usually I just let it go. Some days are better than others, but the low humidity that makes every day a good hair day when I style it makes most days bad hair days when I do not. So for a while I have been thinking about cutting it off. But it was long enough that I wanted to make sure I could donate what was cut, and I was not sure it was QUITE long enough for that, so I was waiting.

But it kept bugging me. I finally decided to do it this fall. I was getting my hair trimmed last week. I would talk to the hair dresser about it and hopefully plan to do the big chop at my next visit.

But I went in for the trim, and my hairdresser, whose hair has been similar to mine since I met her, had CUT HER HAIR! While waiting I squirmed in my chair. I LONGED to have mine cut. But I had made no preparations. It might not be long enough. I did not have ponytail holders. Maybe I should wait and try to do it somewhat publicly to raise awareness and money for the cause?

So I sat in her chair and she said, “The usual trim?” I spilled my story, culminating with HER hair. She said she was SURE mine was long enough to donate. (10 inches for one place, 12 inches for another.) I asked if she had ponytail holders. She’s a hairdresser, of course she did!

So she made two ponytails and braided them. Just to be sure she measured them. TWELVE INCHES! Then she cut them off.

CutHair

This is me now.

ShortHair

I did this 1-1/2 weeks a go. A few people who know me in real life might be surprised to see this. The crazy thing? I hate attention… HATE. IT. I sort of like being noticed, but hate attention. (How whacked is that?) So cutting twelve inches off my hair is a sure way to avoid attention, right? The only thing I really regret is that since this was on a whim, I did not have a chance to take a good picture of my hair from the back. If I started today, it would take about five years to get it back to the length it was. The braids were in the mail to Locks of Love the next morning. It is in my past. I am happy.

When I met Prince Charming, my hair was about the same length as it was before I cut it. We lived a long way from each other and only saw each other about once a month. After a few months I cut it quite similarly to how it is now and did not tell him. It was a test of sorts–to see if he would flip out because so many shallow men demand “their women” have long hair. He passed the test. In fact, he loved it. I obviously did not tell him it was happening this time, either, since I did not know myself. But he loved it again. He’s a keeper.

Two days ago it was my “Blogiversary.” There was another post scheduled for that day, and I do not get terribly wrapped up in these things, so I did not say anything. But I want to say something now because I will do a giveaway, and I LOVE to do giveaways!

But first, you must endure some of my chatter mostly about our trip. It will be a hodgepodge as this blog has seemed to be over the past year. (Or you can skip to the giveaway stuff at the end!)

Chic~Turtle

Chic found a turtle just as we were headed to church. Since turtles are not common in our world, I HAD to let her play with it a few minutes. (We were late to church.)

We were almost 2 weeks in Missouri. (It WAS two weeks if we count the travel days.) When I make these trips, the purpose for them is for my business, but that only takes a day. The rest of the time I visit family and friends, shop (I hate shopping and rarely do it here, but there are necessities so I do it in Missouri where I have more time, and the stores I like are closer) and maybe spend a day or two in Branson. (My dad loves to take us to Branson.) But this trip was a little different.

Remember Grandma D and on her birthday she was in the hospital after a botched surgery? Well, that has not gone well. She almost died three separate times since that surgery. (Needless to say, they are not paying any of the medical bills.) I realized right away that it was going to be a burden for us to be there so long, so I decided to do the cooking and some cleaning. Prince Charming scanned some of my recipes, e-mailed them to me and that’s what I did most of the time. I did not cook EVERY day, but quite a bit, and made enough that they should have had plenty for at least a week after we left. We did not go shopping the entire time. That was fine, but there were a few things I needed.

Scissortail Flycatcher on wire--click photo to enlarge

Scissortail Flycatcher on wire--click photo to enlarge

The girls and I drove to Missouri not long after school was out, then Prince Charming flew in after two weeks. He was there one full day, but we had lunch with a former professor of his that day and planted two letterboxes. One is in honor of the Scissortail Flycatcher that we always used to see on a road on which we lived. I took my bike on this trip in hopes for some exercise (moderately successful) and found the bird in two other areas I had never seen before. My camera lens is not made to get good bird shots, but these are not bad. I like the still one, and the other one is a bit blurry, but you can at least see the tail action. It is so interesting to watch them fly.

Scissortail Flycatcher in flight -- click photo to enlarge.

Scissortail Flycatcher in flight -- click photo to enlarge.

It also must be noted that I have wonderful friends in Missouri. During the two weeks I was there, my children were whisked away from me four times (in addition to the two times I needed babysitting), and three of those times included overnight stays. (It gives a parent pause to think about the advantages of moving back to the land of heat and humidity–and no job for my husband!)

My brother and his wife also live there. His wife is who went to Silver Dollar City with us. We could not have survived the day without her! But since my girls are never in Missouri on their birthdays, they decided to have a birthday party for them. The girls were so excited, and it turned out to be a surprise for yours truly as well, since MY birthday is never when we visit! Wasn’t that thoughtful?

BirthdayCake~Candles

During all the cooking I sliced my finger with a very. sharp. vegetable peeler. I am no wimp, but this was a bad cut. WARNING! GORY PHOTO AHEAD. I’LL LEAVE SOME SPACE SO YOU CAN SKIP IT IF YOU WANT. It was about 3/4″ long, 3/16″ wide and 1/8″ deep. It bled like crazy. I finally managed a bandage and antibiotic cream, and the picture is of it after two days of this. There was barely any healing at this point.

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The reason I am even telling you this is because Grandma D had a liquid bandage which I put applied on the 3rd day. I did not take pictures of the healing progression (I really am not a very good blogger, but I will say that I have other things going on all of the time), but in ONE day the cut had reduced in size by more than half. Three days later, it was all but healed. Now I can just barely see where it was, and I do not even think it is going to leave an ugly scar. (Bump. I really don’t care about scars, but I have a bump on a finger from a childhood cut.) This blog is NOT about product endorsements, but if you have never tried this stuff, it is SO worth it! I made Prince Charming buy some. I think it will also be great in our dry, dry winters when our fingers have big, ugly cracks in them. Oh, it hurts like the dickens to put it on if the wound is as bad as mine was, but if you do a little Lamaze breathing, you can survive, and it will be well in no time. (I know this is not a new item, and I had heard of it but never tried it because I had no idea how well it worked.)

LiquidBandage

Time for the giveaway information!

First, I do not like to do this to get more traffic or comments, so you are required to E-MAIL ME if you want to be entered! Just e-mail louisestamps at aol dot com and let me know you want to enter. (Please put “giveaway” in the subject line.)  There will be two winners. Prince Charming will draw names, and the first one has first choice of what s/he wants.  The other person will get what is left. (But I do not make slouchy things, so I think that is OK, and it is free, OK?)

Here is an idea of the prizes:

1) Handmade cards. There will be these four, but I will probably throw in a couple of others for which I did not immediately have samples.

4Cards

2) A Banner. But not this one or one even like it, but you get the idea. I have not made it yet, and I decided to wait because the winner can pick the colors (within reason). It will be a “SUMMER” banner (NOT “MERRY”). It is a home decor item–large enough to fit over a double window or in a hallway. Each pennant is about 6″ wide and 9″ long. (I did not measure, but am doing this from a memory. I am too lazy at the moment to get out something to measure.)

MerryBanner

You have a week, through Wednesday, July 1, to e-mail me. If these things do not interest you, but you think they might interest someone you know, consider entering to give as a gift.

I am also thinking of adding a third prize, but you can tell me if you would be interested. I am not a great photographer. I take some very good pictures, but I do not edit them (other than occasional cropping when I am not too lazy) and I have still not figured out all the manual settings on my camera. I hesitate to do this one because I am so small in a big photography world. But I know a few have really liked some of my pictures. So I could also make a set of cards from my pictures. If you want to enter and that interests you, let me know. It could be a “Louise’s choice” thing, or the winner could choose from pictures I have posted.

OK, I think that’s it for today. But I forgot to tell you THANK YOU for hanging with me for a year. I went back and read a few of my first posts, and many of my readers are the same. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that you come and read the drivel things I write and look at my photos. If it were not for you, I know I would have quit blogging entirely the couple of times I have had to take extended breaks due to my crazy schedule. YOU keep me coming back! Thank you.

2009-01-17ornamentboxes

Soulbrush in the UK tagged me for a photo meme. I have actually done this one before but had to cheat because of the photo, but I decided to do it differently this time, and lo and behold, an acceptable photo was in the right spot. This one is the 6th photo from the 6th folder. I chose the 6th folder in 2009, and the above photo was there. I find this slightly amusing because I took the picture just because. All of the boxes are ones I made to hold Christmas ornaments for my girls. Yearly I make ornaments for a LOT of girls and make boxes for them, but for my own girls, I also make boxes for their loose ornaments that are special. I do this to keep them safe and to have a place to write when, where and why they got the ornaments.  When I was putting away holiday decorations, I decided to take a picture of all their ornament boxes that I had made.  I do not know why, but it was useful today!

I never tag others for memes, but please do not hesitate to consider yourself tagged if you want to display the 6th photo from your 6th folder and have no other good reason to do so!!

Next, Fishing Guy mentioned that I keep talking about my stamping trip in other posts, but I have not showed what I stamped, so I told him I would try to do that today. So here it is:

2009-02-03bagboxstampstamppadThis was a box that was part of the make-and-take at St*ampin’ Up!’s Leadership Conference in Orlando near the beginning of January. The only thing stamped on this box is actually the “good friend.” Everything else is chipboard covered with Designer Series Paper or colored in some other way, or just Designer Series Paper as a layer. Below the box is a stamp pad and the stamp I  used for this box. (Please note that all stamp designs in these photos are copyright St*mpin’ Up!)

We also made the things in this box which included three cards, another, smaller box and ten little bookmarks that go in the smaller box.

2009-02-03bagboxcontentsI LOVE all of this! I must first say that I would have never purchased this stamp set just looking through the catalog. But it was part of what we received for attending the Conference, and now I love it. I love this whole set of stuff so much that I am going to have a class duplicating all of these things either in April or May. Also, I modified the colors on the smaller box and small bookmarks, and will make several for Valentine’s Day teacher gifts this year. I LOVE the idea of having a box full of bookmarks. I am always losing them, so ten is perfect. And I also love that I do not have to go shopping for other items for this gift because I have all the supplies at home. (No trip to Target, the $100/hour store!)

So that is what we stamped at Leadership  Conference, but there was a whole lot more to learn. Lots of new products (I am most excited about some new dies for our die-cut machine and the CHOCOLATE glitter–color, not flavor!) and great break-out classes to help with motivation in January and give new ideas.

And some of you have asked about my “job.” No, I don’t work at Universal Studios! I was just there for a party that St*mpin’ Up! threw for some of us.  It was just one of the many perks. (My best perks have been two cruises to Bermuda, but I had a conflict for the first one so have only been once.)

This is a card we made at a recent Stamp Club class.

This is a card we made at a recent Stamp Club class.

I am a St*mpin’ Up! Demonstrator which means I teach people how to create all kinds of things (cards, gifts, scrapbook pages, gift packaging, home interior items, etc.) using stamps and paper crafts. My pay comes from commission on the things I sell to people who want to do their own things. I have always said that I am not sure why St*mpin’ Up! pays me because it is so. much. fun! But I am glad they do. (Because I usually just put the money into more stuff!) There is a part of me that must say that I am not a sales person. I could never be a sales person; my personality would not support it. I teach people how to have fun and find a creative outlet, and the sales just come. (The fact that I will not even put the name of the company in here without an asterisk should tell you about my lack of selling personality!)

So how do I go about this? The “meat” of the business is in-home “workshops” in which I go to homes and teach people how to stamp. Sort of like a Tupperware party, but it is a fun, creative evening. My business also includes a monthly Stamp  Club in which a group of people commit to being in the “club” for a year by purchasing a small amount of product monthly. For this they get a free monthly class. It is a BLAST! Some of my Stamp  Club members have been in the Club since it began about 6 years ago. The other major aspect of my business is classes. Normally I have some sort of class monthly at my house. I charge a fee, and people come to make the projects. My customers LOVE this because I prepare everything for them so they do not have to think; they just come and create. I love it, too, because my life is so crazy in other areas, this gives ME time to create and to also  hang out with the girls. (I know I would never make such time if it were not my “job.”) Customers do not have to order from events, but can order any time (even online), but I really like the events because they are a stress-reliever for me.

And lest you start leaving comments about how artistic and creative I am, please be aware that I rarely come up with my own project ideas anymore. There are so many resources provided by St*mpin’ Up! that I do not have to think myself–just copy. I will admit to occasional “tweaking,” but usually not much.

So tonight I had a class for  Valentine’s Day Projects, and below is what we did.

2009-02-03v-dayclassallAbove are all the projects. The class was $15, and they made everything–except they only did one of the bowls. (There are two to show two options.)

2009-02-03happyheartThis was the simplest card we made. After I made this one, I actually changed it so that the greeting inside the heart was on the white shimmery paper instead, in red ink, to match the cardstock and ribbon. We all liked that version better. (But I had already taken this picture.)

2009-02-03heartbowlraisedflowerThis version of the bowl used stencil paste over a brass stencil to make the design. I got these little bowls at Michael’s for $1 each.  They would be adorable with ANYTHING in them. (My favorite would be Valentine-colored Jellie Belly’s. But the teachers in my daughter’s school will not be getting them because the contents would require a shopping trip which I am not willing to make. And I would like bookmarks  myself anyway!)

2009-02-03heartbowlrub-oninteriorThis is the inside of the brown bowl. This is a rub-on–a quick and easy way to decorate nearly anything. There were also white ones so they could put one on the inside of the stencil-pasted bowls, too.

2009-02-03hugskissesWhen I saved this card in a smaller size, it altered the color a little. The real thing’s colors are a bit softer. But it is cute even like this. It is difficult to tell, but the big heart is covered in iridescent glitter.

2009-02-03pantiesEvery Valentine’s season I do a “naughty” card at one of my classes. This is always a favorite, and I love this year’s version. (I always love them!)

So that is all about my “job.” I have many “jobs.” The two most time-consuming are the art teacher at  my daughter’s school and the head treasurer at my church. Both take a LOT of time and have no compensation. That is fine, but the time they take makes my life unbelievably hectic. Stamping sort of unravels some of that. It is therapeutic. It makes me happy. In fact, I am always happy when I am stamping–nirvana happy. And I get paid enough that the largest room in my house is devoted to my stamping hobby/business/addiction, and I have never, in 13 years, spent my personal money on the gazillion things in that room. (Maybe someday the ENTIRE room will be tidy at the same time and I will be willing to photograph it for you!) And yes, this can take up a lot of time, too, but it is WAY more fun that anything else I do that takes up a lot of time.

2009

Here you learned that I was without computer. We were not happy. Who is when that happens? But it was right at the holidays. We thought it was going to be a week. It turned out to be two weeks, and it’s still not back to where it was yet. There is still stuff to load back onto it, and we have two computers now instead of one. (And my new one, though unbelievably small and cute, is difficult for me because the keyboard is so small.)

A lot of the things I do (besides blogging) involve using the computer. The thing I do most frequently with it is keep the records for my church’s finances. Prior to the crash, there had been a series of problems that put me behind in that department. Then with the crash, each passing day put me a little further behind. (I just started catching up today. And it’s year-end, so it is not as if I have the option about taking my time to get caught up.) That caused me a lot of stress. But in the end, what could I do about it?

Another major consumer of my computer time is blogging–both my own blog and visiting others. Obviously that was not happening, either.

But in the end, it turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened. Why? Because if I had had a computer and been able to work and blog, I would not have managed to do all the holiday things I did. As it was, it was the worst holiday season I have ever endured. Prince Charming and I have no intentions of ever living through such a fiasco again, but it would have been so. much. worse. had our computer been working and then be able to spend NO time on the computer. Though disguised, it was a gift to us.

Only the cat did not mind the chaos. Here she is on my work table.

Only the cat did not mind the chaos. Here she is on my work table.

Every year I do more for the holidays.  In this case, “more” takes on many meanings: in the form of more time-consuming  cards to send (200 of them), more elaborate ornaments to make, and more handmade gifts. The whole of 2008 was crazy. Much of it was “good” crazy, but it was an unusually busy year, and very little for the holidays was done ahead of time. So when the computer crashed and my list of how many ornament boxes to make and for whom was gone,

Ornaments boxes in process. In the end, I made 37 of them.

Ornaments boxes in process. In the end, I made 37 of them.

How the ornament boxes looked when completed.

How the ornament boxes looked when completed.

my list of who got handmade banners was gone,

I made 15 "winter banners (the snowflakes dangle) and 4 "merry" banners as gifts.

I made 15 "winter banners (the snowflakes dangle) and 4 "merry" banners as gifts.

my Christmas card list was gone (I did not remember to take pictures of the pile of Christmas cards. Suffice it to say they were cute and had many steps), never mind all the work I could not be doing; I was a little stressed.

With my husband’s work computer we managed to use our external back-up drive to retrieve some of the information which I hand-copied (barely legibly) to complete everything. But the problem was there was not much time left, and much had to be sent or shipped, and I was doing more than ever.  It was horrible.

Prince Charming got on board as he always does and helped me. He could not do everything, but there were things he could do to help. The week before Christmas, we stayed up until midnight or 1 a.m. every night making cards, gifts, whatever. He did all the packaging and labeling and postage printing, and I did the most of the making and wrapping.  Prince Charming also made all the “treats” we give away this year. We usually do several things, but this year it was only pizzelles (for more than 50 families), and he did all of it. I did not make even one. And all day long while he was at work, I did more making and wrapping. Truly, it was horrendous.

This was a baby gift for someone who happened to arrive in this time frame. I loved making it, and the parents loved it. But I have to say it wasn't easy fitting a 10-letter name into a frame! (They call her "Halle.")

This was a baby gift for someone who happened to arrive in this time frame. I loved making it, and the parents loved it. But I have to say it wasn't easy fitting a 10-letter name into a frame! (They call her "Halle.")

It is not like we never make our own cards or many of our gifts, but this recent holiday season just went over the limit of sanity. But the thing is that we do not want to change what we do. We LOVE making handmade gifts. Most of the people to whom we give gifts have plenty of anything they need, so handmade things just seem nicer; we are giving more of ourselves. And it has nothing at all to do with the fact that I hate shopping.

So what we decided is that we are going to force ourselves to work on everything as soon as possible and all through the year. The ornaments are usually done in February, but the boxes are never done before the holiday season.

This year's ornaments. I made the tops and put them on the gold balls.

This year's ornaments. I made the tops and put them on the gold balls.

Nor are the cards or handmade gifts. We have to start plugging away in any spare moment during the year–both of us–so we can have a relaxed, joyful and peaceful holiday season next year. (This year we got only a small fraction of the decorating done. I did not even get the autumn decorations off of my front door.)

Now Christmas is not my very favorite holiday, but I still love it a lot. I love the festivity and the way people tend to be more happy and generous a lot of the time. This year, however, PC and I could not fully get into the holiday spirit; we were just too tired. And that is not OK, especially for our children — it’s not their fault we the year unfolded the way it did and we did not force ourselves to do more all year long. There must be changes. So we are determined to make it happen.

Are we already working on Christmas cards, ornaments and gifts? No. Right now I am working on wedding invitations for a friend. They must be finished by Wednesday because they need to be mailed soon, and I am going out of town on Wednesday. Before I leave, I also need to make 100 swap cards to take with me since I am going to a stamping event. (And I am not even sure of the design for that yet.) After that I will make myself deal with Valentine’s teacher gifts and get them done right away, and after that holiday things will begin. The goal is to have everything finished and ready to mail by Thanksgiving. Everything. No exceptions. This is no small feat, because even after everything is ready, there is still wrapping, and like everything else in my life, I have to do that just a little bit more than ordinary. I always buy the wrapping, ribbons and trims right after Christmas, so there is no reason that gifts could not be wrapped and ready as made and purchased. (Yes, a few are purchased, but mostly through fundraisers my children have so we do not have to make them go sell stuff to friends and family.)

I love wrapping gifts, but it is another time-consuming thing. But part of the joy of getting it finished early will be enjoying the beautiful things under our own tree for a while!

I love wrapping gifts, but it is another time-consuming thing. But part of the joy of getting it finished early will be enjoying the beautiful things under our own tree for a while!

So while without computer, I realized that I could probably very happily live without it for a good, long time. I was way too busy to miss it much. I thought I would miss the blogging more than I did, but I really did not have time to even think about it. HOWEVER, when I started looking at Sky Watch contributions yesterday, I realized what I had been missing. The reason I got so enamored with blogging so quickly after starting last summer was that I love the blogs I visit.

And I will be visiting again, and soon. But I have not looked at my reader in over 3 weeks. That probably means it has more than 3000 unread posts. That means I will not even attempt to catch up. If I try, I never will, so I am just going to start with what is new.  I tried for three months to catch up and could not, so I think it is better to just start fresh.

Back to my goals. I never do New Year’s resolutions. Does anyone really even remember what those are after a week or two? For me these things are goals, and most of the time when I have goals, I meet them. It is going to take some diligent determination, but I know I can do it. And next year, the holiday season is going to be more meaningful and joyful and fun and full of festivity, not last-minute misery. I promise!

There have been four times in my life when I have been REALLY sick. Sick enough to think about mortality, even if I knew that probably was not going to happen. Sick enough to take more than a week to recover.

The first time I was eight. I had a horrible case of strep throat that kept me out of school for three weeks and in the hospital for one week. I was actually probably too young to think about mortality then, but I remember my dad threatening to make me eat potato chips if I did not drink enough pear juice in the hospital. (Pear juice was the ONLY thing that did not feel like it was ripping my throat to pieces as it went down.) I think my parents might have been a little worried at the time.

2008-12-05bouquet

The next time was twenty years later. I had just moved into my first house with my first husband. It was December, and I got the flu. The BAD flu. I do not believe I had ever had that before. I suffered a week off work without getting any better and finally realized I was not going to get better, and I needed to go to the doctor. I did not care if I lived or died. I lost 15 pounds in one month, and it was a full month before I could work full days.

Ten years later I was pregnant with Chicklet. That little creature sucked everything from me. She took every nutrient and bit of strength I had, then she took my immunity. In a 7-month span I got three sinus infections, three stomach flus (more than I had had in my entire life before that), and the BAD flu. Most days I worked as much as I could in the morning and lay on the sofa all afternoon. It was not a good time. My midwife did not really believe I was sick. She treated me like I was trying to get drugs. (Twice in this time I got to see a doctor who was kind, understanding and gave me medicine to get through the current problem.) A week after Chicklet was born, I was in nearly perfect health. She was not, and I have to think it was because I was so drained that even though she took everything from me, it was not enough for her.

2008-12-05lily

It has been five years since then and I am really sick again. (For those of you who are into numbers and trends, are you as frightened as I am about what is going to happen to me in about 2-1/2 years?) I have “severe” esophagitis. I noticed it a week ago yesterday when we were headed out of town. I could feel (and it was uncomfortable) every bite of food that I took from the swallow until the opening to the stomach. It got progressively worse over the weekend to the point that Sunday I did not want to eat. When we got home Sunday night I ate a small amount because I knew I needed food. I have not eaten more than 300 calories in a day since last Saturday, and the 300 calories is a HIGH number. I have only done that a couple times. (Thus the title of the post–which I must say is the silver lining to this problem.)

Eating is painful. It is usually not a burning pain, but a pain that grips my whole chest and radiates to my back and into my neck  and ears. This happens for anything swallowed, even a drop or two at a time. This has created another problem in that I am not getting enough nutrition and am incredibly weak. The problem with this is that my life is busy and it is the holiday season and I have more going on that usual.

My stamping business is somewhat intentionallybusier than usual for December. Last Thursday evening I had a workshop and Prince Charming arranged a babysitter and did it for me. I went with him, but mostly just sat with the guests and heckled him. Thank goodness for him because I would have been in bad shape had I done it alone. My personality would have made me suck it up and put on a brave face, but I probably would have collapsed in the car when I left.  Tomorrow I have another one, and a friend (who is assuming the role of my mother at the moment) is going to fill in as Prince Charming did. I will go, but she will do the presentation for me.

2008-12-05mum

This friend has made me face humility in other ways. Right now I am home when I normally would be headed to church. She insisted that I stay home while she takes over leading the program for the 4-6-year-olds today.  I am so grateful for this because I am weak and tired, and tonight is our church’s biggest annual event, the “Festival of Lights,” a holiday musical program. I am planning on pulling all my strength together so I can go. The music is always incredible.

Which leads me to the other thing this friend did for me and is making me be humble. Who would you guess makes the programs for the Festival of  Lights? Of course it is me! Last year was the first year I did it. I made 500 of them. We used less than 400, however, so this year it was decided to make 400. Not because I procrastinate, but because I have so many things going on in my life, those were not finished when I got sick. Another friend had volunteered a couple of weeks ago to do part of the stamping, so I allowed her. I had done a little more, but with my schedule and being sick, I just was not even close to being finished. My motherly friend (who is only a few  years older than me) decided that she was going to take an afternoon off of work to help me with them. Her daughter called, and she came as well. The two of them finished the program covers on Thursday afternoon. THEN yesterday morning, another friend and her mother-in-law came and helped me put all the inserts (with program information) on the inside. The programs are finished, and I probably did the minority of the work. (Prince Charming is proud.)

2008-12-06folprograms2

So why am I sitting her painfully sipping  liquid nourishment to tell you this? Somewhat because I am weird like that, but mostly to explain my absence in visiting you. The only reason I have posted this week is there were time sensitive (to me) things about which to post, or I would have been completely absent.

When I went on a trip in October, you know I got way behind in blogging. I was slowly catching up with my visits, but then we went on last weekend’s trip. Now I am sick. I have not looked at my reader much at all this week. I am sure it is over 1000 again. I am going on another trip next weekend to visit my cousin. I am coming to grips with the fact that I may not catch up on the reader at all. I may just have to start with what is current when I can do it again. I may not be able to return every visit here. My personality tells me I must, and I will definitely try, but I am not just a little sick, and I have a whole lot of other life that needs attention in the moments when I can get up and do something.

Thank you for your visits even when I have not been visiting. And this post was definitely not for you to feel bad for me or wish me well, but only to tell you why I am gone and that I will be back when I can. Having not eaten substantially for a full week and likely not to be able to for another few days (the doctor said it would take at least a week from when I saw her last Wednesday for the esophagus to heal), my recovery is probably going to be slow. I will probably be weak and tired for a long time.  I will come when I can.

Incidentally, this is my 100th post. I had determined not to even mention it when it happened, but I find it amusing that this is the topic for my 100th post. And I probably would not have noticed it, but when I got online this morning, WordPress had changed their screens and the number of posts I have published was right in front of my eyes.

The flower pictures are a bouquet Prince Charming got me this week. I love them. They look like an antique painting to me–not really real. I think I will be surprised when they wilt.

2008-12-05sunflower

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