Monday, April 30, 2012

Waiting For Spring...

I can hardly believe that one year ago today was the night before I got on a plane and flew to Loveland, Colorado to start my dream job working at Interweave Press. It was so much warmer, and much wetter, than this year. We had already had some close calls where roads were closed due to flooding, and we were having what seemed like nonstop rain.

A couple of weeks ago, Colden and I went exploring in the backyard and noticed that the buds were coming out on the box elder tree.

We also noticed some asparagus coming up in the asparagus patch, right next to the rhubarb. But alas, last night it was down in the 20s again, and the tender asparagus spears got zapped with the cold.

The forecast is calling for temperatures in the 70s later this week, and I can only hope it's correct! I just could not get warm today, no matter what I did. I finally wasted an entire hour trying to get a fire going in the wood stove, and if there's one thing that is most likely to set me off into a bad mood, it's my inability to get a fire going when I'm freezing cold.

Tomorrow would have also been my parents' 39th wedding anniversary. Mom has been gone for four years now, but it doesn't feel like that long. Sometimes I wonder if my dad thinks about her on their anniversary. True, their marriage was far from ideal, and I know he's happy now with his new partner. But I can't help but remember the anniversaries.

It also means that my birthday is coming up, too. In just ten days, I'll be 38. Edging ever so closer to 40. I've decided to do something crazy for myself this year. So, yes, on Wednesday, nine days before my birthday, I'll be getting a haircut and color. And not just to cover up the grey, either. Something a little more...daring.

I haven't told Tom about my upcoming hair color transformation. Or his parents. Hmmmm...

Anyway. Cozying up in front of the fire in the wood stove now, and Colden is asking Daddy if they can camp out on the back porch and sleep in the tent again tonight. Which will totally suck, because after sleeping in bed with Colden for the last ten days, I could not get to sleep without him last night. Ugh. Everyone was telling me how Colden wouldn't be able to get to sleep without me if I kept that up, but in reality, it's ME that's having the problem falling asleep without HIM! Ugh.

I started stitching peyote bezels around some of those new Czech spike beads that I got from The Hole Bead Shop last week. And then I thought, huh, what the heck am I going to do with them all? This afternoon, I think I found a way to use them, although the design looks an awful lot like other designs I've seen before... I just hope I'm not stepping on any toes with it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


We went back to the Cultural Center this morning - all of us - to watch the ceremony where the sand mandala built by the monks was destroyed and carried to the river.

I should say that we didn't stay for the entire two-hour ceremony. Colden was not fond of the loud music of the horns and the cymbals, and we didn't want to stay so long that he got restless and disturbed the other attendees, so after about forty-five minutes, Tom took him outside to play on the steps of the Cultural Center while I stayed inside.

When we arrived, the monks had already begun the ceremony and were saying prayers. We hung back at first, but I moved closer and Tom stayed with Colden. The Tibetan woman who owns the restaurant and gift shop downtown recognized me and motioned for me to come sit next to her, right behind the monks. Front row seat! I gladly sat and listened to the prayers for about twenty minutes before they started the actual destruction of the mandala.

First, two of the monks donned ceremonial headdresses and walked around the mandala several times, chanting and praying and burning incense. (I didn't take photos of some of the ceremony, because I didn't want to be disrespectful.)

Then one of the monks took a pinch of sand from each of the four sides, or gates, of the mandala and put them into a small brass dish. He set the dish aside, and reached under the table to retrieve two ordinary paint brushes. He handed one of the brushes to the kid who, ironically, walked across the edge of the mandala earlier in the week after it had been finished.

They swept up all the sand, moving inward from the outside edges. All the beautiful designs and intricate patterns - all that WORK - became just a pile of crushed, colored marble in mere seconds. It was beautiful and sad all at the same time.

The pile of sand was then scooped up into a receptacle while the prayers and chanting continued.

And the vase was set on the table and covered with a ceremonial cloth.

At this point, I looked around and realized that Tom and Colden were gone, and I didn't know if Colden was getting cranky or not, so to play it safe, I left the ceremony.

After we were gone, the remaining sand was walked down to the Saranac River and scattered in the water, to bring the wisdom manifest in the making of the mandala to all the creatures of the river, who would in turn pass it on to other sentient beings.

Earlier in the week, one of the coordinators of the program at the Cultural Center had said that the ceremony of the destruction of the mandala was a little bit like a funeral, and he was right. It was sobering to see that intricate piece of art turned into just a pile of sand in only a few seconds, but it did bring home the concept of impermanence.

And not in a bad way, either. All that beautiful beadwork I make? One day, the thread will disintegrate and it will fall apart. The beads will simply just be a pile of beads again. Eventually, even those beads will disintegrate or be crushed and destroyed and will be turned back into their original materials of sand.

On our way down the front path of the Cultural Center, Colden asked if we could get some of the colorful prayer flags that were hung from the building. So we walked over to the Tibetan shop down the block and bought three sets of prayer flags, two for the box elder tree in the backyard and one for his bedroom.

Tomorrow is the farewell feast for the monks at the Tibetan restaurant in Plattsburgh. I wish we could attend, but I don't think we can go with Colden. So, today will be my good-bye to the Buddhist monks, and now it's up to me to put into practice everything I've learned and been inspired by during this last week.

Friday, April 27, 2012


With all the news surrounding local school budget cuts, federal cuts in school meals for children and intense pressure from local governments to slash their work force, just to save a few bucks in taxes for residents, I want to say something to anyone who thinks that paying taxes is a bad thing.

Sure, there's waste in government, especially in OUR government. But you know what?

Public services cost money.

Read that again, just in case you missed it.

Public services cost money.

When you turn on the tap and clean, drinkable water comes out, that costs money. When you flush your toilet and the waste doesn't get backed up and flood your bathroom or contaminate local rivers and streams, that costs money.

Do you enjoy driving on roads that are well-maintained? You want to be sure that the bridge you're about to drive across won't collapse and send you plunging down into the river below?

Those things cost money.

We live in a country where we have the privilege of having functional public services. All these things we take for granted - public schools, public libraries, safe and accessible roads, public drinking water, public utilities - cost money.

When you pay your local taxes, that money goes to pay someone's salary. That someone probably works at a drinking water plant, wastewater treatment plant, electric plant, or highway department. They aren't there because they looooove getting sweaty and dirty and handling dangerous chemicals on a daily basis. They are there because they need a job.

Sure, we could take away all those jobs and just privatize everything. No more public water. You want clean drinking water? You'll have to deal with a large corporation (like Monsanto, maybe?) who only answers to its shareholders, not to its customers.

You want reliable roads? Sorry, you'll have to fill out this form and wait for a customer service representative to get back to you.

If you think you can do without public services like these, please, I beg you, go spend six months in sub-Saharan Africa where there are NO functioning public services.

No public schools. No public libraries. No drinkable water. No roads. No reliable electric service.

Wouldn't you gladly pay for these services? So what's the difference between paying your taxes and paying a corporation?

The difference is that the public government should have your best interests at heart. A corporation cares for no one.

Enough about that for now. More about beads later.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


One of the items of overly processed food that I need to stop eating is salad dressing. I know, of all things, this is probably one of the worst! To make myself feel better, I grabbed a couple of bottles of organic salad dressing off the shelves at the grocery store last weekend. But this is what the ingredient label looked like for one of them:

So, does anyone else find it amusing that after that ginormous list of ingredients full of words that you can't pronounce, it says in big, bold letters, "Contains: Soybeans and Wheat."

I know soy and wheat are allergens and things that folks with gluten intolerance and celiac disease want to steer clear of, but really, shouldn't you be worried about the vague "smoke flavor"?

Relatively speaking, this label doesn't have as many scary ingredients as some of the items I've seen at the grocery store. You read the labels and can't pronounce half of the ingredients and have no idea what they are, and then it says in big, bold letters: "Contains: Milk, eggs, wheat." I'm more worried about the fact that my kid is eating something that contains soy lecithin, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and high fructose corn syrup!

My next task for myself is to learn how to make my own salad dressings. I have to be careful with dressings that have a lot of oil in them, because my poor stomach still can't handle a nice oil and vinegar dressing anymore. But there's got to be a way to make my own honey mustard or Green Goddess dressings without having to buy them anymore.

The other thing that I worry about is that all of these ingredients were most likely processed before they were put into the salad dressing, and then they were processed AGAIN. Is there any nutritional value left in this salad dressing? Not bloody likely.

(And if the picture of the salad dressing ingredients magically disappears, you'll know that the company that manufactures it has most likely contacted me with a cease and desist letter, or some other threatening legal language.)

Sleeping In

So, in this rarest of phenomena, Colden has been sleeping through the night for the last five nights or so - as long as I sleep in bed with him all night.

Now, before anyone gets all huffy and puffy and tells me that I'm a horrible parent for sharing a bed with my child (as some did when we were co-sleeping while he was an infant), let me tell you that I have not had five nights of uninterrupted sleep in a row since Colden was born in 2008. And if this is how Colden and I (and Tom, for that matter) can get some restful, healing sleep, then so be it.

Truthfully, it feels good some nights to cuddle down with my little boy. He's growing up so fast, and it won't be long before he won't want to cuddle with me at night. It reminds me of the days when he was an infant and would fall asleep snuggled up on my shoulder after I nursed him.

And after YEARS of waking up 2 or 3 times in the night to help him get back to sleep, quite frankly, it's a relief to be able to close my eyes at 9:00 p.m.and not open them again until 5:30 or 6 the next morning!

This morning, Colden slept in until almost 7 a.m. So you better believe that there was no way in hell I was going to wake him up, even if it meant missing morning prayers with the monks. I wanted my kid to get some rest, for a change, and he woke up just as I was getting out of the shower. He was happy and woke up gently, stretching and yawning and smiling. It was such a welcome change to how he usually wakes up - crying, upset, calling for me.

I couldn't get it together in time to get to Plattsburgh for morning prayers, but I may be able to coordinate with Tom to get there this afternoon. And then on Saturday, we're going to the ceremony where they will destroy the sand mandala.

This is the idea for the bead embroidered cuff bracelet that I had the other evening after afternoon prayers with Tom. I can't show you the whole thing, but this is the start of it. The other designs are still coming, and I hope to actually have the entire thing finished before the ceremony on Saturday.

We are STILL waiting for spring to arrive. Cold again this morning, with temperatures in the 30s when I dropped Colden off at preschool. Snow predicted again for tomorrow and Saturday. The forecast doesn't call for anything warmer than 45 until the middle/end of next week!

Meanwhile, things are greening up all around us, but it's still freaking cold. Tom brought in another load of firewood last night so that I could keep the house warm while I sat on my butt and worked all day today.

In other rare news, I may actually have some time today and tomorrow to do some beading! And I need to write about some of the new glass art beads I've added to my collection lately, as well as the humongous order that I just received from The Hole Bead Shop, courtesy of their annual Tax Relief Sale and a little extra cash that I had earlier this month...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More With the Monks

I took Tom to see the Buddhist monks yesterday for him to have a pulse reading, and then we stayed for afternoon prayers. Tom was a little hesitant to stay for afternoon prayers (fear of the unknown?) but told me as we left that he enjoyed it and was glad that we stayed.

The monks had just finished the sand mandala, and were packing away their containers of colored sand when a seven or eight year old boy walked right across the outside edge of the mandala.

He just wasn't looking down at where his feet were walking - he was looking straight ahead. The room let out a collective gasp, but then the monks just laughed and brushed it off and brought out the colored sand to do a quick repair job.

And this is how the mandala looked this morning when I arrived for morning prayers:

I'm not sure if you can see it in these photos, but there is amazing detail in the little piles of sand used to construct the mandala.

I've decided that I will go to the ceremony on Saturday where they destroy the mandala and carry the sand down to the river. Someone told me that it's sort of like a funeral, and not that I enjoy funerals, but I would like to see the ceremony.

I took some more photos of the main gallery at the Cultural Center this morning, too.

This is the main altar set up with the sand mandala in front of it. The mandala was flat on the ground before it was finished yesterday, and then they placed it on a sturdy table.

These are some of the Thangka paintings that have been hung in the Cultural Center. A Thankgka painting is a Tibetan silk painting done with embroidery, usually picturing a Buddhist deity, scene or mandala. I've seen them before in the collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and they always move me. I might not always understand exactly what's being depicted (the same as I don't understand exactly what's being said during prayers), but I am moved by the work and the colors and the textures that I see.

Last, but not least, we brought a deity home with us last night, too.

Ganesha has always been a favorite deity of mine. A sort of balance-keeper in the universe, he places obstacles where they are needed and removes them when they are a hindrance. To me, he is a reminder that I should keep a steady pace - not too fast, not too slow. We found this one in the Tibetan Asian shop on Margaret Street in downtown Plattsburgh while we waited for afternoon prayers to start.

Tomorrow morning will be the last morning that I can attend prayers and meditation with the monks before they leave, so I am looking forward to it very much. It's been worth the early rising and crazy cost of gas to get to and from Plattsburgh every day. Being able to sit so near these monks and listen to them brings me much-needed calm and inspiration. When I think about their lives, I think more about my own and it reminds me to bring good intentions to all of my actions.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

But, Mom, Why Can't I?

Last night, Colden asked us, once again, but this time more earnestly, for a baby sister.

It sort of makes sense. His friends Asa and Kaelynn have baby sisters. His friend Fiona is about to become a big sister to a new baby. So he wants one, too.

Some of the reasons he gave me last night for wanting a baby sister were:

  • The baby sister could sleep in bed with him at night and keep him company so that he wouldn't have to sleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed anymore.
  • He could put his baby sister in the canoe and paddle her around the lake.
  • He could share all his toys with a baby sister.
  • He could feed his baby sister lots and lots of food.
  • He already has a brother (Moose), so now he needs a baby sister, too.
I thought it was pretty funny. Tom, not so much. I explained to Colden that it takes a very long time to make a baby sister, and he stomped the ground with his foot and exclaimed forlornly, "Now I'll NEVER have a baby sister."

 I tried to tell him that Daddy and I give every single last drop of our love to him, and that he'll have a baby sister if it's meant to be. But he still continued on about how much he wants a baby sister, until I decided that it was time for milk and juice and stories for bedtime.

I love that kid. I swear. I never know what he's going to come up with next.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Turning Western Medicine On Its Head

The roads were too crappy for me to make it up to Plattsburgh in time for morning prayers with the Buddhist monks this morning, but I did make it in time for my pulse reading.

I was very interested in this, once I learned that they were offering pulse readings as part of the festival. Those of you who have been following my blog know that I've been very interested in alternative and Chinese medicine since my illness last summer, and I'm a firm believer that acupuncture and other types of "alternative" medicine are just as, if not more, effective in treating illness and pain as Western medicine.

The monk who performed my pulse reading was the same one who led the meditation on Friday morning, so I was very happy to see him again. He shook my hand, and led me back to a little room they had set up off of the main gallery in the arts center. Next to us, two monks worked on sewing and stringing beads, but I couldn't see exactly what they were working on.

I sat down in front of the monk, placed both feet on the ground, and he picked up my left hand. He placed one hand on my arm below my wrist, and held my fingertips with his other hand. We stayed like that for a few minutes.

Now, I should tell you: he did not ask me about my medical history, my symptoms, or about anything that had been troubling me lately. He did not listen to my heart with a stethoscope, look in my mouth, my ears or my eyes. He just held my arm and my fingers and "listened". And since the cultural center did not take my name down for privacy reasons when I set up the pulse reading, they had no way of knowing who I was.

Before we continue this blog, I have to warn you: you might find the following contains a little too much information about my bodily functions, so if you're squeamish, just skip the next few paragraphs until you see the photograph.

After a few minutes, he said to me, "You have digestive problems." I nodded slowly. He continued, "You have a lot of acid, and you very often feel nauseous. And you've been constipated for the last few days."

I nodded more enthusiastically now. "That's absolutely right," I told him.

Then he felt my other hand and fingers. He continued by telling me that I had a lot of lower back pain, and a lot of tightness in my neck and shoulders. He also told me that my periods were very heavy and that I got very sick from them and had a lot of pain.

So now, I wanted to know how the hell he was doing this.

He also told me that high blood pressure and diabetes ran in my family, but not to worry because I didn't have problems with either of those. He also said that I used to have very bad headaches, but that they didn't bother me so much anymore.

At this point, I was biting my lip to keep from laughing out loud. This Buddhist monk who had traveled all the way to New York from southern India, without knowing my name, had just summed up everything about my medical history in about five minutes, just from feeling my arms, wrists, palms and fingers. Seriously?!

 Then he asked me if I wanted to try some traditional Tibetan medicine. Absolutely, I said. He went to the shelf behind him, which was stocked with what looked like dozens, maybe a hundred, little orange linen bags. He filled up three plastic bags with some pills for me, and gave me the instructions for how to take them and when to take them. He said that if my condition improved and I wanted more, I could contact him at the monastery in India to get more.

It took my other doctors weeks or months of blood tests, physical exams, CT scans, and ultrasounds to figure out what was bothering me. The "medicine" they prescribed for me made me even sicker. How did this monk figure out all of this within five minutes?

Now, there's something to be said for Western medicine. If it hadn't been for Western medicine, I wouldn't have been able to have given birth to Colden via c-section, and for that I will always be grateful. If you have a car accident, as my acupuncturist reminded me, you really want a good surgeon who can help put you back together.

But there's also something to be said for these "alternative" medicine practices. When I started acupuncture, I noticed how well I started feeling and noticed that my symptoms started to disappear quickly. I didn't have any of the side effects of the prescriptions. As I started to feel better, people started telling me that I was looking better, too.

Why are these traditional Chinese and Tibetan medical practices looked down upon by mainstream Western medicine? I read, in a report by NPR, that when a new drug is approved by the FDA, it has to be proven effective in at least 50% of patients. Compare that to studies done of the efficacy of acupuncture where it was noted that acupuncture is effective in over 50% of patients. But the difference is that acupuncture isn't really an accepted medical practice in this country. Insurance companies, except for very rare instances, do not cover acupuncture as an effective medical treatment, even though it is just as effective as the pharmaceuticals that they will pay for.

What gives? Is it because of all the big money behind Big Pharma and the AMA? Is it because we can't scientifically explain WHY acupuncture and some alternative medical practices work, even though it's obvious that they DO?

Let's face it: modern Western medicine is pretty awesome. But Western medicine tends to be more invasive and, quite frankly, riddled with flawed studies. Traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine have been around for thousands of years. Western medicine has either ignored their practices or bastardized them into some form so as to provide the greatest profit for a handful of shareholders and CEOs at the expense of patients.

After this experience with the pulse reading and the kind, quiet Buddhist monk who told me, "Don't worry, we can fix," I made an appointment for Tom to have a pulse reading tomorrow night before evening prayers. Crossing my fingers and toes and Mala beads that he gets as much out of it as I did today.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mala Beads and Crystal Clay

So, we're having typical Adirondack weather for late April. Woke up to some yucky, cold mix of snow and rain. Heard Tom get up to start a fire, but I was so exhausted and so cozy snuggled up with Colden that I just stayed in my half-asleep state.

Yesterday, Colden's friend Yossi came over and I took the two of them to the Cultural Center to see the monks and the sand mandala. We got there a little late and missed some of the painting activity, and then when the music started for the dancing demonstration down the hall, both boys covered their ears and ran for the door. Too many loud horns - the boys definitely didn't like the music!

But we got a good close-up look at the sand mandala, and I could see all of the detail, the little piles of sand that make up the designs. I showed them the butter sculptures and the colorful prayer flags that were hung all throughout the main gallery.

Before we left, I stopped to pick up a couple of strands of the Mala beads that they were offering for sale. I've never had a set of prayer beads since I gave up my rosaries when I was a kid in Catholic school, and these were just so comforting to touch. They are made of sandalwood, and they smell amazing. I set them on the side of the tub last night while I was taking a warm bath and just enjoyed the scent of them wafting through the steam...

I plan on bringing them with me when I go for morning prayers the next few mornings. There's something very comforting about them. They're smooth, but my fingers can pick up on the texture of the wood. They smell wonderful.

It started to rain on the way home, and when we stopped at Devin's to grab some milk and bread and cheese for lunch, the boys decided that they wanted to do a rain dance in the parking lot. They rain danced all the way into Devin's, and everyone who saw them just laughed. It really was adorable.

After a lunch of apples and grilled cheese sandwiches, the boys ran around like little maniacs until Yossi's dad came for him. We needed to find a way to calm Colden down, so I took out his Play Doh and got out the Crystal Clay that I've been sitting on for a month now. Might as well see how it works, right?

I'm still not sure how I like using this. It was probably harder for me since I was just doing it on my own, trying to follow the instructions in the package. I was glad that I bought a load of extra crystals and extra beeswax tipped applicators. I'll be writing up my review of the product for Beading Daily later today or tomorrow, and I'm curious to hear how other people feel about Crystal Clay. Maybe it's because I'm not really a clay person. Although I have to admit, I'm really in love with the flower ring - and that was the one I thought I'd like the least!

Nothing extraordinary on the agenda for today. Maybe a little meditation this afternoon, some beading, kitchen cleaning and laundry, and grocery shopping. Since it's such a yucky day out, I'm thinking about making us a big pot of potato and Swiss chard soup for dinner, along with some fresh, crusty bread. 

Another early morning tomorrow. I'm dropping Colden off early at preschool, then heading up for morning prayers again. Then I have an appointment for a pulse reading with one of the monks. Tuesday afternoon, if Sandy and Tom can watch Colden, Tom and I are going to evening prayers and the teaching about Taking Refuge. I think if anyone needs a big dose of inner peace right now, it's us!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Don't Laugh.

I dare you to watch this and not laugh. Once.

We used to love watching Momma's Family, especially my mother. That was some funny shit. Still is. If they made television shows like this today, I might start watching again. For now, I'll just stick with The Daily Show and Downton Abbey.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Morning Prayers, Meditation and Sand Mandalas

As tired as I was last night, I decided to take a warm bath before bed to try to relax a bit. That was a mistake. I found myself wide awake until nearly 2 a.m., and I was totally irritated when Colden decided he wanted to sleep in our bed last night. Ugh. There was no turning back once Tom was awake and taking a shower, so I got up and started getting us ready for the day.

I drove up to Plattsburgh, anxious and exhausted. Why does it always seem that I can't unwind the night before something exciting like this?

When I got there, I recognized a couple of the other folks who had showed up for morning prayers with the Tsawa Touring Monks. We sat against the wall while the monks gathered around the sand mandala they've been working on, and morning prayers began.

It wasn't like anything I had expected. The movement and the sound of the chanting monks was enough to transport me to a monastery halfway around the world, with the smell of incense and the heat of the sun coming through the windows. I closed my eyes and listened to the chants and the prayers and the noise of the instruments, and I felt the sounds throughout every cell of my body. The energy in the room was like a blanket that I could wrap around myself, comforting and soothing.

I was particularly interested in the instruments that were being played - long horns, shorter horns that had holes like flutes, drums, and bells. All were intricate and beautiful, and I wondered how old they were, and how long they had been in use. I thought about all the other times that those instruments had been used in morning prayer like this, and I felt a deep connection with the sounds they made.

Truthfully, it reminded me a bit of the church services I attended when I was a kid. The part during the Eucharist where the words were chanted and interspersed with music and singing. But this went much deeper for me, even though I had absolutely no idea what they were saying, what the prayers were for, or to whom they were directed. I didn't need to know, really.

When it was over, a few of the monks continued work on the beautiful sand mandala that they are creating during their time at the Cultural Center, and one of the monks led a teaching and meditation session. I attended the meditation session and learned a new 9-point meditation. Then I went back downstairs and watched as they worked on the mandala:

It was truly awe-inspiring to watch the intricate details being formed from tiny lines of sand. After a few minutes, a school group arrived to watch and we had a wonderful Q&A with the monks' tour guide.

The kids asked some wonderful questions, and I'm going to recount as much as I can remember about these sand mandalas, and this one in particular.

According to the tour guide, there are over 160 million designs for mandalas in the Buddhist scriptures. 160 million. And there are no pictures - only descriptions in words. So there are no visual references to these mandalas, just words to describe them. The monks memorize the descriptions, including the colors and the shapes and their placements, and then create these from memory. Some monks memorize only five or six mandalas, while others have memorized 50 or 60!

This particular mandala is being created to bring wisdom to all sentient beings. That's something I love about Buddhism - every good action can be done for the benefit of all sentient beings. It's such a generous spirit! In the mornings, the monks say a prayer to the deities asking for permission to create the mandala for the benefit of all sentient beings, and then they go to work. Normally, a mandala such as this can be created in just two or three days. But since they are doing this as part of the Cultural Center programming, they are stretching it out over the course of almost two weeks to let people watch them as they create it.

One of the kids asked what happens if someone makes a mistake when making a sand mandala like this. The tour guide answered quite bluntly, "They can't." It has to be perfect, every time. There's no way to correct a wrong color or a wrong line.

The sand is scooped up into long tubes that are wide on one end, and taper to a narrow point on the other. The monks use a small stick to rub the ridges along the narrow end to coax the sand out into the intricate patterns of the mandala. I was surprised at how quickly the tiny designs appeared! 

At the end of the creation, the mandala will sit on display for a few days for people to see. Then there will be a ceremony where the leader of the monastery will run a finger through the design, effectively destroying it, and the sand will be carried down to the river. Once the sand has been deposited in the river, the wisdom that was generated through the creation of this mandala will be passed along to the creatures who live in the water, and from there, to all the other planes of existence, including those of which we are not aware.

I can't imagine what it must look like when the mandala is destroyed. I don't know if I should go to the ceremony or not - but the whole point is to reinforce the teaching that nothing in this life is permanent. We enter this world with nothing, and we will leave with nothing. Nothing will last forever.

And yes, standing there and listening to the tour guide talk about the mandalas and the intention behind it, I did come up with a few ways in which making a sand mandala is a lot like beading!

The one thing that made me just the tiniest bit angry at this event was hearing from the nice people at the Cultural Center about how they had been unable to get any school groups to come for field trips! The school that arrived today walked over, since they are located only a few blocks away. The principals of the other schools never bothered to call the Cultural Center back. It's that kind of thing that makes me think seriously about homeschooling Colden, or at the very least, yanking him out of class when something like this is happening.

Really. I mean, here in the North Country, we don't have a lot of opportunities for our kids to be exposed to things like this, and it's just so, so important for them. All the things that those kids learned today from talking to the monks and watching the mandala being constructed and then trying the sand technique themselves - that's not anything you can learn by reading a book. It's something that has to be experienced to be learned, so that they can take it into their hearts and make it their own. It's not something that can be measured on a standardized test. It's important.

Tomorrow, I'm taking Colden and his friend Yossi up to the Cultural Center for a kids' painting activity, and then let them watch the mandala being constructed. Then I'm going back on Monday and Tuesday next week (and maybe Wednesday?) for morning prayers and a pulse reading.

More on the meditation session later...right now, I have a stack of quesadillas and some homemade guacamole calling my name.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Need An Idea?

Yes, I blog for a living. But I also get stuck for ideas, especially for my own blog. (As you can see from the dates of my last few posts.) It's not always easy to sit down and find something to say.

So a few weeks ago, I was really excited to see through Facebook that lampwork and jewelry artist Lori Anderson was writing a book of blogging prompts and ideas for creative blogging!

In my huge collection of books, I have lots of books about creative writing, back from the days when I wanted to be a poet or a writer of short stories. I turned to them when I was looking for some creative ideas for my blogs, but they just didn't quite fit.

Now, with Lori's new ebook, Follow the Path: Ideas and Inspiration for the Creative Blogger, I have fifty-nine pages of visual and verbal prompts for creative blogging ideas!

Seriously, this is one eBook that I will be using again and again and again. Within a few minutes of downloading and printing it out, I found three prompts for writing some fresh new blogs, both here and on Beading Daily! I can see that this is going to be something that I use on a daily or weekly basis.

The great thing about the eBook format is that you don't have to print the whole thing out - you can print out one or two pages or none at all. Personally, I printed the whole thing out and put it in a three-ring binder, with special holes punched in it so that it fits into my work notebook/organizer. This way, I can take a few pages with me when I need to come up with my blogging calendars and topics and refer to them if I need something to make it fresh!

Follow the Path includes both verbal prompts for creative blogging (like one word prompts, questions to answer, or statements) as well as pages and pages of gorgeous and inspiring photographs. 

Lori is already known throughout the beading and jewelry world as the woman who created the Bead Soup Blog Parties three years ago. She's got a print book coming out this year, showcasing some of the best creations to come from her Bead Soup Blog Parties.

If you blog, would like to start blogging, or feel like you need to inject some new life into your blog, you should get a copy of Lori's eBook, Follow the Path. Just check out her blog, Pretty Things, and locate the icon on the right-hand side bar. Follow the Path is available for $15 as an instant download, delivered as a PDF file and can be saved on your computer or printed out.

Happy Blogging!


Last year when I was planning on going to Chicago for the workshop with NanC Meinhardt (before I got hit with that awful virus), I was planning on adding some color to my hair in the form of a few purple streaks. I didn't do it because I didn't go, and quite honestly I couldn't afford it, either, but now that I'm coming up on one year at Interweave AND my birthday is coming up in a few weeks, I'm thinking about it again.

One of the beading artists I'm friends with on Facebook posted a picture of some new purple highlights she put in her hair, and it looked AWESOME. So it got me thinking again...

Can I pull it off?

Truthfully, I dress somewhat conservatively these days. Mostly jeans and colorful t-shirts, long skirts now and then. Would the purple just look ridiculous with the way I dress?

Of course, it's not like my hair is permanently purple forever if I do it. It'll grow out, eventually. And I might as well have some fun on my 38th birthday, right?

Like my friend said when I told her how great she looked, life is short. I  might as well book my appointment, get my nails done to match and go for it, right?


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Enchanted Evenings

A few weeks ago, a wonderful bead artist named Laura Zeiner sent me a copy of her pattern called Enchanted Evenings. I was totally smitten with the carved bone skulls, and she was nice enough to also send me a little bag of them!

Choosing the colors for this was both fun and a little challenging. Ever since my color studies with Margie Deeb, I've been trying to limit myself to no more than 4 or 5 colors in a piece. But for this piece, all bets were off! I just dove into my beads and pulled up whatever colors looked even remotely good together, and some that I probably would never have used together in a million years until I tried this pattern.

My work pad was slightly messier than usual, too:

I just spread those colors out all over! Honestly, by the time I was finished and ready to just add the picot edging around the piece, I was really, really happy to clean up all those little piles of beads. Not sure what that was about, either. I usually feel very comfortable with a big, messy pile of beads in front of me. Maybe this is the start of me finally cleaning up the OTHER piles of beads and books and clothes that litter my world!

In other matters...this morning when we all piled into the van to take Colden to preschool, Moose let out a huge burp. Colden started giggling and giggled the whole way down to Miss Mona's! That kid has the best laugh, I swear. He giggles with his whole mouth open. Added to that hilarity was the fact that he was totally bundled up to play outside in the 32 degree temperatures, and he just melted me!

Lots of meetings today, and then one more tomorrow before I get to go up to the Cultural Center on Friday morning and meditate with the Buddhist monks visiting from southern India! So excited about be continued!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

California Dreamin'

Yesterday, I talked to a very, very good friend who lives in California. I've known her for twenty years this year, and she's like a sister to me in many ways. I've only seen her twice in the last six years, but I feel as close to her as I did when she and I lived under the same roof.

She used to work at the Getty Villa in Malibu, California, an amazing museum that was built to be a recreation of an ancient Roman villa. Tom and I got to spend some time there when we were in California for his friend's wedding back in 2006. I took lots of pictures, and for some reason, this one jumped out at me today as a great color inspiration.

Look at the mosaics on that!

I remember the day we took this picture. Tom had been sulking all day that he didn't want to be in California. In fact, he had been sulking since the minute our plane took off from Albany. He didn't want to go to Los Angeles. He didn't want to go to the Villa. He was nervous about making the Best Man toast at his friend's wedding.

Finally, I told him that we needed to get out and see the Villa. He hadn't asked much about the place, and I don't know if he heard me tell him what it was when we were on the plane out to L.A., but once we got there, he was in awe. He loved the rosemary that grew wild along the walls of the place, and the outdoor fountains. He loved the arbors with the grape vines that grew and provided shade from the California heat.

This mosaic is part of an outdoor fountain. If I remember correctly, it's the original fountain, preserved through the centuries that has been reassembled as part of the collection at the Villa. It's almost overwhelming to me, the intricacy and the tiny tiles and details of the thing.

The colors of this mosaic aren't ones that I usually work with, but I have them all in my stash of seed beads. Maybe for my next project?

Monday, April 16, 2012


So, lately, I've been a worrier, as evidenced by my last post here. I worry about what's going to happen to the middle class in the U.S. I worry about how we're going to pay for college for Colden so that he has more options open to him and can figure out what he *really* loves to do. I seem to worry all the time, sometimes to the point where I make myself feel physically sick.

The other morning when I was browsing on Etsy, I came across this amazing handmade ceramic cabochon by Marianne Kasparian of MAKUstudio, and I just fell in love. Madly, deeply, truly in love:

Like I *need* any more cabochons, but there was just something about this one that made me realize I needed it. So I bought it, and it arrived in my mail this morning.

When I opened the box, I just felt this overwhelming urge to laugh. It was something else, sitting there and holding this piece in my hands and just feeling the warmth coming from it.

Of course, it was one of those moments that made me want to drop everything that I have on my to-do list and just sit and bead around it. But the deadlines, they are a-callin'.

It's just such a wonderful piece. The colors are amazing and subtle, and it's much lighter than I thought it would be. This is going to make a truly fantastic beaded necklace, and something that I intend to wear to remind myself to lighten up once in a while and to let myself smile!

Friday, April 13, 2012


So, according to the GOP this week, holding hands is a "gateway" to sexual activity and according to the Republican governor of Arizona, pregnancy actually starts two weeks prior to menstruation. Um, what? Has the entire world completely lost their fucking minds?

I wonder what Rush Limbaugh would have to say about that holding hands thing.

And as for that traitor-to-her-sex governor of Arizona, if pregnancy starts two weeks before menstruation, does that mean that every time a woman has her period it's actually an abortion? Is that where this is heading?

I love this country, but really. The day someone like Rick Santorum is elected president is the day that Tom and I pack up Colden and head for Canada to plead for political asylum from crazy, stupid, religious zealots.

Sunday, April 01, 2012


I'm happy to report that after a couple of days of having a break from bedtime, I'm starting to feel more like my old self. I'll probably resume duties later this week, but for now, it's giving Tom and Colden a chance to bond at bedtime, and it's giving me a chance to get some much-needed rest.

So the other night, I thought about setting up my monthly and weekly schedules for work, now that my goals for 2012 have all been outlined and approved. I did pretty darn good last year, but I want to do even better this year. To that end, I've decided to revamp my entire method for list-making and completing tasks.

If you're a high-end-office-supply-junkie like me, you'll probably have heard of a company called Levenger. They make some of the most amazing leather office accessories, handbags, computer bags and travel bags that I've ever seen. Note that most of these things are not necessities for your home office - we're talking $40 leather notepads, here - but they are beautiful and fun.

Levenger has this wonderful  flexible note-taking system called Circa, which I've lusted after for years. Of course, our finances being what they were/are and my inner cheapskate would never let me actually spend $100 on a set of notebooks. I mean, they're notebooks, for cryin' out loud!

Then about three years ago, I discovered that Staples has their own version of this note-taking system called Arc. Much more reasonably priced, and they offer pretty much every accessory that Levenger offers. So I splurged and bought myself a notebook, some dividers and pocket folders, and a couple of fancy schmancy little task pads that fit right into your notebook.

This week, since they were having a huge 25% off sale on all Arc products and accessories, I went back to Staples and splurged on a special hole punch and stocked up on refill paper and a 2012 planner for my letter-size notebook. I also grabbed a set of the one-inch discs that form the "spine" of the notebook and allow you to expand it as you need. After a brief session at Starbucks, I came home with a newly organized and expanded notebook, ready for me to meet my 2012 goals!

I also found a free downloadable to-do page that lets me organize all my tasks for each day, including appointments, meetings, and long-term projects.

Am I being the tiniest bit obsessive with this system? Maybe. Will it work for me? Definitely.

Being the creative sort, I very often feel like my life is getting out of control. This is my way of trying to get a handle on my projects, tasks and ideas. There are certain, concrete tasks that I must do every day if I want to accomplish these this year, and this is going to be how I do it.

Also while browsing through the latest Levenger catalog, I saw a little blurb about a book called "Making Ideas Happen". Written by a former Goldman Sachs consultant, the author aims to create a method of productivity for creative people. 'Cause we all know how organized most creative people are, right?

So I went over and signed up for the free version of his Action Method Online. There is, naturally, a paid version that gives you unlimited tasks, but the free version allows you to create up to 50 action items at one time. (And really - if I have more than 50 action items waiting for me, I'm in big-ass trouble.)  I'm going to give this all a go for 30 days and see how it goes.

My last action item for this organizing makeover? Find some cool bead stickers and decals to splash all over the cover of my new notebook.