Friday, May 30, 2008


It's summer!

I'm sitting at my desk listening to a soundcheck for tonight's concert at the City Market. My office window looks out over the market, and there are concerts on lots of summer nights. It's kind of fun; kind of annoying getting out of the parking lot, but interesting all the same.

I remember one night when a band was playing -- I don't remember the name of the band, it certainly wasn't anyone that I had ever listened to -- that had a somewhat scary fanbase. As I recall, the band members had a lot of scary facial piercings -- I looked them up on the internet -- and I suppose their fans did, too. Anyway, Dave left to go home, and I think I was the last person left in the office. He asked me if I was ready to leave, and I said I was going to be there a little while longer, but for him to go ahead and go home.

He'd been gone about ten or fifteen minutes, I guess, and he came back into the office and said I had to leave right now, that he didn't want me walking through that crowd alone. The guys here are usually pretty protective of me, which is nice.

I'm doing better in my Artist's Way work this week. I've written my Morning Pages every day, read the principles, written affirmations. I didn't know what to do for my Artist's Date; last night Bob was working late, so I took myself out to dinner at Chili's and sat for about an hour and read and had a very leisurely dinner. I'm not sure if that counts, but it was nice. I'll probably try to do something more "arty" this weekend.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008


I was so ready for this three-day weekend! I don't have any big plans at all, which is exactly the way I like it. Yesterday I slept late, got up and had breakfast, and after Bob left for work at around 1:00, I went back to bed with my book and read for most of the afternoon.

I finally got up and worked on some polymer clay pieces, then got dressed and left the house around 5:00, I guess; I was at Michael's buying more clay when Bob called. He had bought a pair of shoes at Bass Pro a few days ago, and he said they were killing his feet and he was going to exchange them. But he needed the box, so he asked me to go home and find it and bring it out to the store.

He met me out in the front of the store when I got there, and I sat in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace while he got the return taken care of. He came over in his stocking feet and sat in the rocking chair next to me to put on his new shoes, and I took a picture of him with the camera phone.

Then he went back to work, and I went to Borders, bought a couple of magazines, then went to Chipotle for dinner. I sat there for probably about an hour, just relaxing and reading, then I came home and worked some more with the clay. I was going for faux bone or ivory; they turned out looking more like wood, I think -- the grain wasn't fine enough -- but that's okay. I'm giving myself permission to try things out, and make mistakes -- and sometimes it's the mistakes that turn out better than the thing you planned.

The pieces are in the oven curing now; once they come out, I'll let them cool, then antique them with some walnut stain I bought a week or so ago. I'm always drawn more to the natural-looking things. I love looking at brightly-colored pieces, but when it comes time to make things for myself, I almost always stick with neutral colors. I went way outside my comfort zone and bought a few packages of red, turquoise, yellow and purple clay, but the majority of my purchases were black, white, and various shades of brown. Plus metallics -- silver, copper and gold -- and a lot of translucent. Oh, and glow-in-the-dark!

I put about a dozen polymer clay books on reserve at the library, and they've all come in now, I think, so I have a huge stack of books that I've been going through. They all have beautiful things, but the ones I'm most excited by are the pieces that imitate natural things--bone, ivory, wood, tumbled stones. I'm learning a lot, reading a lot about techniques that I want to try. It's fun, and it's not terribly expensive, at least not when I can get stuff on sale.

I finally turned the air conditioner on today, but we've been going without it until now. We've had the windows open and fans blowing, and Bob said he wanted to try to not turn it on until June, but it's beenin the 80's, and very humid because of all the rain we've been getting. Today both of the cats were lying in front of one of the fans, so I decided it's time. We'll sleep better.

One night last week Bob kept hearing some kind of noise that he couldn't identify. It didn't wake me up (very little does), but it kept him awake. The next day he discovered that it was a branch of one of the trees in the back yard hitting the metal cover on the fireplace chimney. He was standing out in the backyard trying to decide how to fix the problem; we don't have a tall ladder, but we have a short one, and he has a clipper with a ten foot reach extension or something like that, but even that wouldn't quite get it.

He was talking about getting up on the roof, but I nixed that. I'm not sure if he was serious or not, but I definitely didn't want him up on the roof. I wasn't too pleased with him on a ladder, frankly, but the clipper thing wasn't too scary. What got scary was when he attached this extremely wicked looking blade to it and started sawing the branches.

I couldn't even stay out there and watch. I suggested he put on safety goggles, which he did, and he put on boots and a hardhat. I could just see the blade coming loose and dropping to cut off his toes, or him falling backwards off the ladder and the blade cutting off his head . . . It was making me crazy, so I told him if he was going to do it, fine, but I wasn't going to watch.

I don't know how long he was out there, but he was really working hard. It was pretty hard to saw something so far away with a saw that you really weren't able to control all that well, but he eventually succeeded in cutting off three limbs that were hitting the roof. He was pretty proud of himself (understandably). He asked me to take his picture. He was singing the Monty Python "Lumberjack" song . . .

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Don't get me started

I'm sorry! I honestly didn't realize it had been so long since I wrote. And on such a bad note.

Someone sent me an email this afternoon that she was worried about me, and had emailed Bob to be sure that everything was okay. Everything's fine. I took some pretty heavy duty pain pills for about a week, also muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories -- my doctor doesn't mess around. The muscle relaxers (I think) made me feel kind of weird -- almost like I feel when I take cold medicine -- dry mouth, kinda spacy -- but other than that, it was blessed relief from the pain.

I haven't taken the pain pills now for a couple of days, and I just took the last of the cycle of anti-inflammatories, so I think I'm okay for now. It's made me kind of tired, though, and I've also been working a lot. I seldom get home before 8:00, and when I do get home, I'm not much in the mood to do anything but eat something and sit down to relax for an hour or so before I go to bed and get ready to do it all again the next day.

I went to the PMC (Precious Metal Clay) class at the bead store on Tuesday. I enjoyed the class a lot -- it was nice to sit around for a couple of hours with other women and talk and create something. It felt very peaceful to me to have a space of time when I wasn't really worrying about or thinking about anything else. I wasn't crazy about the things I made, but I was really glad to have had the experience of working with it.

You press the silver-permeated clay into a mold which is patterned, and which forms the back of the piece.

You roll it to even it out in the mold, then use a stamp -- like a rubber stamp -- to form the design on the front.

The pieces are then dried with a hairdryer so that they will pop out of the mold, then they're fired in a kiln, then cooled and tumbled in a rock tumbler. After that, you polish the pieces, antique them, polish them again, and voila! handmade silver jewelry.

I made those three pieces out of one package of clay, which costs about $18. So, not horribly expensive if you compared it to the cost of buying silver jewelry already made, but not exactly cheap enough to play around with. Last weekend I was playing around with clay, but the normal, somewhat cheap polymer clay.

I used a half off coupon to JoAnn's to buy a pasta machine, which makes using polymer clay much easier. The clay has to be "conditioned" before you use it, which means warming it up and working it with your hands until it's soft and pliable. That's a big reason why I stopped working with it a few years ago -- my hands just couldn't take it. But with the pasta machine, most of that work is done for you, you just run it several times through the pasta machine. (You can't make pasta with it, though, after you've used it for clay!)

I made a couple of practice pieces:

After the class on Tuesday, I went by Michael's to get a couple of packages of clay, and all of their polymer clay was on sale. There are several brands ranging in price from $1.99 to $2.79, but they were all on sale for 99 cents. So I bought $10.00 worth, and I went back last night for another $10.00 worth. I need to have enough so that I don't worry about using it. One of the things I'm trying to work on is not being afraid to make mistakes.

If you wait until you know exactly what you're going to do, and try to ensure that you're never going to waste anything, or make something that isn't exactly what you want, you'll never make anything. So I played around and made those two pieces, and got kind of excited about the possibilities again. Those two aren't very good -- I tried an interesting technique I read about where you melt embossing powder in a pan on the stove and dip the edges of the pieces in it, but then I decided I wanted to fire it again and the powder melted. I knew it would, but by that time I just wanted to see what would happen.

I have kind of fallen by the wayside in The Artist's Way work ... Last week, with my back, I was so miserable, and this week I didn't get started on Monday, so I decided to take this week off and start again next week, and re-do Week 2. It's a process, and it's not foolproof, and I knew it was going to take work.

Part of Week 2 was accepting "coincidences" as not being coincidences -- I hadn't talked about this, but toward the end of Week 1, I received a big Etsy order for five pieces from one person, and one of the guys at work asked me to bring jewelry in for him to pick some pieces for his mother. I ended up selling about $100 worth of stuff to several people.

So it's pretty evident that when I actually focus on making things work, things happen. But I know that there are a lot of psychological things going on; I don't think I'm afraid of success, but maybe in some small part of me, I am. Or afraid to take a step off the edge . . . I don't know. All I know is, it's interesting, and nothing is set in stone.

Wow, when I get started, I just don't shut up, do I?

Here are some poppy pictures that I found in the camera when I took off the jewelry ones.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Blogging the Artists Way, Week 2

Week 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity

My notes for week 2:

  • Avoid poisonous people, "crazy makers" -- people who bring you down in order to make them feel better about themselves.
  • Safeguard your newly recoving artist. Don't accept other people's plans for you.
  • Don't just focus on your responsibilities to others, focus on your responsibilities to yourself.
  • Nurture yourself. Be an example of transforming self-doubt into self-expression.
  • Set aside skepticism and accept "coincidences" as not coincidences, but as manifestations of the fact that you are on the right path.
  • Consciously practicing opening your mind.
  • Pay attention.

"The quality of life is in proportion to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention."

Tasks for Week 2:

  1. Affirmative reading -- morning and night, read the Basic Principles
  2. List your 5 major activities this week. Which ones did you want to do and which were shoulds? Draw a circle: Inside are the things you need to protect and those who are supportive. Outside are the people you must be self-protective around.
  3. List 20 things you enjoy doing and the last time you did them.
  4. From the list, take two things and make them your week's goals.
  5. Read affirmations from Week 1. Choose three and write them 5 times a day in your morning pages.
  6. Add five more imaginary lives. Is there anything from these that you can incorporate into your life?
  7. "Life pie." Draw a pie with six pieces, label each piece: Spirituality, Exercise, Play, Work, Friends, Romance/Adventure. Draw dots by placing them closer to or further from the center, representing the degree to which you are fulfilled in these areas. Connect them.
  8. 10 tiny changes -- "I would like to _______________."
  9. Make one of these your goal for the week.
  10. Do it.

I think I need a re-do on Week 2. I've written my morning pages every day, but I haven't even looked at the lists of tasks after reading the chapter and writing them down on Saturday.

This weekend was so bad that I think everything else was just pushed out of my mind by pain. On Saturday I had an appointment to get my hair cut and colored, but I was in so much pain when I woke up that I wasn't sure if I'd be able to. In the first place, I wasn't sure if I could even get out of the car when I got there, and in the second, whether I'd be able to sit in the chair for an hour and a half and get my hair done.

It was pretty brutal, but I got there, and I was waiting in the front for my hairdresser to come up, and when I saw her, and she saw that I was having difficulty walking, the look of concern and sympathy she gave me made me start crying. The pain, and then that kind of pain always seems to affect me emotionally also. As I said to her later, some people just give you permission to fall apart by offering sympathy.

I got through the haircut, then went to lunch at Chipotle and sat there and ate and worked in my Artist's Way notebook, making notes. By mid-afternoon I was feeling a bit better -- I guess the 8 Advil I'd had by that time had finally kicked in. I ran a few errands, and came home early.

Sunday was Mother's Day, and I was going to go out to my folks'. Bob had left early to go fishing with a friend, so I was home by myself, and when I went upstairs to get dressed, discovered that I couldn't get my jeans on. I just couldn't bend over far enough to pull them up. I laid on the bed and was able to get them on, then I couldn't get up. I just laid there and cried a little bit, feeling sorry for myself. I was eventually able to get up, but I honestly wasn't sure if I could survive the car trip.

I did (of course), then when I got to my parents' house, I couldn't get out of the car. Well, I eventually did (of course, again), but I had to go really slow and I had to stand and let the pain subside a little before I walked up to the house. I saw my mother come to the door -- she had heard the car drive up -- but she said later she thought I must have been on the phone or something, explaining why I didn't come in.

We had lunch, then we were going to move into the living room to sit and talk, and I couldn't get up out of the chair. This was getting old -- embarrassing, depressing, you name it. My little 80 year old mother had to go get her walker so I could get up out of the chair.

So I called my doctor, told him the 800 mg of Advil wasn't cutting it, and he called in prescriptions that Bob picked up on the way home. I've got some major pain medication, a muscle relaxer, and an anti-inflammatory. So I'm pretty loaded up with pharmaceuticals this week. They're helping tremendously. I was a little afraid to take the pain pill -- Hydrocodone -- because I was afraid they would make me sick, but they haven't.

Hopefully I'll get through the course of pills and the pain will be gone. If not, I don't know. Bob said maybe I need to be in traction. Maybe I do. I hope not. Surely this will work.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Step in the right direction

Today was the day for my annual ob-gyn appointment, and I did what I've done for a couple of years -- I took the whole day off. I arranged the gynecologist visit for the morning, and a made an appointment for a mammogram a couple of hours later. I figure if I do both of those things in one day, I deserve to take the rest of the day off!

Neither of them were really bad at all. I really love my doctor, he's very cool. Serious, but with a dry sense of humor. I could heap praise on him, but bottom line, I just like him. He complimented me on my toenail polish, and when he started the exam, he said, "Okay, now go to your happy place."

I asked him, as I always do, if he thought I should go off HRT, and he said no, and explained about some recent studies that show that women who stay on estrogen treatment through their fifties are healthier. I told him I was perfectly fine with that, but that I always like to check, and get facts so I can tell my mother when she calls with something that she's read in the newspaper. He said, well, they only print bad news, and if there's good news about something like that, they bury it because it isn't sensational.

I mentioned in passing that I had hurt my back a week ago, and that I should probably see someone about it; he said, "You know what they're going to tell you, don't you?" and I said, "Lose weight?" and he waved his arm, like no, no, and said, no, we could all stand to lose weight, but what they would tell you is, take 800 milligrams of Advil three times a day for a week and see if it stops hurting.

And he said, "There. I just saved you another doctor visit." He said that 800 milligrams (4 tablets) is the prescription dose -- it would never have occurred to me to take that many. But I'm going to try it.

The mammogram wasn't bad at all, really. It didn't seem as painful as it usually does, but maybe that was because I'd taken a couple of Advil for the back pain. The technicians are always extra nice (Bob says it's because they're all women and they have breasts, too, so they know what it's like).

I got everything done by about 12:30, so I took myself to lunch at Chipotle. I took my Morning Pages journal -- I had totally spaced doing them this morning. I had thought of them while I was still in bed, but had forgotten by the time I got up. So I wrote after I ate, sitting in the restaurant. It's all stream-of-consciousness, but I was thinking about the "if you could live other lives, what would they be" assignment, and I kept coming back to jewelry designer.

And it hit me -- I'd been thinking about taking a class in precious metal clay, but just didn't really feel like I should spend the money, or that I could count on getting away from work in time to make a class or even taking another day off in order to do it.

But something the doctor had said had stuck with me. It's nothing new, but something I tend to push away, I guess. He said, "Are you having any fun?" And I said, well, no, not really. I'm working a lot. And he said, it's like that Billy Ray Cyrus song, nobody's going to put on your tombstone that you worked a lot. Yeah.

And Bob had suggested I go to the bead store this afternoon; he'd picked up a postcard on the dining room table that had come from the store, with a 20% discount. So that's what I did. I went to the bead store, looked around and bought a few dollars worth of stones from the grab bag table, and signed up for a Lilly Ollo class.

It's sort of the Avon or Pampered Chef of jewelry design, I guess, but I thought it would be a good introduction to precious metal clay. Precious metal clay (PMC) is clay that is impregnated with sterling silver or gold. You manipulate it like you would regular polymer clay, then when it's fired in a kiln, the clay burns away and the silver is left. It's really fascinating to me, and I've been longing to try it.

The other thing, besides the cost (which turned out to be $44), is that I don't have a kiln, and you can't fire it in the oven like you can regular polymer clay. But I can't continue to let things like that stop me from at least checking things out. If I love it beyond all reason, I'm sure I could figure out how to buy a kiln (this is a small kiln, not a huge one like for firing pottery, of course). I don't even know how much something like that would be. But one step at a time. I don't even know if I'll like it. (I think I'll love it.)

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Blogging The Artist's Way

I've been feeling kind of lacking in creativity lately. I haven't been writing, haven't been making jewelry, having been knitting, having been doing anything creative, really. I've been busy, it's true, but something as important as that deserves to have some attention paid to it.

So I've decided to do The Artist's Way again. I did it once, a long time ago, but I think I could benefit from doing it again. It's very well known, but for anyone who hasn't heard of it, it's basically a course in regaining creativity for creative who may be blocked, or people who don't think they are creative, but would like to be. It's a little woo-woo "New Age," I guess, but a lot of it is pretty straightforward. I started it today; I read the introduction and the first chapter over the past couple of days. Today starts Week 1.

Week 1: Recovering a Sense of Safety

My notes for Week 1:

  • Protect the artist child within
  • Acknowledge that you are an artist
  • Lose the fear of being wrong
  • Don't judge yourself, allow yourself to make mistakes
  • Go slow -- it isn't a competition, and there's no deadline
  • Affirmations: "I am a billiant & prolific __________."
  • Blurts - subconscious negative responses -- turn them into positive affirmations
  • Also - creative affirmations, i.e., "I am a channel for God's creativity, and my work comes to good," etc.

You are assigned tasks for the week; the expectation is that you will do most of them, you don't have to do all of them. The most important ones are the Morning Pages and the Artist Date.

Tasks for Week 1

  1. Morning pages
  2. Artist date
  3. List three early enemies of your creative self worth
  4. Write the story of one of these
  5. Write a "letter to the editor" in your defense
  6. List three champions of your creative self worth
  7. Write a thank you letter to someone who encouraged you (mailed or unmailed)
  8. If you had five other lives to lead, what would they be? Select one, and live it this week, as much as possible
  9. If negatives occur this week, turn them into positive affirmations
  10. Take a 20 minute walk with your inner artist

The Morning Pages are just three pages, written in longhand first thing in the morning, with no formatting or no thought other than to write three pages. I think of it as kind of a "brain dump" -- there's a lot of stuff in there that needs to get out, stuff that is clogging up the available space. Worry, concern, jealousy, anger. I already know that it helps to journal, but this is even more freeform. You aren't supposed to re-read them, in fact, you might as well throw them away, or shred them, or burn them. The point isn't to write anything worthwhile, it's just to write.

Artist Dates are time spent alone (well, the point is you're taking your inner artist on a date); no one else is allowed to come along. Cameron suggests visiting an art supply store, or a museum or the five and dime; it doesn't have to be expensive, it doesn't have to involve any expense at all. You could spend five dollars and buy crayons and stickers, or go to the park, or buy a museum pass.

The point is just to go out and do something inspirational, something fun, something with no particular agenda or expectation. Something that you enjoy. It definitely shouldn't be something that you think you should do, or anything that's particularly intellectually edifying, unless that's what you enjoy.

My Artist Date this week was going to a bead show at the convention center. I don't guess I mentioned it, but I hurt my back a week ago. One of those stupid lower back things -- I bent over to dry my hair and something popped, twanged, I don't know. Something hurt so badly that I could hardly straighten up. It's been bothering me all week.

Yesterday I drove past the convention center sign while I was running errands and saw the notice of the bead show. I wanted to go then, but my back was really bothering me and I knew I couldn't enjoy it. But today I was feeling a little better, so I went for an hour. It was a $5 entrance fee, and I spent about $25. I bought a Thai Hill Tribe silver charm--a little ring to slip on a chain--and several bags from someone's "grab bag" table--some aventurine, some carnelian, some gray potato pearls--those will all be used to make jewelry to sell--and a gift just for me, a Turkish "Evil Eye" pendant on a silver chain. Or, I guess, a gift for my inner artist.

Some links:

The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron
A Light for the Journey
Watermark: The Artist's Way
The Artist's Way Blog

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Just the essentials

When I started carrying this big planner every day, I had to rethink the other things I carry. I had been carrying a fairly large bag, a nice leather tan leather one. It closes with a magnetic snap, so it's sort of open, sort of a "feed bag" effect, I guess. A couple of weeks ago there was an incident with my cell phone -- I had gone to Target, and when I got in the car I was going to look at my phone because I don't always hear it when it rings and I'm in a store, and the phone wasn't in my purse.

I nearly panicked, of course, and rushed over to where I had left my cart, and sure enough, it was in the bottom of the cart, having apparently fallen out of my purse. So I knew I needed to do something different anyway.

I always struggle with the purse issue. I'd love to carry just about everything I own with me every day. I like to be prepared for any contingency. But also, I know it's not good for me physically to carry a heavy bag on my shoulder everywhere I go. I had started carrying an old Land's End canvas attaché that I had bought years ago, but with the attaché and a big purse, I was a bit overloaded.

So I switched my purse to a small one, a leather Fossil bag that only holds the bare essentials -- wallet, cell phone, tissues, a pen, pill box -- basically, that's it. And I even had to switch to a smaller wallet because my regular one wouldn't fit in there, and my glasses wouldn't fit in at all. The strap is long enough to wear bandolier-style, which I like, so I was carrying that purse and the canvas attaché and that was working pretty well. I put my hair brush, Palm Pilot, glasses and hand lotion in the attaché, which was fine for work, but really, that purse was too small. But I didn't want to switch back to the big one.

Then I was in Kohl's on Saturday to buy some t-shirts, and I looked at the bags and found one that I really liked. It was a Rosetti bag made of a lightweight fabric with leather trim, and it was $45, which I didn't want to spend. But I really liked it. I carried it around for awhile, then sadly put it back, because I just couldn't justify buying it.

The t-shirts didn't work out, so I took them back on Sunday, and again, I looked at the bag, and this time, there was a sale sign on the rack -- they were on sale for $18. Well, obviously I could justify $18, so I bought it. It's quite a bit larger than the bag I was using, plenty of room for a hairbrush and handcream, and of course I'm now struggling with wanting to load it up with all the other things I'd like to carry with me.

But I've resisted so far. And I decided to carry the planner in my arm, like a book -- I don't really need the attaché; I don't need four pens and extra notepads, etc., that's just my obsessive nature talking. Carrying it in my arm didn't really work out, though, so I went down in the basement last night and pulled out a tote bag that's just big enough for the binder and not much else, hopefully that will keep me from loading it down again.


  • Wallet
  • Palm Pilot
  • Hairbrush
  • Handcream
  • Phone
  • Keys
  • Notepad
  • Pen
  • Glasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Makeup bag with:
    • Lip gloss
    • Nail clipper
    • Pill box
    • Small flashlight
    • Tissues
    • Emery board

Writing it all down, it sounds like a lot, but it's just the essentials.

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