Status Reports & Other Ramblings / disability

productive painsomnia

Painsomnia and accidental pain med withdrawal for the third night in a row = gave up on trying to sleep at 4 am, went downstairs, and filled up the gifties box. I really like how some of these turned out! I'm using up odds and ends of beads, so they're all a little different.  

(No, that's not my handwriting, it's a font! I wish...)

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working in the moment

Today I shut down the last remnant of the duct-tape-and-chewing-gum system that WS ran on for many years before moving to the current modern ecommerce system. It wasn't really being used in any meaningful manner, it was legacy code of the very worst sort, it was costing a lot of money to keep it running, and it was well past time to let it go. I have backups of most of the photos, which are the only part I really wanted. 

The only real consequence of shutting it down is that I no longer have an easy way to look at everything I've ever made - except honestly, I never did: that system only had photos of the things that made it to the website. There were thousands of pairs of Earring Club earrings that never got documented at all, hundreds of on-the-fly commissions made in person, hundreds of pieces that only existed in my show inventory.  There were hundreds of pieces I made in the very beginning and sold or traded with no record existing. There was the year I used Storenvy, which was... well, the less I say about that disaster, the better, really. 

Living with brain damage makes me more than a little obsessive about trying to document everything. I forget things so easily, often without even realizing that I've forgotten, and having this massive database of things that I made and orders placed between 2005 and 2013 was comforting. It was something I could point to as the body of my work, and I could sift through the data and figure out what I'd been doing during the years I don't really remember.

Looking back isn't useful, though. I've been talking a lot this year about how I've been shaking up my work routines, challenging myself to do things differently, and this is just another piece of that. I don't need to be a data packrat. I need to focus on right now, and next week, and next year. Not last year, not five years ago, not ten years ago.

A few years ago I realized I'd made at least 10,000 pieces of jewelry.  That was a few years ago - I'm actually not entirely sure when. I've made hundreds, probably thousands more since then. I reset my inventory item numbers when I transitioned the store onto Shopify a year and a half ago, and I uploaded item #953 last night - and that's not counting things like Earring Club or neckvines or a lot of commissions, so I think I can safely claim at least 11,000 pieces of jewelry now. 

I think maybe it's time to stop counting. The past is in the past. The future is in the future. Right now, I need to go make some earrings.

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forward motion, part two

Continuing the trend of not fighting to keep doing things a certain just because That's How It's Always Been Done: I've decided to formally abandon the practice of "weekly" store updates.

(I still think of it as a weekly thing, even though it's actually been years since I consistently managed it on a weekly basis. I... I might have a little trouble with change.)

I'd gotten to the point where I was absolutely dreading update days because it felt like this long exhausting marathon of photography and editing and .csv files and stress. Now I make something, I snap a few photos, and boom, it's up on the website and someone can buy it! And if I get interrupted by parenting or a migraine or some other minor crisis, I don't have to feel guilty about falling behind, because there's no deadline to meet anymore.

Weekly updates worked when I was able to work a nice normal 40 hour week, Monday through Friday, with no curveballs flying at me from all directions. That... hasn't been my life in a long time. Being a single parent means being in a state of CONSTANT VIGILANCE! at all times, and my physical disabilities have gotten worse. I still probably work 40 hour weeks, but it's in tiny chunks. An hour here between school pickup and my classes at night, half an hour there when I'm getting ready for bed, three hours in the morning before going to the doctor or therapist, five hours here when nobody's sick and it's a school day and I don't have any mid-day appointments. 

Yes, it's exhausting. But it's worth it, because the alternative is trying to support both of us on disability, and that's assuming I'd even be approved for disability, which is unlikely because look at all the things I manage to do on a daily basis! *headdesk* I like working. I'm actually pretty terrible at not working.

Another reason I'm letting go of the weekly updates model is that Friday night is the best time to do big updates, and even if I manage to perfectly time things so that I finish work at 5:30 on Friday afternoon, I'm tense and exhausted, and usually end up back at the computer for work as soon as we get home from shul... and that's not what I want to be doing. Setting Shabbat apart from the rest of the week gives me some breathing room, some quiet that I sorely need these days. Friday needs to be a day of tidying up and creative plotting, not a day of chaos and run-run-run-run-run deadlines.

So there you have it. No more "weekly" updates. I'm actually not committing to anything right now other than "make lots of shinies and get them on the website on a regular basis." I don't know what the best way to do that is yet, so I'm experimenting. I'll let you know once I figure it out. (If I figure it out.) 

Relatedly! As part of the website overhaul, I did away with the "newest" category on the main page. Instead, the newest shinies will always be at the top of the "available" page, which as you may have noticed has been renamed to "shiny things that you should definitely buy" - all the categories have been renamed, because I've decided I'm not good at I R VERY SRS ARTISTE and should just run with my sense of humor, which we all know is... slightly warped. Okay, very warped. ANYWAY.

If you really miss the option of seeing everything I've made lately in one place, regardless of whether or not it's been sold, I can add a "show everything" link somewhere, I guess? 

[Insert tidy concluding paragraph here, because I just abruptly ran out of brain]

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forward motion, part one

 I've been struggling with product photography for several years, ever since I developed the hand tremor and double vision after my brain surgery. I kept trying to find ways to compensate - better gear, better lighting, better props, better software, better tutorials - but in the end, I always found myself with underwhelming photos, aching shoulders and back, and ever more frustration. And then it got to the point where I actively dreaded photography days.

Over the past year or so I've come to realize that a lot of my workflow routines exist solely because That's How It's Always Been Done. The infrastructure of my website works has completely changed (twice, actually) and so has my shipping software. Most of my routines were obsolete at best, and sometimes actually obstructive... and so, I set out to change them.

Moving my workspace into the living room was the first big step. Deciding to put new items up on the website as I made them rather than all at once, was another. I've been really happy with the outcome of both of those choices. 

But the photography... this one stings. I don't want to abandon the photography. I have an excellent Nikon DSLR, and over the past year or so I've been sinking what money I could into upgrading my lighting and other gear. I've spent a lot of time reading about photography technique, trying to understand the technical part of how it all works. I've gotten a little better, I think.

The truth is, though, I can take perfectly adequate product photos with my iPhone right at at the workbench. And I can do it in a fraction of the time and without the stress or the backache from holding a heavy camera or the sweating from being under 1000 watts of photofloods. Yesterday I took photos of the same piece both ways, just to be sure I wasn't imagining things. I wasn't. The photo I took on the Nikon was slightly sharper, but iPhone photo was better. 

Could I become a better photographer? Almost certainly. Do I have the time, energy, or inclination to do so right now? Nope. 

And yet... the guilt. You're waisting your good gear, it whispers in my ear. Don't you remember how much money you invested into the lighting last year? What was the point of all of that if you're just going to use your iPhone now?

I'm trying not to listen to that voice, because right now, I need to focus on growing the business, not becoming an expert photographer. If I can take perfectly adequate photos in a fraction of time and with none of the stress, using this magical computer that fits into my pocket? Then that's what I need to be doing.

Because we're living in the future. And I need to catch up.

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wicked girl, saving herself

For most of my late teens and early twenties, I didn't think I'd live to see my 25th birthday. It wasn't that I was suicidal; I just couldn't see how I could survive. The man I was involved with at the time was basically Christian Grey without the money or looks or charm, and I couldn't hold down a job because I was extremely sick and the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with me. My life felt like a dead end.

I eventually got out of that relationship. I started learning how to cope with the debilitating exhaustion and pain. I figured out that while I couldn't hold down a 9 to 5 job, I could run a web-based business. I got married. I moved to New York City. I broke off all contact with my family of origin.

And the day I turned 25, I finally started seeing a future where I survived.

I turned 38 today. I'm writing this on my phone, from bed, because a pain flare kept me awake until 4 am last night, none of my pain meds are helping, and I'm trying to somehow muster the energy to work for a few hours later today. I'm divorced, with sole custody of my five-year-old daughter, and I have a 5 inch scar hidden under my hair from where the brain surgeons went in after the tumor that wasn't discovered until it was the size of my fist.

I look at myself now, shouting distance from 40, and I look back at the girl who didn't think she'd live to see 25 and wish I could tell her that she made it out alive. That it was going to be a long hard fight, and some of it was going to suck a whole, but that she'd come out the other side confident of her ability to survive damn near anything if given enough caffeine and Vicodin.

Don't give up, I'd say. You're going to save yourself.


(There's a reason this shirt from Seanon McGuire is my favorite. This photo is from the day I got it, over a year ago - I'm still in my pajamas at the moment - but when I get out of bed and get dressed later, it's what I'll be wearing today.)


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