Friday, December 21, 2012

A Christmas Story: A to B and Home Free

Hi everyone :) Last year around Christmas, I wrote of a few gifts I received. This year, I'd like to do the same.

I've been poor in my life. Really poor. But, it never truly bothered me. My poverty has bothered other people much more than it did myself. I was poor, but never ashamed. Life is what it is. Sometimes you are up and sometimes you are down. I've never measured myself against wealth, anyway. I've only ever wanted a fair shake and an honest opportunity. The rest I could do for myself, or, with a little help.

Not having money has it's drawbacks, though, don't get me wrong. And, the old saying- you gotta have money to make money rings more true the older I get. Having money also allows one to play above board. When you are broke, every little set back is a giant climb up a hill to recover from.

Which brings me to my story. If poverty insults or embarrasses you, just skip this. I'm not ashamed , so don't feel bad if this makes you uncomfortable.

A to B and Home Free

    One of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me was done by a person who shall always remain anonymous to me. It happened during this season of giving and goodwill. The man will never know what he a blessing he was. Let me tell you our story as an example of how, sometimes, a little means a lot.

    It had to be about 20 years ago now. I was messily divorced with young kids at home. The college classes I had attended were exchanged for a job to support us. You could say we were scraping pennies, but, really, the extra pennies we had were too quickly dropped into a jar for later rolling to be played with. I have always been a hard worker and so was my friend- later to become boyfriend and even later to become husband. We had no issue with starting at the bottom, anywhere. And, that's what we did. We both had bottom tier jobs.

    I was only getting by because I had bought a beat down old trailer home, so my living expenses were pretty slim in a city where affluence promoted a high cost of living. Posters, criers of social justice, at City Hall, proclaimed that kids living in trailers were homeless. They clearly didn't know what a home was. We were struggling, but we were happy in our home on wheels. I didn't need or want a net from the taxpayers, the city needn't have worried. But, they did. Our slight, though comfy, existence was continually threatened by developers eager to eat the land for profit. Indeed, not many years after this story, the friendly, though ugly, park where I had lived was bought up by displacers. My former neighbors had been dumped to the street. The handful of suicides were the only relief to be gained by some hard workers with no where to go. The city blinked and people died. But, that is another story. Now, you know how I lived.

    A neighbor man gave me a car which he had bought from a junkyard. No, that wasn't the kindness bestowed on me which this story is about. Though, it was kind. However, I later learned that the car had previously been owned by a drug dealer. The sides were wounded by bullet holes which made it a target to it's former antagonists. I worried, to say the least. However, we didn't venture into the places who's dark streets it used to frequent.

    Let me tell you about the car which became legendary, or, rather, infamous in the family. The car ran- against all odds and not always, but it ran. The tires were mostly good. It had a windshield, though it was cracked. It had a driver's side window, which stayed rolled up and rear glass, too. The other three were covered over in plastic. A couple of the door handles worked. The windshield wipers, heater and a/c were historical relics. One of the motor mounts was bad, so the engine, when it revved, vibrated and slammed the top of the starter, which broke the bendix- in other words, we went through a lot of starters. The head gaskets were crumbs embedded in crusty oil around the top of the engine. We consumed lots of oil. But, it didn't burn oil. Not that that really mattered. To say that I couldn't afford the repairs would be understatement. I wouldn't be idiot enough to drop a dime into that poor beast, anyway.

    We only used the car to get from A to B over back streets, when at all possible. Every time we got into it, it was like driving through a gauntlet of fire and Hell. I was always white knuckled and praying for Xanax. I wasn't worried about breaking down- that was old hat. My friend could change a starter with the spare in the trunk in under 15 minutes. No, it was the LAW I was in fear of.

    Every state and municipality has their own version of car stickers to proclaim good citizenship. My area is no different. We had plate stickers and tax stickers and an inspection sticker. Having an inspection sticker for my car was a far, far away dream. A more recent dream would be the fake sticker which I dreampt up with a color printer. Every week, I had to print a new one, because the dayglo orange faded so quickly. But, it sufficed to make us appear within the law. Never mind the fact that it was an extremely illegal thing to do. Yes, it was a brush with the law that scared me most. I lived in dread fear of it. It was that fear, too, which made me save my pennies. As long as that bright sticker fooled the law for just a few more months, I could get another car. 

    My friend and I shared the car. He had recently gotten out of the Navy and then lost his truck, so he was carless. He had an overnight job and I had a day job. We typically took back roads to get from his job to mine, but on this day, we were running late. We reluctantly determined to use the interstate, praying that we could make the short dash. It was just before Christmas and we were discussing the holidays and what to do for the kids. It was better than actually speaking about what could easily happen, at any moment. One could not do that without first knocking on wood and there was none around.

    It was rush hour. We hoped not to stall in traffic, as we froze in the heaterless car. If so, there was a high probability that we would end up having to replace a starter alongside one of the busiest interstates in the metropolitan area. We rounded a wide bend. The end was in sight. Both of us were breathing a little easier when the light that screams idiot said, "I'm hot!" No, no, no, no. I stared at the light, as the safe passage ahead of us became a fading tunnel in my vision. The needle steadily rose until we had no choice but to stop. We pulled over. Large projectiles whizzed past us with amazing speed and anger. Suddenly, we felt very mortal. Thoughts of pleasant holidays were as distant as the hope of any future. Dread was my name.

    I piled out of the passenger side and my friend followed suit. We popped the broken hood to determine which mechanical plague had visited us. It was a usual thing to run low on oil and to need to replenish the beast's appetite for it, but a quick check vetoed that easy remedy. As we poked around, we saw lights blinking through the crack between the hood and windshield. The raised hood was the only thing hiding us from the man about to revoke my immediate future. There was nothing to do. I was resigned to the worst. My mind did quick calculations. What would I tell my bosses at my new job? Would I be arrested? Who could I call to pick me up? Would I be finished with this horrible experience in time to meet the kids home from school? Would my meager savings cover what was inevitably in store for me?

    I peered around the hood to see my tormenter. It was a State Trooper. I was doomed. His disembodied feet, which were too large and loud stepped towards us as the projectiles, now more angry than ever, rolled by in slo mo with twisted phantom faces glaring from within. I felt like the memory they will all share around the office. I was the one who made them late to work. I felt small and naked.

    The feet were now attached to a man with a frozen face. We greeted him with honest friendliness. We were, after all, the guilty ones, not he. He asked us if we needed help. We replied that we did not, but thanks. The small talk was only fuel for my anxiety. As his mouth moved with pleasantries, his big feet slowly moved around the car. He surveyed the travesty we called a vehicle. He eyed the plastic over the windows. He peered between the still raised hood and windshield to examine my expired and printed stickers. He noted the expired tags. His cold eyes examined us both as we stood there in our obvious blue collars. His face defrosted. The knots in my stomach loosened with something called hope. The man whose feet now stood with ours, offered a few repair suggestions to us and walked back to his vehicle. My friend and I waited for him to come back after radioing in our illegal tags. I could feel the cold steel around my wrists.

    My friend and I were speechless. We still stood waiting for him to come back and arrest us. But, the man never came back. He drove away. He simply drove away.

    Looking down at the engine, I saw a split in a water hose. We added water enough to make it to the exit ramp and coasted the rest of the way to a parts store. Safely there, we looked again at the hose. My friend silently pulled out a knife and sliced the hose back enough to circumvent the hole and we were once again on our way.

    Prologue- a few months later, we got another car. We also got it legal.


I think I wanted to tell my story because I am hoping that you might be inspired to give a hand up to a stranger if you run across the opportunity.

Merry Christmas, everyone!!!! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

That's a Wrap

Nothing earth shattering to report-- thank goodness. I got some new meds to try and I am slowly feeling better. Good enough to sit all day and finish these...

Oh, I should tell you that Sarah of Saturday's Sequins did a review of my book. Be sure to check it out, it's her first review and I really love the format. 

Imperial Jasper... MMM love it!

Jasper or a petrified wood, can't figure which, but I like it.

Seraphinite and green spinel

Sugilite and silver

Friday, December 14, 2012

Some Weavin' and Wrappin'

As promised, here a few pieces that I have recently done. To be honest, I have managed more than I thought I could with the cabbing, illness, Christmas bustle and general holiday mayhem.

I got on a weaving kick after a did a weave on a penny.

I don't know what got into me, going from this tiny penny to this humungous variscite...

variscite 47x27mm

 ... but I did the finest netting on a soldered frame and I'm in love with the silver with this beautiful, delicate green.

I was so happy with the variscite, that I did another weave. (Plus, it gave me an excuse to do a little soldering, which I am beginning to enjoy.) The next weave was done to a gorgeous raspberry red aventurine. There is no way a picture can convey the sparkliness of this stone. The weave looks really fabulous with this stone.

raspberry red aventurine 32.5mm
After all that weaving my neck and fingers needed a break, so I did some simple wraps.

I love astrophyllite and this one is really nice!

I gave a finish to a piece I had in my book. This mookaite stole my heart at a recent gemshow.

I couldn't wait any longer to wrap up a recently finished lapis cab.

large lapis with pyrite speckles in stainless steel

And last but not least, is a new one for me, a green Mojave turquoise. It's just as vivid as it's cousin purple/blue Mojave turquoise.

I've been really jazzed up to get a few of my recent cabs wraps.

Thanks for reading and have a happy jewelry day. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Winter Cabs

I don't know how many strangely nice days we have left, but I'm going to keep taking advantage of them when we have them. Cabbing is very relaxing to me. I love the hum of the grinder and soft, pulsing hiss of the water geysers. I'm getting faster and better every time I cab and it has become kinda a contest with myself. How many well done cabs can I get done in a day? This day I finished 9 and touched up 3. One petrified wood refused to be photographed. Two, I didn't picture because they were touch ups. One of those was featured in my book as a stone with an off cut. It was an astrophyllite. And there was one I couldn't finish because I ran out of time. Next chance I get I'll finish it. It is a stunning ruby in fuschite full of bright pink ruby.

The cold weather is slowly settling in for good. But, the good news is, I finally got a butcher block table to mount my rolling mill and after the Holidays, I'll be learning how to use it. I can't wait to play. :)

I don't know if I have ever mentioned this, but along with the normal arthritis that comes with aging, I have an auto immune disease, palmo planter pustulosis psoriasis, which comes along with psoriatic arthritis. It doesn't always cause too many problems, but as I age it is getting worse. The other day was the first day that it laid me out in bed for the whole day. It used to be aches that I could deal with, but the other day was pure, flat out pain from neck to toes. The only relief for me was to lay flat on my back. It is so frustrating to want to do something and know that you can't. That day, I was driven to do a project I had been thinking about, but I couldn't move to do it. Just sitting in a chair was agony. (I have a diseased sacroilliac joint, which sometimes makes sitting very painful) I know from talking to so many jewelry artists that a lot of people out there share similar issues. In fact, it seems that making jewelry is a great way for a lot of people to take their minds off their troubles. It also seems to be a very low stress type of activity for a lot of us. So, I thought I would share this with those of you who are also suffering-- Know that you are not alone. It might slow you down, but don't let it stop you. :)

I have some jewelry to post as soon as I get it photographed. I'm a little behind schedule. It takes me longer to do pics since I am still trying to work out a routine with a new camera and software. But, I should have some nice pieces to show tomorrow. I also hope to have some new stones listed for sale, too.

Happy Wrapping!! (Of stones and gifts :) )


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Break in the Weather

We had a few days of "Indian Summer". (I'm probably not supposed to say that, but what else is it called?) We 65-75 degree weather! Perfect for cabbing. I spent the whole day Sunday cabbing.

Unfortunately, the weather was too much of a lure to stay strapped to the table and so I played hookie from work. I had a good excuse, too. My oldest daughter got engaged. So, we planned some shopping. :)

Today, it is cooler outside and raining. But, it is cooling off just in time for my oldest grandson's Christmas concert. I, admit, it does feel more festive with a nip in the air. :)

So, here's a few of the cabs I worked on. I think I did 11 total. A few were touch ups and a few have found new homes already. These are the ones I finished outright, from slab to cab. I used a new program to make the slideshow. It is Adobe's Light Room 4. I am learning it now to go along with the RAW files I work with with the new camera. I am liking it a lot.

That's about it for today.

Edited and Updated to add that I made Etsy Front Page today. My first time. :)

The 9th square features one of my most popular pieces. It is also featured in my book as one of my most popular.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rested and Thankful

Thank you everyone who had faith enough in me to buy my book. :) I can't tell you how great it makes me feel that someone actually cares about what I do. That sounded strange didn't it? Yeah, it did. But, it's not like I'm wallowing. It's just that my grown daughters really have no interest in learning and I was born a teacher. I have to get this stuff out. I'm one of those people who has eureka moments and has to blurt it out to the world. It's just me. I get real excited and can't wait to share. So, it's been super awesome to share with you all. I really did try to put in as much as I could.

The only real break from the book that I took was for Thanksgiving. I was talking to someone, not from the US, and she said that she is just beginning to understand what a big holiday it is for us Americans. I tried to explain it as not a religious holiday, but a family day. But, thinking about it, it's actually even more personal than that, isn't it? It is the day we all reflect on what we are each, personally, thankful for. Of course, there is some history in there to remember, but that usually falls by the wayside in deference to turkey and stuffing. (And, gravy... gotta have gravy.) So, this Thanksgiving, I had a wonderful day brimming with family. But, what was, at one point, mistaken for brooding, was actually me thinking really hard about what it is I am thankful for. People will say things like "my family", "my job"- you know, the usual. But, what I was really thankful for this past year was that I finally feel like a grown up. I am thankful for my family, of course, I am. But, I ALWAYS am. What's new is that I am thankful that I finally feel like I have reached, or have gotten pretty close to, Maslov's self actualized ideal.

A lot of you reading are in my age group of 50 something. So, you probably understand what I'm saying here. There was a good part of my life when everything about MY life took a back seat to a child's needs. Or, played second fiddle to a husband's needs. It is true that I am with children again, but this time it is different. Yes, I am home with them and they are most important, but I have not had to give up my own endeavors in order to meet their needs. I've been able to pursue my own jewelry passions and curiosities, as a creative being, without having to sacrifice anything. It has been good for the two tweens, too. They are proud of grandma and I think I am a good example to them. 

The day after Thanksgiving, I released my book. It wasn't without some previous reflection. I have always wanted to write a book and I did it. I am, of course, an amateur. But, a good one, I think. I think I made my points and I think they were relevant. But, on a personal note- the fact that I even did it, was a triumph for me. It was a milestone in my life. I came one step closer to being a self actualized person. A whole autonomous person. Not a wife, a mother, a grandmother, or a sister, but ME, Tela.

While I may have looked like I was brooding while waiting for the turkey, I was actually deep in thought. I concluded that I am thankful for the spot I am at, in my life, right now. I am thankful that I have this little community of readers to share with and I am thankful for a husband who allows me to be a self actualized woman and I am thankful for what ever talents I have which allow me to express myself. It's taken a lot of years, but finally I feel like a grown up.

In celebration of the book, I took some time off, (and for my birthday, too, which probably contributed to the retrospective tone of this post). Then I picked up the pliers to do some work. I took some pics with my new camera (review to come soon) which I am still learning and getting used to. I got a new tripod, too. Who knew even those could be so confusing? *sigh* But, I think I have it all sorted and I'm getting back into the swing of things.

Mojave Turquoise Sterling Silver

Spiderweb Variscite (one of the example stones in the book)

 That's it for now. Thanks for reading :) Have a wonderfully creative time and follow your dreams!

I need to give a special shout out to Christine for writing a wonderful review of my book at JewelryLessons. Unfortunately, it was taken down by the management. :(