That brings me to my life update of the post. I really love my job again. I don't mean doll making, I am a little bit tired of doll making. I don't hate it, I don't even dislike it, I just don't want to always do it. But after 17 years of making dolls, making some mystery number of dolls (I really need to update my book and figure that out!) and doing dolls full-time for several years, I am a little tired. A lot of the dolls are very similar because they are rider dolls. There are not all that many different riding disciplines when you get right down to it. So things are a bit redundant at times. So what I mean is, I love my school job again. I have not found my job at the school fulfilling all that often in the last 4 years. But we had two years of covid mess that resulted in shutdown/quarantine, then a year of remote, then remote hybrid, and then last year... which was a hot mess across the country. That was a surprise because I think everyone was figuring now that we were all going to be back in person, without piles of restrictions and social distancing rules, that things would be more normal. And across the board we were wrong. So yeah, 3 years of mess, but I have not felt useful in at least 4 years. I was helping kids learn back then. And then I was made a scribe. Some of that was the fault of my situation. They wanted to move me to preschool (ew) to work with a high needs non-verbal child. OK, that sounded intriguing, but I couldn't work the hours. I need to be home when Travis is home. And he had high school hours, so that restricted me to high school hours. So yes, some of my situation was because of my restriction to only being able to work in the high school. The rest was... for other reasons. I work hard no matter what class they stick me in. I am also smart enough to pick up on gen-ed grade level work, if I don't already happen to remember it. (let's be real, I can pick up MOST of it. High level math and languages are not a thing I can do). So I ended up in a lot of the higher level classes. I ended up in mixed classes of behavioral and low level kids. I realized that I really wanted to work with high needs kids. I wanted to do work that made a difference. I didn't want to be the note taker, or the person who had to try to wake up the kid who just didn't want to work. I didn't want to be required to take verbal abuse from kids (and literally, that was expected for some of them). It is very draining to put so much time and effort into helping a kid and have them not even remember my name 5 minutes after they walk out of the room. Please don't think I am exaggerating, because I am not. It is very draining to ask a kid multiple times if they need help (because they clearly do) and be told over and over in a furtive voice that they don't. It's hard to help kids who are ashamed to need help.
Doing custom work can be really nice at times. You get some direction, or a ton of direction, in what to make and don't have to figure out every detail yourself. Sometimes it's good to have direction. If I get an order with ALL the details sometimes it's hard to remember to keep track of ALL the details and make sure they actually end up on the doll. I have goofed and done the wrong hair color, the wrong style, the wrong hat color, and probably messed up many other details as well. It is really nice when someone gives you a bit of direction and a lot of artistic license. It is also mildly terrifying. Some people really are super easy to please and when they say that they want a western pleasure doll with something like "these colors" (reference pic for color was included) they mean it. And sometimes people say that they are not picky, use these colors and go wild... and they don't mean it at all. Some people are incredibly particular and they don't really want you to do whatever comes to you, they want a particular vision, which they may or may not share with you. They may or may not actually know what they want, they just know what they don't want when they see it.
Lucky for me, my last order was amazing. I was given artistic license, and it was real. I had a reference for color and I followed it, though the reference really had much more white than the finished doll. I started working on layering the different colors in a way that ended up pleasing to look at. I don't design dolls ahead of time. I just sometimes take some basic ideas and then start work and see what happens. I really like how this doll came out.
I like the front more than the back, which is different than my usual. I often end up liking the back more, though I always like one side more than the other. I don't dislike the back, and once there is a shower number on the doll, which would be good for accuracy, some of the design will be covered anyway, so I really like that I like the front more. Will I ever be able to repeat that? Maybe, I do make a lot of dolls. Even though I have been making a lot fewer dolls than in the past 12 or so really productive years.
So now I have kids that don't always have words, might mix me up with someone else, and need a lot of help. But they ask for help. They want the help. They work hard at the level they are at. They try the new and challenging things you ask of them. And they are genuine. They are not trying to impress their friends, they are just being themselves. That means that sometimes they are frustrated, and they show it. But I can work with that. I can help them learn to have a calm body, to try again, to learn a new skill. I can work on standing in line quietly (over and over and over if needed). And I can give praise for honest effort. And it brings me joy.
My biggest issue now is finding time to do all the things I need and want to do. I don't want to have a fully scheduled life, but I spent 45 minutes this morning catching up on blog reading because I was close to a month behind. I just don't have time. We have only had 11 days, or 3 weeks of school, so consciously, I know I am still adjusting to a school schedule. Going to bed early again, getting up early again, all of that. I am figuring out that maybe I can swing staying up just a little bit later. I always went to bed at 9:00 because I had to get up just after 5:00. But now I don't have to get up until 6:00 (and can maybe push that a tiny bit). So why can't I go to bed at 9:30 or 10:00? I might try it out and see how I feel. But I am also adjusting to working a half hour later. Now I get home at about 2:45. And Travis gets home at 3:00. So I don't have time to stop and do an errand on the way home. And when he gets home at about 3:00, I can either jump right into doll work or slack off for a bit (or have a nap) and then I feel like I have no time left for dolls. Mondays are laundry days, Fridays are for visiting with a friend, which leaves me Tuesday-Thursday for doll work. And I try not to work after supper... so now I am down to MAYBE having 9 hours a week to work on dolls. I don't think that is enough. I need to make dolls so I can afford my life. We already live very modestly, so I can't really just stop making the dolls. And I also need time for all the other things, like cooking, cleaning things, and so on. I am still working on the balance. I am doing less, but now it feels like I am still super busy and also still not doing quite enough. The cost of everything is some of the issue. For sure.
So I will keep on working at it. We are only into the beginning of the school year, which is different time-wise than the last 6 years. I will find the balance, sooner or later. At least at this point I am not forcing myself to work every second of every day. And I am happy. That's a big deal for me. But finding the right work-life balance in this new school year is definitely something I need to work on.