Sunday, May 30, 2010

at the zoo...

I spent most of today on a really fun project. A very good friend of mine works at the Philadelphia Zoo and asked me to make a set of stamps for them. They are doing zoo camp this summer and the kids will learn about endangered species in different countries. They'll have passports which will be stamped with the animals they learn about, and I got to make the stamps!! Yaaay! So, here they are!
Clockwise from left we've got the Orangutan, Micronesian Kingfisher, Gorilla, Golden Lion Tamerins, Harlequin Toad, Humboldt Penguin, Polar Bear, and Diamondback Terrapin. And of course the one in the middle is the Zoo Camp stamp.
I can't believe I got them all finished in a day. It helped that I had all the drawings done already and was able to transfer them to the block and carve. And now Jim is on his way home and it's time to relax!
Oh wait - I carved a new stamp yesterday too. Here it is!

Got almost the entire thing done while my daughter was in the shower. That's either a testament to how quickly I can carve when I want to, or how much water a teenager can waste.
I'll let you guess which.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I've got sun...flower on a cloudy day

This is the first bloom of a sunflower that sprouted under the bird feeder in the back yard. I'm so excited about this thing, it's not even funny. I've tried for years to get sunflowers to grow in our yard and have always been thwarted by squirrels. They always ate the buds before the flower could bloom and the whole thing would die. This one happened by accident and it's perfect! It's about four feet tall..maybe a bit taller, and has buds all over it. It's going to be so pretty when they all bloom!! It's probably weird to be this happy about a flower, but for the most part, I'm pretty easy to please.

We're having the strangest weather this Spring. Here it is almost June and it's cold and cloudy. Usually by mid-May it's HOT, but this one has been chilly and gray. I know once the hot weather hits and I'm baking in the bedroom with the portable air conditioner pointed directly at my face, I'll miss this. For now, though,  it just seems weird. Hmm....I wonder if I should do a carving of the flower??
Okay, back to work.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

impressed

I just have to say I have the best job ever. See the beautiful pendant above? It was made by Brianna of MrsPetersonPottery using my anatomical heart stamp. She's been making pendants with this stamp and thought I should have one. How cool is that??? I'm so lucky to be doing what I'm doing, creating things that I love and meeting people like Brianna in the process. For every dishonest, greedy person in the world (ahem, Rescue Rooter..), there is a person like this - willing to give something beautiful to someone they've never met.
That's something I need to remember.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

snakes and snails....er, I mean scorpions...

Last weekend was busy and discombobulating. We spent Friday through Sunday at Jim's parents' house in Coarsegold, helping out. Jim did chores that his dad needs help with, I spent time with his mom. I also managed to get ten stamps carved somehow, which made me feel less panicky about being "off" work. I couldn't ship them, but at least there were done and I could ship them as soon as I got home.
On our first night there, we were greeted by a scorpion on the guest bedroom wall.


On Sunday there was a beautiful California kingsnake in the yard! I love those and it was a treat to see.



When we got home we discovered two of last week's problems were still in existence. The plumbing backed up again, and Lucy (the dog with the thousand dollar tummyache) has worms. I wasted much of Monday waiting for the plumber to show up, since the work has a 90 day warranty. He said he'd be here between 9 and 10. He arrived at 1:30. *sigh*
Got deworming medicine for Lucy, so she should be okay. I can't believe that a thousand dollars worth of diagnostic work didn't cover testing for parasites. In a dog who eats all kinds of disgusting stuff and was having stomach problems.
On Monday a little goldfinch crashed into my bedroom window. I looked outside after hearing the thud just in time to see him hit the ground. I ran out there before Lucy could snap him up and found that he was only stunned. I put him in a little metal tub on the side yard til he came around. Poor little guy. It gave me a great photo opportunity though.


We're dog sitting again, so we have a total of six dogs in the house. I'm not sure, but I think these two dogs might overlap a couple days with two more dogs we're watching next week. So...at some point we will have eight dogs in the house. That'll be delightful.
Oh, last night I carved a new stamp. It was nice to finally add something new to the shop. Not much time for that these days.

Okay, it's Saturday and I have a ton of work to do. Time to get up!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors...


Seriously, we're being punk'd by the universe. Someone has been made aware that we got some money from our tax refund and has decided it must be rapidly taken away from us before we go and do something crazy with it. Something rash and irresponsible, like taking a short trip for our 10 year wedding anniversary next month. Just a local trip, mind you. Not back to Maui, where we spent our honeymoon and promised ourselves we'd return for our 10th. No, no! No way can we afford that. But we got a small chunk back from taxes, enough to go up to Big Sur and Cambria for a few days.

So...first thing to happen is the fuel pump in Jim's truck breaks. That was an expensive fix, but we were relieved that it happened during the only time of year when there's a chance we could pay for it.

Then the plumbing incident occured. Last Thursday, just before Jim got home, disgusting brown water began gurgling up into the shower and bathtubs in the house. Awesome. So Jim tried to snake out whatever might be causing the backup. No luck, better call a plumber. Crap. I don't know a good plumber, we've never had an issue before. So I look online, pick one called Rescue Rooter because it looked like it was a big corporation - must be trustworthy, right? And they had 24 hour service, and it was after regular business hours..and we needed help right way. So they came and tried to snake out the drains....and were unsuccessful. The guy told us he'd have to send a crew the next day with a snake that had a camera on it so they could find the blockage. This, he announced, would cost $425.00. Just for them to look, then we'd have to see what they found and go from there. *gulp* So they arrived on Friday (2 hours late) and I sequestered all the dogs in the bedroom so the crew could go in and out of the house. They come back to me with this news: they found the clog, but it's in the sewage pipe under the front yard. They will need to dig down to it, replace the section of pipe and put a release valve on it. This, they say, will cost $2,250.00 - possibly more if they find other issues beyond the clog. I had to call Jim at work to tell him we might as well kiss our vacation goodbye because we were buying a piece of sewer pipe instead.

So....the day dragged on. They had one guy here digging the hole, the rest of the crew went off to other jobs. At 4pm Friday the guy tells us he's leaving, they'll be back tomorrow. So...Saturday. The crew arrives and since Jim's home, I just hole up in the bedroom with the dogs, TRYING to get some stamps carved (oh yeah, did I mention how little work I was able to get done Friday?). The crew puts their camera/snake contraption into the pipe beyond the leak and lo and behold! Another clog is found! Under the street! But still in "our" portion of the pipe. And it's going to require blowing the clog out with a power washer and replacing thirty feet of pipe with something called permaliner. This, my friends, was going to cost TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. So we were both freaking the f*ck out. Complete meltdown. We don't have anything CLOSE to that much money. The $2,250.00 we were already looking at was going to break us. We don't have credit cards anymore - last summer I went through debt settlement, paying all our credit card debt off for about half of what we owed and ruining our credit. We had to, though, we were getting buried in debt. SO...yeah. No credit card to put it on, nothing close to that amount in the bank. None of our parents would have been able to lend it to us. Maybe we could have taken it from Jim's 401k..but it was Saturday, there was no one to talk to. Oh - and I forgot to mention, I just had the surgery to fix my broken nose last Tuesday..so I've still got a splint taped to my face and I'm feeling like crap anyway..before this happened.

SO...I called my friend just to freak out about it, and she saved the day. She gave me the number of her good friend who happens to be a plumber. I called him and told him what was going on he said "STOP!!! Don't let them do anything, you're being ripped off!!!". None of what they were saying we absolutely needed was necessary. And these people were watching us freak out when they first told us about it. I was in tears, Jim was just about having a heart attack, we were running around trying to make phone calls about the 401k..it was very obvious we could NOT afford this - and they would have happily taken the money we'd have put ourselves into debt to get. Anyway, Frank - our Fairy Godplumber, told us to just tell them to stop, pay them for whatever they did (which was basically to put a snake in the pipe to look for a clog, dig a hole, and take a chunk out of our wastewater pipe). We asked them how much all of that cost and they said it would be $1,100.00. !!!!!!!!!!!! Frank had already told me he could do the entire job (not just what they'd done so far, but to dig up the yard and replace the entire pipe) for under a thousand. I called him back and he told me not to pay them that much. Offer the $425.00 the originally quoted for snaking the pipe and maybe $200.00 for digging the hole. They argued with us. We called and spoke to a supervisor and told him we knew they were upselling us on thousands of dollars worth of work that didn't need to be done. Suddenly they were able to unclog the pipe and replace the section they removed, and put in the release valve...for a thousand, total. Amazing, no? Frank came by to check their work (as they were working..so they could see we had someone watching out for us). Thank GOD for honest people. I can not believe this company was just going to stand there and rob us. So.....despite having had to spend a thousand dollars, we felt like we got off easy all things considered.

Sunday managed to be a nice day and no catastrophies occured. Oh wait, except one of our dogs, Lucy, seemed a little off. She threw up after she ate breakfast (very unusual - this is the rabbit killer, who NEVER lets food get away from her). She was acting sort of weird. Ears down, walking kind of slowly (again, weird - this dog does everything in fast forward). She acted reluctant to jump up on things that she normally leaps and bounces across. She usually treats our house like an agility course, leaping from the pass-through, down to the couch, onto the coffee table and out the back door. Something was wrong. Then I fed her dinner and she just stood there, looking at her bowl. Again...wrong. This dog is usually finished with her food before I've managed to put the other three dogs' bowls on the floor. She finally ate..but really slowly, and only because she didn't want the others to get what was hers. I worried all night and knew I'd probably be headed to the vet on Monday.

Monday comes along and yep, she's definitely not feeling well. She did the same thing with her breakfast - just looked at it, then reluctantly ate it. She was walking really gingerly, like something hurt. She's a corgi, so I was wondering if it could be a back issue..but I also noticed she went outside, tried to poop..but didn't. Uh oh. Blockage? She does eat all kinds of weird things - sticks, dirt...rabbits, lizards. Off to the vet we went. There they did an xray (cha-ching!!) and gave her fluids (cha-ching!). The vet read the xray and didn't see any obvious blockage, but he seemed to feel something firm in her abdomen. That might have just been the food in her stomach, though. He did notice she seemed tender in one area of her back. The conclusion - her back is probably hurting and maybe that's making her just reluctant to eat. They gave me an anti-inflammatory and said to have her rest in her crate for a while to rest her back. But they'd call me after the radiologist looked at the xrays, since he's the one who really knows how to read to them. So..I get back home (oh..I forgot - my morning was already eaten by the doctor appointment to remove the splint from my nose). It's now around 1pm and I can FINALLY start to work. I'm panicking because I'm late on so many stamps and I'm getting lots of angry Etsy convos to that effect. I start on a stamp...and the phone rings. It's my vet. The radiologist read the xray and thinks Lucy has an intestinal blockage called an intussusception- where the intestine sort of telescopes into itself. Very dangerous, life threatening, requires immediate surgery. I'm sent to an animal hospital in Ventura, where they're waiting for me.
Jim raced home early from work to go with me, and I was freaking out. The vet warned me the surgery would cost between 4 and 5k!! I'm sick with worry about my dog, and also wondering where the f*** we're going to get this money, once again.

So we arrive at the hospital, they whisk Lucy away and give me papers to fill out - in which I need to decide what degree of resuscitation I'll permit if she codes during sugery. I'm crying again. That's twice in one week! And I'm not a crier!! I'm thinking I might lose my dog - or even in the best-case scenario, lose a lot of money and have a dog who has a long recovery and lots of pain to go through. They tell us they need to do an ultrasound on her first, to determine if there is indeed a blockage. We wait. They come out after a long time and tell us they've found.....................wait for it............................absolutely nothing. They didn't manually feel anything, they didn't see anything on the scan. She most likely ate something questionable and has a bad case of gastroenteritis, and that's why she's not wanting to eat. And that's probably why she's walking funny - she has a bellyache. Grand total for the vet visit and the hospital visit combined: just over a thousand dollars. Which, again, seemed like we'd gotten off easy after facing the possibility of the 4-5k surgery.

So...tax refund? All gone. We will spend our 10th anniversary marvelling at how well our toilets flush and petting our dogs, appreciating their good health.
And now I need to get up, feed the dogs (Lucy, by the way, was running, jumping and generally acting like a maniac when we got home from the hospital. As though nothing had ever been wrong. She farted the entire way home, making it necessary to ride with all the windows down..) and somehow carve, like, 200 stamps today.
Could somebody please point out the hidden cameras?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Can you hear me from under this avalanche?

Auuugghh!! Okay, here I am now, officially franchise-less and focused solely on my Etsy business. And I'm freaking out! My wait time has become so long, because orders keep coming in and I can only carve so many stamps in a day. I know, I know...this is NOT something to complain about. And I'm certainly not unhappy about the growth of the business. I'm thrilled. But I'm also worried. Will I start losing customers as the wait time increases? I'm definitely fielding a lot more "Where is my stamp, it's been three weeks?!!!" messages. I've tried to make it very clear in my shop policies and in the item descriptions that due to being handmade, there is a wait time for the item. Still, not everyone reads descriptions, and I occasionally get someone who's placed an order for a gift or to use in their wedding invitations (LOTS of that going on right now) who is shocked that the stamp didn't arrive a few days later.

Adding to the fun, I'm about to have surgery, finally, to fix my broken nose (see entry from last September) tomorrow. While it's definitely possible to carve stamps while splinted and black-eyed, I'm sure it's going to slow me down. I'm trying to decide if I should close the shop for a few days in order to try to just catch up on the orders I already have. I worry about losing traffic if I do that, though. Plus the ad I placed in Rubberstampmadness has just come out in the Summer issue - and I'd hate for someone to see it, head over to my shop and find it closed.

I think I'm just going to have to suck it up and keep plugging away, dealing with the occasional irate customer. Too much work is definitely a good problem to have, I just hope I can keep up with it all.

Oh - in other news, remember the bird that kept showing up at my bedroom door/window? He's STILL here!!!! I didn't see him at all last week and I thought he'd finally gone away, but nope, he's back. He wakes me up every morning, frantically tapping away at the window, or perching on the doorknob. He seriously looks like he's trying to tell me something, but I have no idea what it is.
I hope it's good news.

About Me

Hippieville, CA, United States
This is the story of life after losing the "real" job and the house, trying to find the middle ground between making a living and actually living.