Sticks and stones

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Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever had someone take one brief glance at your life and work and decided it was up to them to let you know what was wrong with it? Has anyone ever jumped to hasty conclusions about you and then assumed the absolute worst? And has anyone ever used Scripture against you in their judgement?

This kind of scenario has happened to me twice in my life. Once in college, and then again just last week. Twice have I had someone actually sit down and write a list of grievances against me, and then either read them to my face or send them to me in an email. Both lists were for very different faults, which I must admit is slightly depressing. But my first accuser, all those years ago, at least knew me fairly well, and there was just a lot of misunderstanding that had occurred. My last week’s accuser was a complete stranger who had stumbled onto my blog, and after a cursory reading of my ‘About’ page, made some super-sized assumptions, and decided it was time someone stopped me.

This stranger realized, looking at my creations, that the patterns I have based my dolls on came from a book they recognized. In other words, they knew the patterns were not my own. So they had words with me.
I will not post the entire message here, but here are some of the phrases that were used.

Reappropriation of intellectual property without permission.
Bad form for not crediting the original author. (Pretending I had developed all the patterns myself)
Blatant disregard of copyright laws.
Theft.
Placing myself in danger of countless lawsuits, etc.
And my favorite-
A willingness to bet that all of my other work was stolen as well.

This person was kind enough to tell me that they thought I had a lot of talent, but hoped in future, that I would develop enough as an artist to no longer engage in theft to make a little extra cash.

And then it was all tied up with a neat little Bible verse, and sent to me in plenty of time to ruin my whole day.

“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

Well.

There were tears. There was angst. There was self-justification, anger, and confusion. There was a lot of time spent asking my hubby for help in how to respond to these accusations. My first reaction was of course to defend myself- to make a long list of all the reasons they were wrong and I was right.
I mean, clearly they hadn’t read my blog all the way through, or they would see where I have not only credited the creative minds who have inspired me, but also worked for the greater part of a year to alter those inspirational techniques and patterns and make them my own.
They hadn’t followed me on Pinterest, or they would see how I have been in contact with the author of those books.
They couldn’t have taken a look at my shop where I clearly do not pretend to have developed the original patterns myself. (although there are many new patterns that I actually have developed myself)
And I am certain they have never taken a look at my email inbox to read the sweet and generous permission I received from the author in response to my frantic email, making doubly sure that it was okay to be doing what I was doing. She reassured me that everything was indeed above board.

I did write this person back, as charitably as I could have, (I think) and then tried to lay it all to rest. But it is difficult. Those words continue to rankle in my soul, to make me doubt myself, to make me burn with anger.

I say all of this, not to declare my own righteousness or to cry aloud “How dare they say that about me!” And as tempting as it is to run this person down and wrap myself in the comforting blanket of the commiserating outrage of my friends and family, I am trying to look at all of this from a different angle.

The fact is, what I do here in this little corner of cyberspace, I do publicly. And the fact is, I am terrible at dealing with personal criticism. Of course, that message was a little more than criticism. It was more like a defamation of my entire character, which in times past was a much more serious thing to do. People didn’t used to drop the term ‘thief’ so lightly. But laying that aside, I need to remember that this strange thing called the internet is remarkably public. I need to be prepared for any and all kinds of comments and opinions. I always figured that in starting a blog about sewing and cooking, I would be fairly safe from criticism and hateful words. But having been on the internet for most of my adult life, I should know better.

People will say what they want to say. They will take things personally. They will read into things way more than they should and put a spin on words that were never meant to be spun. They will make a controversy about the most benign topics. They will think it is their duty to tell you what they think you need to hear. And yes, they will rarely do any research before they accuse. This is the world we live in. And full disclosure, I am not entirely innocent of such folly myself.

In the meantime, if I want to continue using the internet as a great way to reach a lot of people, I must learn to develop a thicker skin. It’s a package deal. These things will happen. And painful and unjust as those words were, they were a good reminder for me to be careful in all that I write and say and in all the work I do. I should strive for integrity, remembering at all times whom I represent.

But above all, I must remember the Merciful One to whom I am finally answerable, and be at peace.

Seven

Well, my little shop is humming along, thanks to all of you who have put in orders over the last several weeks. Life has been so very busy, but I am not quite at the point where I can say I am overwhelmed. Having five kids seems to be a new level of insanity, and I suppose I am stating the obvious here, but babies take a lot of work!
However, because I don’t seem to know where to draw a line, a few weeks ago I entered to win a spot in a very large Etsy Christmas Market in Nashville this December. I was a little panicky about doing it, but wanted to see if I could push my business a bit outside my circle of friends and family.
There were two weeks where I didn’t know if I would make the cut or not, and my mind was going a mile a minute trying to think of ways to increase my stock and make my brand look more professional so the market would be profitable for me. I couldn’t tell if I really wanted to make it or not, or if would even be wise at this point in my life, until I received an email last night saying I didn’t make it. My biggest feeling was one of relief, but it did help me to think about ways that I might someday promote my business in other ways.

In the meantime, I still have orders coming in. For instance-
A college friend of mine very generously decided to give me her all Christmas business- meaning a bulk order of dolls. She gave no specifications as to hair color or dress design, so it was fun coming up with something for her.
She and I were both in the music department in college, and both share a love of musicals. So when she gave me an order for seven dolls for seven nieces, I immediately thought of this.

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Now there are many things that aren’t exactly PC about this musical, not least of which is the opening anthem- “Bless her beautiful hide”- and continuing on to a mass kidnapping of all the town’s eligible women. (It’s all in good fun, right?)

But the scene I was inspired by was this one-

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I have always loved the bright, rainbow-y jewel tones in this scene, with the girls in complementing ginghams. But I didn’t have much gingham on hand, so I just put my dollies in simple jewel toned skirts with black buttoned shoes to match.

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There is something so satisfying about rainbow order.

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I can tell they are already friends.

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I wanted to be able to do a little photo session with them in dancing poses, but they just kept falling over. So here, for your enjoyment, is a little video instead.
http://youtu.be/TygmMPbwfjA

Rat tale

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Well folks, how about we take a break from cutesy ballerina stories and try something a little more, shall we say, distasteful? If you are squeamish about rodents, I advise you to stop reading now. And full disclosure, there is a rather disgusting picture at the end of this post. But if you don’t mind dead animals, and want to be impressed by the perseverance of one of God’s most hated creatures, keep on going.

During homeschool, I have been working on writing stories with my oldest boy, and have told him that is easiest to write from life. So he decided to write about our family adventure with a rat. Yes, you heard me. A rat. And as I was helping him lay out the characters, the plot and the details, I came to realize that it was such an interesting story- so full of intrigue, daring and suspense- that I needed to write my own version of it.
I have hesitated to post this, for obvious reasons. Having vermin in your home is nothing to be proud of, and I imagine most people would not want to admit that they have had a rat as a house guest. I myself tried to deny the fact for a while.

“Oh, it’s just a cute little mouse,” I told myself when I first saw the tell-tale nibbles on a box of crackers.
“Oh, it’s just a playful, rambunctious little mouse,” I assured myself when awoken in the night by loud scurryings and scratchings.
“Oh, it’s just a huge, lumbering mouse with a really long, nasty tail,” I flat out lied to myself when I caught sight of it in my side yard one day.

It’s pretty sad when you are trying to convince yourself that what you have is a mere mouse problem. But I would rather deal with a few mice than a single rat any day. Especially since the signs began appearing right after the hubby had left for France for a month. There I was, a single mother with my new baby girl, and three boys who would rather keep a rat than get rid of it. And I knew I would never have the guts to take on a large rodent by myself.

It wasn’t difficult to deduce how the thing was getting in. There was a small hole in the corner of my living room floor that the hubby had long ago filled in with some tasteful, yellow spray-foam. Every morning, I noticed there were more bits of foam scattered about the floor, and the hole was perceptibly larger. Just to verify things, I taped a thick piece of paper over the hole one night. In the morning, there was a rat shaped hole busted through the paper. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but the paper had been shredded by something.

The next thing I did was to take a thick piece of wood and hammer it tightly into the hole. Problem solved. I went to bed that night, congratulating myself that I had conquered the rat, sans hubby. In the morning, the wood had been popped right out. Impressed but undaunted, I went out to the backyard and found myself a nice sized brick, and fitted it snuggly over the hole. Problem solved again.

But as I sat sewing in my quiet living room that night, I heard an ominous thumping noise. I looked up quickly and saw, to my horror, that the brick was being slowly nudged out of the way. Heart racing and wanting desperately to avoid a Ratatouille-like encounter, I ran back outside and grabbed another brick, and then another, for good measure. I piled them on top of the first one. I kept an ear open all night, but the three-brick stack remained unmoved. I had successfully blocked the hole.

Fast forward a few weeks. The hubby had come home, and life had returned to normal. I had forgotten all about the rat until one morning, when I found an apple on my pantry floor. Sad to say, finding an apple half-eaten on my floor is not an unusual occurrence around here. But the teeth marks in it were definitely not from my three year old who is the usual suspect. With a groan, I showed the apple to my hubby. Our rodent guest had found another way in.
He was untroubled by the news. He simply got one of those old fashioned, spring loaded rat traps and set it out before we went to bed. Feeling thankful that he was there to deal with the carcass in the morning, I closed my eyes. But before we had even fallen asleep, there was a loud SNAP from the kitchen. Mr. Rat had wasted no time. We both leapt out of bed, and ran to survey the scene. But all we saw was an empty trap, and the cheese absconded with.

We left the trap out on several subsequent evenings, but it was never again disturbed. We still weren’t sure what new hole he was emerging from, but as there were no further sightings, we dropped our guard. Then one morning at breakfast, my oldest boy told us that upon returning from a midnight trip to the bathroom the night before, he had observed a shadowy something scurrying into the corner where our dishwasher resides. Sure enough, we found a crack that might just be big enough to admit a rat. I wanted to block the crack, but the hubby wanted to catch it once and for all. So he went back to the store and this time came back with jumbo glue traps.

That night, he set four of the traps in various locations around the kitchen, including one by the dishwasher. We settled into bed, and that night I had a terrible dream. It was one of those dreams where you can only move in slow motion, and I could see a strange man climbing over my gate as I tried to reach my front door. As I reached the door and began turning the lock, the man pulled a gun out. I had just managed to lock the door when the man raised the gun. Then there was a terrific BANG! I sat bolt upright in bed, trying to shake off the dream, but the banging continued. It took me a minute to sort out dreams from reality, but I finally realized that the banging was coming from the kitchen and could only be one thing.

“Honey! Honey! The rat! I think we caught the rat,” I said in a fierce whisper.
Honey snored on.
“The rat!” I said a bit louder. “You need to go take care of it!”
He didn’t budge.
But I was not about to do battle with anything that could make that much noise in my kitchen, so after shaking his shoulder several times and repeating the word ‘rat’, he finally got the message and stumbled out of bed. He was only gone a moment or two when the noise ceased, and he came back.
“What happened?” I asked, feeling queasy. “What did you do with it?”
“It got away,” he replied and climbed back under the covers.
“What!?” I asked incredulously. But he had already fallen back asleep.

The next morning, the hubby explained that he had only gotten there in time to see the rat disappearing through the crack, with just it’s tail still stuck and flailing wildly. As he watched, the rat had made one final effort, unglued its tail and made good its escape, leaving behind what looked like half of it’s fur.

I was so disgusted by this point, that I just prayed it would go away for good, or be so wounded, it might never recover. And it seemed my prayer might be answered. We continued to put out the traps for several days, but no more midnight drama. Until, of course, the night we neglected to put anything out.

I was again awakened by a loud banging, but this time it sounded ten times louder, as if something was clambering around in one of my pots. Turns out, that was exactly what was happening. I was so mad at this creature that I got myself out of bed and went to investigate. As I crept towards my pantry, I realized that it must have been standing on the lid of my big stock pot that I keep on the floor in there, and fallen in. But as I got closer, a board creaked and there was suddenly dead silence. I knew it was still in there, and that there was no way out except through the door, so I grabbed the first thing to hand- a dish towel. Then I heard snorting behind me. The hubby had arrived on the scene.
“What do you think you are going to do with a towel?” he laughed.
Realizing how futile it would be to try and chase down such a creature in the small confines of my pantry, (with a towel) he wisely gathered together all the glue traps and laid them end to end across the doorway. There was no way it would be able to get out without getting stuck again. We headed back to bed, confident that we would be up again soon, taking care of it once and for all.

But in the morning, there were the glue traps, untouched, unmoved. We could only wonderingly surmise that the animal had jumped the traps. I couldn’t quite believe that a rat could be so clever, so we tried the same trick again that night, thinking it might get stuck heading into the pantry.
The next morning, the hubby found me standing and staring at the door way. The rat had not jumped the traps. It had calmly and deliberately moved the traps aside and walked straight in. I was beginning to feel a little bit in awe of this beast. I began to think that maybe it was a raccoon. Or magic elves. The hubby went back to the store.

He came back with a box as long as my arm. It was time to bring out the big guns. A baited cage, to trap the rat in a more humane way. I had no idea what we would do with it if we actually caught it- bring it out to the country and let it run free? I somehow knew that this particular rat, no matter how far it roamed, would always find its way back to my pantry. So the hubby put out the cage, and I continued to place the glue traps. Four nights passed without incident.
And then came the fifth. I was not awaked by a bang this night, but with a scream. This time, the hubby was out of bed in a flash. I thought maybe one of the kids was screaming, but then I realized it was the rat, caught again in a glue trap. I didn’t know a rat could produce a sound like that. It was very much like a nightmare.
I peeked my head out of the bedroom door, squinting in the glare of the kitchen lights. The noise was so loud that all the kiddos stumbled out of their room too, rubbing their eyes, looking confused.

“What is that, mom?”
“Did we finally get the rat?
“What’s dad going to do with it?”
“Is it morning?”
“What’s for breakfast? Can you make pancakes?”

I herded them back to their room, trying to ignore the struggle in the kitchen. I just felt sick. I got the boys back in bed, and went and buried my head under my pillow. Finally, there was silence. As much as I hate rats, I was glad to think the creature was out of its misery.
“What did you do with it?” I asked the hubby as he came back to bed.
“I drowned it,” was his short reply, but I could tell he felt sicker than I did.

The next morning, the boys were up early and chatting excitedly about the great battle of the night before. They wanted more details- they wanted to see the rat, to hear my side of the story. And what about the cage? Could we keep the cage? It would make a perfect jail for lego bad guys.

I ignored them all and went straight to my pantry with a mop, rubber gloves, a pile of rags, and a bucket of lysol. While I was scrubbing everything furiously, I heard a tap at the window and looked up. The hubby was holding up the dead rat for the boys to see. They all scrambled around the window, chattering with excitement, asking for the camera.

As for me, I almost passed out.

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And worthy adversary though he was, I’m just glad the battle is over.
Now please reassure me that we are not the only people who have ever had a rat.