Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sunday afternoon's yoga class was just about as close to a complete disaster as they come. I felt queasy all day, but knew that I needed to at least try to go to yoga class to do some relaxation and breathing.

I got to class, still a little queasy, and sat down to do some meditation before we began. Even sitting there, I felt like I wanted to run away. I felt like I was going to throw up right there, on the mat. The music was too loud; the voices were too many; and I could not calm my mind, no matter what I did.

I got about ten minutes into the class, and knew right then and there that if I continued, I was going to start gagging, or worse, throwing up, right there in front of the entire class. Not very conducive to relaxation and rest. So I quietly gathered up my things (except for my ginormous yoga mat), and went back to the van where I promptly burst into tears and cried the entire way home.

It was just all so frustrating.

I went back to yoga class last night because, damn it, I'm stubborn, and I'm not about to let this thing beat me. I'm just not.

I felt fine when I got there, and it was a nice, small class. I got settled again and we began.

Five minutes in, my stomach started gurgling. Again.

No, damn it, I thought. NO.

I pushed through it, remembering that I hadn't actually gotten sick on Sunday - I had just cried and cried and cried.

So, since we were all there with our eyes closed, when I pushed back into child's pose and downward dog, I just let it go and started to cry, very quietly.

Someone watching me would have seen my abdomen and my shoulders shaking. They probably wouldn't have seen my face. But I just let it all go, let it all out.

After a few more minutes, I felt well enough to gain my composure when we started our standing poses. My stomach gurgled a little bit, but I kept repeating my intention to myself: I am strong in my own body. I am strong in my own body.

About forty minutes into class, Robin decided we should have some fun and showed us how to do King Dancer pose. It's a balancing pose that looks a lot like the picture I have on this blog, and when I saw her do it, I thought, geez, that's the pose they use in all those ads in Yoga Journal magazine. There's no way I can balance like that!

But, okay, I'm a good sport, and I decided to give it a go.

For some reason, I love the standing balancing poses. Tree pose is a favorite of mine - I can always seem to find my inner stillness when I do that one, grounding one leg into the floor while the other foot is tucked up inside my inner thigh. I've seen people weeble and wobble with that one, but I love it, and I do it daily when I need a few minutes of standing meditation.

So, okay, back to King Dancer. I followed Robin - stood straight, put my right hand out, grasped the top of my right foot behind me, lifted my left arm next to my ear, and pivoted ever so slightly forward...and...

I GOT it.

I mean, I REALLY got it.

I wobbled a bit at first, but then I realized it was almost exactly like Tree pose - it all has to do with balancing on that one leg, and letting the rest of yourself go.

As I extended my left arm and pivoted deeper, I felt something bubbling up inside me again - but this time, it was joy. I couldn't help but smile when I found that stability in my left leg, grounding it down through my foot and my toes and right straight down into the ground. I wanted to laugh out loud. I wanted to jump up and down and giggle and say, "Hey! I GOT it!"

Instead, I just smiled big, focused my eyes on one point in front of me, and kept working on grounding that left leg.

It was amazing.

Again, I wobbled a bit when we switched legs, but it was just so much FUN. I smiled again, grounding that right leg down through the floor as I relaxed my entire body and pivoted forward.


I felt so calm, so serene for the rest of the practice. Even in shavasana, when I couldn't seem to really calm my mind again, I was still repeating that intention: I am strong in my own body.

Driving home, I decided something: if I'm going to beat this thing, and I *am* going to beat this thing, I'm going to do it without the drugs. If I'm going to kick the whole nervous stomach thing and the anxiety and the feeling that I'm withering in my own body, I'm going to do it with yoga. As of today, there's no going back. If I'm going to do it, I do it now, or else I just give up and let myself get washed under.

Speaking of giving up...

It's been nearly ten days since I started that last necklace design. And I need to figure out a clasp. Onwards and upwards...

Friday, February 22, 2013


During therapy this week, we talked about my messed-up view of my body and my health since this whole thing went down two years ago. How I felt like my body was turning on me, and how every time I get sick I fall to pieces.

She asked me if I could remember a time when I felt strong in my own body, and I started to cry, because it has been such a long time since I felt strong in my own skin. It really has.

I told her that I could remember riding my bike as a teenager - it was our only method for escaping the insanity at home before we graduated and got cars - and how it felt to pump those pedals up and down hills, going miles and miles away from home in just a few glorious minutes. The warm summer wind in my face, how my cheeks burned from the exertion.

Then, later, when I learned how to ice skate, it was the same sensations: how thick and powerful my legs felt as I zoomed around the rink, how thrilling it was to make my crossovers when I rounded the corners, lifting my feet in those heavy, heavy skates.

Even though I love doing yoga, there are times when, as my yoga instructor says, I feel too much sensation. It's uncomfortable when I do a standing forward bend, or if I do a sun salutation too quickly, or if I'm in downward facing dog and I actually allow myself to relax my neck and head. The blood rushes to my head, and I feel dizzy, or lightheaded, or spacy.

Some of the standing poses make me feel powerful, too. But, again, there's this sensation I can't quite put my finger on, something that makes me feel as though the world is spinning around me, even though at the same time I can feel that I'm firmly grounded in one place.

I need to find a way to feel strong again in my own body, especially on days like today where everything - absolutely everything - I put in my mouth makes me feel nauseous and weak. By the end of the day, I was ready to lose it. It's just so. damn. frustrating.

But. The bright spot in my day was checking the mail, and finding that my order from York Beads had finally arrived! (Seriously. Four days to Jay from Manhattan? It's a four-hour drive down to the city. Next time, I just go pick the damn things up myself!)

I am now the proud, very excited owner of a new stash of druk beads (for use with the rest of my Twins and SuperDuos), six gorgeous strands of aged stripe beads, a hank of amazing silky gold cup flowers (the name alone just makes me want to swoon), and a smattering of the brand-new Beadstuds (two hole pyramid beads) in chalk bronze lumi! Oh, let the beading begin!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bead Soup Blog Party Partner: Tina Holden

My Tuesday morning brightened considerably when I went to check my mail and discovered that my beads for the Bead Soup Blog Party had arrived!

My partner this year was Tina Holden, from Victoria, British Columbia. She is a former seed beader who does absolutely amazing polymer clay buttons, beads, cabochons, and clasps. And, wow - I was impressed when I visited her Etsy shop, but I was totally unprepared for what she sent me:

The first set I saw was this heart pendant with  a set of beads and a handmade button. Now, I'm not one who usually likes hearts of any kind in my jewelry making supplies, but this? Yes. This. The colors and the patterns - and even the two little sparkly crystals in the heart - made my own heart sing. Plans for this set? Maybe a lovely beaded rope.

The second set, well, this is totally up my alley. Sea urchin beads (that could double as cabochons, actually), and a beautiful handmade toggle clasp in rich, coppery colors - wow! I couldn't help but think about the huge stash of real vintage seashell beads that I have, collected over the years from various sources. A huge bead embroidered collar or maybe a right-angle weave and herringbone stitch collar made with these? Maybe.

Finally, these two beautiful polymer clay cabochons with rich copper accents. My, my, my... The copper and turquoise one on the right is just begging to be paired with some vintage glass bugle beads I recently snagged from Bead Stalkers for a piece inspired by the jewelry of Tibet... Hmmmm...

Now, I can't show you what I sent to Tina...yet. But after she receives her package from me, she'll be able to post it online, and then I can show you what I sent to her.

So now, my task is to create one (or more) pieces with the sets that Tina sent me, to be revealed on April 6th. (It doesn't seem that far away - I better get cracking!) Meanwhile, I must resist buying up everything in Tina's Etsy shop and ArtFire shop, because I'm totally digging her cabochons and beads!

For me, this is going to be quite a challenge. I haven't really used a lot of polymer clay components or beads in the past, and even though I've spent a good portion of the last year experimenting with making my own polymer clay beads and cabochons, incorporating them into some finished jewelry is going to be something entirely new for me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Accapeurer de Beaute

I stayed up way too late the other night, but I couldn't stop stitching on this project.

It's like Tom says, sometimes: I think we try to do too much. There's always something that needs to be done around the house, whether it's cooking or cleaning up the kitchen, vacuuming up the balls of dog fur that collect in the corners, laundry, stacking wood, mucking out the chicken coop... But in between all that, we want to do things with Colden. We want to go birding, we want to go to The Wild Center, or maybe have a play date or go to the library.

So, we set aside the housework and the chores to spend time together as a family.

But the other night, after Tom and Colden went to bed, I went back into the living room and picked up my components and started stitching on this again. Just because I wanted to.

I was up way past my bedtime - I didn't actually stop until nearly 11 'o' clock - and by that time, it was hard for me to fall asleep. But I posted a quick pic of it on Facebook, and the wonderful Jean Yates said something to me about how she was a "hoarder of beauty", and that's when it kinda hit me: the name for the piece should be something like that.

I translated "hoarder of beauty" into French, and it came up as "accapeurer de beaute". Easy to pronounce for someone who studied French for seven years in high school and college, but not so easy for the rest of the world. So the name might just be in English when I get it finished.

I'm also working on a tutorial for this one, and guess what else? There will be a very limited number of kits to go along with it - like, I'm thinking, two or three. Kits will include Czech glass gumdrops and druks, and Toho seed beads in two sizes. (You'll supply your own needle and thread.) I haven't done a kit in a long time, so maybe it's time to whip up a couple with some of my new designs and see what happens.

Meanwhile, it's a grey, blustery, very cold day here in the Adirondacks. The fire is crackling, and I've just finished my morning cup of hot chocolate, so onwards and upwards...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Phuang malai, floral offerings from Thailand. 

I'm trying to send out small nuggets of positivity and love into the Universe today. Should you be on the receiving end of one of these, please know that I mean whatever I say to you today with all my heart, and that you are someone special to me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


It's a little blurry, but this was my drive home from yoga this evening.

First, I was thrilled that it was still light out at 5:15 p.m. when I set off from Keene. That in and of itself was enough to make me jump for joy.

But then, as I drove towards Upper Jay and into Jay, I fell under the spell of the bright pink sunset.

It was just all pink, over the mountains and the trees and the frozen river. A beautiful pink sunset. And I almost didn't want the ride to end.

Why? Because that would mean going back home, back to the fight I had with Tom just before I left for class about keeping the house tidy... Back to all the things about myself that I've been confronting lately and trying to change. Back to the battles, the imperfections, the things about myself that bother me.

Because, see, in yoga class, none of that matters. I can leave all of that behind and just focus on the moment. Robin reminds us - no judgements, no worries. We're just there, following our breath, and going deeper into our bodies, experiencing the sensations.

It felt like a very short hour tonight. I could have gone on for another hour, honestly. When it was time for final shavasana, I almost wanted to cry. I wasn't ready to come back just yet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


It's here, it's here! I finally finished the Helena necklace tutorial, but of course, the bracelet tutorial got sidetracked by my magnificent booger-hacking-illness...

This is the original piece, done with silky gold Twins, Czech glass pearls, and metallic seafoam seed beads.

For the tutorial, I worked up a second version using bottle-green matte Twins, cream druks, and metallic gold Duracoat seed beads. The big honkin' clasp on the green version came from my friend Amy at Bead & Glass Boutique - I bought a package of these clasps when I was visiting her shop back in August, and it was the perfect finishing touch for this necklace.

The bracelet is so easy to do - and the tutorial comes free to the first 20 people who purchase the necklace tutorial. (So I really need to get on that!)

Now, when I was writing this 18+ page tutorial, I realized that I needed someone to test it out for me. My wonderful friend Kristen Stevens volunteered, since she was one of the other winners of the Beads For Blog Post promotion, and late last night, she sent me two pictures of what she had done with my tutorial!
Isn't it amazing? She used transparent Twins with some lovely metallic blue pearls - it looks like a necklace meant for a princess!

Then she went and took the necklace strap and used it for a cabochon project she'd been working on:

Again, she rocked it. Pretty pink pearls, transparent Twins, and that awesome ceramic cabochon make a bold, yet totally feminine necklace.

Kristen even blogged about her work with my tutorial on the Art Jewelry Elements blog!

Earlier in the weekend, Dee "Beadee" Wingrove-Smith purchased the Helena tutorial, and emailed me this picture of her color choices. I have to say, these picasso Twins were really quite dramatic in this pattern!

I've got the Helena tutorial for sale on both my Etsy shop and my Craftsy pattern store. Purchases made from my VanBeads Etsy shop will be emailed during the 24 hours following purchase, but if you buy it from Craftsy, you can download it immediately!

Helena is a great introduction to working with Twin beads, and it lets you stretch your flat, circular peyote stitch skills a bit without even knowing it!

More later, but right now, I have a stack of writing staring me in the face that all needs to be done before 5 p.m. tomorrow... Off I go!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Evolution of a Design

You'll have to pardon the long gap between posts. Tom and I woke up on Thursday with a little bit of a sore throat, and by Friday morning, we were both sick as dogs. Coughing, sneezing, runny nose... But while Tom and Colden got better pretty fast, I just kept getting worse until yesterday, when I finally decided it was time to go see the doctor. Ugh. Good thing I did, because she gave me an antibiotic, an inhaler, and some Mucinex to help me get rid of all the crud in my chest and my nose.

But anyway, on Sunday, Tom insisted on all of us going out to the grocery store, just to get out of the house for a bit, and also because we were out of Kleenex and chocolate. When we got back home, I continued working on a batch of components that I had started a few days earlier.

This was the first incarnation. I wanted to do something with the gunmetal gumdrop beads I got from York Beads. My first idea for a color palette was to use some matte grey metallics from The Hole Bead Shop, along with some buttery-yellow lined seed beads and some white or cream.

I liked the shape of the component, as well as the grey and butter-colored seed beads, but I needed to figure out how to make the points work out evenly, and the cream was just too bright.

Next variation: I substituted the cream for bronze, and increased the number of beads around the gumdrop in the initial round so that I had an even number of points around the component.

When I posted the original component on Facebook, someone suggested that I used bicones somewhere in the design. Sure, I like bicones, but I wanted something round to pick up the roundness of the gumdrop.

Ah-ha! My favorite glass bead workhorse: the druk. These glass beads are so often overlooked when it comes to the design process, and I'm thinking I seriously need to flesh out my collection of 3mm druks the next time I make it down to New York City for a bead shopping trip.

And, sure, they might LOOK complicated, but once I got the pattern down, these little puppies worked up FAST! Each one takes me about thirty minutes to complete, so at that rate, it wasn't long before I had a dozen of them sitting on my bead board. They looked up at me and said, "Okay, now, what?"

Well, I can't go much further right now, anyway, since I'm waiting for more of the matte grey seed beads that I used in the base.

So, what to do while I wait? Well, I four more colors of gumdrops, and two colors of druks... Once I get caught up on my emails and newsletters and blogs, I'll probably sit down and start up a different colorway so that I can answer that question:

Now, what?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Don't Laugh

So, on the anxiety front, I started seeing a new therapist last night. I like this woman so far (I mean, we've only had one session), and it felt good to finally be able to talk to someone about everything that's going on.

When we started talking about my mother and her eating disorders and her own mental health issues, I found myself laughing whenever I described an event or episode to the therapist. Finally, she told me, "Okay, what you're telling me about your mother is really not funny. And I need you to make a conscious effort not to laugh when you talk about this. You do realize that what you're describing is actually very sad and very sick, don't you?"

And of course, I did. But I think for the last 30 years, my coping mechanism has been to try to laugh about it, because really, if I didn't laugh about it, what was I going to do? Completely lose my shit? Scream and yell? (There was enough screaming and yelling around my house, and I certainly didn't want to add to it.)

I told her about the time that my father called me and asked me to drive to Montreal (a couple of hours by car) to look for some Naya bottled water, because that was the only brand my mother would drink, cook with, brush her teeth with, etc. What else could I do? I called my friend and asked her to go with me across the border (this was back before you needed a passport, a microchip, and a blood sample for your firstborn to get into Canada from New York) to look for some bottled water in Montreal.

I had no idea where I was going, truthfully. I had only been to Montreal twice before, and both of those times, had been driven by someone else. So there we were, meandering along the roads, looking for little towns that might have grocery stores with bottled water so that I wouldn't have to drive all the way to Montreal.

We stopped at one small rural market and found that they did, indeed, have about 17 liters of Naya bottled water. I bought 'em all. The woman at the checkout looked at me strangely as I paid for them, but didn't say anything to me. Either she didn't speak English, or she was just being polite.

We turned around and headed back to New York, while I tried to figure out in my mind how much it was going to cost to overnight seventeen liters of bottled water to Texas. It started to storm, too, and I was trying to pay attention to where I was going on unfamiliar roads.

When we got back to the border crossing, the guard on duty asked us the usual questions: Name, place of birth, etc. Then he asked me how long we had been in Canada and what the purpose of our trip was. I replied, "About forty-five minutes. We were looking for bottled water." And I motioned to the bags of bottled water on the backseat of the car.

The border guard looked in the backseat, and without missing a beat, he handed me my license back and said, "Hope you enjoyed your trip. Have a good day."

But I really wonder what he was thinking. Like, what kind of a lunatic drives into Canada from New York to buy bottled water? If I had been him, I probably would have made me pull over and searched my ass. (Well, not literally, but you know what I mean.)

And when you live a life that's full of stuff like this, what are your choices? You can laugh about it and try to keep your shit together, or you can go off the deep end and scream and cry. I chose to laugh about it.

Now, however, I'm starting to think it might have been healthier to scream and cry. I mean, really - really. Were we all just as guilty of my mother's death at age 63 from multiple organ failure because we humored her strange, bizarre, and destructive requests year after year? Had my father left with my sister and I when we were teenagers, would my mother have died early, as he feared, or would she have come to the realization that she needed to get help?

Part of me feels like while there's no sense in torturing myself with questions like this now, I need to get them out there. Bringing them up is going to be the only way I finally deal with them.

So, while last night wasn't exactly easy, I feel like it was a small step in the right direction. After 30 years of laughing about this shit, maybe it's time I let myself cry about it for once. Right?

Meanwhile, I've got plenty to keep me busy. There's wood to stack, chickens to feed, blogs to write, beading to be done, and dinner to plan. (If I don't use that Swiss chard in the fridge tonight, it'll just go bad, I'm afraid.)

So, onward and upward...


Once upon a time, I loved to wear skirts. When I was in the fourth grade, my great aunt made me a beautiful, deep-blue skirt for a school play that  wore pretty much every day for months after the play. When I was working as a pharmacy technician in college, I wore skirts to work almost every day: flowered skirts, long skirts, pencil skirts, plaid skirts...

But living up here in the Adirondacks, wearing skirts in the winter is tough. When there's snow (which there should be through most of the winter), you really can't wear a skirt and be comfortable, even with wool tights or leggings. (At least, I can't.) Skirts just aren't practical when I'm slogging out to the chicken coop or taking Colden to preschool.

I get jealous when I see pictures of my sister wearing skirts down in Texas all winter long. Skirts up here are reserved for just a few brief months, usually between May and September, when we can go to the farmer's market and even go for a little walk in the woods in our sandals and skirts.

There's just something about being able to throw on a skirt with a t-shirt that makes me feel...well, free. Winter time up here requires layers - many layers - in order for me to maintain a comfortable body temperature. And that's even when the wood stove has the house at 72 degrees.

Sure, I could crank the heat up to 80 degrees and put on a skirt for the afternoon, but it's just not the same.

For now, I'll just have to hunker down in my thermal underwear and my fleece sweatpants and just watch the snow fall through the living room window...

Sunday, February 03, 2013


Writing the tutorial for Helena, and just taking the photos has a knot in my stomach. It's been a while since I wrote such a detailed tutorial, and I'm hoping that it pays off.

I chose a matte emerald color for the Twins, mixed with some of those creamy druks and the metallic gold Duracoats from The Hole Bead Shop.

So far, there are over 70 photographs to edit for the necklace alone. The bracelet tutorial should be easier, with less photos, and will be included free of charge with the purchase of the necklace tutorial.

There will also be a couple of options for embellishing the bottom of the necklace, one of which has me thinking of another collar design, this time with vines and tendrils made from Twins...

I'm completely enamored of these two-holed seed beads. Saving my pennies so that I can buy some more Twins and SuperDuos and druks at some point soon... The design possibilities with these beads are just fabulous, and endless!


It's true: lately, I feel as if the design ideas don't come as easy as they used to. But sometimes...sometimes, I can just let go and let the beads do what they want. And this is what they wanted to do yesterday:

 The three circular peyote components went together easier than I had expected, and I filled in the space in the middle with a little cluster of Czech glass pearls.

I had originally planned to to do a thicker neck strap, but I ran out of Twins. (Bummer.) But I discovered that the thick part of the neck strap makes a KILLER bracelet. (Photos and tutorial to follow.)

When I finished it, I was nearly dizzy with delight. This is just one of those designs that makes me think, yeah, girl, you still got it...

Trying to get a decent photograph of it at 4:30 in the afternoon was probably not a good idea. The light wasn't right, and I wasn't happy with any of the shots. But I figured this was good enough to share it with the world.

As I was taking the pictures, I thought about what I was going to name this piece. For some reason, the name "Helena" popped into my head, and when I looked it up, I was reminded that the name Helena is a Greek name, meaning "light" or "bright one".

Now I have to go back and make a second version, photograph the steps, and play with the embellishments. So many people asked for the tutorial, I think I just HAVE to do it!

Could this be what happens when I focus on my meditation and my breath and my yoga so intensely for a couple of days? To be continued...