Life Update: Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

I make a concerted effort to never apologize for not writing a post. Sometimes life gets in the way, and that’s okay. Sometimes life throws you a curveball… or ten. Sometimes you run out of words to say and need to spend your energy on other life things. That’s all okay.

I’ve missed my blog a lot. This is a happy place full of inspiration, creativity and love. It’s also a way for me to relax and enjoy a sense of community with other people that love paper and ink. My blog isn’t my job; it’s a passion that I spend a lot of time on. I tried to make a consistent income off my blog and lost my inspiration almost immediately. That’s why my website sometimes takes a backseat to things like my job search and most definitely takes priority over making memories with the people I love.

I’ve grown up a lot over the past years. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve made some pretty things. I’ve, most importantly, come to know some of the most beautiful people and have the privilege of calling them my friends. And the thing is… I constantly get to make more friends and support this community by building others up and receiving amazing support from them.

I have plans – good plans – to post on here regularly and get back into my craft room once again. I don’t know what’s going to happen, because I now understand just how unpredictable life can be, but I can say that not blogging is like missing part of my heart. I miss it. I want to grow this website and inspire more people to start crafting.

Why am I telling you all this? I don’t have a short answer for that. I like being honest, and this is me sharing how I feel about my blog and this community. There are also a few things that have been happening in my life that have caused me to grow up a lot in the past couple months. These things are so big and so life-changing that I can’t not share them with you. I’ve put off writing this post because I didn’t want to jump back in and pretend that everything is fine and dandy, because it’s not. Life is hard, and this month has been the hardest month of my entire life to date. I will learn and grow from this, but you have to experience the deepest sorrows in life in order to experience the height of love and happiness. So, without further ado, here is where I’ve been and where I hope I’m going.

1. I Quit My Job

I worked in retail at Blick, an art store, to make ends meet between freelance design and while I figured out what my next step in my professional career would be. I needed the money, but the stress from working a retail job and being overscheduled resulted in a very, very unhappy Britta. It was time for me to officially start finding my way into the professional world. I had a portfolio, I had convictions and I needed a job; I began the job search.

A canvas I made for a call to art at Blick. All the color comes from gelatos - I'll have a tutorial for this someday soon!

A canvas I made for a call to art at Blick. All the color comes from gelatos – I’ll have a tutorial for this someday soon!

I filled out job applications, I freelanced for a big company in the area for a couple weeks and I did a couple of odd jobs. I had to find a direction to go in. What do I want to DO with my life? So I met with my career counselor. After meeting with her for the first time, she came up with the same conclusion that I had before the meeting – Nonprofits would be a good place for me. Helping other people makes me happy. I have such a diverse set of skills, awesome varied background experience and the love for learning – all of these things make me endlessly excited to move forward with my life and my career. I have a direction! I’m now in the process of getting in touch with my contacts at a few favorite organizations, so that’s going pretty well. I’m so happy and so blessed to have direction and feel drawn to work in a capacity that allows me to directly make the world a better place. I might be an idealist, but I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

2. I Lost My Grandmother

Truth be told, I had never had anyone I was really close with pass away before. My grandma, I called her Mormor (mother’s mother in Swedish), was one of the driving forces in my life from the very beginning. She is a huge part of who I am today, and I still miss her every day. She was sick for a very, very long time. She had an advanced form of Parkinson’s that made life very hard for her. She was in a nursing home for about six months before she had a stroke and was moved into a hospice. We knew she didn’t have very long after that, so that gave us time to say goodbye. That didn’t make her dying any easier. She survived for about a week and a half after the stroke, and then she was gone. No longer in pain, no longer giving nurses hell, no longer physically here.

A little something I made with what I had on my desk right after I found out my grandma had passed away. The song "Hear You Me" by Jimmy Eat World was comforting to me at the time.

A little something I made with what I had on my desk right after I found out my grandma had passed away. The song “Hear You Me” by Jimmy Eat World was comforting to me at the time.

I cried for days. Her funeral was a few weeks after she passed away, so I had time to grieve and process what was happening. I gave her eulogy at her funeral, and I know I did her proud. I was daily vlogging during this time, so you can even see me reading it to my brothers the night before the funeral. That weekend in central Illinois was hell, but it was worth it to say goodbye to her and to be with my family.

Here’s the video with the eulogy:

Here’s the video the day of the funeral. It was a good day. There were so many pictures and memories to share with one another, and this video captures some of them in a way that makes me so grateful for modern technology:

I miss you, Mormor. I’ll always hold you in my heart and know that you’re forever watching over me.

3. One of My Best Friends Committed Suicide

One of my best friends, Tim Patterson, took his own life a few weeks ago. It happened on June 5th, and the 6th was the worst day of my life. Tim was one of the nicest, most loving people I have ever met. He would get a paycheck from work and literally ask us what to spend it on because he didn’t know what to do with extra money; he had all the things he wanted. So he saved his money and bought us perfect presents with it. For Christmas last year, he gave Jake a first-press original Star Wars sound track in perfect condition. He would text me about it and how hard it was to find; I can’t even imagine what he spent on it, but it was all about giving his friend something that he knew would make him happy. Tim gave the best gifts, he gave the best hugs and he was always up for any adventure. I miss him every single day.

At the outdoor hockey game this year & celebrating Tim's birthday. From left to right: Timmy, me, Jake and Dan.

At the outdoor hockey game this year & celebrating Tim’s birthday. From left to right: Timmy, me, Jake and Dan.

If you know me or have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am a huge advocate about extinguishing the stigma around mental illness. I have severe, clinically diagnosed depression and anxiety, and I want EVERYONE to know that people who struggle with this need support. People who have stupid chemical imbalances in their brain (that’s all depression and anxiety are, really) can be wonderful, productive members of society. No one should ever be afraid to ask for help or see a therapist. My psychiatrist and psychologist are two of the biggest reasons I can be who I am today. They give me the battle plan so I can fight those terrible thoughts racing through my head.

Along with this advocacy comes a sense of responsibility – one that propels me to tell everyone who will listen that suicide doesn’t stop things from getting worse, it eliminates the possibility of them getting better. [For more information on the Semicolon project, go here.] Anyone can become depressed or suicidal. It doesn’t have to be hereditary or because something bad happened (although it definitely can be), sometimes we just need to reach out for help. Click here for the National Suicide Lifeline. It’s always there in case you or a loved one might need it.

Friends are the family you get to choose, and I’m am blessed with about 15 of the most genuine, warm-hearted, beautiful family members ever to exist right here in Minneapolis. Some have moved away, some work funny hours or have a lot of commitments, but we are a family. Tim IS part of my family – one of my honorary brothers. Tim never even talked about his real family. I didn’t even know he had a sister and a brother until I read his obituary. He never wanted to talk about his past, so I didn’t ask him. We made our own memories to cover up the sad ones from his past. We knew he was hurting – he had stomach pain issues and even had his gallbladder removed in December. I gave him the phone number of my therapist and he said he would call her. We didn’t know how bad he was hurting, though. I got to read his note – an open letter that he left before he ended his life – and it was clear that his stomach pain was so blinding that he couldn’t imagine ever having a normal life again. He withdrew from us as friends, even though we kept reeling him back in. He said in the letter that he knew that we loved him so much and that he loved us so much. Maybe that’s the part that sucks the most… that he knew he wasn’t alone but that we might not have been able to save him if we tried even harder.

But we can’t go back in time and change things. All we can do is keep one foot in front of the other and try to learn, grow and love more. My friend family is and was my rock during the toughest of times. I don’t think I was alone for the first seven days. Between someone visiting me at the apartment, having friends sleep on our couch, making dinner together or just talking on the phone, we grieved together. Sometimes we talked about Tim. Sometimes we talked about everything else or about how funny life is. Sometimes we just cried. Now and forever, I will always love my friend family.

On the day of Timmy’s funeral, we all had a fish fry at my friend Jeremy’s house. Those that could make it into town came, and everyone brought food and beer to share. We spent about 20 hours together that day – from the funeral in the morning to the wee hours of the morning when I was a designated driver for a few people that wanted to stay at our apartment. Tim would’ve really loved that party. And I know he was there. I feel him with me all the time. Everything reminds me of him – Target, Batman, Starwars, Game of Thrones, the color purple and even cheese – and nothing will ever be the same.

My Friend Family the day of the fish fry. A few people couldn't make it or didn't make it in time for the picture, but we were all together in spirit. Left to right: Back - Hannah, Jake, Darren, (Erik) Platt, me, Katelyn, Kenny, John, Jordan, Megan, Lydia, (Jeremy) Herder - front - Joe, Dan

My Friend Family the day of the fish fry. A few people couldn’t make it or didn’t make it in time for the picture, but we were all together in spirit. Left to right: Back – Hannah, Jake, Darren, (Erik) Platt, me, Katelyn, Kenny, John, Jordan, Megan, Lydia, (Jeremy) Herder – Front – Joe, Dan

It’s gotten easier to deal with over time, just like they say. I am blessed with a support network even outside of my Minneapolis friends that sprung into action the moment I needed them. Phone calls, texts, tweets and everything else from people who didn’t even know Tim. They prayed for me, they talked to me and they shared with me how they deal with grief. Every bit of it helped. And Jake. He’s amazing. He was there for me and I was there for him, and we mourned together. We still mourn together. We keep building each other up even though we hurt inside. I am so thankful for our relationship.

Tim, I miss you. I love you. We all love you. I hope you’re somewhere starting the best collection of beer afterlife has to offer. We’re sure going to need it with all the catching up we’ll have to do when we meet again.

4. Life Keeps Moving and Good Things Still Happen

Here’s the part where it gets better. Well, you know, comparatively. Because I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression actively since I was 18, I was able to be there for my loved ones who had never experienced depression before. I clicked into helping mode, and it helped me cope immensely. This only further cements my convictions that working with charities and nonprofits is the right direction for me. I want to help people, and helping people makes me a better person. I thrive while helping people, and all at the same time I’m able to see those lessons and put them into practice in my life.

Leia has been absolutely wonderful. She likes to sit out on the porch with me and Jake on this harness + bungee leash system. It's awesome, and so is Leia.

Leia has been absolutely wonderful. She likes to sit out on the porch with me and Jake on this harness + bungee leash system. It’s awesome, and so is Leia.

My heart still aches, but the ache is a little easier to deal with day by day. Good things are happening. I’m planning a trip with a few of my friends out to explore the Pacific Northwest. I’ve had a couple of interviews. Every day is now a non-zero day. I’m reading a lot of books. I’m exercising. I’m eating well. Life has a funny way of being so terrible and so beautiful at the same time.

And I have this blog. I have my crafty friends and inspiration and love that this community provides. I’m planning to really make this a part of my life again, because I realize that I need it. I need that creative release and that time in my craft room. I need to let my hands do the talking through art and through posting. I need to share my life with you, because if I can make a difference in just one person’s life for the better, I’m happy.

I love you, and thank you for being here. And if you made it all the way through this post, I’m sending you a huge, virtual hug because it means so much to me that you read it. I know this post was definitely not fun, but this is all part of me now and I want you to know me. I want you to know that I’m an advocate and that I’m writing out a new battle plan for each day. We’re in this together. Humans are weird like that. ;)

Love,
Britta

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Distress Ink Mini Cards Video Tutorial!

Today I’m over on the Little Tangles challenge blog as their guest for this challenge. I’m so grateful to them for having me! And I have a special treat for you… a video tutorial. That’s right! I got a little over-ambitious last night and decided this would be a good time to make another card video. Ask me when I wake up after my super late-nighter if I still think that was a good idea. I’ll get back to you on that one.

Anyway, the challenge for this week is to create mini cards, and I made four just for good measure. Mini cards are so fun and perfect for making in sets, because even the simplest elements become a big deal when you’re working with a smaller canvas.

14-04-15 Distress Ink Mini Cards for Little Tangles by Britta Swiderski-5

Head over to the Little Tangles blog for more information about the challenge, including information on how to enter yourself so that you might win a Neat & Tangled stamp set of your choice!

Little Tangles Challenge 35

Here’s the video for the set. Enjoy!

watch here | watch on youtube | subscribe to my channel

Here are some more looks at the set. See the bottom of this post for a full list of supplies!

14-04-15 Distress Ink Mini Cards for Little Tangles by Britta Swiderski-1

The Distress Inks in Shabby Shutters, Peacock Feathers, Salty Ocean and Shaded Lilac are so wonderful together, and I really love using each ink in multiple layers like this – blending it on with a blending tool, stamping it on with the On the Strip 2 wide stripe and then watching it react with droplets of water for even more depth and texture.

14-04-15 Distress Ink Mini Cards for Little Tangles by Britta Swiderski-4

The Everyday Circles stamp set is also great for mini cards – it’s the perfect size to be the focal point of these little cards without completely consuming them. I loooove these sentiments stamped in the Hero Arts Navy Mid-Tone ink. So yummy.

14-04-15 Distress Ink Mini Cards for Little Tangles by Britta Swiderski-2

Also, I made a video. Did I tell you that? I know. I can’t believe it either. I don’t have any concrete plans for making a ton of videos right away, but I would like to make some more. A few of my favorites need updating, and I have some great ideas for “basics” videos that I think even experienced crafters would like. Now if only these ideas would get out of my head and onto the internet.

14-04-15 Distress Ink Mini Cards for Little Tangles by Britta Swiderski-3

Supplies used on this project: Click below to see where you can buy the products used on this project. Click on “SS” for the product at Simon Says Stamp and “EH” for the product at Ellen Hutson. I only link to products and shops that I know and love. Thank you for your support!

Shabby Shutters Distress Ink – Ranger
SS | EH
Peacock Feathers Distress Ink – Tim Holtz
SS | EH
Salty Ocean Distress Ink – Ranger
SS | EH
Shaded Lilac Distress Ink – Tim Holtz
SS | EH
Ink Blending Tool – Ranger
SS | EH
Ink Blending Tool Foams – Ranger
SS | EH
Non-Stick Craft Sheet – Ranger
SS | EH
Navy Mid-Tone Shadow Ink – Hero Arts
SS | EH
Solar White Cardstock 25 sheets – Neenah
SS | EH
Solar White Cardstock 250 Sheets – Neenah
SS | EH
Mini Scoring Board – Martha Stewart Crafts
SS | EH
Large 7mm Antique Accent Pearls – Hero Arts
SS | EH
Small Accent Pearls – Hero Arts
SS | EH

Thanks so much for stopping by today and to the wonderful Little Tangles crew for having me on their challenge this week! Make sure you head over there and see the creations the design team came up with + leave them some love!

Talk to you again soon, my friends!

Love,
Britta

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Filed under Cardmaking, Tutorials

Today is a Very Special Holiday

The best holidays are ones you spend with your best friends. Well, today is one of those days.

Feast of Thrones Invite Woodburning Invitation by Britta Swiderski

(Hand-lettered and then transferred onto this wood panel with this transfer paper and then burned in with this wood burning tool.)

Many of you may know that I (along with my group of friends) am quite nerdy and have a deep love for the Game of Thrones show/ the A Song of Ice and Fire book series by George R.R. Martin. I even have a dedicated Pinterest board about the world of Westeros. Last year, we had a potluck feast before the premiere of season three of the show, and this year, we’re making it an official tradition by hosting another Feast of Thrones before the premiere of season four.

I also wanted to mention that I’m currently doing VEDA for the second year in a row (click here to watch last year’s VEDA). It stands for Vlog Every Day in April, and I’m doing it again this year to document the changing of the times and what’s going on right now. I’m filming every day, and even though some days my schedule doesn’t allow me time to post the video every day, each day will be live eventually. I promise! Check out Day One here:

And Day Two here:

This is a great day to see what’s going on with me on a daily basis or just see what I’m up to and how I’ve changed from a year ago. :)

See you again soon with more crafty things. I’ve been making time to be creative, and it’s one of my favorite coping methods for this time in my life. I can’t wait to share more with you!

Love you,
Britta

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Filed under Life and Health, Miscellaneous