Monday, December 28, 2015

Surviving the Gauntlet

Short Lived Hopes and Dreams and Wishes - 7 years later she is dead.
My gauntlet has been the holiday season and sometimes I am not at all sure I will survive. It has taken everything I have and I'm so depleted I'm struggling to find the strength to come out the other side alive and somewhat well and functional. Me, a top performer all my life, relegated to the depths of this grief for as long as it takes me to climb out. How do I do that?

My gauntlet is the onslaught of media and commercialism around Christmas and the holiday season. My gauntlet is family that won't let me get off the bus. Each event or gathering is like several sharp slaps across the face after a year of triggers and sharp slaps and I can't participate, I just can't. Not this first holiday season. We put up a magic, perfect, glowing tree, which was lovely and fine. We did not put up the stockings, one for each person, because she's not here. We did not put the nutcrackers on the mantel, one for each person, because our numbers are lopsided now.

The sharp slaps are living in a town where I go into stores to shop where I used to love to shop for and with her. Sometimes I cry when I come out of the store. The sharp slaps are living in a house where every time I go into the hall bathroom I remember the special equipment in the bathtub - the cedar stool, which I covered with a fresh, soft hand towel for her shower every day (gone now, the stool and the towels), and the hosey shower thing my brother installed so she could shower sitting down (we love to use it for washing the pups now).

I rearranged the furniture in the living room after she died so that the soft chair in the corner where she liked to sit would not be so empty. I washed all the floors on my hands and knees. I gave away the beautiful rug and shower curtain in the bathroom and redid it - the new shower curtain has thousands of beautiful butterflies on it and the rug is gorgeous. New towels too, very soft. New poster, based on a happy ending fairy tale.

New shower curtain and rug in the bathroom.
This is what you see when you're sitting on the "throne."
I love to pick out which is my favorite butterfly, and I love the idea of metamorphosis.
Lovely very soft new towels.
Lovely happy ending fairytale poster.
In order to come out of this I have much work still to do. I am halfway through the gauntlet and it is painful.

The gauntlet for the season has been Hallmark movies where each death is replaced by a convenient life - baby, new love, new spouse, new pet, etc. My life has no such infusion. The gauntlet is family insisting on delivering Christmas presents, which obligates me to shop for them, which I cannot do. My relevancy meter is not the same as theirs. It's shot. (Their presents were oh so thoughtful, tons of tealights cause I light one for Jess every night, and other sweet and thoughtful things. A generous gift card to Michael's for art supplies so I can keep doing what makes my heart sing.)

For the other half of my gauntlet, I'm facing things that no one should have to face at this time of year or any other. What I have to do in the next few days before the new year, is yet again put my daughter's things away (storage), which is like putting her away, and SHE MATTERS.

She was here. I looked for her all this summer after she died, but she did not appear.
There was a time when we touched. When I brought her home and gave her showers to make her fluffy clean and silently decried the state of her little body getting skeletal and eaten up by the sickness. I read fairy tales to her in the bathroom while she took her showers when she got strong enough to do it by herself. We didn't even imagine that we would lose her.

She was already dying and I didn't know it.
So how do we climb out of this? How do we get to a place that isn't the dropping shoe and the fear of the other shoe that will drop?

Well, we cry a lot lot lot. Get it out. And I seem to have taken on a case of double pneumonia the day before Thanksgiving that let me off the party bus. I ate a little of the dinner Rob made, cried before it and after it. He said "Do you need a hug?" And I went into his arms and he was kind and patient and loving.

Very slow to recover from this sickness - it was pretty bad. Coughing bright red blood Thanksgiving night. Fluid collecting in my lungs. My sis took me to the walk-in clinic. I think the sick part of me is the ego part that says NO MORE stimulation or input or participation. Just leave me alone to lick my wounds and try to recover. Lots of sleep. Lots of reflection. Lots of medicine, more than I've ever taken in my whole life. I'm leaning hard on those who can help. I have good docs but not much faith in them since she had 13 and didn't make it....

There is a part of me outside of the pneumonia that is fighting in a peaceful way - doing artwork, the only thing besides Rob and the pups that will pull me out of this. I do not know if the artwork is strong enough, or if Rob and the pups wouldn't be better off with wife number 3, whoever she might be. Some of my paintings are inspired by Jess and these events and others are beautiful, and have nothing to do with it, I will be able to pick up the trail of where I was going before I got sideswiped.

I want my son near me, but he's 5,000 miles away and happy in a different culture where he's thriving. I cannot tell him how much I want him and his lovely wife near me. Close enough to feed and hug and visit and talk with and see their beautiful faces and smell them.

So I put my big girl panties on, put on my lipstick, take my pneumonia meds and carry on. I do not know where this is going. I want to turn the corner and feel my old self's determination and capability. Wow, where IS that? I used to be so damn strong.

Well, with the new year I have made a decision to turn the third spare room into a workout room. I'm selling the twin beds I grew up in (the bed Jess slept in while she was here for 4 months recovering), selling the other set of twin beds (beautiful antiques from my Grandmother's home) that furnish the other spare room, and investing in a queen bed so that when/if the kids visit they'll be comfortable. And the workout room will be a place to go to get our little endorphins working for us and a place to build back our physical systems that are completely depleted - a life-sustaining room. I will keep a few things in there from all the kids, but mostly it'll be a room that inspires Rob and me in positive ways.

Twin beds in the spare room, nice cherry canopy beds.
Wish me luck in taking down the spare room where Jess spent time in recovery and in moving forward to making it into a life sustaining place where we can move our bodies and listen to music and do yoga and treadmill and fluidity bar and go when we need to destress. When those beds go out of here I will take a shot of cognac, which I usually save for Christmas, but sometimes it is purely medicinal and this will be one of those times. We had set up that room for the grandchildren of our future, imagining them visiting in summer. Well now they'll just have to sleep all jumbled up in the queen bed in the other spare room.

Wish me luck as I put her things, which are in that spare room, into tupperware tubs carefully labeled for her brother, send me strength to do this with respect and love.

This is a hard corner for us. But we must do it else we may get stuck, and that's not an option.

All prayers are most welcome - this is the second hardest thing I've ever done besides live through the past year.

Thanks for all your blessings and uber prayers, I know they matter, and I know they give us strength.

Here's to a new year that is a clean slate for you, much simpler than ours. Last year, like every other New Year, I was feeling grateful that Jess was home in Portland, working, visiting with her neighbors, and talking with me every night on the phone. One of our last, very sweet conversations on New Year's Eve was when I texted her Happy New Year and said we had just watched the ball drop in New York. She said she felt like she was in a time warp, 3 hours behind in Portland, and she said "I'll catch up Momma." The other sweet text thing I have on the phone, just days before she died is when she taught me how to download the little picture icons and we had a conversation back and forth with a ton of them - she said it was making her laugh. Made me laugh too, and still does xo

She never said she'd been sent home from work with jaundice. She never said she'd fallen outside and an ambulance was called. She never said on January 8th that she signed a paper to turn away yet another ambulance. And on January 9th my life flipped over, and so did hers. I did not expect it. I don't know if she did.

So the end of my gauntlet, coming around the corner of this new year is a mix of memories of where we were at the beginning of last year (in for the shock of our lives) and creating change. Birthing something new. Letting go. Embracing all that is meaningful and moving forward with it.

So here's to stepping into new worlds, building back strength that has been sucked out, and learning to believe again. I keep some things of the children around me, but not everything. Just enough to feel the love.

I will try to stay in my spiritual self as I create this change. I am somewhat excited about it. I pulled one of my little Angel Cards, asking Jess what she thought of the changes and got "Celebration!" I think she approves.

So do I think that on January 10th I will wake up Little Miss Sunshine, breathing deeply and looking forward to what is to come? I just might, God willing. We have made it through the first year, and that is the hardest.

My beautiful son and his gorgeous wife xoxo

We can do hard things, right?


Monday, December 21, 2015

Two Worlds Painting in the Works

I have been working on the Two Worlds painting tonight. The photo above shows me, the mother of the daughter who passed away, surrounded in gray misery but a little light is getting in from my daughter's world from above.

Jess in her new world
She is happy and surrounded by waves of love, taking a moment to send some down to me.

The Two of Us
This shows the two of us, me feeling ego based and missing her, and her in her spiritual self all joyous, trying to send some light down to me.

Beginning to feel the light
I am beginning to feel the light and love but still ego based and trying to sort out how to find comfort in where she is now in relation to where I am.

Jess at Home
She is so happy, surrounded by love and all the things she could ever need or want - her heaven is as large as her imagination for a while. Looks like a pretty good place for her to be. You can see there are still parts of the image for me to finish.

The Two of Us
And here we are. Learning to communicate in new ways. I miss her earthly presence but I celebrate her new world experiences.

In this painting I am using color to communicate mood. And there is lots of detail. Pretty much everything has meaning - will post about that when done.

This painting will be finished soon. I love the winter when I can concentrate on drawing and painting.

Will post the finished painting when done.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Dancing with Destiny and Her Sister Fate painting finished

Dancing with Destiny and Her Sister Fate

As we go through life, I think we have guidance from all kinds of loving sources, including some from the celestial realms. We travel our pathways with the guidance of these wise ones, sometimes not really recognizing them, though they are always available to us.

This painting depicts Destiny and her sister Fate, guiding a little girl through her growing up years. 

Step off the yellow brick road
Destiny teaches her to place herself solidly on a pathway of love and not to be afraid to step off the yellow brick road that may have been prescribed for her by others.

Destiny belongs to the little girl
The little girl will learn that if she dances with her Destiny, they can work together to create a meaningful life that will have a positive influence on others, and will bring pleasure and joy to the little girl. 

Treasures await.
There is a treasure chest sitting beside Destiny of wonderful tools and skills and talents for the little girl to discover. Crow, the bird that represents Cosmic Law, holds the key that will unlock the treasure chest.

Growing adolescent
The little girl has not yet grown into her beautiful self. She is still gangly and feeling awkward. But with the touch of Destiny's hand on her forehead, she will reach her potential.

Destiny's Sister Fate
With help from Destiny's sister, Fate, the little girl will find her way, guided by the music that wafts from Fate's trumpet in waves of love.

Destiny is strong and determined in guiding the pathway of the little girl so that it will be just right for her.

And the little girl is trusting the guidance of Destiny and her sister Fate. The little girl brings Destiny a gift of sunflowers, for we never take without giving back.

Fate knows nothing but love, and when she blows her trumpet, waves of music surround the little girl and guide her in her dance with Destiny.

The Journey
Altogether we have a journey guided by Destiny and Fate, which, when taken with feet planted solidly on the pathway of love, leads to a life of pleasure, joy, gifts of love, and celebration.

That is what this painting is about.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Dream Catchers at the Bellefonte Art Museum in December - Holiday Show and Sale

12" Rainbow Dream Catcher
I've been making Dream Catchers for the Holiday Show and Sale at the Bellefonte Art Museum through the month of December. Wow are they fun! I'm up to my elbows in irresistible textiles, yarns, hoops, feathers, and beads. 

The Native American tradition of the Dream Catcher began hundreds of years ago with the Ojibwe/Chippewa people and spread to other tribes as time progressed. There are several variations of it. Some believe the good dreams are caught in the web and the bad dreams drift away through the hole in the center, and others believe the good dreams float down the feathers into our minds and the bad dreams are caught in the web, to disappear with the light of the new day. Many versions of the story are acceptable, according to

I'm inspired to bring this lovely tradition into the 21st Century by adding gorgeous colorful yarns and textiles along with brightly colored feathers, beads, and sometimes, special charms.

Oh yeah, it's all about the feathers!
I studied a bunch of different patterns and videos for making Dream Catchers, from traditional methods to contemporary ones. One of the design challenges I set for myself was to find a way to attach the feathers without using wire or sticking them up an oversized bead with glue. My feathers are beautifully bundled and wrapped and tied with yarns complementary to the overall design. And I've added some sparkly beads to the yarns here and there for fun.

Fluffy feather bundle
5" Dream Catcher with long textile tails and fluffy feather bundles
My favorite so far - the Rainbow Dream Catcher
Too fun!
Soft colors
Luxurious textures
I'll have six Dream Catchers available at the museum, and if they sell out I'll bring in some more : ) Will also be selling a selection of them at the Green Drake Gallery - no two exactly alike! Makes for a wonderful and unique gift!

I'm also happy to make a DreamCatcher in your choice of size and colors, with personal embellishments that are meaningful to you. 5", 8", or 12" hoop sizes available. Yarn embellishment ranges from 14" to 24" in length. My standard Dream Catchers are priced from $25 to $45. Please feel free to e-mail me at if you'd like a custom Dream Catcher made especially for you. Turnaround time is about a week plus shipping if out of town.

We have 56 artists participating in the Bellefonte Art Museum Holiday Show and Sale, and there will be lots of other goodies to choose from--handmade, one-of-a-kind artwork, and greeting cards. Come see us! Meet the artists on Sunday, November 6th from noon to 4:30 p.m.

Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Tree Book Chapter 10 -The Tall Pine and the Tire Swing In Which I Learn What Lost Dignity Feels Like

At the new house in Madison, the back yard was divided into a couple of sections with two wide swaths of grass bordered in-between by a row of pines, yews, and birch trees. One of these pines was old, tall, and stately, and from its branches, my father generously rigged up a tire swing for us "children" to play on--part of his plan to help acclimate us to the new house and neighborhood, I'm sure. 

The branches of this lovely tree draped down from above in fragrant swoops of soft green boughs, creating a dark, shady oasis above soft needles, fallen leaves, and rabbit holes. It was a private place, where we could swing to our hearts' content in the afternoons, entering the worlds in our heads while surrounded by Nature's soothing sounds. Soft breezes singing through the trees, dappled sunshine just out of reach of the shady oasis, little songbirds flitting about, and the rich smell of dirt and leaves punctuated by a few purple irises popping up in the spring were my companions.

I was a sophomore in high school at the time, that awkward age when appearances matter and coolness is everything.

It was rare that my friends came to visit, but one evening I had a few people over, and we went out into the backyard to have some privacy from the parents and hang out smoking forbidden cigarettes under the trees. It was a mixed group, but mostly boys, so my attempts at coolness factor were cranked way up. We gravitated towards the tire swing, and when my turn came, I climbed in, hanging my legs through the middle and folding my arms across the top of the tire and around the rope.

My friends took turns pushing and I loved the feeling of spinning and flying through the air, laughing, and having a great time, until all of a sudden the tree branch broke and I was dumped to earth with a great crack and crash of wood, flailing rope, non-bouncing tire and me, limbs akimbo and all dignity quite vanquished as I tried to extricate myself from the downed rubber donut.

That did not feel glamorous. In fact it wiped the smile right off my face, in contrast to the jaw dropping, knee slapping, belly bending guffaws of my friends. It was one of those times, you know, when you have to sort of fake it, so I started grinning around my clenched teeth, rubbing my backside, and scuffing my toes around in the leaves once I regained an upright position.


Most times trees were my allies, but sometimes, not. This tall, old, stately pine was too fragile for our shenanigans, and though I loved her even though she thwumped me in front of my friends, I think it had more to do with our misunderstanding of her capabilities as the rope for the tire swing was set up and tied than any failure on her part. Or maybe she was suggesting I spend my time in other pursuits and leave her to her inherent dignity.... Perhaps, in a way, she was guarding me.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tree Book Chapter 9 - The Blue Ridge Forest - In Which I Learn to Reflect and Dream

During my middle school and high school years, my family would go to West Virginia to visit my mother’s parents, who lived up the road from the Bluestone Dam.

Visiting my grandparents was pure pleasure for a number of years, since we got to know all the kids for miles around and everyone in the neighborhood had a porch. Porches in those days had real purpose--this was where the grown-ups would always sit after supper, enjoying the cool evening breezes and catching up on the happenings of the day across the neighborhood.

We kids would run from house to house, where each family welcomed us as if we were their own, sharing cookies, sweet lemonade, lollipops, and love.

We used to go across the street to the elementary school to hang out and play on the grounds. The school was often closed for breaks when we visited. One time we snuck inside and wandered through the hallways and classrooms, soaking up the feeling of magic. This was a place of learning that smelled of chalk dust which floated in the sunbeams coming through the big windows, and crayons, and paint, and floor wax. It was like being in a theatre before the play starts or after it's over and everyone's gone. The magic lingers. 

As I got older, many of the kids weren’t as available as they’d been in past years, and I found myself alone more of the time--our school breaks didn’t always coincide when we visited. I loved to walk up the street in the early afternoons, past the porches to the Bluestone Dam, where we’d spent many afternoons playing by the river while our daddies and granddaddies fished.

I’d hike around the sheltered part of the water and head up the steep side of the mountain into a thick forest of pines that grew just to the side of the dam (bottom right in the photo within the link above). I loved being under those trees, walking barefoot on the soft, spongy carpet of needles that had been piling up for decades, and I’d usually choose a spot to sit about half-way up, where I could see down through the trees to the sun sparkling on the river below, but mostly nobody could see me.

I’d practice smoking cigarettes and write in my journal, another new habit I’d picked up and enjoyed. I liked to reflect on things that were going on, figure things out, and daydream in my journal. It was someone to talk to when no one else was around. I've written in my journals every day for some 40 years now, hmmm....

Being in the pine forest felt safe and nurturing, ever so fragrant, and peaceful.

The alone time helped me grow inside myself, surrounded by the twittering of tiny birds, soft summer breezes, and the security of knowing I’d be going home to Gammy and Granddaddy’s to help with dinner, be around family, take a cool bath, and slap a bunch of Calamine on my mosquito bites.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

My Tree Book Chapter 8 - My Hiding Place - In Which I Learn How To Have Secrets

Here my tree stories start to get a little spicy - just skip by them if you can't relate. I've decided to just be me cause I find that sharing brings a lot of comfort to a lot of people, surprising - but that's what I'm all about.

As I navigated my middle school years, I hit some bumps along the way like everyone, and one of them was when I decided, in my infinite adolescent wisdom, that it could be useful to start smoking. Because I’d lived overseas with my family for a large part of the first ten years of my life, I’d missed the chance to form enduring friendships in childhood, and by the time I landed back in America at the age of 11, most of the kids in town I should have been cultivating had developed elite cliques which were very hard to break into. New Jersey, close to beautiful New York, was not an easy place to grow up.

The area in which we lived was composed of various neighborhoods that reflected their inhabitants. There were pretty strong boundaries in those days. There were the "rich kids," the Italians, the Blacks, and the rural people. I didn't know better than to love them all, since I had travelled and experienced many cultures - I didn't have any understanding of the boundaries that I found myself surrounded by in middle school. And I didn't have allies either.

After being pushed down the stairs at school a few times by one of the racial groups, shoved around the hallways by others, I realized I needed to gain allies as fast as I could. I was a lamb among wolves. "Kids" can be very, very mean, and somewhat dangerous at that age, between 13 and about 16 years old.

I once went with an Italian (boy) friend to a bowling alley to play, but found I had crossed unacceptable boundaries in building a friendship with him, and when we went out to the parking lot to head home, we were stopped by several dark haired, dark skinned, gum smacking Italian females. There is nothing so impenetrable as a group of females who can trace their ancestry. I was a mutt, Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, the hated WASP.

After surrounding us, one of the girls got into my face and was bullying and teasing, and she made the mistake of touching me. She picked up my wrist, upon which rested my watch, and said something about me needing to be home on time, and after all the admonishments of my parents to "turn the other cheek," I saw red. So I shoved her hand away and told her not to touch me - she got even handier, and I fought back. Wow I learned a lot about myself. I'd been taught NEVER to fight. ("Ladies don't fight, and you're a LADY," said my very Southern mother.) But I'd had it with the bullying and fear, so after this lovely little fluff started getting truly violent, I bit her and drew blood. I grabbed a handful of hair and removed it from her head. And I kicked her very hard in her shins. She retreated.

I was shaking all over and angry as hell and my (boy) friend had stepped back during this whole episode, not helpful at all. I think he might have whistled, as they do at boxing matches. After she and her friends retreated, he drove me home and quit flirting with me forever. And the girls NEVER bothered me again at school. So much for turning the other cheek. I learned that sometimes you need to speak the language that other people understand. And class isn't relegated to "race," it's all about behavior. I didn't start it but I sure as heck finished it.

I was very grateful to learn that inside myself was something strong and protective. Don't mess with me. Just don't. Many a story has been told of the father who beats his son getting his comeuppance once the son grows stronger than he is, well this is my Warrior Princess chapter. It was wicked, but I survived.

After a couple of years of little success at friendship building (finding allies), I discovered that cigarettes could bring immediate recognition between the smokers in middle school and myself - a shared, forbidden pleasure, a bond. A group of us would stand in-between the trees by the stone wall of the church next door to our school and puff our way into the mornings before classes started. The cemetery across the street made no impression on us then. We'd also meet in the restrooms during the school day, gossiping and whipping our cigarettes back and forth in the stalls so the smoke didn't have a chance to rise. We had a code word for when a teacher came in so we'd all know to flush them in order to avoid getting caught. At the time, it seemed a good and very necessary "club" to belong to.

So at this tender age of 13, I started tapping my parents’ stash for cigarettes to practice with, which were always in ample supply. With a fresh pack of Mom's Virginia Slims in hand, (You've come a long way, baby!) I would sneak out of the house in the afternoons and over to the park, heading away from the houses down towards the end where a puffy little white pine tree grew.

I’d duck under its branches and sit with a sweet, cold bottle of apple juice in the open space underneath, where the ground was covered with thick layers of thin red pine needles, scattered with pine cones, soft, fragrant, and glowing in the dappled sunshine. I’d light up and puff away to practice smoking.

Eventually I started buying my own - my favorite was Marlboro back in those days – the red and white box with a pack of matches tucked under its lid would last me a couple of weeks. Nobody paid any attention to age regulations. Cigarettes were available everywhere and the shopkeepers would sell to practically anyone, child or grownup.

I can’t imagine what the neighbors might have thought if they had looked out and seen little clouds of smoke wafting out from under the puffy little pine tree. They never bothered me; I got my cool on without interference: me, my apple juice, and my Marlboros, and developed a kinship of sorts with all the other young smokers. I survived middle school and learned to cultivate allies. Sometimes you don't have much choice in the selection of allies, but smokers have been, to me, for years, so very wonderful. Rock on. And don't be too quick to try to correct what you perceive as a failure, or a death wish, or an addiction, or a "problem." When you learn the backstory it might help you to take a look at your own glass house. Ah yes, my sweet little puffy pine....

And by the way, one of the countries I lived in while travelling with my family was beautiful Italy. We lived in Bari, which is very close to Rome. We had a very loving Italian housekeeper who saved the little plastic dwarfs out of the laundry soap boxes for my sister and me, and she cooked and cleaned and hugged and her eyes twinkled and sparkled. The air smelled like grape lollipops from all the pine trees, and the light was golden all the time. We visited some of the greatest museums on earth and I developed a love of all things Italian, including the beautiful, loud, ever touching, celebratory people, which endures. My classmates were not this.

Isn't it interesting that the one thing you choose to help you survive challenges at one point in your life can turn out to be the thing that can kill you at another point? If we're smart we learn to let go of things that no longer serve us. Still working on that.

New Ojime Bead Necklaces Available at the Bellefonte Art Museum

Creepy Rabbit Ojime Necklace
The jewelry show at the Bellefonte Art Museum is going well. I sold more than I had anticipated the afternoon it opened, so when I got home I made some more beautiful necklaces and some fluffy dangle gemstone earrings. The beautiful Ojime bead necklaces have been very popular. The photo above shows the little rabbit I call "Creepy Rabbit," because he seems a little scared and in need of some love.

Look at his little cute.
I had included the Creepy Rabbit necklace I wear all the time in my exhibit, and it was marked "Artist's Collection," which is how I label things I want people to see, but they're not necessarily for sale. However, one of our members fell in love with Creepy Rabbit so I went ahead and sold him to her, hoping I had another rabbit at home so I could make another necklace to replace him. Thank goodess, I did - so that very night I made a new Creepy Rabbit necklace, and popped it on - we get so attached to our little creatures.

The Ojime beads I buy are inspired by traditional Japanese Ojime beads, which are hand carved boxwood. The detail on the animals is amazing - the bottoms of their feet often include the toe pads, and their fur is beautifully carved. Their faces are also very detailed. Each one is signed by the artist, who spends about four hours carving each one.

The lovely ram.
Since we live in sheep country, I decided to make a necklace with the lovely ram Ojime bead. He's a happy little fellow, embellished with gemstone bugle beads, including tiger's eye, jasper, onyx, and agate. Gorgeous Czech glass leaf beads dangle from the tips. These necklaces are strung on FlexWire and crimped, so they're nice and strong. They hang about 18" down, so the bead sits below the chest.

Two rabbits playing....
Here's another one I made with a very cool Ojime bead that depicts two rabbits playing. I used a wider selection of gemstone bugle beads for this one, so it's quite colorful in an understated way. It includes blue lapis, red tiger's eye, brown tiger's eye, white jasper, onyx, and several other gemstone beads, along with some copper metal seed beads and some green, root beer brown, and glowy iridescent seed beads. 

I just love these rabbits!
Perhaps my favorite new Ojime necklace is the monkey below.

Happy monkey playing on his necklace.
I love this monkey because the carving is so good - he's holding his arms up, as if swinging from vines in the jungle. I had fun making the necklace and weaving it through his arms. This one includes jasper, agate, red tiger's eye, brown tiger's eye, and onyx bugle beads.

They'll be available through the museum through October 25th, and then either up on Dreamkeeper Creations or available at the Green Drake Gallery. They go with everything from dressy to casual. Each one is unique, and because they're one of a kind they make extra special gifts.

Thanks for visiting!


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Make your own Dream Catcher at the Bellefonte Art Museum!

Detail of my new Dream Catcher!
Lucky me, lucky you, I get to teach a class at the Bellefonte Art Museum this Sunday, October 11th, 2015, from 1-4:30 p.m. on how to make your very own Dream Catcher! It's a drop-in class, takes from 1 to 2 hours depending on the size you choose. All supplies are provided. 28 hoops available. $15.00 for children, $25.00 for adults. Proceeds go to support the museum so we can do more lovely, fun, artistic things together!

Who can resist this kind of texture and color?!
I must thank my good friend, Judith Finkelstein for the opportunity to teach this class. She had planned to teach it but had to travel to New York, so I get to step in, hope I can do as well as she does. Judith donated most of the materials too, and they're GORGEOUS. She's a textile artist whose work can regularly be seen at the museum.

More colors to choose from, yummy!
Today was practice day for me, since I've never done this before, and I can say it is the most FUN! I think I'm now addicted to making beautiful Dream Catchers and you'll be seeing some at the Green Drake Gallery for sale. 

I studied up on the history of Dream Catchers, and there's all kinds of information, from how they are done traditionally, to the embellishments creative people have added in their own creative ways, inspired, but not bound by tradition. One of the best places for information on not only Dream Catchers, but various types of dreams, is

My Dream Catcher
I really enjoyed the process of making a Dream Catcher, and it was pretty easy. It's very peaceful winding the soft, colored yarn around the hoop (that takes the longest), and exciting to build the web and watch it grow. I added some sparkly beads to my web, and a beautiful little turkey feather in the center. Choosing the embellishment for the bottom was loads of fun, and also very easy. 

And now my heart is glowing and I can't wait to do this with you on Sunday, so your heart can glow too! It's so much fun to make something so beautiful, and to have it hanging by your bed each night, catching those bad dreams, and letting all the good ones through.

Here's a beautiful, soft Dream Catcher that Judith made.
You can see by the photos above that part of the fun is that Dream Catchers are as different as the creative people who make them. Aren't they beautiful!

Hope to see you soon and spend some fun, creative time with you.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tree Book Chapter 7 - In Which I Learn to Take a Break

About the same time I enjoyed visiting my Mama Tree, I discovered a pair of pines at the other end of the park across the street from the new house.

These pines flanked a small stone building that wasn’t really a building at all, since it had only a thick stone column on each corner of its raised concrete platform, a heavy, slanting slate roof overhead, and a single bench in the middle. The bench was painted a rich deep green. Sitting on it, I could look out over the expanse of grass to the fountain in the middle of the park (where I had my first kiss), and further beyond it to my Mama Tree swaying in the wind as if waving hello. The building was great for rainy days and forbidden kisses, but on sunny days, I much preferred being alone with the trees.

One of the two pines was perfect for climbing and I loved to tuck a book in my pocket and grab hold of the lowest branch, swing my legs up and climb out to a set of branches that were perfectly arranged to cradle my butt and brace my back while I sat in the dappled sunshine breathing in the heady pine fragrance and losing myself in a good story.

I spent many an hour there, rocking in the wind, soaking up the peace, then going home with sap on my arms and legs that didn’t come off for days. Sometimes I’d get it in my hair too, and that was a challenge to try to remove but well worth the effort for the sweet times I’d had. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Show is Set Up at the Bellefonte Art Museum!

One of my favorite necklaces!
We'll be hoppin' at the Bellefonte Art Museum on Sunday, October 4th come rain or shine. Come see us, show's open from 1-4:30.

The photo above is one of my favorite necklaces, made of hand-carved African sandalwood beads. I have a necklace similar to this one that I've worn for years, and the sandalwood beads just get more beautiful with time. This one was extra fun to make because as I chose each sandalwood bead I soon discovered there were about five different artists who made them. I could tell by the shapes. One of the artists was a true perfectionist, and his or her beads are perfectly round, smooth, sanded, and the holes were cleared out nicely. Another carver's beads reflect their maker by their shape, which is a little bit like a cone, fatter on one end than the other. Some carvers may have been young, because their beads were a little bit unpredictable, and the holes were full of wood shavings. It is like the artists left fingerprints as they created their beautiful beads. It was like working with friends to string them.

This necklace is punctuated with African hand-carved bone beads that have been dyed beautiful, soft colors, and different types of silver metal spacer beads. It's strung on FlexWire, and crimped three times for strength. The best part of it that I get a kick out of is that I was having such a good time I kept stringing until it reached 106 inches! So you can wrap it around several times, giving you many options on its length as you wear it.

The other fun part of this necklace is that when I finished it around 2:30 in the morning, I got all inspired to tea-stain it. So there I was in the kitchen, tip-toeing around to get hot water and several tea bags - used PG Tips, "England's best tea since 1930" for its gorgeous dark color. The beads gently soaked up the color after I stirred them around for a little while. Delicious.

The brown hand-carved beads that you see on the glass in front of the earrings were fun to work with too. Same artists - these beads started out unfinished and I took them down in the basement last year and dipped them into a can of rich, dark wood-stain. I stirred them around and let them sit to dry on cookie sheets. Went downstairs several times per day for days to roll them and change out the parchment they were sitting on. I let them dry for a year, cause I wanted to make sure they were dry inside the holes before using them. When I strung them, again on FlexWire, I mixed them with beautiful hand-carved, dyed long bone beads that have the rich dark brown and a bit of beautiful gold in them. This necklace goes around about twice.

I made an effort this year to design earrings that could go with my necklaces, but not be too "matchy-matchy." Let me know how I did.

Pure unfinished sandalwood
There's also a much lighter colored pure unfinished sandalwood necklace mixed with beautiful hand-carved white bone oblong beads. Very lightweight - this one will only get better with time as it's worn, especially if next to the skin. Wraps around about two or three times.

Hawk Inspired Petrified Wood Necklace
The necklace above includes a tea-stained sun/moon face cabochon and a lovely petrified wood cab below it. The design was inspired by a recent nature walk, where we were followed by a beautiful hawk. It includes peyote stitch, stop stitch, and seed beads of glass, tiger's eye, and jasper. A very earthy piece. The earrings I made that go nicely with it are of bronzite. I have a pair of bronzite earrings I wear all the time and the energy they impart is very uplifting, helping me to concentrate and get things done.

The Fun Corner
I'd bet this little harlequin doll gets up and dances around when the museum is closed at night. This is the fun corner, full of color and fantasy. It includes the Mad Hatter necklace from The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, and WonderPrayers, a necklace designed around one of my favorite Mucha images. There are a couple of Rainbow Catcher necklaces and lots of colorful earrings.

Cloisonne Bracelets and Necklaces
I made 11 sets of the ever popular cloisonne bracelets, this time they're a little bit larger than before, including 15 cloisonne beads rather than the 14 I used to use. Makes them a bit more comfortable for those with medium sized wrists. AND I made two cloisonne necklaces, since people have been requesting those. I have a necklace which I like to wear a lot - and it wraps two or three times around. Come try these on, they're way cool, and very affordable.

Heaven and Earth Necklace and Blue Dichroic Cabochon Necklace
The Heaven and Earth Necklace is on display and available AND I made a pattern for it. Be sure to take a peek through the pattern and let me know how I did. The images in the pattern are hand-drawn cause I'm still tinkering with the bead pattern software, but the pattern's been reviewed and approved by one of my master beader friends. It'll give you an idea of what goes into making a piece like this, aside from just the pleasure.

Handmade One-of-a-Kind Lampwork Beads with Fluffy Dangles

The two necklaces to the right are also my very favorites. I wanted to WEAR them! I wanted to KEEP them! But I said NO, you have too much jewelry and now you have to share! So here they are. I wanted to keep them affordable so they come on dark black lace leather, which you can make any length you prefer, with a simple knot in back. I LOVE these and I think you will too. Lots of earring choices to go with them. The pink one on the left reminds me of the fascinating ebru painting we learned at the museum a while back. Very cool.

Bottom Shelf - Choose your own cab and have your necklace custom made!

This year I'm trying something new. On the bottom shelf of the display case on the right is a whole lot of fun. I've brought in a ton of cabochons for you to choose from to have a necklace custom made. You can choose from three styles - the style like the Muchas that includes a peyote stitched border and fringe and seed bead necklace chain, or a simpler style with just peyote stitching and border on a black leather necklace, or one in-between with the cab, the peyote stitching and border, and fringe, on black lace leather. Comfortable price ranges - GORGEOUS cabs. They include square summer cabs, fairytale cabs, and some really beautiful Madonnas. Turnaround time should be about two weeks and I can contact you to discuss colors. Don't forget to ask to look through these cabs, you might just fall in love. Options rock!

It's glowing....
There will be 15 artists at the museum doing book signing for the launch of the "Landscapes of Central Pennsylvania" - get your copy signed and meet the artists. This book makes a great Christmas gift.

Check out our new sculpture that's been installed in the tiny magical Sharon McCarthy Garden, "Warrior Knight Seeking Balance" by Jeanne Stevens-Sollman. It's absolutely enchanting.

Warrior Seeking Balance by Jeanne Stevens-Sollman
Hope to see you there!