Monday, June 30, 2014

Theo's Cat Party

My little guy turned 8 last week. We were kicking around ideas for a party theme. We were considering a cat theme along with a couple others. Then I was scrolling through Pinterest for cat party ideas. Theo got one look at this litter box cake and his mind was made up. Cat party it was.

 The invitations were a free download generously offered by Heidi of My Paper Crane. They were so impossibly cute. Thank you, Heidi!

Decorations were a combination of store-bought basics with added homemade touches, and a few etsy purchases.  The colorful kitty head garland was a pdf from GirliePains.  The black cat heads and triangle garland was from BluefinWorks.

I made headbands with cat ears, and cut up feather boas from the craft store for tails. Some guests chose to wear cat accessories and others declined. Okay by me.

The first game was Eat Like a Kitty. Pet food bowls filled with dry cereal were put out in a circle. Guests had to eat it like a cat, no hands!

After that we went outside to the park to have a mouse hunt. Nate had gone out a few minutes earlier to scatter the "mice." They were ping pong balls with mouse faces drawn on. Guys, did you know it's pretty difficult to draw on a small round surface? The mice faces were not great looking but they got the job done. The kids spent a few minutes running around the park looking for mice. Then they delivered them back to me, as a cat would deliver a prized catch to his owner. I didn't get many pictures of this game in progress. I was watching the kids, and visiting with a friend in the park.

Back inside for cake. We served litter box cake, which had brownie/cookie bars on the bottom, vanilla sandwich cookie crumbs, and tootsie rolls. A touch of food coloring makes it look pretty darn realistic. What can I say about this cake? It's such a disgusting idea. I'm glad I'm not the person who originally thought of it. But for an eight year old boy (mine, at least), the gross-out factor of this cake was absolutely the most important feature of the party. So I had to make it. I also served cupcakes for those who couldn't stomach the litter box cake. And there were a few kids who couldn't. Sorry, kiddos! We also had popcorn, pretzels, and M&M's.

Our cat Sirius can jump really high when he's trying to get his favorite feather toy. A few different times during the party we showed off his moves. Free entertainment at its finest.

After cake we played Pin the Whiskers on the Cat with an adorable, if I do say so myself, cat head I whipped up the night before the party. Black pipecleaners for the whiskers. That was our last game.

Afterwards we let Theo open gifts and watched a bunch of cat videos on YouTube until parents came.

Goody bags featured some internet cat faces, and had Trader Joes cat cookies, kit kats, two Japanese cat charms, and stickers.

This party felt like a lot of work because of all the homemade decorations and activities. But at its core it was a very simple, sweet party. I love how much Theo loves cats, and I'm happy he wanted to do a cat party.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Modern In the City Challenge Quilt

All during March I was frantically hand-quilting a twin size quilt that I can't show you yet, because it is associated with a book that is not yet published.  If you think frantically and hand-sewing are mutually exclusive, you are right.  Or at least they should be.  I forced them to go together and it was stressful.
Anyway, after I finished that beast of a project, I had about three days to meet a deadline for a challenge sponsored by my guild.  The theme was Modern in the City, which we were free to interpret any way we wanted.  The quilt had to be 36" on one side and 36" or less on the other.  Most excitingly, select quilts submitted for this challenge would be displayed at the International Quilt Festival in June!  All the quilts from our guild ended up being selected for the show.  So I'm going to have my first quilt hanging in a quilt show!  Very exciting.

I had a few ideas for this challenge, but went with the one that was simplest because I only had a couple of days to work on it.  I used this photo of my kids as inspiration.
Here is my artist's statement:
"One beautiful summer day in 2011, I was in Chicago with my family. We watched some friends play softball and then we walked to a restaurant for lunch. Somewhere in between, I don't know exactly where, we passed a colorful brick wall. I made my two boys pose for pictures in front of it. I loved the colors, individually and as a group, and I loved how randomly they seemed to be placed. I still have those pictures and I adore them. When I heard the theme, "Modern in the City," these colorful bricks immediately came to mind. They are emblematic of the fact that, for modern quilters, inspiration abounds in a city. There are patterns, shapes, and interesting lines at every turn. A day spent in the city with a keen eye and a camera could yield dozens of quilt ideas. I chose this brick wall as mine because the colors are bold and fun, and because it reminds me of such a happy day with my family.
For my quilting design, I chose a modern Chicago symbol, Cloud Gate sculpture, which is lovingly referred to as The Bean. I love the way the Bean draws people from all over the city and even the world. Its simple, smooth shape made for a pleasing concentric quilting design. I also like the way the curved lines contrast with the straight lines of the piecing."
Even though this little quilt was easy to whip up, I love how it turned out.  I think it's very striking.  I love the bean quilting!  Probably my favorite quilting I have done so far.  I hand-sewed a little skyline in the middle of the bean, too, which is a sweet little detail.  I can't wait to go to the International Quilt Festival with my guild friends and see our quilts displayed.

what a difference a year makes...

Last year on Mother's Day I did not want to be celebrated.  I was convinced I was the worst mother in the world. I probably would have been more comfortable wearing a sandwich board around town that stated as much, than I was receiving accolades and affection from my boys and husband.  It was a hard day for me and when Nate asked what I wanted to do, all I could think to ask was for him to take the boys out for a while so I could be alone.  Not that there's anything wrong with a mother wanting some alone time.  It was my motivation for this request that was so sad... I couldn't bear to be with them and accept their love.  All my energy was tied up in hating myself.
This year felt really different.  I felt much more at ease with the whole idea of the day.  After over a year of intense weekly therapy, I am finally breaking some of the bad mental habits and cycles that kept me feeling like such a failure for so long.  I credit my phenomenal therapist, who keeps me working hard, even on days when I come in and say, "I feel great!  Everything's fine!"  He makes me dig until we find something that still needs a little tweaking.  And I give myself a lot of credit too.  It is such. hard. work.  A lot of times I don't feel like going.  If not for their 24-hour cancellation policy, I would probably be skipping my Wednesday appointments frequently.  But I make myself go because I'll pay $100 for nothing if I don't, and then I'm always glad I did.  I'm learning exactly how to challenge the voice in my head that tells me I am a worthless piece of trash because I am not perfect.  I'm honing skills and identifying untruths in my thinking.  Usually by the end of the week I am sliding back into old habits, forgetting what I learned.  So we talk about it again, we review and make solid, we look at it over and over until I can see it clearly. 
On Sunday I was able to accept gifts and cards with joy.  Because, hey.  I'm here and I'm doing my best.  It took (and is taking) a lot of work, but I'm finally to a place where I can believe that that is enough.

 I knew exactly how I wanted to spend my Mother's Day this year.  You could say that I milked it.  First we went to church, then we went to two museum exhibitions I wanted to see (but I knew the boys didn't).  The boys liked the quilts more than the photographs.  I loved both shows.  We also spent plenty of time outside, and it was a gorgeous day.  We had lunch in Scoville Park before we headed into the city, and we walked around Grant Park after our museum rounds.  Throw in some Dairy Queen mid-day, and some Five Guys for dinner, and it was basically a perfect day.
There's that word again.  Perfect.  If there's one thing therapy has taught me, it's that perfect is a myth.  It's not some elusive goal that should be my life's mission.  It's a lie.  It simply doesn't exist.  When I say our day was perfect, was it actually?  The boys fought over a book.  Theo threw a fit about some video game issue I can't even remember now.  I felt self-conscious all day in a new sweater I was wearing that I felt was not flattering.  I probably snapped at someone at least once or twice.  All little moments that, in the past, would have pointed the finger at me and taunted, "SEE?  See how much you suck?" Now I'm working with a little more grace and grit, and I can (usually, sometimes) see these moments for what they are.  Just life.  Happening.  I was able to have a perfect day, in my mind, because mixed in with all these were also moments where we smiled, we laughed, we felt a breeze, we saw something new. 
Imperfect is the new perfect.  That's what I am learning.

I like this poem by Shawn Fink, of Abundant Mama blog.

Ordinary Gifts

This moment, right here
the one with a sink full of dishes,
and sticky jelly still smeared on knives,
I'll take it.

This moment, right here,
the one where the stuffed animals breed like bunnies,
and marker caps vanish into thin air,
I'll take it.

This moment, right here,
the one when he falls asleep,
too tired to listen to my long diatribe,
but still carries on the conversation,
I'll take it.

This moment, right here,
the one when the weeds are growing,
but the basil refuses,
and the bees threaten their sting,
I'll take it.

This moment, right here,
the one when she yells she hates me,
and storms away leaving me in her wake,
and then returns, hugging me tight with a sorry,
I'll take it.

This moment, right here,
the one when a Saturday night is spent tucking in,
and cleaning up,
rather than partying and socializing,
I'll take it.

I'll take it all.
I'll take it all.
I'll take it all.

Monday, May 12, 2014

spring is here!

Another season means another mini quilt for my hallway.

After the winter we had in the midwest, every one was more than ready to see spring arrive.  Honestly, this spring has been a little lackluster, with it's cool temperatures and cloudy days (not to mention a little snow). But, hey, we've had a couple days where I felt the sun warm on my face.  I'll take it.
This mini was another improv creation.  I used a method detailed in this craftsy class taught by Jacquie Gehring.  She calls it slice and insert piecing.  I pieced strips of color into these six panels, three grey and three green in graduating tones.  I increased the number of inserts as the panels moved up; I wanted it to look like spring exploding up from the dark grey and gloom of winter.
My boys keep pointing out to me that it doesn't make sense to have the green at the top.  They think I was trying to make flowers or grass, I think.  In fact I was going for something a little more symbolic of spring, not quite a literal spring scene.  :)

Once the six panels were pieced and sewn together, I decided I wanted to applique more pops of color over the top.  I did this for two reasons.  First, I wanted to place some colored strips over the seams where the grey and green panels met.  I thought it would make the image more cohesive to have color bursting all over, not just confined to the six strips.  I hope that makes sense.  It's hard to articulate that idea!  Second, I just wanted MORE.  More color, more craziness, more exuberance, especially at the top of the piece.  I had pieced just about as much as I could piece without disastrous wonkiness happening.  At a certain point it was easier to add on top than to piece within an already heavily pieced panel.

Once again, I'm happy with this mini!  I think it screams SPRING even though it's not actual flowers or grass.  It's just color and life and spring all over.  It's like a confetti popper of spring, and I love it. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Winter mini quilt

I'm working on a series of mini quilts, to hang in our entryway, that I will change with the seasons.  The first one I made was for Christmas.

In early January I made a mini quilt that represented Winter.

I was working, again, with Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking II.  I settled on what she calls "the exquisite block".  Basically a square or rectangle base, with triangles pieced onto the diagonal points.  When the blocks are joined together, you end up with a series of little bowties or butterflies, or however you want to see it.

My goal for this piece was to portray the starkness of winter by using lots of white and pale, cool blues and greys.  I also wanted to express the warmth that we cling to during these long months, the warmth we find within ourselves, in the company of family and friends, or quite literally the warmth of our physical homes.  I added the golden yellow blocks and some yellow triangles emanating out from it to represent the warmth and light that keeps us hanging on until spring.

I quilted it with a series of zigzag lines, emanating out from the bottom right corner, to emphasize the placement of the yellow blocks.

 I think it all works.  I'm happy with it!  My only complaint is that it doesn't quite lay flat against the wall, no doubt because of some technical error on my part.  Oh well.

A couple of weeks ago I got to present this during Show and Tell at my guild meeting, and Gwen Marston was in attendance, as she presented a lecture and trunk show for us that day.  It was really an honor to show her my work, and I was able to chat with her after the meeting.  The afternoon as a whole was probably the greatest highlight of my quilting life so far.

Friday, February 21, 2014

general grumbling and wringing of hands

I'm frustrated with my life right now. 

I'm basically doing the same thing I've been doing for the past (almost) 11 years, but something has shifted and I'm left feeling like I should be doing more.  All this thinking about starting to work has made me really uneasy.  I feel like I should be doing it, but I'm not, because every day passes quickly and there are all the same demands on my time and I just barely keep up with it all.  Mentally and emotionally, I feel like I'm in a transitional phase, but I'm not actually doing any transitioning.  Which makes me feel like I'm stuck.

I'm struggling with a mindset of "not enough."  Not enough time in the day. Not enough patience, empathy, calm, or kindness.  Not enough family connectedness.  Not enough balance.  Not enough gratitude. Not enough mindfulness.  Not enough grace and acceptance for myself.

There are areas of my life where I expect certain things from my self, and I'm failing on almost all fronts.  As a Mother: I'm frazzled and impatient and at a loss for how to deal with these boys most days.  As a Wife: I'm not feeling like a good partner because I feel I should be doing more to contribute financially. As a Homemaker: My cooking skills are actually getting worse, somehow, and the apartment is a mess more often than not.

There is one area of my life I feel confident about, and that is my creative side.  I'm making quilts that I love.  I have about a billion ideas for other things to make.  I don't have time to tackle them right not, but just that fact that I have an endless stream of ideas makes me feel good.  Somehow I don't let myself get frustrated about not having enough time to make everything I want to.  I tell myself I'll get to it all some day.

And yet...  there is a swirl of guilt mixed in with all my sewing time.  Because even though I feel like it's the one thing I'm good at right now, it's purely selfish, it doesn't serve anyone else in my family, and I spend a lot of time doing it. 

I could give myself more permission to enjoy quilting if I was on the path to making it a career, I think.  (And, how, exactly, do you do that, again?)  Or even if I were doing a better job in one of the areas above.  As things currently stand, I feel lousy about how I'm handling myself, who I am being, in all the important aspects of my life.  Because of that, I can't fully enjoy the one area where I feel strong and capable and passionate.  It's an unpleasant place to be. 

I do have one little idea for a way to turn my quilting into something more...  it's in the very beginning stages so I don't want to talk about it yet.  That is giving me a bit of hope, and letting me feel a bit less guilty as I work on quilting-related projects during my free time.

As for all that other business, I guess I will just keep slogging through and trying to be better.  I will try to be a little easier on myself and on my kiddos.  It's all the trying that gives me trouble, though.  I'm trying so hard all the time that I forget to look up and be happy and thankful.  I guess if I am going to be trying for something, it should be that.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

it all started with a tiny wall hanging...

I've been feeling like our apartment entrance is a little bare.  I hang a wreath on the door that I change for each season (all my super cute wreaths come from this etsy shop), but that's it.  A little boring, especially when our neighbor across the hall always has a festive seasonal display of wreath, flowers above the door, and flowers on a pedestal!  I decided to make a mini quilt to hang on the wall by the door, and I plan to make one for each season, so I can change them along with the wreaths.

First up, Christmas.  I had just received my copy of Liberated Quiltmaking II by Gwen Marston.  I love this book.  I love Gwen Marston and everything about her aesthetic and philosophy.  This book has been so inspiring.  I decided to try my hand at her method for making wonky stars.
My first star and the book that inspired me so much.

I made a lot of stars.  I didn't have a pattern or plan or a certain number in mind, so I just kept making stars.  They were a lot of fun.  Because I was making a Christmas wall hanging, I used a variety of greens and reds for my stars, with various grey fabrics as background.

Once I was done making stars, I started making log cabin blocks in low volume fabrics.  I put together a composition that I liked and pieced together my little wall hanging.  I quilted it in straight(ish) lines.  I was really happy with how it turned out.
Christmas wall hanging, before it was quilted.
here is the wall hanging that started it all, hanging in its place of honor in the hallway.

When it was done, I had a lot of stars left over.  Those stars turned into a small quilt for my mom, and a large quilt that our family is keeping.  I didn't have a particular size in mind for these.  I just kept adding until I felt the compositions were complete.  The quilt for my mom ended up at 84x66.  I would call it a nap size.  The quilt for us is 93x97.  It fits nicely on our queen size bed.

My design strategy for the bigger quilts was basically the same as for the mini quilt.  Festive red and green stars interspersed with low-volume log-cabin squares, plus a few big swatches of solids or prints.  I added random strips here and there to fill in spaces.  It was a very unplanned and organic process.  I hung a piece of batting as a temporary design wall so that I could step back and look at how things were coming together.
laying out the design for my mom's quilt, step one.

adding more stars and solids, step two of layout.
another progress shot... more spaces filled, more seams joined.

I sent the two larger pieces to my trusty long-arm quilter, Sarah Russett in New York state.  She did a fabulous job as usual.  I got them back from her just in time to bind them and wrap my mom's up for Christmas!
christmas stars quilt for my mom
back of mom's quilt

giant christmas stars quilt for us to keep!

back of our quilt.

These projects were my first attempts at improvisation.  For my first time not using a pattern, I was really pleased with and proud of how they turned out.  I think I could have done a better job of choosing fabric for some of the stars.  The values were too close on some, and the stars didn't pop out like they should have.  Aside from that, I really love all these quilts, from the mini to the queen size.  They are festive, funky, fun, and fabulous.  I really love improvising.  I may never use another pattern again. 

story quilts for Christmas

This year I gave story quilts to my nieces and nephews for Christmas.  I gifted one per family, not one for each individual child (I currently have 8 nieces and nephews, and one on the way!).  I love giving these story quilts as gifts for kids, because of the way they can engage a child's imagination.  But I have to say I have made so many of these in the past few years, that I don't want to make another for a very long time!  I saved enough of the fussy-cut novelty print squares that I can make a few more down the road, perhaps for grandchildren.

The pattern for this quilt is found in Modern Quilt Workshop by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr.  It's called Once Upon a Time. 

Nate helped me take these pictures in the park on a beautiful snowy day.  It was fun.  :)

I tried to think of each family's home and style when I was choosing background fabrics.  The solids I used on the front are all shot cottons which were gorgeous and soft to work with.

It was fun to watch them get unwrapped at Christmas.  I'm happy to have these done and to be moving on to other projects.

This gold and purple version was for my sister's family.
 And here is the back. 

Grey and lime green for my sister and brother in law.

Here is their back.

Blue and cream for my brother's family.

And the back.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Happy 2014! On making decisions and looking for jobs...

After my last post, you might have been left wondering what I decided to do.  The answer is, I decided to do one thing, then decided to postpone that thing, and do another thing for the time being..... I got a lot of kind and thoughtful feedback on that post, here and on Facebook, where I posted a link.  After reading the thoughts of many smart women, I decided I was ready, it was time to get some training and get a job.  I was all revved up to find a physical therapy assistant program and enroll that night.

But as Nate and I began researching programs in our area, we realized it wouldn't be as simple as we first thought.  There was nothing really close-by, and nothing with class hours that would have worked well for our schedules.  Even though the kids are both in school all day now, there is still a big childcare component to my life.... I need to be here for the kids before and after school.  In the evenings I could theoretically do school, but what if Nate was traveling for work, what if he couldn't get home with the car in time for me to take it?  When the kids are too young to be left home alone, a lot of possibilities are taken off the table.  Therefore, no school for me (right now), and no physical therapy assistant certification.  I will have to come back to this plan in a few years and re-assess whether I still want to do it.  In my experience, a couple of years is long enough for me to change my mind.  I could be on a totally different path by then.

So for now, instead, I'm going to look for part time work nearby.  Something I can walk to and hopefully work while the kids are in school.  My goal in January is to start applying to places around town.

I'm both excited and nervous about the prospect of working, even a small part time job.  It has been a long time.  What am I going to put on my work experience list? Does Cracker Barrel even still have me on record as an employee?  Ha!  It makes me laugh but it also makes me feel pretty self conscious.

When I had Simon I stopped going to school.  It really didn't cross my mind to try to keep going.  I wanted to stay home and take care of my baby and so I did.   In my 10 years of staying home with the boys, it didn't bother me that I didn't have my degree.   After all, nobody on the playground needs to know whether you graduated college or not.  Now that I would like to make some money and make things a bit easier for our little family, I find myself wondering if I made the best decision way back then.  Going back to school now seems impossible, and my earning potential without a degree is very limited, so I am in a frustrating position.  I don't feel very empowered to help my family.  I am going to do what I have to do, and maybe finishing my degree will come later.  That remains to be seen.  But I'm dealing with some feelings of regret and guilt and embarrassment that haven't surfaced for the past 10 years.... and I'm understanding the advantage of a college degree coming right after high school.  Get it taken care of when you're young and energetic and not mired down by all the responsibility and exhaustion of parenting.  It makes a lot of sense. 

I already feel like my days are full, and everyday I have leftover to-do's that I just couldn't get done.  I'm anxious about how working part-time outside of the house will affect my never-ending list of chores and ambitions.  I hope I can find time to keep up with stuff around the house and also to keep making things.  I have a friend who works part time at the Gap after having stayed home for several years.  She insists that the demand on my time will actually make me more efficient.  We shall see! Wish me luck as I put myself out there.  It feels pretty weird. 

Thanks for sticking with me as I figure this stuff out.  Next post will have pictures of pretty things I've made!  Promise. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2013, a year for thinking...

I know I haven't been blogging much this year, and when I have the posts have tended to be short on pictures, long-winded and self-obsessed, centering around the topic of What's Next for Laura?  This post is another of those.  I find myself still wrestling with a decision, and I will, with many words, spell it out for you.  And for myself, because it can be helpful to do so.

I have been sewing a lot. And enjoying it a lot.  But my enjoyment is tinged with guilt.  I get to play all day, while Nate works hard to support our family.  I've been thinking a lot this year about what my next chapter will be, now that both boys are in school.  I feel like it's time for me to contribute something more to our family.  I'm starting to feel like it's really inequitable for me to stay home while Nate works.  It was different when the kids were little.  I felt like my stay-at-home position had more purpose then.  Now the boys are in school and I am still at home.  I keep myself very busy.  I do a little house work and a lot of creating.  I sew, I embroider, I decorate the apartment.  Maybe I would feel better about staying home if I really spent my time on things that benefited the whole family.  If I cleaned a lot, or cooked elaborate, nutritious dinners, or kept on top of laundry or paperwork.  But I don't do that.  I do the bare minimum each day, and spend the bulk of my time on stuff I want to do.  Nate and I probably split domestic duties 50/50, and yet he is here for far fewer hours a week than I am.

As I kid I loved to make stuff.  I remember clearly the collage kit my parents bought for me, and how I treasured every feather, every pouch of glitter, every piece of alphabet pasta within.  I remember making crafts at every birthday party (thanks, Mom), and trying my hand at clay sculptures both at school and at home.  In high school, I made zines.  The writing was part of my creative outlet, but the collages that covered the pages were always my favorite bit, the part I felt proudest of.  When I went to college, creativity took a backseat to school.  My grandma taught me to knit, but it didn't stick.  I soon forgot how to do it, and my life was full with class and friends.  Then, suddenly, I was a young mother.  My focus was completely on getting through each day with my baby alive and preferably happy. 

It wasn't until Simon was maybe 3 years old that I started to make things again.  I started making little collages and putting them on cards.  I was doing a little painting and decoupaging of various wooden objects.  When we moved to Bloomington in 2006, I had more space to store supplies and more room to work.  An oversized desk in the corner became my creative space, and I spent many happy hours there while my little ones napped.  I started repainting and decoupaging child-sized chairs, and making magnets and assemblage pieces to sell in an etsy shop.  I taught myself to embroider around the same time.

A couple of years later we moved again and had even more space.  I had a whole room (!!!) that was designated as my creative space.  Oh, how I loved that room.  And I began spending more and more time there.  As the boys were getting older and more independent, better at entertaining themselves, entering kindergarten and pre-school, I spent every moment I could steal in that room.  Working on more chairs, freezer paper stenciled shirts for the boys, ever more ambitious embroidery projects, and finally, teaching myself to quilt.

I include this history of my creative process here to say that creating beautiful things with my hands has always been part of my life.  While I gave it up for a few years during college and early motherhood, it came back in a big way.  Today it's more important to me than ever before.  Having the opportunity to stay home with the boys and let my creativity grow and bloom has made me feel confident that I have a gift.  Actually, the internet is partially responsible for that as well, because posting pictures of my creations online has resulted in such positive feedback.  Without that I might have thought I was just playing around, just passing the time with silly crafts.  But that's not how I think of myself now.  I believe I have an eye for color and design.  I believe I have the patience and dexterity to make things others cannot.  Heck, if I get carried away I might even say I believe I have some talent in these areas.  And I have this sense that I *NEED* to create, that it's part of who I am, and that to stop making things or to drastically cut back on my making time would be a devastating loss. 

But then, a conversation with a hard-working and stressed out husband can change my perception in an instant.  If I went to work, it could ease our financial strain in a significant way.  All these things I love to do, when I do them just for myself, they are hobbies.  And most adults do not get to spend all day at home enjoying their hobbies.

So now the decision, do I go to work, like a traditional job, and keep my hobbies strictly as hobbies?  Or do I try to cobble some kind of career around these things I love to do?

(Quick sidenote, for anyone wondering: The onesie thing was making a bit of money.  But I hate doing it so much that I decided I must stop.  I am still trying to print and sell the rest of the stock I had on hand.  Once that is gone I will be done with the onesie shop for good).

(Sidenote 2, I still love the idea of opening a quilt shop, but I don't feel like it is possible, realistically.  Where would the money come from? That is the big problem.  No one will give a loan to an apartment-renting first-time business-owner applicant.  I thought about Kickstarter, but who would contribute to that campaign?  Basically quilters in the Chicago-land area, right?  I don't know that there are enough of them to make it happen.  Plus, it seems weird to say, Hey, give me money to open this shop, then come shop at my shop and give me your money again!  I don't know, it's not 100% off the list of possibilities, but my hopes are pretty low at this point).

As I try to think this through, here are the points that come to mind, presented in a pros/cons fashion:

Taking the Creative Path: Trying to somehow form a career out of the things I make

-creatively fulfilling
-flexible hours, making it easy to pick up the kids from school, have summers off to spend with them, etc
-use my gifts and talents on a regular basis
-opportunity to challenge myself and grow creatively

-pressure to make more than I have time to make
-pressure to take commissioned work and possibly compromise my creative voice
-possibility that it simply won't be fun anymore if it becomes work
-path is unmarked, I would have to forge my own, which is a lot of effort in and of itself, on top of the efforts of constantly producing good work. I honestly don't even know what it would look like! I just have a vague idea that it is possible to make a living from one's art (ART, oh, there's THAT word)
-need to hone my focus and make one or two of the same things, not have my hand in multiple creative disciples as I currently enjoy
-trying to make a name for myself in an already crowded market


Getting a Traditional Job: Hobbies in my spare time

For anyone curious, there is a job I am leaning toward.  It is Physical Therapy Assistant.  This was chosen for its reasonable length of training time (2 years), its respectable salary, its current growth as a portion of the job market, and its good fit with my personality.  I think it's a good choice because I'm good with people, compassionate, and organized.  I like the idea of helping people improve their lives in such a tangible way.

-help people
-interact with people more than I do now (I am a borderline extrovert, so sometimes I wonder if being at home alone all day is really good for me)
-earn a salary and feel like I'm contributing something important to my family
-any chance I get to sew or create will be guilt-free and low-pressure

-significantly less time to create
-possibly almost no time to create
-possibility that I won't end up liking it
-childcare logistics, after school and during summers.  Potentially harder to schedule things like family vacations.
-possibly feeling like I am wasting my gifts and talents

So there are my pros and cons all spelled out.  I may have missed some.  I think I can sum up each side pretty concisely.

Thinking about staying home and making stuff makes me feel excited.  Thinking about branding myself, promoting the s*** out of myself, deciding what to make and how to make it profitable makes me feel exhausted and a little yucky.

Thinking about helping people as a physical therapy assistant makes me feel good.  Thinking about having next to no time at my sewing machine or with an embroidery hoop in my hand makes me feel tremendously sad.

I guess those feelings are the crux of this decision I need to make.  There is also a lot of fear swirling around in there... Fear that I'll make the wrong choice, fear that whatever I choose will be too hard, fear that I won't be good enough... after 10 years of staying at home, it's scary to make a change.  Meanwhile, life is going by at a rapid pace and it's hard to find time to even think about these things, let alone take the steps necessary to make them happen.  I might have to set myself some deadlines, otherwise I could go on mulling things over until the boys are leaving for college and I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up.

If you made it this far, wow, and thank you.  I'm genuinely interested in your thoughts on the matter, if you have any.  Maybe you had to make a similar choice and were happy or unhappy with the path you took?  Maybe you have some sage wisdom because you've been on this earth longer than I have.  I'm interested, so leave me a comment if you have thoughts.

Thanks for reading, friends.  xoxoxo