Friday, December 31, 2010

assembly line!


Another day, more polymer stamps! I'm having more successes than failures today, so that's something. No real plans for New Year's Eve - so far, today feels like a regular workday. We'll probably go out to dinner with a couple of friends, then hang out here. I'm thinking it'd be fun to be in the center of the labyrinth when it turns midnight, but we'll see. I might wimp out due to the unusually cold weather!

So, wow...last day of the year. It's been another tumultuous one, for sure. Many ups and downs, a total change of life for Jim, growing pains for my business, lots of changes in Lauren's life as she grows up, family drama, broken bones, Toad, more "are we going to keep our house" stress than I ever thought possible, hooping,  reunions with some old friends and a few really great new ones. That's a pretty weak sum-up of a whole year of life, but it's all I have the energy for today. It's impossible to capture it all in words anyway.
I'm excited to see what next year brings!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm a spaz!

Well, well, I experienced something new this morning. I bent over to pick up my polymer exposure unit and was hit like a freight train by a spasm in the middle of my back. I actually dropped to my knees and couldn't breathe or talk for a few seconds, then had to remain in a fetal position on the floor for a while (superdignified). Once I got up, I found I could only walk if I remained bent at a 90 degree angle. Awesome. Now, I'm no stranger to back and neck pain - a car accident in 2001 lead to my having two of the vertebrae in my neck fused. It was a major surgery during which they took a piece of my hipbone and grafted it where the herniated disc was removed, and reinforced it with a titanium plate and screws. (yup..I'm literally screwed up) Recovering from that was tough, and I still experience a lot of spasms in my neck - but I'm USED to those! This is something totally new and so far I'm giving it two thumbs down. I won't actually perform the thumbs-down, though, since it'll probably set off a new spasm.

I worked on polymer stamps all day, despite the stupid back thing (another joy of working from home..you can crawl from place to place and no one gives you a funny look) with much success! I've got several new listings in the shop and one has already sold, hurray! I'm starting with all my heart designs since Valentine's Day isn't far off. Crafters usually purchase these items a bit ahead of time. Little by little, I'll be converting all my stamps over to polymer. It's fun, now that I've got the process down (for the most part) and I'm excited about it. It's nice to not sit at the desk carving all day long. It will be VERY nice to not keep customers waiting for weeks for their stamps.

I'm hoping the back thing lets up soon and that this isn't going to be a new way for my body to torment me. I can't hoop today and that is not cool. C'mon body...isn't the neck crap enough? Let's not add "bad back" to the roster, mkay?
Thanks.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Little Poly Stampmaker

Alrighty...so, still running into a few bumps in the road as far as the polymer stamps, go, but I'm getting there. Today I finished carving my last large (multiple stamp) order! I've got a few more single-stamp orders to finish, but not many at all. It's really strange to actually be reaching the end of the carving list.

I REALLY need to get the polymer stamps cranking, though, and listed in the shop. Valentine's Day is coming up and I have a lot of cool heart stamps that usually sell well. Jim got them scanned into the computer today and is working on cleaning the images up and making them into negatives for me. The hard part about all of our endeavors of late is that we have to learn EVERYTHING! Not only do we need to learn the process of screenprinting - we need to learn how to create the graphics. That means having to totally learn Photoshop, along with learning how to use each piece of equipment we've aquired. I'm having to learn to use the polymer stampmaker - there's a lot of tweaking of exposure times and stuff, depending on how detailed the stamp is.

Jim made his first hot press transfer t-shirt today, success!!! That's the other method by which we want to produce t-shirts. It looks similar to screenprinting, but is a lot less expensive to set up initially (for the customer, not us..the equipment was outrageously pricey) for someone who just wants a single tshirt or short run of shirts (like for a small business or a team). Otherwise, the setup charge to burn a silkscreen is pretty high and isn't worth it unless you're getting a large number of shirts made. This method lets us create the graphic design, print it onto a special transfer paper and then use a heat press to transfer the image to the shirt. Basically a really high-tech iron-on. Anyway..there have been many trials and tribulations just learning to use the printer itself, and today he finally got a finished product! (see photo above)

Okay....now back to work!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

the between holidays lull..

Well, despite being broke and stressed out, we had a great Christmas. I might have to wear this hat every day, it makes me that happy! Heheheh. Today is Christmas with the Ex-Laws, also known as SecondChristmas. Every year we get together with Lauren's grandparents, dad, stepmom, brother, stepsister, aunt, uncle and cousins shortly after major holidays. We do the whole big family dinner thing, get caught up, let all the kids play - it's noisy and fun! It took us a long time to reach a place (mentally and emotionally) where we can all do this comfortably (and it's probably more comfortable to some of us than others), but I'm glad we can do it.

I tried to make another batch of polymer stamps this morning. Still running into learning curve issues, but I can see that it will work. I made a few successful ones the other day, and actually sold two already. Today..meh, I think I know what went wrong but now I'm out of polymer and have to wait for more to be delivered. I NEED to get the shop up and running again, we're definitely hurting without that income.
Time to go get ready! Stay tuned..

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

the storm before the calm

...so, we're apparently in foreclosure, according to our lender. The lender called a few days ago (despite having been told during three other phone calls that they do NOT have permission to call us, and having been directed to call our attorney) and informed me that our status is now foreclosure with no sale date. They can't put a sale date on the house until sometime in February. I of course sent a panicked email to the law office and was reassured yet again that this is just part of the process and that they will NOT let us lose our home. It's nice to hear those words. I very much hope they are true.

Meanwhile, we finished the print job I wrote about a few days ago, and delivered the goods to our friend in Santa Barbara yesterday morning. Glad we made it through that with relatively few mistakes! We also gained a little more experience. I really like the process of screenprinting, actually. It's so satisfying to squeeeeege that ink through the screen, then lift it up and see the print. The cleanup is sucky, though.

Today I plan to start making some polymer stamps with my new machine, so this could be an exciting day. Or it could be another day of shit fits and meltdowns if I run into a bunch of learning curve issues. I've found that I REALLY fall apart when these things happen. I guess I've always been this way - but haven't had Jim at home to notice it (and point it out) before. What I mean is, I can't just try something, fail, take a deep breath and try again. When I fail at some attempt, I apparently need to get extremely pissed off and let loose a torrent of appalling language, as well as rant about how I'm NEVER going to get this right and I might as well go get a job at McDonald's or something. Then I usually try it again, figure it out, succeed, and skip around like a happy first-grader. It's all part of the process.
I hope today brings more skipping than melting down.

Friday, December 17, 2010

go with the flow

So after yesterday's comedy of errors, today we strolled into the garage/shop and cranked out a bunch of sweatshirts, printed on the front and back, with ZERO casualties. Not a single sweatshirt was ruined. It took us maybe 2 to 3 hours to do those, a few aprons and a handful of t-shirts without messing up a single one. Crazy.

Now we're hanging out, listening to the rain, and I'm hooping to 80's music. Oh, and there might be a martini or two and one lucky corgi involved.  These days are going to be crazy, but some of them are going to be perfect.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Misshaps and Meltdowns...an album title, or just a typical day in my life?

Things that I expected to go wrong during today's bout of screenprinting: a few mess-ups, some unwanted ink blobs, moments of frustration here and there. Learning curve stuff, all part of the deal.

Things I did NOT expect to go wrong today, but did anyway: a huge puddle of spilled acetone, screwing up five sweatshirts before realizing it's not US, it's just bad ink, a note on the door from a SoCal Edison contractor telling us they're going to chop off the top of our palm tree, causing it to die, because it's near a power line...but they will leave the rest of the tree, and we'll need to pay someone to remove it., Arguing with aforementioned (and English-challenged) contractor about aforementioned tree in order to prevent its decapitation, a jury summons.

At least our lender didn't call or send scary certified mail.
Time for wine.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

let's get physicals

Half of today was spent in doctors' offices. Since our insurance benefits run out in February, Jim and I decided we'd better use what we have while we have it, and went in for physicals today. We really need to look into getting a health insurance policy, and I've talked with an agent about it, but I keep putting it off. It's just hard to face. Another expense, more paperwork and qualifications...bleh. I have an aversion to paperwork after two years of trying to get a loan modification.

It's hard to face the reality of the situation - we've deliberately chosen (by means of Jim leaving his job) to give up the security of health benefits, when we both have health situations that can't go untreated (I have bipolar disorder, Jim's got some digestive and cholesterol issues)..we HAVE to get some sort of insurance, but we're broke. Yikes. Yikes yikes yikes.

Meanwhile, I did hear from the lawyer today and they reassured me that they're working on our case and that it's just a long, stressful process. They say they can postpone a sale date once the lender places one on the house (which will happen sometime in February). It's just scary, having to wait until things are juuuuuuust about to fall apart before being able to take action.
Oh, and we have about 30 sweatshirts that we need to screenprint for a friend (the friend who is lending us the screenprinting setup) before Christmas. And NO Christmas shopping completed yet.
I've managed to knock my stamp carving list down to about 31 left before I'm totally caught up and can start producing polymer stamps.
Ugh, this entry is kind of going nowhere. I wish I could write more eloquently about the situation, but the minute I start writing about it, I get anxious and any decent writing skills go out the window.
Time for dinner. And wine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not watching you...

This whole trying-to-keep-the-house business is turning us into nervous wrecks. My stomach clenches whenever I get the mail, anticipating some new nastiness from the lender. I cringe whenever I get a phone call from a number I don't recognize. Today, Jim and I were eating lunch at the kitchen table when we noticed a woman outside taking a picture of our house. Great, we thought, another "independent field inspector" or something like that. Jim went outside to see what she was doing...and it turned out she was just taking a picture of one of the trees in our yard, whose leaves have turned a gorgeous red-orange. Jeeze. Sorry, lady.

This week I'm feeling really edgy. I'm worried that this lawyer will turn out to be just another person looking to take our money and rip us off, and that we'll still lose the house along with a substantial retainer fee. Oh yeah....and Christmas is coming, wheeeee!!!

I'm trying to focus on carving, getting caught up so I can kick my stamp shop into high gear. We've got pretty much no money coming in right now, it's all pretty scary. We're trying not to wallow in negative thinking, though.
Trying.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hoop it up!

Today I spent the afternoon in Ventura and oh, how I love California! Sunny, clear, around 80 degrees, two weeks before Christmas. I'm making a point of getting myself out of the house once a week, just to avoid becoming a total recluse. There's a lunchtime hoop class in Ventura, so for now that's my get-out-of-house-free card. Today I also stopped at Coast Graphic Supply to pick up more printing supplies and went to a really cool Dia de los Muertos themed store to get an ornament for an ornament exchange party tomorrow night. Now I'm home, drowsy but happy, and it's time to get some work done. That's the one problem with getting myself out of the house - the stamps don't carve themselves, and I still have so much more to do before switching to polymer.
Jim's been working hard every day to teach himself Photoshop so we can create the graphics we'll be printing. I'm proud of him, he's really following through on this stuff. Normally we're both HUGE procrastinators. Turns out the prospect of being completely broke if we don't succeed is a great motivator.
Who knew?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

the Tube

Today was spent participating in the filming of some short YouTube films with our friend James. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but he and I made several YouTube films together back when I was first laid off. They actually hit one million views a few days ago..so yay! I don't talk about filming very much because it pretty much makes me squirm in agony to watch myself on film. So despite having filmed for hours with James, I've probably only watched each film two or three times. I only play a bit part in the ones we did today, so maybe they'll be more bearable.

Nothing new going on with the house today, since it's Sunday. We'll see what tomorrow brings. Tomorrow I plan to work in the morning, attend an afternoon hoop class, then probably work some more once I return home. And yeah....nothing interesting to say today, but nothing bad, either...so there's that.  :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Who's fault? Default!


I promised to blog a little each day, so here it is. Today's main thread of thought has been centered around the utter joylessness of cleaning a house that might not be yours for much longer. Cleaning in general isn't much fun...but cleaning a house the bank is trying desperately to take away from you is reallynotfun!

Today a realtor came to the door - apparently our house shows up in the system as being in default, which makes it fair game for realtors to try to "entice" us into doing a short sale. This will probably become a routine activity, since short sales are realtors' bread and butter these days. Good times, good times.

Meanwhile, whenever I speak to the negotiators at the law firm, they assure us "We will NOT let you lose your house, you are protected!". It's hard to trust anyone anymore. We've been ripped off in the past by a company that swore up and down they could absolutely help us. What if this is another scam? We're out of options if it is, because there's no more money to pay lawyers. Our credit is horrible, so if we do lose the house, we're going to have a hell of a time finding anyone that would let us rent from them. Oh yeah..and we have 4 dogs we refuse to give up (well..there's a yellow lab I can live without) and an entire print shop in the garage by which we mean to make a living. It'll hard to squeeze that into a teeny apartment. Or trailer. Or tent.

Some days I wonder if we even deserve this house. We bought more house than we could afford - but everyone kept telling us "This is how everyone does it, the real estate bubble is NEVER going to burst, you'll just keep gaining equity - you'll never owe more than what your house is worth.". We were stupid. Didn't do our homework, loved this place so much, we just went for it, confident it'd work out. Now here we are upside-down, in default and pinning all our hopes on something a law firm is telling us.
Leap and the net will appear. No net in sight so far.
Maybe it's just further down...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Invisible Net

Wow.....I've severely neglected this blog! Let see..where did we leave off? Jim was either about to leave or had just left his job with Verizon. After working for the company for almost 20 years, the last few of which were spent commuting about an hour each way, they moved his job even further away! His commute would have gone from an hour each way to two hours each way. The cherry on top is that the company wouldn't change his hours to accomodate carpooling with anyone. Yup, with almost 20 years of seniority, he was still being trumped by people with even more seniority, and had pretty much the worst hours in the department. So he'd have been getting off work at 6:30pm and not getting home til about 8:30pm. Anyway...the company offered a voluntary separation package and he decided to take it.

Paging back a bit - I also worked for Verizon, for 17 years. I got laid off due to company-wide cuts four years ago. After a couple years attempting to run a dog training business in a bad economy (FAIL), I'm now selling hand-carved stamps full time in my Etsy shop. Now Jim and I are going to try to make a go of BOTH of us being full-time artists. Yes....we're on the verge of losing our house (yup, that's still going on), are broke.....and we're risking it all in the hopes of being self-employed doing something we both actually enjoy and care about. I know. Crazy.

We've obtained a good screenprinting set-up on a sort of indefinite loan basis from a good friend - and we print tshirts for his resturant in return for the use of it. So that's one avenue. We also just spent a large chunk of Jim's severence money on a really high-end printer that's capable of producing professional grade art prints. It can also print transfers that can be heat-pressed onto tshirts. We also got a vinyl cutter for making custom decals. So....we're apparently going to be doing tshirts, decals, screenprinting...in all sorts of forms. Plus I'm still doing stamps, but am moving away from hand-carving them. I just bought a new polymer stamp making machine (a way better setup than the first one I tried last year) and am going to start producing all of my stamps that way, with the exception of custom hand-carved items. Right now I've actually stopped taking new stamp orders so that I can catch up on the orders I already have, then I will begin producing the polymer stamps.

We're working with a law firm trying to keep our house, since we got denied for a loan modification for the THIRD TIME now. So let's see.......neither of us has a stable job with benefits and a predictable income, we're trying to start a new business (incidentally we have to learn to USE all the gear we just bought..not a simple task by any means) and our future in this home is uncertain - and we NEED the home in order to run the business, AND I'm changing my method of stamp production totally. Adding to that is some really aggravating family drama that we're trying our best to not get sucked into. Oh, and Jim's dad's alzheimer's continues to get worse. We try to get up there and visit/help out every couple of months. No stress here!!!!! No sir.
So..from here out I'm going to try to blog a little every day, to chronicle our adventures as we try to build a life out of the various pieces of wreckage left from our "old" life. Stay tuned, it should be interesting...

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.