Move Over Etsy….

….there’s a new craft business taking the world by storm!

Okay, so maybe it’s only taking Australia by storm.

Okay, so maybe it’s just my town that’s getting stormed.

Okay, okay, so it’s only my immediate circle of friends and family.

And there’s no storm.

It’s not even a business.

It’s just MOSY Creations – my new initiative to explain the weird handmade gifts I like to give to people.

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I have, for many years, rather enjoyed making things as gifts. I’m pretty sure there’s still a couple of small framed watercolours I gave my parents for Christmas when I was about 13. I know. You may pity them.

I especially like making things when babies are born.

I went through a period of making animal gift baskets with themed baby items including embroidered singlets. eg, a duck basket with ducks embroidered on socks, singlets, etc.

Then, each of my nieces and nephews received a handmade teddy bear for their first birthday. (The absolute tragedy of this commitment is that I never did the same for my own children. I still feel bad about that.)

Then, in the throes of raising my own children, I got a bit slack. My apologies to any friends whose babies received a store bought present. I owe you one.

I did, however, keep my hand in by making costumes for my kids when required for various school events.

The Youngest Son dressed as some explorer whose name escapes me for a ‘Wax Museum’ exhibition of his work. Some of it made from scratch, some just a clever use of what was in the wardrobe. The jacket was a lucky find in an op shop that just needed the sleeves adjusted to look like they had cuffs. (Smoke and mirrors, people, smoke and mirrors.)

But recently, I’ve been reinvigorated to make things again, inspired mostly by a creative friend whom I knew would fully appreciate a handmade gift.

First it was Mr Snuffleupagus when her son was born.

A year later, I dragged out the knitting needles for the first time in about ten years to knit him a beanie. (It’s Rowlf, for the Muppet-uninitiated.)

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And there have been capes and wallets and Muppet Money (very valuable on the Puppet Exchange).

But the thing about all these creations is that I really had no idea what I was doing and was mostly just making it up as I went. Snuffy was based on an elephant pattern but I had to adjust his head. And his trunk. And his tail. (I think it took three trials to get the tail right.)

The beanie was made up of four different patterns.

So they’re never perfect. There’s always a slightly dodgy element to them all. But I never really thought of giving them a label until recently.

Another friend was expecting her first baby this year and she’s a Doctor Who fan. So, it occurred to me that a really cool present would be to make a Tenth Doctor doll (David Tennant being her favourite Doctor). I figured I’d try and knit one but when I went looking for patterns, I didn’t like any of the knitted ones. I did, however, love a crocheted one I found:

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Image courtesy of Allison Hoffman at craftyiscool.com

In typical fashion, I took to this project with gusto despite not actually knowing how to crochet. (Sometime in my deep dark history I must have learnt because it felt familiar but let’s just say YouTube is a wonderful thing….)

It was far from perfect. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. So, this time I really felt I needed to attach a tag to clearly indicate that this was made by a Jack of All Trades who definitely had not mastered crochet. And thus MOSY Creations was born. It seemed easier to declare at the outset that this was something you would not find on Etsy or Ravelry or even some sort of “Crafties Have Talent” excruciating audition episode. “This is just between you and me”, it says. “It’s not perfect but it’s made with love.”

I was still pleased with the result of my efforts. You know, in that “Gee, that was hard, but I did it” kind of way. And as long as I didn’t keep going back to look at the picture of what it was supposed to look like….

I should perhaps explain that this is a baby-friendly version of the pattern. The original required a piece of dowel in the neck and wire in the limbs. These were obviously omitted in this rather wibbly wobbly Doctor.

My dear friend loved it and she paid me the ultimate compliment. On opening the gift she exclaimed, “Where did you find it?!”

Oh, in a very exclusive establishment.

A Boy and his Doctor (Photo used with permission.)

A Boy and his Doctor
(Photo used with permission)

 

 

 

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Is This The Real Life?

Or is this just fantasy?

I’ve never been a real anything.

Well, okay, yes, I am in fact a real person.

However….

As I have explained (ad nauseum) on this blog, I tend to flit from one activity to another, pretending to be whatever it is that takes my fancy at the time. Currently, I’m pretending I can play the banjo.

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Maybe I’ll be as good as Kermit one day.

This pretend life has not only applied to my leisure activities. Every job I’ve ever held, I’ve spent the bulk of my time pretending I know what I’m doing.

And that’s because for every job I have ever held, I possessed neither the qualifications nor the experience for that particular position. They gave me the job anyway.

I know. I don’t understand it either.

But something changed recently.

At the beginning of February, I was given a fixed contract of three days a week for an eight week term in the school where I’ve been relief teaching.

I filled out the required paperwork and the bureaucratic wheels began to turn.

First, I was given an employee ID number by the Education Department. Having never held an official teaching position before, I’d never had one of these. Apparently this one will follow me all of my days. Mine to keep.

Along with the employee ID, I was given an official Education Department email address. Apparently this one will not follow me all of my days. Mine to give back at the end of my contract.

As far as the Department was concerned, I now existed as a teacher.

[It’s worth just noting here that all potential teachers in this state, even those only undertaking relief teaching, must be registered with the state Institute of Teaching before they are allowed to teach. We do have some standards.]

More was to come.

I was called to the office to collect my badge. A real name badge, not the paper and plastic one I usually wore as a relief teacher. This one even said “Teacher” on it.

Could this be? Was I becoming something real?

Blue Fairy meme

Two weeks ago, the photographers showed up and I had my photograph taken. My first ever official school photograph as a member of staff.

It was like the last piece of the puzzle. I was a teacher.

Being a real teacher has also meant three meetings a week and writing reports.

Pretending can have its advantages.

The term ends this week. After the following two weeks of school holidays, I’ll no longer be a ‘real’ teacher.

I feel a bit like the Blue Fairy has jumped out and said “Only Kidding!”

 

 

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How To Get Better At It

Rower Me

Practice won’t make perfect (perfection is an illusion) but it sure will make you less crap at something.

A lot of things came easily to me as a child. Spelling, maths, climbing trees. The unfortunate legacy of this is that if something doesn’t come easily, I’m not all that interested in pursuing it. That’s why I’m a Jack of All Trades. I’ll give anything a go but I have a lack of patience in acquiring the requisite skills.

I’ve always held the view that if I’m not good at it the first time, then it’s not a talent I possess so there’s no point in persisting with it.

I don’t expect perfection (well, okay, maybe a bit) but I won’t settle for less than competent. Or at least non-embarrassing.

I like to conveniently overlook the fact that concert pianists, best-selling authors and elite athletes get to where they are by putting in the hours. It’s easier to assume they have some other-worldly gift that makes such success out of reach of we mere mortals.

A Lesson for a Jack of All Trades

About two and a half years ago, I took up rowing. Just for the heck of it. It looked like fun. And it was. Mostly. But, in typical fashion, my enthusiasm waned as my skills did not progress as quickly to the desired level as I thought they should. So, about a month ago, I decided to quit.

Besides, I’d been eyeing off the stand-up paddleboarders on the river.

But as with many an activity I undertake and then think I’m not good enough to continue, there was a friendly community attached to it that made it difficult to give up. I was convinced to give it another go. I paid my membership and explained why it was so late. This then prompted an offer of some coaching which I gladly accepted.

Two sessions back in the single ‘tub’ (wider and heavier than a normal scull) and I was told I was ready to take my sculling test. You are not permitted to train in a racing single scull until you pass a test to show you have the necessary skills in balance and manoeuvring. A racing scull is handy because you can pick it up by yourself. A tub takes two. Independence is impossible. Interdependence is necessary.

By now, in addition to the single, I was rowing in a quad three mornings a week and an eight one morning a week.

I passed the test.

Lesson 1: Doing something more often will make you better at it.

Another Lesson for a Jack of All Trades

On my first outing in a ‘tracer’ (slightly heavier than a racing scull, used for training), I made it about 50 metres up the river before I fell in.

Kind of like this except I didn’t have the excuse of hitting something. I just fell in.

On the upside, I was still in front of the rowing sheds so it was an easy matter of towing the boat over to the landing to get out. Also on the upside, nobody saw me fall in. (The coach hadn’t even made it out of the shed with the bike after helping me launch.)

My coach picked up the boat, tipped the water out, put the boat back on the water and held it while he looked at me expectantly. Right. Dripping wet, a little bit cold and a big bit nervous, I got back into the boat.

Somehow I managed to row the five kilometres up and back without another dousing. And without freezing to death. Hooray for a windless day.

The next morning, with the memory of falling out of the boat rapidly growing to terrifying proportions in my mind, I fronted up to have another go before I could lose my nerve.

I didn’t fall in. I got better at steering. I got better at feeling for the balance of the boat. I got better in my stroke technique. (There’s little margin for error in a skinny little single scull.)

I got better at rowing.

Lesson 2: No, really, doing something more often will make you better at it.

Okay, so maybe all those concert pianists, best-selling authors and elite athletes are on to something.

 

 

 

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Finding Your Bliss

Bliss

“Do What You Love”

That’s what the card said, pulled from the deck with the question of “what should I be doing?” held in my head and my heart.

Right.

“What do you really love doing?” I was asked.

I hesitated as a million options came and went across my mind.

To write? Yes. But mainly in that spontaneous, conversational exchange of comments. The commitment and inspiration required for a more sustained effort eludes me.

To sing? Yes. But not in public. Not too many employment options for a singer restrained to singing along to the stereo in her car.

To draw? Yes. But only for myself, the only one who could possibly be amused by my amateurish efforts.

The running and the rowing? My absence from either activity in recent wintry weeks clearly reveals it is a thing I do only with effort. No bliss there, then.

To teach? Yes. And No. Currently working as a relief teacher in a special school, what I love is interacting with the children. What I don’t love is the daily terror of being found out for the fraud I am, lacking in any qualifications or experience for such work.

“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are – if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.” – Joseph Campbell

If finding your bliss is putting yourself on the right path, I’ve been wandering lost in the woods for a good long while.

But.

Does finding your bliss have to be finding that one thing that brings you daily joy? Could it not be a combination of things? Could it not be the thing that brings you joy at that moment?

I have not sat at the piano and played my own music for many months. Yesterday, the compulsion overcame me and I pulled out songs I haven’t sung since last year. I can’t explain why. Even now, as I type, my eye continues to be drawn to the piano in the corner, my fingers itching to produce music instead of words.

Why? Why now and not then?

[shrugs]

I have no idea.

All I do know is that there is no single thing I can provide as an answer to “What do you really love doing?” because I love it all, just in certain measures, at certain times, in response to certain needs.

What about you? Have you found your bliss?

Postscript: Thinking about the question later in the day, one answer did occur to me. I love to read aloud, especially to children. The silly voices, the funny faces, I love it all. So if you hear of a job going for a storyteller, you will let me know, won’t you?

 

 

 

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The Overachieving Underachiever

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Are you an Underachiever or an Overachiever?

Is your answer based on hard evidence, the opinion of others or a personal view?

Have you always been an Underachiever / Overachiever or is this a more recent realisation?

I would say most people would admit to being Underachievers. Whether it’s feelings of modesty, our level of self-confidence or a fear of the Tall Poppy Syndrome if we stick our head up, most of us tend to downplay our abilities.

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The self-confessed Overachiever is rare. But if you are one, feel free to confess in the comments below. You can balance out all the self-confessed Underachievers. All on your own. Because you’re an Overachiever, right?

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I suppose you could be one of those truly rare breeds – the Normalachiever. One of those who believes they achieve just the right number of things at just the right level of attainment. If this is you, I give you my deepest admiration. Also, I hate you.

Not really.

Well, maybe just a little bit.

So which one are you?

Sorry?

Which one am I?

Ah. There’s another category for the Jacks of All Trades of the world. We are the Overachieving Underachievers.

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Jacks of All Trades always see themselves as Underachievers. It’s in the name. Why else would we claim to be “Master of None”?

To the outsider, however, a Jack of All Trades appears as an Overachiever. “You mean you run half-marathons, write songs and can fix computers? What can’t you do??”

But a Jack of All Trades does all these things because she is looking for that one thing at which she might actually excel. That one thing she can achieve at the standard she expects of herself. And because a Jack of All Trades always views herself as an Underachiever, that standard – in her eyes, at least – is never attained.

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And just so you really understand, here’s an example of how a Jack of All Trades’ mind might work:

Let’s say a Jack of All Trades completes a half-marathon. Unless she wins the half-marathon this is an underachievement. If she does win a half-marathon, this is still an underachievement because it isn’t a full marathon. If she goes on to win a full marathon, well, other people run ultra-marathons, don’t they? If she then wins an ultra-marathon (you realise this is all hypothetical, right? really, really hypothetical…), did she win it in the fastest time ever run? If she did, was it the hardest ultra-marathon you can do? And so on and so forth.

See? Overachieving Underachiever.

Now excuse me while I go and decide whether to take up the bagpipes or pole-vaulting…

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All images courtesy of http://www.despair.com “Motivational products don’t work. But our Demotivator® products don’t work even better.” Click on any image to go to the website.

 

 

 

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Self-Identity Is A Mug’s Game

I can’t help wondering if I’m beginning to define myself by my crockery…

I scored a new mug for my birthday.

Crazy Mug

I’ve decided this is going to be my motto for my forty-mumblemumbleth year. The last year was all about Oxfam Trailwalker, the blog and Unexpected Drawings. Okay, so maybe it was my motto last year, but this time it’s intentional.

Quite a number of new mugs have come my way in the past year and many of them from friends or family who seem to think I need a boost in a certain direction. I guess if you spend much of your time questioning who you are and what you should be doing, it has that effect on people. Like the one I wrote about a little while ago. Still working on that one. Obviously.

Here’s the full collection of my best ones.

Mug's Game

I think it shows that I am not only a Jack of All Trades but a Jack of All Mugs. Or, possibly, a Mug of All Mugs.

There’s Creative Me, Frustrated Me, Geek Me, Crazy Me and Doubtful Me. Someone has tried to coax out Girly Me but I’m not sure she even exists. Only one of those did I buy myself. It’s the Oxfam Shop Fair Trade mug. That’s Humanitarian Me. She tends to make the others uncomfortable about spending money unless it’s going to do some good in the world.

I think it also shows that my friends and family don’t know what I am either.

But you know what? I’m okay with that. I mean, look at all the cool mugs I get to drink from – one for every occasion, mood or mania.

This post was actually inspired by Trent over at Trent’s World. He has been teasing me with his Beatles mug collection over coffee. I’m yet to see the whole album collection but I am insanely jealous. I only have one Beatles mug:

White Album Mug

 

 

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Would The Real Me Please Stand Up

Who is that?

Look what I was given the other day. I love it!

There’s only one problem.

If I’m going to be myself, then I’m going to need to know who that is.

I have mentioned on this blog before (ad nauseum – my apologies) that there are many facets to Me.

But which one is the real me?

Is it Mathematics Teacher Me who has never taught a mathematics class? Frankly, differential calculus gives me hives these days.

Is it Musician Me who has never passed a music exam? What am I saying? I’ve never even sat a music exam.

Is it Illustrator Me who does those ridiculous drawings for this blog? Cough. Er… no. Definitely not that one. She’s completely made up.

Is it Scientist Me who despite having a degree in the subject, hasn’t done Science for almost 30 years and wouldn’t know Quantum Physics if Schrödinger’s Cat landed on her head?

Is it Writer Me who has never had so much as a short story published? Pfft. I’ve never even had a letter to the editor published.

So, if I’m going to be myself, who is that exactly?

You’re going to tell me they’re all the Real Me, aren’t you? You’re going to tell me that this Jack of All Trades persona is who I really am, right?

You’re being singularly unhelpful. Or even multiplarly unhelpful.

will be myself. I promise. Just as soon as I figure out who that is.

 

 

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It’s A… No, Wait, It’s A…

Sherlock Holmes had his pipe. Dorothy had her red shoes. Batman had his Batmobile. If we asked your friends what object they most immediately associate with you, what would they answer?

(http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/object-lesson/)

I don’t smoke, so it’s never going to be a pipe, or a fat cigar, or a cigarette in the world’s longest cigarette holder. I do wear hats, though, so if it had said “Sherlock Holmes had his deerstalker”, I could do a comparison.

I don’t own red shoes and certainly nothing like the sort Dorothy wore. I’m not into the sparkly slipper thing. I do have pink ones and green ones and chequered ones and striped ones. Chuck Taylors –  I could be known for those.

I’d love a Batmobile. Well, you know, without the bats. I have had a succession of notable-coloured cars in recent years, though, so maybe people go “There she is in her bright blue / apple green / purple / orange car”.

What object would friends immediately associate with me?

A glass of wine?

No, wait, a cup of coffee.

Oh, a geeky t-shirt! Or a social justice one?

Jeans. I do wear a lot of jeans. But then, given my latest proclivities, maybe it’s now inexplicable dresses?

I’m never far away from a smartphone or computer but then who is these days? It’s hardly distinctive.

Maybe music. But in what way? Piano? Guitar? Banjo? Nah, I don’t even know how to play them properly. I doubt that’s it.

Oh.

Boys. I do have a lot of those. My life is dominated by them.

Surely not.

Hm.

Um.

Nope. I give up. What object would friends immediately associate with me? I’ve no idea.

I’m a Jack of All Objects.

 

Jack of All Objects

 

 

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A Jack of All Leftovers

Leftovers

Being asked to write about something you haven’t touched in a while – your ‘leftovers’ – for the Weekly Writing Challenge could be a lengthy post for a Jack of All Trades.

Let’s begin, shall we?

The harmonica – two, actually – hidden in the bottom of the piano stool from my unrealistic ‘I’m going to be in a blues band’ phase.

The sailing boat collecting dust and all manner of flotsam in my parents’ shed from my caught-up-in-the-hype ‘I’m going to compete in the America’s Cup’ phase.

The set of pastels and rolls of artist paper shoved in the top of the wardrobe from my very brief ‘I’m going to be an artist’ phase.

The practice pipe for a set of bagpipes I never quite ended up getting from my unexplainable ‘I’m going to wear a kilt and play with the highland band’ phase.

The large dolls house built by my grandfather, undecorated and unfurnished, from my overly ambitious ‘I reckon I could wire this up with working lights’ phase.

The unfinished online course to get a Comp TIA certification from my totally deluded ‘I’m going to work as a techie in schools’ phase.

The expensive trek pack and other hiking equipment for my once-only-never-to-be-repeated “I’m going to climb mountains’ phase.

The graphics calculator and textbooks I bought in preparation for my short-lived ‘I’m going to be a science and maths teacher’ phase.

The reflector telescope I spent three years paying off from my childhood-dream ‘I’m going to be an astrophysicist’ phase.

The…

Well, you get the idea.

I’ve got more leftovers than… whatever the opposite of leftovers is… rightovers?

But, you know, I’ve still got them so I can always go back to them. I hear some leftovers are actually better reheated.

Or there’s that ukulele I’ve been wanting to buy…

 

 

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