Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Visit to the Farm

Went home yesterday to see Mom.  We went out to the farm to visit with my brother Ed.  The house is uninhabitable but Ed still maintains the barns and farms the land. I took a walk around.

The two large barns are original to the farm..or at least for as long as I can remember.
Black-eyed Susan....strange name if you think about it. We always had flowers on the farm. Mom planted flowers and there were lots of wild flowers in the woods. 
Back of the corn barn. I was eyeing up the siding...but its still a functional barn so I can't take any of it.
A weathered old gate by the milk house. Hmm...I might have to go back to get this wood.  I could make some cool jewelry displays from it .

The back of the milk house.  There used to be a very large barn next to it.  It doesn't take long for nature to take over. 

The back door into the milk house. I have the lock and glass door knob from the front door. 
Common Chicory..a weed..but pretty. 
The old combine. It's all gears and chain. I would love to be able to dismantle this. The gears are cool  I did manage to get some chain off it it. 
 It's nostalgic to go back to the farm.  I spent the first 16 years of my life there.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stash from Bead and Button

It's been a while since I posted.  It's been a while since Bead and Button.  You get back to reality and time get sucked up with work and other responsibilities. These days I don't get much time for myself.

This year Bead and Button was a bit different.  We had more time to relax and do things other than teach.  One of the places we visited is Michael Alt's. He has a combination plant and antique/curio/junk store. I found some storage pieces, a couple architectural items, and sea beans.

Sea beans are seeds and pods that fall off trees into streams and rivers and then wash out into the sea. The currents can take them thousands of miles from where they grew. The large ones look like hearts and the smaller ones look like hamburgers. I'm going to polish them up and use them in my jewelry.

Sea Beans

We stopped into the Iron Horse Hotel for lunch. It's an old warehouse that they converted into a hotel. If I ever get up to Milwaukee other than B&B I'd like to stay here.  They lobby is really cool.

Iron Horse Lobby complete with motorcycle

The place is filled with industrial artifacts

Gears.  I have corn picker plates from the farm that are similar.

Love this picture and just in time for Independence Day

I didn't buy much at the show this year.  I look around my studio and see all the beads that I currently have there isn't much of a need for anything more....except the time to make new jewelry. That's a commodity that is in short supply.

You can never go by Gary Wilson's booth without picking something up

Brass Beads

Found a new chain vendor

Lots of etched agate and some turquoise
It all came and went too fast. But the fun things always do.

Friday, April 22, 2016

My four weeks in hell....

There is a hell on's pain.  I'm writing this post mostly for myself so I can wrap the last 4 weeks up into a big ball and let it go.

Week 1: On Easter weekend, my back...for lack of a better word...seized up.  I stayed home on Monday and took some Motrin hoping it would relax.  I went in to work on Tuesday but I couldn't walk more than 25 feet without having extreme pain. So I went down to our walk-in clinic. I work on a major medical campus and the walk-in clinic is the equivalent of 4 city blocks away.  By the time I got there I was sobbing.  They took me right in and prescribed muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories.  But then I had to walk back to my office and then another 2 blocks over to the Pharmacy.  At one point I found a bench and sat down and cried. An employee...nobody I know...came and sat with me and talked me through the pain.  He was such a great guy.  He said he hated to see someone cry and wanted to help. I don't remember his name but I am grateful for the compassion he showed me.  The next day I felt a little better and thought maybe I could put this behind me.  By Thursday I called my husband to come home and take me to he ER.

The nurse practitioner had me get up on the exam table. She lifted up my left leg and I burst out crying it hurt so much. I didn't know anything could hurt that much.  So they gave me some Percocet and I waited to be taken to x-ray. They took three x-rays of my spine in the ER.  I had to stand for this procedure. After the second x-ray they had to sit me down because I was close to passing out from the pain  Back in my little waiting room the nurse came in to ask about my pain level (on a scale of 1-10). At the time I was leaning over the exam table trying find a comfortable spot and to catch my breath.  I think I said "10" but if felt more like 100. No matter how I sat or stood I could not find a position that relieved the pain.  The diagnosis was lumbar radiculopathy which is nerve irritation caused by damage to the discs. Just Lovely.  I was sent home with steroids, pain killers, and more anti-inflammatories and told to see my physician in a week.

Week 2: For the next 6 days I had constant pain even with the Percocet. It started to diminish to maybe a 80% but never went away.  There was no position I could take that would relieve it.  I couldn't sleep in my bed.  I tried sleeping on the floor with my legs elevated on a chair.  I tried sleeping in a multitude of chairs. I had a bevy of pills and wasn't' sure if I could combine the muscle relaxers and the pain killers. I hadn't seen my physician yet because she was out on vacation.  I couldn't see a nurse practitioner because after an ER visit they want you to see your physician...who by the way was totally booked up.  They put me on a waiting list and said they would work me into her schedule.  I finally got an appointment for the follow Monday....5 days away even though she was back on Thursday.

Wednesday night when the steroids tapered off the pain came back with a vengeance.  Before bed time I decided to try the muscle relaxers instead of the pain killers....big mistake.  I spent the night moving from chair to chair.  Ben, my big bruiser of a cat, followed me.  I sat in a rocking chair and he sat at my feet. I laid on the floor and he laid beside me.  At one point I sat up on the floor and wrapped my legs around the chair and put my head on the seat of the chair.  I managed to sleep a bit like this.  I moved to the couch and Ben moved with me.  I sat on the edge of the couch and just shook for a couple hours.  I contemplated waking up my husband to go back to the ER but didn't think they would do anything different than what i was already doing.  At some  point I decided I didn't care if I mixed my drugs...I popped a couple of Percocet.  I then sat in a dinning room chair with my legs up on another chair...wrapped in a blanket.  Ben sat on the table beside me. As I started to fall asleep I started to lean.  Ben reach out and tapped me a few times with his paw to wake me up before I fell off the chair..

I called the office on Thursday morning and told them I had been in severe pain all night long and needed to see her immediately.  They got me in that morning. After an examination my physician said she didn't think it was disc related but muscle and nerve related...sciatica.  I didn't have typcial sciatic pain down the leg.  It started in my lower back and moved up over my hip  into my groin. The groin muscle was especially troublesome because when I tried to stand up or walk it was so tight I couldn't stand upright or walk very far. So....a longer dose of steroids, more Percocet and more anti-inflammatories.  

Percocet comes with it's own issues. No way I could get addicted to these...they made my stomach queasy and they give you massive....massive constipation.  It just seems to stop your bowels from functioning at all...I know...TMI.  So what little I did eat just seemed to make my stomach bigger and bigger and created it's own pain.

I was also referred to a Chiropractor...which most physicians will not do.  But my physician had a similar experience years earlier and the only relief she got was from a Chiropractor and she only refers to this one person. I've never been to one but know a number of people who swear by them.

Week 3: My first visit to the Chiropractor she had my face down on the table and she tapped on my hips and lower back.  She said my right side was flexible and my left side felt like a brick.  When I explained the pain she said she knew exactly the muscle involved....the iliopsoas.  She was able to show me the muscles on a model and explained how she would treat me.  The treatments are more like deep tissue massage and after the first treatment I walked out....WALKED OUT... with very little pain.  I spent the entire evening in a peaceful state able to sit on the couch and just be.  So I'm hooked.... I'm a believer.  The paid came back but not quite as bad and I had now experienced that this pain can go away. It had crossed my mind more than once that I might be like this forever.

I am seeing her twice a week for three weeks.  On my third visit she really worked the muscles and trigger points in my butt.  I told her it was tender but I was OK with what she was doing.  I woke up in the middle of the night and it felt like someone had taken a hammer to my butt.....OMG.  I popped a few more motrin and a Percocet and fell back asleep.  Things were better in the morning.

Week 4: I started back to work this week...on restricted duties.  I am only allowed to work 4 hours a day but I am usually there 5-6 hours.  The beginning the week was iffy. It was obvious I was still in pain. By Wednesday I could tell I was turning a corner.  I felt better, Every day I have been feeling better and believing that I can recover from this.  We have a friend who is a radiologist so we had him re-read the x-rays today.  He said there is some narrowing of the spine but that comes with age.  He also got another radiologist involved.  They both concur that the way the pain is radiating... up over the hip and into the groin rather than down the leg...they don't believe it is the spine but rather muscle and nerve.

So I am trying to grasp the events of the last 4 weeks.  It's left me weakened...both mentally and physically.  I cry a lot even though the pain is diminished.  I cry thinking about what this whole ordeal has taken out of me, I cry from fear that this will come back, I cry for the kindness and compassion that people have shown me.  My best friend sent me candy to keep my spirits up, the Admin team at work...the very best team I have every worked with...sent me flowers twice and e-mails checking up on me. My husband, my strength, has taken care of me and tried to make me laugh and he has worried about me.

So what do I take away from all this.

-Some obvious things...I need to lose weight and get in shape.  I had already started that process. I'm down 12 lbs. and though I won't be starting an aggressive exercise program I will be getting physical therapy to make me stronger.

-I sit too much.  I sit all day at work and I sit all night at home.  I have already talked to my boss about a Varidesk which can take your computer set up from a sitting to a standing position in a few seconds. I think standing for part of the day will be beneficial.  I also need to get walking at night. I am wearing my Fitbit again so I can monitor my progress in walking.  It's going slow but that's OK.  Even a few steps more each day is an accomplishment.

-I have gained new compassion. Everyone has something going on in their lives.  Everybody has pains, everybody has something that is worrying them. I have two friends who are going through breast cancer, another one just lost her mother, I just recently lost a friend to heart disease. I hope this has made me more compassionate and that I will strive to be kind to people.  If we don't do it...if we aren't kind to the person next to us...who will be.  And that small act of the young man sitting with me when I was crying.... can make a big difference

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Treasures from Tucson

I finally had some time to go through the beads I brought back from Tucson.  I've been so busy with my day job that I haven't been in the studio since last June.  But that doesn't stop me from buying more beads when I see something gorgeous.

Some of the most beautifully faceted labradorite that I have ever seen. The picture doesn't do them justice. They sparkle even in low light. 

Huge turquoise beads from China. I think every artist goes through phases of being drawn to certain elements. Right now I am drawn to very large beads.  

Shell and cow bone.  Again...really large beads.

Probably the prize buy of the show for me. Ganesh and Lakshmi pendant from India.

Buddha pendants

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. ” 
― Gautama Buddha

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Vintage Dies from India

I've been collecting jewelry dies for a while.  When I was in Tucson I picked up a number of them. In fact Cris and I were crawling around on the floor looking at them.  These are so addicting!!

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Neflix now has "Iris" which is a documentary on Iris Apfel.  If you like fashion, jewelry, and beads you need to watch this movie.  She is 94 years old and FABULOUS

Her clothing and jewelry collections are something to drool over.  I would love to spend a day going through her closets. She wears flamboyant outfits and massive necklaces with such ease and confidence and looks great doing it. Style and individuality...she's doing it right!!

One of my favorite quotes of hers....

"I never felt pretty, I don’t feel pretty now; I’m not a pretty person. I don’t like pretty, so I don’t feel badly. And I think it worked out well, because… when you’re somebody like myself, in order to get around and be attractive, you have to develop something, you have to learn something, and have to do something, so you become a bit more interesting. And when you get older, you get by on that. Anyway, I don’t happen to like pretty. Most of the world is not with me, but I don’t care."

Friday, January 1, 2016

Bead and Button 2016

It's that time of year again. Registration for the Bead and Button Show opens January 5th...just 4 short days from now.

Below are the classes that Cristina Leonard and I are teaching this year.

On Monday, June 6th, we will be teaching the Treasure Necklace class.  This class will use PMC 960 which is a combination of PMC3 and PMC Sterling.  You will get 50 grams of silver to work with and make a custom bail and lots of charms and beads to go on the necklace. To learn more about this class click here. 
Back by popular demand.....on Tuesday, June 7th, we will be teaching the Shadow Box Pendant. This is a double layered pendant with bail. Again, this class will use PMC 960 which is a combination of PMC3 and PMC Sterling.  You will get 50 grams of silver to work with. To learn more about this class click here. 
On Wednesday,June 8th, we will be teaching the Twisted Bronze Bow Tie Bracelet. You will have a chance to make multiple bracelets and they are so much fun to wear.  To learn more about this class click here. 

On Thursday, June 9th we will be teaching the Scratch Foam Charms class. You will get 25 grams of PMC3 and have time to make lots of charms for earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. To learn more about this class click here. 
See you in June!!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Carving a Printing Block

Carving a Printing Block from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

I had to share this. I have a few printing blocks from India. You can make your own fabric designs with them. They look great on the wall as decoration. They make great textures for metal clay. You can use them to display your jewelry. They are beautiful all on their own and they are just cool to have!!

I didn't realize how much work when into making them.  This is a fascinating video. They work with rudimentary tools to make these wonderful repetitive designs.  I have to imagine that this type of work is very zen.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has an exhibit right now on The Fabric of India.  This video is from that site.  There are also videos on indigo dyeing, weaving, and embroidery.  I would love to see this exhibit. I'll just hop a jet to London for the weekend...LOL.  

I'm lucky enough to have a beautiful scarf that was given to me by one of the women at work...who is from India.  I always complemented her on her scarfs and she brought one back for me after a trip home.

One of the perks of my job is working with people from all over the world. And it really is a huge perk.  I've learned about different cultures, eaten amazing homemade food, and have some wonderful friends. And sometimes....I get presents :))

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Happiness is......

.....having a weekend all to myself!!!

It's been a summer filled with too much work due to a new job...but happiness is the new job.  It's also been filled with taking care of my Mom.  She fell and broke her hip in July and I have been going home each Saturday to clean, wash and run errands.  But again...happiness is spending more time with her. 

Today....I have a weekend to myself.  I didn't need to go to Mom's and my husband is in the south of France...unhappiness is your husband going to the south of France and due to circumstances...not being able to go with him. Sucks. But I stayed home to celebrate my Mom's 90th birthday so...happiness is being with my Mom and family on her birthday.  Quite a milestone and she is doing really well. 

I'm taking the weekend to catch up on things  My flower beds are all weeds but those are going to have to stay that way....a couple months and everything is going to be dying off anyway. I have a long list of house repairs that need to be done...but those will still be here next weekend.  This weekend I am going to clean up my studio and draw and....I put together my 12" guillotine shear. 

Happiness is a new guillotine shear.  Doesn't every girl want one??!!  Of course you do.  You may not know it yet...but you do.  It cuts through metal like butter and cuts a full 12" sheet of metal.  TOO MUCH FUN!! And of course it's sitting on the dining table.  I don't cook much but I can cut metal!!  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Practice Makes Perfect?

I've always enjoyed Austin Kleon's blog and books.  This is a good read with a very simple but powerful your craft...everyday. I remember a lecture I went to with a watercolor artist. Something he said stuck with me....not that I have been able to live up to this....but he told us that you have to practice every day. He paints everyday.  Not many people are born like Mozart who was playing in public at the age of 6. Most of us have to slog through our days...but I guess that's the point.  Practice, practice, practice.

Okay campers rise and shine and don’t forget your booties

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bead and Button

I finally had a chance to go through my photos and stash from Bead and Button.  How can it seem so long ago?  I have been working my butt off in my day job...which has turned into a day and night job.  
But this weekend I took a break.  We went to the Summer Solstice at the Cleveland Museum of Art last night...always a good time.  Ran into a number of people from work. 

And today I decided to go through my B&B stash and photos. B&B is always a whirlwind.  Between teaching classes and spending time with friends.  It goes so fast. 

The first stop is always the Calderone Club for great pasta and fried eggplant...which is heaven!!

Karen, Paul, and Cris...smilling because they've had eggplant!!

Then on to the business of teaching.  We taught a metal clay class and a couple of twisted bracelets classes, and a fabrication class. 

Metal clay samples from class

Students hard at work
Twisted wire

Bracelets made with the twisted wire

Everyone gathering for show and tell

Show and tell.  These ladies made a lot!!
Another mandatory dinner is Mader's.  Great German food.  And a picture in the massive chair they have. 
YiYi and Cris
Then on to the business of shopping.  Funny...I am drawn to the same things every year. I guess that's not a bad thing. 



Lots of etched agate

Love this print block

Lapis.  These chucks are gorgeous

Wood beads inlaid with silver.  They make great accent beads.

A table full of trade beads.  My version of heaven!!

Serious discussion about beads?

Shell...called hippos teeth because of the shape.

Bronze accent beads

Carved Lapis

Dinosaur bone...yes...dinosaur bone.  Aren't these great?!!

Gary Wilson stones!!

Arthuro and YiYi with Billy Gardell from Mike and Molly. We always seem to see someone famous when we are in Milwaukee.

Goodbye Milwaukee...see you next year!!