Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gone Fishin'

I'll be checking out for a few days - if anyone cares to notice. We're going camping. In a tent. Again.

Now, don't get me wrong. Unlike many, many, many...(thinks to self, 'Yeah, one more should do it')...many women, I actually love camping. I like the time spent as a family doing things together at our own pace. I like how great it is to watch the kids discovering things on their own, not on television or at the mall. I like watching them maneuver the tricky landscape of campground friendships which are usually one part 'Wonder Years' and three parts 'Lord of the Flies'. I like nature and I like being outdoors.

But, when I want to come indoors, that's exactly what I want. Indoors. Not in-tent-flap.

We've camped for years, but in a travel trailer, fully equipped with all conceivable amenities. We spent our days outside and did all of the nature things, but at night it was great to have a quiet, safe place to go where we could shower in a bathroom of our own, make dinner in a kitchen, eat it at a table, turn on the A/C if it was hot and then curl up on the king-sized bed and watch a movie. Yes, a movie. Or the kids could go to their room and play video games. Yes, video games.

I don't care what you say. It's still camping!

However, a couple of years ago our travel trailer was sadly totaled in an unfortunate towing accident (we were not the ones towing it, BTW) and now we have been reduced to using a tent for scouting camp-outs. I'm sure I'll get used to it again, in time, but it is hard. So very, very hard. Practically like pioneer times. (I'm giggling right now. Can you hear me giggling?)

Anyway, I'll see y'all when I get home and hopefully have some gorgeous pictures to share. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


What do you do that's good for you? For your family? For the earth? Sometimes it doesn't feel like we do enough, does it? But how often do your really sit down and think about your impact? Probably not very often. So, I took a minute this morning to think about it myself.

We recycle, avidly, at our house. Garbage for garden compost, aluminum cans are crushed and turned in for cash, all recyclable trash is binned and collected by the county. Clothes, books, personal stuff - if we can't use it, reuse it or repurpose it, we donate it or resell it. Eventually. Storage can sometimes be a problem.

We volunteer. All of us have a pet project that we are involved in and I absolutely know that our efforts are important, in some way to someone. I volunteer at the kids school and with the women's shelter and Robert donates many, many hours per week to youth sports. The kids volunteer through their Scouts and also donate and volunteer for various projects that catch their attention.

Our house is also a pretty stable location for some of the neighborhood kids who seem lost in the afternoons, out roaming alone on their bikes while their parents are working. I have a particular group of first grade boys who come by about every day to play with Connor. They know they can come in, get some food, get a drink, do something fun. And I feel good that they have someplace safe to hang out.

We are very energy conscious. We have all Energy Star appliances, have switched out our light bulbs for those funny,twisty ones. We turn off, power down and dress in layers to conserve energy. I hope to go solar for a lot of our power in the near future.

I buy locally produced goods and locally grown food whenever possible.

I keep a garden. This is actually quite a large project. Gardening food on a small plot in Central Florida can be tricky. Between the intense heat, the pests and diseases, the heavy rain in summer and the droughts in winter, it can be a very delicate balancing act. But I manage to grow some things.

This is what I picked this morning.

In winter, I get peas and beans, tomatoes and peppers, lettuces and carrots. In early spring, I can get some broccoli and some squash. Still some toms and peppers. Summer is almost a lost cause and we don't really have fall. But I carry on. I keep my own compost bin for fertilizer and use a natural oil spray for the pests.

We're not perfect here at our house. I'm sure there are lots of other things we could do. Still, most of us probably all do a lot more than we realize. You should sit down and think about it for a minute, too.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dawn Patrol

When I was much younger, I worked at a 24-hour restaurant. I worked the night shift because I was taking college classes during the day and, mainly I think, because I am a night owl. I liked being part of that secret life that only some people know about. The dark hours, where you never know what might be going on, when anything can happen or when things can be so still and quiet it's like you're the last person on earth.

My favorite thing about working through the night was that many mornings, when the shift ended, a group of us would do Dawn Patrol. We'd pile into our cars and head to the beach, usually getting there just before or right after sunrise. We'd sit in the sand, watching the sun come up over the waves, enjoying the soft, cool breeze that might be the last one of the entire day before that big ball of angry energy started beating down on us.

Sometimes, we'd throw one of the big blankets we kept in our cars down and just doze off for awhile, right there on the sand. Later, if the waves were good the boys would surf, the girls would walk the beach, get sunburnt, maybe sleep a little more. Just chill. Back then, there was plenty of time for everything to get done.

When I look at this bead, something about the colors and the movement reminded me of those sweet, beautiful mornings out on the sand with my friends. Of that time ofof endless possibility.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New stuff...stop laughing, I'm serious!

I don't have much time tonight in between swim practice for one and baseball practice for the other, but I wanted to post some pics of new stuff.

First of all, my mom has some absolutely fabulous knitted items at our Etsy shop, Starfish Cottage. You really should come check them out. Her things are beautiful, well made, very reasonably priced and absolutely practical. Here's a sample:

Coffee Cup Cozy - cute and useful!

These are cell phone or iPod cozies and they come in tons of colors and designs. They are so great! I have one and I haven't missed a call due to a misplaced phone since I started using it.

I also have some listings coming up in the next couple of days on eBay. Yes, that's right, I said eBay. It's been so long since I listed anything there, it took me all afternoon just to get the auctions set up. Anyway, I thought I'd give them another try.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Making progress

While I was at the torch today I came to a realization - I've grown as a beadmaker in the last year and a half.

I made my first bead almost exactly 3 years ago but until about 18 months ago, I only worked in fits and starts. I'd take summers off. I'd take the month of December off. Twice I went for 6 month stretches and never even picked up a rod of glass. I loved making beads, but I'd get busy or sidetracked or I'd have a flurry of creativity and then burn out.

So, finally, when the previous school year started, I sat down with myself and said, "O.K., A.D.D. Girl, you have 9 months to really work at this and see if you can do it, learn it and focus your energy." So that's what I did. I began to treat it like a job, concentrating on learning techniques, perfecting them, coming up with new designs, promoting my work (sort of) and being constantly productive.

I can see, of course, that my beads are better than they used to be. They are more complex, the designs are more creative and I understand so much more about the technical side of lampworking than I used to. I know that I'm always changing things up. I'm aware of the fact that I will never have a 'Signature Bead' and I'm fine with that. Because I don't want to make the same beads over and over and over again into infinity. I'm aware of the fact that I've been learning, but today I really saw how much I've developed as far as my actual skill level.

I'd gotten an order for a set of beads in a design that I started making last spring. Back then, I loved the beads but I hated making them. They were hard for me because they were tiny, had a meticulous pattern, I couldn't seem to control the flame, etc. I made them because they sold well and I liked them but I always dreaded when someone ordered them.

So today when I sat down at the torch, I felt my stomach clench a little bit at the thought of making them again. But I gritted my teeth and got started. And you know what? They were nothing. I could make them in my sleep. Everything was so simple and so easy that I ended up making 3 sets -in the same amount of time it would have taken me to make one last year - and when I finished I wasn't tired, frustrated or mentally exhausted.

Because I've contantly been challenging myself and learning new things, I never really noticed that some things might be easier than they used to be. That - if I were to want to - I can make an encased floral bead with complex stringer, interior pleating and raised exterior designs without giving myself an aneurysm.

Please recognize, that this is not me patting myself on the back for being the world's greatest beadmaker. It's just an acknowledgement of how horribly ignorant and incompetent I was just 18 months ago!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not a good day

Today was a bad day.

When Connor ran up to me after school and said, "Guess what really bad thing happened today?" I had a terrible feeling that I already knew.

"Mr. Jack died!"

The tears were a little slow in coming but once they started, they couldn't hardly be stopped. I had to cry, too. Mr. Jack had been missing from his customary place for the last 3 weeks, showing up for a day or two and then missing again. The kids have been asking about him, we've all been worrying about him. We knew he was sick and that something bad was going on. But I think we were all hoping for something else.

Mr. Jack is the crossing guard at my kids school. He's been there for several years, ever since the school opened. He was diligent in his job, never let the kids get away with anything. He was an old man, but not a crank, and never seemed to be anything but happy to be where he was.

The kids love him. He always has a high-five for every child who passes him. He always has a joke, a smile, a comment about something in your life that you couldn't even remember telling him. He never missed work. If it was raining, there he was - a small little man in his big yellow slicker. If it was cold, there he was in his big white hoodie.

He got tons of gifts from the kids at every holiday, a pile of them beside the fence that we would have to help him load into his car. This year, I didn't have time to bake the apple brownies that I always make for him at Christmas. The kids were upset, they wanted me to make them and take them to him. I said, 'No, he always gets tons of cookies and stuff. I'll make him some at the end of the year. That way, they'll be special."

Mr. Jack was more than a crossing guard. He was part of our community. He lived across the street from the first house my husband and I ever owned. My kids trick-or-treated at his house on Halloween. They have seen him virtually every school day of their lives. Connor has no memory of crossing the street from school without him and has been getting high-fives from him since he was in his stroller.

And now he is just gone. No last joke. No last high-five. No good-bye.

This is the first loss that the kids have really known. We've been fortunate that way. A couple of years ago, when my dad's cancer came back and was looking like it would be for the last time, I tried to imagine how I would tell the kids. What would I say? How could I comfort them?

And now I know.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A sale for Zachary!

I'm so happy that I just had a sale 'for zachary'! Thanks so much to the wonderful Patty Lakinsmith for purchasing this bead from my Etsy shop.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Benefit for Zachary Cruz

I just wanted to add a quick note.

Many Etsy sellers have added the tags 'for zachary' and 'zachary' to items in their shops. They will be donating all or a portion of the profits of the sale of these items to the family. I've tagged several items in my shop already and will be adding some more. I'll be donating 100% of the profits to Zachary's benefit fund.

I know it's tough economic times. I do, but I would encourage anyone who is able to please participate in this. You can read more about it in this Etsy thread.


Maybe you already know about this. Yesterday, I came across a blog post that told the heartbreaking story of a little boy, Zachary Cruz, from California who was killed while crossing the street with his after-school group. The family is having a hard time and could use some help with funeral expenses and - perhaps more importantly - with their grief. If you could visit the site that was set up for him, offer your prayers and support and give what you can, I am sure it could help ease their burden of sorrow in some small way.

I don't know this family. But I do know what it's like to be a mother.

I know what it's like to dream of your children and their bright, brilliant future.

I know what it's like to have a beautiful, lego-loving, baseball-playing little boy whose smile is as big as his heart and whose eyes see each new day as an adventure.

I know what it's like to receive that special kind of love that a little boy gives only to his mommy.

I can't even imagine - nor do I want to try - what pain this family must be in but I do know that I was brought to tears at the very idea of what happened. To think that I could send either of my kids off to school in the morning and then never again feel their arms around my neck or their sweet kiss on my cheek is almost incomprehensible.

And I know that last night when my little guy played his first Rookie baseball game of the season, I cared nothing about the fact that they got stomped 22-3. I didn't care one bit about the fact that he goofed off in the outfield or that he almost forgot to run to first base after he hit the ball. When the game was over, I scooped him up and told him how proud I was of him and that I hoped he had the best time ever playing with his friends. I carried him all the way to the car and I let him have ice cream, even though he hadn't eaten dinner.

So, hug your kids today and tell them how much you love them. Don't obsess over the small stuff. Count your blessings because - even if it doesn't always feel like it - I'm sure you have many.

And please take a minute to visit Zach's tribute site and let his family and friends know that there is a wave of love and support out there that will pick them up and carry them on when they feel like they just can't make it any further on their own.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New 'Random Stringer' beads

Hi, all. I've been quiet lately. This is a condition almost unkown to me! But, I've been completely swamped with custom orders and haven't had much of a chance to sit down and collect my thoughts.

Don't get me wrong. Unlike some folks, I love custom work. It sort of forces me to work outside my little box of comfort. I always get fresh ideas and perspective on things when I'm working on someone else's vision. That being said, I've really missed the Zen of 'free torching'. Nothing quite clears the attic like getting into the flame and just letting the glass speak it's mind.

I have had time to take a few pics of some of my 'random stringer' beads. These are gravity spiral beads which is not a new technique by any means, but the special stringer that I make for them adds an extra element that I'm really happy with.

I like the shifting of color, the play of transparent and opaque in the same breath. I'm not the best bead photographer so it's hard to capture sometimes, but in person these beads are so full of light and movement and so many different colors. Really pretty. These are ones I made a couple of weeks ago. I've refined my new ones, but I still think these are quite nice.

This one is actually part of a set.

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