Monday- Balance is sometimes impossible

I strive for balance. That delicate line between working too much and goofing off too much, worrying and throwing caution to the wind, eating chocolate or lettuce all day, family obligations or time for myself. It is called balance for a reason, many days it is like walking a tight rope over the Grand Canyon. (nearly impossible)

I have had a hard weekend. C came home late of Thursday night and I wanted to work Friday am (until noon) to get things accomplished in the workshop. So I got up uber early and met dad, and started. I was cranky, miserable, and just shouldn't have been down there. It ended with me just walking out of the shop, fearful if I spent any more time with any thing human or animal, I would do or say something I would regret for life.

Saturday I spent just a few hours, enough to finish up Friday's work, and then I needed a break. Dad and I have been going day after day since I returned on the 10th. Long days with no breaks. I have gotten so much done and I am proud of myself, but the lack of balance took its toll and my attitude needed an adjustment. Yesterday afternoon C and I talked about balance. He busted some myths that I had about him. He doesn't need me to cook ever day he is home (it is nice and appreciated, but not necessary). He would like for me to take weekends off if possible (or at least take it easy when he is home so we can spend time together),and it is OK for me to make plans and do things while he is home.

I know some of these things sound odd, but he travels for work. All. The. Time. Out on Mondays, home on Fridays, sometimes away for one or two weekends at a time as well. So when he is home, I try and plan around him. Make it special. Have his favorite meals, don't have plans with anyone but him, only work till Noon in the workshop (even if this means I have to get up at 4 am to get the day's work done). I figure that he deserves the time and attention since he is home so little. But one of the main reasons he comes home is to see me be happy (not just hear me be happy on the phone), so I need to do whatever will make me happiest.

So what I have done this week to relieve some stress is to sleep. I have been getting up very early, using my alarm clock to have things done in the workshop by Noon. It leaves me the rest of the day to do other stuff, like labeling, or paperwork. But I just don't do well waking up to an alarm clock day after day after day. I don't sleep well. I wake up multiple times in the night worried that the alarm hasn't or won't go off. So I am back to getting up when my body feels like it. Oddly , today that wasn't more than fifteen minutes past when my alarm would have been set for. But I already feel better. I am more relaxed. My body got to finish its sleep the way it wanted and needed to, and I can tell the difference. I naturally wake up pretty early, so it is not like doing this makes a huge difference. Most days I will still be done by 1 pm. But listening to my body is a huge part of my stress relief. So this was my little way to strive for some balance this week.


Fiber Fridays

I finally got the opportunity to knit some this week. Not a lot, but some. Last Friday at K1C2 Knit Night I knit a heart washcloth for my swap partner. It was well received and it was actually a pretty cool construction technique. One of those times, you doubt following the pattern will really give you what it says it will.

I also knit a stuffed cube for C's dad. This should give him a way to exercise his hands without too much resistance. He is one of those people that is constantly playing with something in his hands and I hope he likes the soft cotton texture and the size of the cube. This one I didn't follow the pattern. I did for the four sides, knit in in the round on dpn's. But the top & bottom were confusing to me, picking up stitches and stuff, so I just knit two more squares and seamed them on. I figured it wasn't going to get a lot of rough abuse (the pattern was originally for baby toys and needed as few seams as possible to reduce choking hazard should one break).

Last night I started a shawl for C's mom. It is a modification of an existing design that I am making double wide with a slit for her head. Kinda like a poncho, but not a poncho. It is the first time I am knitting with Knit Picks yarn and it has a great hand feel. One kind I am using is a little splitty, but as long as I pay attention it is no problem. I like knitting with it even though it is black and sorta hard to see the stitches. I think this is going to be a faster knit than I expected and I hope to have it done in a few weeks.

I have also decided to go through my knit projects, take pictures, and start an Etsy site for them, for extra supplies I need to sell, and for old displays that need to be sold. I was going to put them up on my web site, but I prefer to keep the knitting split from the soaping. So no more up here for sale either, but I will let everyone know when the site is up and when it gets updates.

Hope to see you this Monday night at the Pints N Purls Knit Night at the Bethlehem Brew Works at 6:30. Its downstairs by the pool tables :)


Workshop Wednesdays

This week it doesn't seem to me that I have been as busy, but I have a feeling by the time I finish this list, I just might be mistaken.

Soaps: Lavender and Lemongrass done (8/20). Lip balms- all made, 1/3 labeled and shrink wrapped. Lotion bars 1/2 made, none labeled or wrapped. Fizzys-1/2 made and 3/4 of those wrapped and labeled.

Paperwork: Kept my book keeping up to date. Learned how to run credit cards using my I Pad at shows, Fixed web site- pickup option now works. Co-op web site up to date. Delivered soaps to homeless shelter.

Personal: went to two knit nights and lunch with B. Dropped off dry cleaning. Started to exercise (Wii Active 30 day challenge).

OK, I do guess I can wish that list was longer, but realistically it is as long as it could get.

This week: Finish labeling and wrapping lip balms. Label and wrap lotion bars. Finish, label and wrap bath fizzys. Make soap. Mail newsletter for Jan/Feb out. Write Feb email newsletter.


Monday- Working with Family Stress

So every book on entrepreneurship I have ever read has a warning withing the first few chapters about working with family and friends. There is a reason for this- it is HARD to do and will cause you lots of STRESS. But really, what small business or sole proprietor doesn't rely on family and friends at least once in a while to help out when times get rough.

Last year my dad retired from the workforce. It was planned as a semi-retirement, get off the road (he was a truck driver), reduce his stress both physically and mentally. He was going to find a local job, delivering flowers, or car parts, or something that still had most of the freedom he had as a truck driver, but not the nights and weeks away from home. Well the economy put a kibosh on that idea, with nothing to be found. As the savings dwindled, a job at Wal-Mart started looking like the only option.

In the meantime during the job hunt, in order to keep busy he had started helping in the workshop, and he liked it. He liked making the soaps and in the Spring we tried craft shows and farm markets, and he liked helping at those too. So with a little financial help from a trusty 401K, he could retire and help me out as much as his little heart desired.

This sounds like a warm fuzzy, straight out of Hans Christian Anderson tale, but it is closer to a Brother's Grimm, or Aesop Fable. Living with your father after 20 years is hard, working with him is harder. Not only does he know all my buttons, a great many were installed by him during childhood. He knows how to push them, over and over, and over. We have our days.

Most are great now, we have been doing this for a year. He has made all the changes in the workshop he wanted, mostly because I just gave in. It was too hard to fight it. So now things are in alphabetical order, and color order, and every order you can imagine. (I mean my OCD came from some where, right?) He has his own booth set up and I have mine, and we don't tell each other where to put stuff or how to deal with anything anymore. He comes to my booth and he has a place for his stuff out of my way, and I come to his booth and he has control over where I put my personal stuff.

But put us in a room when we are both in a bad mood and the fire crackers light up. Down goes the barrier between boss/daughter and father/worker and the claws come out. I rail on him about something personal and he bites right back. Many times if he was a real employee I would have fired him for crossing the line, and I am sure if I wasn't his daughter, he would have quit some days too.

Working with my Dad is the hardest, most stressful thing I have ever done in my life, and it is the most fun and rewarding thing I have ever done too. Do any of you work with your parents or siblings, want to share some tips and tricks.

I have two tricks: say them with me now:

"He didn't wake up this morning with the intent to piss me off. He is not doing this on purpose. Figure out what he is trying to do."


"Just because he does things different, doesn't me he does them wrong"

I say these things to myself at least a dozen times a day. It helps me stay contained, it helps me get through.


Fiber Friday- Ravelry is Awesome

I this week I want to tell you all about Ravelry. If you Knit or Crochet, chances are you already know about it, but for those of you who are not in the fibery know, it is a social networking site for fiber enthusiasts. It brings together designers and makers, stores and customers, and people from all over the world that have a similar love of fiber craft. Knitters, Crocheters, Spinners, Dyers, Weavers, Lace Makers, and Needle Felters are all represented on the site now. You can find groups to join, either virtual or face to face, local or international.

But better than the social networking is the organizational offerings. A place to list and store your pattern books and patterns, needle sizes, favorite patterns, a queue of things to do, and finished objects (or even in progress objects). Have a yarn and you don't know what to make with it? Search other peoples finished objects to get ideas of what they made with the same yarn. Need help on a pattern, there is a forum for that. Have a pattern to sell, this is the place. Need a single skein of an out of production yarn to finish a project- bet you can find it here.

One of my favorite things is the groups. I have met wonderful people from all over the world in the groups I belong to. In one we swap monthly and I have received Valentines from New Zealand, and Christmas Stockings from Great Britain, as well as buttons from Atlanta Georgia, just to name a few. And now I have found local knitting groups. There is one tonight I plan on going to and one on Monday. A great way to get out of the house, meet new people, make new friends, and chill. I am often very nervous around new people and going to things like this ramps up my anxiety levels. Luckily, I have met a few members face to face in the past, so I think I am less nervous than just going in blind and new.

Tonight I am knitting a heart shaped dish cloth, to send to my mystery Valentine. Well she is no mystery to me, but she doesn't know who she is getting a card, candy, and fun thing from. It is my monthly swap partner and this month's theme is Valentines. I can't wait :)


Lots done in the workshop this week

We accomplished quite a lot both in and out of the workshop this week and it feels great to look back at it all.

Soaps: we have finished getting our inventory levels back up in Bay Rum, Black Cherry Oatmeal, Blue Lagoon, and Egyptian Cotton. Full inventory starts at a few hundred bars of each soap, depending on fragrance. Once we sell a batch worth, we make another batch to replace it. That usually means we are only down a batch or two at a time and very rarely ever run out. While I was away, Dad made Shampoo Bars and Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey so we are done with 6 of 22.

Lip Balms: I got three of the ten flavors done.

I also got the workshop organized and inventoried. New labels on boxes, new places for everything and everything in it's place. Almost all my supplies are ordered and most have arrived and have been put away. The newsletter was emailed, website was almost completely updated, finished the 2011 order form, orders were mailed out on time, and I started researching new craft shows to attend this year.

Still lots to do but as I go down the list it takes longer and longer to get things done, as I tend to leave the most complex stuff to the end.

This week: finish lip balms, start lotion bars, make fizzes, get out the hard copy newsletter, talk to a shop about consignment, make more soap, and generally lots of paperwork. Let's see what I can get done :)


Stress Reduction Methods

There are many things I do in my life to reduce stress but the #1 thing is...

1) Get Stuff Done. Sounds simple, and it is. Just the simple act of doing something, and crossing it off, makes me feel better. No matter how silly or small the item is, just getting it done makes me feel like I have taken a step in the right direction.

This week my list has dropped from three pages to two, and this is even adding things on to do as I went along. You might have noticed that the web site is well on its way to being up to date. I just need to fix some wholesale stuff and the events page, and keep it updated as I finish new products, and things are great.

I also got the newsletter out, finally, it was a bit late. But I love the new look, and I got lots of great feedback from it too. Always makes me happy to know that someone actually reads that thing.

The shop has been completely cleaned. All the boxes have new labels, supplies arrived and have been put where they belong, and I feel like I have room to expand and grow again. There is still much work to be done, but little by little I am getting there.

2) Meditate. I meditate every morning and every night before bed. I have found a few pod-casts and downloaded them. I am going through and finding my favorites right now. None of them last more than 30 minutes and I find myself going back to them during the day reminding myself to breathe, or to let go of anger, or to express gratitude more.

I don't think I will ever reach that transcendental state of meditation the Tibetan Monks find, but I do find taking the time to relax a little, and concentrating on relaxing helps. I listened to one the other day when I had a migraine. Now, I had taken medicine, that would have eventually helped the pain, but I do think listening to the twenty minute meditation on dealing with pain helped. It in itself didn't eliminate the pain, but it helped me calm down and relax and let the medicine do its job faster. It was manageable in 20-30 minutes, rather than in the hour or so it usually takes.

I hope to add on more things in my routine to help reduce my stress and anxiety, what do you do to reduce your stress?


Fiber Fridays

Many of you know that I knit. You can usually find me knitting at events, and there I am working away at a washcloth, or a bath mitt. But I knit for fun too.

But I am a process knitter. What does that mean? It means that I knit for the enjoyment of knitting. I enjoy learning a new technique. I enjoy being able to use a yarn because of the way it feels in my hand, or because of its color, or because I remember where I was when I bought it. I buy yarn when I am on vacation so I have memories of the places I have been. I participate in yarn swaps so that I can receive a surprise in the mail from someone in another part of the country, sometimes in another part of the world. It means that I don't care what I am knitting, or who it is for, I just care that I am knitting.

This leaves me with many, many extra finished projects laying around the house. I give some away to friends and family, and some to charity, but I am still left with boxes of finished projects. There are only so many shawls and hats and sweaters a girl needs. So I am going to start to post some of them here, one per week, and then add a page to the web site too. I am going to offer them for sale, for just the cost of the yarn. This will let me go out and buy more yarn, and enjoy many more hours knitting. Some yarns are inexpensive, some I got on sale, and others are quite pricey. I love the look and feel of hand dyed, hand spun yarns. I am often blessed to be able to barter soap for these yarns, and sometimes I am not, so I splurge. I figure I don't drink or party, so good yarn is my vice in life.

This week I start with a cowl. A cowl is a neck warmer that you can't loose off your neck like a scarf. I love them because I don't get it caught in the car door, or have some odd bulk stashed under my coat. The yarn is hand dyed and hand spun 100% wool. I bought it while in Maine a few years ago while on a cruise with C. It was a limited edition color, so I can't get any more even if I wanted too.

I designed the pattern myself. I had knit a hat for C's dad and liked the stitch pattern so much that I designed a cowl around it.

So here it is:

It is a mere $35.00 (shipping included) and if you want it just click the button below.


Workshop Wednesdays

Since I am on this new blogging spree, Wednesdays I will be sharing all that is going on in the workshop. I hope that this gives me a better tally of what gets done each week, and you a better understanding of what goes into making this business work efficiently.

This is a short week, I got home Monday afternoon and immediately unpacked, opened mail, and paid bills before they were late. And I wrote out my list of things to do. I was super exhausted, so I didn't do much on the list other than get everything ready for the next days work.

Tuesday we made Bay Rum soap. We need 7 batches of it to fill the coffers, so we made two to start out with. We needed a short day so we could run errands before the snow started falling. In between stirs, I reorganized the fragrance oils, rebottled everything that needed it so it fit on the shelves, put away containers that had arrived while I was gone, and started sending out show applications. Once the soap was done it was off to the bank, the post office box, and Target before back home. Then after lunch I finished the show applications (10 in all), filed the last part of 2010 (so I can do taxes soon) and then took the last few hours before bed for me.

Today (being Wednesday) the plan is to make three more batches of bay rum, shovel snow, put away the last of the containers, send out orders that have piled up, and update the web site for the LV Co-OP to reflect what is in stock and available. Depending on how much snow there is, I might get more done, I might not... I'll let you know next week :)


Monday is for STRESS

I am home at last and totally overwhelmed with things to do. I got home around 3 this afternoon, immediately opened my mail (so I could pay bills before they were late), ate two big bowls of gluten free ziti that my dad had made for me, and started doing what I call a brain drain.

What is a brain drain??? It is when I have so many things to do in so many categories, that I don't know where to start. So I start with a list. I start to list the things that have been bumping around my brain for days, maybe weeks, and that have been causing me stress. Getting them out of my head and onto paper let's me stop thinking about them a million times a day. I have a habit of trying to remind myself of things I don't have written down so I can't forget them. This makes me think if it hundreds of times a day, bringing up the same old stress and worry every time I think of it. Once it is on paper I have the power, not the thing that needs to be done.

Then I start to do things, I start at the top of the list, giving no credence to how important doing an item may actually be. It is just first come first serve. If something is glaringly not important, I will skip it and go on to the next thing. Invariably doing things leads me to both cross off completed items and add on to the end of the list with new things to do as well. After a day or two of this, the list then can be culled, organized, and ultimately gotten under control. If I try and organize my list right away I get more overwhelmed and just want to sit and cry (and sometimes do). I find trying to give things a set priority when I am overwhelmed is impossible for me because to me almost everything should be at the top of the list at that very second. After years of doing this I have noticed that my brain does give the topmost things to do their own priority, just because I am thinking about them the most, so they end up at the top of the list.

So this year I am going to dedicate my Monday blog post to stress. Things that have been stressing me, how I am dealing with them, tricks I have learned, and things I want to learn how to deal with better. I would love it if you would participate and leave me comments. Tell me what works for you and why, tell me what you think in could do better, and tell me if my ideas have helped you any. You don't have to be a craftsperson or artist to benefit or to help.

Oh, btw, posting this was on the list, but pretty far down. I just got inspired and let the moment take me where it lead. So even all the lists in the world can't help me stay on track when I am inspired.