Friday, November 30, 2012

Surrounded By Art

I saw this pop up in my news feed on Facebook this morning, and I just thought, yes. This is why I love being in the company of artists and beaders.

We're flawed people, just like everybody else, but in general, the company that I keep are more concerned with the bigger picture than just with how much money we can accumulate. We're concerned with how other people are being treated. We go deeper, into ourselves, and come up with these beautiful works of art that we spend hours and hours crafting...

Then I realize that I am surrounded by art. My favorite old sitcoms - yes, those are art, too. The actors and actresses have created characters that I love. (I'm sorry, but even the best episode of "reality t.v." sucks compared to the worst episode of Frasier or 3rd Rock From the Sun.)

There's the music I listen to while I write and bead. Yeah, again, some people would tell me that it's crap, but it's what moves me and inspires me, and that's what art is supposed to do, right?

Even what I see when I look out the window is art. I can capture that view with my camera and turn it into a picture.

It's all art. It's all about what you put your soul into, what moves your heart to create and sing.

And with that said, I have about a zillion little threads to weave in before my latest whopper spike necklace is finished, so, see ya later...

No Macular Degeneration!

A few weeks ago, I had a killer migraine. Nothing new there, I figured it was just my hormones trying to kill me again, but a couple of days later, I noticed a strange, grey, blurry spot in the center of my field of vision in my left eye.

Not want to mess about with something like that, and since I had been told about ten years ago that I had the beginnings of macular degeneration in my left eye, I made an appointment with the eye doctor. A scan of my retina and macular area did indeed show a buildup of fluid in that area, so the eye doctor referred me to the retina specialist for a follow up. The eye doctor kept asking me how old I was, since macular degeneration isn't something that usually shows up until you're in your 50s or 60s.

There's a history of macular degeneration in my family - my grandfather eventually lost his sight to it, and my mother was told she also had the beginnings of it in her eyes before she passed away in 2008.

The appointment with the retina specialist was today, and I was more than a little nervous. I wasn't looking forward to the tests and I was afraid that I would hear that the macular degeneration was getting worse.

Well, lo and behold: in walks this Melrose-Place-hot Bulgarian doctor (probably not a lot older than me), and he takes a good long look in both eyes with those horrible Medieval-torture-bright lights, and he shows me my scans and tells me: it's NOT macular degeneration!

I was so relieved, I almost leapt out of the chair.

The scans proved it: all the fluid that was behind my retina last time was gone. The doctor said that what I have is a central serous retinopathy, which usually has an excellent prognosis, provided that I take care to manage my stress levels. (Stress levels? Me?) The cause of the reinopathy is either idiopathic (meaning that they don't know what causes it) or from a high level of cortisol in the body, usually as a response to stress. He said there was some scar tissue back there, meaning that I've had attacks of this before, but this was just the first time that I'd ever noticed it.

So, my response to the whole thing was to go out and buy myself a brand-new yoga kit: new, extra-thick mat; two blocks; a strap; a blanket; and an embroidered cotton mat bag. Because, really, I can't let this get the better of me. If my body is trying to tell me something, I had damn best take care to listen.

Monday, November 26, 2012


It's been a very long time since I went to a yoga class. I used to go when my friend Emily taught at the little "massage garage" down the hill from my house, but since she left and the space has been turned into a financial advisement office, I haven't been able to find anywhere nearby for yoga classes.

There were classes offered in Lake Placid and Plattsburgh, but really, I just couldn't bring myself to schlep 20+ miles at the end of a work day when chaos seems to reign supreme around here.

When I hurt my back nearly two weeks ago, I tried doing some gentle yoga stretches for my lower back to help, and my friend Emily messaged me that there were community yoga classes at Keene Arts in the old church in Keene every Sunday afternoon!

Perfect timing (on a Sunday afternoon, just when I need to get out of the house before I go completely stir crazy), perfect location (a short 15 minute drive), and what a beautiful space!

It was a packed class last night, and the only light inside the old church was from the candles that Robin, the instructor, had placed throughout the big room.

I sat quietly on my mat and followed my breathing for a little while before we got started. I was amazed at how easy the first part of the practice was - I'm really good with the standing and balance poses - but those seated/lying down poses that are supposed to stretch your hamstrings were a good reminder that, yes, I do need to continue my practice.

At one point when we were doing a side angle pose, I noticed that my feet felt strange. Sort of like they weren't attached to the rest of my body, and that I was sort of floating away. I stayed focused on my breath and brought my attention to other parts of my body, and after a few seconds like that, I was overcome with this sense There's no other word for it.

The rest of the practice was refreshing and uplifting. I was glad that I had my traveling bracelet with me, and I took its picture in front of the candles that were at the front of the room, directly at the head of my yoga mat throughout the entire practice.

On the drive home, the nearly-full moon reflected down on the AuSable River and bounced off the trees and the light coating of new snow in the fields along route 9N. It felt like magic, and had I been able to get a picture in the dark of that beautiful scene, I would have...

Sure, this morning, my muscles feel like they're all made of rubber. But I guess that's to be expected when I sit in front of a computer all day.

I feel like I've found a wonderful new Sunday afternoon ritual for myself. I really should have written about it last night while it was fresh in my mind, but I wanted to just savor that feeling and the whole experience for a while...

I'm feeling ready to tackle the day ahead of me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


As Thanksgiving nears, I see lots of activity on Facebook with messages about boycotting Black Friday.

This little eeCard seems to sum it up nicely for me. Every year for the last few years, I've been horrified to see people camping out, lining up, trampling and beating each other just to buy STUFF. Stuff that they don't even NEED. Stuff to just take up space in their home. Stuff with no soul, no life.

My senior year of college, I had to take an advanced environmental policy research class. It involved doing research on specific environmental issues and then giving presentations to the rest of the class, including leading a discussion about the issue. The first topic I was assigned was, of all things, consumption and sustainability.

It made me realize just how crazy and unsustainable our way of life is in the U.S. Shopping is considered a recreational sport. We lust and long for the latest electronic gadget, only to cast it aside in a year's time for the next model. We fill our landfills with garbage that will probably be there long after the human race has gone extinct as a species.

And why do we do this again?

A few months ago, I had to upgrade my cell phone.  According to Verizon, they no longer offered the plan we had under our contract, and if I wanted to renew my contract and keep my cell service, I had to upgrade to a plan that included an allowance for data usage. I could have kept my old plan - for an additional $75 fee per month, going month to month. Or, I could pay just $30 additional every month for a plan that includes 2G of data usage.

Since my old phone wasn't compatible with a data plan, I had to upgrade to a new smartphone. Which cost me another $30 up front, even though the phone itself was free. I chose an iPhone, mainly just to see what the fuss is all about.

So, it's a nice looking phone. It does things. It's like a mini iPad that I can use to make phone calls and take pictures.

But do I really *need* all that?

Seriously, I could have gotten by with my old phone. I don't *need* to be able to check my email and browse the web whenever I feel like it. In fact, I actually need time AWAY from the computer more than anything these days.

I think a lot of this comes back to the old questions, "Sure, we CAN do these things, but SHOULD we?"

I appreciate how hard the retail business can be. During the 2 years that I owned my shop, my take-home pay from that business was $300 a month, if I was lucky. I finally had to get a second job to supplement that so I could pay bills and not starve, even with Tom working full-time. Then, when I was staying home with Colden and relying on sales from farmer's markets and Etsy for my income, it was always a hard decision to make around the holidays: do I add to the Black Friday madness, or do I encourage people to stay away from the computer, stay away from shopping, and do some reflecting on what they should be thankful for during the holiday weekend?

When I was in high school, I remember going shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. Of course, this was 20+ years ago. There were no huge lines to get into the stores. Sure, the mall was busy, because lots of people and lots of kids were off from work and school, and they figured they would get started on their Christmas shopping. But there were no stampedes, no workers killed or injured because of half-crazed shoppers looking for the best bargains.

Now, with Wal-Mart paying slave wages and forcing their full-time workers to rely on public assistance programs to feed their families, I find it more important than ever for people to stop and think about what they're doing.

What if everyone stopped to think before they crushed an employee to death on Black Friday so that they could score a flat screen t.v.? What if people stopped to think before they ran up their credit cards buying useless stuff that won't enrich their lives? What if people tried to live more thoughtful lives all year long?

Not that I sell a lot of stuff on Etsy and ArtFire, but this year, I will be closing both shops down for the holiday weekend, including Cyber Monday. If someone wants to buy something this weekend, I would encourage them to do so from their favorite locally-owned business. Not a franchise. Not a big box store. Show your favorite Etsy seller some love. Go to your favorite locally-owned cafe or book store, and show them you care by spending your hard-earned money there.

Sure, you're going to probably pay more than if you shop at a big box store. But your return on investment will be priceless.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Memories and Thanks Blog Hop

So, this morning, as I'm knocking things off my to-do list left and right, squealching down the panic at the idea that Thanksgiving is in just a few days and I have to start cooking, and trying to recover from a weekend where I threw my back out and had to play Single Mom while Tom was away, I took a few moments to sign up for Lori Anderson's Memories and Thanks Blog Hop.

Lori wanted to do something to honor the memory of a friend she had never met, and she decided to host a blog hop where participants create a piece of jewelry to tell the story of someone who inspired them or meant something to them. What a wonderful idea!

The blog hop itself isn't until after the holidays, and sign ups run until the 29th of November. Just click on the picture, read through the text, and click the link to sign up. No exchanges are necessary for this blog hop - all you have to do is create a special piece of jewelry.

For me, I'm hoping that doing this blog hop will give me something to think about when I feel like my to-do list is getting the better of me and I'm feeling overwhelmed by the holiday season. It'll give me something to do when I need to take a few minutes to step back and think about what I'm really thankful for, in the midst of the driving and cooking and wrapping...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I'm feeling sort of lonely today. Yes, it's nice to have the place to myself sometimes, and most days, I love the solitude of the fireplace and the radio and having Moose all to myself. But today, I'm just feeling lonely, and I wish Tom could come home from work early, even if it means he's just going to sit next to me and watch movies on Netflix while I work.

We found out yesterday that his co-worker's stepdaughter, who is in her late 20s and has a daughter of her own not too much older than Colden, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Lymphatic Cancer after having a lymph node removed a couple of weeks ago. We're crossing our fingers for her - after living a rather wild life for most of her teenage years, in the last few years, she has settled down, quit smoking and cut out alcohol, and has been working at being a responsible mother to her daughter.

It just gave me a chill when Tom told me on the phone. This is the second person this week that I know who has been given a diagnosis of cancer. What's going on here? Does anyone else seem to think this is a horrifying epidemic we're experiencing in this country? Why are so many young people being diagnosed with this disease?

Artistically, I'm feeling sort of stumped this week. I'm so, so close to finishing my next spike bead necklace so that I can move on and finish two more pieces before my November 30 deadline with my friend Sue, but there's just this sort of...inertia when I sit down to attach the components. It really doesn't take me too long to do each one, but I just feel as though there's something holding me back. I don't know what. Maybe it's my fear that once I complete this piece, I have soooooo many other pieces that need/want my attention. And deadlines. Lots and lots of deadlines...

Whatever it is, I need to focus this afternoon and get my act together. No sense in letting the anxiety get the best of me. I'm too busy for that shit right now. Forward.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Yep, today, I gave up. Retreat. Backed away from what I was doing with this piece. I thought I was going to connect these spike components so that they would be vertical, but after connecting about six of them, I realized that I hated the way it looked. It wasn't comfortable. It didn't lay straight. And it was awkward when I tried to hang the pendant.

So, bah. Better to tear it apart now and come up with something else than to forge on ahead and realize that the idea should have been scrapped earlier.

Instead, I'm falling back on one of my favorite bumpy herringbone ropes, and I'll sling them over the flat, straight parts of the rope and let the bumps hold them in place. It works much better, lends itself to embellishment much easier, and makes it easier to hang the pendant.

I'm also just feeling a need to retreat from things and people today. This thing with the grey fuzzy spot in my left field of vision is driving me mad. I don't have my appointment with the retina specialist until the 27th, more than two weeks away. As always, the lack of information is causing me incredible anxiety. The eye doctor did say that there was some fluid building up in that eye where they diagnosed me with the beginnings of macular degeneration seven or eight years ago. But he didn't know if this spot was from that, or from that last whiz-bang migraine, or what. Is it weird to hope that it's "only" from the macular degeneration?

I also have not recovered from the stupid upper respiratory bug I came down with last weekend. It's gone straight to my chest, and last night, after spending the afternoon beading with my dear friend for the first time in over a year, I discovered that I had completely lost my voice. Completely. It hurt to talk. I tried to keep my speech to a minimum today, and it's a little better, but it still feels like I have to force my words out of my vocal cords. Ouchy. (Which is why Tom is reading to Colden for bedtime tonight.) When I woke up this morning, I had a wicked headache and a chest full of hot phlegm. Great way to start the day, right?

For now, it's time to get into my comfy jammies, smear some Vicks on my chest, and try to get some rest. I've got three new books on the iPad to choose from tonight, and my pillow and warm flannel sheets are calling to me...

Thursday, November 08, 2012

9 Years

Yep, that's us, nine years ago tonight. It was 19 degrees, and it snowed a bit, and there was a full eclipse of the moon that we all trudged outside to see, still in our wedding regalia.

When I reminded Tom that we have been married for nine years tonight, he couldn't believe it. "It doesn't seem like that long," he said, even though we now have a house of our own, a son, car payments, and laundry to do.

True, there are still times when we find that we have a few minutes to ourselves, and it feels like we just met. We're still finding things out about ourselves and each other. Keeps life interesting.

I suspect that tonight will be just like any other night around our house, except with an extra glass of wine or two. Colden will go to bed after dinner and a bath, and maybe Tom and I will curl up in front of the wood stove, or in front of a movie...

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Waking Up in America

This morning, it feels good to be waking up in America. Not only did women oust the misogynist GOP representatives who yammered on about "legitimate rape" and a pregnancy resulting from rape being a "gift from God", but Barack H. Obama won a second, well-deserved term as our President.

Now, don't get me wrong. If you voted for the other guy, I still love you. But if you think that Obama only won a second term because of all the "freeloaders" who voted for him, I suggest you go for a walk in the world this morning.

I live in a part of New York where there are many, many people who receive some form of government assistance through food stamps, supplemental or disability income, or housing subsidies. When I look around my community, do I see a bunch of freeloaders?

No, I most definitely do NOT.

I see men and women who work at jobs that are physically demanding, day after day. I see men and women who work to support their children and their families. I see men and women who work two and three jobs to try to make ends meet. I see men and women who do whatever they have to to keep their homes warm during the long, cold winters up here. And I see men and women who desperately want to improve their situations and not have to rely on those government "handouts". I see men and women who WANT to be self-sufficient, but who have not been provided with the necessary tools and basic human requirements (health care, living wage) to do so.

Surely, these cannot be the "freeloaders" who rely on their government assistance because they're too lazy to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Can they?

So, America, take a deep breath. Smile at someone today, because you never know what battles that person is fighting. Go for a long, slow walk. And most of all, appreciate the fact that you are waking up in America.


I was fascinated by this book that I saw on Amazon a few months ago. Amulets: Sacred Charms of Power and Protection is a great overview of how magical objects are used by cultures throughout history and around the world.

My first glance through this book resulted in several new ideas for beaded jewelry designs, and as I'm thinking about what I want to accomplish in 2013, I'm thinking that maybe a series of beaded jewelry or beaded objects based on the amulets in this book might be just the thing.

Fascinating to read about all the different objects, both man made and natural, that have been used throughout history as protection against the dark magic and bad luck. Beads play a prominent role in many of the amulets pictured and discussed in the book.

A quick read, inspirational, and perfect for someone looking to incorporate some magic into their beading and jewelry making projects!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Where Am I Going?

A couple of weeks ago, I finished my Artist's Way journey for something like the tenth time. I love going through the tasks and readings in The Artist's Way, because every time I do, I find something new in my creative unconscious.

This time, I woke up one morning shortly after completing the last week with this urge to create a bead embroidered doll. I've seen lovely bead embroidered art dolls everywhere in the last few years, and now I want to make one to be a companion for me during my travels and my whole beading journey in general.

I have no idea how to start, but I do have some sweet polymer clay faces that I made with Colden a few weeks ago. Those will probably be a good starting point. And I have a few pieces of Ultrasuede that will make a nice doll...and Lord knows, I have enough polyester stuffing that I've been hoarding in the basement since we moved in back in 2003...

The other adventure upon which I'm embarking is my collaborations with my insanely talented friend, Susan Tompkins. Sue is working on some paintings using Nicole's Beadbacking, my favorite bead embroidery medium, which apparently can be painted on like a canvas. When Sue is finished, she's sending me the pieces so that I can add bead embroidery, bead-weaving, and whatever else I can think of. Maybe some fringe?

It feels as though my direction for 2013 is going to be more explorations with non-wearable beaded art. Beaded dolls, wall-hangings, beaded should be interesting. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 04, 2012


The other day, in honor of NaSeBeMo (National Seed Beading Month), I decided to take a little bit of a long lunch break and finish my latest bead embroidery cuff bracelet, Gorn.

For anyone who is wondering, yes, I named it after that race of green reptilian creatures from the old Star Trek episodes. Not that I'm a huge fan of Star Trek, mind you, but the bottle green of the glass in the handmade raku MAKUstudio cabochon and the mottled bottle green of the glass spikes from York Beads just called to me. I paired them with a piece of that fabulous tilapia fish leather that I got from Nature Beads at Bead Fest back in August. It just sort of came together all by itself.

This was one of those designs that I went over in my head about a million times before I just decided, to hell with it, and I pushed aside the other sixteen beading projects I have on my trays and pulled together the materials for this one.

A tip to anyone who has some of the tilapia leather but hasn't used it yet: get yourself some glover's needles before you start stitching on it. That fish leather is just as tough as regular cowhide leather, and I actually BROKE a Tulip needle trying to stitch through it.

Choosing the method for edging the cuff was hard. I had thought about doing a whip stitch with seed beads, but didn't like the way it looked. It was just too busy, and detracted from the cabochon and the spikes.

So, in the end, I decided to go with my usual brick stitch edging, and I was quite happy with the results.

Wouldn't you know it: during our trip to the thrift shop on Saturday to stock up on more little "stay in your own bed all night" toys for Colden, I just happened to find *the* perfect sweater to go with this cuff. Yes, I thought about listing it in my Etsy shop...but when I tried it on, it just fit so perfectly on my wrist that I knew there was no way I was going to part with this baby.

Now, totally inspired, I spent part of yesterday working on my next spike bead project: a necklace using double-pointed spike components with a large, beautiful, gemstone pendant. I got sidetracked, however, by a kid who needed help pooping on the potty, followed by - what else? - the second stomach virus passed on to me by my dear husband in as many weeks.

More on the next spike bead project coming soon...