Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Beading Anxiety Redux

I mostly love the jewelry that I produce. My background in spinning fibers helps me bring an unusual perspective when it comes to combining color. I love the varying finishes, sizes, textures, and shapes of various beads. I love that I seem to excel at this where in other crafts, my output was adequate but not prize winning. Not that I've won any prizes for beading either; I've not entered any competitions. I don't, at this point, intend to. But I look at my work and know that it is better than average.

In all my pieces, I invest my time, my skills, my eye, and my passion. But there is an occasional piece that I invest further in. I invest my heart. This is one such piece:

I've worked on this for over a year. In all honesty, I envisioned it in January, 2008, and started it then. Then I became so sick that there was no way that I could continue on it. My brain was misfiring; I wasn't capable of stringing a thread of plain beads let alone allowing my body to channel whatever it is that allows me to make bigger investments and take risks. I lay in bed for a year before being diagnosed with a combination of very rare bacterial infections that, once finally identified, were cleared up quickly.

I finished another piece and delivered it to it's owner, then a couple of weeks ago, picked this one back up again. It's beaded embroidery, and the embroidery portion is done. Now I have to cut it out, line it with leather, edge and fringe it, and make the collar of the necklace.

I'm scared. It's unusual that I should say this, but I'm frightened to cut it out and continue. This is a point in my work where a mistake cannot be corrected. At least I don't have the background and skills to correct it if it does occur.

So I think I will let the piece sit for an hour or two. Take the dogs for their walk. Maybe do my marketing and pick up multiple prescriptons for myself and Cosmos. Then come back and pick up the scissors.

This piece is crying to be finished. I would like to complete it within the next week.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Where's Rhino?

9:30 PM - No action in Rhino's cage. As I am prone to, I peer in the side nervously. Don't see Rhino. Imagine what it will be like to tell Gabby that yes, I confiscated her hamster because she wasn't taking proper care of him, and now - on my watch - he is dead. I blow on the tiny lump of fur in the far corner who's coat blends so beautifully with his litter that you can barely see him. He awakens and glares at me. If my hand was in the cage, he would bite me. No kidding.

10:30 PM - Eric calls. I am just finishing up pilling my dogs for the night. As I talk to Eric, I walk to the cage and discover Rhino is now awake, on the second level of his condominium, eating dinner. He - Rhino - looks at me, runs back down to the bottom level of his cage, and comes to the front door. I grab his hamster-ball, put him in it, and release him. He runs by Cosmos who is at first startled, then follows the ball to the hallway, then thinks better of it, looks a little disturbed, and rejoins me in the dining room.

10:35 PM - Eric warns me not to let my dogs get Rhino. Rhino rolls into the studio where I now am sitting, and bumps into Sunny's foot. Sunny, sleeping, is at first startled, then intrigued by this small animal who has presented himself. I assure Eric that I think Rhino can take either or both of my dogs at this point.

10:50 PM - I hang up the phone with Eric, and work a little more on the necklace/earrings that I am almost done embroidering.

11:15 PM - Cosmos is ready to go to bed. I put him in his (our) bed, then go to the living room to turn out the lights. Discover Rhino's open cage, and realize that I have forgotten him. Listen for the sound of the ball rolling. No sound. Check around the living room including underneath the furniture. No hamster. Check in the studio and the bedroom. No luck.

11:18 PM - Think "Oh Shit!" to myself, notice that Sunny is now in bed and looking oddly contented. Like he had a late night snack. "Oh Shit!"

11:19 PM - Run through the living room, dining room, and kitchen again, to no avail.

11:20 PM - Check the studio and the bedroom. No hamster.

11:21 PM - Check the front door. It is closed. Look at the coat and hallway closets. They are closed too. Think to myself that if Sunny had eaten Rhino, he is not that subtle. There would be pieces of plastic ball in a pile somewhere.

11:22 PM - Check the studio and the bedroom again. No hamster.

11:24 PM - Think about the situation. How am I going to explain this to Eric, let alone Gabby? Eric warned me!

11:25 PM - Decide that I am nuts. The hamster is around somewhere. He is prone to exercising like crazy for a while, then going to sleep. He's probably taking a nap somewhere.

11:30 PM - Still looking for the hamster. Still listening for the hamster. Remembering from when I was a child and had hamsters of my own. Loose hamsters always tuck themselves behind the largest piece of furniture in the house.

11:32 PM - Look under the sofa again. No hamster.

11:33 PM - Head towards the sideboard. Notice that there is something odd about the dining room table. Hamster - still in the ball - is stuck between the leg of the table and the leg of one of the chairs.

11:33.5 PM - Fearfully approach the ball, worrying that Rhino is dead in the ball. How would I explain it to Eric and Gabby?

11:34 PM - Find Rhino alive and well, desperately trying to dislodge his ball and start rolling again.

11:35 PM - Rhino is back in his cage, happily running on his wheel. I take a Xanax.

11:40 PM - Typing this recitation...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Yes, We have no bananas...

I mentioned on Thursday that Eric was to come over on Friday night. He did, and we went on a quest to replace my refrigerator with something that actually fit into the slot for which it was intended.

I've always had good luck buying major appliances from Sears. We went to their Northridge location to make the buy. In addition to the 'fridge, I was also going to buy a dishwasher. An easy sale for anybody there who would like to close a deal. After all, as I reminded Eric before we went there, I really don't like to shop.

Upon arrival, we head down the escalator to where I 'knew' the appliances were kept. Eric practiced his hard-line negotiating face for me.

My man. I think I'll keep him. He can drive a very hard deal!

But when we arrived in the basement, there were no appliances! Just hardware. It seemed that the appliances had been moved out of the basement up to the third floor...

which was not as much of an issue as I thought, because Eric's hard-line negotiating face (read laugher between the pictures) became much more practiced with each level we ascended.

At last. Bonanza! The appliances, and the site of my major purchase.

I was happy to find many refrigerators that would fit my bill, and some of them were even in my price range. Most of the department was on sale. (Later, Eric read an article saying that the world refrigerator market is down as a result of the economy, so it shouldn't have been a surprise.)

Even better, all of the appliances boasted "Next Day Delivery." That was great because I really wanted everything in place before the "Fab 4" reunite next week. What a change for the gals if my condo was actually repaired and fully functioning. They've never seen it that way!

We met "Don," our salesman for the evening, who quickly sized up my requirements - basic white refrigerator, ice maker (I've never owned a refrigerator with an ice maker...), no other bells or whistles. He showed us to this model, which as far as I was concerned, was perfect. "I'll take it!" No muss, no fuss, no messing around.

But when we went to make the buy, there weren't any in stock. No matter what, they could not deliver before March 26. The day after the girls arrive. I looked at my calendar in front of Don. Showed him my schedule, and told him there was no way I was having company in from all over the country and making them wait through a four hour window for an appliance delivery. "That's a deal breaker," I said.

He responded by showing me this refrigerator. $40 more, smooth finish instead of varigated ("Higher end" he said), and I liked it too. "That one's fine. I'll take it."

But when we went to the computer, that one wasn't in stock either! Apparently, there is a refrigerator shortage at Sear's warehouses. "Manufacturing issue," Don muttered, clearly upset that he was about to lose a commission. He showed me a slightly lower-line refrigerator, but I didn't like it. The shelves were not only not spill-proof, but not adjustable. There was nothing he could do.

So, to cheer me up, Eric played with the cardboard food displays that one of the refrigerators held. Pizza. Just like his house, he assured me, except at his home, all the pizza would be cheese.

And as we tried to leave the store, we found out that not only did we not get the appliances, but they had closed down and locked up too. Check out Sear's Northridge security system!

A piece of wood in the door.

So what am I going to do? I've already talked about it with Beth. I'm going to go back to Sears in a couple of days, as Don suggested, and see if they might have gotten their refrigerators back in stock early. If not, I'm going to go ahead and order one - and the dishwasher too - to be delivered the day after the gals go back home.

It will soften the blow of their departure.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Weighty Woes

I'm up again in poundage. I know. It's not acceptable on so many levels.

It's not acceptable because what clothes still fit - sort of - are tight, and I cannot afford to buy new ones.

It's not acceptable because I don't feel as well at my new number.

It's not acceptable because I will be / am pressured by outside forces to keep my weight down as an "inspiration" or an "image."

It's not acceptable because I don't like myself so much at the newer size.

It's not acceptable because the statistics show that those of us who lose significant weight and put it back on are unlikely to lose it again.

It's not acceptable because my mental set at my former horrific size, was a horror and an abberation that I cannot live with again.

So what is the cause? What to do?

Well, the causes are multiple. A year of living sickly. Stress as Cosmos is slowly losing is battle for life, an Sunny is clearly approaching the final battle too. Stress eating in a wild way every time I"m forced to give Cosmos an IV, even though the last few have clearly gotten easier for the both of us.

And, as I was thinking yesterday and last night, I'm tired. I used to cook for myself. Incredible and healthy meals. Meals for which I became somewhat famous. But I've fallen out of the habit of cooking. Why?

Well, for one, I'm cooking my dog's meals now, and it's really hard work and they don't like what I'm making and it's damned depressing to see your sick dog getting thinner and thinner and to know that if you don't force what you're making down his throat, he will sicken much more quickly and die sooner. What I have to make for them is hard work. I"m tired after I'm done.

Another issue is having taken on so much more. I'm in exercise class six days a week now. While it's really helping me on one level - my muscle tone is definitely coming back - it's bad because by the time I get home from there, I'm exhausted (read I'm still really not well and it doesn't take that much to tire me out) and don't feel like starting in in the kitchen.

Yet another is my kitchen itself, which I will be taking a big step to resolve tonight. The appliances are mostly bad. The cabinets are falling apart; some of the drawers are broken as are the doors to the cupboards. The sink leaks. It's really not much fun to cook in there anymore. But I had a small windfall of money hit my door at the beginning of this week and will, tonight, be buying a new refrigerator and dishwasher, and then contracting with a handy man to fix most of the rest of what ails it shortly.

While I was sick, I was too sick to cook, and fell into the habit of eating processed foods. I have not shaken it yet.

And finally, food records / disappointment in myself and others. I gave up keeping food records quite a while ago, and I think that was the beginning of this downward spiral. I tried a couple of times to pick them back up; just didn't have the motivation to get them going without some sort of accountability. So I asked a 'friend' if I could start turning them in again; he all but refused the request immediately, and when I actually did one after I bullied him into agreeing to look at them, he threw it aside rather than reading it. That hurt me and I didn't do it again. Stupid me.

And then there is the eating out. I've had so many meals out of my home in the last month that my head spins when I think about it. I need to cut it out.

Finally, pretty-much everyone around me is struggling with their weights again too. It's hard not to be influenced by that; to know that if they're gaining, why am I struggling so hard to maintain?

All of these are reasons. Excuses too, but reasons for my present physique.

It's easy to feel really bad about where I'm going, and I do. I feel just awful! Not embarassed yet, although that's not going to be far behind if I keep this up, but terrible. Stupid. An idiot with an IQ of about 10.

I know what I need to do. I need to go to the store, buy all sorts of healthy foods, and pre-prepare them. Cut them up into containers so that when it is time to cook, they're ready. I need to make my own "processed foods," things like cous cous and vegetables, pre-made salads, etc., so that they're ready when it's time to cook. I need to focus on what I am eating and keep records, not to make myself guilty, but to know what I am doing and where to focus to make changes.

Am I strong enough to do this on my own? Because I am on my own where this is concerned. I have no role models; I have no encouragement. All I have is my own force-of-will to try to straighten this course out again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Oh my! But I've been struggling with getting clear images of my bead work. Sometimes my pictures come out well, but more often than not, they come out like this:

And I couldn't figure out what the issue was. I'd shoot in natural light inside my condo in the day.


I'd shoot inside of my condo with artificial lighting at night.


I'd shoot outside during the day.


I tried a lightbox and the results were still awful.


I mounted my camera on a tripod so that it wasn't shaking when I pushed the button.


I tried close up shots, far away shots, cropped shots. Every kind of shot that I could imagine.


But amongst all the attempts, I was getting occasional clear pictures of my work.

What was the issue? My camera is a point-and-shoot model; I wasn't varying the settings much, if at all.

Beads are beads, and lighting is lighting. The tripod, admittedly, helped, but not enough to account for this much difference.
So I went to sleep on it last night. Thought the issue through really hard. And the solution came to me.

Maybe not all colors are meant to be photographed against black. Maybe my background was messing up the image, which is reflective under the best of circumstances. So I brought out some of the colored paper that I used to shoot against when I was still making things difficult for myself, laid it out on my dining room table with the blinds behind me closed, but the "other" blinds in the living room open. Mid-to-late morning, so my condo was sunny and bright even with the one blind closed. And shot the same earrings again.


(All work pictured here is now available in my on-line Etsy Jewelry Store.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shoe Candy

A couple of years ago, I started beading and making jewelry. My first class - taken at a weaving conference - was one in which we used Nymo Nylon Cord to make tassels and bracelets. I'd always loved fiber arts, but lamented that I was a competant spinner, nothing more. Where many of my friends excelled at it and won all sorts of awards, I was recognized for innovative design and color sense, but my technique? Adequate. Definitely not prize winning.

At conferences, I always took several classes on topic, but made a point of taking one class each time on a "weird" subject... about anything that might sound interesting or different. It was providence the day that I took beading. I felt like I was coming home.

I made a lot of jewelry using the technique that I had learned; sold my first pieces and discovered that rather than feeling awful when I let something I created go for simple dollars, I felt elated. Not so much for the money although I admit that it was nice too, but for the validation as an artist. I was finally making something worth paying for.

As my skills built, I started having a lot of leftover materials. When fingerweaving Nymo thread, you generally end up with several waste ends a yard or more. Not enough to make more jewelry with, but too much to throw out. As my stockpile built, I felt like I needed to make something. But what?

And then it occured to me. I knew how to make tassels. What if I was to make small tassels to adorn my exercise shoes? Would they be cute? Would they be durable enough? Or would they fall apart after a wearing or two?

And so Shoe Candy was born. The picture above is my first set; rather than falling apart on impact, they have outlasted many pairs of sneakers. When it's time for new shoes, I take them off of the old pair and put them on the new. They attach via a small loop at the top through which you weave the cross of your laces.

I've had a lot of compliments about them over time, but it was only about a week ago that it occured to me: I had a product here that was cute and different; something that did not require sizing and would not grow out of style. I should make a bunch up and sell them!

And so the process has begun. I've made three sets so far. I'm going to make up a dozen or so of them, then list them for sale in my Jewelry Store. At $25 per pair, they are made to last for years and cost no more than an inexpensive pair of earrings. I hope that they go over well.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

When Worlds Collide

Cosmos, meet Rhino.

Rhino, meet Cosmos.

We are not so old and sick yet, that a hamster introduced into our bed does not capture the imagination.

Friday, March 6, 2009

But wait, there's more!

def: Joke (Jok), n., v., joked, joking. ----n 1. a short humorous anecdote with a punch line. 2. anything said or done to provoke laughter or cause amusement. 3. something amusing or ridiculous

def: prac tical joke. n. a playful trick, often involving some physical agent or means, in which the victim is placed in a disadvantgeous position.

def: funny (fun e). adj., -nier, -niest, n., pl -nies, adv. ---adj 1 providing fun; amusing; comical: a funny joke. 2. attempting to amuse; facetious. 3. warranting suspicion; underhanded; decetiful

def: punch line, n. the climatic phrase or sentence in a joke, speech, or humorous story that produces the desired effect.

* * * * *

Have you ever watched a train-wreck in progress? Have you ever known that you were the butt of laughter, and couldn't do a thing to stop it? (And even if you could, why would you because it actually is very funny?)

Have you ever seen a prank building up, growing bigger than the prankster ever intended, not malicioius at heart, but instead in good humor and with good (sort-of) intentions?

* * * * *

Have you ever watched something that you started at a whim without planning or premonition, take off like a lightning bolt and succeed wilder than your wildest imagination?

Have you ever anticipated a punch line so ambitious that you don't know if it will really happen the way you intended, but if it does, you can never top it?

* * * * *

If "you" are reading this, be forewarned. You only *think* you've seen as good as it gets!



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name

It's no secret that I love Richard Simmons. He has impacted my life in so many profound ways that they're too numerous to count. By the same token, I recognize that he elicits strong reactions out of many people; most of them positive, but some of them negative too. Mostly the negative ones are by people who just don't get him and what he does.

I know some of 'those' people. I know what they are saying. In all honesty, they don't matter except that they occasionally use names other than his given or chosen one, and descriptors which I am compelled to argue with. And in the end, they can't argue with what he has done for me and my weightloss success story. I owe a lot to Richard.

I've spent the last week-and-a-half helping Eric move Anne, his Mother, into her new apartment. She lived at her house for the past 40 years, so even as all of us are traumatized by moving, she is more so. She is 87 years old and set in her ways. She knows what she likes, she knows what she wants. And today, we were searching for something she wanted.

A Photograph. Not just any photograph, but one of Gabby (Eric's daughter and her grandaughter) with Richard. It was taken last summer during Gabby's first trip to Slimmons, and it's adorable if I have to say so myself. Having a copy means a lot to Anne.

I knew that we had moved it; I remembered putting it someplace safe so that it would be accessable when we got to Anne's new home. That, and a bazillion other photographs new and old, of family and friends. But she really had this particular picture on her mind.

"I want that picture!" she exclaimed.

"Which picture?" I asked.

"The one with Gabby."

I knew that there was more than one picture of all of Eric's kids in the boxes, and so I wasn't clear which one she was looking for.

"You know which one... the one with Gabby and that man!" she stated in a threatening tone.

"Huh?" I still wasn't clear which one she was talking about.

"That PICTURE!" she cried, with exasperation in her voice. She clearly could not recollect the name of 'the man' in the photo but knew what she wanted. "THE PICTURE OF GABBY WITH THAT WORLD FAMOUS DANCER!"

"Ok." I replied. "Got it!"

Richard has been called and classified as many things within my earshot and in my world, but this was a new one on me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Last Saturday I attended my Spinning Guild meeting. It has been a long time since I last attended, and much longer still since I attended regularly. But with my improving health, I thought it was time to catch up with old friends. And so I went.

I arrived late; the meeting portion was already over. Looking around the room, I saw all sorts of people that I was very happy to see! Carol, Janet, Dave, Karen, Elena, Lisa, Mariko, etc... I was surprised at how happy they appeared to be to have me turn up. There were hugs all around.

I've really aged in the last year. Others tell me that I'm really no different than I used to be, and that I look great, but I know the difference. I've been attributing it to severe illness although Mom pointed out to me at one point that I was over 50 and what did I expect? I don't know, but my face is starting to sport wrinkles that the make-up doesn't hide.

On the other hand, I've come close not to aging, so I appreciate being here at all. But all the same...

This was far from my mind as I entered the GLASG meeting. But again, it's been a long time since I went at all, and even longer since I went with a clear head. When I started attending fiber arts guild meetings, I was amongst the young crowd; cool and different in my early 30s. I really liked the "old" people, but didn't have all that much to do with them. I found my niche of friends and that was it.

But this time was different. As I found my same old niche, I looked around the room with shock. I was not part of the young, cool crowd any more. Nor were my friends. Some time over the intervening years, we've grown up and we're the "old people" there now. The - ahem - mature ones. The ones with all the experience, time, and money to actually make our fiber arts come to life. I remember when we were cash-poor working people (or looking for work) and had to be very creative to make our dollars stretch. No more.

We have property, equipment, and we have so much fiber on hand at our respective homes that we don't have to buy stuff at every meeting. We're old. We're established. Oy.

As I settled in with my friends and observed the young ones chattering happily away in their own groups scattered across the meeting room, I mentioned all of this to my crowd. As usual, Dave had the perfect sentence to sum the situation up.

He said, "Yes. We're so old that when I am sarcastic with [the others], they don't know that I am being sarcastic. They just think I'm mean."

Oh. My. Gawd.

* * * * *

I shared with the group my story about Anne and the old men at her new home. They were all intrigued and thought it was very funny. However, Lisa took exception to the characterization of Anne, with her 80-year-old neighbor being one of "robbing the cradle."

"If she gets together with him," Lisa retored, "she's not robbing the cradle. She's doing the cabana boy.


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