32

On my 32nd birthday, I am three days into a huge life transition. Having given up my day job to stay home with my kids, I am excited and nervous and full of plans. But really, when am I not full of plans?

The first day I stayed home, I did all of the things. We cleaned for a couple of hours (I gave Felix a duster and he “helped.”) Then we did yoga–I give Felix his own mat and he joins me when he feels like it. I managed to squeeze a shower in there and we ran some errands followed by lunch and a trip to the Chick-Fil-A play place. Then it was home for a nap, miraculously both kids slept at once and I got some photos taken before it was time to push burgers and beer at the new job. And when the night was slow and I got off an hour early, I treated myself to a glass of wine and got some writing done at the bar and got home at my usual time. I was so proud of myself.

Then Rufus woke up constantly all night long, because he was hungry, because he was cold, and I got barely any sleep. Brock worked from home for an hour or so, letting me sleep in. Then I woke up, drank all of the coffee, and decided I was going to take it easier, because the whole not having two jobs meant I wasn’t supposed to have to work myself to exhaustion.

I’ve been puzzling over how I’m going to do everything I want to get done this year. I have a few very broad goals, but each of them come with pretty hefty to-do lists.

1. Be there for my kids and husband
2. Get back into shape after all of the pregnancies.
3. Get First Novel out for submissions, then write Second Novel and Third Novel (both started)
4. Make Tiny Dino SoapWorks successful.

All of these things have various working parts that could each be their own full-time job, and my current schedule is just too new for me to know how it will all work together. My first goal is to find a rhythm that allows me to do some housecleaning, hang out with my kids, write, make some bath and body stuff, work and do everything else–maybe not all in one day, but perhaps some sort of rotating schedule. Most importantly, I need to give myself more than a couple of days to figure it out.

While I find I am pretty much incapable of doing nothing, today and through the weekend, I plan to do my best. I’ll hit a couple of cleaning project, maybe strain and grate some beeswax. (I get my beeswax from a local apiary, and it’s about one step above raw. Not quite ready to go into finished product as is.) I’ll definitely write everyday, because I can’t not, but slowing down and resting up seems like a good way to start a year where I have some pretty big goals to hit.

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Thoughts At the End of the Year

1. All of the blog people are talking about their new year goals.
2. I don’t usually play by the blogging people rules. I rebel against most of the “blog this way to build an audience” schtick, but I kind of like this.
3. I especially like this one since my day to day life will be drastically altered at the change of the year.
4. Having a plan going in seems like the smart thing to do.
5. I will have to coordinate life with the kiddos, kicking off a couple of businesses, and the evening job.
6. Good news is that I should have more opportunity to tackle that stuff.
7. Bad news is, I haven’t had much time to think about it yet.
8. But Christmas is over. I have two days left at the day job. I am giving myself next week to rest. To adjust the kiddos to the new schedule before I settle on my plan of attack. (Any advice from work at home mom would be greatly appreciated.)
9. I turn 32 next Thursday.
10. I’ve always liked having my birthday at the beginning of the year, because my need to grow introspective about myself when I turn another year older fits in with the seasonal zeitgeist.
11. I also tend to have too many goals for one person to reasonably accomplish during any one time frame.
12. That probably means I’m ambitious, but I have yet to be convinced that ambition is a bad thing.
13. How do you get anything done without a desire to do it?
14. I’m spending the next week asking myself what’s most important to me to do this year, and what’s best for my family, and finding where those things overlap and where they don’t.
15. The overlap is still probably too much to get done in one year, but that’s not going to stop me from trying.

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Hurray, it’s December!

And I made it through another year of Nanowrimo. I hit 50,000 words the day before Thanksgiving, and haven’t touched the story since…It still needs an ending, and I’m not sure I’ll ever do anything with this one, but it was a needed break from the novel I’ve been working on for a year, and it feels fantastic to hit that 50K mark.

For December, I have a few other goals in mind. First and foremost, I’d like to make up for some of that blogging time I missed in November. I missed you guys. I hope your Novembers rocked. (I know many of you are waiting for the latest installment of the Selling Wihtout Fear series. Look for that next week.)

My other goal for this month is to get some Christmas crafting done. I’ve been experimenting with candles lately–which could easily become a new obsession. Little tins like the ones in the photo below are so fun and easy to make.

Christmas gift crafting in progress.

A photo posted by Marla (@tinydinostudios) on

And of course, I’ve been making a little Christmas soap. I love how pretty the rose petals are.

Grapefruit Rose soap out of the mold.

A photo posted by Marla (@tinydinostudios) on

Something about winter makes me want to experiment with balms and body butters and bath salts. It’s all I can think about lately, but that could just be that my brain needs a wee break from fiction writing.

What are your plans for December?

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Snooty Books and Reading Ruts

I’ve recently finished all of the books on my kindle. Well, all of the ones that I am going to read anyway. Sometimes a book sounds really good. It might have even won some prizes. It has good reviews and critical acclaim. And then you try to read it and they spend the first two pages talking about why their furniture at home is far superior to the furniture in this filthy place.

Good lord, I got it after the first overwrought sentence. After the second and third, I can see you are a privileged asshole. Can we please move on? No? Then we, sir are over.

Sorry, does that sound bitter?

It’s not often that I put a book down. I used to pride myself on never not finishing a book. Then I decided that I had better things to do with my life than waste it reading snooty books.

(This is where my husband cracks a joke about how many times I’ve read Poison Study in the last three months. )

Snooty books, a definition: books that are technically well-written, but are so well done they have no flavor left. The beauty of the sentences, the characters, the plot, can’t be felt for the difficulty of trudging through words.

I’m all for reading books you really have to tear into, but I’m not into books that lord their greatness over me. I want a book that engages rather than shuns.

The truth is, when I find a really good one, I read it a few times. I read it the first time for the sheer joy. The second time through, I read to break down the characters. Again to look at pacing and plot, etc. etc. Don’t look at me like that, it’s fun, but it leads to reading ruts. I get stuck. Afraid of getting burned by snooty books, or just plain bad books, I have trouble branching out.

I keep thinking I need to start some sort of book swap for high volume readers like myself. It would be something where you trade good books with awesome people, and then when you’re finished, you have someone to geek out about them with.

I have no idea what this sort of swap would look like, but I’m desperate for a bookish community that doesn’t center on reviews. So many online reviews are negative just because they can be. I want to avoid that.

Who’s with me?

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DeStashing

new studio wide

I have been on a journey for the last ten months. Most of this adventure has taken place inside google docs and 3 or 4 manila folders full of scratch paper. I have written my novel 5 times over and finally landed on a draft that I can make into something. The feeling is sublime., and I have taken a few days to revel in it. I sent it to my beta readers, had a drink to toast it, and gave myself the reward of Maria V. Snyder’s Glass Series. (I have devoured them. Seriously. We need to talk about book more often, reader friends.)

This journey of mine, however, has not just been about writing my novel. I have been on a highly introspective, speculative path that’s had some confidence building detours. I won’t say I’m completely done with it all, but I feel like I could wear this shirt honestly, and get some shit done.

If you’ve stuck with me over the last couple of years, there’s been no surprise that I didn’t know what the hell I’ve wanted to do. I’ve been bouncing around from one crafty infatuation to the next, without ever really settling on anything. One thing about writing my novel that helped me was that all of my passions kept popping up. That book incorporates so much that I love–coffee, textiles, modern small business strategy, men’s fashions. (True confession, I say I subscribe to the New York Times for the book review, and the comprehensive news, but the only thing I ever get through cover to cover is the style magazine.) Through the writing process, and examining what worked for my characters, I was also somehow able to wrestle out what gives me the most joy.

Strangely enough, they are the two things I do the most already: writing and retail. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that I should put the two together and write about retail. Except that I am really excellent at getting in my own way.

Comical metaphorical stumbling aside, I have a head full of specialty retail knowledge, and if I don’t get some of it out on the page, I’m in danger of exploding it all over the place. And let’s be honest, there’s a time and place for telling someone they need to reexamine their pricing strategy. (But hey, if you wanna talk about pricing, check back tomorrow!) Meaning, that you, reader friends, can expect to read some tricks of the trade right here.

I am excited. Are you excited?

wool rainbow

So what does all this self-helpy, soul-examining, navel-gazing have to do with destashing? It means I need to transform Tiny Dino Studios from a fiber studio to a multipurpose studio. There is a ton of awesome stuff that I’ve basically stopped using, and I want you to have it.

Through October 31st, my etsy shop will be open and all the yarns and spinning fibers I have stashed away will be up for grabs at 60-75% off. That is a steal of a deal on some really high quality yarn. I will be updating the shop on Saturday mornings with everything I can find through the end of October or as long as supplies hold out.

Mr Drum Carder

In addition to everything on etsy, I am selling my drum carder. I bought him right before I started to lose my enthusiasm for selling yarn, so I’ve made maybe 12 batts on the guy in the last couple years. (I have cleaned him up since I took this photo.) The card cloth is 120tpi/90tpi. I’m asking $200, and I’ll thrown in a bag of loose locks and fluff and stuff. Local only, I’d prefer not to ship this guy. Email me or leave a comment if you’re interested.  Drum Carder Sold!

Check out etsy, and hang around for what’s next!

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A List

1. It’s been six weeks since my miscarriage. I am 100% healthy and feeling pretty good in general. Thank you everyone for your sympathies. Even if I wasn’t in the headspace to talk too much, it really meant a lot to hear from you.

2. This summer has been nothing but change. On top of the above, my husband and I are both working outside the home. The only other time this has happened in our entire relationship was while I was pregnant Felix, who is now in daycare. It’s a huge transition that we’re all still wrapping our heads around.

3. Because of all this change and upheaval, my attention span has been short. The only thing that I have spent any significant time on has been my novel.

4. I started my fourth big revision to my original Nanowrimo story last week. I’ve come to the conclusion that my method for writing novels is the most arduous and slow that there is–you know, besides not writing at all.

5. Once I gave myself permission to write and rewrite and let anything happen in my universe that I wanted to, I might have got carried away doing just that. I explored every nook and cranny, and it got me up to almost 140,000 words. That’s way too long!

6. Cutting 50,000 to 60,000 words sounds like a big job. That’s a whole Nanowrimo! But so far, I am having a blast revising it down, keeping on subject, keeping just to what’s important. That was the valuable part of all that exploration over the last few months.

7. I miss blogging.

8. My knitting and fiber arts have been all over the place. I have only finished one project since April: a toy giraffe for Athrun for his birthday.

9. I’ve been posting knitting photos to instagram and twitter. I’m tinydinostudios on both.

10. Have you seen what they’re doing on etsy right now? They are running a crowd-sourcing pilot program, and it’s awesome. I was wanting this exact thing the entire time my shop was open to allow me to buy a whole clip of wool and send it to the mill. Ah well. I’ll pass the love along.

11. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the campaign for Sarah Welch Pottery before it was over and will have a new ceramic travel mug headed my way in a couple of months. It’s worth the wait, I’ll drink my coffee iced out of glass until then.

12. Yes, I am enough of a coffee snob that I don’t like plastic or stainless coffee mugs. One retains old rancid coffee flavor. One makes the coffee taste like metal. No, I am not delusional. It’s really there.

13. I just finished a honking long book–about 1000 pages–and I don’t know what to read next. Any suggestions?

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Heavy

A week ago, I was told I was going to have a miscarriage.

(I hadn’t told you I was pregnant yet. I wasn’t hiding it, just wasn’t quite ready to share yet. I had just decided to when the spotting started.)

I knew this already. In the time it took to run all the blood tests from when I first started spotting to when I got the results, the miscarriage had already started. I was bleeding, not a lot, just the right amount. It was exactly like the midwife told me it would be.

It wasn’t bad, but I stayed home from work. It was more comfortable to be home with my boys. I pitted cherries from the farm and watched Death Comes to Pemberley on Netflix. I made a pie and did some light gardening. I swept the floors and read, all the while, trying not to mind that I was flushing away a pregnancy bit by bit.

By Friday, I was feeling pretty good. I thought the worst was behind me, that it could only go uphill from there. I was going go back to work on Monday. I spent the morning bouncing back and forth between light housework and writing a new chapter in my book, filling a hole in characterization. I felt I was on the mend.

I showered. The bleeding had picked up again, but I wasn’t concerned. A little bit of heavy bleeding was to be expected with this sort of thing. Still, it was time to pick Athrun up, and I made Brock drive, just in case. When I got out of the car to fetch Athrun from his grandparents’ house, I knew something was wrong. I had never felt bleeding that heavy as it was when that moment when I stood up.

Not wanting to alarm my husband too much, I just told him we needed to go home instead of the grocery store, like we had been planning. We hadn’t been out of the house more than 20 minutes, but I was overflowing the large pad I was wearing. It was scary, so I locked myself in the bathroom and called the midwife. She told me to get to the emergency room.

The bleeding didn’t slow down. We waited for more than 3 hours to be seen, with me limping, doubled over with labor-like cramps, to the bathroom every 30 minutes (or less) to change my pad, sickened at the alarming amount of red I was leaving in the toilet.

By the time I was seen, my lips were the same shade as the rest of my face and my blood pressure was dangerously low. I nearly passed out when they led me to my room. They put me on fluids. They examined me. They waited. The bleeding slowed, but not enough.

I ended up having a D&C in the middle of the night. The hospital was dark and quiet. So different from when we arrived and the ER was full of paramedics rushing patients in from ambulances, and police officers standing guard outside various rooms.

The operation was like a vacation. I got to sleep (anesthesia induced, but still, it was sleep). I got more fluids. When I was awake, they finally gave me some food and something to drink, and it was like heaven.

It was only about an hour til dawn when we got home, and I have spent most of the last three days sleeping. I am still pale as a ghost. Until last night, I was still dizzy if I was on my feet for longer than a minute. I can’t pick up my baby and I can’t drive, but slowly, I am recovering from the blood loss.

My husband has been doing everything. He is a superhero.

My miscarriage has been far more traumatic than labor ever was. And I’m still frightened that it isn’t over yet. I’m frightened of bleeding, even though it is such an essential part of being a woman. I don’t know where to go from here, but talking about this feels important.

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Some Links for Tuesday

It’s been kind of a rough week for us, so I’m sharing some of the things I’ve been enjoying lately and taking a rest. Have fun, and feel free to share some of the stuff making you happy this week.

1. I received a wholesale catalog from The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild at the day job today. I can’t sell anything out of it in my stores, but there was something on every page I could see selling spectacularly in some other type of shop. See especially, planet plates, disappearing liberties mug, and Freudian slippers. What’s not to love? (There was also a Miyamoto Musashi plush doll that doesn’t appear to be available on their website yet, but how cool is it that there’s a Musashi plush? It doesn’t look like Toshiro Mifune–who played Musashi–which is a little disappointing, but I might have to buy it anyway someday.)

2.I don’t think I can eat cheese anymore. It’s sad, because I love cheese, but lately, it makes me feel sick and twisty on the inside. Enjoy your cheese while you’ve got it, people. (Yeah, there’s no link here. Please visit your local dairy instead.)

3. Right now I’m knitting Buckhorn Cowl with the current PFA KAL. It’s a fun, quick knit. I should cast it off tonight or tomorrow.

4. When I finish with the cowl, I’m going to swatch for the Mesmeric Cardigan. It might be the most complicated sweater I will ever knit.

5. Did you know my husband also has a blog? He’s building a video game called Dig, Robot, Dig!

6. Since my husband gets me, he sometimes sends me stills from Toshiro Mifune movies while I’m at work. Here are two of his latest, from Scandal

scandal1

scandal2

(Have I ever mentioned that I studied Japanese in high school and college?)

7. This led him to starting another tumblr of Mifune gifs. They are magnificent.

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Scary Stories

Thank you so much everyone for the great show of support over my last post. It took me two months to figure out how to write those words, and now that they are out there, I feel liberated.

I also feel this horrible pressure to produce a stellar follow up. I look at my word processor with a little bit of fear now, thinking about how I am going to top the last post? Or, screw top it, just match it? How am I going to do that consistently, two or three times a week, every week, forever?

The obvious answer is, of course, to put my butt in a chair, my fingers on a keyboard, and start typing. For a long time though, even that was too hard for me to do. I would sit down and the ants-in-the-pants feeling that prompted me to learn how to knit just so I would have something to do with my hands–that can’t keep still, have to fiddle with something anxiety that settles in my jaw and hardens my shoulders–would paralyze me with tension. If I let it go too long, it turned my stomach and knots up my neck until I can’t see for the pain radiating through my head.

I used to open up a word processor and fear my potential. I would sit numb in front of my computer, the ability to think having fled in the face of this big, scary thing I said I wanted to do. Not wanting to take the time to search out the right words was easy to blame on being busy with work, being tired from the kids, being burned out by school. Closing the lid on my laptop was so simple and authoritative an action. No writing today.

November 1st, I sat down at my computer and told myself to write 2000 words. No pressure. “They don’t have to be good words,” I said to me. In fact, let them be shitty words. Let them be boring words, just write them. You can always change them later.

That’s how I got through the whole first draft of my novel.

Nanowrimo taught me how to write everyday. But I was still afraid to do simple things in my story–honest things–like have two characters who are fighting get really pissed off at one another. My climax was the most amiable, life-changing altercation you’ve ever seen. The problem was, in my head, this pivotal confrontation was monumental, but the conflict on the page read as trivial at best.

The final third of the novel hangs in the balance, and I’m afraid to let the main characters say too many mean things to each other in case the reader stops liking them?

How stupid is that?

Not only does that not give you, as the reader, enough credit, but it completely undermines the whole point of the story. No conflict = no story. If my characters were sensible people, he and she wouldn’t be in the predicament they’re in in the first place, and you probably wouldn’t ever read it, because it would be boring as hell.

(You’re enjoying all this vague talk about my novel, aren’t you? What’s not to like?)

Fear of readers not liking my characters kept me from committing to a crucial scene, and fear of boring you now made this a really difficult post to write. Scariest of all is what I’m planning to do next–which is to pursue writing as my (eventual) main source of income.

Isn’t that the freakiest shit you ever heard of?

Scares the pants off me.

Not only does seriously pursuing a freelance writing career involve sitting down at my computer every day and facing the fear that my words are fucking lame, but it also means that I have to drum up the courage to make for myself the profession, but have always feared I’d fail at.

What’s even more horrifying though, is not trying at all.

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It’s Time for Something Different

Some of you may or may not have noticed that I closed down my etsy shop a couple of weeks ago. I tweeted about it last week, but otherwise, I closed it down fairly quietly. It was not a bittersweet moment for me.

dinning room before

The glamour of selling hand dyed yarn and fiber lost it’s appeal about two years ago. If you’ve been reading my blog since May 2013, when we had to leave our cozy little apartment and I didn’t have a place to dye for awhile, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I’ve bounced around with what I’ve shared with you since then, a little sewing, a little printing, a little gardening, even a free knitting pattern or two. Each and every one of those things was so much fun in the moment that I wanted to share them with you, hoping you’d be diverted as well.

But as I go back and read over some of my posts, I have to admit, that I am less than impressed.

calbedpulloverstorage

I can tell I was just dashing off posts as quick as can be–and lets face it, they were pretty shallow.

minerva

One of the reasons I closed down my etsy shop was that I just didn’t feel like I fit in there anymore. I love the DIY lifestyle. I love making my own chicken stock and yogurt, I love processing my own yarn from a big greasy fleece. I love composting and gardening and making my own soap–but you know what’s left after you do all of those things?

A mess.

messydesk

A big fat one.

But etsy is selling a curated, tastefully simple, DIY lifestyle these day, and kind of leaving the DIY out of it. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a million, brilliant artists still selling on etsy, but most of the time those artists are buried in a sea of not-so-handmade listings.

airbenderstripes

When it comes to the fiber arts though, my competition remained largely other indie dyers and small farmers, and I was completely cool with that. What I was not cool with was the ever increasing price it cost just to get product views.

When I was really having fun with dyeing yarn and doing my yarn club, I could make a couple hundred dollars or more a month off my web sales, after etsy and paypal fees. Not enough to live off, but a couple extra trips to the grocery store if need be or a part for the car, that sort of thing. A couple of years ago, etsy introduced search ads, which allowed you to put your product at the top of the page when someone searched for the keywords you used on your listings. You could cap how much money you wanted to spend on search ads each week, and I thought it was effective. I put my reasonable cap on and saw an increase in sales and in page views when I used them.

tiny_dino_knit_before_it_was_cool_notecard

A few months ago, they switched the search adds to a bidding system which was not cost effective for a small shop like mine. The minimum cap was about $1/day. I gave it a try one month–while admittedly not doing a whole lot of other promotion–and paid about twice in fees as what I made in sales. I turned it off the next month and received hardly any page views and no sales. I don’t think I’d ever had a month with no sales since I opened my shop, but in December and January it was zilch, zippo, nothing.

I’m not blaming etsy’s new systems entirely. I have already said my heart wasn’t in it anymore, but the recent changes were the nail in the coffin of my little etsy shop. It feels like, as etsy has switched from a website where you go to find handmade originals, to where you go to find what’s on trend, that etsy is more preoccupied with selling the idea of a lifestyle rather than the goods that make that lifestyle possible. I thought etsy was supposed to be a stepping stone for launching a handmade business, but it feels to me now like it’s more concerned with nickel and diming the indie artist out of their studio space.

It certainly wasn’t the right place for me anymore.

clementines and cherry blossoms

And I feel like, while I was trying to fit into that etsy aesthetic, so was my blog. My identity as a blogger was confused. My writing was mediocre at best.

I wrote in November about sticking with Nanowrimo for the first time ever, even though I have goddamn degree in creative writing. I haven’t stopped writing since I started back in November. I’m putting the finishing touches on a draft of a novel, and hope to start searching for an agent sometime later this year. It’s taught me a lot about myself–one of them being that I tend toward caution when I really want to kick and to curse and to generally stir up a fuss.

uterus

Writing my novel has shown me that while I don’t believe in censorship, I certainly was practicing it on myself a lot, telling myself this was too controversial to write about, or that was too political. That I would write “fuck” too many times and offend someone.

carrotjuicemarla

And now I kind of don’t give a damn.

What’s this mean moving forward? I’ll still write about my knitting and my gardening, but I might also write about books or my writing. I might piss you off. I might insult you. Mostly, I hope to make you laugh, or to motivate you to live your dream. Because I have always wanted to be writer, but I never had the courage to let myself be one before.

imadeit

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