Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Word Of Wisdom

I've recently had cause to reflect on the nature of the commandments. Its been a while since I've thought deeply on the challenge I got so often in high school - that my beliefs and the standards associated with living an active, faithful Latter Day Saint lifestyle are constrictive. That some of the "mandates" are just that - mandates. In essence - that obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel cramps my style and limits my personal liberty.

I can tell you here and now that I don't feel that way at all. I feel in my little Ami heart of hearts that the "commandments" are just simple loving advice, from a Heavenly Father who knows and loves me, on how to be happy. If you want to be happy, here is how to live and you will be happy. I see it as the directions. If you want to make a cake, you can't follow the recipe for lasagna. Likewise if you want a happy life, you can't follow the directions to misery.

I think the set of laws/doctrines that most often gets a bad rap is probably the set known in Mormonland as "The Word of Wisdom". For those not fluent in Mormonese that would be the Lord's law of health as set forth in the book The Doctrine and Covenants section 89. (Mormon moment: D&C is a book of scripture written by Joseph Smith that basically contains the bulk of the revelations and directions given to him by the Lord).

The Word of Wisdom has the bad rap b/c its the law that disses the "fun" stuff. Like, alcohol, tobacco and coffee. But its so much more than that. I used to describe it to people, when I was a missionary, as the Users Manual for your body. The Lord made your body and so it stands to reason that the Great Creator would know best how to care for the thing.

I've also selected this law because I think studying it is one of the best ways to focus on the fact that there are no "physical" commandments. They are all ultimately spiritual in nature.

Lemme dissect the thing for you:

The first half of the chapter contains the "Don'ts" and they are namely: Alcohol, coffee, black tea, tobacco and illegal drugs. If you need me to elaborate on why illegal drugs are bad for your body, go find a DARE officer of whatever they're calling them now days. For tobacco I refer you to The Truth ( and I'd like to note that this revelation was given roughly 100 years before the rest of us caught on that tobacco kills people).

Coffee and tea, I believe, are there principally for their addictive qualities, although I'm sure that the tannins (read: stuff you use to tan leather) can't be good for the stomach either. But I think it has to do with spiritual sensitivity and communication. The Lord needs you to be able to hear and respond to him, regardless of if you've had your morning cup of Joe yet and I know LOTS of people that can't see straight, and can barely breathe on their own with out at least 2 cups of coffee. How can you possibly hear the still small voice of the Spirit when you can't see past your own nose because your body is so enslaved to these chemicals?

And lastly, alcohol. Such a double edged sword. There are those who argue its benefits - improved heart health, a non-habit forming (in SMALL doses) relaxant at the end of a long day. But I would think on this: the Law of Chastity (NO sexual relations except with your husband or wife to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded) and how the Lord is deadly serious about it being followed. I am not even going to touch right now on all the reasons why THAT'S a good thing b/c it would be a book. But I can tell you for dang sure that I know that if I EVER touched alcohol as a teen and young adult I would NEVER have made it to my wedding day a virgin.

I had to white knuckle hold the reins on my hormones enough times that I know that if I had had the least encouragement to let go of my inhibitions I would never, ever have managed to obey the law of chastity.

Now I'm sure that there are other people who are FAR far better than me who could manage both with ease. I'm not one of them. And I'm sure that there are others like me and so the Lord gave me this law (the Word of Wisdom) knowing that I needed it. Knowing that in order for me to keep this far more important law (law of chastity), I NEEDED to obey this one first (no booze).

The second section of the Word of Wisdom is the "Do's" namely - do eat fruits, vegetables and herbs, eat meat sparingly and make whole grains the base of your diet. It advocates moderation in all things. Sounds remarkably like what most nutritionists would tell you to do.

The final section of the law is the promised blessings. The Lord doesn't give any commandment except he tells you WHY you should do this thing. In fact He goes so far elsewhere in scripture as to state that all blessings are based on obedience to the law upon which they are predicated. So here are the blessings that the Lord sets out for obedience to this law: that you shall have health, and endurance. That you shall have wisdom and knowledge and that you will be protected from harm.

For those who don't think "health and endurance" sounds spiritual, you've never had to try to maintain your patience with a toddler all day long. If Mommy isn't feeling good, if she's tired and crabby, I quickly become far less than the loving, patient, caring Mommy I should be. And I believe that love, compassion and patience are all very, very much spiritual gifts.

So thats my two cents (okay probably slightly more than 2 cents worth. Shut up) on the subject.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Random thoughts # 5879

I expressed some concerns this evening with a group of friends about a problem I've been facing and about my anxiety with regards to a decision I have before me.

And a friend responded with a circituitous answer by discussing how she made her decision in a similar circumstance. A friend of hers asked her: "Well other than X situation are A and B good or bad?" And since both A and B were positive, my friend decided to stick around and deal with X, with the proviso that she was only there as long as both A and B were positive.

And I've been pondering how this applies to me and my situation. And all I can get right now is that B is definitely positive. I can't fault B. But A is more... mediocre. In SOME areas its good, but in most its blah to crappy. BUT most of the crappy is because of X. So in theory if X gets better then so will A.

So I don't know what to do with that. I really don't. Especially since I wonder about an alternate path which would in theory involve a complete absence of X, and a glowingly positive A and B, but with the some what scary possibility of a lack of Y. Y is both very easily remedied and not remotely easy.

And none of this is really being helped by my current serious hankering for some very positive A type interaction. Makes it hard to see clearly for the want.


Life really can't ever be easy can it?

In other news I'm up to 23 pounds lost which is a BIG yay b/c I wasn't really even trying for the last 3. And I had a great time with Bre this evening experimenting w/ the new faux enameling technique. She did good!

OH and I invented a potato salad recipe that makes me VERY happy. I've tried several and none like did it for me. And so I sort of eye balled it, and measured as I added stuff and wrote it down immediately afterwards and so TAH DAH! I have Ami's Potato Salad. Yes, I know the name is just... so inspiring.

In other random thought trains I like my hair. Its soft and thick and pretty and makes me happy when it behaves.

And I've decided to begin my procrastination and anxiety de-crapping of the house for the holidays. My hope is that if I start now and work slowly one little chunk at a time then by the time my folks come to visit in December I should be good and not have to spend the whole week before they come in a frantic hellish cleaning frenzy. Thats the plan anyways. We'll see how it goes.

My first objective is the dining room. Its badly out of hand, again. I think I'm going to come at it from a slightly different angle this time and attempt to organize the beads FIRST - making them a temporary/semi permanent fixture of my dining room for the time being because they keep eating my dining room alive. That and the mail. *sigh*

But should I be like smashingly successful at getting the whole house organized well in advance of my parents trip I could maybe do something exciting to celebrate like paint the living room or reupholster the dining room chairs or refinish the kitchen cabinets or something that will make me super ultra uber happy. Who knows? The possibilities are endless.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Who am I: Why I Believe

Yes I know I've been terribly religious lately. Get over it or go else where. If you haven't noticed I tend to work on a theme until I chew my way through it and get bored. Then I move on. This is where we are right now.

I keep trying to figure out what angle to come at this topic by. I feel I need to go into it for reasons I don't know yet exactly but I feel strongly its what I need to write about, tho this post is liable to take a few drafts to get right. 

I believe in God because I know He is there. 

I know it as surely as I know the sun will rise in the east tomorrow and that my Momma loves me. And I know that no matter what happens I cannot deny my sure knowledge. I'd be lying if I did. 

You can say that I was socialized to some sort of group hysteria by my religious upbringing. Please go right ahead and feel what you want. The point of this post isn't to convince anybody or start an argument. I just feel the need to share what I know to be true. 

I was 14 and I was suicidal. I didn't want to die, but I couldn't live like that anymore. The pain, the despair, the total isolation. The body that seemed to have its own mind and I was locked in a cage in the back of my mind watching myself do things and screaming and beating against the bars and I couldn't get out and I couldn't stop and I couldn't be me

I had a plan. I was going to write a note and take a whole bottle of pills (probably Tylenol cuz Mom had those giant bottles of them from the discount store) and time it for just about an hour before dinner. So that hopefully I'd be passed out but they could find me before it was too late and .... somehow this would save me. 

They'd taken me to "therapy" with some nut job that saw me like a half dozen times but declared me "well" and that just made me even more hopeless because now therapy hadn't worked. So I had no idea what the solution was, but I couldn't live like this anymore. 

The two things keeping me from enacting the plan were as follows: I was scared to death I would actually die (what if they forgot to get me for dinner, that had never happened but it might!). And if I actually died that would cause 2 problems: 1. It would hurt my parents. I knew it would break their hearts and I couldn't bear that thought. 2. I believed that God would punish me if I took my own life and I couldn't quite justify being miserable for all eternity vs being miserable now. (My opinions on that subject have evolved some since then but that's neither here nor there and probably a really good thing I thought that way at the time...). 

And so there I was, in so much pain I couldn't see straight. I felt powerless and hopeless, and completely and totally alone. 

And I remember one night, one horribly bad night, I was alone in my room and this poster I had on my wall just captivated me. It was a picture of Christ and it was captioned "You are never alone. I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you." 

And I sobbed and I stared at the picture when I could and I started praying. I explained to my Heavenly Father that I had never in my life felt more alone and I just couldn't do this anymore. I had to know if I was alone or not because if I was I couldn't do this anymore and this was going to have to be it. 

And it was then, in truly my darkest hour ever that I suddenly felt peace. I felt love. I felt like I was being wrapped up in a big warm hug and my tears changed from the wracked sobs of grief and pain to tears of joy and happiness. I could keep breathing. I could exist. It was all going to be okay because I was not alone and God loved me

It was probably the single most glorious experience of my entire life. 

I could not have felt His presence any more clearly than if a friend walked up and gave me a bear hug right now. From that day on I have never, ever had any doubt that there is a God. That He is a real, personal, living Father in Heaven, who knows, loves and cares about me. 

I was humbled to the core of my soul. Grateful and honored and shocked that somebody like me merited such love. He was REAL and He loved ME. And it was going to be okay. 

And it was... I think it was shortly after that that my gym teacher caught me smashing my head into a locker (if you hit your head hard enough you don't have to feel for a while, that and the other kids thought it was a great party trick) and for some strange reason she was concerned and sent me to the school counselor who listened for a bit and then called the district psychologist who listened for a few hours, who then called my Mom and explained very carefully that if she didn't get me help right now things were going to be bad. And she referred us to some amazing non-quack people - a psychiatrist who got the brain working right (so that THIS neuron fires into THAT receptor likes its supposed when I tell it to and only when I tell it to) and a psychologist who gave me the tools to heal once the brain could even work right. 

I think before that night I was mostly a social conversion. I'd been raised and taught these things by my parents. But since that night, my faith is mine. I believe because I know. 

There are times I wish I could touch a person and make them feel what I feel, because if I could share that feeling it would knock you flat on your butt and you too could know. But thats not how it works and I don't think it would be right even if I could do it.... with knowledge comes accountability.... 

I can list a few dozen other reasons "why I believe" but as I think on them I think what they really are is reasons why I'm grateful I believe. This is the real reason. Its been reinforced, powerfully, many times since that night. But this is the start, the flame that still burns. 

For the record I'm not sure I've shared this with more than one or two people my whole life until now. And yet I feel strongly that now is the right time to share it with the whole internet. This is a little piece of my heart. One of the core pieces that makes me who I am and altered the whole course of my existence. 

Please be kind. This is sacred to me. 

ps - who knew? This is the first draft....

I was doing it wrong!!

So I think I may have had an epiphany this evening. A big one. Also had a different one this morning but I'll call that more of an inspiration. Cuz it was fairly straight forward and easy to comprehend. We'll go with "epiphany" for this evening because we're still wrapping our mind around it and chewing on it and so I'm going to ramble but I THINK I may have figured out something big. (Fair warning this is my chewing through an idea so the thought train is liable to be circular and repetitive. Suck it up or go some place else).

Because in case you haven't caught the subtle undertone the last few months I've got some crapola stuff going on in my life and I'm not ready yet to spill the beans with the whole internet (and who knows maybe keeping it vague allows you to better relate it to your own life and struggles??... Thats a nice thought anyways....) but I think I had my "DOH!" moment tonight.

Whole point of my last post - if you're not happy you're doing it wrong. Well, I've definitely been very LESS than happy of late so clearly I must have been doing something wrong. (Yes I'm slow and should have caught this one a while back BUT whatever. Shut up).

I got it wrong. I went back and I reread things tonight and I realized I kinda missed a core principle (me = genius). I thought my healing would somehow involve being healed either with or with out the other person. So I didn't want to let myself get healed in either direction until I knew what the other person was going to do (way to hand over my agency *thwacks self in head*) because I couldn't stand the thought of letting my poor little Ami heart get all half healed up again and then smashed into little bitty pieces. Again.

We just couldn't do that. Not again. And so to try to reclaim some control I set a dead line. I need action, real action by X or, or, well, lets just not get to X, Okay??! And I've been agonizing over what the other person would do and what I would do if we did get to X and the change hadn't happened. B/c what if I got it wrong. This is big friggin important stuff here. And I've got a, b, and c huge major consequences riding on it. How will I know?!! What if I'm wrong?!!!

I knew the Lord could heal everything. And I thought thats what the "hope" part meant. "Hope" it will all get better and trust that the Lord CAN fix it. And I despaired because "Yes the Lord CAN fix anything BUT what if the other person won't LET HIM??" Christ is the perfect gentleman, he'll never force anything.

And thats been my agony and my thought chasing round and round in my head. Paired with a healthy dose of "I can't life like this for much longer" and but what about A, B and C?? Those are BIG consequences.

But I read it wrong. My healing doesn't have to be one way or the other. My healing, my happiness is completely and totally independent of the other person's choices. I can trust and be healed regardless. I can trust my God and be healed NOW.

I can be happy, joyous and peaceful regardless. God knows me, He knows what I need to be happy. If I need to leave the situation to Him, the Lord will tell me when and where to go or not and I can trust in my God and be at peace with the decision.

My healing and my happiness is in Christ. I will be lead to my happiness and whether that is here or there I will know. It won't break my heart either way because I will know the path is right. I will know that God loves all the people involved far more perfectly than I do and they are HIS children and He will take care of them.

I thought I had to pick the path. I was wrong. I have to pick Christ and HE will put me on the right path and walk with me the whole way. The fear that I'll get it wrong can be gone. I just have to follow Christ.

Yes I should probably know this already. For all you enlightened people who are going "Uh, DUH slow poke" shut up. Genius here has to learn the hard way sometimes. Repeatedly. But I think I got it this time. :D

Now the goal is to remember it. Again.

Also we bit the bullet and looked at the next section. The scary section. And not only was it much less scary than we thought it was going to be, we had a bit of a revelation that took away the big part of the scary so we think we can face going there now. Previously I may have declared myself healed and not needing to go forward b/c I'm all better now thankyouverymuch rather than face the next, uber scary section. But I think the fear is gone. I was trying to obliquely do the next section with out DOING the next section as it was. I think now we might just have what we need to go for the gusto! :D

Monday, October 18, 2010

On Happiness

My thoughts on happiness, joy, agency, avoiding codependence and my goal of not turning into a bitter old hag. I will get religious at points in this post, I'm sorry, you don't have to read it. But for me, this is how I find joy. 

I am that I might have Joy.

There is a scripture in The Book of Mormon: "Adam fell that men might be. Men are that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:25). I'm going to ignore the doctrine of the first statement in favor of focusing on the second half of the verse. 

Men are that they might have Joy

I would of course encourage you to modify this to personalize it: Women are that they might have joy or better yet: I am that I might have JOY. 

I'd seen and read that scripture SO many times growing up I cannot even begin to keep track of how many times I've seen it. But I am not sure that I ever really had it sink in until I think it was my senior year of high school (the beginning of the end of my doormat phase) when I heard a talk that basically explained what this scripture really meant: 

The whole POINT of being here is to HAVE JOY. If you're NOT having joy, you're doing it wrong. 

So any time you start to realize that your life has lost its joy. That you're not happy, then stop. Take a look and reevaluate what is going on because that is not the point of the program. You're doing it wrong. Its possible that something is being done wrong to you, in which case you need to seek help to get out of the situation. 

But the important and empowering point of the verse that I walked away with was this: The point is to have Joy. Therefore, God will always make a way for me to choose to have that joy. I just have to choose to get on the path.

Knowing what I don't want

There is a woman I know, who I will strive to leave anonymous, who is one of the most bitter, unhappy people I know. I've long had occasion to interact with this person and while I do care deeply for her, I've discovered that not spending that much time around her is a good thing for my mental health. 

And I will admit that for years I judged her harshly. I sometimes find I still do. I would see her actions and the hurt and discontent she carried with her constantly and felt the need to share with those around her and wondered what the heck her witch problem was. But in recent years I've learned more of her history and I will admit it was sobering. And made her much more a figure for my pity than my anger. (But note that I still refuse to accept the sh*t buckets she hands out. Just because I know why does not make it okay). 

I once saw a video of this person from many, many years ago. And for those of us whose only familiarity with the subject was that of the bitter harpy she has become it was a drop jaw shocking experience to see this woman laughing. She was so light hearted and happy and blissful she was nearly unrecognizeable. I looked up and saw her son with tears streaming down his face and the looks of shock on those who hadn't known her then and I mourned the death of the smiling happy woman. 

Some of the hurt that created this situation was out of her control. But so much of it was not. And there were choices made by the individual that only hurt things further. And now I'm not sure she even knows what it is to be happy anymore. How to feel that sensation. 

And so one of my goals is to not let that happen to me, to refuse to allow myself to be come bitter and hardened and unhappy and miserable. I don't want my son to see video of me and weep for the loss of that happy woman. I want him to maybe shed a tear of joy over a happy memory and then give me a hug and be delighted for many more years of continued happy memories. 

I have learned in whatsoever state I am, there with to be content.

I came across a scripture on my mission: "I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." Phil 4:11 and I was lead to this verse while in the middle of what was by far my most difficult assignment as a missionary. It was the life line I needed in the situation so I wrote that verse up on several cards and placed them in spots where I would see them regularly. 

Looking back now and the difficulty of the situation, I appreciate the humor. lol. I have some dang good mission stories from the situation that are definitely unique. It was intense, it was hard, it was occasionally unfun and down right uncomfortable and it so easily could have been miserable. 

But what it was, was JOYFUL. 

And it was joyful because I chose for it to be. My favorite companion on my mission used to say that she had no control over another persons actions. They have their agency, their freedom to chose for themselves. The only thing she could control was her reactions. I am so grateful that I had nearly a year between being given that revelation and going through the challenge of this assignment where I had to put it into use. I think I needed the time to chew on the concept and let it really sink in. 

But don't think that I'm so great and wonderful that I managed that miracle all by myself because I so didn't. By this point in my mission I was really learning what it meant to fully rely on God because I was so done. I didn't want to be. I loved my mission with all my heart and I would have stayed in the field an extra 6 months if they would have let me. I even requested an extension, which the Lord turned down. Mentally I was raring to go, but physically my body was done. 

The pace of a mission is grueling. Your one "day off" a week is really 8 hours long and consists of having to cram into that time frame all the things like laundry, shopping, email, writing home, washing the car, cleaning the apartment etc that you don't do the rest of the week because you're working. I honestly don't know how the guys serve for 24 months. Maybe they just don't work as hard. Because my goal was to take the talk titled "Go home on a stretcher" (basically give your all) literally and I dang near made it. lol. 

So add that level of intense, complete physical exhaustion to a companion situation that was definitely not the ideal and I discovered how to really allow my God to carry me. Because the big thing about the mission is this: You're with a companion, who you probably never met before, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and your goal is to do the work of the Lord. In order to achieve the goal you have to have the Holy Spirit with you to guide you. And any feelings of contention between companions will drive the Spirit away. So, if you don't get along, you can't do the work and dissing the work is not acceptable. Therefore you have to figure out how to get along, how to forgive, how to love your companion no matter what. Because you only get one shot at this. While you're there you are responsible for the salvation of every soul in your area. And I for one would never, ever forgive myself if I did anything other than my dead level best. 

So it was then I discovered the truth of the words "I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content," because I did. I was happy. I was joyful. And my God made it possible. When the stress and the hurt and the anger of dealing with these two sweet sisters, who both had some serious personal challenges got to be too much I would pour my heart out to Him and He would answer. Something would change, or fall in place or I would simply feel better. We didn't convert the whole world, far from it. But I know in that time and that place, that was the work that He would have me do. And I did it and loved it. 

Happiness is a choice

So basically the sum of my soapbox on happiness is this: its a choice. You can choose to be happy regardless of the circumstance. That said, given that you cannot control another persons actions, if they are doing something that you cannot abide, and you've done all the big kid things like try to talk to them about it etc, then the choice becomes yours: stay and find a way to like it, or leave. 

And a side note: that doesn't mean you have to love and be happy over the really crappy stuff all the time. There are times when you do need to sit down and take a moment to recognize that something sucks, thats unfair, that its just plain a bummer. Wallow for a minute and then decide how you're going to choose to react and move on. 

I would also point out that just because you've done something (be it work, school, relationship, habit, whatever) for the last 20 years/seconds/months/days does not mandate that you continue to do the thing for one second longer if there is something else out there that can make you happier. (Though I will temper this advice with the adage to take an extra second and make sure you're not throwing the baby out with the bathwater). 

Dare to be happy. Dare to find joy. Dare to do the uncomfortable thing and change. Sometimes you have to do some painful pruning to get the really beautiful roses. But the choice is always yours, therefore:

Choose Happiness.

Note: If you are unable to choose happiness, if your body refuses to respond, if you feel you cannot control your emotions there is help. I, myself, suffer from depression. This neuron does not fire into that receptor like its supposed when I tell it to and only when I tell it to. Once I got medication to regulate that big grey organ they call my brain, then I was able to choose happiness for myself. There is help. There is hope. Find the joy. 

My Brain is Full

I'm not even sure which direction to start talking in tonight. I've got like a million different thought trains and they're all getting more than slightly snarled up and crossed over and I can't seem to pick just one.

Maybe if I try to come up with a lists of topics to cover I can then start using that as a guide for a series of posts because honestly some of these will be longer, some will be shorter but either way its gonna be more than any one post can handle.

1. I wanna talk about why I believe in God.
2. I wanna focus on the importance of knowing yourself and having a clear and accurate picture of who you really are.
3. I need to talk my way thought some deep and complicated conversations I've had recently and try to feel my way through how I feel about the conversations because right now I've got things all tied up and backwards.
4. I want to reevaluate a decision I made recently and inquire further about which path exactly I should take.
5. My thoughts on happiness, joy, agency, avoiding codependence and my goal of not turning into a bitter old hag.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vintaj The Photos: Part 1

I'll post pictures of the town of Galena next but I think this photo post of just the jewelry is going to take up PLENTY of space. Here's what I made! Enjoy!

(For the record all of the metal components are hand finished by Vintaj Natural Brass. I am not YET a full blown metal smith).

These are in no particular order because doing that in blogger would take wayyyyyy the frick too long.

This medallion is an altered blank that was run through the cuttlebug to emboss it, then I used pearl acrylic paint dabbers and alcohol inks and topped it with Ice Resin.

And this is a phototransfer on to an altered blank. I then topped  it with Ice Resin (LOVE that stuff) and wrapped the piece in filigree.

Here's the flip side:

This is a picture I cut out, edged w/ acrlic dabbers, glued in and sealed with Matte Medium and the topped with the charm embedded in the resin.

This is an image transfer done onto pink acrylic paint and yet again resin topped and filigree wrapped.

And the back side:

This is a rub on image, and alcohol inks on bare brass and topped with resin.

The rear piece was my texturing hammer practice that I didn't quite like the way it turned out. And the front plate was me learning to rivet (I can rivet!! *bows*) and the charm was my briolette wrapping practice. :D

If this dragonfly wrapped around the donut looks familiar it was on the cover of one of the big beading magazines like 2 years back. I think its seriously cool.

And here's the flip side:

Another cut out image with matte medium. I just LOVE the way this one turned out. I think the charms just make it.

This is a filigree wrapped around a czech crystal stone. This was the BIGGEST booger to do because theres a couple of weak points in the filigree that will SNAP if you torque it wrong. This was my THIRD try. But hey.... I did it!!

  I love that this is completely reversable: 

Practicing various wire wrapping techniques. 

I did this during open studio for my sister. Those are my nieces names. I'm gonna make this into a necklace I think. I made the flowers from a bead cap I flattened and riveted in place and colored w/ paint dabbers and alcohol inks. 

 I absolutely LOVE this piece. This is another embossed blank and I just think the colors are perfect and I love the butterfly filigree wrap.

This was the first embossed blank I altered. I think I turned out pretty dang good if I do say so myself.

This is an image transfer onto raw brass with charm embedded in the resin. 

This metal is called Arte Metal and is Vintaj's latest release. It was fun to get to play with. Has DEFINITE potential.

 And this little figural wrapping is the coup de gras. He was a royal pain to work with because the brass was MUCH thicker and harder to form to the cabochon and you really didn't want to chink the turquoise. BUT it worked and I did it! And this was my very first try!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Who Am I? 4

So the other day I decided to do my hair and make up for a girls night out with my 2 crazy aunts (crazy in a GOOD way) and my cousin. I had a great time. And b/c my hair and make up were being shockingly cooperative I came home, touched up the make up a notch or two to high glamour levels and then took a bunch of pictures of myself with my camera (*cough149photoscough*) which sounds so completely self absorbed but I swear thats not what its about.

I'm building a webpage (I know I've been at it FOREVER but we're not discussing that right now m'kay?) and I don't like the headshot I have for it. I'm wearing white and I'm generally of the opinion that I should like, never, ever wear white. Mostly b/c I'm such a glow in the dark mighty whitey that I match the white shirt. So we decided to take 5 million pics of ourselves in the hope that maybe, just maybe, ONE of them would turn out acceptable enough to go on the profile. Yes it is a business, but its an artist business so it can be a bit different.

SO point of this whole shinola is that I posted a selection of these pictures to Facebook to solicit opinions from friends there. And I'll go into their responses in a bit but to my shock and amazement one of my photographer/artists friends (the Amazing Lori) emailed me with one of my photos that she had played with in photoshop.

I'll give you a minute to digest that picture because I was in shock. I was absolutely delighted and thanked her profusely for doing such  sweet thing for me.

And I've spent the last several days staring at this picture trying to wrap my mind around it. Because once upon a time I really did think I was dog ugly. Then we worked our way up to "okay looking" and then "kinda pretty" and we're now generally of the opinion that for the most part I'm pretty. I can look better, maybe even striking if I actually bother w/ make up but "pretty" is pretty much the standard we've decided.

But this amazing photo that she edited for me is beautiful. So beautiful I have to remind myself that the woman in the picture is me. I've never, ever seen an image of myself of any kind that I could unequivocally call beautiful. And so I stare and try to comprehend the idea of "me" and "beautiful" being in the same sentence.

When I say I had "body image issues" that is such a dramatic understatement of who I used to be. I used to literally burst into tears at the sight of myself naked in front of a mirror. Hell, it happened w/ clothes on before.

I had started making fat jokes about myself in high school because if I did it first then the jerks would laugh and not bother to do it for me. Problem was, after a few years, I believed it. And that was amazingly damaging.

But thanks in large part to my husband I stopped the negative self talk (he refuses to hear me say bad things about his wife. lol) and that plus having this man in my life who does nothing but tell me how beautiful I am day in and out for several years now and having a few key conversations with various people about them never ever again saying anything to me about my weight on pain of my never talking to them again (shut up thats a threat not a favor).

I also decided that confidence is sexy. And I also wanted to avoid talking smack about myself in front of the hub, b/c he was the one man who seemed to not mind the fact that I was heavier than I wanted to be and I loved the way that he looked at me and I didn't want to talk him out of it. So that paired w/ the confidence is sexy idea basically lead me to a "fake it til you make it" policy for the last several years.

And shockingly enough - it has worked. I've made amazing strides in my self image. I can look in a mirror with out so much as wincing now. I can occasionally even really like what I see. Its a fragile image, I'm not sure how much it would stand up to abuse before it crumpled. But its there.

But this... Beautiful... this was a step I'd never considered. This picture.... My mother used to tell me when I was in grade school that the other girls were mean because they were jealous. I always chalked that up to "crap your mother has to tell you because she's your mom", but this picture? She may actually be right.

And its lead me to stare and wonder this question more than any other:

Is this what other people see when they look at me? 

And the responses I've gotten from people on Facebook and else where have been overwhelmingly positive. I've never been called sexy before so many times in my life. And I cracked up that I had a couple people comment that the one picture where I left my glasses ON was totally the "sexy librarian" look. Never, ever would have categorized myself that way before.

Its just been interesting and fascinating. And I just keep chasing this thought round and round in my head and staring at the picture trying to reconcile that beautiful woman with my own self identity.

If we're not facebook friends and you'd like to give me your opinion on the pics they're here:

Please keep in mind NONE of those are cropped or retouched in any way so the funky backgrounds and stuff are all super ultra fixable. So just look at the pose and the facial expression etc. Which ones do you like and why?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Who am I? 3

I had a series of bad relationships my junior and senior years of high school. And at the end of the last one I looked back at the pattern and was so scared by what I saw I decided that Ami wasn't allowed to pick her own men for a while. I decided then that I needed to learn how to be okay by myself. Because clearly something was up with me that I was picking men like this to be in a relationship with.

To add perspective I had a leader over my young women's group at church who encouraged us strongly to start a list of qualities we wanted in our eternal companions. And to review our list regularly, particularly at the start and end of a relationship to see how the people we were dating matched up to what we really wanted and to add things we learned that we did or did not want. And to prioritize the items on the list - very important, must have, can't have, would like to have.

And I had followed her advice and began a list and reviewed it regularly. And I think thats a big part of why I decided I shouldn't date for a while because apparently my initial judgement was so radically off base that clearly I wasn't seeing things right. And in hindsight I think that might have something to do with the fact that through most of my youth the single biggest thing a guy could do to get me to like him... was to like me. I felt so amazingly undesirable, so undesirable that wearing a burqa might be doing the world a favor levels of undesireable, that if any man actually wanted me that alone was so very exciting I should find a way to like him back.

Yes I really was messed up in the head. I'm better, but still not perfect.

So I get to college, and have a few injuries that resulted in the end of my dancing days and the resulting depression and comfort eating left me heavier than I had ever been in my life which really was not remotely helpful to myself image especially if you consider the body image issues that run so amazingly rampant in my family and myself in particular.

And the end result was the fear that I was never going to get married because no man could possibly want me because I was fat.

And just to reinforce this concern - my sophomore year I met this guy in a chat room that went to my school and we had some great times talking and decided to meet. His response upon actually meeting me? "Um, you're kinda chubby." I shit you not. Needless to say I was more than slightly devastated and its made me more than slightly gun shy of ever posting pictures of myself online... Especially full body shots. Because while my self image has dramatically improved, its still fragile and I'm not sure how well my fragile new image would survive against attacks of that caliber.

It did however, make me feel like a million bucks when I told this story to a guy friend earlier this year whose response was "Well clearly you can't take him seriously because he obviously had a closed head injury at the time." lol

And as horrible as that sounds it did lead to some good things. Starting with my junior year of college I had some amazing roommates who were extremely good for my self esteem. Diana told me that not only did chubby girls get married too, but that any man that didn't want me because I was fat wasn't the kind of man I would ever want to be with anyways.

That thought in particular was revelatory. It knocked me flat on my butt. I'd never, ever thought of it that way. I'd always heard my mother and her line that "as wonderful as your father is he never would have looked at me if I'd been heavy when we met".

I also started really looking with new eyes at the marriage relationships of the people I knew back home and in my extended family. And let me tell you how much of that was just plain scary. My home ward's relief society used to essentially be a chance for the sisters to get together and bash their husbands. This has thankfully changed but then thats what it was. So when I'd go home for the summer it was scary.

I will never forget one Sunday when the little sister who was in charge of such things got up on her soap box about wanting donations of canned goods for whatever cause she was collecting for now and one of the other sisters said that the problem was that she had this whole bag ready to go and sitting by the door and every Sunday by the time she wrangled her 5 small children into the car for church she'd forget the dang bag at home.

And I in my blissful naivete raised my hand and asked "Why can't you just ask your husband to grab the bag?" And that sister turned to me with eyes full of venom and said "Well clearly YOU don't have a husband." And all I could do was sit there and stare at her slack jawed and think - "Well if thats what its like I don't want one."

It was also about this time that I became aware of a rather remarkable woman by the name of Sheri Dew. If you've never heard her speak you're seriously missing out. Go buy one of her books, they're worth it. She was a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency at the time (Mormon moment: RS is the women's org of the church. She was one of the ones in charge of the WHOLE thing). She's the president, CEO and spokesperson for Deseret Book. And somewhat unusually for a Mormon female of her age - she has never been married.

And I for one think that Sheri Dew is one of the single coolest people on God's green earth. And so I decided that I only wanted to be married on my terms. I decided if I never did get married that was okay with me because I could just be like Sheri Dew. I decided I would rather be single and happy than married and miserable.

It was amazingly liberating. I was no longer paralyzed by the fear of being alone.

And then I had this amazing bishop and institute teacher (Mormon Moment: Institute is bible study class for college students) who would periodically pepper his lessons w/ dating tips and advice. lol And one of the biggest things I remember him saying was that like attracts like so you have to be what you want. If you have a big long list of these amazing qualities go take a long hard look in the mirror and see how you match up to your list. If you want amazing, be amazing.

That was another dang good piece of advice. It put more control of my situation back into my hands. It gave me something to work on and goals and directions for my personal development. And either way becoming a better person, more like the guy I was seeking on my list, just plain made me happier and more confident.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I'm not often a very angry person. Or at least I try not to be. I'm generally of the opinion that anger is a very expensive emotion. It robs you of energy that could often be more productively applied else where. Also anger is what I call a "secondary emotion". You don't just feel angry. You feel angry because you feel something else like pain or fear or hurt. Therefore when I feel angry I generally try to find the root cause and deal with it that rather than spend the energy it takes to be angry.

There are times when anger is a good thing. Anger can give you the back bone to do whats right like stand up for the weak (even if the weak is yourself). Righteous anger, justifiable anger can be a powerful tool for positive change. When you recognize a shit bucket situation for what it is and get angry you discover you have the right and power to call the bucket what it is and refuse to accept it.

Lately I've been feeling a lot of anger. I've had plenty of time to analyze it. I know why I feel it. I feel powerless over the choices of another whose choices directly affect myself. And when those choices do not go in ways I want them to go I feel intense fear and that leads me to anger. Its that or depression.

Could I choose not to be angry and shrug it all of and just go with it? Maybe. But this is a repeating pattern that I'm hopefully nearing the end of for better or worse and right now the hurt has built up so that I'm scared to let go of my anger. I need it. Its my shield and armor. I need it so I don't hope again. Because if I hope and believe then I can be let down and hurt. So until I see real change, for now I am refusing to put my armor down.

I'm not sure its the healthiest course of action, but I'm not sure how else to deal with it. I am a planner by nature. I like my plans. They make me feel secure when I can see my path in front of me. And right now I see two very different paths and the anxiety of not knowing which one is my future is scary.

I don't know because right now I'm allowing another persons choices to affect my own. So yes part of this anxiety is my fault. I could simply decide to follow either path regardless. However, Path A will suck if the person doesn't choose like I'd like them to, but if it does go in my favor that it can be amazing. Path B will suck initially regardless but has the possibility of long term less suckage than a Path A gone bad.

So in some ways I have decided - I've decided I want Path A if I can have it at least mostly on my terms. I think a happy Path A is probably the smartest choice long term and definitely the less traumatic. But if Path A goes badly I become what I've long sworn I never, ever want to be which is why Path B exists. Path B has all sorts of massive pot holes to be maneuvered around and through but the end result is better than an unhappy Path A.

And so I've put a time limit on the change of another person and I wear my armor while I await the verdict. Hopefully my heart can handle it...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Emotional Range

Yes I know I said I was going to talk to you all about the rest of my jewelry trip and give you pictures and I'm probably in trouble because I haven't yet but life happens and I will get there I promise but not yet b/c I need to ramble. Console yourself for now by knowing that Day 2 Vintaj was amazing but hard and I have a whole tray of things so pretty I can't believe I made them to show you.


Emotion is SUCH a fascinating thing. Did you know part of the reason why teenagers do such amazingly stupid things is because the part of their brain that feels emotion is fully developed by like 14-16 so they've got all these intense feelings and they're real and they're all the more overwhelming because they're feeling them for the first time.

And lets all take a moment to remember that emotion doesn't have to be logical, but emotion is real regardless of if it makes a lick of sense or not and therefore must be dealt with.

But I digress.

So you've got the teenagers with a now fully functional set of hormones and reproductive organs - which holy hell is overwhelming all by itself and now add on top of that the fact that they've got this whole incredible emotional range to cap it off that is brand new and are you ready for the thing that makes it all just special??? 

The part of your brain that controls logic and rational thinking, cause and effect and consequences doesn't finish developing until you're more like 25

Thats right folks by 16 most of us have a wild set of hormones, a wicked set of emotions and our thinking box ain't gonna catch up for almost a decade. 

There are times (like now) when I really, really wonder what our Great Creator was thinking....

And as I watch my son its so fun to watch him develop an emotional range. In the beginning, and don't hate me for saying this, he was at the larval stage. He didn't so much have REAL emotion. His states were "Content" and "NOT HAPPY". There wasn't exactly shades of meaning there. Life was hunky dory or it was NOT.

Now? He has a smile that is pure sunshine and he's learning to be affectionate and give kisses and cuddles. And like a light switch that can all flip and he'll be screaming mad if things don't go his way, and then change again and he's hyper fixated and endlessly fascinated while he picks apart some new toy with a look of wonder on his face.

The earnest look of "WANT" etches his features as he tries to get something he probably shouldn't have, or reaches up for me to hold him. If he manages to get the thing he shouldn't, he lights up with a "Ah HA!" look and tries to run away with it. Everything he feels he expresses right away, that instant. If he's happy you know it, if he's tired he's pitiful. If he's mad, get your ear plugs. He's on this little personal roller coaster and he has no shields to hide it.

And really why should he? With me, he is safe. Its my job as his mother to help him discover all about feelings and everything else the world has to offer.

When he gets older, sadly, I will have to teach him some about how to hide the hurt away. Because while my Grandmother was dead wrong when she told me that "they can't get your goat if they don't know where its tied" (why the FRICK its okay for them to be hunting my damn goat in the first place I'll never know), she was right that you don't want to encourage them.

The jerks of the world are like sharks after blood if they can see that they've hurt you. So its best to hide the hurt, defend yourself, and then go someplace safe and then let it out.

How sad is that? Such a hard, crappy poopy lesson and its not right and its not fair but as my father was so fond of telling me "Life ain't fair". To which I finally found my reply:

"Well fine then, but I'd just like it to be UNfair in MY FAVOR once in a while, thankyouverymuch".

But I think our emotional range only continues to expand as we age. We develop shades of gray when the world used to be black or white. I'm not sure thats always a good thing but it never ceases to amaze me as I study the world, and myself how complicated emotion has become and continues to be as I age. Its amazing how contradictory emotion can be. How intense.

Its interesting b/c as infants if it feels good it is good. If it feels bad it needs to be fixed. Plain and simple. Then we get bigger and realize that just because it feels good we can't necessarily do it because other people have feelings too and those matter and making other people feel bad is bad.

I think that really changes as we become teenagers and even "it feels good for me, and it feels good to the other person" it can still qualify as wrong. Especially if you're religious. And even if you're not there's still the whole my logic parts aren't working right so all sorts of consequences may not occur to us at the time and things can really get out of hand real fast and then reality can reach up and beotch slap you and you get to learn the hard way.

I think that may be the challenge and secret of parenting teens. There is some level of learning things the hard way that we all have to do so that we actually learn. But you don't want to not protect enough that there are really bad consequences, like for example, death, which is bad b/c if you're dead you're definitely not going to learn better and not do it next time. But by the same token you don't want to over protect and keep them from consequences that are needed for their brains to get programmed right in the whole logic and consequence development.

I think the big challenge in a lot of ways as we age is to find the balance. What feels good, but still is good. What hurts now but will feel MUCH better later. What feels good now but will hurt like hell later. And how to try to keep an even keel and avoid those situations that are going to kick you in the taco when you have to deal with them.

Thats I think where the logic side comes in. You finally, hopefully, get this nice well developed brain that can analyse a situation and ferret out the outcome that is the most positive long term and especially with respect to not only your feelings but the feelings of others.

And then once you see the path you're left with the tug of war because sometimes, especially as a grown up, the path sucks. Life is complicated. I don't think I had half a clue just how complicated it can be before I got older. I thought I knew but as I learn more about life it never ceases to amaze me just how complex it can get.

But so you're faced with this amazingly complicated set of emotions in the face of a coldly logical path and then you have to chose. Your brain knows this path will lead to tears no matter how good it feels now or that path will suck now but ultimately lead to happy. Or better yet, this path could work out good depending on other people or it could not but if you don't do it this way it won't work out at all regardless of the other people.

Or it could be completely obvious to any dumb bunny out there what to do but if the emotion is overwhelmingly against it you have to deal with that because as previously mentioned: emotion is real. Even if its not rational. The good news is that sometimes it can be reasoned with and defused or at least brought down to a manageable level. But that usually takes time and the kind of persistence usually associated with rashes.

And for some strange reason I'm feeling nauseated.....

I wish I was one of those people that when faced with Issues gets all "Imma clean everything in my friggin house" (cuz I know people like that. bitches.) where as I am more the variety to curl up in the fetal position and dig my self a nice deep hole and pull the dirt in on top of my head. Because thats really helpful and productive.

That or I blog about it in oblique ways so I can process in front of the whole internet.....

Friday, October 1, 2010

OMG I think I have died and gone to HEAVEN

Alternate Title could be: A Day of Firsts or Vintaj Workshop Day 1
So yesterday I flew American Airlines for the first time (dude! They charge for EVERYTHING but like water and juice) on my way to Chicago (also a first). Where I had real Chicago pizza, for the first time, and boarded a little puddle jumper to fly to Dubuque, Iowa (first time in Iowa). Which was the SMALLEST airport I have EVER been in. It was funny. There's ONE gate. And you walk down the jetway and a little hall and as soon as you step out you almost fall over the baggage claim. lol And its a LITTLE bitty baggage claim loop. If you miss your bag on one side you have to sprint through people to the other side b/c otherwise its back through the doors lickity split! (*mumble mumble speaking from experience mumble mumble*).

And so after I claimed my bags, I went over and picked up my rental car. I've never rented a car - rented a big truck once to move to Arizona but never a car. And jumped in said car and drove over hill and dale into the middle of nowhere, also known as Galena, IL.

Thanks to the GPS (mostly) I was able to find my little country inn. Its darling. There's something weird about the carpets. I don't know if they used some sort of funky stain resistant coating or what but its longer carpet and it just feels WEIRD on your feet. I try to wear shoes. But the bed is super comfy and is a big 4 poster bed. I'd set up a web cam and practice Jamie Lee Curtis' dance from True Lies but alas the one failing of my cute inn is a complete lack of internet. Of any kind.

If I didn't have my jewelry class to keep me busy during the day, and free wifi in this coffee shop I'm sitting in now I'd worry about withdrawls.

Also I can get 1 bar of signal on my cell phone, if at all. I did see 2 bars earlier to day but that didn't last long. So I can't hardly even get the net on my cell phone. Its irksome.

The town makes up for it though by being absolutely gorgeous. The weather is perfect: clear, cool, with a nice breeze. And all the buildings are from the 1800s and they've been beautifully maintained so the town is lovely.

And OMG Vintaj Earth is my new favorite place in the whole wide world. I am so in love with their shop I almost cried. LOL I really am one of those dorks that gets weak kneed over really beautiful stuff. (Confession: The first time I stepped into the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC I had to sit on the bench and cry because the architecture was just so beautiful. Yes, I am a dork. We know).

But so Vintaj Earth is just the most perfect little store known to man and I think I would like to buy one of every piece of jewelry they have there. Some of them are simply magnificent. And the way they have them displayed is just fantastic. I promise I took a crapload of pictures but we left the card reader for the camera in my room at the inn so I'll have to upload tonight and post tomorrow when I have internet again.

My workshop today was AMAZING. I had SO much fun. I was like a pig in muck meets a little kid at christmas. This morning we did photo transfers, bezel collage and alcohol inks. Then they took us across the street to a little place called "Fried Green Tomatoes" (which is oddly enough an italian place) and had lunch (salad, bread, tortalloni w/ super yummy veggies in a cream sauce).

After we ate we had a little bit before we had to head back to class so we went into Galena Beads which was AMAZING and I had to work hard to keep from drooling on the merchandise. I want to buy very nearly the whole store. Its THAT full of the awesome. I have no idea how I'm going to choose tomorrow when I go back to buy stuff.

After lunch we did texturing and riveting (I can RIVET! *takes a bow*) and we did paint dabbers and letter imprinting and finished our photo transfers and then we got to play with Ice Resin.

OH MY GOSH. Ice Resin = The Ultimate in AWESOME. Its the only jewelry grade resin out there and  its CRYSTAL clear, the bubbles come out of it all by themselves, and its super hard and doesn't chip or anything. Its GREAT. And it makes EVERYTHING look like a million bucks. It just does. You go "Oh thats pretty", apply Ice Resin, and then its "OH MY WOW!!!". Needless to say like over half of my pendants I made today got resined.

If you put Ice Resin over alcohol inks and pearl acrylic paint on an embossed, burnished blank it looks JUST like enameling.

AND THEN because we finished up a little bit early, they gave us the option of heading out to do whatever OR they gave us a couple extra blanks to play with and we got to have open studio playing with the techniques from today.

It was like being a little kid in a candy store. I had SO much fun. I swear today I just have this big goofy grin on my face. I can't help it. I made 3 more pendants. One I did some riveting, stamping and ink/paint on and it turned out adorable, if I do say so my self. And the other two I did with alcohol inks, one I burnished, the other I did not.

But I think the thing that makes me happiest is that I've been wanting some really amazing focals for my pieces and those can be PRICEY to buy but now I can MAKE THEM. And its FUN. And EASY. And GORGEOUS.

OH - Good news - I finally got my wonky camera to work. I had a brain wave and took some of the painters tape I use in my wire wrapping and taped the stupid battery into its slot. TAH DAH! Which means I took LOTS of pictures today. Which as mentioned earlier will be posted tomorrow.

And tonight I'm meeting up with a couple ladies from my class (I am there with an AWESOME group of women) and we're going to do dinner at a place called The Log Cabin that my hosts at the inn recommended. And then we're going to take a Ghost Tour tonight. :D It sounds like a ton of fun. I'm glad I brought my tennis shoes with all the walking I'm doing.

And you should all be proud of me because I resisted the urge today to buy anything. I really want to just LOOK today and then I'll do some buying tomorrow. But I have some SWEEEEEET coupons to both Vintaj wholesale, Vintaj Earth, and Galena Beads (Galena Beads is owned by Jess Italia Lincoln who is one of the owners of Vintaj and is teaching our class).

Speaking of teachers - we're being taught, as previously mentioned by Jess Lincoln and she's being assisted by a lovely lady named Betsy who is just cute as a button. Jess is a lot of fun. I think if I lived around here I would have to be friends with these ladies because they're just awesome. Betsy is winning the award as my favorite person of the day for being SO helpful. Its like every time we ask "Oh do you have this?" She goes "Yup!" and it materializes. She's like the jewelry good fairy.

So I'm looking forward to tomorrow so very much. We're going to do filigree wraps, figural wraps, and free form wraps in the morning and then linking, decorivets, coiled and wrapped loops, double sided wrapped loops and briolette wraps. And THEN we get another open studio where they'll give us kits and supplies to make 2 neckalces and/or bracelets. I am SO, so amazingly excited. Its going to be a blast.

I am missing my baby. I keep looking around for him and feeling like I'm forgetting something. I do miss me hubby but I'm used to not seeing him all day during the work week and I've gone out of town with out him before but I've not been away from my kiddo for more than like 6 hours since he was born so its kinda weirding me out. My arms feel empty.

I was hoping to do video chat with him but I'm not sure how thats going to work exactly timing wise. I think I'm going to be busy doing other things when Adam gets home from work and can do it with me. Maybe tonight after the Ghost Tour. I have no idea how long that lasts. We'll see. Worst case scenario I'll make SURE it happens tomorrow.

And since this has now achieved novel length and I've finally run out of things to say about today I will bid you adieu until tomorrow. :)