Seasons Change

20170910_110158Door 44 Jewelry is officially dead. I’ve shut down my Etsy shop and I shuttered all of my social media accounts. I wanted to pick it back up again. I really did, but after five months away from my workbench, I have no desire to go back to it.

This has been a strange year for me–a particularly difficult year, in certain ways, and a remarkably peaceful year in others. And so that strange dichotomy that’s preceded all of the critical turning points in my life seems to be back again.

The season of change is upon me.

I’ve had some fascinating experiences with nature in the months since I put Door 44 Jewelry on pause. There was the heart-stopping, awe-inspiring moment in Monument Valley Park the week that I decided to shutter the business for a while. I didn’t manage to capture an image of that incredible sight because my phone was to my ear instead of in my pocket where I could have grabbed it quickly and snapped a shot.

I was out for an early morning walk that day when a friend called. She’d been having a difficult time, and she needed to vent. I always strive to be an open ear and a steady shoulder to lean on for my friends, so I listened quietly while she vented. Although I was struggling internally with my own challenges, I tried to push my own problems aside and focus on hers instead. And then along came the powerful wisdom of nature in the form of a Peregrine falcon.

This falcon landed not ten feet in front of me on the trail. It had a dead pigeon in its clutch, and I could see that it was struggling to get a solid grip on its prey, which was just slightly smaller than the falcon itself. Our eyes met for a moment while the falcon adjusted its grip. It cocked its head, and I could almost hear it whisper to me, “Who is tending to your needs while you’re tending to hers?” Then it whisked its awkward burden to the other side of the creek where it began eating its meal.

I couldn’t begin to tell you what my friend was saying in that moment. I was so stunned by that close encounter that I couldn’t hear a word. All I remember hearing was the soft rustle of feathers on gravel as the falcon adjusted its grip on the pigeon and lifted off to glide gracefully across the creek.

When I was finally able to return my focus to the voice in my ear, I found that she was still venting away–completely oblivious to the fact that I’d been momentarily transported to another dimension through a spiritual encounter with powerful raptor. I didn’t bother telling her about that experience because she wouldn’t have understood the significance of it. I just resumed my walk and let her continue to vent until she arrived at her office and had to put away her phone.

That encounter with the falcon rattled me, and the question it seemed to whisper in my ear nagged at me for a long time. Then, several weeks later (just after I started my new job), I had another unusual encounter with nature. This time it involved two mating Dragonflies that hitched a ride on my vehicle as I was returning to my office one day after lunch.

I was sitting at a stop light when two dragonflies, linked in tandem, landed on the trim of the driver’s side window of my Jeep. If you’ve ever observed dragonflies in nature, you’ve probably noticed that they’re rarely still. So I was stunned to see not one, but two, dragonflies clinging to the felt weather strip around my window. They were so close and so still in that moment that I could see every detail of their delicate wings.

The brown female and her iridescent blue mate seemed to be desperately in need of a respite from their tandem flight. The light turned green, and regrettably, I had to move. I tried to accelerate as gently as possible so as not to disturb them, but as traffic picked up speed, the male lost his grip on the window and the two tumbled off and away from my vehicle. Fortunately, they did so just as I was crossing a bridge over the same creek where I’d encountered the falcon.

Perhaps they knew I was heading that direction, and they merely hitched a ride with me to the water.

As with most of my unusual close encounters with nature, I was again struck with a bit of intuitive wisdom that came to me like a gentle whisper in my ear. This time, I was reminded of my husband and the bond that we share. It’s easy to lose sight of the things right in front of us. During the transition of shutting down my jewelry business and going back to working for someone else, I’d lost sight of him. Of us. I’d forgotten, briefly, that I was never in this alone.

Even though we’d decided together that I should go back to working a regular job with a regular paycheck so we could more quickly achieve certain financial goals that we’d set for ourselves, I’d let myself slide into an unpleasant place where I felt isolated and alone. I’d been struggling with depression and sense of failure and loss after shuttering Door 44, and my new job was… well… let’s just say it’s quite a large step backwards for me in terms of both salary and level of responsibility.

To say I’m underemployed is an understatement. Those two dragonflies reminded me, however, that the only thing that truly matters right now is my marriage. Everything else pales in comparison to the partnership I share with my husband, and my current job (insignificant as it may be) is helping us to achieve our mutual goals.

It was at that point, after my visit from two very wise teachers in the form of mating dragonflies, that I started turning away from external distractions and began to focus more of my time and attention on the two things that truly matter in my life: my husband and our daughter. I uninstalled the Facebook app from my phone and deactivated my account for several weeks. I stopped taking phone calls from friends who only wanted to replay and analyze the drama in their own lives, and I started focusing pretty much exclusively on my own family.

It was there, in the blissfully drama-free zone of our living room, that I finally found the peace and stillness I’d been looking for all along. And then I had the third and most recent strange encounter with nature. This time it was with a lone Damselfly while my husband and I were enjoying a day at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Mike’s Camera was there that day, and my husband was anxious to try out some new photography equipment. We were at the Amur Tiger’s exhibit while Matt was trying out a new camera lens. The tiger, one of Matt’s favorite animals, was particularly active that morning . We’d already had one wonderful experience with this amazing animal as he came unusually close to us and seemed to acknowledge us with a friendly rub against the fence and satisfied twitch of the tail–the exact same body language our housecat, Rose, uses to welcome us home whenever we’ve been away. But then I’d noticed that a lone Damselfly landed on the fencepost right in front of me while Matt snapped photos of the tiger and dozens of strangers milled around us (you can see Matt’s photos here).

Again, I was enchanted by the unexpected stillness of an insect that is almost perpetually in motion. The Damselfly rested peacefully on that post while I snapped photos of it with my phone. It sat there long enough that Matt noticed it, too, and we both photographed it with our respective cameras–he with his Cannon 550D and me with my LG V-10 phone camera. We joked about how everyone around us was straining to get a glimpse of the tiger, who was now playing hide-and-seek with the gathering crowd while we shared a magical moment with the lovely little Damselfly pictured above.

This summer proved to be a period of transition for me. I’ve come to realize over the past few months that it doesn’t matter what I do with my spare time. Whether I’m making and selling  jewelry or posting payments from insurance companies to patient accounts or overseeing the Accounts Receivable departments for three home health agencies in two different states, as I did at the last job I had before I got married… Those are all just pastimes. What’s really important to me now is whether or not I’m a good wife to my husband and a good mother to our daughter.

Somehow through that brief connection with a startlingly still Damselfly, I managed to find my way back to feeling centered and grounded again. As we transition into Fall, my favorite season, I feel more deeply connected to my family than ever. I’m no longer interested in hearing about the drama in the lives of others; and I no longer devote significant amounts of time to social media.

My focus is completely on my family now. And that’s precisely where it should be.

 

 

 

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Six Weeks of Gratitude: Week Six

November is, for many of us I think, a time to be thankful. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that I naturally tend to retreat inward around the winter holidays. I don’t retreat from the outside world so much because I want to escape, but more because I feel a strong internal pull toward introspection.
 
This is the time of year that I tend to take stock of my life. I review the previous ten months and consider whether I am pleased with the direction I am going, or if perhaps I need to adjust my course a bit. Or maybe a lot, as has often been the case in previous years.
 
This year as November rolled around and I felt that familiar pull to examine my life, I was pleased to discover that all is right in my world. It’s a wonderful thing to internally examine your life and find that everything is exactly as it should be.
 
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that my life is perfect. It’s far from perfection, as a matter of fact. It’s just that I feel for once that I am right where I need to be and that no major course corrections are necessary to get me back on the right track.
 
As I’m sure you can imagine, Door 44 Jewelry is a very big part of my life. Launching a business and taking the leap into self-employment is daunting, to say the least, but this has been an amazing year. So much so, that I wanted to express my gratitude to the many people—friends, family, fans, and customers—who helped make 2016 such a remarkable first year for me.
 
I am so grateful for the support of every person who has contributed to what has been a very successful first year in business, and there have been a lot of people involved. I’ve sold over 100 pieces of jewelry to customers all over the US, and just today I shipped my first international order. One of my wildly popular Trumpet Vine pendants, pictured below, is on its way to France as I type.
 
 
I realize that I can’t do what I do without the customers who buy what I create, so I decided to give away six pieces of jewelry over a period of six weeks to show my customers how much I appreciate them.
 
I’ve already shipped five of those pieces—the fifth one, a gorgeous Lepidolite Egyptian Moon pendant pictured below, went out today along with the order I shipped to France. So, I only have one piece left to gift to a member of the Door 44 community.
 
 
I’ll be giving a limited-edition silver and blue Winter Icicle pendant to one lucky winner on Saturday, December 17th. If you’d like to have your name thrown in the hat from which my husband will blindly pull one name next Saturday, just ‘like’ and share this Facebook post.
 
Follow Door 44 Jewelry while you’re there for exclusive savings and the latest news about what’s happening on my workbench. And if I haven’t already said it to you before, welcome to Door 44 Jewelry and thank you for shopping. Please come back again!
 
Have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

The First Year of the Rest of Our Lives

My husband and I have been celebrating our marriage in small ways pretty much daily since we tied the knot at the Jefferson County Courthouse on a cold, rainy October day last year. I’d only been living in our shared Denver apartment full time for a few days at that point, having severed my employment in Trinidad just a few days earlier. It was a tremendous relief for me to finally arrive home for good when I left my office after my last day at work and drove three hours north to Denver.

We didn’t plan to get married the following week, but it worked out that way because the county clerk’s office was empty when we arrived. No lines. No waiting. We were in and out in less than thirty minutes. We arrived as two single people looking forward to getting married within the next thirty days. We left as husband and wife, a little stunned by how quickly and easily we’d tied the knot, but thrilled nonetheless.

I hear all the time that marriage is difficult. That it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, next to parenting; and I wonder sometimes if there’s something wrong with me or my husband or our marriage because our union has been easy from the start. I think we’d both fully committed to spending the rest of our lives together before we ever talked about marriage. When we did have that conversation, the issue was settled in a matter of minutes.

Neither of us is particularly romantic. We’re both more practical, yet there’s something sort of romantic and magical about a union, such as ours, that works so smoothly and effortlessly. That’s not to say that we don’t put any effort into our marriage because we do. I’m prone to some pretty strong mood swings, and with our daughter now living with us full time, there are three of us crammed into a tiny 2-bedroom apartment. I occasionally feel fenced in, and when I need to withdraw and recharge (introvert that I am) there’s simply nowhere to go. Those days are pretty challenging, but my husband and I are unshakably united, so we know we’ll get through them.

All my life I’ve been accused of not being a team player, but what this past year has taught me is that I am absolutely a team player when I’m on the right team. This lesson is huge for me because I believed, like most people, that life would always be a struggle. That wherever I go, there would be strife and conflict, so I’d just have to learn to deal with it. We’re told from an early age that we need to grow a thick skin and learn to tolerate being treated poorly by others, and we’re supposed to silently endure the incompetence, ignorance, or inappropriate behavior of those closest to us for the sake of “getting along”.

All of that is nonsense, of course. Those are the lies people tell themselves in order to justify staying in bad marriages, toxic friendships, and unrewarding jobs. There’s a better way. It’s entirely possible to have relationships that are based on mutual respect and appreciation. It’s equally possible to find highly evolved, competent, and intelligent people with whom we’ll resonate. We can either find or build high-functioning teams where we’ll achieve more working together than we could possibly achieve alone. The key is that we have to learn to be a lot more discerning about the people we’re willing to allow into our lives. And we need to learn to say no to those who are unwilling or unable to rise to higher standards of conduct.

I’m not sure I can convince anyone that there really is a better way to live, but I’d like to. Had anyone told me I’d eventually find a man who is a perfect match for me, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Yet I intuitively understood that the combative and dysfunctional relationships I’ve had with certain relatives, friends, and coworkers through the years may have been completely “normal” according to current social standards, but they certainly weren’t healthy. I secretly hoped to find better ways to relate with people, and I found glimpses of those better ways through a few rare individuals—an old boss, a handful of friends and even a couple of old boyfriends. It wasn’t until my husband and I started dating, though, that I fully understood that virtually all of the obstacles to lasting, happy, and healthy relationships would be obliterated if people would only choose their mates, friends, and business associates more carefully.

My husband and I are similar in many ways, but we’re also quite different in other ways. His strengths balance my weaknesses, yet we share the same core values. As a result, it is remarkably easy for us to map a course for our future and work together to achieve our long-term goals. While dividing the work of running our household, we take into consideration our individual preferences and strengths so neither of us gets stuck doing the things that we dislike most.

We argue infrequently, we rarely bicker, and the closest thing to nagging that happens in our household is that we occasionally have to remind our daughter to do her chores. The result is an overwhelmingly happy and almost effortless marriage and home life. My wish is that you, too, will find the sort of well-balanced relationship that my husband and I enjoy. Can you imagine what we could achieve as a society if we all held ourselves and those closest to us to higher standards of conduct, and if we were far more discerning when choosing those we allow into our inner circles?

Life is too short for all the drama and nonsense that most of us resignedly tolerate daily in our personal relationships and in the workplace. Choose your mate, friends, and coworkers more carefully so you can look forward, as I do, to a bright future beside someone you trust absolutely to have your back.

Thank you, Matt, for a wonderful first year of what I’m certain will be a very long and happy marriage. I love you.