The Show Must Go On

Quick update for those of you following along at home:

After all the sturm und drang, the insurance cards arrived Thursday. They were just in time for my port placement on Friday. And when we got home, there was another set of insurance cards. In case we lost the first ones maybe?

The Referral Authorizations arrived on Saturday. They said, Yes, we agree that all this chemo is medically necessary. That doesn’t mean we agree to pay for it, just that it’s necessary.

So we’re now where we were supposed to be three weeks ago. I have my port placed, and my first chemo is Tuesday. Here’s to the next 4 months, wherein I get progressively fatigued, and try to control the side effects. Yay.

So This Is Plan What, G?

Well fuck.

So I survived surgery. Sorry I forgot to mention that. Two days in the hospital were fun – NOT. The first night, I was still recovering from the anesthesia. I had a morphine clicker. I would fade in and out. Seems that each time I faded in, I remembered the clicker, thought I had been out for a while and click it to keep the morphine up, then fade back out. That went on for what felt like hours. Turns out I faded in and out about every 5 minutes. Clicker got a lot of use, even though it won’t deliver meds faster than about every 10 minutes, it tracks how often you click.

Best part was the infinitely adjustable bed. Perfect for when you can only sleep on your back, and sitting up by yourself hurts like hell.

So two nights…and pre-authorization for only one. I’m sure I’ll get to fight the insurance company over that one.

I just got a call from the Surgical Oncologist. He took two “sentinel nodes” during the surgery, to have tested and see if the cancer has spread. One of the nodes tested positive. He said the Cancer Board met today, and recommended a short course of chemotherapy, as well as the radiation treatment, but not further surgery to get more nodes, so I got that going for me.

So although they usually wait until you’ve healed more from surgery, I get to try and push my Medical Oncologist appointment up, to discuss possible treatments. Yay.

On another note, thank god for body wipes, and for the “rinseless hair shampoo caps”. But today, I got my daughter to help me wash my hair in the sink, with REAL shampoo. I feel almost human again.

Until the next phone call…

On Finishing

Well, what can I say? If I posted regularly, you’d know it wasn’t me.

I’ve been in a finishing mood lately. So I pulled out a couple of old projects. There’s this:

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And this:

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They still need mounting and framing, but the stitching part is done.

I also pulled this out and did a bit on it:

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I also realized that as much as I admire Teresa Wentzler, the designer, I just wasn’t feeling a lot of joy over this. The colors are muted, and just not me. In fact, working on it made me feel almost guilty. I finally decided that it wasn’t going to happen, and there are lots of other patterns out there I could be doing that would bring me joy, so I decided to give it away. Apparently, it doesn’t bring anyone joy. I know Teresa is no longer designing, but I should probably go to the forums on her old website and see if anyone there wants it.

I’m also working on a quilt that I’m not showing pictures of because the recipient might just read this. I’m trying to get as much of that done as possible, because the place I contract with has another job they asked me to do. And as much as change messes with me, I feel like I’m slacking if I don’t bring some cash into the household. But I don’t expect it to take more than two weeks, and after that I can work on the major quilt project that is what actually started this whole finishing frenzy: the hand quilt!

Challenger

I remember exactly where I was. On the couch, sick with the flu.

It was the first time I can definitely say, “I had the flu.” I may have had a bad cold before, one of those snockery, blowing every 3 minutes when you’re awake, taking Nyquil and only waking up to take more, kind of colds. This was nothing like that. This was a hurt all over, barely have enough energy to make it to the bathroom 2 rooms away and need 30 minutes to get enough energy to make it back, can’t make it to the kitchen, don’t want anything even if you did make it there, shivering one minute and burning up the next, flu.

I was about 2 or 3 days into it. My ex, who worked out of a shop next to the house, was kind enough to keep checking on me, and supplying me with sodas, oranges, Advil, and Nyquil, which were the only things I was interested in. I had made it as far as the couch, and was lying there, cocooned in blankets, drifting in and out as soaps played on the tv.

Like I said, I was out of it, so I don’t know if what I saw was live or if they broke into the soaps to show a replay. I think it was live, but I don’t know. I remember being a little pissed that they’d broken into the show. I mean, by that point, it was just “another shuttle launch.” Yeah, I knew they had Christa McAuliffe on it, which was neat, but didn’t really affect my life. I watched that pillar of fire rise from the ground, leaving a smoking trail behind it. Then, bewilderment. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I knew something was wrong. I saw the weird shaped smoke, with things speeding out in the wrong direction, and the odd looping bit of smoke, and the not going up anymore, but figuring out what it was they were showing was just beyond me at that time.

As a wandering in and out over the next two days, I was alternately puzzled about what I’d seen, and wondering if it had all been some kind of dream. As I got better, it became apparent that it was real, and the harsh reality began to sink in.

Those astronauts. The explosion. It was real. They were dead. It was a disaster. It was a tragedy. It was the end of an era.

 

This Year's Numbers, New Accounting software, and New Year's Goals

Last year, I discussed my Etsy store numbers, but in rather vague terms. This year, inspired by my friend Nicole Decker (a fellow SeaMonkey), I’m using real numbers. Perhaps it will help other folks. Last year, my Etsy store grossed $279.96 during 2014, for a net of $162.88. I’ve already got the numbers for 2015, and I’m happy to say that the numbers have greatly improved! Gross revenue was $876.70. Net was only $134.09, but I invested in materials to do many more of the Barren Fields kit, and had a splurge on Dover books and digital design patterns right at the end of the year.

I spent a lot of time last year, trying to pull the numbers in for our accountant. This year, I tried to pull the numbers into a spreadsheet each month, so it wouldn’t be such a big task at the end of the year, and mostly I succeeded. But at the beginning of this year, I heard about the (free basic) online accounting program Wave, so I decided to try and pull everything into that, and see how the numbers compared. What I found was that I know crap about bookkeeping and accounting! But I muddled through, looking stuff up as I went, and making best guess efforts. I had to create and delete an account a couple of different times in order to get the system to pull info from Etsy, Paypal, AND a checking acct, but in the end, that worked.

Unfortunately, it won’t pull the listing fees charged by Etsy, or the Direct Checkout fees. But I had already pulled those myself, and was able to input them myself. (Note to self: explore the loading of CSV files into Wave) I have to say, with the loading of transactions, having to figure out how to sort out entry of postage, and VAT, California tax, listing fees, Direct Checkout fees, and Paypal fees, I think I have a much better grasp of those numbers and how they fit together. Not that Etsy makes finding those numbers easy. No, that would be tooooo easy, and would let you actually find out how much you’re paying in fees for each item. They’re all upfront about the listing fees. But it’s the Checkout numbers that are hard to find. I use Direct Checkout, and Paypal. Paypal is easy enough, but Direct Checkout is a whole nother beast! And what kills me, is they make it difficult to identify a transaction throughout. They use Listing number and a Transaction # for the basic transaction, but then an Order # on the Sold Orders CSV, and a Payment # on the Direct Checkout CSV. It does include an Order # on the Sold Orders CSV, but it’s not easy to match things up. I ended up using the buyer’s name most often to identify which charge applied to which order. I ended up going through the Orders segment of the Etsy shop to identify who paid CA tax, VAT, and/or postage.

After all said and done, what I discovered is that Wave was only a few dollars different from the spreadsheet!

Next year, I’m going to see how Wave works out on a monthly basis. Does it pull in transactions as they occur? Can I enter fees more or less as we go along?

In addition, my goal is to post at least one pattern each month, since the day job doesn’t seem to have work available. I’ll be trying to make seasonal patterns, in addition to the quotes. I keep looking for more memes that I can make into a pattern.

Yeah, I’m going to try to go the gym more often, and eat better, and all that jazz. But everyone makes that goal. But this year I think I’ll be able to stick with it more. I seem to have rounded a corner in terms of energy and focus, and just endurance all around.

So how was last year for you? And what are you hoping for in the new year?

Blind as a bat

<Le sigh>

My eyes are going downhill, faster than I thought they would at this point. I mean, I’ve been wearing glasses for distance since I was 33. I kinda like being able to read road signs before I’m right up on them. And those glasses worked for over 10 years. But then I started having trouble reading. I had to hold the book farther and farther away, and then my arms simply weren’t long enough, or I could get it far enough away to focus, but then the print was too small to read. And that was the tipping point. Anyone who knows me, knows that books are important to me.

So reading glasses became de rigueur. At first, I got a pair that looked a lot like my distance glasses, all wire rim and the lowest level. Those worked well for several years. Then I had a stroke.

They warned me that my eyesight might change, and to wait at least 6 months before getting a new prescription, if needed. Well six months later, the prescription didn’t change. Or a year later. Or two years later. But recently it’s gotten worse again. And I’ve noticed a difference in vision between the eyes. Strangely, the unaffected eye’s vision is worse.

So I increased the level for the reading glasses. And I developed a wide streak of “Don’t give a shit.” I picked out more and more colorful glasses, zebra stripe, purple cheetah.

But now…

It’s gotten even worse, quickly, especially when cross-stitching. I need to try stronger glasses. But in the meantime, I’ve had to make do. I have a Gazelle floor stand that I used to use for cross stitching. It’s an articulated arm that clamps down onto your cross stitch frame. I loved it, but I had to disassemble it when we moved, and this house is too small and dark to use it. But I also had a magnifying glass on a goose-neck clamping stand. I never used it when I was younger, but boy am I glad that I have it! I’ve clamped it to a shelf next to my desk, where the light is good, and I have to wear my reading glasses AND peer through the magnifier, but it works! I really need to get stronger glasses, or find a better option for the magnifier, but until I do, I can make this work, even if I do feel like Professor Trelawny.

School Woes

I know you don’t usually see posts about school during the summer, but then, these are not normal times for my child’s school. The school she attends is in one of the highest rated school districts in this state, and has consistently achieved high scores within that district. It’s a GOOD school. Which makes what happened even more bizarre and shocking.

The district reassigned all personnel to other schools, and is bringing in a new Principal and all new teachers. Did you catch that? ALL personnel. Which means they also reassigned the secretaries, the lunch folks, maintenance, and I don’t even know what else.

The district also refuses to tell anyone WHY, other than “tensions” which couldn’t be resolved, citing privacy issues.

Once again, I find myself in a quandary. My mother was a GS15, i.e. a government employee of the highest rank. She dealt with hiring, firing (yes, you can get a government employee, provided you have enough documentation…think years worth), base closings, veterans benefits and privileges in the GS hiring process, and union negotiations. So I’ve heard more than my fair share of stories concerning all these areas. As an employee, I’ve also been through a half-dozen or so corporate buy-outs, friendly and not so friendly. I’m well versed in government and corporate speak. I’ve seen both sides.

Here’s what happened. On the final day of school, a Thursday, less than 30 minutes after the kids were released, the teachers were notified of a mandatory meeting, in which they were informed that the district was having everyone in the school reapply for their jobs. Anyone who didn’t get rehired would be placed with a different school. About an hour after that, the district emailed all of the parents, informing them of the decision. The email said that there had been on-going tension at the school, and all attempts at rectifying the situation, including a last-ditch effort at mediation, had failed. Therefore, the joint decision between the Teacher’s Union and the District School Board was to have every last person (again, teachers, staff, maintenance, etc) reinterview for their jobs.

Cue the panic and confusion.

The School Superintendent held an open meeting to discuss the decision. She again stated that all personnel would have to reapply for their positions. She said that there were a few people that were not supporting the direction, spirit, and technology of the school. There had been many attempts to get everyone on board, but that a few individuals simply were not supportive. There had even been a last attempt at mediation, but it also failed. She could not name names, or even discuss it, due to privacy issues.

Then less than 48 hours later, the Superintendent said that all personnel would be transferred, and all new personnel would be brought in. She said that they were interviewing for exceptional, quality teachers to staff our school. Hiring would be done by June 30th, i.e. less than 3 weeks. Then she went on vacation.

As you can expect, there has been much confusion, anger, and tears. After much discussions between the Teacher’s Union, the District School Board, and the parents, this is what I understood.

The problem started when they started bringing in new technology to back up the implementation of Common Core. Apparently there were a few teachers who objected, and refused to use the technology (Luddites, in Silicon Valley. Who knew?) Things were escalated. Near the end of the year, the district called for an all-hands type meeting, at which the final attempt at mediation occurred. I remember that day. Without announcement, all teachers and staff were gone one day. They had all substitute teachers for the classes, and had district office staff handing the school office.) So the district made the decision to release all teachers/staff from their positions, and have them reapply, thus weeding out the people who weren’t getting with the program. Noone was fired. They still had jobs in the district school system. They would get reassigned to other schools if they didn’t get placed back into our school.

Now, I understand the reasoning behind not making the announcement till after school let out that last day. I understand that it was to keep the teachers focused on the school and end-of-year requirements, and stressing out the kids. It would have been a disaster at the school if they had announced it earlier. Never-the-less. The timing was like dropping a bomb. It sent everyone reeling. But at least the parents knew that the really good teachers would be coming back. We just didn’t know who WOULDN’T be coming back.

That’s when the Teacher’s Union and the District engaged in a little brinksmanship.

The Union, whose job it is to protect and back the TEACHERS (not the kids), determined that any teacher who was reassigned would automatically have a mark against them. Everyone would KNOW that if a teacher was reassigned, it was because they were one of the problem people. The parents would know. And their new school would know. So the Union position became an either/or. Either everyone remains in place, and we try again to fix the problems, whatever they were, or everyone gets reassigned, so that no teachers were singled out.

Now, I understand the Union’s reasoning. If only a few teachers were reassigned, then they would be viewed with suspicion anywhere they went. This was all over the local news. Every school in the district knew that these teachers were forced to reapply for their positions. If the new teacher at your school came from our school, it MUST be because they were one of the problem people who didn’t get rehired. The Union said no. If you’re getting rid of a few, you get rid of them all, so that all teachers are handled the same, and no one teacher gets automatically marked as trouble. I understand that.

The district said ok, fine. Then they all get reassigned.

So now it will be an entirely new school. The old teachers have been ripped out, forced into new schools. Parents have to “reimagine” the type of school we want. The kids, current and previous students, are devastated that they won’t see familiar teacher’s faces at school. There’s huge amounts of debate among the parents. One camp is trying to get the teachers reinstated. One camp wants to go ahead and move forward. There’s one group that’s demanding more transparency from the School Board. One group is sticking their fingers in their ears, and going la-la-la-la.

Personally, I’m to the point where I’m sick of talking about it. While retaining the teachers would keep the good ones around, it would also keep the luddites. Yes, there needs to be more transparency. Over half the parents were completely unaware there was a problem, let alone that it had progressed to this point. Yes, it will be difficult to start up with an entirely new team. No, we don’t know if the district will even listen to what kind of school the parents want. Yes, it’s awful to lose all continuity in the school.

But you see, I was a military BRAT. I went to four different schools, six if you count transitioning from elementary to middle-school, then to high school. I know the anxiety of having to walk into a school with an ENTIRELY new set of staff/teachers.

And I know kids are resilient. They’ll make it through. Regardless.

The Making of a Pattern

I’ve been kind of alone in this whole pattern making process. I mean, I’ve bought other people’s patterns before (shout out to Teresa Wentzler, whose design work is now sadly closed, but forums are still accessible), and I’ve seen how they look. And I have the professional version of PatternMaker, now, sadly, unsupported. But I had what I’d call a steep learning curve. I’ve never actually known anyone personally that used it. And I certainly didn’t feel comfortable asking professional designers questions about how they published their patterns. So I figured it out on my own.

In the beginning, I did it all manually. I mean I quickly saw how to export the pattern and the info sheet to JPGs, but I did everything manually after that. I had to export both a pattern picture with the lines and center markings, AND a solid color image with no graph or marking to show what the finished product would look like. I went into my image editor and manually cut the pattern picture into quarters so that I could show them enlarged in my pattern book. I figured out a way to add grey borders to the inside edges of patterns to show overlap. I figured out how to watermark the solid color image. I opened a new document, and pulled each piece into that doc, along with all the requisite formatting and tinkering. Then I exported that document into a PDF. That was before I even started on the work for creating a listing on Etsy. I had to make a list of steps so that I wouldn’t miss any steps…because I did a few times. The list had 17 steps.

But then, a revelation! I discovered the Professional’s version had a feature called “layout”. That made a lot of things a lot easier. But it also lead to learning more features needed for what layout required. I learned how to mark “Layout regions”, dividing up the pattern into sections that I could then insert into the layout, so that the pattern was displayed enlarged in sections. This, by itself, has saved me literally HOURS. I learned where to fill in information so that it could easily be inserted into the layout, without having to retype it each time. I learned how to save layouts, so that I didn’t have to recreate them each time. Again, HOURS saved.

So now it seems simple. Finish design. Fill in info for pattern name, notes, and fabric type. Set fabric size. Turn off grid, turn on solid design, export to graphic. Mark layout regions. Go into Layout mode, select pre-made layout with 4 enlarged quarters + 1 detail + cover page + info page. Insert graphic on cover page. Check the 4 quarters are correct. Select the detail enlargement. Check the info page. Print to RTF. Pull up graphic in image editor, and add watermark. Pull up RTF and export to PDF. Start the Etsy list process. Easy-peasy. Especially after the 17 step manual method.

But I still didn’t know anyone to talk to, to compare methods with. And then I discovered that fellow Seamonkey, Joel (hi Joel!), also had set up an Etsy shop to sell his patterns. Well, it took a while to work my nerve up to talk to him about it. But I finally did. Come to find out he’s using PatternMaker too. Not the same version, but still! And he had an excellent recommendation for CutePDFWriter, which is software that allows printing directly to PDF, which saves me another step. So he had some recommendations for me; I had some recommendations for him. I hope he enjoyed the exchange as much as I did.

Now I just have learn how to DRAW!

Sometimes Free Ain't Free

Ah, what a difference a day or two makes.

I have an Etsy shop. I sell digital cross-stitch patterns of geeky/nerdy/internet/sci-fic things that interest me. They’re weird, and sometimes profane, and I have a lot of fun with them. I’m not trying to live off the store, just make some pocket change, and maybe brighten someone’s day with my, admittedly, weird and snarky sense of humor. So I’ve never really cared about the fees that get charged. I figured anything I get is more than I’ve got now, and it’s not like I have to put any additional time into a pattern once it’s published (usually – sorry for the few errors that have been caught!). So I felt like it was free money!

But it’s tax season. I recently asked our accountant about the status of the store, and she vomited a bunch of taxese at me, and asked that I bring in some totals. Ya know, gross receipts, fees, that sort of thing.

So I sat down and started pulling information together. Gross receipts were easy. Etsy likes you to know that figure. Then there were Etsy’s fees. Things got a little harder. You get a bill each month. I downloaded the bill for each month and started looking at it. It got easier when I figured out how to cross-reference sales, to show sales fees. Then I figured out that the remainder was listing and relisting fees.

But then there were Card Processing Fees? Those were a little more hidden. Seems that if customers pay directly with a credit card, there’s a fee for that…and it’s more than Etsy’s fees.

So there were extra fees with credit cards that I hadn’t been thinking of. What about Paypal? Etsy doesn’t show any fees when customers pay with Paypal. But….in digging through Paypal, whaddayouknow? Paypal fees too.

Well, I finally puzzled through all of it. Come to find out, my net sales are HALF of gross sales.

So I’m feeling a little ambivalent now. I mean, it’s still pretty much free money. I’ve already done the work, and the patterns can continue to sell without additional work. But now that I know I only get half of that money makes me feel…I don’t know…ambivalent. <Sigh>