May 17, 2019

All About The Foiled Fox + A Sale!

I've got this bright card over on The Foiled Fox blog today, with lots of chatter (duh) to go with it. I hope you check it out here.

And the good news is that there's a sale going on!

I was delighted when Shauna Todd, owner of The Foiled Fox, asked me to guest design and thought I'd use this chance to tell you a little bit about the shop (she didn't ask me to do so, I just want to share my enthusiasm). 

I'm a customer. Here's my experiences with the shop as a straight up full pay customer (disclosure: Shauna sent me The Stamp Market's Bloominous stamp and die set). 

  • shipped in a day
  • free shipping in the US with you spend more than $50 
  • candy (as in sugar!) in the package
  • anything liquid or fragile was wrapped in bubble wrap (which I reuse)
  • what more do you want?
Foiled Fox is a family business (love that). Shauna Todd is the owner and her daughters, son-in-law, and her husband work together. But that's not all. The cutest part is that even Shauna's 7 year old granddaughter Mackenzie (Mac) lends a hand along with Oliver/Ollie/Ollibear, their granddog.

Shauna shared with me that, after a 40 year career, she finally decided to work where her passion is. When I read that, I was struck with how hard it must be to open a small business. Paper crafting is full of major corporations, big companies, and mom and pop shops. It's competitive. It's so much more than ordering fun products -- it's taxes and insurance and competition and social media and design and computers and shipping and customer service and stuff I can't imagine. I'm so impressed with folks who know what they want and take the risks to make them happen. 

Foiled Fox searches out unique products, and since Shauna is passionate about calligraphy, it carries calligraphy supplies. It carries many of the companies we see every day, but also a few new-to-me companies, such as PaperArtsy and Paper Rose. And I'm thrilled that they carry a large line of Penny Black products.

Ok, this is starting to sound like an ad, and I am not a salesperson -- just enthusiastic about supporting good people running small businesses. 

MOOD WHEN DONE:  Happy! Have a wonderful weekend. 

May 15, 2019

Learning Through Inspiration: Heather Telford Day 3

Please check out my post on the Penny Black blog, where I finish up my learning from the talented Heather Telford.  Thanks. I hope to be back on blogging here soon!

May 11, 2019

Happy Mother's Day. ps. Are You Depressed?

Gayle Madden (not her real name) was 28 and in my legal aid office. According to the paperwork she handed me, she was planning on giving away her daughters, 5 and 3, to the state. I looked at Gayle and the first thought I had was how uncomfortable she looked. She sat stiffly in the chair, her face scarred with acne, twirling her brown hair. After years of working in legal aid, I had learned how to spot someone with a serious mental illness. Gayle looked medicated and ill.

Eventually the story came out. Gayle suffered, and I mean suffered, from schizophrenia. I'm not familiar with current treatment options, but 35 years ago there wasn't much available to help Gayle, other than debilitating drugs. Gayle heard voices at times, was frequently forgetful, fearful, and disorganized. She couldn't work and could barely take care of herself. She definitely couldn't continue to take care of her kids.

It's horrible to be alone and so sick that you have to give away your kids. It's even worse when you aren't alone and have to give away your kids. The children had a father -- Gayle's ex-husband -- but he didn't want custody of his kids. So he had already signed away his rights. (Normally, you can't just walk away from your parental responsibilities and I never really understood why the state let him get away with that, but it had and there we were.) Gayle also had a mother and 2 sisters who lived about 50 miles away. They "weren't interested" in the kids either.

I had become adept at tamping down my emotions at work. You learn quickly to develop a bit of a shell in order to get the job done -- there's a lot of sadness out there. Sometimes we'd joke about our clients -- not in a mean way, but as a way of coping. I suspect that paramedics, teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, and others with similar jobs do the same thing. But occasionally, I'd be blindsided by the sadness or injustice of some circumstances. This was one of those times.

I explained to Gayle that the court would have to find her "unfit" and that, if she changed her mind and thought she could take care of her children in the future, she would have the burden of proving that she was no longer an unfit parent. If they were adopted, there would be no such opportunity. In other words, once the Judge signed the order, it was unlikely her children would ever live with her again. She would never know what happened to her girls. I also explained that she would lose her welfare checks when she no longer had the children. Without her welfare checks, she would lose her Medicaid. Medicaid paid for her drugs and those drugs kept her out the hospital. But, we would help her apply for disability and get back her Medicaid. Her disability check would be smaller and it might take a while to get it; she would need to cope with that too. After a bit, I was satisfied Gayle understood and had the capacity to make the decision, so there wasn't much else for me to do.

A few weeks later we went to court and, after a short presentation by the state and no objection by me, the Judge asked Gayle a few questions and then declared Gayle to be an "unfit" parent. At that point, Gayle stood up, and in a moment of exquisite, heartbreaking clarity, told the Judge that she didn't think it was fair to be called unfit. As Gayle put it, it would be unfit of her to keep her children. She was acting out of love and concern, not neglect. She asked the Judge to please "just say I have been a good mom."

The Judge sat there silent. I fumed. Gayle was making the hardest decision I'd ever seen someone make and the Judge was inexplicably making it worse. So I stood up and asked the Judge to please tell Gayle that he agreed that she was a good mom, acting out of love and concern, and to please explain that the "unfit" language was an unfortunate technicality. The Judge then said "These proceedings are over." Banging his big dumb gavel, he got up, and walked out.

There was no happy ending. Mr. Madden didn't appear at the last minute to save the kids from foster care; the judge showed no compassion. There were no magic pills for Gayle to take and get better and regain custody. The children didn't send me a letter 10 years later thanking me for helping their mother. Rather, the social worker and I walked Gayle back to the street and we both went back to work. Gayle moved several times, was in and out of the hospital, but got her disability checks and had her Medicaid restored. And then I lost track of her. I don't know what happened to her girls.

It's been over 35 years since I thought about Gayle, but she was on my mind this week. I've been struggling with anxiety and a bit of depression lately. I know both quite well, and I have lots of techniques (including stamping) for squashing them. However, this week they got out of control.

Depression and anxiety rob us of simple joys and distort the truth. I began to dread Mother's Day. I'm not a big fan of these holidays anyway, as many end up feeling left out or disappointed. This is the first one where I had no occasion to make a card or send a gift as my mother-in-law died last May. I'm still adjusting to living in Dallas and I found myself wandering around the house trying to figure out a way to return to Virginia. I can't seem to make a decision about a medical issue and endlessly weigh the options.

As the rains fell and the sky stayed dark, my mood sunk even further. I'd walk in the house, put down a bag of groceries and cry as I thought of problems just mounting. I couldn't sleep, tossing and turning and feeling hopeless. I'd go on social media and resent all the happiness I thought I saw. I started thinking of every sad thing that has ever happened or could happen, including Gayle.

Remembering Gayle and her sad story changed my mood. Rather than make me feel more depressed, as I thought about her enormous sacrifice, and her children's circumstances, I once again was gripped with overwhelming gratitude for my life and all its gifts. Once gratitude took hold, there was little room to stay depressed.*

The heart decision could wait, and without depression's shade, doesn't seem that big of a deal anymore. The house felt cozy in the rain and thunder. I applied for another volunteer job (so far my other attempts haven't worked out), and I am looking forward to seeing our son on Mother's Day -- I plan on beating him at several board games! This is the first Mother's Day that we will be together since he was in high school. This is why we moved here. I began to feel foolish. If Gayle, whose situation was immeasurably worse than mine in every single aspect, could cope, so could I.

Depression makes small issues seem overwhelming and big issues impossible. Anxiety just messes with everything. Don't let them trick you. Don't let a holiday trick you. Don't let social media trick you. If you are struggling, perhaps just taking the time to remember all the Gayles out there will help you in the same way that it helped me.

*A serious clinical depression needs a serious response, whether it's medication, therapy, or other treatments, or a combination of them. Reading this blog is not a serious response!

ps. to all celebrating -- have a happy mother's day!

May 8, 2019

More Learning Through Inspiration

I'm happy to be back on the Penny Black blog today continuing my study of Heather Telford. You can read about my adventures here.

Here's a snippet of one of my cards --

Hope you like it!

May 1, 2019

Learning Through Inspiration: Heather Telford (Day One)

Here's a snippet of a card I made while learning from the fabulous Heather Telford. My series on learning from Heather starts today on the Penny Black blog here. Would love if you checked it out! 

Apr 15, 2019

Paper Connection

Crafters can be so kind. I was so happy to receive some cards -- and flowers! -- from some crafty friends when I had my heart procedure a few weeks ago. I treasured those. Every day I'd look at the tulips and the cards and they made me feel connected and valued.

Receiving those gifts reminded me that I can do a much better job of reaching out to others in need of a paper connection (a/k/a a card). So, this card will go out to someone who needs a lift.

Used the non-butterfly stamps in a beautiful set by Penny Black called Butterfly Garden (gifted to me by PB).

I love this layout -- stamp the top and bottom edges and place a sentiment in the middle. Super easy.

Colored with Altenew alcohol markers, adhered some Pretty Pink Posh clear droplets and shaded the top and bottom edges with Frayed Leaf ink by Altenew. Looks like a one layer card, but the top layer is a separate piece adhered to an A2 card.

MOOD WHEN DONE: Awesome. My good friend visited last week and we went all Dallas tourist. Advice:  don't go to the boarding house where Lee Harvey Oswald was living. It is all out the creepiest place I've ever been. Still can't shake the feeling! Also: interesting that everyone referred to Oswald as the "alleged" assassin. Really?

I'm feeling great -- back to stamping, and occasionally cooking (my new least favorite chore) HA.

Apr 7, 2019

Springtime Birthday Wishes

I made this card a few weeks ago and thought the beginning of April would be a good time to share it. This was a snap to make -- trim the patterned paper, stamp the sentiment, color this Penny Black Together stamp with markers, stamp, redo to add shading, and add to an A2 card.  Love the combination of bright pink with the Modern Graphics black dotted paper -- wish I could buy that paper in bulk!

Supplies:  Penny Black Together; Penny Black Good Wishes sentiment set; Modern Graphics patterned paper designed by Julie Ebersole; Tombow Dual Brush Markers. (Penny Black let me pick out some stamps from its current Timeless collection and these are some of my favorites from that collection).

MOOD WHEN DONE: Hanging in there. I've pretty much recovered from the surgery to implant the defibrillator. I can start driving again in a few days and can start wearing clothes that have to go over my head to put on (it's the little things). Yeah!

However, to be honest, every heart thing leaves me a bit depressed. Not depressed as in I need a doctor, but just a little down. I guess it's that whole life/death thing and being away from so many friends. I'm keeping busy (seriously, this hobby saves me), which is always the best medicine. Plus gratitude for everything I have lifts my spirits. Just writing that sentence helps. Thanks for listening!