Wednesday, August 12, 2009

i'm baaaaaaack!

After a long hiatus, I'm back and I'm bloggier than ever before! Miss me? I know you did. I missed you too. Upon reentering the blogosphere I decided that I was in need of a fresh start, a blank canvas, if you will. So follow me to my brand spankin' new blog, Alternamommy!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

no vacancy

Adam's 14-year-old nephew, Daniel, has moved in with us. His parents are going through a difficult divorce and we've all decided that this is the best place for him to be right now. So with the three of us plus Adam's mom, Daniel, a dog and two rats, this place is getting pretty full.

I'm glad we can help both Michele and Daniel out, but I have to say I really miss when it was just the three of us. We all have a lot less privacy and personal space than we were used to, and it's been stressful to say the least. I had to sort of step back and take a break from everything (including blogging, obviously) for a while to take some time to adjust. I wish I could say I wasn't having such a hard time with this, but that's the truth.

Things are getting easier as time goes on, though. I try to just keep myself busy and stay out of the way. I just hope that one day I'll be able to feel comfortable in my own home again.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

art therapy

You voted...

here it is!
Life gives you lemons, 12 1/2" x 10" x 2 1/2"

i've been working on my evil laugh.

Autumn (sitting in the living room with a pen and paper): Mom, how do you spell "mwah"?

Me: Moi? Are you trying to write in French?

Autumn: No, I'm trying to spell "MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAA!"

Sometimes we worry that if she ever gets superpowers she'll be a villain.

Friday, December 26, 2008


I am not a bitter or petty person. I am not one to call people out on the Internet for things they've done. I don't even like to post negative things on my blog. I don't like to air dirty laundry in public. With that being said, bear with me here, and feel free to skim. This is gonna be a long one.

About a month ago I joined the Nightmare Before Christmas X-mas Swap on Craftster, a swap in which we were supposed to make a package of Nightmare Before Christmas themed gifts and holiday decorations for our partners, which we would all open on Christmas day. Cute, no? I thought so and signed up. For those of you who don't know how Craftster swaps work, each swap has at least one swap organizer. Any Craftster member meeting the organizer requirements can organize a swap. After the signup period for the swap ends, it is the organizer's job to assign partners. This particular swap was organized by Craftster member pinupmommy, and she chose me as her partner. We fill out a questionnaire about ourselves and what sort of things we'd like to recieve in the swap, and those questionnaires are sent to our partners to give them a general idea of what to make. Then we have a predetermined amount of time to complete our swap packages and mail them out. In this case it was about 3 weeks. Sendouts were due on December 15th.
Each swap also has a minimum requirement for the items we send, to make sure everyone gets an equal amount of stuff. For this swap we were required to make one large, two medium, two small, and one tiny item. Craftster has guidelines set up for determining what crafts meet what size requirement. Most people measure it by hours of work. According to Craftster's rules...

large=3 or more hours
medium=2 or more hours
small=2 or less hours

We'll assume that "tiny" is less than an hour.

If you do the math this swap adds up to a minimum of about 10-11 hours' worth of work.

I set to work not long after signups were finished, and worked on and off during that time period whenever I had the chance. I made sure that everything I made met or exceeded the requirements. I labored over every piece until it was just right, sometimes tweaking and reworking things over and over until I was happy with the result. I worked for at least 10 hours, but probably more.
Then life got in the way. Between moving into the new house and juggling family stuff, I messed up. I missed the sendout date and ended up having to send the package a few days late. On the 18th I sent a message to my partner apologizing profusely for my mistake and assuring her that her package would still arrive in time for Christmas. I felt terribly guilty about sending late, as I'm usually pretty good about being on time for these things. In the same message I asked her for the delivery confirmation number (which we were required to have) for the package she sent me. I assumed that she had sent mine by the 15th and had just forgotten to let me know. Other than a couple of mass emails regarding swap updates, she had not contacted me personally since the swap had begun. To be fair, I hadn't contacted her either, which I should have done. What I got back was a short message thanking me for letting her know I was going to be late, and saying that if I had waited one more day to contact her she would have left me negative feedback (all participants receive feedback which is visible on their public profile after a swap ends). I then put the finishing touches on her swap stuff and spent a whopping $30 on shipping to make sure it arrived in Alaska by Monday, the 22nd. All was well.

The next morning I had another message from her.
"Due to the lack of communiction before hand and now i am going to leave you feedback. Craftster Rules state If someone failed to fulfill their swap obligation and refused to communicate or that they just need to have the deadline extended, then they get Negative Feedback.
I do believe I have given enough time slack for you to communicate you were going to be late but you were supposed to do that before the swap date arrived."


I wrote her back saying that I didn't understand, and that I thought the issue had been resolved. I assured her that her package was in the mail and would be there by Christmas, and I gave her the DC number. I apologized again for being late. I also asked again for the delivery confirmation number on my package.

She replied mostly repeating that I had taken too long to send, and her reason for not giving me my confirmation number.
"And no i havent sent the dc for your package beacuse i have not heard from you until your first message after you were already 4 days late I didnt think you were going to continue to be in the swap but there are no rules as to as long as someone has to wait for a response from thier partner and participants this is the first swap i have conducted and it has been pretty sucky to be honest. I have sent i have to get the recipt/dc number from my shipping account so i can prove to you i have sent...But anyway if you are still wanting to...continue to be in this swap let me know and ill just get over all this crappyness and hopefully be happy in the end let me know"

Ah. So it was my fault that she hadn't given me my DC number when she sent the package on the 15th, because she had already predicted that I would flake out on her even though at that point she hadn't known I was sending late. I see.


I was pretty upset. I wrote back as calmly and politely as I was able to, which is to say, not very calmly or politely.
"Yes, I sent the package late. No, I wasn't able to contact you in a timely manner, and I apologized several times for that. I made it very clear in all of my messages that I went out of my way to make sure that this package arrives in time. I spent a lot of extra money on shipping to do that. I put hours and hours of work into making a beautiful package for you and your daughter, and you have been nothing but cold and ungrateful. I understand and appreciate the fact that this is the first swap you have organized and it is probably a stressful job, but do you think you could practice a bit of patience and understanding? It may do you some good to remember that there is a human being on the other end of this. I'm not asking for you to feel sorry for me, just to understand, and maybe try to appreciate everything I've done to correct my error. I apologize if it is my fault that your first swap has been "pretty sucky," as you put it. That was never my intention. All I ever want to do in a swap is to bring a smile to my partner's face, and you have no idea how guilty I feel about this situation. I have reviewed the negative feedback rules and as far as I can tell, negative feedback can be corrected by sending to one's partner, which is what I have done. If you still feel the need to leave it I won't argue with you, but I will take it up with the swap moderators."

(Craftster's negative feedback rules say, "We have methods in place to help people redeem their feedback if they have had trouble completing a swap . If you have past negatives and wish to begin swapping again, the swap moderators are more than happy to help you accomplish this, either by having you send to your original partner, or becoming a swap angel*.")

In return I got a message with the delivery confirmation number the next day. I immediately checked the number on the USPS website and found that there was no information posted, so two days later I checked again and found the real reason why she hadn't given me a number on the 15th.

"Your item was processed and left our (partner's home town) facility on December 21, 2008. Information, if available, is updated every evening. Please check again later."

She sent my package 2 days after I sent hers.

Two days. After. I sent hers.

I couldn't do anything but laugh hysterically, either because the hypocrisy of it all was just too much or because I had to do something to keep from crying.

On the 23rd I got a cheerful message from her saying that my package had arrived, and thanking me for everything. I'm sure those of you who have read this far (all two of you) are wondering what I made, so here it is. I apologize for the crappy picture quality.
Large: A throw pillow. I found an image of Jack Skellington online, printed it onto printable fabric in black and white, then painted and embroidered over every detail. The black stripes on the background were not part of the fabric. I painted them on myself. The back is also painted stripes.
Medium: A tote bag featuring one of her favorite characters. I spent 20 minutes staring at a picture of him I found online and trying to sketch it onto paper, and when I was confident about the result I sketched him again onto fabric with a fine point Sharpie. I cut him out and arranged him with more hand painted striped fabric, ribbon and distressed (by me, not store bought) white fabric to make an applique. That was then sewn onto a tote bag I made from beautiful black cotton with a swirly grey print. The handles are more painted stripes. Unfortunately the photos don't really do it justice. I was so pleased with it that I was tempted to keep it for myself.

Medium: A Jack and Sally painting. I don't have a good picture of this on its own, but here's a cropped one from the group shot. It's hard to see, but at the bottom it says "Simply meant to be" in silver. All hand painted with acrylics on wood, with a ribbon hanger on the back.
Small: Jack head stuffie pillow for her young daughter. This was one of the things she requested in her swap questionnaire. Admittedly not my best work. I had wanted to embroider the mouth and nostrils on, but I ran out of black floss and didn't have time to get more, so they are painted on. The eyes are felt.
Small: A movie inspired stocking. My own pattern, made with white quilter's cotton and the same swirly black fabric used for the tote bag. The cuff and hanging loop are grey felt.
Tiny: Printed fabric ornament. I found another picture I liked online, printed it onto fabric, then added a felt background and ribbon for hanging.I also sent a handmade Christmas card (not pictured). Inside was a popup monster wreath like the one in the movie. It said, "Wishing you a scary Christmas!"
Everything was wrapped in my favorite red and white houndstooth paper and carefully packed into a big cardboard box.

Christmas came and went. It was lovely. My grandmother came to visit and I found some great gifts for Autumn on Etsy. Remind me to post more about that another day.

Last night this arrived in the mail.
These were the contents.I won't bother with an item-by-item description as I think they pretty much speak for themselves, but I will point out a few things. The plastic pumpkin hot glued to a barrette fell off as soon as I touched it. What's that in the bottom right corner of the dirty used CD case? The Pacific Institute? Oh, silly me, I forgot about the part in the movie where Jack visits The Pacific Institute to deliver vampire teddy bears to all the good girls and boys. What a clever subtle reference. The tin, also used, is dented and rusty. Everything but the barrette and the marble magnet is done in puff paint.

Seriously? This is ten hours of work? I would be shocked if this took her ten minutes. And no, I don't think that the time it takes for puff paint to dry counts as hours of work.

This is some bullshit right here. If I received a few low quality items in a swap but I could tell that my partner had tried her best, I would at least appreciate the time and effort they put into it. But this? She didn't even try. I know there are two sides to every story, but here is the conclusion I've come to.
She chose me as a partner because she has seen my past work and knew she'd be getting something good, which is fine. I'm flattered, really.
She then got upset when she found out I was late because she wanted her loot and she wanted it now.
As soon as I sent her the DC number and she knew for sure that she would be getting a package, she hastily grabbed some puff paint and random junk lying around her house and slapped together the hot mess pictured above.
I received the aforementioned hot mess and died a little inside.

Might I remind the one person still reading this (hi Mom!) that these are meant to be Christmas gifts. You know, gifts. For Christmas.

I am not pleased.
Oh no, I am not pleased at all.

I don't regret the way I handled the situation. I'm proud of the work I've done. I'm just sad that it was wasted on such a selfish and ungrateful human being. I was really hoping to get some cool stuff for myself and especially Autumn, who is a Nightmare fanatic.

So what do I do now? There is no Craftster rule against being a jerk, but at the very least she did not meet her own swap requirements. Would it be worth contacting the swap moderators and seeing if anything can be done about it? Lord knows she'll be leaving herself positive feedback and possibly doing this to someone else in the future if nothing is done. I think I already know the answer to my own question. I'm just dreading the possible outcome.

More importantly, what should I do with all the junk I received? I've set up a poll on the sidebar over yonder ----------------------------------------------->
so you all can help me decide.

The best part of this whole thing was the Christmas card she sent with the package which contained the sentiment, "Wishing you a holiday that's full of surprises!"
This was a surprise indeed. Thanks pinupmommy.

*Sometimes people really do flake out in swaps. A request for a swap angel is then posted by that swap's organizer, and any qualified Craftster member can volunteer to make a package for the flakee in exchange for nothing but good craft karma.

DISCLAIMER: I have posted my partner's Craftster username solely because I want to warn other members who may swap with her in the future. Please do not flame or harass her in any way.

merry christmas!

We're (almost) all settled into the new house. Hopefully I'll be blogging regularly again soon. Happy holidays everyone!

Monday, November 17, 2008

year of the rats

Introducing the two newest members of our little family...
Penelope (left) and Victoria (right)!
We adopted these two precious furbabies after their previous owner could no longer care for them, and they've already made themselves at home. They're about a year old and incredibly smart and friendly. They like to eat fresh veggies out of my hand and ride on my shoulders while I putz around the craft room.
They normally sleep during the day but today they were awake for a while so I took them out of their cage for an impromptu photo shoot. Do you know how hard it is to photograph two very curious, wiggly rodents? They kept trying to climb onto my head and stick their little snuffly snoots into the camera lens.

I've never had such tiny furbabies before. I had a cat when I was a kid but that's about it, other than the occasional fish. These ladies are so itty bitty that I'm always terrified of hurting or losing them. They seem content, though. Their previous owner must have treated them very well because every time I open their cage they dash to the top level to be held and petted and snuggled. They're such sweet little girls and I really hope that they'll be happy with us.