Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Concentrating on Drawing Now..Less Internet, More (Shudder) Work Away From the Computer

My internet is out right now, and it will be for awhile, so my office is temporarily the library right now, using the computer, and will be every day until I get the net back again. Right now, it's pretty tight money-wise (nearly all my money goes to the mechanic for awhile), so I'm staying in, working on drawings as my business runs itself, without a problem, online. I'm ok, just going through a bit of internet withdrawal at home. It's like going back to the pre-computer days, shudder, when you actually do things around the house other than spend all day online. Wow. For a person totally dictated by technology, this is tough. But I need to find a better internet, that isn't too expensive, and there aren't many options out here in the boonies, where I live. I may even have to get with the 21st Century and actually get a smart phone! Nothing too fancy, just something to get emails from. I have avoided it for a long time but feel the need to access the net from anywhere at this point in life. And home internet has been unreliable and very slow. Lucky for me that I can do my drawings at home, still. It'll be ok, it's just inconvenient to be net-less at the moment.

It's really Fall outside, with brilliant orange leaves on the trees, lots of rain and temperatures are beginning to go downwards. It's nice to sit in front of the fireplace with the cats, doing art and drinking my coffee. No internet means more time to concentrate on artwork I've been wanting to do for a long time, but was too distracted by online matters to do it. So, the time is now, drawing more, computing less (but stressing more, relaxing less, at times, without Facebook and my friends there to talk to 24/7). I'm independent and money-making mode. Due to the plummeting economy, financially it's been tough and I'm making the most of it, now that I have to give a chunk of money for car repairs that weren't even finished! The whole mechanic thing is not being forgotten or swept under a rug, it's being worked on.

Without the internet, it's given me time to also do a few hobbies I'd put off for awhile. I'm now baking more homemade bread (made a loaf of raisin bread last night) and also, finally got around to refinishing a Duncan Phyfe drum table and a lovely oak end table that really needed a change of color. They look good, like new. Yay, me. Just in time for the cold weather to come in, too. The other day I had them outside, refinishing them in the sunshine, letting them stay outside all day and night to dry, and a day after they were brought inside, it got rainy and cold enough for me to turn on the heat in the house. I love Ohio, the weather fluxuates. Living in the Snow Belt, it REALLY fluxuates, and the winters here are tough. Will have to get the car fixed by a family friend before it's too cold, since the coolant leaks like a sieve. It wasn't fixed. This injustice will be fixed, in time. Until then, I found a trusted, competent and HONEST mechanic to take the car to, just need to make more money since all of mine is already spoken for. Seriously. Until late Spring of next year. Ugh. Yep, the car repair thing has made my finances beyond tight.

Another thing I haven't done in awhile but am now doing is watch tv. I only listen to it normally, as it is on in the background, unless it's some show that I just can't pry myself away from (anything news and some reality type shows). I watched hardly no tv before but now I'm getting caught up on shows, but working on projects at the same time. I have a hard time sitting still and just doing nothing while the tv is on, most of the time. It isn't easy being Type A, lol.

So, until next time..when I'm at the library in a few days, it's time to go home, fix dinner and feed the cats. I am on a mission to keep the economy and car repairs mess with my financial stability. So far, so good. Life goes on, and with friends and support, I'm holding steady. Hope we all get through the economy/government circus soon. Positivity and faith get me through it, and despite some bumps in the road, things will be ok.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Relaxing Here in the Office

It's a peaceful night, time to relax and get more work done. Dealing with car mechanic issues has really stressed me out for the last month, so it's time to relax and not let it consume me. Outside it's cold, so all the windows in the house are now closed and the heat is turned on. Earlier, I got rid of side door drafts by putting weatherproofing foam "tape" inside the door frame, and it has helped a lot. The kitchen usually gets cold in the winter, and it was cold until I did this. Good, maybe I'll save a little money on heat this year. Anyways, another chore crossed off my "to do" list.

I've made my office extra comfortable for the upcoming holiday season, my busiest time of year, especially now that we don't have our bonuses anymore and need to sell more than ever. Sales are coming in, but due to the economy, it's slower than last year. So, I work to market products, and others are also helping me market, via online newspapers, articles, etc. My products are spread all over the internet and they have a life of their own, as they have for years now. If I can just calm myself down from distressing car issues, I'll be more efficient. Right now, I still get heart palpitations from stress so I get up and walk around, go outside and distract myself. It's annoying, this is not normal for me. Just want the car nightmare over with. It's overwhelming. The answer to everything is to keep working. Working on my art or websites is all therapeutic to me.

Tonight I made a bunch of popcorn, a good snack on a cold night. I do it the old fashioned way, on the stovetop, and use butter flavored salt to save on calories. I don't do microwave popcorn anymore after reading about how bad it is, so many chemicals in it. Back to the basics is fine with me. As a kid, I used to make Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stovetop, don't know if it's even for sale anymore. Just give me Orville Reddenbacher's in a jar, a little canola oil and I'm good to go.

Talked to a reporter from Channel 5 TV today, who will hopefully help me with the car travesty. It was so reassuring to talk to him, and he assured me he'd do everything he can to help. He's one of a few strong avenues I've taken to deal with this. Hoping it gets resolved, I'm not some dumb idiot just going to sit back and let people take advantage. Nope, this car will be fixed..but by another place who will do it right this time. Someone I can trust and who won't blow me off, who will listen to me. The mechanic called today, but I'm not talking to someone who hasn't listened to me or treated me right. Any correspodence from now on will be in writing.

It's so nice to know I'm not alone. I have my parents, friends and others looking out for me. In a world where I spend so much time alone, working here at my house out here in the country (which I love), it's easy to feel lonely at down times. I want the months ahead to be good, financially and emotionally. The economy is a mess, people are suffering around the country. I'm so far holding my own but extra tight now that the mechanic's bill is stuffed with pricey add-ons. $40 for anti-freeze, when the container in the car is bone dry, for example. Sickening. I hope our economy improves, customers will then hopefully be less afraid to buy. I checked my products on the marketplace at Zazzle and they're up front, for the most part, being seen. Buyers are just being tight with money until this crisis passes. The best thing to do is to just keep calm and carry on. We all will get through this. Hard work and persistence is the key, I think.

Time to get back to work. I feel ok, listening to music, my pets with me here, asleep, the picture of calm. Life is still good.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

I Do NOT Recommend Cooke's Auto Repair in Chardon

The car saga continues. Went to look under the hood of my car, which I just got back from the mechanics last night. The "Check Engine" light is STILL on. The coolant container was BONE DRY. Called up Cooke's, only to be told, "Bring it in, you'll need to leave it". No apologies, no sympathy, and didn't listen when I told him that I want to wait for them to repair it, not leave it there. He wouldn't budge. I will NEVER darken the door of that place again. Not after two very large repairs (one is questionable if I even needed it in the first place), altogether came to a grand total of $1850, which I will be paying on for months. And the coolant container is empty? I wanted them to fix the coolant leak in the first place, not the manifold (pricey repair). And I don't appreciate being put off whenever I call, with a very hurried, "Call you back" for the answer to my questions 99% of the time (with a call back days later, maybe), then at the last day (when I demanded to get the car back) they told me to call first because they were working on it. Were they? Who knows. I'm tired of this and will take my car elsewhere, where mechanics straightforwardly will get things done in a couple days (instead of weeks) and not blow me off when I want a written estimate or explanation on what needs to be worked on. And not make me wait weeks when I need something done, when it could've been done MUCH sooner, then no apology afterwards. No manners, just evasiveness. Goodbye, Cooke's, you'll get your money ($1850 in monthly installments), and then I'm done with you. I've heard many complaints about them from other people since I brought my car there. Live and learn. A woman alone is an easy target, and I feel violated. Not listened to, put off, left hanging for a long time, wondering what is wrong with the car. Ladies, in my opinion, it would be a good idea to take a man who knows about cars with you when dealing with evasive, disrespectful mechanics. This could happen to anyone..especially female.

What I believe is the philosophy of some car mechanics.

Here is the bill in question. The second one, the first bill..additional charges..came to 962.33 Didn't pay to go back there. Each time over 900 dollars.Check out the $40 coolant, when in fact my coolant chamber is empty.

Life goes on. Needing to de-stress after having heart palpitations and hyperventilating over the stress of the car problems for the last few weeks, it feels good to mellow out and work in the garden. Put mulch around my plants in preparation for the upcoming cold weather. My flowers are still blooming, as the leaves start to fall. Colors are showing in the trees now. The countryside is full of blooming purple aster flowers and goldenrods, along with all the turning trees. It's so relaxing. I took my camera and took a bunch of pictures, then will do it again later when the colors get even brighter. Farrah, Matisse and Beau watch the leaves fall from the windows, and Farrah wants to jump for them! It's so cute seeing her eyes widen with each falling leaf.

So, I'm busy working on my business, designing high-end lunchboxes. I like them and they should be a hit with customers, I'm sure, as they're well-crafted and come in very pretty colors. I'm also doing some drawing, and switch back and forth to keep energized, while Matisse here sleeps at my feet. The little goldfinches are outside, chirping in the tree next to my windows. They are moulting into their winter colors now (shades of olive green). Their little whistles are so cute, they are always nearby. Money's so tight at the moment, I can't even get their nyger seed right now, but there's enough to sustain them until next payday.

All is calm and peaceful. Feels so good. It's raining now, a quiet, easy rain, good for the plants. And it's so warm, I have my windows open! In October! This is great, global warming makes our climate here in Ohio slightly more mild than it used to be. That's not all bad. Made a pot of coffee just now, using Morning Blend from Aldi's, along with my fav Melitta from Heinen's. I never tried Aldi's coffee before but it's good, and so cheap! A bag of it was only $3.99! I won't be such a coffee snob anymore, only getting the more expensive kinds..from now on, I will use Aldi's in my own personal blend of brands. Other brands I normally get are Starbuck's Morning Blend, any kind of coffee from Peet's, and Folger's Gourmet Caramel. Emeril LaGasse has good caramel flavored coffee, too. My family has carried on an age-old tradition of blending coffees, and I'm no exception. Mom and dad like to blend Peet's and other types. Coffee, one of the simplest pleasures in life.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Glad to Get My Car Back From the Mechanic

My car is finally home, at last! After stressing out over everything, it feels good knowing that the car is now home, in my driveway, safe and sound. Now, to pay off the $1850 repair bill, so much for spending money for quite awhile, I'll be making some steep payments. Oh well, my car is ok, and I'll deal with it. I brought my dad with me, and the mechanic explained to us exactly what was done, showed me the manifold he replaced and it sounded legit, still, I don't know. Did it need to be done? Can't say. So, I made payment arrangements and we left. Glad that's over with. If the darned thing breaks again, it can just sit for six months, until I pay off the previous repairs. Most expensive repair and most evasive mechanic (doesn't like to answer questions, blows me off) I've ever had. I'm officially done with car expenses for awhile. Got gas, my license sticker and that's enough. Thank you to my dear parents, for helping me out. I was glad to have dad with me for moral support. A man's presence does indeed help, so it seems. Always did in the past, too. This car has been very good to me. I'd rather fix this than go out and get something else. Payments are going to take awhile, $300 per month. Steep. My heart gets palpitations just thinking about it. This experience has been torturous to me. No respect and I just hope and pray that the car is really fixed.

So, I'm busy designing lunch boxes tonight. After getting the car, my parents and I went to Heinen's grocery store and I got my groceries. Felt good to get them because without a car, I just hunker down and don't ask. One friend chose to take me once, but I don't want to impose and ask again. Thanks to all who offered to help, it's so nice knowing there are people who care. Anyways, I went home, unpacked, grabbed the package of Chips Ahoy cookies (haven't bought those in years) and headed upstairs to my office, where I am now.

In college, my friends and I used to pull all-nighters, studying or doing our art assignments in the RIT dorms with packs of Chips Ahoy (one pack each), a huge bag of M & M's, and a bunch of 2-liter bottles of Tab or Diet Coke. Disgusting, a festering cocktail of nasty chemicals and sugar I know, but to us back then, it was heaven and we had great metabolisms to handle it. Well, I had a few cookies tonight, as I sit at the computer, with a cup of coffee. I reached my limit very quickly. Blah, heartburn. Guess I'm not twenty anymore. Oh well, it was fun. Now I'm having an Alka-Seltzer chaser. Getting old sucks, lol.

So, tonight, I'm jacked up on sugar and caffeine and will be making lunch boxes all evening. Fun stuff! I can finally unwind from this week of unbelievably high stress. There's still lots to worry about (where are my steady sales, Zazzle? and the leaving of one of the main people at Z headquarters got me worrying, too). But I'm going to put it all aside and work. I can't fix certain things, so I just need to get more educated on marketing and work hard on my designs/stores.

So, my goal is to unwind, make more money doing my work, and if Zazzle continues to give me disappointing sales, up my marketing for my products. And if all else fails, start doing holiday art shows. It's fun to talk to customers, get feedback and get out of the long as the car is ok. I'm not set up for it (no merchandise at hand, will have to make jewelry and buy store products from Z) and I need diplays. If I don't look professional, it'll have to wait until I get the right equipment. So much to do. A friend offered to loan me money but I declined, though the thought was so kind. I hate owing anyone, one reason payments to the mechanic are so stressful. I especially don't want to owe friends or family. It's ok, it's a puzzle to figure out and it will be done..somehow. Still working on it. So far, most important bills are paid ok.

It's a comfortable, warm October! I actually have my windows wide open. Matisse is sleeping in his chair next to my recliner here in the office, his feet and whiskers are twitching as he dreams of catching things. He's a big pile of white fur..on a big pile of white fluff (chair cushion is white and furry). His serenity makes me feel good. The cats don't know stress or worry. And they are happy. I'm doing something right.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Dealing with an Overload of Everything

Sometimes life is just overwhelming. So much that it causes my brain to shut down, memory to fog and concentration to float off like clouds. I'm an upbeat person normally but some situations make me just want to explode. This is my venting post, as I just am fed up with just about anything that has happened within the last few weeks. First, store sales are slow, not dead, but slow. Reading the Zazzle message boards in the Elite ProSeller area, other elite sellers share my stress over our profits becoming harder to get and fewer in number. Some people are about to lose their homes, others feel panic, others are just sad. I'm not losing my home or anything but money is now tight, with this car repair fiasco going on (more on that, later). It breaks my heart seeing others so miserable. I'm keeping sane (barely) with the help of caring friends and my parents. I just want to sleep most of the time, and hyperventilate frequently for no reason. My body is highly tuned to stress out due to the PTSD which makes matters worse when I'm overstressed. Outwardly my demeanor is calm, but inside I'm frustrated and worried. My business is still there, and will continue as always. My other branch of business at Cafe Press is making (small) sales already. Not much but it's a start. I used to have big commission percentages but due to the economy, I lessen them more and more. And, Cafe Press only lets you get 10% commission in their own marketplace (but whatever you want away from it). It's about survival, growng my customers and visibility at both Zazzle and CP. I will go with the flow, but it's uncomfortable. Especially since..

My car is in the shop. And has been for the last few weeks, with mechanics who give me the runaround and blow me off whenever I call to check on the status. They want to charge me outrageously high prices for grandiose jobs. I was told by previous mechanics it needed just a hose to keep the coolant from leaking, the mechanic tells me I need a new manifold ($1000 repair). I told him "forget it". He claimed he would "save me money and look into it", then never called back. I called him back the next day, and he was annoyed, "I already told you it's the manifold". I said to him that "I know, and I told you that I don't want that work done. You were going to call me back to save me some money". He hemmed and hawed, doing the same song and dance of "I'll call you". I told him, "I need the car by Friday. Urgent. I don't want big bucks spent on an old car." He said "Ok, I'm on it". Heard that enough in the past. I said, "Are you? I hope so. I am tired of getting the runaround, and need my car." He said again that he's "on it". I take him at his word now and will get my dad to deal with them next time if need be. It's hard being a woman alone getting repair work done on cars. There are some great mechanics out there, who don't play games or string us along. I know that. But, there are quite a few unscrupulous ones that want to jack up the bill thinking that the dumb lady won't know any better. I took my car to two different mechanics before this one (as of now, unnamed), the only reason I didn't choose the others is that they don't take payments, this one does. They both told me I just needed a hose to get the coolant to stop leaking, nothing grandiose like manifolds, etc. They told me the turnaround was only ONE or TWO days. This mechanic acts like it's a huge project and it takes a long time to find out what's going on, yada, yada.

Anyways, my blood pressure is surely rising as I type this, needless to say I'm unhappy and World War III will go off if I don't get this car back at a reasonable price. The brakes were the original problem and this time, that idiot light on my dashboard saying "Brakes" had better be off. And fixed. Don't just take a fuse out and call it fixed. UGH. If I was a man in a three piece suit, I highly doubt this would happen. I have gotten tough with mechanics in the past who tried this BS with me, and had unneccessary charges taken off. I don't want to be a B. But sometimes it is unavoidable, you have to put your foot down, if not amicably (my first choice, of course), I hate to fight. But I'm ok with calling the local TV ombudsman if need be, not to mention give scathing reviews to sinister mechanics who try to screw me over, sticking to facts, keeping it real. I'm nice, but don't mistake my sweetness for weakness.

Then there's my dear laptop, turns on but has a black screen. I contacted Hewlett Packard's site and looked up how to fix it, ran some tests, and it needs to be seen by a computer mechanic. No way around that, too technical for me to do on my own. My main, FAST computer (my other computer is slowww, with less memory..I could leave the office, go make lunch and eat it in the time it takes to load a YouTube video.) The laptop needs me to spend surely over a hundred dollars to fix it. I haven't been to a computer repair place and walked out with repairs for under that. The last one was over $200! I want to cry but can't. I'm too numb. Will fix it later, after I finish paying the thousand bucks off that I owe that car mechanic.

One bright light in all of this totally insane mayhem is that my parents and our pets are ok, love my house and gardens, and beautiful Autumn is here. I'm going to get better health insurance soon and working to fight this blasted infection in my mouth/system. I looked into dental coverage as an add-on but true to form, it's not worth paying $12 per month for only $1000 total benefit in a year. What a ripoff. But the rest of the plan looks ok. I keep all my same doctors, and get medicine coverage, when needed. Being fifty, I am getting more health conscious. Want to be prepared if any health problems crop up, without paying an arm and a leg for it.

Throughout my rough last month, it helps me to know that there are people out there who care about me. Thank you all for that. I truly appreciate everything you've done, and most of all, your just being there when I need you. It's been a meltdown for me, of sorts, but I'll be ok, my business will be ok. It takes creative adapting, learning more about marketing/business, and working through the tough times (with breaks to freak out now and then). My home is peaceful and safe, the countryside around me is so beautiful and relaxing. Life could be much worse. I have a lot to be thankful for, as do we all. Zazzle shopowners, don't lose heart. I read your stories and feel for you. Let's stick together and help eachother out in growing our stores. Never give up. This too shall pass.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Putting Out Fires, One by One

This last month has been busy, catching up on issues that have been bugging me and my business. It's a puzzle to solve, and pushes me to do better, work harder and get more creative. Adversity is scary at times, and at first I panic, but then level-headed thinking prevails and it's kind of a Rocky IV moment, where I kick into gear and push myself to fix things, failure not being an option. I'm a wierd mix of fragility and strength..but the strength is winning.

The new store at CafePress is coming along just fine. I've made a few minor sales and my art has been on the front page twice. Not bad for being back there for a little over a week..but I need more. So, that means work, and lots of it. It's a stunningly beautiful day outside, and I'd love to be out in it, but work must be done. I'm in the office, working on some artwork. I need to get everything in place before this online Wharton course on Marketing course I'll be taking soon starts. That will need me to divide my time even more, but is worth the sacrifice. I've been tested on which side of my brain dominates, and neither do. I am balanced, 50/50 right and left brained. Creative yet analytical. Must've gotten that from my father, he's the same. This balanced way of being will be tested as I have requests for drawings to add to my stores, meaning more to draw, and I will need to deal with complex issues in the course. I have to do one at a time, or it's overwhelming in a huge way, so when I study, I'm analytical, when I'm drawing, I'm creative. My self-esteem gets shaky so I maintain positivity as much as possible, keep my head down and work. It's what I do to survive..and thrive.

I've made this office comfortable, a place that I enjoy being in, and that is livable. Will be setting up the ol' college mini-fridge (well, updated version, at least) in here this week, to make it even moreso. The cats are experts in relaxation and the office passes their comfort standards with flying colors. My back went out in 2007 (herniated disk from lifting heavy furniture and doing too much damage to my spine), and it's healed now, but I want to keep the lowest lumbar vertebrae from hurting again, so the recliner and a donut pillow solve that issue. No more sitting upright in uncomfortable office chairs. Many artists have back problems from doing the same thing I do, sitting long periods of time, letting gravity take its toll on the spine. After that issue with my spine, I learned to be more mindful and preventative, because it was an excruciatingly painful experience that took a very long time to come back from. I never, ever take my spine for granted anymore!

The infection in my teeth is still there, and I have swollen glands to prove it. Without a car momentarily, I can't do anything about getting medicine if a prescrition was written, so I'm just being vigilant with hydrogen peroxide gargle, swabbing the touchy area with toothpaste at night (kills bacteria), and using the Sonicare to keep the teeth clean. How I hate dealing with these problems, and hope they die off as soon as possible.

My car is still at the mechanic's. It's a negotiation between us, so far, so good. I will be happy to get the car back, and plan to get it back this week.

Business at Zazzle has improved, thank goodness. I thought it tanked there for awhile, but it's back..and it BETTER stay back. I am loyal to them, as long as they bring in the sales in a steady manner. All good businesses expand, and even if I have expanded to CafePress, I will continue business as usual at Zazzle. Now, I just have double duty, making sure both locations are well-maintained and products are up-to-date.

An added bonus to everything, I've been losing weight. Some of my clothes are actually becoming baggy. How? I lost my appetite and don't really care to eat much. It happens. No diet, just lots of water, smoothies, and cereal for breakfast every day. Even my favorite food, pizza, isn't as interesting as it normally would be. Small miracles happen, lol. My metabolism is still good, even at fifty. Thank goodness.

The weather is getting colder now, the leaves on my maple trees are showing more yellow daily. My garden still blooms, especially the roses, wine cups, asters and blue penstemon. I've harvested quite a lot of seeds for next year, and will soon be potting up my Bolivian pepper plants so they can (hopefully) live indoors and keep peppering. I added one to a stew recently and it was perfect, just like the ones my ex-husband used to use down in Mexico, to season meals. One tiny pepper flavors an entire meal without making it blistering hot. The peppers are hot, but it's important not to add the seeds to the dish, just the skin. He always told me that the seeds make it more hot. I saved the seeds and will plant them next Spring. The other peppers that I harvested are in the freezer, and will provide me with flavor all winter long. Love it. This growing my own food thing is a good idea and will be expanded to inclued more fruits and vegetables next year!

Wine Cups