Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Annie Update

We're holding at four cats at the moment, but I have an update on Annie.  You might remember that she's had surgery twice in the past to remove tumors under her right front arm.  The last one was two years ago Thanksgiving, and she had such a bad reaction to the anesthesia that time that I decided then I wouldn't put her through it again.  (She came out of it in a full panic, and paced and cried nonstop for over 24 hours, and she still wakes up anxious and disoriented more than two years later). 

She's seventeen now, and that only adds to the risk.

About a year ago, one year out from surgery, I noticed a tiny bump under her arm.  Tiny, smaller than a lentil.  I decided to stick with my resolve and just keep an eye on it. 

Flash forward a year, and it's conservatively about the size of a Cadbury chocolate Easter egg, on her chest and under her arm on the right side.  Like the two previous tumors (which were still tiny when removed), it seems to be encapsulated - it's completely smooth and there are no other lumps, bumps or irregularities anywhere on her.

Now that I'm faced with the realization that this is going to kill her sooner rather than later, I'm regretting my decision not to treat it.  But then I second-guess my second-guessing, and have to admit that I've got a living cat who doesn't realize yet that there's anything wrong, and that the surgery might have done more harm than good and I might have lost her sooner.

So we're in a holding pattern until she tells me she doesn't feel right.  At the moment, she's still eating and drinking normally, her fur is still shiny and not falling out, and it doesn't impede her movement at all - she still jumps on and off the bed and chases Katie like a kitten.  She sleeps more than she used to, but she's also seventeen. What does that make her in cat years, 85? I'd be sleeping more, too.

I've done this before, and I'll do it again.  Annie will let me know when to do it. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A special doll

This was a really special custom project I did back in late December.

The customer - the mom - contacted me and said that her adopted daughter had had cleft repair surgery, which left her with a scar.  She felt self-conscious about the scar, and said that there were no dolls out there that looked like her, both Asian and with the cleft scar.

So, being a good mom, my customer reached out and asked if I could make one for her daughter.

I was happy to oblige, and I think her daughter was happy with the result. 


Monday, January 7, 2019

Scraps

As I start to excavate my workroom post-holiday, one of the first things I do is clean up the scraps that have fallen everywhere.  By the end of the season, it feels like I'm just throwing stuff over my shoulder to be dealt with in January.

The general rule of scrap is that sweater bits, if they're too small to use, get shredded up and used for stuffing.  The cotton scraps get saved for doll clothes, if they're big enough.  If they're not, they go into the potholder stash.  If there's enough fabric left that I can get a 3" square from it, then it's not trash yet.  After that, well, if it's 100% cotton, it goes into the compost. 

Most of these will get put away for show season.  A few specific sets - cats and dogs, and a three pack of chickens - were intended for Etsy, but a friend already purchased the chickens. 

I've been asked why I bother to make potholders.  They sell well during the holiday season, but aren't much of a moneymaker, since people generally don't want to pay much for something that they'll either burn or get filthy in the kitchen.  But they are a nice add-on purchase, and it alleviates my guilt that I don't use up every piece of cloth that enters my hands. 


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Putting it in writing

I also think the quiet out here helps me write
So one of the reasons I've been AWOL lately (aside from the move, the pack, the unpack, the house sale, the other house sale, vacation, and craft show season), was writing. 

A few years ago - 2015, to be exact - I got an agent for a novel I'd written.  She submitted the book over the course of a year, but it never found a home.  Agent and I parted company, and I spent a fair amount of time muttering about people who didn't appreciate a story I'd spent years of my life working on, and then I moved on.  Sort of.

Fast forward to October, when I decided that I should, once and for all, see if the thing was worth publishing.  I opened the document and started reading.  And immediately started rewriting.  Things that seemed fine then were glaring now.  I'm not sure if it's because I've been listening to a crap ton of writing podcasts lately, which are really inspiring, but I started having all these ideas about how to fix things that I hadn't thought needed fixing.

I cut 15,000 words from the manuscript without losing a scene or a character, and actually added to it.  I convinced Mario to read it.  He didn't want to read it because, "What if it's awful? I can't tell you."  I told him that while I didn't know how good it was, I knew it wasn't awful, and if it made him feel better, then he could only say good things, even if that meant my spelling and punctuation were good.  Thankfully, he had more positive things to say than that.

I decided that I would save the book as it was, and start working on my query and synopsis, which to me are the hardest parts.  I can write long form, but to boil the entire plot down to 3 paragraphs?  That's hard.

Cue December, when I ran across this weird hashtag on Twitter - #pitmad.  Basically, it's a challenge to pitch your book in 280 characters, including the #pitmad tag and whatever tags apply to your form of book - #h (historical) #r (romance), etc.  I looked it up, and apparently it happens as few times a year.  I thought to myself, "I'll do it in March.  I'll be ready by then," and went on about my business.

Fifteen minutes later, I was back at my tablet, dictating a 280 character pitch, and hitting publish.  Because what could it hurt? 

By the end of the day, I had likes from 3 agents, which meant that within the next few days, I had to actually complete my query and synopsis and send it off to 3 real agents, not just the vague agent-y idea in my head. 

And guess what?  I did it.  Best way to get me to do something I don't think I can do?  Give me no time to think about it.

One of the agents got back to me and requested the full manuscript, which I sent off the next day, after doing one more frantic read-through for typos, wonky spacing, etc. 

And now we wait. 

But since I now have a decent query and synopsis, I won't just wait.  By the midpoint of January, I want to send out 5 more queries.  Because I can. 

And because this is the year that I will finally do this.  If it doesn't get agented, or if it does, but doesn't find a publisher, I'll do it myself.  I've looked into self-publishing, and if I can figure out how to write a book, I can certainly figure out the mechanics of publishing it.

And so it goes.  Onward, people, onward. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

New Year, New Me

My writing corner in what isn't the dining room
I don't know whether anyone is still out there (are you??), but I just hit publish on a series of Venice vacation posts that never got written.  So there are all the pretty pictures, which are too pretty just to hide forever in the inside of my computer, but craft show season, my job, the holidays, and random other complications got in the way. 

I decided just to let the photos go out there into the world without all my words. 

Which is not to say I didn't want to write the words; I did.  I miss writing here.  I've been doing other writing, though, and I seriously hope I have some news on that front in the new year. 

But in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed whatever holiday(s) you celebrate, I hope you got some rest and relaxation in before real life got you in its grip, and I hope you come back next year, when I PROMISE to write more regularly. 

Promise.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Windows

Velvet chair with an opinion
One of my favorite things to photograph while traveling is shop windows.  There's always something I haven't seen, or it's displayed or made differently than I'd find at home. 

There are quite a few mask photos here, but then again, it's Venice.  Canals and masks, those are two of the givens. 

Also other interesting goodies, but I'll let you see for yourself.  Photos are all captioned.
Mechanical horse in a bookshop

Bookshop dioramas - I love the violin!


Art supply store with real ground pigment

Glass flowers - gorgeous!

I thought the triple face was interesting

The shoes on the right, please

Spice store - as pretty as the ground pigments
The smell that came out the open door - amazing
The steampunk style masks were on sale
Lovely shop, famous for making masks for Eyes Wide Shut
and other films.








Thursday, November 1, 2018

Away


Living room on the canal
So we took ourselves away for a few days almost two weeks ago.  It was planned a while back, and then I didn't exactly forget about it, but I did deliberately not think about it.

There's just been a lot going on, with work and fall craft shows and everything else, that a vacation felt somewhere between self-indulgent and an interruption. 

Didn't we have enough to do?

Which sounds stupid, I know - who bitches about going on vacation? 

I took myself for coffee in town a few days before we left and thought about it, and realized what my problem was.

We've been in the house since the beginning of March, but we're not done yet.  And that bothers the hell out of me.


Sitting area in the bedroom
It shouldn't, considering what else we've accomplished in that time - packing to move, cleaning and selling my house, cleaning, painting and selling Mario's house, and cleaning, painting and listing his rental property (which hasn't sold yet), but sometimes logic doesn't enter into it.

I live by my to do lists, and my list wasn't done.

So I didn't deserve to have a treat.

Except . . . what? 


View from the windows
Of course we deserved a treat.  We'd cleaned, painted and sold two houses, bought a house, moved into it, and still managed to carry on our normal lives with only minimal disruption.

Craft shows haven't been particularly profitable this year, but (a) the weather's been awful, and a few outdoor shows have canceled, and (b) I think there's some cosmic ledger that says 'you've done well enough on real estate, slow down and let someone else make a few bucks on the craft shows.'

So I exhaled, got over myself, and we went to Venice.

We had a gorgeous Airbnb.  When I went there 18 years ago, by myself, I found a small, cheap hotel a few streets from the nearest canal.  This time, I wanted a canal view.  And I got one.




Big, comfy bed
The apartment was near Campo san Mauritzio, which was so hard to find that when we went out for the first time, I took pictures all the way, like breadcrumbs to track our way back.  It was an adorable little place, a tiny kitchen, a sunken living room with double doors right on the canal (with a glass balcony which kept the rising water from entering the apartment), a miniscule bathroom and a lovely big bed under a beamed ceiling.

The weather was unexpectedly warm - in the 70s for the first few days we were there - and we left the bedroom windows open when we went out.  Big mistake.  When we tried to go to sleep that night, all we could hear was the whine of mosquitoes. 

If you look closely, you can see that
the water is above floor level.  Yikes!
I'm not much bothered by them, except for the noise, but Mario is bug bait and when he got up in the morning, his shoulders were covered in bites. 

After that, we kept the windows shut except for when we wanted to lean out and look at the tiny, narrow canal outside, or smell the slightly stagnant, fishy scent (which I love, but then again, I love when we drive down the shore and the first smell you get is the funky back-bay smell).

It was nice having an apartment as a base.  Even if we don't use the kitchen much, or at all, other than the fridge, I like having the extra space and the privacy.  Once upon a time, I was the kind of traveler who used dirt cheap bed-and-breakfasts, the kind with the shared bathroom down the hall.

Age and a decent salary has its privileges.

And the fridge did get used, at least.  Bottles of prosecco and my new favorite, the bottled Bellini.  I've had Bellinis before, but I hadn't realized you could get them pre-mixed and in personal sizes. 

Here's to champagne and peach juice for breakfast.  Yum!

The airport opens right onto the water
As far as the traveling itself, it was probably the easiest flights ever.  For the first leg, Philly to Dublin, we got in an hour early, and despite warnings, the ground crew wasn't ready so we had to wait for the plane to get attached to the gate.  And then we had to wait for someone to open a cafe, but it was all good.  Dublin to Venice went quickly.  The longest part was the line at the airport for the Alilaguna boat, which took groups of 50+ into the city, stopping along the Grand Canal to disgorge passengers and luggage into this magical city.