Stream Explorer

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com (I’ve never seen a horseback archery stream, but there probably is one!)

A few years ago, my youngest introduced me to DND Beyond. He wanted me to buy a subscription so he could create characters and play. So I did and he did.

He’s also the one who introduced me to Critical Role and got me back into gaming on a regular basis. I used to play regularly when my kids were little, but life happened and I eventually stopped. We played in person for a while, and then the pandemic hit, so we moved online.

During all of this, I was introduced to Twitch – something I’d never heard of before. I had to get a Twitch account to get a DND Beyond account, but I never used Twitch. Fast forward a few years to now, and Twitch has become a regular viewing habit for me.

A few months ago my youngest informed me that Twitch had all kinds of streams. I assumed they were all gamers who streamed there, and indeed I watched many of them, like Critical Role, Roll20 Presents, and others.

Imagine my surprise when I found a whole community of crafters and makers on Twitch, including fellow diamond painters! I’ve watched people knit, crochet, cross-stitch, spin yarn, blacksmith, paint miniatures, tool leather, and more.

It’s been amazing to watch people – you know, just regular people like you and me, who enjoy the same type of hobbies. Or to be introduced to new hobbies I’ve never even heard of before. I have a couple of streamers that I watch on a regular basis and it’s been great to interact with people who are as obsessed with diamond painting as I am. 😀

I don’t think I’m interested in streaming, though I often think it would be nice to not have to stop what I’m making to type in chat. I’m usually diamond painting myself when I watch, and it’s fun to interact with people who are new to the hobby like me, as well as people who have been doing it for years.

I also watch a lot of miniature painting streams, and I’ve learned some tips and tricks I want to try out in my own painting – when I finally get around to finishing up that last batch of minis. 😛 It’s been a blast wandering around Twitch and seeing what new amazing thing I can find to watch. I wonder what I’ll find next?

Burnt Out

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In addition to my many other hobbies (see my previous post), I also play Dungeons and Dragons every week. For the past two years or so, I’ve been the DM for our group. We started out playing in-person and then moved online when the pandemic hit.

For a while, I was also the DM of several play-by-post games on DNDBeyond. One lasted for almost a year, which I am tickled about. I learned a lot, and it was a lot of fun. But eventually it ended, so I am down to just our regular weekly online game.

We use Roll20 and Discord and have played several adventures over the course of the last few years. We started out playing Tomb of Annihilation in-person and then switched to Roll20 when we could no longer meet. It was going well, but then a couple of players had to drop out and the game just kind of fizzled. They had made it almost to the end tomb, but didn’t want to continue on.

So we found another player to round out the group and they decided to play the Icespire Peak adventure. We made our way through that, including all the add-ons. I did have a small respite for one or two sessions while someone else DM’d, but then he returned to college, so he didn’t have the time anymore.

We opted to play Waterdeep: Dragon Heist next, and we are almost done with it. They have located the vault and the keys, so it’s really just the last bit of the dungeon next session and we will likely be done with this adventure.

I’m torn about what to do next. I am severely burnt out being the DM. It would be nice to just show up and play without spending hours of prep before each session. I enjoy it, but I’m ready for someone else to do it for a while. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of my players stepping up to DM if I don’t. So now I’m torn between continuing to DM even when I am burnt out, or likely having the group split up because no one else wants to DM.

Personally, I’d like to try some new games, including the new Burn Bryte space game, as well as Humblewood, a game that uses D&D rules but has a new setting and player races. None of my current players are interested in any of those, however, so I don’t know what to do.

Actually, after thinking and writing about it, perhaps I’m not burnt out from DMing, I’m burnt out from managing players – dealing with issues such as late arrivals, last-minute cancellations and the like. Which is a whole different problem – and one that’s pretty easy to fix. So I’ll continue to DM this adventure to its conclusion, and then after that, I’m going to let my group know that I will be taking a break as DM. Perhaps one of them will surprise me and step up – though I’m not holding my breath. If so, great. If not, then I am free to find another group to play with, whether as a DM or player.

I will say that I have thoroughly enjoyed using Roll20 to play online. Even though I love playing in person with miniatures, the process of drawing maps and such was a huge hassle. It’s so much easier in Roll20 to set things up, even though I’m usually extra lazy and just purchase modules that are already all set up for me. It also makes it a bit easier to find players, since playing online removes a lot of the scheduling stumbling blocks you encounter when playing in person. I may even try playing an asynchronous game in Roll20 if I’m feeling really adventurous.

We’ll see what happens when this current adventure ends. In the meantime, I have lots of other projects to keep me busy. 😛

Gifts and Reflections

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The year is almost over and it feels like a time for reflection.

My first reflection is – this year sucked balls. And not in the good way. :/

My youngest was cheated out of his final year of competing in track and had his graduation repeatedly postponed. My oldest and I were out of work when schools closed. The pandemic has hit hard and everything has changed.

But not every change was bad.

Yes, my youngest missed competing. I think that bothered me more than it did him. His graduation was postponed several times, but it did eventually happen. Though my oldest and I were out of work, we were lucky that my husband is an essential worker and we avoided much of the financial hardship that many others experienced (and may still be experiencing).

Personally, though the reason was terrible, the ability to slow down and spend more time with my family was a gift. We spend so much time rushing here, there, and everywhere that often what is really important gets shoved to the back burner. This year I have spent more time than ever with my children – and it has been wonderful. No games to rush off to, no practices, nothing to distract us from each other. We have always eaten dinner together, but when the whole world slowed down, it seemed like we suddenly had time (and permission) to slow down and just take a breath.

That was another gift for me this year – I have seen how different my life can be when I am not constantly rushing around, worrying about ‘living my best life’ and trying to be ‘successful.’ I was free to just enjoy whatever made me happy – doing jigsaws, painting minis, and spending time with my loved ones. I imagine it’s somewhat how retirement feels – knowing that you can live without having to kill yourself working.

After this year, my views on how I want to live my life have changed. I have wanted to downsize and minimize for years. But now I have seen how much better my life could be if we weren’t spending all of our time working to afford the house we are rarely in, driving cars we have to work to afford, etc. If having less ‘stuff’ means I can relax and focus on things that mean something to me, that’s what I want to do.

It has given me even greater incentive to become debt-free. My husband and I sat down last night and discussed our financial goals for the new year. Paying off our last few debts is top of the list, of course. We also discussed smaller goals – like saving up for things. We both want new phones – his has a broken screen and mine is his hand-me-down from 4 phones ago. I have been putting money aside for just such things and we are able to outright purchase the phone he wants. That felt really good – being able to say, yes, okay, get the thing – and to pay for it in cash, with no payment plan and all the bs that goes along with them.

So I have set some goals for myself, both long and short term. I am not someone who makes New Year’s Resolutions, but I do have specific goals that I want to achieve in the coming year.

Here’s hoping that 2021 is waaaaaaaay better than 2020. 😀

Diamonds and Wolves

As Christmas gets closer, I’ve been working on a diamond painting for my oldest. She loves wolves and dreamcatchers, so when I saw this diamond painting, I knew she would love it. So the purchase was a win-win – she gets a cool gift and I got the experience of making it for her.

This canvas is bigger than the owl I finished, but it didn’t take as long as I had anticipated, given the larger size. I gave the owl to my sister and she is having her husband mount and frame it for her. I’m hoping he’ll do the same for this one, so it will be ready in time for Christmas.

In the meantime, I’m still trying different stores and canvases to see what I like and what I don’t when it comes to diamond painting. For instance, designs with round drills are more plentiful, as are partial canvases (where only parts of the canvas are covered with drills). I prefer the square drills and full canvases. So now I’m trying a new store, Diamond Art Club, to see the difference in canvas quality and drill quality. Also, they use poured glue rather than double sided tape, so we’ll see if I like them better or not.

I did also splurge on a fancy schmancy drill pen that is a definite upgrade from the cheap plastic drill pens that come with most kits. I’m trying to keep myself from buying a whole bunch of accoutrements that I don’t really need. I did purchase the new pen and I did buy some additional storage, because there are always drills left over. My new kit should be here in just a few days, so I’m excited to have something new to work on over the holidays, and while I’m working from home.

I’m hoping to also spend some time finishing up my last batch of minis. I need to rig up a spray area indoors, as it’s now too cold to spray outside. Lots to do!

Paradox of Change

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If this year has taught us anything, it’s how to be adaptable to change – whether we wanted to or not. In addition to rolling with the punches from 2020, I’ve been trying to make smaller changes in my life.

Being debt-free is a large goal, but I also have smaller ones. I’ve been trying to get healthier – eat less, exercise more, eat cleaner, that type of thing. What I have discovered while trying to make these changes is that there is what I’m calling the ‘paradox of change.’

The paradox is that if you want to be successful at making changes, you need to stick to a routine. Which is paradoxical, right? Whatever change you’re trying to make isn’t a part of your routine, which is why it’s a change. The trick is to make the change part of your routine, so it becomes something automatic – something you just do without even thinking about it anymore.

Sticking to a routine is hard, but so beneficial. Most people crave the structure of a routine – we are comfortable when things go as expected. And having a routine that fills most of your life means that when something unexpected happens, it’s easier to deal with it. (Although 2020 is sure testing that theory for me!)

As we get closer to the end of the year, I thought things would start to calm down. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. As things continue to escalate, my job has gone remote. Which is good, but also challenging. Figuring out how to effectively deliver instruction to preschoolers virtually is a challenge – we’ll see how it goes and how well we all (students and teachers) adapt to this new change.

In the meantime, I plan to continue to keep working on the small goals in my life and incorporating them into my daily routine. Here’s hoping I can overcome the paradox of change! 😀

Ch-ch-ch-changes

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Things have been kind of quiet around here because real life has been A LOT lately. I took on a new position at work, which has required more hours than I anticipated. I am enjoying it, so that’s good, but it’s been a bit overwhelming. And, since the one constant of 2020 has been that nothing remains the same for long, there are more changes coming my way.

Staff changes at work mean that I will likely be working even more hours. That means more money (yay!) but less time for other projects (boo!). So I am having to get organized to make sure that I have time to get everything I want to done.

Currently, I have work planned out through the holidays, so hopefully over the holidays I can get a jump on planning for next year. I still have to show up and work my hours, but the back end planning stuff is done. Whew!

I am working on a diamond painting (one of my newest obsessions) and am making a large canvas for my oldest as a Christmas gift. And I have actually started Christmas shopping – something I usually don’t start until December. My budget and my stress levels will thank me as Christmas creeps ever closer. 😛

Sadly, I have done almost no mini painting in the last month or so. I’m going to try and finish up some pieces at least over Thanksgiving, since I have about 5 ‘almost done’ pieces sitting on my painting table mocking me every time I walk by.

This week also marks the last enrollment for my oldest. She has one more semester to complete and she will graduate with her teaching degree AND have no student loan debt! She is making plans to move out when she graduates and I have no doubt that it will be a huge life change for both of us.

That won’t be the only big change – after my oldest graduates and leaves the nest, the rest of the family is planning to move east. Perhaps Maine, perhaps Canada, we’re not quite sure yet. (You can probably guess from the photo which one I’m rooting for!) I’m sure it will be a huge adjustment, as we have lived in the same place most of our lives. We’re also still debating whether we want to rent an apartment, buy a house, or buy an RV. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I want to continue working on having an online source of income so that I can work from anywhere with internet. To that end, I will be working on my Etsy shop, adding items and tweaking how I’m doing things there. I have ideas for additional products that I think will complement what I’ve already got for sale.

I’ve also decided to branch out and set up a TeachersPayTeachers store. After creating so many things for work, I’ve decided to try and make some money creating them for other people to use as well. So many ideas, so little time! I am also hoping to make some changes here on the blog. I received a notice from WordPress about fonts changing, and while it hasn’t made a huge difference in how my blog looks, it seems like a good time to do a refresh of it and make some updates.

So keep an eye out for changes and some milestones. In the next few weeks, I will hit 70 Monday Mandalas, which seems absolutely crazy to me – to think that I’ve been drawing them for over a year now. Wow!

Slow But Steady

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I still have tons of things to work on, but – as someone reminded me – even slow progress is better than no progress. In spite of all my dithering about, I did manage to get some things done the other day. I added items to my Etsy shop, I began working on additional items for the shop, and I did some back end work for opening a TeachersPayTeachers shop.

As I get older, I find that my motivation and focus are not what they used to be. However, I’m trying to remember that I need to be nicer to myself and that everything does not have to get done in a day. Even if I want it to. 😛

So, if I want to work on a diamond painting one day and paint some minis the next, that’s okay. The world won’t end if I don’t finish all the things at once. Slow but steady wins the race, right? That is how I’ve approached our financial goals, and even though it seems really slow some days, if I look back, I can see exactly how far we’ve come.

When I started working on paying off our bills, we had a mortgage, two car loans, a bank loan, and 4 credit cards. As of today, we are down to just our mortgage, one car loan, and 1 credit card. 😀 We’re still not where I want to be, but we are so much closer than we were to being debt free.

I’m hopeful that by the time we are ready to move, we will have paid off the last credit card. That means we will have more cash available for our move and associated expenses. We want to move so that we can be closer to my husband’s family. Lots of things are still up in the air (because nothing is normal in 2020), but at least we’re making progress towards our goals. So I’ll continue to try and remind myself that progress is progress, no matter how small it is. 😀

Fallacy of Time

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My brain is all over the place these days. I feel like I have so much going on and not enough hours in the day to fit in everything I want to. That feeling is not accurate, though. I may not have enough hours in a day to get EVERYTHING done, but I certainly have enough hours in the day to get MORE things done than I am currently.

I confess, I am easily bored. So I am constantly putting off things that feel like they are boring (like cleaning, paying bills, blog admin, etc.). I’d rather spend time thinking about new and exciting ideas, which is fun, but is then followed by guilt about putting off things I know I should do.

All of this got me thinking about that old cliche:

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day.

On its face, it’s a true statement. There are, indeed, only 24 hours in a day. No matter whether you are a Prime Minister, a company president, a pop star, or a peon, we all only get 24 hours in a day.

However, my 24 hours are different than yours, and yours are likely different than others as well. How much you can accomplish doesn’t really just depend on you. It also depends on how much support you have.

For example, for most people (read: peons), part of your 24 hours is spent on things like:

  • commuting to your job
  • cooking your meals
  • doing your laundry
  • cleaning your home
  • paying your bills
  • taking care of your family

If you are a single parent, you likely don’t have a lot of help doing any of those things. If you have a significant other or other family to help, you can (hopefully) rely on them to do some of those things for you. Add in sleep and work hours, and most of those 24 hours are filled.

But if you’re a pop star, a company president, or a Prime Minister, you probably (read: almost certainly) have a TON of people supporting you and helping you, thus freeing up a lot more of your 24 hours. How much more would you be able to get done in your 24 hours with more support? Someone to cook your meals? Clean your house? Do your laundry? Make sure all your bills get paid? Drive you to work?

Suddenly there is a lot more you can accomplish, because you have more time available to you. If I had a way to commute to work (like a driver or a mass transit option), that’s 40 minutes a day I’d have free to do other things – like write, draw, or blog.

I started to actually do some math on how much more time I’d have, but it just got depressing, so I stopped. The point is, even though we may all have 24 hours in a day, there are many people who have the luxury of using those hours in ways that are not available to most of us.

It’s a vicious cycle – you work to make money so you can pay for someone else to do certain things for you, which frees up your time for other things. But a lot (read: most) of those other things don’t make money, so you spend more time working to make more money, which means that time you thought you’d bought is no longer free.

People with lots of money and/or support like to tell the rest of us that we could be doing just as much, if only we were more dedicated, more ambitious, or more like them. The underlying implication is that you’re lazy, stupid, or somehow ‘less’ than them. What they ignore is that none of them could do all the things they do without that support.

I’m in that vicious cycle currently. I’ve taken on extra responsibilities at my job to earn more money, which is great. I’m glad I have that opportunity, because I know a lot of people are struggling right now. And while, in the long run, it will allow me to reach some financial goals I’ve set for myself, in the meantime, it’s incredibly frustrating because it’s taking up more of my time and thus taking away time from things that I enjoy, like blogging and drawing. You know, those things that I want to do in the hopes that at some point, I can make money doing them, rather than what I’m doing now.

Until I win the lottery, I’ll just have to keep plugging away on my own, finding ways to more productive in less time. Maybe I’ll even figure out how to motivate myself to get on those boring jobs and get them out of the way so I can spend time on other pursuits. 😛

Busy, Busy, Busy

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Credit: Pixabay

Life has suddenly gotten crazy busy.

I’m hip deep in lesson planning for school.  I’ve started a new diamond painting, this time with square drills instead of round ones.  I’m busily painting minis and trying to improve both my painting and photography skills.

I’m desperately hoping that my black thumb hasn’t killed all my garden plants, though I’ve yet to actually see any produce.  And my children are starting college, so I’m scrambling to pay tuition, buy books, and arrange schedules.

All while trying to get my Etsy business off the group, as well as launch a YouTube channel for my mandalas.  Speaking of, (insert shameless self-promotion here) if you haven’t checked out the mandalas on my Etsy store, you should!  They are larger and more intricate than my Monday mandalas.

Right now it’s just got coloring mandalas, but I’m debating putting some of my stickers up as well, maybe even some of my dot mandalas.  I’ve been hesitant to just jump in before now, but it’s amazing how having to pony up for college tuition can railroad right through your reservations about something!

I did manage to snap some photos of my most recent finished minis – I’ll try to post them later this week.  I think I’m learning how to use the contrast paints more effectively.  Now if I could just find the time to watch some tutorials on painting eyes.

Looking through my files, I found an old mandala I’d drawn using Amaziograph.  I can really see how shaky my hands are when looking at the lines here.

Amaziograph 3

I do like the flow of the design and that it’s fairly simple, but the shakiness of the lines bothers me.  Or does that make it seem more ‘authentic’?  Because it’s not perfect, so it’s clear it’s hand-drawn?  Do you consider it ‘hand-drawn’ if it’s drawn digitally rather than on a physical medium?

So many questions, so little time.  I’ve got to get back to work, so I hope you and yours are all doing well right now in this crazy world of ours.