Gudrun asked (in a comment) about my retirement. Hmm... how to describe what I'm doing these days. Yes, I did quit quilting - for a living. I still have a few customers but only enough to give me spending money. I have to support my quilting habit somehow. I officially retired in January? This year or last year? I can't remember exactly. I believe I first started working toward retirement in 2008. I just finished the last of the quilt commitments a couple of weeks ago. In other words, it took me all this time to finish up the quilts on my schedule.
What happened for me to reitre? Well hmm.... I was working 12 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even on that busy schedule I had customers requesting their quilt be finished several weeks ahead of schedule.... and I did them. I considered all the customers as friends and I didn't want to disappoint a friend. I would work even longer hours to "work in" those quilts.
I was constantly telling family and friends that I couldn't spend time with them because I had quilts to finish and then feeling guilty about it. I dropped out of the art group and the quilt guild because I didn't have time to go to meetings. I couldn't go enjoy a simple lunch with friends because of the scheduled quilts. I wasn't eating regularly. I wasn't sleeping more than 3 or 4 hours a night. I never got out of the house except to get groceries or to do something for my mother. Then the illnesses started. I was constantly sick. If I wasn't sick at home with a flu like illness, I would be in the hospital with something or other. Even a simple toothache turned into a hospital stay from infection raging through me. For about a year (or maybe a little longer) I had back to back illnesses of one kind or another.
My grandkids were growing up without knowing who I really am. I didn't realize it until one day my grandson told me he had a girlfriend. "Girlfirend? You don't need a girlfriend in middle school! But Granny, I'm in high school." Oh my! Think how I felt that day. I knew then that I was spending way, way too much time chained to the quilting machine.
Then there was my online friends. I couldn't find time to just sit and type talk with friends. I'm a member of three or four online email quilting groups but I put them all on vacation so I wouldn't get any emails. I stayed an active member of only one. Pretty soon that one group got set aside as I kept up with the heavy quilting schedule. I read the messages but I didn't participate much. You might see me talk about Kathi being my "lil sis" every so often. That's because she and I have been online quilting friends for many years. When Kathi and I first started as members of what was then called the "shortcuts" list; the people with longarm machines were the big sisters and those with shortarm machines were the little sisters. Kathi's life and my life seem to mirror each other constantly. Sometime we have things happen so similar that it gets spooky. We became really good friends and I still call her lil' sis as an affectionate nick name.
A person might think that with all the quilts I was getting done that I would have plenty of money. That's not what happened to me. I was spending my earnings just to keep working. I spent money for convenience and quilting supplies. I was paying high dollars for others to do things I should be doing myself but didn't have time to do.
What money that was left over, after paying for convenience and supplies, became the family emergency funds. Not by choice but because I care about my family. If someone was having a hard time, I gave them money to help out. A nephew that was out of a job right before xmas got money to buy his kids toys. My daughter constantly needed college tuition and book money. My mother went into a nursing home so I paid the money to get her out of her rental lease. My son committed suicide so I paid for his funeral and burial. Whatever family member needed financial help.... I gave it to them. Things like that seemed to happen over an over again. Which left me working just to financially help others.
One day I woke up to reality. I realized I was working but not having fun anymore. My life had become nothing more than a to-do list of quilts waiting. The quilting work was no longer because I liked it.... now it was a JOB. The income simply was not worth the stress and illness! What good was the income if I wasn't happy? I think I was type-talking to Kathi one day when I said "I was happier when I had no quilting customers and no money." When my kids were small, my hobbies were fun as well as functional. Before I had customers lined up for months, I made quilts for charity and I was happy doing it. It was after talking to Kathi that I decided to simplify my life again. I would much rather have happiness in my life than all the quilting income. So I decided to retire. I should say semi-retire. I have 4 customers and that's it. Occasionally I may take another person's top to quilt but only because I think it might be fun to quilt it. I will still do clothing memory quilts because these are special to my heart.
I plan to work more with my blogs as instructional tools and possibly write a book or two. I plan to create just for the fun of creating. I plan to do more art. I'm not sure if I want to create art quilts or cardboard art or rug art or "green" art. None of my art will give me an income... no matter how much I would like it to. That's ok though. I can be very happy even when I'm completely broke. I have a ton of fabric and art stuff which should keep me busy for a very long time. Possibly the rest of my life. Hmm.... now that I think about it.... I wouldn't need any of my quilting supplies to be creative. Cardboard is found everywhere and it's free. There are bunches and bunches of free stuff getting put into a landfill everyday. I can create with anything. Everything from grocery bags to egg shells and fish scales to restaurant butter containers can become my art supplies.
There will always be demands on my time.... but my time will no longer be held captive by a list of quilts to do and tons of deadlines. I plan for my life to be simpler, slower, and more meaningful.