Saturday, October 20, 2012

I HATE getting older................

    I know I haven't posted since the beginning of the year, but it has been a difficult one for me.   Rather than write in this blog, I've spent the time I could sit up and use the keyboard working on my website and Etsy shop.

   For those of you who have been my students, you will have watched me struggling thru classes this past season as old injuries to my back and shoulder came back to haunt me.   A bad fall I took last winter really aggravated things, and I've never fully recovered. At classes I hide behind a smile and enthusiastic attitude, then crash as I walk out the door.  Some days I could not even carry my work tote and my beloved husband David was there to haul things for me and help me set up and knock down after class. I've even taught classes wearing a TENS unit to be able to stay upright. It's been difficult to admit to myself that age and past injuries are catching up with me, although I should have realized it much sooner.  I've just always been really stubborn that way - my late Mom always said don't EVER tell me I CAN'T do something, it's the sure way to make me try to do it.  Back in the 80's when I was recovering from a bad auto accident, the doctors told me I'd likely be in a wheelchair by 50 ( after 3 left leg surgeries, 2 back surgeries, shoulder surgery,  fractured vertebrae, severe closed head injury and blown disks in my neck and low back).  I turn 59 next month, and I'm still on my feet - well, I am most of the time, anyway.  To some extent.   By the way - I HATE red light runners - believe me, it just isn't worth the damage you may do to someone else's life to save those three minutes waiting for the next green.  Think about it - PLEASE.

     Now my right shoulder has  deteriorated to the point where it needs surgery.  Ever try to build jewelry one handed? Especially when it's your dominant hand?  My sessions at the jewelry bench have been getting shorter and shorter as it's just too painful to work the hours I used to.  Hammering? Forget it! Like a lightening bolt shoots from my hand to my shoulder.  Holding tools for long periods? Hand starts to shake and cramp.  Now I'm not saying you can't get some interesting texture effects with an added shake to the flexshaft, but sometimes it's not exactly what I had in mind.  Kumihimo? I love it - it calms me down, like a moving meditation.  But my hands start to cramp and the shoulder screams. It gets pretty frustrating at times.

    When my doctor suggested I go on disability, I thought, "No way" - until it was pointed out to me that things just haven't been getting any better.  The independent review Social Security sent me to was enlightening - after the exam, the doctor looked me in the eye and said,  "You need to be on stronger drugs!" I thought I was doing pretty good staying off strong drugs unless I was totally flattened, and using a TENS unit to help pull me through the worst days. It's amazing how much you can learn to tolerate.  But not being able to sleep more than a few hours at a time and waking up with numb arms and hands made me realize things just aren't quite going well.   Also needing my cane again to walk a block and back has been a bit of a wake up call.  I can't imagine what a pain free life is like anymore - yet I hate being drugged out, especially if you play with torches and flexshafts - it's simply not a good idea safety wise. 

     Strangely, I had become so accustomed to being in pain every day that I didn't even think of it as not being "normal".  My life's kinda like that old Paul Simon song, "Slip Slidin' Away" - "On a good day, I feel no pain, on a bad day I just lie in bed and think of things that might have been."  I spent a lot of days this year flat on my back in bed, wanting to be on my jeweler's bench, and unable to sit up, let alone dress myself - what would I do without my darling husband?  He takes care of me without a complaint.  And now follows me around saying - "Don't pick that up! Don't lean over! Give me that grocery bag! Don't______."  You can fill in the blanks.  I think he figured out it was easier to keep me from doing something that will make me hurt more than it is to be waiting on me hand and foot when I'm flat on my back.   I have spent a good part of the last few months in a haze of misery, forcing myself through the few classes I could manage, and coming home to the heating pad, feet up on a wedge pillow, and a muscle relaxer just so I could drag myself up the next day.   After a while my mind started wandering from depressed to frantic - as I became less able to deal with the pain and function.  Some days it feels like it just isn't worth going on anymore.  I get so tired of being miserable there seems no point in it.  Any activity gets viewed as - how much pain will I have to pay for this?  It is worth it? REALLY worth it?  I have found myself withdrawing from life more and more as the stakes become higher.  So to all those old friends who haven't been seeing or hearing much from me lately - sorry.  I'll try to do better.

    Now I am on disability and will be cutting back on my classes this season.  As much as I LOVE teaching, I just can't keep up the schedule I used to.  I'll still do a couple of classes each session in the winter, and gladly give private lessons at my home. Not having to haul stuff around is a BIG plus for my back.  With disability came Medicaid, so sometime soon I hope to have this shoulder taken care of - which will keep me off the jewelry bench and out of classes for a couple of months.  (Hint: If you want a custom piece for Christmas, get it now, later you may have a long wait!) 

     So if you're looking for a particular class, check my website, and if it's not scheduled, email me and we'll try to work something out. I am  getting my winter schedule confirmed now and will post classes to my website within a few weeks, as soon as the contracts are in.  To my local fans, yes, I will be doing the Atomic Holiday Bazaar in Sarasota on Dec.8th ( Saturday) ONLY.  It's the only show I will be doing, because it was booked last Spring and I adore Adrien Lucas and the wonderful show she puts on every year. So I will see you all there in December, along with my husband David who will be doing the setup for me.  My jewelry is also on display in the Dancing Crane Gallery on 10th Avenue in Bradenton's Village of the Arts.  I'll be there on the monthly Art Walks, first Fridays of each month. Except in December, as it's the night before Atomic.

I'm actually taking a bit of time for myself these days - one of my latest creations? A steel boned corset - yep, you heard right.  Why?  It's a fashionable way to wear a back brace. You ever SEE a back brace? They are just plain UGLY! A steel boned corset is more support than any back brace I have tried - and I've gone through quite a few. I made a couple of corsets years back when I was doing Renfairs, and realized how much the support helps.  If I have to use a brace, even though I feel bad at least I'm gonna be looking good! And after all, looking good is half the battle - right?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

All Things Considered...

All things considered, it has been a hectic beginning to the new year.   Between my winter classes starting up, my husband getting a huge book illustration job and helping him on a furniture faux finishing job (huge 3 part entertainment unit)  that our fave interior designer came up with a less than a week deadline, the jewelry making has been relegated to class demo projects.  STILL have jewelry to be repacked from my Christmas shows, and dozens of new ideas running around in my head. With 2 special order designs to do this week, my workbenches are covered with "stuff" - jewelry to be packed, paperwork for different classes,  boxes of supplies and toolkits for classes, and just anything else that got set aside this week while I was too busy to bother putting it back in it's proper place.  So today I start to clean and organize again.

   Do the rest of you sometimes get to the point where your studio becomes such chaos that you have to step back, take a day or so, and re-evaluate you use of space?  Especially when you are sharing that space with another artist ( my husband, an illustrator)?  Looking back, I would have taken half of what is on one side of the room and put it on the other, but now it will be a MAJOR moving project to accomplish this.  Starting without planning, our shared studio has evolved over the past 10 years, as different pieces were added in.  My 6' metal work desk we found on the side of the road, a vintage glass front kitchen cabinent from a yard sale that became the base for a 6' workbench,  antique oak washstand that makes the perfect printer stand and stores all the paper & office supplies, flat file full of artwork supporting shelving full of books - why does it all have to be so heavy? 

     When laying out your studio, here's a hint I learned from my late father - using graph paper as a base for your design ( 1 sq to each ft), cut out paper shapes to the proper ratio of the furniture in your shop, and play with them, moving them around on the graph paper until you find a layout that maximizes your space, keeps everything handy, and saves your back!  That old adage, "measure twice, cut once" becomes "move paper - then furniture".  It's really a simple way to help you organize your workspace with a minimum of physical effort, as then you KNOW that you will only be moving the heavy stuff once.  Every time my late Dad moved his shop, he'd sit and do this for hours until he got the perfect layout before he moved anything - and when you figure the weight of showcases, specimens, and stones, he had a lot of weight to move!  So that's my New Year's resolution - rearrange the studio to make it work better for us both, and give usthe room to have workshops and classes here again. 

 So here's to a new year in a redesigned studio - I wouldn't even THINK of showing a picture of what it's like now, but once it's done ( it may take a few weeks - or more) you may get a glimpse.  Lucky me my sister in law moved here a few months ago and has two teen age boys we can call on if we need some muscle.  A few years ago I would have thought nothing of doing it myself, but the closer I get to 60 the more I realize that kind of work is best done by younger backs!

     But here's a pic from when I had my workbench set up in my old gallery shop - I could literally eat my lunch on the table when I wasn't working it was so clean!  Now if I can just get the home studio looking so husband remarked it "looks like a jewelry store exploded in here."  Yep, it's time to reorganize!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Day 2012

So here we are at the dawn of a new year.  Last night we watched the last sunset of 2011 with our feet in the ocean, breezes blowing through our hair, and seabirds flying overhead.  There is something about the last night of the year that urges me to return to the ocean and get "grounded" to Mother Earth.  Having spent most of my life living on one island or another, the beach is where I can best connect to the energy of the planet and it's elements.  I love the forests, but the open vista of water always draws me home to the sea, washing away all the cares if the past year and leaving a clean slate for the new.  I've set foot in most of the seven seas now, Atlantic, Pacific, Carribean, Gulf,  Indian Ocean - passing on the Arctic & Antarctic, too cold.  Each has it's own energy, warm or cold, smooth or rough - much like the stones I work with.  I am hoping through this exercise in writing to enlighten you, my readers, to the energy around us, in the materials we work with, the environment we exist in, the relationships we participate in.  All these factor into what we create and how we envision our lives.  Here's to a year of expanding the possibilities, creating beauty in all that is around us, and living in harmony with Gaia.