Saturday, November 10, 2018

Still I Rise

I originally wrote the little history below in 2015. I am publishing it today because after finding it lingering in draft mode on this blog (I think, because, I was still somehow ashamed and scared to share it in all it's brutal honesty) I realized that I need to put this out there.

I need to put it out there because there are other people (not just girls and women, but boys and men too, and other people who identify in other ways - abuse is an equal opportunity employer) who should know that they are not alone but more than that, that you can survive and thrive as I have, and I have thrived. I have also, as you will see as my blog continues, struggled in many ways. What I can truly say is that hanging in there has been totally worth it.

Don't give up, it gets better.

Currently I'm, what are you supposed to say(?), on a weight loss journey.  To me that sounds amazingly trite and yet it is a journey, and not an easy one. For me, it's not just about shedding an admittedly massive amount of weight but also shedding what has been both my cage and my protection throughout my life. I've been keeping a personal journal but I knew I had this blog still, so why not share? I started out losing in spring of 2018, just little things at first. Quit getting fast food, cut down on bread, things like that. I suspect my weight then was around 460 lbs. but I'll never know for sure if it was less or more than that because I had quit weighing myself. When I did finally weigh myself in July of 2018 I was 442 lbs. This morning I weighed 394 lbs. I do a ketogenic way of eating (this isn't a diet for me, I don't plan to ever change what I'm doing now) and intermittent fasting. My labs are amazing compared to what they were and my internist fully supports what I'm doing.

I am going to be blogging here, hopefully weekly, until I get to where I want to be. Below you'll see a photo from when I was at my highest weight and where I am now. I hid from the camera for over 20 years because I was ashamed of how I looked but I'm over that now. I am a body positive person, I think everyone should love themselves where they are currently and not wait for that magical "when I take the weight off" time. Take it from a 58 year old woman, you are going to miss out on a lot of life waiting. Don't do it. Live your life now because you are here on this earth, you are beautiful, and you deserve to live your best life. That said, if you are interested in the unpleasantness that was my childhood you can read a sort of capsule snapshot of that below.


I haven't written here in ages. I started this blog, like many artists, to share my work and as part of a way to promote my business. I find I don't really like doing that. I've just recently started using my Facebook business page more for that purpose. To do a blog as well seems overkill. I do occasionally feel moved to write about what's on my mind. I wanted to do a piece, a necklace, that was more personal, that I would have to dig a little deeper to complete. I wanted to put myself into my art. Isn't that how the best art happens? So I began just randomly surfing around and letting my mind 'sift the data' if you will.

I was reading some comments from a young woman though, about the relationship she was trapped in, and I realized that by holding my tongue, by not speaking out and sharing how I had escaped I was, with simply my silence, somehow condoning brutality.  Those of us from my generation that have endured and overcome abuse, in my opinion, have a duty to speak out and tell the younger generations, "I'm still here, I made it. You can make it. Life is good." Maya Angelou did that for me.

There is a point here too, about how art can help to pull you up and move you forward.

When I first read this book I was a nursing student, trapped in a house with a woman I now believe was bipolar, OCD, and schizoaffective as well as just simply a person who enjoyed wielding physical and emotional brutality just because she could.
My father was a contractor and had begun living at home all the time to run his business after years of only being home one or two weekends a month. In spite of his physical strength he was an emotionally unstable and weak man, an alcoholic and a smoker, ruled by a woman with an Masters Degree from SMU who was capable of such animal cunning and had such a thirst for revenge it was hard to fathom at times.
My mother was also, I think, attracted to women but would not admit that, even to herself. I was forced to sleep in the same bed with her, and all that implies, while my father was traveling, from the time I was very small.
Had she been allowed to just be, and had not been closeted and attached to a weak man, perhaps she would not have been so brutal. It doesn't excuse what she did, but I can't help realizing now how horrible and frustrating it would be to deny who you are. I think that is one of the reasons I've always been so adamant about gay rights. No one should have to hide.

No one.

Because my father couldn't get what he needed emotionally or sexually from my mother he used me, physically and emotionally, for those things.

There were good times too. Those of you that have been through abuse know what I mean. Those of you who haven't likely shake your heads and think there is still something wrong with me to make such a statement.

Life, though, isn't black and white.

My mother, for all her faults and brutality, was educated and intelligent. She exposed me early to literature and art. She took me to Europe. I saw David. I saw sunsets in Florence and castles on the Rhine.

My father was a skilled carpenter, a master. He gave me the gift of my hands, of making. He was funny, he made me laugh, he gave me my sense of humor.

Relationships are complex.

What became agony for me though, as I matured, was the knowledge that we weren't right. That other people's children didn't sleep with them. I realized that physical and emotional pain weren't supposed to be a part of childhood and I became desperate, truly desperate, to escape.

I ran away and lived on the streets. The police found me and brought me back home.

I used a less than savory person to find a job for me as an assistant manager at a Burger King. I ran again. I found an apt. I was building a little life. Three months later my father walked into my job and dragged me out by my hair and took me home again. I found out later that for those three months I was gone he didn't work. He hired a private detective and he hunted me.

I ran again, to my best friend and her family. I took up with her brother and fell in love, or what I equated with love. He cheated on me. He would tell me, when I questioned him about his infidelity, "Look who I come home to though." When he ran into his friends and I was with him he called me his roommate. I was made to feel less than, that I owed a debt of gratitude to him for coming back to sleep in my bed and eat my food.

Abuse doesn't always come in the form of a hand. Abuse often comes silent, on cat feet, and slips through your back door. You don't know where the cat has been, or what it has brought home to you. You just know the cat expects you to be grateful for the time you have and that you should, are required to, pet it. When it claws you and draws blood you ignore it because, after all, it's just a cat.

That's it's nature.

Pimps talk like that, did you know? I didn't, at least not at that time. It's one of many psychological ploys involved in keeping a woman down.

By the time that relationship fell apart I was in nursing school. I went back home.

Depressed and sure I would never escape, that I was destined to live in Hell for the rest of my life, I began to just go through the motions. I was still functional, still going to school, still acting like I was alive but all I thought about, all I ever thought about, was how to die.

I had a study partner at the time. She and I had both been in trouble in nursing school. It was a Catholic institution and in that time you had to be what I will call 'nurse worthy' in the eyes of the nuns and your teachers which was, really, just another form of abuse.

After my study partner left the library I was wandering the stacks, putting off going home. On a table were several books that someone had abandoned. 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings' was on top. I had read that and was curious so I began to look at the other books in the stack and came across 'And Still I Rise'. I picked up the book and it fell open to the poem you'll find below.

That night when I went home my mother was in one of her typical rages. She was hiding behind the front door when I came in and began beating on me with her wire wig brush (always a favorite) because I was an hour late. I was about 22 when this happened. Like most people who have been systematically abused over a period of years timelines are fuzzy for me. You remember events, some even into early childhood, with great clarity, but it's often hard to pin down ages and dates correctly.

I realize that some would question why I didn't leave, why I didn't fight back. I did. I had. Until I read that little book I had ceased to care about trying. I understand the draw towards suicides and endings with a scary intimacy. Age and size have no bearing when you have lost yourself.

As I was trying to get away from her I tripped and fell, cutting my leg open on the stone fireplace. The sight of blood stopped her, not out of fear for me, but because it would drip on her favorite hand woven carpet. We were a frozen tableau for a few seconds. Then I wiped my hand across the gash on my leg, wiped my hand on the rug, stood up and said, "Still I rise" and walked off.

I would love to say that she never hit me again, or that I walked out the door and never looked back, or that I wasn't, later that night, on my hands and knees into the early hours of the morning scrubbing the blood out of that rug. I would love to say that but it wouldn't be the truth.

The truth of that night is that I found myself again, just a little piece of myself, just one tiny stitch. I added fabric over time, and colorful thread, and wove myself a road out.

I finished nursing school and found a little apt. on my own. I met my husband. For awhile I worked for my parents after my marriage but at 28 I finally, for the last time, left them.

I never saw them again after that other than the drive by sightings that became less frequent through the years. I worried for my children, overprotected them, always afraid that one of my parents would find them outside and steal them. It's an awful thing to live in fear. If you live with someone who's been abused you may not understand that fear but it's real, it breathes.

Both my parents are dead now. I find, to my surprise, my anger is largely dead too. What has taken it's place is a sort of sad longing, a wish that our lives could have been different. I still have flashbacks and dreams about the abuse, I wake up crying, I always will. I've learned to accept that. I still obsess over it occasionally, I still read books trying to understand why. Why were they like this? Why did this happen to me?

The simple truth is abuse happens everywhere, all the time. #metoo and it's proliferation is a perfect example of how widespread it is. When we speak out against it and break the silence that is when we work to eradicate abuse.

There have been other challenges in my life, as there are in all our lives, but I'm free.  My body is my own, to share or not share as I choose. No one makes me feel inadequate unless I let them and I will admit, that over the years, there have been times at work or socially when I haven't stood up for myself. Old habits die hard.

There is a core of strength though, and we all have it. If you are reading this you have it because you are here, you've survived. We all have stories. I don't really know why I wanted to share mine today. Maybe I was looking for you, reaching out to you the way Maya reached out of that little book to me. I'm no writer, or poet. I'm just a woman, who was once a girl.

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

 I know, it's been ages since I've posted here.  Life has been really wild.  Lots of medical issues in the family which are finally resolved and everyone is well again.  :)  I'm starting to rediscover glass around the increasing demands of production work because as anyone who creates for a living knows you HAVE to have time to actually play and create or you stagnate.

So I'm trying new shapes and starting to branch out in other areas.  One of the new things, or new to me, that I'm trying for the first time is making my own goldstone stringer.  I purchased some lovely goldstone in raw chunk form from Avenue Beads and I was amazed at how easy it actually is to pull your own goldstone stringer.  I love the results too, lots of sparkle!

I'll post again later this week and hopefully resurrect this poor blog.  Something always has to go on the back burner when life gets crazy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Astrid Bracelet Tutorial

I'm not feeling creative about the title of these bracelets and I have a bizarre name so why not use that? lol

Soooooo..............(best Brock Sampson voice)  LET'S DO THIS!  *headbutt  to desk*



First you need to gather some essentials....

Two sets of pliers, both of mine are Chain nose but whatever you like to use to open/close jump rings is fine.

A box cutter or X-Acto knife

Glue.  This is Super New Glue but you can also use 2-part Epoxy, E-6000, whatever you like best.

A charm.  Don't tell me you don't have a charm.  You wouldn't BE here if you didn't have charms, lol.

Jump rings.

Glue-on cord ends OR crimps ends for 2mm leather.  If you use crimp ends you don't need the glue.

Lobster clasp.

Lampwork beads or any beads that fit 2mm leather.

Spacers (optional) for 2mm leather.  These can be rare animals.  I am now carrying Greek Mykonos spacers that are ceramic and dipped in pure copper, fine silver, or 24K gold.  I *only* sell these on Tophatter or I will be selling them in kits I plan to carry in my Etsy shop, those will be available by mid-February, I'm still waiting on stock to arrive.  You can also buy them from folks on Etsy.  Why won't I carry them in my Etsy shop?  Because a sweet and sharing person carries them there and I'm not going to play in her pool, that's not nice.  You can email me too and I'll hook you up.

Got everything?  GOOD!

First step.  I cut my leather twice the intended length of my bracelet because I don't like to be caught short.  I'm sure as you progress you can cut down the amount and get more accurate.  I am NOT a math person so you are currently reading a tutorial that involves math written by a D algebra student.  Just sayin'.  I have my own whack methodology that allows me to make the right size for people.  I am not about to try to share that with you, it will make you crazy.  Some things you have to figure out on your own. ;)

Now, about a third of the way down the leather make an overhand knot:

Make a loop:


Put one side through the loop:

Pull tight!

 String your beads/spacers in whatever configurations appeal to you.  You could even just put charms on jump rings and string those on for a charm bracelet as long as you have them bracketed by lampwork beads or beads that the knot won't go through.  Be inventive!  Wrap wire or fiber around the leather!  Paint washers, bolts. or other hardware from the hardware store with spray paint and sealant in bright colors and make your own spacers!  GO NUTS!  You have my permission.  ;)

At this point your bracelet should look like this.  See how it curves?  You want to retain that so that it lies nicely on your wrist so WHEN YOU MAKE your second knot DO NOT tie it tightly smack up against the beads.  You'll bind the work, strain the leather, and possibly crack your beads.  BIG unhappy smiley.

You are going to tie another overhand knot, just like the first, on the other side but you are going to leave a little space (or larger one if you want the beads/charms/spacers to have some motion) and THEN pull the knot tight.  See?  Nice and curvy.  Me likey.  We shall proceed.

At this point I assemble my clasp configuration.  Personally, I use 6 jumprings and a charm on one side linked to the cord end, this is my extension chain.  The other cord end is linked to one jump ring and my clasp.  You can easily dispense with the lobster/extension chain combo and use a toggle clasp instead or whatever your particular design calls for.  We are doing bare bones here, lol.

The whole point of this bracelet, at least for me, is to show off the beads.  I love glass, I love simplicity in the jewelry I wear, that's just who I am.  I like simple and streamlined.  I do, however, like to have something that dangles off my bracelets to play with, that's what the charm is for!

/rant That does not, however, mean that is who YOU are, only you know that.  Design (and that is what we are doing here, designing) is about taking basics and exploring, pushing limits, and evolving.  Do I care if you do this exact bracelet?  Of course not, if that's what makes you happy.  I hope whoever stumbles across this in the future allows the basics here to further their creative journey.  You should do whatever makes you happy.  But I'm always going to lecture people about pushing limits because creativity isn't about fear INGRID (yes, you), it's about having the courage to fail because on the *other* side of that failure is something beautiful that no one has ever seen before.  I could build a mountain out of the snotballs of tangled wire, leather, fiber, and metal that have been discarded along my path.  I don't care.  I will make more piles of awful and will continue to do so until the day I die.  It's not about the end result it's about the journey.  Some of my worst mistakes have led to some of my best work.  Trust me and don't be afraid.  Now go jack something up for me.  /endrant

OK, so back up there pre-rant you see my clasp configuration.  I'm measuring it because that is part of the measurement of the bracelet.  Big HOWEVER, however.....

*Each cord end* consumes 1/4" of leather cord.  So, we'll *sigh* do a little whack math, lol.

Your bracelet should fit snugly if you are using this clasp configuration.  You have the extension if you make it a bit too small.  Too big and you've wasted a pair of cord ends.

You have to account for:

The length of the clasp configuration
The 1/2 inch you'll lose to the inside of the cord ends
How much the beads push the cord away from your wrist.

Like Pandora bracelets, y'know?  You have to up a size to make them fit right when you get all the beads loaded on.

UPDATE:  Here is the chart I use to get my bracelets to the correct wrist size.

NOTE:  You are measuring from the OUTER edge of your tied knot to the end of the cord and then cutting. 
Example:  For a six inch bracelet the measurement ON EACH SIDE from the outer edge of the knot to the end is one inch.


Bracelet size                             From outer edge to end of leather cord

6 inch                                              1 inch
6.5 inch                                           1.25 inch
7 inch                                              1.50 inch
7.5 inch                                           1.75 inch
8 inch                                              2 inch
8.5 inch                                           2.25 inch
9 inch                                              2.50 inch

Once you add your cord ends these measurements should result in the proper wrist size.  These come out just a tiny bit snug, that's why it's good to have the extension chain.  That way you can have the bracelet a little tight and ppl can let it out to what's comfortable.  

Can I tell you how to figure that?  Not on your life, lol.  But I've given you the building blocks.  I don't want to try to explain the math because I invariably get it wrong.  I've given you the basic pitfall list though.

So how do you get the bracelet even?  Ah, that I can explain.

You've tied both your knots so now you have this long cord on either side that is uneven.  I want an eight inch bracelet so I'll cut the length down to eight inches.  *It will be shorter than that!  Why?  Clasp configuration and the lost 1/2" of cord in the cord ends.  DON'T CUT YET.  You're forgetting to allow for the bead space.  Whew.  If you make it too short just add more jump rings, girlfriend.  Remember the golden jewelry making rule.  Ain't nobody gonna know it's whack but you.  ;P

To make it even on both sides I find the center of the beads (that's why I like to use odd numbers, ah HA! lol) I lay it on a ruler, put the middle of the middle bead on 4 inches (for an 8" bracelet, for a 7.5 inch bracelet you'd put it on, hmm.....I hate you math.....3.75 inches, for a 7 inch bracelet you'd put it on 3.50 inches, etc etc etc.  Shall we dance?

So once you've navigated your unique math nightmare you are ready to glue in the ends.  But wait!  There's more.......

Click the linky, you know you want to.  Your head hurts and you need humor....

Before I glue my ends in I scrape off the colored candy coating and get down to the raw leather on just the 1/4 inch that goes into the cord end.  Why?

This was something I discovered during my nightmarish vacation in Regaliz bracelet construction Hell.  Did you know that the finish can come off the leather and stay glued INSIDE the cord end while the leather runs off to Tahiti (i.e. broken bracelet, "Hey, your jewelry sux I want a refund", "So sorry can you send me a photo?"  Oh. Wow.  Massive money loss).

So now I strip my cord down to the raw leather and then glue.  No more problems.

Pick up your X-Acto or box cutter (pointing always AWAY from yourself.  What, are you nuts?  You'll gut yourself like a fish! :eyeroll:  Away.  Please.  Never towards.  It doesn't feel good to put a box cutter through your hand.  I know, I have the scar to prove it).

You are going to scrape the leather off now.  You are not going to "air scrape", i.e. put your finger on the other side of the leather to press it into the sharp knife and then scrape.  I will cut you.  Oh wait, you've already done that.

Lay the leather DOWN on a HARD work surface.  Keep your fingers OUT of the way of the blade.  Push gently in on the cord and scrape away from yourself.  Have you ever peeled an apple or a potato?  Like that, but very lightly.  You'll get a feel for it pretty fast.

Put your leather inside your cord end and use your fingernail to press into the leather and make a temporary mark where the leather comes out of the cord end.  Move away from this mark a smidge towards the end of the cord and then scrape away from yourself lightly removing the candy coating.  LIGHTLY!  You navigated the math nightmare, don't accidentally chop off the end now.  No one looks pretty when they cry.

You'll have all these ooky little fringe-y things (technical jewelry making term) hanging off, trim those off, I use my wire cutters.

Glue.  Just a little, you're not tiling grout here.....


That's all you get this month (with, like, two days left, LOL).  Another tutorial in February.  Send me ideas, what do you want to see?  Cutting disks, sawing metal, or how to drive your husband insane. ;)


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wirework Motherload!

I'm working on a tutorial for leather bracelets and became distracted on Pinterest and found this:

The page is in Hungarian.  I use Google Chrome for a browser and just hit translate but the photos are amazingly clear.  I *AM* making some time do to at least one pendant from this page this week, these are gorgeous.

Go look!  Get your wirework on!

If you have questions about how to use Pinterest or need an invite shoot me an email.  You do need a Facebook account but it's worth creating one for Pinterest.  There are a wealth of tutorials and and the RECIPES!  Goodness.  lol

I had another massive order come in but I have about half my tutorial done.  It should be online here late Monday.  I was aiming for Sunday night but I have to get a bit ahead on this order first and finish others that are on my plate.  :)

(((hugs)))  Have a great week!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving and Giving Back

I am truly thankful this Thanksgiving.  I had a bad scare (abnormal pap smear) and just found out today that I'm fine but it could just have easily gone the other way for me as it has for countless other women.  We have lost so many brilliant minds and talented artists to uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancer.  I thought about Gilda Radner many times this week, I still miss her wit and vitality.
Of course when you are waiting for results you explore all the *what if's* in your mind.  One decision I made and am going to put to legal paperwork next week is the decision to donate my body to science upon my death (40 years from now, lol).  In all seriousness, medical students have to learn their craft on cadavers.  There is always a need and always a shortage.  By giving the most personal part of yourself, your body, to these students and helping them in their education you are also helping them to learn and potentially, in the future, save your children. 
I wanted to ask my friends on FB to consider this alternative to burial or cremation.  Not only will it further science and help our children to live longer but you also spare you family from the excesses of burial and funeral costs.  I don't see the need for a memorial myself because, Honey, if I didn't give you enough to remember me by while I was here you won't miss me when I'm gone.  ;)
I don't write this lightly, or to stomp on anyone's belief system.  I was a nurse and I will *always* be concerned with health and the human condition.  In 1990 one of the most devout christians I ever knew died of AIDS he received in a blood transfusion.  He was my hero.  He allowed the Dr's to try whatever they thought would help because, in his words, "I know I'm dying but I want to try to beat this disease in any way I can, God would want that."  What he suffered from the disease and the attempts at a cure were unimaginable but he never wavered.  His strength of spirit and conviction were boundless and I still stand in awe of what he accomplished.  He was just a little farmer from the country.  In the end he donated his body to science. 
This man and many others like him made it possible for ppl who are HIV positive to live happy productive lives for years instead of dying horribly (which they did back then, in droves).  Many of those men I took care of became more than patients, they became friends.  Every time I hear someone talk about how they've lived for 10+ years after diagnosis these are the men and women I think about.  These are the heros.
I miss you Virgil, I still think about you, especially around this time of year.  I hope your spirit is resting peacefully and am thankful for the good you did and the chance I had to know you.
So, as you can tell by what I've written, it's more than just cancer that affects my decision.  I've seen so much suffering in my career and it was always my goal to alleviate it.  To me, it is only logical to continue to do that as long as I can.
I'm posting this to my blog as well.  Much love to all of you and Happy Thanksgiving!  Hug the ones you love.  <3

Friday, September 28, 2012

Speak to me, oh fire.......

Contemplating logistics problems of new product design.........

and yes, I need the gloves.  Girl, you should see my hands, Madge would scold me.

It's more than just mild.  ;)  I wonder if it works wonders on burns, hmmmm.  

If Madge saw my hands she'd just throw down that file and leave, lol.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Personal Best

OK, glass isn't about speed, buuUUUUUuuut...

49 beads, all encased and carefully fire 7 hours.

I'm pretty proud of that (blows on nails and buffs them on chest).  There's also two 15 minute breaks and a half hour lunch in the mix there.

A word to those uninitiated to made to order and production work - if you are going to do 6+ long hour sessions you have to, I repeat HAVE TO, take breaks just like you would with any other production job.

If you were, as my maternal grandmother was, a factory worker putting little gears in Timex watches (which she did for 30+ years, I have no idea how she didn't go insane.....well, she was a little insane) you would go on strike if someone demanded that you work straight through without breaks.

Don't ask that of yourself.  Not only will you burn out on glass you could put your health at risk as well.

I do a run of about 6 beads, get up, stretch, walk around, etc.  Having a CD that you have to get up to manually change is a good alarm.  When it ends you know it's time for a break because, as we all know, you can get so absorbed in the glass you loose track of time and I have found I also lose touch with my body.  I turn off the warning signals that I've been sitting too hunched or the wrong way mentally and when I do that I pay for it later in pain and stiffness.

Glass is great and I love production work.  I'm weird that way, I do well with creative repetition - hand quilting is another passion of mine that makes most people batty, no pun intended.

However, at the end of the day you don't want to be this chick, all hunched over with your lampworking claw hanging out.......

It's not a good look.  Just sayin'......      ;)