Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Kits and Classes

First, please let me freak out about my very first Etsy item. I've been wanting to put something out there for a while, just to see if anyone might actually be interested in something I made. Well, I finally mustered up the courage to do it. As long as no one throws rocks at me and calls me a stinkypants loser, I think I'll be okay. I love Etsy. I love the concept, I love the things I've found there, I love that I will never be lost for a birthday present idea again.
If I've been quiet at my usual haunt, the Fiskateers message board, blame Big Picture Scrapbooking and former lead Fiskateer, May. I just completed the six week class, "Crazy About Kits" and decided to review it here. Why? Because online classes are a wonderful resource for sickies like me.
Lately I have been an absolute mess. You see, in order to keep my pain under some semblance of control--My back, neck, and legs still hurt badly, but I can have something that resembles a life thanks to these patches I have to have stuck on me all the time. In order to be able to use these things you have to first be addicted to them. This means that if anything messes with my ability to get my fix (patch-wise), life gets very bad, very quickly. If for some reason the dosage is too small, the pain becomes unthinkable and I start to lose my mind from withdrawal. If, for some reason, the dosage spikes, I get sick from the jolt (nausea, headaches, etc.) So it's all just a blast, let me tell you.

It's very hard to get these patches. Doctors watch you like a hawk and will find any reason to keep them from you that they can think of. Combine this with the fact that they have you completely reliant on these from both a pain perspective and an addiction, and they pretty much have total power over you. Just threaten to mess with them and I am your puppet. If I was not on these, I would be less a person and more "that thing that screams upstairs". I am grateful for these things--despite all the side effects and whatnot, they have allowed me to retain some sort of mobility. The pain I feel even with these can be so intense I cannot think clearly enough to form a sentence. But it is kind of scary to know that your doctor has the power to jerk you around all they like. With meds like these, switching physicians can easily be called "doctor shopping". So can going to the emergency room in distress from the pain. In the effort to keep drugs out of the hands of addicts, we've created a system that is extremely quick to withhold needed medication. Anyone who needs the help of these types of medicines is always under scrutiny, always suspect. It makes me feel like I'm being treated as if I have done something wrong by being sick. I promise, I never asked for this.

Okay, la la la back to the point. I've been sick for the last 4 weeks because the pharmacist gave me the generic instead of the name brand I was supposed to get. Yeah, I know they are supposed to be the same but they aren't. The last few weeks have been really difficult. I'm in too much pain to get out of the house much at all. Not that I got out a lot before, but I at least got the occasional crop or coffee shop outing. I have been stuck in bed, sleeping as much as I can to avoid feeling the pain and depression, at least every other day. I feel like I lost days and days of my life over the last month. I had to cancel all of the classes I was planning to teach for Stampin' Up, and ended up coming late and leaving early every crop I attended. I nearly passed out trying to stand long enough to wait in line at Yankee Candle. Finally I took a trip to the doctor to talk about this problem and she said I'm not alone. I am told that most people find that the generics don't work. The patches also irritate my skin so badly, the skin pulls off with the adhesive or comes right off with the lightest scratch after removing the patch--and the patches itch like mad. But it's not like I can get new ones until the bad ones run out. These things are controlled. So, all I can do is wait out the sickness. I was hoping to have the new ones Monday, but no luck. Soon, I hope. It's frustrating to be sick for want of a product.

Anyway, back to Crazy About Kits. May's was the first class I have taken at Big Picture, and I can't wait to try another! I wasn't sure how an online crafting class would work. How would they keep students engaged? Was it just going to be like reading a book? Watching a video?

It started with a fee and a supply list. $35 is a steal for a six week class, in my opinion. Fees vary, of course, but I really felt I got every penny's worth and more. Each week began with an audio message from May, plus a printable full-color booklet explaining the week's assignments and offering some examples. I don't want to give too much away, since they will hopefully offer the class again, but each week examined a different type of kit and helped us learn, over time, what makes a good kit. The knowledge can then be applied to shopping for kits that fit your needs or making kits from your stash or as you shop for individual items.

Many of you already know I'm an unapologetic heavy packer when it comes to crops. I have one of those giant trash-can looking scrap totes that's about 4' tall, and that doesn't even contain everything I bring. Well, I am proud to say that with the help of this class, I attended a crop last month and only brought my "essentials" bag and one project box. Yes! Really! Me!

Throughout the week the gallery and message board kept me working on my projects and coming back to check what was going on daily. Yes, you do have to be committed to the class and a bit of a self-starter to really get the most out of this class, but I think that's true of almost any class, online or otherwise.

The photos you are seeing here are from projects I completed for the class. All in all, I completed more than three albums (wow!) and slews of cards and other projects. Some of you Fiskateers received the ATC's I made for this class. I really enjoyed how putting together kits helped focus my work and kept me on track. Prior to this class I never really thought of myself as a kit person. I thought kits were too restricting, too uncreative. I've learned that sometimes restricting (or, rather, focusing) your product choices can be liberating and actually can sharpen your creativity, much like the way a page sketch forces you to make something new within the confines of a set of rules. The challenge is delicious!

I am anxious to try another class at Big Picture, to see how different instructors run their classrooms. I was already a fan of May and her scrapping style before I signed up for the class, so it would be interesting to see what it's like to take a class from someone I'm not familiar with. I was tempted by some of the classes beginning at the start of this month, but I didn't feel I had the time to devote to finishing the class I was in while beginning a new one. So, my only real suggestion I would give the folks at Big Picture is to stagger the classes a bit more so the people ending previous classes have a chance to breathe a little before the new one begins.

So Handiscrappers, I highly recommend trying out a class at Big Picture Scrapbooking. It's a fantastic way to learn new techniques when you can't get out to the classes in your area. Even if you can, it's nice to take a class without the stress of fighting the pain to get there and back, and if you feel too ill to be there at a specific time, it's okay, you can check out the materials on your own schedule. Even the chats are available as transcripts. I really enjoyed not having to worry about whether I'd be up to attending a class physically each week, and it was great not having to feel dreadful when I had to miss a class time. Good excuse or not, I always feel like I've disappointed others when this happens and that takes its toll. Of course, it's better than no one caring if you show or not, right? :)

Have you taken a class at Big Picture? What did you think about it? Leave me a message and let me know!