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A One Hour Basket in, er, Two Days

Have I even mentioned, since I resurrected the blog, that I joined one of the most fantastic online clubs ever? I may have dropped a few lines in passing, but it deserves a little more attention.

In January, Vanessa Vargas Wilson, the Crafty Gemini, launched her online quilt club.

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Every month there’s a featured project (a tote bag, a wallet, a mini applique art quilt, for example), a Mystery Block of the Month quilt clue, weekly UStream chats, interviews with prominent crafter/sewers/quilters, and a monthly giveaway – and she gives away really sweet stuff.  If you click the button, you can see examples of all of the projects, and each month’s  giveaway.  There’s a Facebook community, and, in an effort to foster an even tighter knit quilty bunch, there’s a monthly swap.  But, unlike  most swaps, this swap is not anonymous.  You get your partner’s email, and you have to engage in conversation to get your partner’s address.  I’ve met a bunch of great women, from very diverse backgrounds, and I’ve learned something from each swap.  The first month was a mug rug, and I did my first applique.  The second month was a zipper pouch, and while I had done a zipper before, I went a little zipper crazy, and not only did I make the little pouch, but I made a bionic gear bag.

This month the swap was some kind of a sewing room organizer.  Vanessa did a tutorial for these baskets, which are quick and easy, but I decided to jump on the one-hour basket bandwagon that’s all over Instagram.  I signed up for my first Instagram swap, which isn’t due out until June, so I thought I’d practice making the basket with this swap.

Did I show you this?

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So, that jelly roll of Cotton & Steel Mustang, became this –


Ta da!  A basket!

I have to admit, though, it took me more than an hour

First, I spent an hour hour creating the exterior.  I used this quilt as you go tutorial from the Crafty Gemini and Missouri Star Quilts.  Easy peasy.  And, then I put it away for the evening, thinking I was in good shape for the next night.

I thought everything was perfect – my exterior looked fab, I had a matching solid for the interior, my handles were cut from the leftover quilted exterior, I was all ready to sew them all together.

But, they didn’t go together – at all.  My interior was way too small, or my exterior was too large – I could not get them to nest.  I spent a good half hour trying to make it work, before I gave up and just decided to redo it.  Boo.

I must have measured wrong somewhere.

So, I sewed a new lining, this time using  the same seam allowance as the exterior (in the pattern the exterior is sewn at 1/2″ and the interior 5/8″) and the second time around, all was good.   And, had I just accepted that the original lining wasn’t going to work, and done a resew right at that moment, I think it probably would have only taken maybe 15 minutes to a half hour to finish the thing up.   In the end, it all took two evenings, but that was my fault.  In the finished basket, the lining is probably a tad big, but it looks good, and I was happy with it.

And, hopefully my swappee will be too, since I’m of to the post office and then to court.

And then I will return to the business of plotting my Maryland Sheep and Wool shopping route. Miss Babs, here I come!

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Ten on Tuesday or What I’m Loving Today

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Another week, another list!  This week, I’m loving:

This knitting app.   Gone are scissors, tape and magnetic clip charts.  I would not be enjoying my current KAL as much as I am without this fantastic app.

This list.  Happy Birthday Shakespeared!  A handy list if you want to insult someone in iambic pentameter.

This website.  Got junk?  Got a story?  You’ll like it as much as I do.  Or, if you just want to see what’s in other people’s pockets.

This free dresden plate/embroidery project combo.

This sale  Hurry!  The coupon code is only good through today!  If you miss the sale, the blog is awesome so check it out anyway.

This season finale and this interview with the showrunner.  Can’t wait for season 4!

This interview.  Better than Blue Bloods.

This pattern.  Hmm, maybe it’s going to take me an hour.  I’m thinking it’s a five hour basket.

This tutorial.  Because I am, some day, going to finish my sampler.

Enjoy!

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The Last Love Your Blog Challenge – Gratitude

A Playful Day

And just like that, the challenge is over. So, it’s time to assess – do I love my blog?

Sure, I guesss so.  The truth is, before this month, I put very little effort into developing a relationship with this space, and the people who travel through it.  I’m committed to changing that, but right now, love is a strong word, and not the right word.

And neither is gratitude.

As I  mentioned in the first post in this series, my father died in January.  I’ve never read Elizabeth Kubler Ross, nor do I know what the actual seven stages of grief are.  I only know what mine are.  It started with disbelief.  I’ve think I skipped over angry, because I’m just not angry, death is a part of life, it is what it is.  Right now, I’m at regret.  And, every day, in the quiet time, with every stitch I take with my knitting, with every yarn over with my hook, with every slow stitch I take with my new project, embroidery, I try to find the flip side of regret – I try to find gratitude.

Finding gratitude should be such an easy thing for me, in particular.  I’m a public defender in the homicide unit – I see the worst of the worst every single day.  Every Friday, I make a trip to the prison, and I get to walk out, free.  But, in the face of all of those why questions one is confronted with when someone dies – why did this happen?  why didn’t I say x when I had the chance, or why did I do y when I should have to w, x, or z?  gratitude is a hard thing, even when you have a wonderful husband, a beautiful home, a great family, a good job, sweet little pets, health, when something so fundamental, like a limb, has been taken away from you.  Once one parent is gone, it’s like a root of tree has been pulled from the ground, and there’s only one parent left grounding you.

Recently, I listened to an interview with Toni Morrison, and she was talking about raising her children.  The interviewer asked her if she had made any mistakes, and she said, that looking back, everything she did was a mistake, and she had nothing but regrets.

Her words have resonated with me.  I do not want to be 84 having not found the flip side of regret.

So, I move through my stages, and what I don’t necessarily feel as something palpable, I know, I know is there – that I will get there, that there will come a moment when I’m finishing a repeat, or tying off a knot, or threading my needle, that I will no longer be stewing in would have, could have should haves and I will think “I am so grateful, for all of it.  Every little thing.”

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So, that’s what I have to say about gratitude for the moment.

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I have enjoyed this challenge, and I can’t wait to see what Kate has in store for readers of A Playful Day next, as she continues along on her An Inspired 2015 journey.

Thank you Kate for inviting us all on your journey as you seek out inspiration and set out to inspire in 2015, and for the opportunity to reach across the internet, shake hands, and share our thoughts and bloggy visions.

See, one step closer to gratitude.

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Let the Stitching Begin!

And I’m off!

Actually, any kind of racing analogy is a bad one when you’re talking about embroidery. Embroidery truly is a slow, contemplative exercise, and if it weren’t for the threading of the teeny tiny needle, it would be completely zen-like.

This is the sampler from Creativebug’s beginning embroidery class with Rebecca Ringquist. Rebecca has a new book out, and sells her samplers, both as single purchases and as part of subscription plan, through her Etsy shop, Dropcloth.  Her stitching style is really unique; often, she works on top of vintage embroidery, or her stitches are a combination of different threads and textures. I haven’t fully decided if I actually like her style (although there’s no question I respect it, and I think it’s beautiful, I’m just not sure if that’s how I want mine to look), but the class is great, her instructions are clear, and the sampler is so cute.

So, what brought on this desire to stitch? I don’t know – I’ve done a few minor embroidery projects before – mostly with just backstitch. I took Craftsy’s beginning embroidery class, Design It, Stitch It,  and thought, yeah, that looks like something I could wrap my head around, and I put it on the back burner. When I saw Rebecca’s book on the shelf last week, I decided to take the plunge. So, yesterday, on my lunch hour, I stopped by Rittenhouse Needlepoint to pick up some embroidery needles, and of course, I couldn’t resist a good sale. They had the above lovely little kit of perle cotton from Finca on sale for half price. Sold! Unfortunately, I was so mesmerized by its prettiness, I decided to ignore that it really was the wrong weight. Rebecca recommends a size 8 thread (it generally comes in size 3-8, with 8 being the thinnest), and Rittenhouse Needlepoint, which specializes obviously in needlepoint and cross stitch, only carries 5’s. I figured, well, since Rebecca doubles her 8, that’ll be like a single 5. Which it probably is when you’re stitching through the fabric, but not when you’re threading the needle. Getting that five through the little embroidery eye – oy! #needabetterbifocal!

And so far, that really has been the hardest part, threading the needle. I have some cheap embroidery floss (although, there really is no such thing as “expensive” thread when you compare it to buying yarn for a major knitting or crochet project) that I bought at Michael’s awhile back, and I may introduce some to the project because I really want to learn the stitches, not give myself apoplexy trying to thread the needle. Rittenhouse Needlepoint does carry DMC Embroidery Floss at .85 a pop, so if I get through this sampler, and move on to the advanced sampler, that’ll be the plan.

In the meantime, I’ve added a few stitches to my aresenal (again, war and ammunition is a bad analogy – it’s so peaceful) – running stitch, filled running stitch, and couching. I really love the look of couching. Rebecca recommends using a thicker yarn for these weaving stitches – the filled running stitching and the couching stitch – and even suggests fingering weight sock yarn – so that could be a possibility for some future project. I do have all of my Koigu mill ends stashed away somewhere.

So, that’s all for now! I’m going to try to record a video tomorrow to post on Wednesday – hopefully my new mic will come, I know it’s shipped. I have some sewing to do this weekend, as well. And, the third, and penultimate clue to Earth comes up sometime today – so I’ll have a busy crafty weekend, and I hope you do to.

But, there’s still Friday to get through, and I’m off to county prison!

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Ten on Tuesday, or a Few Of My Favorite Things

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In an effort to keep to some semblance of a blogging schedule, I thought I’d do some regular features.  Most bloggers publish their link love on Friday, but I think Tuesday’s a good, slow day for some linkage time sink.

So, here’s what I’m loving today:

This trailer.  “Chewie, we’re home!” Chills. So excited.

This interview.  Can you believe she’s 84????  Very inspiring and thought provoking.

This product.  $9.99/mo Photographer’s Bundle here I come.

This yarn.  So squishy.  So beautiful.

This book.   There is nothing little about this book.  The writing IS SO GOOD.

This Design Site.  Thanks for the pretty!

This Free Embroidery Project.  Better get out my thimble!

This finale.  We dug coal together.  Enough said.

This class.  I love Judy Wise, and I’m going to take this class.  Soon.

This app.  Grunge is gone, but I’m ok with that.  My go to Photo Editor, along with Pic-Tap-Go.

Let me know what you’re loving today – a little enabling never hurt anyone!

Well,  maybe it did, but you know what I mean.

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Blogging the Ugly

A Playful Day

Today’s theme over at A Playful Day’s Love Your Blog Challenge is “ugly.”  Hurrah!  Hurrah for the ugly!  I really mean it.

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Let’s face it. Life isn’t always pretty. And when you weigh pretty v. ugly on a daily basis, you probably get something in between. Life looks a little less Monet and a little more messy Pollock.  And that’s ok.  But, we live in an age of beautiful Pins, lovely photography/lifestyle blogs, and self-help guru cheerleaders. But, it doesn’t have to be hard to love your blog even if it’s not going to end up on someone’s Life Beautiful Pinterest board.

In one of my favorite episodes of Sex and the City, Charlotte, newly divorced but still optimistic, goes to a self-help seminar about finding love, etc.  She’s attending a group session, and she interrupts the motivational speaker, and says, ‘you know, I’ve done all of those things.”  And the motivators response is, “well, you’re not trying hard enough.”  And Charlotte responds, no no, really I am trying hard enough.

I rememer thinking, Bravo Charlotte.  Some things are just hard and can’t be solved with a seven step process.  Those pretty pins of beautiful kitchens, lovely gardens, dreamy beach vistas – not only are they not daily reality, if you don’t take a Charlotte attitude, they can make you feel your life is a little less than everyone else’s around you.

But, here’s the tricky thing – if you want to maintain a blog audience, blogging the ugly is a really difficult thing to do.  Your blog can’t be every day of Debbie Downer, that it is the stuff of a diary.  And, even if you think of your blog as an online diary, that word “online” should make you pause before you treat your blog like your private diary that sits by your bedside – some things really should remain private in this digital age.

So, what’s the balance then, between Ridiculously Unrealistic Blog Beyond Beautiful and Debbie Downer’s Blog of Horrors.

The answer is authenticity.

Whatever you write should be authentic.  If you’re honest, I think readers will appreciate it.  Whenever you write a sentence that gives you some doubt, just hit the backspace button, and it’s gone.  Revealing yourself, and giving your audience a glimpse into that dark hemisphere of yours may produce results that are indeed ugly.  But, that’s life, and that’s who we are, and it makes us human.

And, in an effort to be more authentic, I may finally take Susannah Conway’s online workshop, Blogging from the Heart.  I say “may” only because the class start date is May 4, and I’m saving my pennies for Maryland Sheep & Wool the first weekend in May, so my finances may not allow for it, but we’ll see.  I really want to, and I don’t really need any yarn.

Right, I don’t “need” any yarn.

We all know how “authentic” that was.  Buying yarn is “so” about “need.”  Right.

Let’s not kid ourselves, I will totally be buying yarn.

Thanks for stopping by!

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So That Happened

Well, so, it’s been a long time.

So, here it is – I’m going to type it quick, and then just move on – my father died while my parents were vacationing in Mexico.  It took ten days for the Mexican authorities to send him back (in a crazy Fiesta casket decorated with blingedy bling), and then we buried him on a snowy, cold day midJanuary in his Hawaiin shirt, because all he had packed were vacation clothes.  Life has changed drastically for my 75 year old mother (they were married 51 years), and in turn, for me as well.  While I am a far far far cry from her caretaker, she’s strong, financially sound, and her mind is good, I’m much more involved, and for someone who used to talk to their mother once a week, who now talks to her once and twice a day, well, life is different.

Still good, but different.

And, while we have thawed out from this cold cold winter, I’ve been doing some very easy, stressless crafting.  Here’s the run down –

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New Addiction – Closer to Crack than Crochet, The Serial Podcast

So, I have a new addiction that doesn’t supplant making ridiculous stuffies, it just gives me something to do while I make them.

I listen to Serial, a spinoff podcast from This American Life.  Serial reexamines the 1999 murder of a high school student, and the investigation that lead to the conviction of her ex-boyfriend, who is currently serving life for her murder.  The show is strangely suspenseful, and highly addictive.  I say strangely because so far, the show hasn’t presented an alternative theory as to what happened, that is to say, the show is not exactly treating this case as a who done it.  Sarah Koenig, the journalist investigating the case and hosting the show, seems to want Adnan, the convicted ex-boyfriend, to be innocent, however, that’s not her thesis.  The most she has said about her own instinct is that when she met him, she was surprised by his big brown eyes, and how could a guy who looks like that be a killer.  Her next comment was something like, idiotic, I know.  But, that’s really what the show is about – how could this guy, who presented himself to the community as a model, yet typical kid, who played football, and track, who had a job as an EMT, who was kind of a charming player with the girls, and at times a stoner, do this?  Or maybe he didn’t – and the “maybe he didn’t” is kind of a side note.

So, to start the series, she looks into the alibi that wasn’t presented at his trial.  But she didn’t start there to show that he couldn’t have done it, because he had a solid alibi.  She started there to show how hard it is start asking what happened, who did what when, where were you, when your best historians are teenagers with inherently faulty memories, asked to account for 21 minutes of an ordinary day.  Then, she looks at the motive, basically invented by detectives and the prosecutors to make sense of the whole thing.  And when she is unsatisfied with the flawed theory of motive, she has to look further.  And each episode is just that – let’s take a look – let’s look at the witness, at time line presented by the state, let’s just take a look, let’s see.

The problem with this format, I suppose, if you’re looking at it from a perspective of something other than good storytelling, perhaps from the perspective of accurately reporting an event, is that while Koenig purports to be reporting the story as she goes, that she doesn’t know exactly what future episodes will bring because she’s still investigating, still recording episodes, that’s only partially true – she’s withholding information from the audience purposefully to tell a more suspenseful story.  And, she’s also highlighting evidence that is important, at least to her, saying things like, “remember this later, it will be important.”  I’m fine with that.  This holding back of little nuggets, of throwing out little sneak peaks at what’s coming next, that’s what makes this format, this podcast compelling – good storytelling.  If this were a current case, and she were a journalist just reporting the facts, this form of storytelling would be misleading.  But, that’s just it, it’s storytelling, not reporting.  Likewise, if Koenig were presenting her story to the ultimate factfinder, the jury, this type of storytelling would be suspect.    A  juror should expect, in opening statements, to  hear an outline of the whole case, a roadmap for the trial.  Trials are not supposed to be based on the element of surprise.  Surprise witnesses are the stuff of t.v., not real trials.  That’s not to say that things don’t take surprising turns, but those surprising turns are usually not what evidence comes in, but how it comes in – witnesses on paper are very different from witnesses in person.  So yes, certainly when you see a trial live, there may be an a ah ha moment – a moment that rings true and resonated with the 12 people in the box.  But, this is a radio show, and the premise of the show was never to solve a crime, or influence an actual factfinder in the case, or safeguard due process.   And, I guess that’s why it’s suspenseful – to me at least.  Adnan was convicted, and convicted pretty quickly, based on the testimony of essentially one witness, and some possibly corroborative decorations, like cellphone tower records.  What was that ah ha moment?  What was it that really resonated with the 12 people who were chosen to decide his fate, that despite his public face, and his upstanding reputation, they were able to see the face of a guy who could put his hands around the neck of his girlfriend, and strangle her in such a brutal fashion.

Of course, there’s the side issue in the case of bad lawyering.  His lawyer was ultimately disbarred, and those who believe in Adnan’s innocence think that not only did she do a bad job, she actually threw the case.  And that might be true – but it seems to me, bad lawyering aside, and that’s not to say I don’t think that bad lawyering can be the beginning and the end of a case – it can.  But, the bottomline is, he’s already lost his ineffective assistance of counsel claims, and to chalk this case up to just bad lawyering, doesn’t answer any of the fundamental questions about humanity that the show is asking.  So, putting bad lawyering aside, the bottom line was that the jury believed the state’s witness, Jay, a co-conspirator who, if you believe the state’s case like the 12 people in the box, helped Adnan dispose of her body. Why did they believe him?

I keep listening to find out.

Because I’m not listening to find out if Sarah Koenig comes to the conclusion that he’s actually innocent.  That would ultimately be heartbreaking, because claims of actual innocence don’t get you back into court, unless of course she turns up some new evidence, although it doesn’t appear that’s where this show is going.  Or,  Koenig could come to the conclusion that he’s actually guilty, and the jury got it right.   And what does that do to all of the people who have stood by him for years – that one journalist thinks, that in her opinion, he’s guilty.  And that will be some conversation with Adnan on the prison phone, “I think you did it.”  “Ok, I understand, but I didn’t.” That would be wholly unsatisfying.

But, in the end, I think she will most likely come to the conclusion, it’s really impossible to know, his trial was unfair, and rife with errors, the witnesses were unreliable, memories 20 years later are faulty, and you can’t know what a person is capable of doing from their public face.  And is it enough, to say to yourself you just don’t know?  In this kind of case, where there isn’t a confession, or DNA, or an eyewitness, or anything like that, can you believe someone to be innocent on faith alone, when you’ve failed to solve the crime? I don’t think she can – or she wouldn’t have taken on this project.  In any event, I’m curious.

And, I’m hooked.

Just thought I’d share.

Why How to Get Away With Murder is the Worst New Show on TV

I get it – I really do – people hate lawyers. Fine. But you know what, let’s hate them (or in this case me), for the right reasons. And, let’s not applaud them (and I am talking them – made up t.v. cartoony lawyers) for the wrong ones.

This television year has produced two of the worst shows about lawyers – and, ironically, they both take place in Philadelphia. The first, The Divide, focused on an intern/soon-to-be lawyer working at the Innocence Project in Philadelphia. I really really wanted to like this show, a show that presumably stood for the idea that defendants may actually be innocent, that juries make mistake, that race plays a large part in death penalty prosecutions, that prosecutors sometimes cheat, and the death penalty is wrong. But, as it turned out, the show didn’t really believe any of those things, because if it did, it would have focused more on the truth of what goes on in our flawed justice system instead of making stuff up, like an intern managing to scam her way onto death row to talk to a client, and then when she isn’t skilled enough to actually have a conversation with the guy, takes her top off to get him to stay. Excuse me? I’m a lawyer, not a stripper, and there would be no chance in hell EVER of me taking my top off for anyone other than my husband, let alone a client, let alone on death row. Hello, it’s death row – not Coyote Ugly.  The row is so monitored you can’t even wear an underwire bra on the row, I guess for fear it could be removed and turned into a shank. And that’s just a small for instance, the show gets about 90% of the law, and the legal machinations wrong, but who cares – it’s just tv right?

Now, of course, the stripping is a minor point in the scope of things, something to sex the show up a bit, in a profession that really isn’t sexy at all. But, at the end of the day, you know the show doesn’t believe it’s own premise when it reveals in the final episode that the said intern really isn’t a devoted true believer, and has very little interest in actually passing the bar and becoming a real lawyer, she’s just working on trying to free her own father, who is on death row after she tried to lie her way through an alibi for him, and tanked his trial. She’s there out of guilt, not belief. And, I can tell you from experience, that the members of our federal habeas unit, who only do death penalty appeals, and the members of the Innocence Project, they believe, and their stories are valuable and moving, and didn’t need to be cheapened by this stupid show.

And now the second show, How to Get Away with Murder with Viola Davis. Let’s be clear, the premise of this show is that defense attorneys can only win by cheating, and she sets her interns out into the world to lie, steal and lie some more to win cases. And perhaps to commit murder, or cover up murder, that part is all a bit foggy. Viola Davis’s character is not a good lawyer, she’s a cheater. And the thing is, if you’re a good lawyer, you don’t need to cheat to win. And, she’s a terrible courtroom lawyer. No one wins cases by being unlikeable. And her character is so unlikeable, such a bitch – and for no reason. A woman can be confident, in control and a good attorney without being an uberbitch. I’ve won plenty of cases just by being prepared, confident, and skilled. And, she is a terrible cross-examiner. You can’t make speeches in the middle of questioning a witness –the skill, the art, is to get the witness to make your point for you. At the heart of it, Viola Davis’s character has to have that bitch persona to cover for the fact that she really doesn’t know anything about the law – because the writers don’t, and they don’t really care. It’s just tv right, and it’s just lawyers – everyone hates them anyway.

So, you want to dislike lawyers, fine – but don’t dislike us because you think we’re like Viola Davis’s character, or a looney tune intern with mental health problems, like The Divide. And, if you see it through the writer’s eyes, don’t applaud them for stripping in death row, or make the mistake of accepting bitchy insecurity for good lawyering. If you dislike me, a criminal defense attorney, because I believe that sometimes the police get it wrong, that winning cases by good lawyering isn’t winning because of a loophole, that sometimes juries make the wrong decisions, and the death penalty is barbaric, that’s just fine with me. But don’t dislike lawyers because of one of these schlocky shows.

Hellloooooo!

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Our midsummer vacation I didn’t blog about, but it says hello, and I didn’t want to have a totally photoless post.

Yeah, I know, long time no see.  And, in typical Wendy fashion, the longer I let things go, the bigger my ideas got.  I’ll do a big post about everything I’ve been up to!  No, I know! I’ll do a week of posts, with a new featured craft/project every day!  Great idea – I’ll set up a photoshoot, and get fantastic photos of everything I’ve made!

And, in the end, the idea ends up so big, it becomes undooable, and the blog just sits.  And sits.

So, here it is – the blog post about next to nothing, or at least, why there’s nothing.  But, you have to start somewhere, or you don’t start at all.  The mental block is now over!  Hopefully.

Part of the block, too, was I was really hanging my head in shame.  I had a major mental block with my digital scrapping.  The block got so big, that I just didn’t want to do it.  Ever again.  And, I thought, no, that’s not possible – really? In a snap my digiscrapping was just over?  Kaput?  I kept thinking, it’ll come back.  So, I let my CT work languish – didn’t even have the courtesy to quit, because I just thought, it’s coming back, it’s coming back.  And then, I had waited so long, and no one was looking for me, I just decided that it was over.  I never wanted to make a non-Project Life, traditional scrapbook page again. This was totally unprofessional, and I certainly will never apply to any creative teams again in any craft medium because I’m a lousy team player.  Not proud of myself – but that’s what happened, and it is what it is.  I’m going to stop beating myself up about it, and move on.

And I moved on (or back to, in some cases) – writing letters, creating mail art, making journals, knitting, crocheting, card making, painting, sewing – you name it, I’ve probably crafted it!  So, hopefully, I’ll keep this place more up-to-date now that I’ve pushed through the shame block.

And now, just for the heck of it, I’ll leave you (just for now, hopefully!), with a gratuitous dog photo:

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