Well folks, this saga is almost complete. Congrats to all of you who have followed along so far! There is one more installment that should get posted next week and then this chapter to the book of my so-called mosaic life can be closed for good.

To recap briefly to remind you where I left off on Part Four: After hearing from the customer about what she and her soon to be husband thought of the progress of the balls by sharing the photo on flickr that I took of the 2 ungrouted spheres, I continued cutting mirror and building up the balls. They both loved them, by the way, proving once again that actually seeing them in person, would have been best.

As I’d get two built up, I’d put mirror on them and place them aside in their 12x12x8 box with lots of plastic bags and bubble wrap inside each box so the mirror wouldn’t get scratched, moving onto the next two. It was at this point that I started grouting as each two were completely dry.

Figuring out how much colorant to use in the grout became easy because I used it in the thin set. I had it down to a science more or less with just the right amount that matched the invitation color fairly well. If each mixture was a little light or a little dark I didn’t think it was off enough to start over. When they dried, they all looked pretty darned close to the colors on the invitation.

First ball grouted, cleaned and polished leaning against the invitation I used for an idea on color (flash washed out the paper a bit but shows how close in color each are).

I worked day and night, night and day and rarely stopped. Like an assembly line of one. I had a deadline looming and I had no other thoughts.  It is now almost the end of November and I was still building gazing balls up and cutting mirror and panicking. Time seemed to loop at one point with about 2 to 4 hours of sleep per night doing the same thing over and over again.

Luckily I wasn’t needed too much around the house and with the g-kids (ages 8, 6 and 4). The fam did what they could to help me, giving me the time I needed as often as they could. They made runs to Home Depot to get grout and thin set when I needed it too – they rocked!! When I was needed to watch the g-kids, the little ones got used to seeing me in my room working on the gazing balls with the door open while they played or watched TV in the living room. Once in a while one or all would stop in and watch me work for a while. They didn’t fight too much at this point in time, as I recall … it was apparent that the stress I was under was thick enough to cut with a knife and they must have felt it. I appreciated the fact that they knew I was under a deadline although they felt the stress but didn’t understand it or what a deadline was. Even the 4 year old knew that Nana was working on a big job. They counted the balls as I was adding them to the inner boxes (to be placed within larger ones when ready to ship) once they were grouted and partially cleaned.

Around this time, I was feeling pain on my left side, from my shoulder blade down to my fingertips. Some days I wasn’t able to clean the grout off of the balls too well at all. My thought was to get them all completed, then go back and scrap, polish and clean all the grout off of the mirror that needed it on each one. I wasn’t feeling good but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was getting these gazing balls completed.

What actually happened was that I was getting the flu plus RSI (repetitive stress injury). I ignored them both as long as I could. I was sick in bed for most of a week during Thanksgiving week and although I was feverish and sicker than I had been in a really long time, I spent at least part of each day working on the gazing balls. It didn’t matter if I was too sick to function, I had to get these gazing balls completed.

Eventually, after Thanksgiving, I wrote to the customer telling her I was ill, by then our entire family had it in all stages and each of us were trying to take care of one another although all the adults were sick. She responded to the email and gave me a little more time saying she was sorry that I was sick and having to take care of little ones who were sick as well must be difficult. Out of this whole ordeal up to this point, she and I were on good ground personally.

I sort of recovered from the flu more or less after close to 2 weeks and continued on with the process of getting this job completed. My deadline was now delivery on December 15th and the customer said she HAD to have them then because she’d be working with the florist and caterer and needed the gazing balls to get the centerpieces put together, otherwise she’d have given me more time. That meant they had to leave me by the 13th to get to her in time. The wedding was in January 2012 and I know it takes time to get these things taken care of.

With no energy left but still high in spirit, I pushed through the pain, the exhaustion and the fact that I wasn’t liking what I was seeing in the finished product. I didn’t realize it at the time but the RSI (which I didn’t admit I had) was why they were starting to look so bad to me. I also think, after many years of use doing crafts and typing for a living, as well as being an avid video gamer and doing lots of other fun things, the rotary cuff in my left shoulder was now damaged due to excessive wear and tear. Plus age and re-injury after so much time is an issue as well. Ugh. There are products out there that help with these problems but they are a few hundred dollars each. They’ve been added to my wish list. Meanwhile, now that I know what I’m dealing with and admit it, I deal with the pain – complaining loudly most days, using positive reinforcement to make it less important other days.

The day had arrived when they had to be shipped out and they weren’t really ready. Half of them were lumpy, bumpy and still dirty from grout; needing a really good cleaning. Their true beauty was hidden somewhere between the uneven surface I created and the grout covering up the mirror. They were finished, but they were not pretty.

Lesson Five: Take the time to do what you must do to make the best product you can make. Even if it means walking away from it all for a while and giving yourself some rest and recoup time. If you can’t see the best finished product yourself, there is nothing wrong with taking the loss and calling it a day. In life and business, there is a time when even after doing everything that can be done, if it doesn’t “feel” right, it’s time to close the door and end the chapter. Remember if you learned something, you never fail from the experience. Sometimes walking away is the only thing you can do.

When I had gotten sick, that was the time that I should have admitted defeat. But it seriously didn’t occur to me. All I knew for certain was that I was close to being finished with this order. I never considered stopping. Not even when my health suffered because of it.

Two days before they were supposed to leave me, I had them all piled here and there and every where as I was grouting and trying to clean them. One box fell to the floor in the middle of the night (about 3 AM), an hour after I put myself to bed. I sleepily got up and picked the box up in the dark and crawled, exhausted back into the bed.

On the day they were to head on out the door, I decided to pull them all out of their boxes and get a photo of all of them together once the sun came up. So many of my friends said I should take the time to take them some place scenic or use the stairs to the apartment complex and do a complete photo session with them. Some photos should be taken with me in some of the photos with the balls, for my portfolio.

I had done that when I was building them up. I also had a few taken of my cleaning them up too. You can see my face has changed from happy to be creating to tired and being in pain. But again, I ignored it all, even the photos which were obvious to me at the time. I chalked up my puffy eyes from illness and tired looking features from exhaustion. True enough for sure.

However, on this day when they were to get packed up and shipped out, I was so tired, sick, unhappy with how they looked, I just wanted to pack them, have them gone and hope I never had to see them again. I woke up before the sun, as I had been doing closer to the deadline and tried to clean off grout that was impossible to get off without strength.  I had none left to do it, not even with my favorite scraping tools.

Before I finished my coffee that morning, I thought I’d line them up and get some nice flash shots of them before the sun was completely up.

I started taking them out of their 12×12 boxes placing them on my bed for some photos. They were clanking around on my bed and I made the decision not to take photos of more than 5 of them at the same time because I didn’t want the mirror to get scratched up by them bumping into each other.

The one that had fallen in the middle of the night a few nights before came out of its box in chunks. Oh … my … EXPLETIVES DELETED …

2 large cracks were in this ball’s grout and many small cracks were around one whole section. This was obviously where it hit the floor on the night it fell but in my sleepy state that night I never looked at it. The next day, after it fell, I hit the ground running like I had been doing for months never giving it a thought. I completely forgot it had happened.

I cursed a LOT. I even cried. I tried to take pictures of it to document that as well but the photos were unsuccessful – they were all dark as it was pre-dawn and the light I had in my room just wasn’t strong enough to pick up the cracks well and the flash made them disappear altogether so they weren’t really visible. Besides I was shaking all over in anger and upset.

really fuzzy pic but the best to show the damage done by the fall onto the floor in the middle of the night

I got right to work before coffee was in my system and mixed up some grout with colorant. What I didn’t remember was that I would have to regrout the whole thing in order to keep the color uniform. I didn’t do that. I don’t know why. I guess I felt I didn’t have time to do that, in truth, it would be only a few hours before the postal carrier would be here to pick them up. I kept hearing the internal voice yelling to myself that I was an “idiot” over and over again. Oh yeah, I can be really hard on myself, especially when I’m overly tired. That is why I meditate. It helps me stay focused, peaceful and kind to myself as well as others. I didn’t give myself time to meditate during the sphere making process, however. Perhaps if I had, I’d have handled the problems that came along slightly better.

That’s no excuse for doing a quick patch job but it’s what happened. I patched the holes with grout that didn’t look like the exact match in color – it was darker. I waited briefly for the grout to dry a bit to clean it off and packed it. I think it was two-toned but I didn’t wait for it to dry enough to find out. If I had, I still could have redone the whole thing. In the end, that wouldn’t have made a difference, but I could have done it just the same.

My daughter helped me make up the larger boxes for shipping as I printed labels and we got them all ready for the carrier to take. Before I closed them up, I added a piece of cloth for cleaning in each box. One box had a baggie filled with grout and a scraping tool in it that was a favorite of mine and once they were taped up, with tons of labels saying to handle with care, this side up only and so on, I wrote to the customer through email.

I told her she was going to have to do some of the cleaning herself and although I hated to do that to her, I just didn’t have the time to clean them properly. It really bothered me to do that. I don’t ever believe that this should be something a person does to a customer. It was basically saying: “Here … you do it … I’m tired …” but it is what I did. And I was tired.

This again goes back to the lesson I learned. I should have, weeks before this day in time, contacted the customer telling her of my continuing struggle with the bumps and building up of the balls, my exhaustion, my disappointment in how they looked. I always thought I communicated well with her but I could have and should have done more.

Not all of them were awful, really. They were all one-of-a-kind and handmade in a short amount of time! I think if I had let her know I was struggling with some of them, with my strength too, more time would be given and maybe I could have asked my daughter to help me clean them. Maybe I could have sent her the 5 I thought were good enough and continued to work on the 5 I didn’t like.

Admitting I was having problems to anyone was something my ego was not going to allow. My kids knew I was tired, but they didn’t know I was in so much pain emotionally or physically. If I admitted that I was not doing a good job to everyone, I believe, it would have been best for me. But that darned ego said, “just keep going, keep your head down, push through it, get it done, just do it.”

Getting them completely packed up was a sight to behold! These boxes filled my room as they were much bigger than the balls. I waited for the mailman and once he arrived and took them all away, I took a nap for 2 hours. My room was empty of boxes and spheres and it looked so messy and dirty. The room was still cloudy from grout dust and the carpet may never be the same but they were gone and I was free to rest!

Once I woke up, ate and realized I could now do something else other than spheres, almost a foreign concept at this point, I checked my email.

In it was a response from the customer telling me I could keep them an extra week or two if I needed it to clean them up properly. I wrote back. Too late … they were gone …

Would I have been able to even clean them or rework them at this point? Probably not … I was so tired and so physically ill, I just couldn’t even imagine having them for another minute.

I waited for quite a few weeks before I got another response from the customer once I told her they were already shipped. I learned they had spent the holidays away and had just returned to find the boxes waiting for them. She hated to tell me, but she didn’t like them and wouldn’t be using them.

I wasn’t surprised with this news. I was very disappointed in myself. I knew they weren’t the best I could do as a mosaicist but they were the best I could do with the resources I had available while dealing with so many life changes and stress. It wasn’t good enough … it was an excuse for not doing a good job and I knew it. I ignored every sign, every tingle inside from the muse and the inner voice that knows things so much better than I do. I didn’t trust the universe or the vibe or the physical body that was now broken to let them all guide me because in each case, I’d have to quit. Somehow I allowed the ego to take over completely telling myself I was a failure for everything wrong. Exhaustion and ego are good companions sometimes and why I don’t always fight the ego when I notice it. It helped my thoughts stay focused on not giving in or up – sometimes that’s a good quality to have. Strength is an amazing thing to guide me through tough times but it isn’t lack of strength to know when to stop and take stock in life’s obstacles either in business or in my personal life. It actually takes more strength to do that.

I wrote back to the customer right away in an emotional state (ANOTHER HUGE MISTAKE – always let an emotional thought simmer for a day or two if you can – what seems like the end of the world at that moment isn’t so bad after a few days) and told her I didn’t want them back because I didn’t have the room for them, they were a hassle to mail too. I asked that she donate them some where. She responded and said she enjoyed working with me even though the spheres didn’t work out. She said she would definitely donate them. And she said if I wanted to come to pick them up (only a few states away) within the next few months, I could do that too.

I didn’t respond right away and the next time I did, I had found the time to re-read the contract. I was supposed to get them back if the mosaic work was rejected. So, I wrote and said I changed my mind about the balls and I wanted them back.

I never heard from her again. I did, however, hear from her father who was, after all, the one who paid the bill for the work, through PayPal and he wanted half of his money back. Unfortunately for him, the way I was paid was in spurts for the second half which was the only amount he could request a refund for according to the contract. As the months progressed, I would ask for $100 or $200 of the final $500 as I needed it until I asked for the last of the money for packing them up and shipping them a few days before they left me. I had enough to buy a $10 bottle of wine as my payment for almost a year of work.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I was alright with that at the time, mostly because I just resigned myself to believe I could do nothing about it anyway by then. I thought to myself, just drink the wine, be glad it’s done and that’s that.

Because of the way I received the money in spurts throughout the months, PayPal denied and closed the first two requests he made. They were after the time frame for opening a claim according to their policies. But the third one was open and in need of my attention. I had to respond to it.

To be continued …

Stay peaceful.

©2012 Cindy White, EarthMotherMosaics