Eye of the Hunter

20170128_154424I’ve always been fascinated with arrowheads. I grew up on the high plains of southern Colorado, and as a child I spent countless hours exploring those plains on horseback. Occasionally, I was lucky enough to find a genuine arrowhead–a tiny relic of a forgotten time when those same plains, now subdivided by barbed wire, were dominated by herds of bison that roamed freely and the Native American tribes that depended upon the bison for subsistence.

Genuine arrowheads are very difficult to find these days, but they continue to have a certain mystique in the American West. I’m clearly not the only one who finds them fascinating because modern replica arrowheads can now be found in pretty much every rock shop in the west. That’s precisely where I found the Fancy Jasper arrowhead I chose for this necklace–in a charming little rock shop in Virginia City, NV.

I never know exactly what I’m going to do with some of the pieces I pick up while I’m traveling, but I’ve learned to pay attention to what is now a familiar sort of magnetic pull of certain stones. I can’t help but pick them up, and those are the pieces that I’ll buy. Even when I can’t possibly imagine what I’ll do with it in that moment, I’ve learned that inspiration will inevitably flow. The seemingly random stone that I picked up along the way will eventually let me know what it wants to say. And so it is with this piece, which I’ve named Eye of the Hunter.

Turn on your TV or open an Internet browser these days, and you will almost certainly be convinced that the world is descending into complete chaos. Our country is more deeply divided politically than perhaps at any time in American history. Millions of Americans are marching and chanting and demanding rights they already possess while millions more trudge off to work every day, quietly hoping that they can manage to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads for another day or week or month. Those people dare not look further than a month into the future because they’ve learned over the past decade that the rug can be pulled out from under them at any moment.

Given the instability constantly portrayed on the news, it’s easy to believe that things are only going to get worse for us. But if you step outside and look around, you’re likely to find that everything is exactly as it should be. The balance and order we’re all desperately seeking is as close as our neighborhood park or greenbelt.

Growing up in a rural community, I was fortunate to spend the vast majority of my childhood outdoors. I had unfettered access to 20,000 acres of pristine land, which I explored on horseback as often as I possibly could. The countless hours I spent roaming that land, listening to the distinctive sounds of the high plains prairie and surveying wide open spaces as far as my eyes could see, left me with a deep and indelible connection to the natural world.

20170128_154152Whenever things start to feel out of balance in my life, I look to reconnect with nature. And the moment I step onto unpaved ground, I’m reminded again that the connection was never broken. I just believed I had lost it because I was focusing on the chaos instead of the order.

There is a natural order to our world, and no matter how much man claims to be above that order or in control of it, the truth is that we’re as much a piece of it as any rock, tree, or animal. We are intrinsically bound to this planet in much the same way that we are bound to our parents and our children.

The Native American Indians who once hunted these lands upon which my family now lives in a second floor apartment on the western edge of a sprawling Colorado town understood that basic truth. They knew that they were as much a part of their world as the bison that sustained them and the stones from which they honed their weapons. That understanding was central to their very survival, so they never lost sight of the common bond between themselves and the bison. Their focus was always on order rather than chaos.

Today, in a world where our food comes neatly packaged in tidy little boxes and we spend more time staring at screens than gazing out of windows, we’ve lost that focus. We’re so easily distracted by the chaos we see on the Internet and TV, and it’s easy to believe that the chaotic world portrayed on the screens that we’re so addicted to is the real world; but it’s not. The world in which we live is as ordered as it ever was. All we need to do is turn our focus to that order.

Eye of the Hunter is a reminder to turn our focus away from the chaos of politics and back to nature because it is there that we will find our way back to peace and order. What we focus on is what we foster. If you want peace, focus on peaceful things. If you want abundance, focus on those areas where your life is brimming with abundance. We all have some form of abundance in our lives for which we can be grateful. If it’s joy that you seek, focus on the squirrels chasing each other around the tree in your front yard or on the birdsong that wakes you at dawn.

Animals–particularly small woodland creatures–are inherently joyful. It’s no accident that nearly every Disney film includes scenes of a pretty girl singing joyously while surrounded by helpful woodland creatures joining in her song. Nature calls upon us to acknowledge our connection to it. I feel that call daily. Do you? Do you answer it?

20170128_153235All forms of Jasper are considered to be nurturing stones, and we’re all in need of more nurturing these days. It is my hope that this necklace will help at least one lovely woman reconnect with nature so she can restore the balance of strength and softness that is inherent to all women. The world needs more balanced feminine energy, and I can think of no better way to restore that balance than to bring as many women as I can possibly touch back to nature.

Eye of the Hunter consists of a Fancy Jasper replica arrowhead that has been intricately wrapped in handwoven copper wire and embellished with a Red Creek Jasper “eye”. The back of the pendant is finished in a pretty filigree of scrolls, so this piece can also be worn reversed. The pendant, which measures about 3 inches long by 1-1/4 inches wide, is strung on five strands of waxed nylon jewelry cord. Each cord is hand knotted with an array of natural copper and colorful Red Creek Jasper beads. Finished with an adjustable slide knot, this one-of-a-kind necklace can be adjusted from 24-40 inches long. It is currently available for sale exclusively at door44jewelry.com.

 

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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.

 

Four Blue Moons

One of the things I enjoy most about the work I do is that I get to meet some wonderful people. Since I opened Door 44 Jewelry for business exactly ten months ago today, I’ve corresponded with dozens of customers from all corners of the country (I’m still looking forward to my first international order), and I’ve grown to think of many of those customers as good friends.
 
Two of my new friends are a sweet young couple from California. I first met them when they purchased one of my all-time favorite pieces, Blue Moon Rising. They also happen to have a little girl who may very well be the most adorable toddler on the planet. She was about eighteen months old at the time her daddy started wearing his new choker, and she was thoroughly fascinated with it.
 
 
As toddlers are prone to do, she got a little excited one day and tugged a little too hard on Daddy’s choker, so it came back to me for repair. I’m completely smitten with this beautiful little girl, so I decided she needed a Baby Moon necklace of her own, which I included as a surprise for her when I returned Daddy’s repaired choker.
 
 
At that point, we all agreed that Mommy needed a coordinating necklace, too. So, along came Mother Moon.
 
 
Since baby #2 is expected arrive within a month, I just had to add a second Baby Moon necklace in that final shipment last week, bringing the L. Family collection to four Blue Moons.
 
 
It’s customers like these who’ve made me fall in love with making jewelry all over again. These are the people who give meaning to my work. I’ve done a lot of jobs through the years. Some of them paid well. Some of them were fun while others were challenging. All of them were educational, but this is the first job I’ve ever had that feeds my soul. Thank you for that, L. Family. Thank you to all my customers–my Door 44 family!

Laptops & Tablets & Smartphones, Oh My!

I spent nine years of my former life as a corporate drone working for a telecom company in Alaska. During that period, the company went on to become one of the first fully integrated telecom service providers in the country. Professionally, those were some of the best years of my career. Personally? Not so much.

I was wired to the hilt. Even back then when wireless technology was relatively new and still extremely limited in rural Alaska, I was virtually accessible to my employer around the clock. I worked from home. I worked from the office. I traveled to some of the most remote regions of the state, and I was always tethered to my job by technology.

To say my personal life suffered would be to imply that I actually had a personal life. I didn’t. I was married to my job, and not necessarily unhappily so. Not for the first seven or eight years, anyway; but as unbalanced marriages inevitably do, mine eventually crumbled. I was struck with the harsh realization on a redeye flight home to Alaska after visiting family in Colorado that, for someone so thoroughly connected through technology, I was woefully disconnected from the things that actually matter in life: friends, family, nature–the kinds of relationships that actually feed a spirit rather than isolate the spirit with the illusion of connectedness while slowly starving it to death.

That startling realization marked the beginning of the end of my marriage to my employer. I quit my job a few months later, and I spent most of the following year getting reacquainted with myself. I disconnected all but the most essential communication services, and I refocused all of my attention on things that actually mattered, like my hopes, dreams, and creative impulses. I also moved back to Colorado that year, and thank goodness I did because I’d have never met and married my husband had I not cut those cords.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of my return to Colorado. Ten years of being mostly unplugged from technology, and now I find myself being steadily reeled back into that tangled web. I suppose that’s a hazard of starting an online business–or any business, for that matter. This time, though, I’m determined to maintain a much healthier work/life balance because this time I do have a personal life. And a pretty wonderful one at that.

 

 

Jeanne’s Jewelry

Sometimes you just know. It’s the perfect fit. The perfect color. You’ve finally met the right guy (after dating far too many of the wrong guys for more years than you care to admit). Whatever it is, the knowledge that it’s right rings through me like a bell–it’s an unmistakable sensation of vibration that I feel in my gut.

This sort of sensation doesn’t happen often when it comes to jewelry, but it did happen with this particular piece. By the time I made this necklace, I’d known my best friend Jenn for a few years, and I’d had the good fortune to meet her wonderful parents, Jim and Jeanne Snyder, a few times. I never got to know the Snyders as well as I’d have liked, but I always enjoyed spending time with them when they came to visit their daughter and grandson in Colorado.

303347_3671647671495_1559578393_nWhen I finished this particular necklace, I knew immediately that Jeanne was its rightful owner. That unmistakable hum rang through my body and Jeanne’s name popped into my head. She’d wanted me to make something for her for a while by this point, but I hadn’t been able to come up with anything that I felt suited her. When I started making this necklace, I didn’t have anyone in particular in mind. The moment it was finished, though, it basically told me it was for Jeanne. It’s funny how intuition works. It’s impossible to explain, and it always sort of surprises me when I get such strong intuitive kicks in the gut, but I’ve learned to simply accept them as the divine guidance they’ll inevitably reveal themselves to be in hindsight at some point down the road.

In addition to being my best friend, Jenn is also my muse when it comes to jewelry design. We have similar styles and interests, which certainly helps, but it’s more than that. There’s just something about her that inspires me to create some pretty fabulous designs. Three of my all-time favorite pieces of jewelry happen to be pieces I made for her. It’s also through jewelry that I formed an important connection with Jenn’s mom. Jeanne always admired my jewelry and encouraged me to sell my work. As she had a strong design background, I appreciated her support and encouragement more than she’d ever know.

Sadly, Jeanne passed away last year, so I never got the chance to properly thank her for encouraging me to pursue jewelry making full time. When I finally decided to get off the fence and open Door 44 Jewelry a couple of months ago, however, I did so with a strong sense that Jeanne would approve. It may be too late to personally thank Jeanne Snyder for her support and encouragement where my craft is concerned, but it’s never too late to honor our guiding angels.

I never made this design again after I made Jeanne’s necklace because I felt so strongly that it was her design. In talking with Jenn, though, I realized that Jeanne would want me to share her design. And then it happened again–that intuitive kick in the gut–I knew immediately how I could share Jeanne’s design and honor her memory in a meaningful way: Jeanne’s Jewelry!

I’ve created a special section at Door 44 Jewelry called Jeanne’s Jewelry. This section will be regularly stocked with pieces based on Jeanne’s original necklace design along with a selection of other pieces of my work that I know Jeanne would have loved. 25% of the purchase price of all Jeanne’s jewelry will be donated to her favorite charity: the St. Vincent De Paul Society of Ann Arbor. All donations will be made in loving memory of Dr. James C. Snyder and Jeanne Snyder, beloved parents, grandparents, friends, and life-long patrons of the arts.

I Have a Thing for Connections

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt compelled to connect the dots all around me. As a child, I remember observing strange and erratic behavior in many of the adults in my life. My childhood was, well… let’s just say it was chaotic at best. The way that I coped with the chaos is that I learned to order it.

I started paying attention to the nature of cause and effect, and the more I paid attention to those things, the more I began to see how all things are connected. The more I understood those connections, the more I was able to create some semblance of order in a world that could erupt in chaos at any moment.

Creating jewelry is, for me, a personal expression of my understanding of connections. I suppose that’s why I’m so intensely (perhaps even compulsively) drawn to art forms that involve connections. As I look around at my workspace and the materials I choose to work with, what jumps out at me is that they all have one thing in common: they’re all used for various forms of weaving.

The chains I weave are intricately connected together, link by link, in various forms that are as pleasing to the eye and to touch as they are mechanically strong and sound. The wire work that I do is similar to basket weaving in that it allows me to create forms that are both functional and beautiful. More importantly, it allows me to create forms that will last. Pieces that are timeless.

As I begin my foray into working with knotting cords and micro macramé, I find myself once again exploring an art form that centers on connections. What starts out on my workbench as a chaotic jumble of individual cords gradually comes together to form a cohesive, ordered design. The sum of those once chaotic and disconnected individual parts join together as one to create a beautifully ordered and functional whole.

 

I create jewelry in order to make sense of the chaos around me. And through the process of creating, I rediscover daily how I am connected to everything and everyone else around me. When you like a piece of Door 44 Jewelry that you see on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter, I feel an instant connection to you. When you buy a piece of Door 44 Jewelry, I’m acutely aware of all the connections that might come from that single exchange–from my hands to yours–for better or worse.

Perhaps that piece will go on to form another link in a chain of sisterhood, from your hands to those of someone you love. Maybe even on through multiple generations from you to a daughter, granddaughter, or niece who may pass it on again to the next generation of women of your family–all of whom will be irrevocably connected to me and perhaps my own daughter, should she choose to follow in my footsteps.

Jewelry, as it turns out, is a wonderful means for me to connect with my 12-year-old stepdaughter. We’ve only known one another for about three years now, and we still have a great deal to learn about each other. But I do know for certain that we share a common love of jewelry. Teaching her to make jewelry and to appreciate it is proving to be perhaps the most powerful path toward an unbreakable bond that we share at this fragile phase of our mother/daughter relationship.

A dear friend got me thinking today about why I make jewelry, and what (ultimately) I hope to achieve by sharing my jewelry with you. I realized that the heart of the matter is this: Our mutual love and appreciation for beauty is what binds us together. We may have disparate political ideologies or wildly different world views that seem to divide us. What inevitably binds us together, though–what restores our sense of connectedness–is a return to those essential elements of life for which we all share a mutual appreciation: love, beauty and harmony. Sisterhood. Compassion…

 

Jewelry is all about connections, and I have a thing for connections.

Thanks for allowing me to connect with you today.

Going After the Dream Job

I don’t remember exactly when or how my love affair with houses began. Was it when I attended my first Parade of Homes with my mom when I was ten? Or was it when I bought my first house at twenty-three? Perhaps it started even earlier. After all, I grew up in a small town with some pretty spectacular old homes and architecturally significant buildings.

Whenever it started, it’s grown into a personal passion with very deep roots. Houses are infinitely fascinating to me because they say so much about the people who inhabit them. Materialistic people live in ostentatious homes. Humble people live in modest homes. Warmth and love are palpable in the homes of the kindest souls. A good interior designer can make any house look beautiful on the surface, but she can’t infuse a loveless home with warmth.

Being a life-long student of interpersonal relationships, I suppose it’s only natural that I’d be drawn to residential real estate. The truth of the matter is that I’ve wanted to be a real estate broker since I bought my first house nearly twenty-five years ago. Having been single for all but the last two of those years, however, I never felt secure enough financially to make the leap from a corporate job with a steady paycheck and benefits to being self-employed and wholly dependent on the feast-or-famine nature of a commission-based income.

Timing is everything, though, and the time is finally right for me to go after my dream job. Thanks to my incredibly supportive husband, Matt, I’ll soon be a licensed real estate broker.

I’ll be wholly focused on preparing for my licensing exams over the next few weeks, so you may not hear much from me between now and the end of the year. Once I do get my license, however, I look forward to sharing my experience with you.

Wish me luck!

Five Important Things I’ve Learned About Myself Since Getting Married

My husband Matt and I are celebrating our second wedding anniversary today. Our marriage has been a bit of a wild ride, thus far. Not in a bad way, but we’ve dealt with an awful lot of change in what seems to be (at least in theory) a pretty short span of time.

The following are a few surprising things I’ve learned about myself along the way:

I can cook!

I don’t mean that in the sarcastic sense that I can order takeout or heat up a processed box of chemicals that sort of resembles food. I mean I have a genuine knack for cooking delicious and healthy meals from scratch. Who knew?!

Cooking was never a priority for me while I was single. I regarded food largely as an inconvenient necessity that I had to address two or three times a day. Since getting married, though, I’ve discovered the joys of both cooking and eating. Dinners at the Reamys’ house are pretty spectacular.

I love being part of something greater than myself.

This one really wasn’t a huge revelation. I’ve always wanted to be part of something bigger. I’ve always been a company girl wherever I worked. I’ve always worked for the greatest good of whatever organization I was a part of at any point in my life. What’s always been missing, though, is the sense that my commitment was reciprocated.

It wasn’t until I married my husband that I fully understood what it means to be part of something bigger than myself. Before Matt, I knew what it was to be a cog in a machine, a means to an end, a decoration on an arm, and a crutch. With Matt, I’m finally part of something that really is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s pretty amazing. And a little daunting at times, which brings me to my next point.

I’m not as emotionally mature and rational as I like to think I am.

Not having good role models as a kid made for a pretty tumultuous start to my career. I was headstrong and inflexible; and being a naturally strong personality, I wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with. It took a few years and a lot of hard knocks for me to develop the emotional maturity necessary to work well in a professional environment, but I eventually learned how to keep my cool when dealing with difficult coworkers.

Dealing with my husband and stepdaughter are an entirely different ballgame, though. It’s easy to keep your cool with coworkers when you’re not emotionally vested in those relationships. Conflicts with people you love are infinitely more difficult to handle. Jobs will come and go, but the stakes are so much higher when the two most important relationships in your life depend on your ability to behave like an adult twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I have a far greater capacity for love than I ever imagined.

I’ve been told all my life that I’m a selfish, self-absorbed, spoiled rotten brat. My own sis… um… a female relative who’s insisted she not be named on my “worldwide bully pulpit” called me a narcissist (among other poison barbs) recently. You hear those things often enough from people close to you, and you start to believe them. I’ve also been told that I’m not a team player by a few managers and supervisors in the past who didn’t like anyone challenging their authority.

Let me tell you something about those statements: they’re wake-up calls. That’s the universe telling you, in no uncertain terms, that it’s time to do some interpersonal housekeeping. We are social creatures by nature. Thus, it is our nature to love and to collaborate in ways that are mutually beneficial—not one sided. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If someone accuses you of not being a team player, it’s because you’re on the wrong team. If someone close to you spews toxic venom without provocation, it’s because they’re so filled with self-hatred and rage that they’re incapable of love.

Walk away. Cut the cord, and give yourself permission to find the people you are meant to love—the ones who will love and appreciate you for who you are rather than who they need or want you to be. Find those people, and you will be amazed by your own capacity for love. You will undoubtedly discover, as I have, that to truly love and to be truly loved is an experience like no other. Finding it isn’t easy, but there’s no mistaking it once you do find your way back to the love that is your birthright.

I am incredibly blessed.

IMG_6633I always knew I’d ultimately marry the right man for me, but it took me a really long time to find him. Every time I walked away from someone I knew wasn’t The One, people would tell me that I’m too picky and that I’d never meet anyone who was perfect. They were wrong.

They were wrong in so many ways, I can’t begin to count them. Matt isn’t perfect. Neither am I, but we’re perfect for one another; and that makes all the difference. Thank God I trusted myself and chose to ignore the naysayers because it was my own intuition that lead me to my husband.

Great risk brings great reward, they say. It’s also true, then, that unwavering faith brings tremendous blessings.

Happy anniversary, Matt. I love you.

Raising the Bar

I was never the sort of supervisor anyone wanted to work for when I worked in the corporate world. I had a reputation for being demanding and “all business”, as if that’s a negative quality in a manager. Given the choice, most people would prefer to work for someone who expects little and who is content to be perceived as “one of the gang.” I was never that boss, and I’m not that parent. Neither is my husband.

People will generally achieve whatever expectations you set for them, so you might as well set the bar high.

As both a supervisor and a parent, I have always subscribed to the philosophy that people will generally achieve whatever expectations you set for them. Whether you set the bar high or set it low, your staff or your kids will consistently be right on target; so you might as well set the bar high. There are always exceptions, of course. There will be the occasional overachiever who will consistently surpass your expectations. Likewise, there will be the odd underachiever who will rarely be on target. I have some ideas about how to deal with those exceptions, but that’s a topic for another post and another day.

I received a very interesting phone call from my daughter’s 6th grade math teacher this morning. Apparently my daughter’s name came up in the core education team’s weekly meeting, and the team agreed that my daughter should be bumped up to the advanced placement curriculum for all of her core courses. The chairman of the team just wanted to clear the move with us before they went ahead and placed her on the AP track.

When I replayed the voice message for my daughter, her eyes grew wide with amazement. She didn’t really know what to expect when I told her I’d received an interesting message from her math teacher, but a promotion to the AP track was clearly not on her radar.

The discussion that followed went something like this:

Me: Are you interested in moving up to all advanced courses?

Dear Daughter: Yes.

Me: You realize that this is going to mean more work, right? The classes are going to be more difficult, and you’re probably going to have more homework.

DD: That’s okay. I’m up for the challenge.

I’m up for the challenge.

Those words are sweet, sweet music to this mom’s ears, and here’s why: Two years ago, shortly after we got married, my husband and I discovered that our little girl was struggling in math. At the time, my husband didn’t have primary custody, so we only had her every other weekend. We know our daughter to be very bright, so we had no reason to suspect that she was struggling in school. As we began to test her understanding of math with simple problems involving money or distance, however, we realized that she didn’t have a solid understanding of basic math functions. And so began our quest to gain primary custody so we could have more control over her education.

We were incredibly lucky. Not all custody cases work out in the best interests of the child(ren), and so many dads face an uphill battle when it comes to convincing a court that they are the stronger custodial parent. If I had any doubts about the existence of God prior to our custody case, those doubts would have been obliterated by the time our case was settled because everything worked in our favor. From the timing and circumstances to the random assignment of a district judge, it all flowed seamlessly, as if guided through divine intervention.

And all the while, we were working overtime to get our daughter caught up academically. We had her tested through Sylvan Learning  in the middle of her 4th grade year. At that time, her math skills were somewhere in the 3rd grade range, while her language skills were a little above her current grade level.

She spent the summer between her 4th and 5th grade years learning her multiplication tables inside out and backwards. During her 5th grade year, she discovered the payoff for all that effort when her friends started referring to her as “the calculator”. We had her re-assessed at the end of her 5th grade year, and (not surprisingly) she tested well above grade level in both math and language skills. Today, she readily admits that she’s glad we forced her to memorize her multiplication tables, which brings me back to my original point that kids will hit whatever target you set for them.

What’s most rewarding for me after all the tears and frustration over the past two years of working to fill the gaps in our daughter’s education are the tremendous leaps she’s made in terms of her overall willingness to take risks and the ferocity with which she rises to a challenge. The growth in her academic performance, as remarkable as it is, pales in comparison to the growth we’ve seen in her self-confidence and her work ethic. School is fun for her again, and she’s back on track to achieving her full potential.

We don’t do our kids any favors by setting low to no expectations for them. Too many parents are disengaged and disinterested in their child’s education. As a society, we all complain about the quality of our education system, and we’re quick to blame teachers when our kids fail to be prepared for the next phase of their lives upon their high school graduation.

What my daughter has clearly demonstrated for me, however, is that it’s not the school’s fault that she was falling behind in the 4th grade. It was clearly our fault as parents. The Ex is the sort of parent who was never fully engaged in her daughter’s education while my husband and I took it for granted that our very bright child was breezing her way through elementary school. Once we took a more active role in her education (and once we set some very clear expectations) our daughter went from struggling to keep up in 4th grade to leading the pack in the 5th and 6th grades.

Whether you’re a supervisor or a parent, set your expectations high, and establish clear standards. It’s the greatest thing you’ll ever do for your organization or your children. They may grumble about it in the beginning, but there will undoubtedly come a time when they’ll be grateful that you cared enough to raise the bar.

Simple Pleasures

At what point do newlyweds stop being newly wed?

My husband and I are coming up on our second anniversary soon. We tied the knot on October 29th, 2013 at the Jefferson County Courthouse. It was a cool, rainy morning, which must have kept everyone else at home because we were the only two customers in the County Clerk’s office that morning. We didn’t plan to get married on the spot, but we did. No lines. No waiting. No drama. Why wait?

Matt and I are big fans of simplicity, a fact that’s plainly evident by the title of his blog, Simplify. We’ve been a low-key, easy-going couple from the start. And one of the ways we maintain that ease is that we appreciate the little things, like simply spending time together.

In the first year of our marriage, one of the most simple pleasures we shared was a standing lunch date on Mondays. I’d drive to his office to pick him up, and we’d go out for lunch together. It became something we both looked forward to because it was a pleasant diversion from the inevitable Monday madness.

We came to appreciate our Monday lunches all the more when our daughter came to live with us full time in July 2014 and our former couple time turned into family time. Then last November Matt took a short-term gig in downtown Denver. I love my husband dearly, and there’s not much I won’t do for him. But driving into the bowels of downtown Denver at lunch time on a weekday? Um, no.

Such was the end of our standing weekly lunch date. For the next nine months, we didn’t get to see each other at all during the day. Until we left Denver, that is. Matt’s current office is just a 10-minute drive from our new apartment in Colorado Springs. Not only have we been able to resume our regular Monday lunch dates, but he’s also able to come home for lunch most days.

One of the things I’m enjoying most about living in Colorado Springs so far is getting to spend quality time with my husband again. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest differences in our lives.