I do my share of venting (whining), but I also like to celebrate the stuff I’m excited about. Here is what is jazzing me up this Friday morning.

1. After slogging through a few weeks of sickness, everyone is finally healthy again. The runny noses are (almost) gone. I was the last to get the awful cold from hell, and I think I am almost over it (even though the cough remains). Yay for good health! (Even if it only lasts a week.)

2. I’ll be talking about Sew Retro  next week at the 9th Annual Books & Brunch event here in Cincinnati, put on by the Cincinnati Assistance League, an organization that raises money for causes that are dear to me, like underprivileged kids and domestic violence survivors. It’s Thursday, April 28th at 10 a.m. (you can still sign up!). Sew Retro will be for sale (thanks to The Bookshelf bookstore) and I'll be signing copies. I’m so honored to be in the company of three other inspiring authors, including Sharon Draper.

3. Speaking of awesome events, my business coach is organizing a virtual retreat next week (you participate live for FREE, or can get the audios and listen at your convenience) called Rewire Your Wealth. She’s got all kinds of amazing experts to guide you through realizing your entrepreneurial dreams. If you are an entrepreneur, or want to be an entrepreneur (that includes you, fabulous Etsy shop owners), definitely check it out!

4. I’ve got my eye on a couple of new books. First is Signature Styles: 20 Stitchers Craft Their Look, which I read about on Bari J’s blog (she's one of the stitchers featured.) Doesn't this cover look delicious?
The other is Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes and Projects for Your Creative Child, from Meg McElwee (due out in June). If you haven't been following Meg's story of her second child (just born a few months ago with a heart defect), you definitely should. It's a wonderful (and uplifting) story, and I'm so happy that little Lachlan is doing so well.

Let me just pause for a minute to say that not even a craft book industry in crazy flux can keep a crafter down. Yes, the publishing industry pretty much stinks right now as the future of what publishing will look like confounds almost everyone, and sure advances are pitiful (unless you are a celeb), and yes, most of the promotional responsibility falls on the author. But it doesn’t matter. We soldier on and publish these beautiful, beautiful books anyway!

5. I got a gorgeous stack of fabrics in the mail yesterday for a project I’m doing for Quilts & More magazine. Granted, I’m only using a few of the pieces, but just seeing them all spread out on my work table makes me feel giddy. It’s that great moment before you decide on your fabrics and you let yourself just play with the possibilities.

6. The Springfield Antique Show & Flea Market is only a month away! This is the best show for awesome vintage finds (including vintage fabric and textiles) in this part of the country. It’s been written up in Country Living and Martha Stewart Living. Just get yourself there!

7. Today is the day I am cleaning my office (also my sewing space). It is bad. I mean bad. This picture doesn't even do justice to its current state of badness (that's because mostly it was taken so Max could show off the new haircut he had to come upstairs to tell me about). The last time I really cleaned this room where I spend 8 (or more) hours every weekday (and some weekends) was . . . um, before Georgia was born? Seriously.

8. I’m lining up the next batch of Q&A/giveaways. I hope to do some great ones this summer, so stay tuned!

Oh, and have a lovely Easter!

Pondering, pondering, pondering . . . (and always with that Ketteler smirk)
I’ve always had ups and downs in my business (which consists of both magazine writing and copywriting). I’m used to this, and I’m okay with it. But 2010 was a doozey.

Let’s see, first, I had the opportunity to write an extremely personal essay for Whole Living. It’s the magazine piece I’m the most proud of (and it actually just won the American Society of Journalists & Authors award for best essay in the personal service category for 2010). Then, Sew Retro was published. The book represented something I had long wanted to do. It was a ton of work, but absolutely wonderful and I couldn’t have been more proud. Then, in September, I had another baby. What, you haven’t seen enough pictures of her? Well, of course you can see another one!
So, 2010 should have been a great year.

But then, everything about my business fell apart. And I mean, fell effing apart.

I lost one client after another, for reasons completely out of my control. Editors got laid off. Freelance budgets dissipated. Projects promised themselves and then scampered away. Checks took forever to come. People I desperately needed to return emails didn’t return emails.

I found myself dipping into the first “only touch in case of emergency” fund in the fall. By the end of the year, I was looking at dipping into the second such fund, and one terrible day in January, I had to. I sobbed (quietly) on the phone with some investment banker I didn't know as I sold bonds from the back-up, back-up investment account. I could hear my husband with the kids downstairs, and in that moment, I felt like a complete and utter failure.

When I started freelancing nine years ago (almost to the day—I was laid off April 2, 2002, and decided to go into business for myself the next day), I always thought it seemed too good to be true. Why was I allowed to do something I loved so much—write—and make a really good living doing it? How were my husband and I allowed to live this charmed life, where he was able to stay home with our kids and I was able to support us by doing something I knew I was meant to do from the time I wrote my first article about Birchwood Drive (my childhood street) when I was eight years old? Surely, someone was going to come knocking on the door any day and tell me the jig was up.

In January of this year, I figured maybe the jig was, in fact, up.

But then, here is what happened. I interviewed a researcher for a story about exercise motivation. It was just one more story, nothing particularly special about it. But something in what she said struck a nerve. It goes like this: we create “possible selves”—the people we see ourselves being in 5, 10, 15 (or however many) years. Regarding weight loss and exercise motivation, researchers have found that the “feared-self”—envisioning yourself overweight, unhealthy, sick, diabetic, unhappy, and unable to do the things you love—is a motivating image for someone to shape up. But you know what else? The “hoped for-self”—where you imagine yourself vibrant, energetic, healthy, active, and doing everything you love—is motivating too. In fact, the hoped for-self is equally as motivating as the feared-self.

 So, the researcher went on to explain, if both the negative vision of yourself and the positive vision of yourself are both equally as motivating, why wouldn’t you just choose the positive version?

This was the exact right a-ha moment, exactly when I needed it. Why not just choose the positive? Forget about weight loss. It’s a prescription for anything in life that can have two (or more) possible outcomes. Of course, fear will motivate you. But it may motivate you to make desperate decisions (like working with a publication you know treats writers like crap), which will just keep you in a cycle of fear and desperation (like stewing over the fact that your story wound up being killed/you didn't get paid/the piece turned out to be a nightmare).

So why not just see the future you want, and make decisions based on that?

Something about that conversation actually changed a thought process in my head, and it made me realize that I was still in control. I could choose. It was a week or so after that when I met coach Darla LeDoux at a networking event, and a few weeks later, hired her to help me both grow my business and change my mindset. In the midst of all that, I got a huge new custom publishing client, who’s been a delight to work with. I’ve met a ton of new people (some are now clients, some are friends, and some are both) and I just closed one of my best months (March) ever. I don't think any of it is a coincidence. I think I finally stopped thinking the jig would someday be up, and as soon as I did that, it changed the way I thought about everything.

I still have moments when the feared-self pops up. Of course I do. Fear is primal. But I keep choosing the positive, the hoped-for thing. The thing, as Emily Dickinson so brilliantly says, with feathers.

Here’s to good choices and good tomorrows!
 I knew for weeks that my Entourage email database was getting sick. It was so massive (90,000 items), and I kept meaning to rebuild it (you’re supposed to rebuild this database once every few weeks; I was lucky if I did it once every two years—yeah, I know.) But one Thursday night, it hit that point of no return. The messages all started acting wonky, and I knew that I’d have to rebuild it in order to be able to use it. So I started the hour-long process and turned on the TV while I waited.

Only, it couldn’t be rebuilt. Over, and over, I got this terrible, mean message that said there wasn’t enough room.
Of course there was plenty of room. Room wasn’t the problem. Corruption was. I tried several more times that weekend, finally realizing (after doing some research) that it was corrupted, for good. As in, couldn’t be rebuilt. I tried all kinds of workarounds that I found online. But nothing worked. The database was safely backed up, just not accessible.

Let me tell you what, few things can strike panic in the heart like the fear of losing email. One of the kids screaming in the middle of the night, maybe. Or a car that suddenly stops short in front of you. But my email, ruined? No email? The last eight years of my life in well-organized email messages, just inaccessible?

It was a bad weekend.

But, after chatting with an Apple tech support person on Sunday (who very nicely helped me, even though my Apple Care warranty was long expired—thank you, random tech support guy!), I realized that all was not lost. I could export the folders, one at a time, into Mac Mail.

But—and this really is sort of poetic—because my database was so screwed up, I couldn’t actually open anything in Entourage. I couldn’t pick and chose individual messages, or delete anything. All I could do was to drag entire folders.

I’m going to be writing later about some of the changes I’m making in my business, but let’s just say, I’m in a period of purging a lot of crap and ridding myself of a lot of baggage to do with writing for magazines. There couldn’t have been a clearer message about letting go as I got ready to rebuild my email. What was I going to take with me? Did I need that folder of emails from XYZ magazine, chronicling the back and forth drama of the story that wouldn’t die, the check that I had to beg for, the arguments about kill fees that had nothing to do with my actual story and everything to do with the dysfunction at the magazine? Did I need those exchanges that only served to frustrate, humiliate, and infuriate me hanging around on my hard drive any longer?

No, I didn’t.

And what about the trash? Should I bring over the trash folder, all 5,000 items? Why in the world do we even keep trash? Isn’t it supposed to be, you know, trash? The trash folder is like one big wasteland of second-guessing, and I decided I didn’t need it.

And then there was the mother of them all: the folder so big that it probably single-handedly caused the crash to begin with: the sent items folder. All 11,391 sent messages, dating back to 2003. Everything I’d ever sent to anyone. What would it feel like to not have access to my written history? To the stupid things and brilliant things I emailed? What would it feel like to lose that thread? What would it feel like to just be out there in the world, without being able to go back over and over to what I’d written before? I decided that there was no better time to find out.

All in all, I imported about half of my folders—only the folders for the clients I truly wanted to work with. The first few weeks, it rattled me. But then I noticed that I started to feel lighter. I started to remember that I was allowed to make choices about who I wanted to work with. I started to believe that if I built the right thing, the right people would come.

 And I like that. I like that a lot.
There is one review of my book on Amazon that drives me absolutely batty (I’m still working on my thick skin, as I’ve blogged about before). I’m convinced the reader saw the word “feminism” on the first page and immediately shut down and missed the point of the book (or stopped reading altogether). She said it was too political. Too political?

My first thought was: oh, I’ll give you political, honey. But some recent conversations with people have made me realize that I’ve softened quite a bit. I am in such a different place right now compared to my 20s, when I was always fired up about something—and usually certain that my liberal humanist way of thinking was the only right way.

Like everyone else, I had a journey: I grew up Catholic, but long ago rejected it (and religion in general, if you want to know the truth). I never rejected the idea of values though, and am a huge believer in the golden rule, which I’ve simplified even more: don’t be a jackass—not because of some judgment day quid-pro-quo. Rather, just because you shouldn’t be a jackass. That’s all I need. It’s been my truth, and I’ve spent a lot of time (and editorials) fighting other people’s narrow-minded beliefs, railing on about hypocrisy and devising smart comebacks when they told me they were praying for my agnostic soul.

But as I’ve gotten older and met lots of interesting people who have beliefs quite different than my own, I’ve realized that it’s not about right and wrong or stupid and smart. It’s about knowing your truth, and accepting that other people get to have their own truths. After all, part of not being a jackass is not judging other people as stupid just because they believe in things you don’t. How well they live by those beliefs is their business, and likely very complicated. What I get now is that tolerance is pretty hollow if I simply spend all of my time accusing other people of not being tolerant, and never look inside myself.

Why in the world am I writing about religion? Here? (My niece is about to graduate from college and wants to work in PR and she just started a blog to become more fluent in the world of social media. I told her: just don’t write about religion! Way to break your own rule, Judi.)

So why here? Why now? Simple: I’m tackling the big taboo “R” because of knitting.

Stay with me, please.

Knitting is one of those things I’ve tried on and off that I can’t get into. The needles don’t feel right in my hands. I don’t get into a flow when I do it, and I’ve never been able to get motivated to stay with it. Now, people create beautiful, amazing, unbelievably inventive things with knitting, and I appreciate it and drool over it. I see that yarn gets other people through the day.

But when I tried to knit again recently, it crystallized for me: it’s just not my truth, and that is okay. I have other truths.

I’m happy that people have their knitting, and I want them to go create lovely things with it that make the world happier. If they try to legislate their "knitting" in public institutions, then we have a problem. But otherwise, it’s live and let knit for me.

So, yes, it’s metaphorical, but also it’s very, very real. Creativity can be transformative in so many ways, including forcing us to examine our own beliefs about things as disparate as religion, women’s history, and childrearing. I truly believe that I am a more tolerant person because of crafting. And I also have a bunch of super-cute bags and skirts, so it’s a win-win.

What do other people think about this? What unexpected soul-searching journeys has crafting led you on?
  Here is it, my list of grievances against life on this cold December afternoon:

1. I cannot get Georgia to sleep through the night. Yes, she is only 3 months old, but Max was sleeping through consistently after about 6 weeks. She wakes at 3 am and then at 5 or 6 am and then for good at 8 or 9 am. I feel that I will never get a full night’s sleep again. Ever.

2. Max, 2.5 years old, has taken to crying and whimpering every single night when we put him to bed. He never had a single sleeping issue until about a month ago. He lies in front of the door, whimpering, “I need anodah hug and anodah kiss from daddy” over and over again. And then sometimes he just screams. We usually go back in at least once to check on him, but it doesn’t do any good. Eventually, he falls asleep on the ground in front of the door and one of us has to slink back in, lift him off the floor and back into his bed.

3. Bedtime now sucks.

4. The magazine industry sucks too. A great majority of my regular magazine work has dried up in the last year or so because of factors completely out of my control.

5. I have 10 lbs of baby weight and I can’t lose it. Every time I look down at my stomach (once flat and toned), I want to cry.

6. I’ve been sick with sinus crap on and off for the last month and it’s screwing with my motivation to exercise and lose the above-mentioned baby weight. I haven’t had a consistent week of good running in forever. And every night I want to eat cookies. Probably because bedtime now sucks.

7. It’s freaking cold out. I hate winter coats. I hate cold cars. I hate snow.

8. We’re now starting to get Christmas cards from people. Don’t get me wrong, I love the cute pictures of people’s families and I want to get cards from them. But it only reminds me that I totally suck because I am not doing cards this year. Even with a new baby and a toddler who would look adorable in some sort of holiday shot. It’s just too much to deal with.

9. I have a work-related trip in January. I’ll be gone two nights and almost three whole days and I can’t see how I am ever going to pump enough milk (while still nursing Georgia) to have a supply here. I’m afraid my goal of 6 months exclusive nursing is not going to happen this time. I’ll be disappointed in myself. My husband will be disappointed in me. The La Leche League will probably come and take away my breastfeeding card.

10. I know lots of people have much bigger problems (famines, floods, warlords, abusive relationships . . .) than any of these things and I feel guilty for venting about these stupid problems and I realize that I have no perspective at the moment. But it’s cold, I’m tired, the economy sucks, the cat is meowing too much, the toddler is grabbing ornaments off the tree every five minutes and I’m going to whine about it for a little bit.