Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's all paid off!!

Well, this is a momentous day -- I finally paid off my credit card debt and cancelled my card!!! Yesterday my dad went ahead and gave me my little bit of "inheritance" from my grandmother, and I used the majority of it to pay off the credit card I had opened to use in my Stampin' Up! business (and had abused, unfortunately). Don't panic, it wasn't a huge number, Granny didn't have much money left after med bills to leave huge chunks to her grandkids. But it was a tremendous blessing to be able to get out from under that, to be able to show my husband that I really do care about our finances, that I really am on the "team" here, that I'm not just a selfish pig. I mean, I could've used that money to have Lasik surgery or something, but it was more important to me to make the gesture of faith to him than to be selfish with it.

If none of that paragraph made sense it's because I am really struggling with coming off the steroids my doc put me on for the sinus infection. Saturday afternoon I felt like I had the flu, and I knew I couldn't take the stuff anymore, but you can't just stop taking them abruptly. I called my doctor and she told me to taper off more quickly, so I did, taking the last one yesterday morning. But instead of feeling better, I actually feel worse right now. I feel like every bit of energy has been drained out the bottom of my feet, and whatever little brain power I might have once owned is now drowning in a head full of weird wooziness. It's almost like a really mild version of adrenaline insufficiency. So if it keeps up too long I'll have to see if it's something abnormal or if it just takes awhile to recover. I will never, ever take steroids by mouth again, though. I can't imagine anything being worth feeling this screwed up.

So I haven't gotten much done at all the last few days. I did finish making and printing my index images, and if I can get my brain in gear long enough I'd like to finish updating my descriptive index tonight, get that printed out.

Oh, cool news flash: I did have a little money left over from the "inheritance", so I ordered one of those Just Rite photopolymer stamp making kits I've seen where you can make your own clear stamps!! I have been dying for months to know if these are any good, but they cost about $150, and I couldn't ever quite justify going for it. But I thought, hey, now I might as well see if these things are any good. I hope it's worth it! It would be so cool to be able to make my own stamps from my own images, especially when it's something as simple as a Bible verse I want in a particular version, or stamps of family photos (supposedly this kit will make those -- don't know about photo-realistic, but at least "artsy" quality). Also, I've seen some cool "old book illustration" type graphics on the web that are no longer under copyright, so I thought those might work, too. We'll see!

The rest of the money that I won't be saving I would like to use on renovating my craft loft. I totally need to get rid of anything and everything that combines the word "orange" with either "shag" or "velvet". I deserve better! So I want pegboard on the walls and new flooring. And maybe a bit of new shelving. The hardest thing I'm trying to figure out is how to deal with my SU cardstock (8-1/2 x 11). Right now it's all in file folders up on a shelf, but I'd love to have it stacked vertically instead. It's just that there's this issue with room ... I don't know if the folders are better or if the vertical thing would be better. Anyway ...

Okay, off to get some indexing done. I really hope to have some more actual STAMPING to show off soon! Hang in here with me ... it'll get better!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Organization -- or insanity??

Holy cow, I have been on an "organization" kick the last two days ... something I've needed to do for awhile now, get my stamp index pages up-to-date with my mounted stamps pics. But I think it's been driven by this steroid-induced-insanity that I cannot WAIT to be done with! Yeah, I'm getting some things done because my mind is running off at ninety miles a second, but my body is having a time keeping up and I am exhausted at the end of the day! In fact, it's 8:30 in the morning and I'm already thinking about taking a nap. Seriously!

(Of course, not like I think Mokii and Max would let me have room on the bed, now!)

Anyway, at least I've only gotta do this for ten more days! And I'm tapered down to four pills a day (2 am, 2pm) today instead of six, so maybe that'll help!

So I dug out all my SU catalogs, current and past, and -- gasp -- ripped pages out of them! Okay, the current and last one weren't a biggie, I have extras of those, so I tore pages out of the extras. But I did that so I could scan the images of the stamp sets I have to put into my Index Image notebook. Actually, most of the retired stamp sets are already in there, except for the wheels and some of the backgrounds and alphabets. But I hadn't been keeping my current sets in the Image Index since they were "out" on the shelf where I could look at them. But I realized it was a pain, the way my room is set up, to have to pull out every set and see what images were in them and what I might want, and since I have this wonderful system for my unmounteds, I thought, why not extend that to my mounteds? Especially since I've quit SU and intend to gradually unmount all my stamps anyway.

Of course, it hasn't been as easy as I thought. I had a few sets I couldn't find images for (from mini catalogs, or the one I got from Australia -- shhhh, don't tell!). And then I realized I have quite a few as-yet-unmounted non-SU stamps that I haven't had a chance to "convert" yet that need index images, too. I need to buy a bunch of EZ-Mount so I can start this "little" UM-ing process. I don't mind trimming a few stamps at a time, but this will be massive!!

Then I need to go through and see what I don't yet have entered into my database of stamp images. When my grandmother was in the hospital, I took my computer and my Index Images notebook and entered every single stamp in there into a huge XL file with separate worksheets for each category, such as "Words," "Scriptures/Christian Words," "Flowers," "Backgrounds," "Children," "Oriental," etc. Every stamp went into at least one category (even if it had to be "Misc"), and most were cross-referenced into other categories. Most stamp sets I just put the name of, but there were lots of stamps I had to describe so I could differentiate when I was looking for something. Words (sentiments, etc.) were all typed out, and also Scriptures. But, of course, since then I have acquired new stamps and need to put them in, as well.

The big thing here is, I'm no XL expert, so now I've got to figure out how to translate all that into "reports" or whatever that are basically lists of everything so I can also have a just Index List of everything I have. My UM stamps are NOT sorted by any kind of category (except Alphas and Club Stamp stuff), basically I've just put them in the binders as I've gotten them. So the list is to help me know where to find that perfect flower or Scripture or whatever. Someday I may get even more anal and totally reorganize the stamps themselves, but for now, I think we'll just call this good! Assuming I ever even finish this! lol

So -- yup, nothing "creative" to show today. However, I did get in the scrapbook paper I ordered for doing Aidan's Junior Classical League/Latin Club stuff, so I am definitely hoping I will feel like scrapping later today! I do have to color my hair, that is absolute priority -- I cannot have this grayish-brown stripe down the middle of my head one more day! Besides, I have to lead worship tomorrow (I suppose I should say "get/am privileged to", but I am so wired/tired I have no idea how I'll do it -- well, yeah I do, GRACE OF GOD!!), and I can't go up there with tired, dull, faded hair, now, can I? lol

God has been SO good these last couple of days, I should mention quickly! He showed me yesterday that I need to stop STRIVING in my walk with Him and just quietly, confidently build layer upon layer. I think I can handle that! (This was amazingly profound in my life, BTW, but to write about it would take another entire chapter!!)

Off to ... nap? I hope so!

Happy weekend!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The joy (???) of steroids ...

Okay, so I'm on steroids for two weeks to try to rein in this stupid chronic sinus infection. I think I mentioned that last time. NOT anabolic steroids, panic not! But still ... they have me agitated and hyper and not sleeping well, BUT ...

Today I was a madwoman in the craft loft! Aidan was gone on an all-day field trip to Houston, so I had all kinds of time to play. I made TONS of backgrounds! You don't get to see them yet because I haven't made any into cards, but trust me, they're everywhere. I used gesso and colorwash sprays on glossy black CS, glued crushed, dried herbs to cardstock, made a weird mixture of water and gum arabic powder mixed with Future Floor Finish, spritzed it on white glossy CS and then brayered over it with rainbow inks, and did my own versions of the "Simple Green" tech from the latest TJ using Windex, then (separate piece) the Clorox Daily Disinfectant, since I know it has bleach in it. Oddly, at least at last glance, the Windex was looking cooler. All but the "Simple Green" tech were from other sources on the web, found by surfing blogs that linked me up with other blogs ... it never ends!

BUT ... the night before I had finished a couple of cards, and I cannot WAIT to show you my Singing Cowboy!

I used three TJ techniques on this card! The blue piece is Faux Denim (which nearly ruined my SU White Craft pad because I was impatient on the drying stage). The cowboy himself is Ink Washed. And the cattle brands background was a sort of majorly morphed version of my own TJ technique, the "Debossed Rainbow Applique" or whatever it ended up being called as a bonus tech on the latest CD. Anyway, instead of rainbow ink I just swiped on various brown Distress Inks, then brayered on WAY too much Liquid Applique before pressing my background stamp into it, and by the time I heated it, you really couldn't see much of the stamp's impressions at all. So I just used my Stamp-a-ma-jig and inked over the impressions with Walnut Ink Distress Ink. IRL it looks really cool because you get a sort-of shadow effect with the texture.

ANYhoo, the Cattle Brands Backgrounder is from Cornish Heritage Farms. All other stamps are from the "Singing Cowboy" sheet from Artistic Outpost. I'm thinking this will be my Dad's Father's Day card ...

Also, I finished up a card using a technique I got from Mary Jo's Techno Stamper blog the other day that involves chipboard and stamped tissue paper with Mod Podge. It's a fun technique with an interesting look to it. I stuck a little "rosebud" on it that I'd made with a template and then stamped over. The card uses the "Pretty Petals" background from SU. The "smile" sentiment is a rubon also from SU.

So hopefully tomorrow I will still have this steroid-charged energy and will actually make some cards with the piles of backgrounds I have! I'm actually working on a card for MJ's challenge this week that, of course, has nothing to do with any of those backgrounds, but I hope I can get it finished and move on to something else. My problem will be embellishments. When I get kinda "frenzied" or in a hurry like this, I have trouble slowing down and doing embellishments well. Sometimes they are the bane of my existence! Maybe that's because I grew up with only brothers, no sisters, and now live with a husband and son, no daughters, so I don't tend to "think girly", which may be a requirement for good embellishment use??

Anyway, hopefully with a dose of Melatonin I will sleep better tonight and not be so WIRED tomorrow!!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Ocean-Soul connection

Port Aransas, TX -- August 2003

Call me a dreamer, a poet, a hopeless romantic, whatever you want, but I have this total THING about the ocean. I feel like it has a special "call" on me, that it has a connection to my very soul and that it cries out to me day and night yelling at me to get my rear end out of the middle of the "flamin' landlocked boohai" and get me to a beach! (That "flamin' landlocked boohai" phrase is one my Kiwi character in my novel says when he first moves to Central Texas at the age of 11, having been yanked up from living near the best surfing beaches in the world on the Coromandel Peninsula to, well, the flamin' landlocked boohai of Central Texas. Obviously I love this phrase!)

Unfortunately I can't get me to a beach all that easily, given the thing with job security (my husband's), familial responsibilities (my parents), and the fact that my high school freshman son would die an agonizing psychological death if we yanked him away from his school and his friends at this stage of life. So far, anyway. If things don't work out well with the as-yet unrequited love, he may WANT us to move to the beach.

So I have this amazingly passionate love for the beach, ocean, sailing and tall ships that basically permeates a great deal of my life. Thus you can imagine that when I pulled apart this unsuspecting little piece of Createx-smooshed black glossy cardstock and got THIS, I nearly fainted with joy. It was, quite obviously, a splash of a wave! (Okay, so ignore that the foam is on the bottom of the splash -- or maybe that's from the wave below it, dig?) Not just any old wave, either, but a totally poetic, stormy, emotion-filled (or as Aidan would say, "emo") wave, the perfect metaphor for those depressive moments of my life! And I -- quite NON-coincidentally, for those of us who believe in God and that He cares about the "little" things -- also had the perfect saying stamp to go with this wave! So here it is, one of the coolest things I've ever had just "happen" in my card-creating life. Yes, I think I've done more elaborate, more artsy or more creative cards, but just the serendipity of this whole thing is just so SWEET AS that I think it will always just be -- the "soul of Stacy" card!

The saying stamp is from Rubberstamp Avenue, the "black" cardstock is Night of Navy from SU, and the silver CS is "Polar White" (I think -- Polar something) from The Paper Company. The little "glass" baubles are actually plastic "filler" thingies I bought at Michaels in the same department where they have the glass marble vase-filler bits. They were clear, so I just daubed a little circle of the blue pearlescent Createx where I wanted the baubles to be, let that dry (it dries fast), then put a wee dot of Crystal Effects there to glue the baubles on and then carefully dropped the bauble doohickeys on so that they would stick directly over the blue dots. I just knew I would totally screw this up, but was pleasantly surprised that it went off without a hitch!

BTW, is there, like, an official word for "bauble doohickey"? I have no idea what it would be ...

UPDATE on the Staz-on with acrylic/photopolymer (clear) stamp deal, which I have found out is a full-blown controversy. Some people say NEVER EVER EVER, on pain of death, use any kind of solvent ink on your clear stamps, as it will eat them up like worms on the wood hull of ships (okay, I had to throw a nautical reference in here SOMEWHERE, y'know?). Some people say it's okay to use solvent inks on clear stamps as long as you clean them quickly and NOT with the Staz-on cleaner, as the CLEANER will eat your stamps up over time like -- well, worms on the hull of ... you get the point. And there are others who say they have used Staz-on/solvent inks AND Staz-on cleaner on their clear stamps for years with absolutely no ill effects whatsoever, that, apart from some staining (which is, PLEASE let me assure you, perfectly acceptable no matter what kind of stamp), the stamps still stamp as clearly as ever.

I e-mailed the Gel-a-tins people to see what their take is. I did read on the little card that came with the stamp tin that you can use Staz-on/solvent inks as long as you clean the stamps IMMEDIATELY after using them. But I want to get their truly official word.

Until then I will use Staz-on exceedingly sparingly on my clear stamps (only if I really, really NEED to -- you creative types know there are times ...) and I'll stop using the Staz-on cleaner, just use the other stamp cleaner I use. I did discover, thanks to the very knowledgeable and talented Lisa Somerville, that Blockheads Stamps sells some cleaners that they claim will safely clean solvent inks off clear stamps. So I'll probably give one of those a try one of these days soon.

AND last of all, for those of you who are still reading at this point, which means you are a True Blogger's Friend and therefore Care, I have another flamin' sinus infection -- or, rather, I have the SAME flamin' sinus infection that will not go away, so instead of antibiotics AGAIN, we're going to try a two-week regimen of steroids to see if we can't get the inflammation to go down. This is a clear case of allergy-caused torture, so if we can get the stupid swelling and crud to go down, then I SHOULD be better. Please, God. I want to Live again!!!

Thank you for sticking with me through this rather lengthy post. I'm afraid that, being a writer-type, I'm inclined to length. I hope you'll still love me ... ;-) because I totally love ANYONE who will stick with me this long!! (As long as you're not a random blog-stalker person ...)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Such funkiness!

Well, we've had a ... weekend. I was going to say "busy", but realized it really wasn't all that busy. And it wasn't all that "fun" in the sense of, say, going to Six Flags or something. But it wasn't too bad. I spent the night with my mom on Friday so she wouldn't have to be alone at the toughest part of the night while my dad went on an overnight church retreat. Nighttime is when Mom and Granny used to sorta "hang out" the most, watching "House Hunters" on HGTV, and Mom helping Granny get ready for bed. So it's at night that Granny's total gone-ness really hits her. It was fun -- we watched House Hunters and talked. I love being with my Mom. She's just the greatest Mom in the world -- no specific reason, she just is! I woke up Saturday morning in the guest bed and wished I could just stay there for awhile (not the bed, but their house). It was like a mini-retreat with no cats waking me up wanting to be fed, no husband's noisy C-PAP machine ... it was lovely! But I realized I would probably miss my guys and kitties too much, so I got up, ate breakfast with Mom and went on back home where I belong!

We also watched a couple of movies -- Ratatouille and The Hunt for Red October. Yes, those are wildly polar opposites, aren't they? lol I'd never seen either (actually, none of the three of us had), and they were both very good. We also caught a Mythbusters episode on DVD, which helped with my withdrawal symptoms since they're on off-season hiatus at the moment. Dang, I love that show!

I did get some stamping in this weekend. I got a new set from Gel-a-tins called "Spring Garden" that is just so funky cool that I HAD to buy it. Of course, then I got it and looked at it and went, "Um, okay, now what do I do with this??" I had some ideas come to mind, one of which included stamping on acetate. I discovered that stamping on acetate using acrylic stamps and Staz-on isn't the easiest thing in the world. The stamps kinda want to stick to the acetate, and when you pull them off, some of the ink comes of with them. So you try, like, fourteen times until you finally get a image you can live with and vow never to do it again.

It might have been the particular acetate I was using. Or it just may be that clear acrylic stamps have trouble with acetate -- I mean, hey, they're stored on acetate when you buy them, right? They just naturally STICK TO acetate. So ... maybe a few more experiments, maybe with some other kind of ink, although I don't know what that would be, to stay on acetate ...

ANYway ... this first card was NOT done on acetate. This was the first try I had with these stamps, and I loved it! It was just done on plain white paper. I'm going to put in a link to the set here so you can see the different elements of it. I didn't color the flowers in by hand, the set comes with solid stamps in those shapes, so you just ink 'em up, stamp 'em on and voila!, you've got color in your flowers!

The background is the Createx Creations technique. Notice how the very bottom bit looks like the grass in which the flowers are growing -- I didn't plan that, but it's cool, huh? Oh, and I used Stickles on all the round bits, the bee and the leaves. The glitter brads are from Oriental Trading Company. I hate cutting things out, so I got lazy and didn't cut out every white bit -- I guess y'all can live with that, ay?

And here is the "acrylic stamps vs. acetate" card. It turned out fine, but, seriously, it was, like, the eighth image I stamped (I put all the stamps on one large acrylic block so I didn't have to stamp them all separately). I stamped the front in black Staz-on, then painted the colors on the back with Twinkling H20s. The reason the green goes way over the lines on the stems is so the green would actually show up. I have shaky hands so it was really hard to do! So, after the Twinks dried, I brushed two layers of Pearl White Lumiere across the back and let that dry. Then I punched holes in the funky green cardstock (it's from Club Scrap) to kinda mimic the circles on the flowers, and adhered a piece of pink paper to the back. Then I ran the acetate panel through my Xyron machine and stuck it on, and there you have it! More funky fresh flower fun!

I've had a weird stomach ache this afternoon so I didn't get up into the loft like I had wanted to. I played around with a new technique I learned on Mary Jo's TechnoStamper blog yesterday, involving chipboard and tissue paper, and it came out kinda cool, but I want to work with it a little more. And I still have two darned owls to color in and make into a card! And I want to scrap Aidan's JCL convention stuff from last weekend ...

SO many stamps, so little time. The cats are pestering me for supper. I suppose I'd better make them happy, the darling little fluff balls (the darling little LARD balls! lol)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A bit of creativity ... and some satisfaction

I'll start with the creativity, since it's the reason you're here, right? lol

I started this card last night, wanting to have a go at Mary Jo's TechnoStamper Challenge #13 and be on track for once! Here's the sketch:

And here's what I did with it:

I made the "patterned paper" using SU's Whisper White cardstock and the "Thing of Beauty" set from CTMH. Awhile back when I was attempting a technique (I think it was "Opalite Infusions") I started out with this combination, and was really struck by how pretty the simplicity of it was, so I promised myself that one day I would come back and just use "Thing of Beauty" in black on white. Well, lo and behold, I did! And it became the background paper for this card! I thought it looked a bit Oriental, so I quickly dashed off a sheet of Metallic Alcohol Roll background in Red Pepper, Butterscotch and Gold on white shimmer paper and used that for the lefthand panel (for some reason, red and gold seem very Chinese to me), then stamped a portion of a Chinese lettering background stamp (Hero Arts, I think) on it in black Staz-on. Then I decided to be a bit random and stick the James 1:17 verse (retired SU) on for the small rectangle panel (BTW, that's my mom's favorite verse!). Both rectangles are mounted on gold shimmer paper, and, as you can plainly see, I used a leftover strip of the Metallic Alcohol Roll piece as a little highlight behind the verse. So it's all kind-of a strange combination of things, but I think it works.

So on to the "satisfaction" part. I sent SU demo support an e-mail this morning telling them I wasn't incredibly happy with the way my resignation had been handled, that I thought they should acknowledge a resigning demo's letter and let them know exactly what's going to happen, what the sequence of things is. I got a very nice e-mail back in which the support person explained that they had, indeed, dropped the ball on me, that several of their support staff had been on the Incentive Trip that week and they were short-staffed, so I didn't get the communication from them that I should have. (I.e., they do usually do exactly what I had thought they should -- communicate with the resigning demo and tell them what's next.) They also discovered that I had been told I could still place orders through the end of April, which wasn't true, so they did offer to let me have my online access and ordering access back (not the OEX, but at least over the phone). I declined that, since I had already sent out an e-mail to my customers telling them I was no longer allowed to take orders, and I figured trying to re-instate all that was just too confusing. But at least they were courteous and civil and I felt better at the end of the e-mail (and I sent them a reply thanking them for their offer, etc.) SO ... I guess they aren't ogres after all! lol -- but I am glad I'm getting out now. As Gandalf said to King Theoden after he had "exorcised" Saruman from him (in The Two Towers) ... "Breathe the free air again, my friend." Aaaahhh, I shall, indeed, do so!

Warning ... this is a rant ...

... specifically about Stampin' Up!, so if you don't want to hear it, please don't read any further. That's okay with me, I don't want to upset any loyal SU fans or demonstrators.

Right now I'm very upset with them. Admittedly, technically it's my own fault, so I will put that caveat in before I start my official rant. Now, here we go:
I went to log into my SU demonstrator's account today and couldn't do it. No matter what I tried, nothing worked. I asked for the password to be sent to me, and it was, but it still didn't work. So I e-mailed Demonstrator Support asking if this was a glitch or because I had sent in my resignation letter.

Here's the deal -- no matter if you request a final date in your letter, SU drops you as soon as they get your letter. For me this actually went in stages -- first I couldn't use the online ordering function (OEX), so I had to put my orders in by phone. Now I'm just outta there. (I'm thankful I did have that chance to put one last order in, since I had a customer who'd put off using a $100 gift certificate until then! So maybe the "dropping in stages" was a God thing?) For some reason this just really hurts my feelings. So yeah, okay, call me a baby, I don't care. I think what SU should do is at least acknowledge your letter with an e-mail explaining what they're about to do to you so it doesn't just hit you in the face once they do it. I'm not quitting SU because I hate them, as I've said before. They're not doing much to make me love them at this point, though. They should be very careful, because I still have my customers, there are still people I influence about SU. I'm not the snarky type who would go around suddenly bad-mouthing SU's products and telling people they shouldn't buy from them anymore -- that's not the way a Christian should behave and it just goes against who I am. But they don't know I'm not. And I'm sure there are plenty of people "out there" who wouldn't hesitate to do so.

Anyway, I just think it was a bit cold the way they did this. I may not be a demonstrator anymore, but I'm definitely still a potential customer and a PR person for them, so they still need to treat me -- and all who choose to resign from SU -- with respect.

There. I'm done. Glad I got that off my chest. So now on to creativity and no more icky nasties with the SU thing. I think I will write them a NICE letter telling them they should send out those letters/e-mails before they just drop people like a hot potato! Then I'm off to make cards to post here -- way better than ranting!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Card frenzy

Well, I was productive this weekend! Shows what can happen when you send your family off for a couple of days! lol

Aidan and Bjorn went to the Junior Classical League State Convention (competition) in Houston on Friday and Saturday, so I had two days all to myself. Oddly, I was horrifically sleepy both days, so I slept more than I really should have, but I also worked in spending time at my folks' (I spent the night over there), grocery shopping, a bit of housework, and time in the loft, as well. So, without further ado, here are the results:

First, this is actually THIS WEEK'S TECHNO-STAMPER'S CHALLENGE!! I'm on track again! (Last week's is in my last post.) I used the TJ technique "Rainbow Brilliance" from this month's newsletter on the left-hand panel (SU bkgd stamp "Pretty Posies"), and then the other stamps are ... um ... I'll have to look up who made the large flower stamp -- it's a set of clear circle stamps I got at Archivers a couple of months ago. The small flower is from a TAC set. I had just bought this butterfly punch a few days ago at Michaels, at their "huge" sale (40% off), and BROKE it trying to punch through a sheet of shimmer cardstock! No one told me you really shouldn't use these kinds of punches on thick CS (doesn't work well on SU textured CS, either), so I went back and bought a new one (thankfully they were still on sale). At just $6 it wasn't really a big deal, but if it had cost much more I would've probably tried to get a refund. ANYWAY ...

The second card uses another TJ technique called Createx Creations. I used silver and blue pearlized Createx on black glossy cardstock, and it came out SO COOL! It looks like water (specifically, ocean water) splashing up, so of course out came a nautical stamp to compliment it. I stamped the schooners (Rubberstamp Ave.) in white Staz-On, and it gave it a kind of stormy, ghostly effect. So I decided to use a scripture about being brave or not fearing or something to offset that. Came up with the Psalm 31:24 verse about "Be strong and take courage all you who put your hope in the Lord." I stamped it in SU Whisper White Craft ink and embossed it -- to my horror the embossing powder just stuck to that whole section of the card in one big clump! So I brushed it off and wiped the whole thing off with a baby wipe, let that dry and then used an EMBOSSING BUDDY (duh)this time, then tried again. I still had a bit of clumping in a couple of spots, so I had to drag out the ol' fine paintbrush to brush out the excess powder, and in the end I'm not happy with the way it came out (I should've just used the white Staz-On again), but overall I like the card.

And last, the card I made late last night when I knew I couldn't sleep because Bjorn and Aidan were on the road coming home (they got in at 2:30am!). This one is based on a sketch I found at Michelle Wooderson's blog (found her blog through a chain of other blogs). The green PP is SU, the multi-colored PP is Basic Grey. Stamp is SU. Michelle's card used the concept of "inchies" (stamps that fit into a one-inch square, even if they don't exactly fit) for the two squares, so I just allowed the flowers to be cut off on the edges to fit that. For my buttons I punched circles out of the BG PP and adhered them to the back of a couple of SU clear buttons. Pretty simple card, but it was fun to make.

So, how did Aidan do? In his division (Latin I) he won 1st place in Latin Grammar and in the Decathlon (a sort-of "general knowledge" test)!! He got "Summa Cum Laude" (top honors) in the Pentathlon (a test all the kids had to take). And his Certamen team (the sort-of "quiz show" team) got 2nd place in the Novice division! These are State level honors -- so he did quite well!! He could go on to Nationals in Latin Grammar and Decathlon if he wants to -- he hasn't decided yet how he feels about that.

Okay, I've gotta go get in the shower. We skipped church today since none of us got any real sleep before about 3am. We are, however, still lunching at my parents', so I need to look and smell good! lol

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Swiss dots for Mom

I had fun yesterday and the evening before making a sort of "to cheer you" card for my mother. She LOVES anything blue and white, and things old-fashioned, and pansies, so I combined all three of these into one card for her, successfully, I think. Here is the result:

The layout is from last week's Techno Stamper challenge (yeah, I'm a week behind). I used my Swiss Dots Cuttlebug folder with some of CTMH's blue cardstock (theirs has a white core, great for distressing), then gently rubbed over the dots with the "fine" side of a nail file (I couldn't find my larger distressing block) to make the dots white. I then did a "reverse layers" technique for the squares (which, because my brain hasn't been on full function since my pregnancy with Aidan fifteen years ago, was surprisingly difficult). Stamped images in the squares are from a retired SU set that actually belongs to my Mom -- I think it's called "Vintage Postcard." They're stamped in Not Quite Navy. I "watercolored" the pansies in the middle by using a water brush on them immediately after stamping them. I also used NQN for the "Floral" background stamp that is behind the strip of squares. Then I mounted the whole thing on textured white CS. Mom FLIPPED over it. It totally made her day -- she had had a rough night and was feeling pretty low, so she was thrilled to receive it.

Y'know, every once in awhile you just know God does something through you like that and it feels GOOD, huh?

That was yesterday. Then I tried to put in an SU order yesterday late afternoon and found out that SU has put a SANCTION on my ability to place online orders because I have sent in my resignation letter. I can no longer place orders online. I'm not even resigning officially until the end of the month, but that doesn't matter. Once they get that letter, you're no longer able to order online, although you're still "active" and can order over the phone. I feel like I'm being punished. There's really no reason for it other than that, that I can see. Any competent computer system can be programmed by any fifth grader to cut off one's ability to place orders on their resignation date, it's not like the system needs time to get used to the idea. The thing that makes me mad is that I'm NOT leaving SU because I don't like them anymore. I still love SU, I just don't want to be a demo anymore. I'm still making them money through the end of this month, so there's no reason to "sanction" me. Yeesh! I don't mean to be snarky about it (especially since I said that nice Christian thing in the paragraph above!!), but it actually kinda hurt my feelings, y'know? Maybe I'm just too sensitive to stuff like this. At any rate, I have two orders to put in that have tons of ink refills and ink pads, etc., and now I'm gonna have to read all those item numbers over the phone ... *sigh*

And ... I can't believe I'm admitting this ... but I'm having a smidgen of doubt about McCain for Prez. Only because I heard a report on NPR the other day that made me think he might be considering reinstating a draft if he were to become President (although they did say it could be a choice of military OR civil service). I am SO against that, having only one child, who is a boy. So I actually wrote to the McCain campaign today asking them to clarify. I hope they answer me. I don't like to be a one-issue voter, but this is pretty much a biggie to me. I told them my vote may hang in the balance, so maybe that'll get 'em going on getting me an answer!

Anyway, I hope to have time to stamp this evening, but it'll just depend on what other things are in store -- i.e. family time, etc. I need to get with the program on MJ's sketches and get caught up!

Well, happy stampin'!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Great big canvas ...

Well, I have spent the greater part of this week going nuts with backgrounds! I didn't feel particularly creative as far as making cards went (never mind scrapbook layouts), so I ran down to Michaels and got some Createx paint (it's a water-based acrylic paint for use in airbrushing, so it's thinner than regular acrylic paints), and just went nuts with several TJ techniques (not all of which required the Createx, that was just a supply I didn't already have). Something about slopping paint around on glossy cardstock and wax paper and whatever else is just incredibly therapeutic, I think!

I also did another rendition of the Waxy Cuttlebug technique, this time using Rainbow Mist sprays and Shimmer Sprays instead of the rainbow ink pads. I just don't seem to have much luck with the inkpads, but the sprays worked out great! I had to cover the sprayed piece with wax paper and smoosh the ink around in order to really work it down to the un-waxed bits, but I think it worked so much better than with a brayer and inkpad. Unfortunately the shimmer in the sprays doesn't show up well even with a photograph, but, trust me, it's there!

The stamp is from Club Stamp, the quote stamp is from (I think) Crazy Mountain Stamps (I'd have to check that for sure), and the glass rectangle came from the jewelry/bead section at Michaels.

Now that I'm quitting SU, I think I'm gonna re-vamp my craft loft. It doesn't have to be SU-centric now, I don't have to keep SU stuff "uncontaminated" by non-SU and that could really free me up for a re-organization that would work better. First of all I'm going to unmount all my mounted sets (yay! space!) -- of course, this will have to be done over time due to the cost of the EZ Mount and the effort involved. But that will clear out lots of shelf space, so hopefully I can shuffle some things around and not be so crowded! Anyway, it'll be a fun project to work on.

SO, I'm off to eat my "Sunday evening scrounge" dinner (because we feast at lunch), and figure out what SU stuff I absolutely must buy while I still have my 20% discount! lol

Happy Stamping!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hear ye, hear ye!

Well, the Big News that I promised to tell you about yesterday is this:

I am quitting Stampin’ Up! As of May 1, 2008 I will no longer be a demonstrator or be associated with Stampin’ Up! except as a customer (I still love their stuff). I’ve been tossing this around in my head and trying to decide for eons, but I finally decided that I am NOT enjoying the sales aspect of it, can’t get my “demo mojo” going anymore, and I’m spending waaaaaay more money being a demo than I ever would just as a customer. And that’s INCLUDING the 20% discount!

I really started thinking seriously about this when I had to cancel several classes in a row for lack of interest. I knew it wasn’t because I’m not a good teacher – my customers always enjoyed my classes, but for some reason I just couldn’t get enough people together at one time to get anything going. And my sales have just plummeted. No amount of special enticements or promotions were working. So I had to face up to the fact that I am just not a salesperson (I’ve known this since my Girl Scout Cookie days), and I’m not a go-getter either. I love Stampin’ Up! products, and my upline said they pretty much sell themselves, but it just wasn’t working for me! So I’m looking forward now to being free of company associations, and I can plug any company I want to without guilt or remorse! And I can unmount all the current SU stamps I want to keep and have more storage space (YAY!!!), and hopefully sell the sets I thought I would like or use to demonstrated and really couldn’t care less about!

So, that’s that. Now, on to creativity. I also promised yesterday that I would post the other card I made, so I will dutifully do that. The main technique I used was a new TJ one (in the April ’08 newsletter) called “Waxy Cuttlebug”), and that’s what’s behind the little girls. I also ran the Pixie Pink cardstock through the Cuttlebug with the same Paisley folder, and rubbed a bit of white pigment ink over the raised bit to highlight it. There’s a pale purple organdy ribbon behind the purplish gold-webbed strip, and the sentiment is done with the “Dazzling Diamond Dust” technique (I think that one’s a Splitcoast tech). The little girls are from River City Rubber Works, the sentiment is SU, as is all the cardstock, and the sparkly brads are from Oriental Trading Company. I don’t think the sparkly bits show up in the scan, but I didn’t feel up to trying to photograph them. Oh! This is also based on Mojo Monday Sketch #30, which you can find here.

I’m not having a good day today. All I can say is, grief sucks. Or maybe it’s more that death does. I’ve just been pretty down, even though it’s not overtly because of Granny. I just feel pretty fragile. But that could be partly because I didn’t get to rest too much today, had to do a lot of things at home and run some errands, kinda had to “push” when I needed to rest. I’m SO glad God understands all this and is carrying me in the palm of His hand so I don’t just plummet. Being a depression sufferer to start with, I’m not exactly starting with lots of room to go before hitting bottom. Anyway, that’s the “grief bulletin” for today. I hope I’ll feel like playing in the craft loft tonight. I started something last night that would be fun to finish, but I’m pretty tired, so we’ll just have to see. Maybe I’ll just play with techniques. I have a ton of great card sketches to play with, too, though. Hmmm …. choices ….

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

After the good-byes ...

This is long, I'll warn you now. If you're only interested in the picture of the card I made today, it's at the end. Feel free to scroll down and skip the other stuff if you're not interested ...

Well, the crazy week of Granny’s funeral and burial is over (last week), all the out-of-town family and friends have gone, and life has now moved into the “new normal,” which, I guess for awhile, will be an age of adjustment. Grief is a very weird thing, we’re all discovering. I can go from acceptance to rage at her death in less than 6 seconds (better than the world’s fastest race car!), and can be “just fine” and suddenly find myself irritated at the smallest things (that have nothing to do with her or death or any of that stuff). We (my parents and I) have been reading books about grief, and it’s helping us to understand that what we’re feeling is normal and that we shouldn’t try to squelch any of it or ignore it. So, yeah, it’s gonna be a long, strange journey.

Granny’s services were just beautiful. Our pastor is such an awesome guy, and he turned her funeral into a wonderful celebration of her life that just really uplifted all of us. I was privileged to be able to sing three songs – one called “Others” that is an old hymn describing the selfless life. I had never heard of it before, but Mom said it was one they used to sing when she was a young girl in the Methodist church, and since it perfectly describes Granny, she wanted me to do it. I also sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a hymn that has become sort-of the “theme song” of our family, because God has shown His faithfulness to us in so many ways throughout the years. Then at the end of the service I helped lead the attendees in “How Great Thou Art.” I did just fine on the first two – totally a God Thing there! – but I wasn’t sure I would be able to do the last one. It came after the pastor’s message, and in the middle of his message he played a song by Steve Green (another of Mom’s choices) called “May All Who Come Behind Us Find Us Faithful,” and I totally lost it on that song. The words were so moving, and all the tributes to Granny, etc. had been so sweet … it all just grabbed me right in the heart. Fortunately I had two other women helping lead the last song, so I was able to make it through, but it wasn’t easy!

The graveside service was short, but also beautiful in its own way. Our pastor went all the way out to West Texas to do it (he’s an awesome guy). I sang again, this time “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” (the way Joann Hogg of “Iona” fame does on her solo album), and “Blessed Assurance.” I did the first one a’capella and then the pastor played his guitar on the second one and we had everyone who knew it join in. It was a bit breezy, but then it wouldn’t have been West Texas without wind! The temps were perfect, the sun was shining, and the birds were singing their little hearts out for Granny. She loved birds, so it was sweetly fitting that they were part of the service!

It was VERY hard to leave her behind once it was all over. Even though we know she’s not in that body, that it’s just the shell that the Real Granny spent her earthly years in, it still just ripped my heart out to drive away knowing that I would never again see her on this earth, never again be able to put my arms around her, kiss her precious wrinkled face, hear her call me “Stacy Lee” again, all those things that we take so for granted when our loved ones are with us! I tried to comfort myself by thinking that Granddaddy finally didn’t have to lay out there in that flat, barren cemetery alone, but it didn’t help much.

So, yeah. This isn’t what I thought I would be doing in 2008. Somehow I just thought my Granny would live forever, that she was immune to this death thing that everyone else has to go through. Sometimes it seems really so unfair, even knowing she was 95, even knowing she is SO much better off now, even knowing that I could never deprive her of the pure joy she is experiencing now in the presence of her Savior. Selfishly, I wanted to keep her here with me forever. And I want to keep my Mama and Daddy with me forever, and my husband, and my son … the list goes on. I hate death. Even with the promise of heaven on the other side, I think death is a stupid idea. Thanks a lot, Eve.

Anyway, at least now I’m finding that creativity is a good release. I spent the day today making 32 cards – one “for fun” and the others (all the same) for my Mom and I to use as thank-you notes to all the wonderful people who have sent flowers, meals, or helped us in so many other ways. The thank-you cards are simple – just one layer – but I liked that about them. They seemed fitting, somehow. So here’s a sample of one. Stamps are by Club Stamp and Stampin’ Up! The colors used were Perfect Plum and Pale Plum, with a little Elegant Eggplant thrown in (Granny’s favorite colors were pinks and purples – I don’t do pinks well, thus the plums).

Tomorrow I’ll post the other card. It’s getting late and I’ve already written a book here, so I’ll spare you any more for now! Oh! And I'll have a big announcement to make, if I remember (no, I am NOT pregnant!!). I wanted to wait until after April Fool's Day to make it, so there would be no question of its veracity.

Until then ...