Back to square one ... and happy about it!

For those who don't remember last year was one of our worst.  We've had some real stinkers but last year's bar was world record limbo low.  It sucked!

Robert, after being coaxed away to work for what turned out to be a Mickey Mouse company run by a scummy dying liar, found himself out of work for most of last year.  I could be civil and bite my tongue about it at the time, I'd bigger things to worry about after all, but now!  Well let's just say heaven help the man if I ever pass him in the street, but anyway ...

It was a horrible year, we had little help with anything and quickly found ourselves sinking further and further into debt, we had no money, not a little money, none!  The mortgage wasn't paid nor were any utilities, luxuries like insurance went out the window, the car was taken off the road and rotted in the drive.  At our lowest we owed £500 in gas, £1200 in electric, who knows how much to my parents who helped with Chloe, had a car that would cost £1000 to make road worthy and ... the big one ... a repossession order had been issued for our home. 

Now if you remember all this, you'll probably also remember that I went on holiday last year, I didn't pay anything for it my mum did and it was only because they wanted to take Chloe  with them and knew it would be easier for me to tag along.  Imagine scrimping just to get by, not putting the heating on in winter because you're still trying to pay for last, consoling your husband that none of this is his fault, getting a repossession order in the post on Thursday and the last thing you do is make sure your husband has a solicitor to talk to before taking his daughter and getting on a plane.  Not my finest hour!

At the end of last week I got a statement to say that we now owe our electric company £22!  The last debt to be paid and I could have cried.  We're now back precisely where we were 2 years ago and even though I wish none of it had ever happened I still couldn't be happier for so many reasons.

My husband's a happier man, whether he realises it or not there has been a heaviness about him the last 18 months even since returning to work and I can finally see the happy in him again.

Chloe's picked up on it as well. We tried not to let her see the stress but she's not stupid and when an ice cream van goes down the street and your six year old just doesn't even bother asking any more it cuts you to the quick.

I can even start to try and scrape my business back together again.  While Robert was out of work I couldn't do anything  The fact is every spare penny had to count so even when I did sell something I couldn't replace it, I couldn't reinvest any money back into my business because we just couldn't afford it  I'd spent so long, so many hours, days and nights building myself a little business and could do nothing but slowly watch it die with each sale.  It was a horrible feeling and one I felt guilty about.  With everything else going on I had got so low I'd actually bought into the crap attitude about craft and home based business ... how dare I worry about my silly little online 'thing' when my husband had lost a "real" job ... and I was angry for feeling guilty.  It was mine, I'd worked hard for it, why shouldn't I be devastated at nearly losing it. 

This is what I do, it's how I earn my living, it's how I keep my sanity, it isn't just a hobby, me fannying about with fabric when the wee one is in bed for the night.  It's a job and a hard one at that, I work from 5am, usually I don't go to bed until well past midnight ... sometimes not at all, I work all day and all night and many full time crafters are exactly the same and the really twisted thing is, do you know why we work nights as well as days and bank holidays and public holidays and every spare second in between?  Because somewhere in every one of us a little speck of the crap attitude has crept in and set up camp so if we don't push to the point of exhaustion, we feel guilty about it!  "Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life" - someone said that, clearly someone with lackies for all the stuff they didn't enjoy because every great love comes with a downside, one you have to work hard at.  In any given day I put on the shoes of every employee in every big company I've ever worked for.  I'm everything from the boss to the marketing director, the secretary to the post girl, the cleaner to the tea lady and everything, and I mean everything in between.  And do you know what, I wouldn't have it any other way.  I love what I do, even when I'm keeping one eye on Chloe in the shower while unblocking the loo with one hand and marking orders as shipped with the other (tmi?) I still love it, it challenges me, I've learnt so much in the past few years that I surprise myself with random little golden nuggets of information that a legal secretary who got her job by pure luck would never have had a reason to know. 

This is not my hobby, it is not for a bit of pin money and its not a passing Christmas fancy.  I don't have a back up, a full time job to fall back on if it all goes wrong.  With every single sale I put my reputation on the line which is why I either get it right and by right I mean perfect or I don't do it all.  Negative feedback could ruin me, well that might be a bit dramatic but it wouldn't do me any favours, its why I'm just a teeny wee bit anal about what is and isn't better than good enough not just because I have to be but because I want to be.  I've known every penny to be precious, how a customer chooses to spend their money is entirely up to them, but I'm privileged when it's with me and never do I want to think that a customer has been in any way disappointed or felt let down by a purchase.

I keep calling it a job, but its grown to be much more than that, its a life - my life and I'm finally ready to take it back:)  Today really is a new day and I feel good about it.

The Swimming Lessons

Just coming out the other end of a week long swimming crash course for Chloe.  It didn't go just as well as I had a hoped (I really shouldn't get my hopes up so much) but it did go well.  She didn't pass the class which means she will have to retake the beginner class and pass it before moving on to the next level.  The sticking point ... putting her head under the water willingly and confidently.  It's what caught a couple of the kids out so she isn't alone in having to take the class again.

I feel awful for her at the minute because she's actually ok about her head going under.  On the first day she managed to put her face in the water by herself, only for a second though and she slipped off her aids a couple of times and went under too and didn't freak out, she just stood up, wiped her eyes and carried on.  What she needs to do is stand in the middle of the pool with her hands on top of her head, fingers locked, and bend her knees until she's under then stand up again and she just can't bring herself to do it and after a day of trying it started a hinder her in a couple of other things as well.  She did learn to swim a few lengths of herself but not the prone 3 metres she needed to pass, she could float on her back on the first couple of days but by testing day so great was her determination to keep her head out of the water, even the back of her head that she couldn't manage to float.  The one good thing though is that it isn't fear stopping her from doing it, she's just decided that she doesn't want to and that kid's nothing if not stubborn as a mule!

Rather than book the next set of lessons again straight away I'm going to spend a bit of time taking her to the pool myself and my brother is going to do the same and we'll try and get her to put her head under, then she'll start proper lessons after Halloween in school which she can "pass" and the leisure centre will accept that as a pass and let her take one of the higher levels at that stage.

The lessons at Ards Leisure Centre are fantastic though if anyone in the area is thinking about taking their kids to learn to swim, I really can't fault them.  The instructor, Shaun, is great with kids, understanding but firm and turned out quite a few little swimmers this week.  One girl in particular who sank like a rock, couldn't figure out what to do with her arms and legs, and tensed so much with the floats that she went down like the Titanic on the first day was knocking out widths of the pool by Wednesday and she wasn't the only one.  The kids were all great too, really nice and encouraging and cheering each other on when it came to things like jumping into the pool.

So now I need to find a swimming costume ... you have been warned!!!

In other news I've finally set up a shop on Etsy and I've joined the lovely Crafty Folk Team over there who are kindly showing me the ropes and not getting annoyed when I ask yet another really stupid question that has a really obvious answer.  I'm learning, be nice to me:)

It's one of those things that has been on the to do list for ages now and I just never seemed to get round to it, but I sent the husband to bed with a beer and tv the other night, put my head down and got stuck in.  At the minute I'm duplicating across both shops but once I've settled in and have a better feel for the place I'll start to divvy up.

I've made a start adding a few listings to give me something that resembles a shop and I'll be able to carry on with the daily listing club in the Crafty Folk Team.

To celebrate my finally getting my finger out and getting some work done on the shop I'm having a little opening weekend offer.  You can use the code "OpenDay20" to get 20% off your order until the end of this weekend.  As I say I'm still adding stock a bit at a time so if there is something you've been after and I haven't got round to listing it yet, give me a shout and I'll pop it in there for you.   I'm nice like that:)

Handmade Designer Unisex Case for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Nexus in bright deckchair stripe available from Leanne Woods Designs on Etsy
Kindle Case in Deckchair Stripe on Etsy

Designer handmade case for amazon kindle, kobo, nook and nexus 7 in lemon yellow and lime green citrus cotton available from Leanne Woods Designs on Etsy
Kindle Case in Lemon & Lime on Etsy

handmade designer case made in the UK for kindle, kobo, nook and nexus 7 available from Leanne Woods Designs on Etsy
Kindle Case in Aviary Birds

Summer Wrap Up and Shop Update

I never really did get the hang of Summer.  Some people are so organised and go into it with a handful of kids and plans for days out and holidays and trips to the beach and they do this with a clean house, a well stocked kitchen, a mountain of stuff in a rainy day box and with a camera in hand so they can show you how much fun their beautiful kids are having every day.  I fail on just about every level.  I end up running head long into it without so much as a notion scribbled on a napkin let alone a plan and my camera has been plugged in for use the last handful of times because I just don't seem to have gotten round to charging the batteries yet ...

Summers are disorganised chaos here, put it that way, but despite lots and lots and lots of rain we've still had plenty of fun.

I can't quite believe we're into the home stretch already.  Just two short weeks and Chloe will go back to school.  This week is the start of her crash course swimming lessons so even though it's tipping it down again ... oh aye it is .... I've actually got something planned, so there, neener neener and all that:)

She starts swimming classes in school this year and although she's pure water baby (it could have gone either way, I love the water, her dad ... not so much) and she's very comfortable in the water so should take to swimming, the last time we had regular access to a pool we didn't seem to get too far beyond this;

Chloe in Pool in Tenerife

See, having far too much fun and none of us thought to maybe whip the armbands or rubber ring off her and see what happened.  With a bit of luck this week will give her a good start at least and then the school swimming lessons will take over and, save us all, I'll even dig the swimwear out and take her myself a few times.
The shop has been quite tricky to manage this year too.  Way back at the start of Summer I was asked by Folksy if I'd like to be one of the beta testers for the new plus account.  Stupid question .... of course I would.  I figured it would be a great incentive to keep me on track and let me add lots of new stock ahead of Christmas.

Christmas is never a bundle of laughs for crafters, even if we're just making for friends and family as gifts we somehow manage to think we've planned a butt load of time to get everything done and still end up sitting hunched somewhere under the world's smallest table lamp, with the sewing machine on a towel so we don't wake the family at 2am.  I loved the idea of a head start!
And cue Summer when I typically get nothing done.

I have managed quite a bit though ... I've surprised myself, but then I've had a huge amount of help from my mum and dad this year as they've whisked Chloe away almost every weekend to let me get on with a few things.

I've really been enjoying making the Kindle cases over the summer, they're a great size so I can cut a few at night ready for sewing the next day, and they're easy to pack away if need be without anything getting so badly out of order that I can't find where I left off.  I'm looking forward to getting back to some larger projects once Chloe's back to school and I've more time and space to play with.

In the meantime I have been motivated by the plus account and have added lots of lovely new kindle cases.

Handmade Designer Kindle Case in Coffee House Canvas for Kindle Nook and Kobo ebook and ereader available to buy from Leanne Woods Designs
Kindle Case in Coffee House Canvas
Designer Handmade Kindle Case in Cherry Blossom for Kindle Nook Kobo Ereader available to buy on Folksy
Kindle Case in Cherry Blossom
Handmade Designer Kindle Case in Harlequin Kaito for Kindle Nook and Kobo ebook and ereaders
Kindle Case in Harlequin Kaito
Handmade Designer Kindle Case in Honey Gold and Flambe Pink for Kindle Kobo and Nook ereader and ebook by Leanne Woods Designs
Kindle Case in Honey Gold and Flambé Pink - New Season

Feel free to click over for a browse, these are only the very tip of an ever growing iceberg!