Lessons Learned: An Introduction

Remember Jack Handey?

Yeah, ok, full disclosure – I was going somewhere with that, and then I started looking at Jack Handey quotes and 15 minutes later, I don’t remember why I brought him up.

Which brings me to my point: I have made some hilarious mistakes in my life. I’ve made some not-so-funny ones, too, but who wants to read about those?

Some of those mistakes were all about Salesforce and/or Marketo. Some were about working in general. Some have been ridiculously specific, or immediately apparent, or…I mean, you get where I’m going here.

Think about when you offer to help someone. I bet money (not a lot. I mean, like $5) that you have said, at least once, “I’ve learned about X the hard way, so if you have questions, let me know.”

You’re offering to share the lessons you have learned through trial and error, so that your friend/family member/vague acquaintance/barista/frenemy/etc. doesn’t have to.

My own mentor said it to me just the other day, so in a stunning act of plagiarism (not really. Please don’t sue me) I decided “BLOG SERIES!!!”

So that’s what this is. Well, not this one in particular. This is just an introduction. But anything worth sharing should be adequately introduced, so here we are.

standby

Limbo. Or “how TFA continues to screw with me”

I still hadn’t heard from GVSU by today, and while I wasn’t entirely surprised, I was concerned that perhaps there was some difficulty with transcripts.

Sure enough, for some unknown reason, I went against my gut and had listed my time at Delta State on my application. I thought I had deleted it before submitting it, but I guess I did not because they told me today that I haven’t heard anything because they haven’t gotten those transcripts. Of course, the only way to request them is by mail because Delta State is still caught in the days of the Pony Express. And of course they are closed for the winter holiday, so I could not get anyone on the phone.

And so here I am, suspended in animation – somewhere between settling for less than I feel I am capable of and actually doing something to remedy that fact.

The only reason I went to Delta State was because of TFA, and the only reason I am in Michigan now, toiling away in customer service, is because of TFA. I feel like a failure because of me, but it’s easier to blame TFA. I resent ever reading that article and deciding that I should join.

I feel…deflated.

I was called in to cover a shift tonight (4 to 11) for a coworker who is ill. I have already abandoned the Christmas spirit this year because I am too tired to care to do anything more than go through the motions. I feel that I am falling short because I don’t make enough money to get Eric all of the things he wants, and I know that he always buys me extravagant gifts. I feel inferior to him because of it, and that just saps the joy out of the gift-giving season for me. I have always preferred giving great gifts to receiving, and not being able to really do that…I don’t know. Commercialism is winning out right now, and my work in retail plays a big role in that.

And now I must wait even longer to feel that I am making a difference in my life. I cannot believe how insanely reckless I am sometimes, flying blind and charging ahead; this is always how it ends, and yet I cannot seem to change. I inevitably end up finding my oversights at a time when I can do nothing about it immediately, leaving me plenty of time to wallow in self-doubt.

The last thing I need to be doing today is dealing with people who are angry/frustrated/needing to fix something. I can’t even fix my own mistakes…

Operation Chocolate and Peanut-Butter

I woke up this morning with a craving for that almighty Dynamic Duo: chocolate and peanut-butter. Knowing that Eric and I are both trying not to become as wide as we are tall, I felt the best way to get my fix without overdoing it was to make something that he could take to his coworkers! I decided on peanut-butter and chocolate cookies.

It was, ah, an experience.

So the recipe I decided on seemed pretty simple. Here are the ingredients:

  • One and one quarter cup all-purpose flour Three quarters all-purpose flour and 2 quarters wheat flour
  • Half cup cocoa powder
  • Teaspoon baking powder
  • Half teaspoon baking soda
  • Half teaspoon salt
  • Half cup butter Half cup applesauce
  • Two-thirds cup brown sugar
  • One third cup granulated sugar
  • Two eggs
  • Two teaspoons vanilla extract
  • One cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Half cup peanuts
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling

From there, it reads like a normal cookie baking recipe. Mix stuff together, then bake.

Here is how it actually happened:

  1. I gathered my ingredients, along with my delicious Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale.

    Mmmm! Cookies-to-be!

    Not an ingredient, but it helps.

  2. I whisked together my dry ingredients, less the sugar. I combined my two types of flour, the cocoa powder, the baking soda, and the baking powder. This was easy!

    This is a familiar shot, no?

  3. Following the directions on the recipe, I used my $5(?) hand mixer from the ole Dollar General in Redfield to mix together the peanut butter, applesauce, and sugar. I drained the applesauce first because that is the latest baking trick I’ve learned when substituting it for butter, and I took out the granulated sugar because, come on, how sweet does it need to be?

    Applesauce…minus the juice.

    These will soon be a congealed goop.

  4. I added the eggs and mixed with the wet ingredients one at a time.

    Dumpty is about to join Humpty in there.

  5. I added the vanilla. Alas, I had just under 2 teaspoons. Looks like I need more baking supplies.

    What?! Not enough vanilla?! NOOOOO!

  6. I began adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. I remembered that the last time I used the hand mixer, it was a little crazy, so I did a little hand mixing first, to get it started.
  7. The hand mixer decided to be an asshole, so somehow, in the 10 seconds that I had it on, it managed to whip up the entire batter onto itself. Literally.

    This is what happens when you skimp on kitchen equipment.

  8. I gave the hand mixer the finger, pried the batter off of the mixer, and went outside to finish my beer, so it could think about what it’d done.
  9. I considered throwing the mixer away or donating it to Goodwill, though I am not cruel enough to wish this hand mixer upon anyone else in the world.

    The battlefield: mixer, 1, me, 0.

  10. Did I mention that this “7 speed” hand mixer really only has one speed?
  11. Once calmed down, I hand mixed the batter the rest of the way. It was relatively mixed.

    I missed some bits…

  12. I added the chocolate chips and, since I didn’t have peanuts, some extra peanut butter.
  13. I scooped up the batter into little cookie bits, dropped them on the pan (greased by Eric), sprinkled salt on them, and I put them in the oven for 12 minutes.

    It’s not their fault…

  14. I cleaned everything thoroughly, except for the ungrateful mixer attachments. Those I rinsed and then threw in the dishwasher because I was not about to give them the care that I gave to my mixing bowls.
  15. When the cookies were done, I took them out of the oven and scooped them onto my cooling rack.

    There they are. The luckiest cookies ever.

 

The Debrief

Eric is a fan. I am a little a disappointed with this recipe. I don’t think the peanut butter has a strong enough presence in the over all taste. I am a fan of the sea salt sprinkled on top because it brings out the peanut taste a little bit. Maybe adding peanuts would have helped, but I’m not sure.

I did learn something useful about my hand mixer – namely that I got what I paid for.

And I guess, since I am not eating them all, I can be secure in the knowledge that there are other people out there who might enjoy them. And good for them.

So, um…

I think I mentioned some other project being an exercise in patience. That was a lie – a dirty, stinkin’ lie. Well, not a lie, but ignorance.

I hadn’t done cross stitching – real cross stitching – yet.

Last Friday, for my “weekend” project, I picked out a cross stitch kit at work and brought it home, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Saturday, of course, I opened the kit and found a complex maze of directions, a tangle of threads, and a needle. While I was a little intimidated, I did not give up!

Reading the directions about three times, I found the center of my cloth, pulled out some strands of the appropriate thread and began the pattern.

I was 7 stitched in before realizing there was a problem…

I even had the mind to use one of the round frames that mom had sent me in the mail.

But about thirty minutes and seven stitches into the first color, I realized there was a problem. I was swiftly approaching the bottom of the cloth – much faster than I should have been. The problem was that I was not doing it right! Shocker.

As it turns out, when you do real cross stitch, you have to make tiny, tiny stitches, one over each tiny square. You don’t skip spots or anything. So I got to pull out the thread, using the needle to move back the way it came.

But once I had it figured it out, I was rolling!

Kind of.

Here is where I got after working off and on all weekend. I would say this represents about 4.5 hours of work.

The whole pitcher isn’t even done yet!

I have three colors’ worth of shading done on one piece of the picture. Only about 97% left to go!

I might actually finish this by Christmas. And then it will be my gift to myself. And don’t worry. I will post updates as I have them.

 

Super Birthday Curtain: An exercise in patience

What a week. Sorry for no post yesterday. I was watching The Dark Knight Rises.

Today I ventured into making the curtains for the Super Hero Birthday Room Project (as I’ve taken to calling it…since now). I have two sewing books, and they both have lovely little explanations for how to sew curtains. There is also this amazing resource for crafters known as “the internet”, which has a ton of information for first-time crafts.

I used none of these.

Instead, I decided that what I needed was four hemmed edges and a hole to put a curtain rod through. This model worked fine. But because this is me, the project did not go off without a hitch.

Here is my journey through curtain making:

Step 1

I started with fabric. I bought my fabric on Saturday; this was my second choice. I went with this Spider Man fabric because the fabric I had originally chosen was nearly gone, and they did not have enough.**

Step 2

I pinned the bottom edge for the hem. I also ironed it down before I took it to the machine. Notice that I am not using my hand-made pin cushion. This is not because of any reason other than I keep forgetting about it.

Old needle = BAD

I did have the wherewithal to realize that I had sewn multiple projects on the same needle and perhaps it was time for a change. So here’s to the needle that sewed many of my first failures and successes.

4

The first side is completed!

Have you ever dropped a whole container of pins on the floor?

I did, just today. 🙂

I got wise…

At some point, I realized that I could pin and iron simultaneously. So that’s what I did. I pinned in two spots, then ironed. Then pulled the fabric up and pinned two spots, then ironed. And so on.

Making headway

Although I was sewing on the dining room table for extra room, I still found it amazing difficult to keep all of that fabric from falling off the wooden surface.

Curtain rod!

Finally, after the 2 hour Tim Burton Batman, all sides were nice and neat, and I was ready to sew the loop for the curtain rod. In order to do this, I simply placed the rod on the fabric and folded it to see where I would need to sew.

I was worried it wouldn’t be long enough

You might remember, keen reader, two asterisks earlier when I mentioned forgoing a favored fabric because there was not enough. Well, I’m afraid the joke’s on me. The day I picked up the fabric, the internet had given Eric and I the finger and taken the day off, so I did not have access to my e-mail with the window and door measurements from my mom. So I called whilst in the fabric store to get them: 40in by 44in.

Somehow, in the midst of my searching for fabric and mom trying to juggle answering my questions and guests coming into the house at that very moment, I got it in my head that I needed at least 4 yards of fabric. Obviously, I only needed one and a half.

However, I bought 4, and so here are the 135 remaining, usable inches splayed on the floor.

Now my brother is getting a curtain for the door and a valance for his window. And I will be getting a Spider Man skirt, perhaps. Or tote. I’ll still have quite a bit left over.

The curtain rod being finished

Because my brother is the best person on this planet (and I do mean that), having a plain curtain rod is not good enough for him. Luckily, I grabbed some Spider Man duck tape for my dress form project the other week, so I used that to decorate the rod. Now he has a totally Spidey curtain rod to match his curtain(s).

My awesome husband/curtain

With the curtain completed, I had to get a picture of it! Alas, at 5ft, I am too short to hang it up for a picture. In steps Eric to save the day. Thus, here is the completed curtain for the door.

I am going to do the valance tomorrow, probably, as it will take some actual skill to complete.

And when I finish whatever else I do with this fabric, I’ll be sure to post it and remind everyone of my yards of glory. Last day of work for the week tomorrow! Hooray! And then off to the lake Saturday. Even my days off seem busy. Hopefully next week, I’ll only work a few days. More craft time = a happy polymath.

In the meantime, keep it crafty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crafty Polymath’s Guide to Failure

Greetings, friends, Romans, countrymen. I thought long and hard yesterday about whether or not to post, and what, should I decide to take the plunge. If you have read this far, you have probably put two and two together: “a guide to failure?” you thought, followed by “didn’t know what to post…this woman never shuts up! She must have had a setback!” If you thought this, or something along these lines, give yourself 10 points and a hug because you are correct! Then you can slap me in your mind because I am obviously being obscenely bitter about all this and kind of taking it out on you. Sorry.

I didn’t start this post to be sarcastic. Well, not toward anyone, and certainly not in a mean way.

I did start this post to paint a humorous picture of what happens when I begin a craft and it goes terribly wrong. To be completely fair to the interwebs, I am using the format of Cracked articles – a list!

Step 1: Have an idea

This idea must be one that seems inexplicably easy to complete. Preferably it is one that comes to you in that hazy state between wakefulness and sleep, a late-night brilliant moment that absolutely cannot fail because it is obviously so easy. It is so easy, in fact, that you wonder how you hadn’t thought of it while in the craft room earlier. Silly you, the idea just had to wait until your mind was quiet enough to work.

The problem: It’s a lie. Your mind is playing you! Your mind is making all of the steps happen so easily, and if you have done any crafts, you know logically that your mind is full of shit, but you’re too tired to call it out. It lulls you into a false sense of security by showing you every stroke of a brush or clever cut out of paper. It shows you every step you must take, and then it shows you the final product, and it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.

Step 2: Begin working

Using the images provided by your brain earlier or the night before, you sit down to begin working. The first few steps are easy. For me, it was a base coat on a new miniature. Simple! Cover the thing in paint and let it dry. It is literally impossible to screw the first step up. Your mind made each step manageable, so you start on high hopes! Maybe your first step was finding the background for your newest scrapbook page. You have plenty to choose from, so you merrily go about sorting your options, looking for that one design that you know you have somewhere because you hadn’t used it yet!

This is where things start to go wrong, but you don’t notice it yet.

Step 3: The first problem (minor)

Here is where the first hint of your mind’s diabolical scheme comes to fruition. There is a minor problem. It is so minor. It’s probably not even worth mentioning! But it’s still there.

In my case, it was that one of the color paints I wanted to use was drier than it needed to be. It was a little goopy (that’s a technical term), not as liquid as it should be for coating a fine miniature.

For you, it might be that you didn’t have the exact background you wanted. You have one that is so similar, but it’s not the same. Still…

Also, just a quick disclaimer, I am not assuming that you or everyone scrapbooks. But it’s the best, most consistent, example I can think of right now. So no offense intended those of you who do not scrapbook. Honestly, I don’t even scrapbook. My scenario is probably wildly inaccurate. So if you do scrapbook, please forgive my ignorance.

Step 4: Find a sensible solution to Step 3

This being such a minor problem, you know that there is a sensible solution. You are, after all, well-versed in what you are doing, and you know how to roll with the punches.

So I added a little bit of water to that goopy paint, and voila! No longer goopy. Okay, maybe a little watery, but that’s what I was going for, right? Problem solved! I was now ready to continue with the plot that my mind had laid out for me.

And, okay, so maybe the design isn’t exactly the same but it will work! At least you have a similar design, right? Go with it; it is sure to come out the same either way.

The secret though, dear reader, is that your mind has now been angered. You have defied its image of perfection, and it is now coiled tightly, ready to spring. Beware!

Step 5: The sensible solution? Yeah, it doesn’t work.

With a reasonable way to maneuver around the roadblock, there appears to be smooth sailing ahead. But that’s not the case. The simple plan that your mind had laid out for you provided no real solutions to potential problems because, in your mind, the world is a perfect place that always has ample craft supplies on hand.

The paint was too watery. It didn’t coat well. And I was working with a bright color (yellow), which I never work with. It simply was not coating. It was too watery, and then it was leaking onto other parts of the figure, which I had already painted, and it was looking sloppy, and it.wasn’t.coating! My husband assuaged me by saying, “Hey. You could just put some yellow ink on it, and that will make it work.” I agreed via grunt.

The design is off just a tad too much. The layout in your mind simply will not work on this new design, and while normally you could think of hundreds of ways to rework it, your mind is being stubborn. Maybe you’ve already started, and in your confidence, you’ve already pasted an accent onto the page, so there’s no turning back now. You figure, well, you can just move everything a half inch to the left, right?

Step 6: The simple solution actually makes things a lot worse

Somehow, your expertise is failing you because, through no fault of your own, I assure you, the solution has become a bigger problem. Had you been flying by the seat of your pants, you feel you could have done a better job at this juncture. Instead, the project is falling apart in your hands, and your mind is thrashing about with a righteous fury that screams at you, “This isn’t my fault! You just didn’t listen to me!”

The yellow ink, so help me, made itthat much worse. Now I had not only watery yellow that did not coat over the base coat very well, but the green was discolored because of it, and the grey-blue of the base coat was simply more pronounced. Since I had had to water down the yellow paint, there was not enough for me to do a second coat, and I was not guaranteed the same color if I mixed another batch. This is when I felt the first moments of panic and hatred.

Okay, so you’ve shifted everything just a half inch to the left. And now the piece de la resistance will not fit on the page. Your measurements were fine; what has happened here?

Step 7: Take drastic action

Your solution made things worse, so now you must throw caution to the wind and do something that, deep down, you know is a bad idea, but you’re seeing red, and you can come up with no other answer.

I painted over the yellow and the ink with turquoise, telling myself that this would make it way better. Gritting my teeth and with an intensity bred of ire, I went about coating over the areas again.

You put the main attraction on the page anyway. Maybe this page was showcasing a photo. You’ll just trim the photo down so it fits.

These are the moments in movies where the villain is laughing manically as they begin pushing levers and turning dials, not really aware of the sparks that are flying in the background.

Step 8: Your gambit doesn’t pan out

The drastic measures you’ve taken are not working. In fact, they are making things worse. Much, much worse. Your mind is in a veritable fit of rage, and it is spitting all kinds of nasty things at you.

The turquoise covered any and all detail work in the pewter. There was simply too much paint on the mini, and in my frustration over the yellow, I had just kept slathering paint on like a madwomen until there was no trace of the offending watered-down color. Except, of course, there were traces. For a color that hadn’t coated worth a damn, I couldn’t seem to cover it all. My sanity started to fall apart and land in tiny pieces on the globs of bright paint in my hands.

This is where you begin to trim the picture, and you accidentally lop off the top of a head. Maybe it’s not the focus of the picture, but it doesn’t work now. Maybe it’s even too small, but regardless of what happens, it is wrong, and your beautiful idea is crumbling to ash.

Step 9: Slowly descend into madness

Your reality is now shattering. Well, not your reality, but the absolutely unassailable perfection in your mind is unattainable, and your mind cannot handle it. Everything you’ve done to fix the minor problems has failed and in fact only made it worse. This is not what you pictured.

I handed the miniature to Eric, “Get this away from me before I throw it.” I went downstairs, feeling dejected and let down by my miniature and my mind, and I sat on the couch to brood. When Eric felt it was safe to approach, he did so, and I suggested that we burn the miniature. This seemed a reasonable reaction, in answer to the pain and suffering that the miniature had caused. Watching it melt down to a puddle of metal was quite appealing. Then I listed all of the reasons that the miniature and everything associated with miniatures was stupid, and he waited patiently for me to finish my tirade.

At this point, I don’t know what you do. Maybe you rip the page into tiny pieces. Maybe you simply walk away, like I managed to do. Perhaps you burn down a small village. Regardless, your anger stems from a place of insanity because your mind is broken by the failure of its seemingly simple plan.

Step 10: You realize that your mind is the one to blame, and you regain control

At some point after the ash has settled, you remember that the ideas that come to you in that hazy space between wakefulness and sleep are always a little crazy. It occurs to you that this is not the first time you’ve done this. And it occurs to you that every time it happens, you forget the previous ideas and failures. The realization soothes you, a cool balm to your ire and frustration.

When it was safe to do so, Eric offered a final solution: strip the model of all paint and start from scratch. This is usually the only solution at this point – to start all over. And it takes some time before it feels safe to do so. But with a clear mind, I was able to think of how I could paint the miniature in a real-world scenario.

This is the cycle of failure for crafts. Unattainable idea of perfection, inevitable fall from grace, and eventual peace. It’s just like the stages of grief.

But practice makes perfect. If you are able to get back on your craft horse after falling, then you will eventually succeed. And maybe one day, I’ll stop trusting my brain and its wild schemes.

Realistically, though, I’ll be making a similar post in a few weeks. So until then…

Stick a pin in me; I’m done

When I woke up yesterday, I had already decided to take onat least three projects, one of them being a sewing project I have been putting off – a pin cushion.

It seemed easy enough, and I thought it would make a good pause between other projects. Hand sewing, for me, can be almost a meditation, an exercise in quiet. More than that, I thought it silly that I had made a skirt, upcycled a shirt, and a few other projects but had not put together two little squares (or circles) to make a cute pincushion. While I have nothing wrong with the traditional tomato cushion, I felt I should follow through on what I see as a Right of Passage.

Besides, I have some great fabric just sitting around!

I looked up a few different techniques and looks, and then I decided to do what I almost always do, which was to just wing it.

How to put this? Okay, yes, I did well in school. Yes, I am a quick learner, and I have done well in pretty much any job I’ve held. Yes, I studied for a few months and surpassed the requirements on the PRAXIS math test to teach. And yet, for all this, I am still not smart enough to remind myself that I need to follow instructions.

I didn’t start sewing when I was young; I come from a family with an inherent bobbin-winding deficiency. With the exception of writing and cutting and pasting pieces of paper, I am still new to the world of DIY to this extent.

I have high aims, though. It is a difficult road, teaching myself how to do these things, but I take great pride in it. Even my failures! And, I should clarify, I did make a pincushion. I just didn’t make it correctly, and I will likely have to make another one in the future. Which is fine.

What’s wrong with it? Well, the button is certainly not sewn on correctly, nor the ribbon, and it is perhaps a bit smaller than I should like.

But what is right with it? It holds pins! Done!

For now, enjoy the picture!

Image