Fly With Me

fly-with-meWhen it comes to jewelry, there are two kinds of people. There are those who see jewelry strictly as fashion accessories, and then there are those who see jewelry as deeply personal pieces of personal expression. I find that most of my customers tend to fall into the latter group, which is extremely fortunate for me because I learn so much from their stories and from working with them to create something that is uniquely their own.

Every now and then, I get a custom request that reminds me that I am ultimately in the business of helping people, and “Fly With Me” began with one such request. On December 3rd, I received an inquiry for a custom piece from a guy who is clearly head-over-heels in love with his girlfriend. He explained that his girlfriend lost her horse suddenly eight months ago, and she’s been grieving ever since.

I’ve had a life-long love affair with horses myself, and I’ve had some mystical experiences with them through the years. So, I completely understand the depth of the bonds that form between horses and the women who love them. The story broke my heart, but at first I declined the request because I’m unfamiliar with horsehair as an art medium. I referred the customer to a company that specializes in horse hair jewelry, but sadly, the lock of hair his girlfriend managed to keep from her horse was too short for that company to use. They’d already been turned away from there. At that point, I realized that I needed to take this commission, if for no other reason than to give a grieving young woman some peace.

Once I agreed to the commission, the design came together almost effortlessly. “Fly With Me” is one of those rare pieces that allowed me to get into that elusive flow that every artist lives for. Anyone who has ever galloped freely across an open field on the back of a beloved horse knows very well the sensation of flying just above the ground, and the horses we’ve loved and lost remain forever in our hearts. They’re angels with hooves. Wings seemed like the perfect theme for this piece, and I love the way the wings turned out. They’re subtle, and they frame the focal piece—a tassel, which is made with a lock of a beloved horse’s mane—perfectly.

Since this is the first time I’ve ever worked with horsehair, making the tassel was a bit nerve-wracking. The client provided precious little hair, so there was absolutely no room for error. Once I finally worked up the courage to give it a go, however, even that part of the process flowed effortlessly. “Fly With Me” is just one of those pieces that was meant to be, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it!

“Fly With Me” consists of .999 fine silver wings which frame a horsehair tassel capped in silver plated pewter and sterling silver wire. The pendant, which is approximately two inches wide by three inches long, is suspended from a patterned sterling silver chain. The chain is accented with pretty little gray and aqua blue Amazonite beads and finished with a hand forged sterling silver clasp.

Amazonite is a healing stone that is believed to help soothe emotional trauma, and I can think of few things more emotionally traumatic than suddenly losing a beloved horse. They’re such powerful creatures, yet their lives are startlingly fragile. That, of course, makes them all the more precious to those of us who know and love them.

If you’d like a special horse remembrance necklace of your own, please email your request. I plan to make this design, along with one or two other concepts currently in the works, available in my shop in 2017 as made-to-order semi-custom designs.

 

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New Year; New Resolve

WP_20150102_002I stopped making New Year resolutions in 1998. That was the year that my home was burglarized and vandalized by a ring of teen-age thugs roaming the streets of Anchorage, AK. You can’t know the violation of that sort of thing unless you’ve experienced it personally.

I arrived home from work one day and realized immediately that something was wrong. My apartment smelled like bleach, and although nothing registered as being obviously out of place, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. As I looked around, the first thing I noticed missing was my saxophone, which I kept on a stand near the hearth of my fireplace. The moment I realized that someone had been in my apartment, I went to the hiding spot where I kept my gun. It, too, was gone. At that point, panic set in, and I called 911.

After reporting the burglary, which the dispatcher took with an almost bored demeanor, I started to take stock of what was missing. My home hadn’t been ransacked, exactly, but a lot was stolen—all of my jewelry, all of my lingerie, my leather jacket, my saxophone, my entire CD collection. My gun, ammo, and all of my target shooting gear, from paper targets to shooting glasses and earmuffs. Yet, to a stranger walking in my door, nothing appeared out of place.

Drawers were shut, closet doors were closed. Nothing, besides the lock on my front door, appeared to have been damaged. It was only upon closer inspection that I began to discover the malicious acts of vandalism that accompanied the theft. I couldn’t figure out where the smell of bleach was coming from until I opened my closet door to look for my ammunition. It was then I discovered that someone had poured Clorox all over the clothes hanging in my closet and then carefully put the empty bottle of bleach back in the laundry closet where it belonged. Every stitch of clothing in my closet was ruined.

I thought it was strange that they didn’t steal my computer. Later, I discovered they tried to destroy it instead by pouring milk all over the keyboard and tower. They put the empty carton of milk back in the refrigerator. I had a Bowflex at the time, and they partially cut all of the cables on that machine. Either they weren’t strong enough to cut the cables entirely, or they hoped I wouldn’t notice the cuts and the cables would snap while I worked out. The final act of spite I discovered is that the burglars took the piece of paper on which I’d written my resolutions for that year and placed it carefully, face up, in my toilet. I haven’t put any New Year resolutions in writing since that year.

When an officer finally showed up to take my statement (hours after I’d called 911), the second assault came when he looked at me accusingly and asked what I did to make someone hate me so much to so maliciously attack my home. I hardly knew anyone in Anchorage at that time. I’d been living there for less than two years, and all I ever did was work. I didn’t know anyone outside of my coworkers, and I knew very few of them well. I realized in that moment that I would get no help at all from the police. I never felt more alone.

About two years later, the police splashed the nightly news with reports that they’d busted a ring of teen-aged burglars who had been wreaking havoc in South Anchorage for over a year. I called and spoke with the lead investigator to tell him I believed that I was probably one of their first victims. He said he’d look into it, but of course I never heard from him again. I don’t doubt that some of the things stolen from me were recovered in that bust, but they never bothered to match the goods they recovered with the traceable items I’d reported stolen. My tax dollars at work…

That burglary was a turning point for me in many ways. I became even more isolated and withdrawn. More distrustful; more cynical. I refused to become more fearful, however, so I did three things with the settlement I got from my insurance company: I immediately replaced my gun, I adopted a 3-year-old 100-pound Giant Schnauzer named ‘Ricky’ who would be my constant companion and protector for the next eight years, and I used the remainder of the insurance settlement to make a down payment on a house so I could get out of that apartment (and out of south Anchorage, which was plagued with gangs).

Life went on. I lived in Anchorage for seven more years after that incident. Happily, for the most part; but I never did make many friends there, and it never really felt like home. Were it not for Ricky (that’s him, pictured above, enjoying a dip in his favorite creek at his favorite dog park in Anchorage) and my job, I’d have been an almost total recluse in those years. Although I still set certain goals for myself, I never wrote them down again because the image of my New Year resolutions from 1998 staring up at me from the toilet is permanently etched in my mind.

WP_20150102_003One goal I set in 2004 was to move back to Colorado in 2006. I achieved that goal, and I’ve resided in Colorado ever since. Ricky was almost eleven years old by then, and suffering from terminal cancer. He died May 26, 2007 and left an irreparable hole in my heart. Our feline friend and companion, Jade, died suddenly and unexpectedly six months later. I’ve often wondered if her sudden death was partly because she missed Ricky. It is my sincerest wish that he’ll come back to me someday soon in a fresh, healthy body, brimming with the thrill for adventure for which he was so well known. I see much of Jade’s sweet spirit in Rose, so if Ricky returns again, our little triad of entangled souls will be complete once again.

I’m not starting 2015 with any specific resolutions, but I have resolved to be happier and healthier than ever this year. My life has been on a sharp upward trend for the past two years. I married my best friend in 2013, and I gained a beautiful stepdaughter and a wonderful extended family in the process. My husband’s career is flourishing, which has in turn given me the space and freedom to reinvent myself professionally. I don’t know yet exactly what that’s going to look like, but I am confident that this is the year my new profession will begin to take shape.

My dearest girlfriend just got engaged to the love of her life on Christmas Eve. Jenn and I have been through a lot together in the seven plus years that we’ve been friends, so I couldn’t be happier that we’ve found our happily-ever-afters at essentially the same time. Her first date with her fiancee, Austin, was just three days after Matt and I got married. Interestingly, Austin grew up in Alaska. It’s funny how life plays out and how small this world that we live in really is…

Happy New Year, friends and followers. May 2015 be a wonderful year for all.

The Things We Do For Love

GEThis is Rose. She’s been with me now for six years. I adopted her from the Humane Society in Pueblo, CO in January 2009. Having mourned the loss of my beloved cat, Jade, and my precious dog, Ricky, for nearly two years (they died within six months of one another), it was time for me to get another house pet.

I didn’t intend to adopt a cat the day I got Rose. I was simply making a routine shopping trip to Pueblo, and I offered to run errands for my friend, Jenn. She asked me to pick up a few feeder gold fish for her water troughs, so I made Petco my last stop before heading home that afternoon. I’m an animal lover, and I enjoy visiting the pets available for adoption whenever I’m in a pet store. That day was no exception.

I’ve always admired calico cats, and there was a calico kitten there that immediately caught my eye. She wasn’t very friendly or engaging however, so I wandered down the row of cages to say hello to the other two cats there that day. The second one—a big grey tom cat sleeping soundly—opened one big green eye to see if I was interesting enough to justify cutting short his nap. He clearly decided I wasn’t as he dismissively twitched his tail, and resumed his slumber.

The third cat was Rose. According to the record on her cage, her name was “Daphne” at the time. She was about two years old and had been recently surrendered by her owner. She had a bad upper respiratory infection and clearly didn’t feel well, but she greeted me like a long lost friend. She practically jumped into my arms as soon as I asked an attendant to let me get a closer look at her. I knew instantly that she belonged with me.

My relationships with animals and humans alike nearly always begin with an intuitive nudge that I feel in my gut. I respect and appreciate all life forms, but I’m extremely selective when it comes to those I invite into my life. To the extent possible, I limit my relationships to those that begin with that gut feeling. Although I wasn’t looking for a cat that day, and despite the fact that it was a calico kitten that first captured my attention, my gut told me that Rose was my cat. I’ve learned not to question my instincts when it comes to this sort of thing, so I adopted her on the spot. She’s been my constant companion ever since, and I love her dearly.

The reason I’m telling this story is because I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the ways that people emotionally manipulate one another. I read something on Facebook recently about emotional violence. That article was an eye-opener for me because I’d never really thought of emotions as weapons before (I wish I could relocate the source so I could link to it). Since then, I’ve sifted through my past and looked for signs of emotional violence in my relationships. Unfortunately, I found a lot of it. One relationship in particular involves Rose.

I got a phone call from an old friend in Alaska on my birthday in August 2012. He’d been going through a difficult time and needed a friend, so he offered me an all-expense paid trip to Juneau. The history I shared with this guy was complicated. We’d been coworkers for nearly a decade, and we’d dabbled at a romantic relationship a couple of times through those years. It never took because we have completely incompatible lifestyles. We both knew this, yet here we were, trying again to force something that was never meant to be merely because we both happened to be single and unattached at the time.

Trying to force pretty much any human relationship is futile, but attempting to force me into a situation that I know in my gut to be wrong for me is something akin to trying to push a chain. Countless people have tried and failed through the years. Bosses, coworkers, friends, relatives… interview anyone from my past, and they’ll tell you how stubborn and immovable I can be. Nonetheless, this guy, who should have known better given his prior experience with me, was determined to “make” us work this time around. He had a pretty good sales pitch going for a while. Our relationship really did work on some levels, so I suppose it wasn’t inconceivable that it could have worked if I was willing to make certain concessions.

WP_20141226_002The thing is, I don’t believe in making certain concessions when it comes to relationships. For instance, I refuse to change who I am in order to make someone else feel more comfortable with who they are.

I refuse to diminish my light in order to make someone else’s light appear to shine brighter.

I refuse to exchange one relationship that I value for another.

I refuse to leave some truth unspoken or unacknowledged simply because it might make someone else uncomfortable.

Most importantly, I refuse to engage in a relationship with anyone who expects me to make any of the above concessions. And this is where that relationship came to an abrupt end. This guy claims he’s allergic to anything with fur or feathers, but I definitely have allergies. I’m allergic to both cats and horses, as a matter of fact (two of my favorite animals), so I’m acutely aware of the signs and symptoms of allergies. I choose to live with a cat, and I spend as much time around horses as I possibly can despite my allergies because the unconditional love these animals bring into my life far outweighs whatever physical discomfort I might experience as a result of my interactions with them.

During his one and only visit to my place in Colorado, this guy proceeded to insist that he’s allergic to my cat, Rose, yet he showed no physical symptoms. He went on to suggest that I would have to get rid of her—for his sake. That was the end of that. I was unwilling to exchange my relationship with Rose for a relationship with someone who demanded that I discard my cat (as if she was merely an inanimate object rather than a sentient being) for his personal comfort or convenience.

The point of this story isn’t to say, “love me; love my cat.” The point is this: if anyone—no matter how important you think they are to you—asks you to give up something you genuinely love for their sake, that’s not love talking. It’s selfishness. It may also be a sign that you’re involved with a narcissist. At a bare minimum, it’s a misguided act of emotional violence upon you; and your gut will tell you so, if you’re paying attention. The fact of the matter is that anyone who truly loves you will accept the things that are precious to you as part of the package.

Where Rosie is concerned, she and I are now living our “happily ever after.” My husband absolutely adores her. This fact is plainly evident by the number of photos of her that he’s published on his blog. Here’s one of his latest posts. I can’t help but love my husband all the more because of the way he so graciously accepted Rose into his life. In fact, it was Rose who helped me realize how perfect my husband is for me. Just like she greeted me all those years ago in Petco, she greeted Matt like a long lost friend the first time they met in the summer of 2013. And now she cheerfully greets him at the door every day when he comes home from work.

Life is too short to waste on relationships with people who need to manipulate you into being someone you’re not or mold you into some sort of fantastic ideal. Choose your relationships carefully, cultivate them with love and respect, and notice how your life begins to flourish as you limit your relationships only to those who are capable of reciprocating love and respect.