Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Who's on first?

Getting there first is not what it’s all about. What matters always is execution. Always.

- Chris Cox, head of product for Facebook

My daughter and I had an interesting conversation the other night.  It seems she knows a girl who gets extremely upset if she's not "first".  Fastest in a race, best at whatever activity is going on, first in line.  "Why is that so important?" my daughter wanted to know.  She didn't understand, because in her opinion, first, last, somewhere in the middle...everyone eventually gets their chance, it's just a matter of whether you wait after you've gone, or before you go.  What really matters is what you do with your turn whenever it comes.

I had no explanation for her, just lots of support for her beliefs.  That and a spark of happiness thinking "Hey, here's a subject for my next blog post!  Thanks, kid!"  It made me wonder about how often in life our kids have to line up...going to the lunchroom, heading to specials, waiting while Mom or Dad goes about their business at the bank or grocery store or pretty much anywhere (at least, according to them!).  Out of curiosity I Googled some information about how much of our lives are spent waiting in line.  Came across an interesting NY Times story published on 8/18/12 referencing a study done by a Houston airport in response to numerous complaints of long waits at baggage claim.  In the study, the airport made some minor changes and the number of complaints subsequently dropped to nearly zero.  The striking part was that the changes weren't about getting the baggage out to passengers faster...instead, they moved the arrival gates farther away from baggage claim and used the outermost available carousel, in effect increasing the time elapsed between deplaning and reaching baggage claim.  The wait time for the bags themselves remained the same.  The important factor wasn't the amount of time spent waiting in line; it was how that wait was perceived compared to the rest of the experience.

I guess I found an answer to my daughters question.  Being at the front of the line isn't what's important.  What matters is your perspective on the line itself.  So being at the back of the line and using your wait to observe what's going on around you, take things in and learn from your environment, can be just as powerful if not more so than being first.  I wish more people understood that.  I'm amazed that my 10 year old does.  I watch her do it in her Tae Kwon Do classes.  She never rushes to line up when the class is practicing a skill.  She's usually toward the back.  But she spends that wait watching the students in front of her.  She listens to the instructor when he gives advice or makes corrections.  When she finally gets to the front of the line, she puts all of that to use in improving her own technique.

Now that I've sung her praises, I'll admit that I'm not deluded into thinking she's this amazingly wonderful kid all the time.  Let's be honest, she's 10 and her sister is seven...more often than not they're really more like little animals who have just escaped from the zoo.  They fight, and poke each other, and refuse to eat the dinner I put on the table then cry about how mean I am because I'm starving them.  I'm not always at my best dealing with that.  But flashes of brilliance are in there, and when I'm not bribing them into cooperating by promising extra screen time or a cookie, I'm looking for ways to remind them they will get over the wild animal phase someday.  They *are* capable of rational thought, and they *are* strong enough to face the world and solve problems in ways that don't involve pinching their sister.  And I really do love them even when I'm reminding them to eat their vegetables or docking their allowance because an extremely localized tornado apparently just touched down in their rooms.  So this necklace is for them, and for all of the other daughters out there who haven't yet gotten to where I am, where I look back and think with wonder that I adore them, and that they've come so far from babyhood, and that although I never realized it at the time, this is how my own mother felt about me when I was growing up.  It's humbling.  And beautiful, just like they are.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Girl Power

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.

I guess I've developed a habit of starting my blog posts with a quote.  Not shocking to those who know me.  I've been collecting quotes, mostly about love, for years.  I'm a life-long reader (I learned when I was three, and my third grade teacher told me once that I was the only student she'd ever had to ask to *stop* reading!).  My bachelor's degree is in English with a focus on 19th Century British Literature.   When you think about it, not only the quote business but the whole interest in love and gender issues definitely tie in to my background.  Makes sense that one of my passions would be empowering young women to start with loving themselves, and to break some of the gender issues that have faced them throughout history.  To put it simply..."Girl Power"!

It's coming soon to the Etsy store!

Anyway, getting back to the quote I used to introduce this post.  It's from the book All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.  And I think it's so true!  Fulghum reminds us that when we were back in that sandbox, it wasn't all fun and games.  We learned some important stuff while we built castles and pushed around dump trucks, things like share everything, say you're sorry when you hurt someone, be aware of wonder, live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Those lessons apply just as much when you're 60 as when you're 6.  I love the idea of reminding our kids about these basic ideas, keeping them part of their lives as they grow up.  It seems that so many adults I've come across have forgotten the simplest ways to be happy and live that balanced life.  I'll admit right up front that I'm one of them.  I mean, Fulghum reminds us to take a nap every afternoon...where did that one go????  Got to get some of that back on my daily to-do list!  Maybe I should make a pendant reminding us all to take the occasional time out (does anybody else call it that when they lock themselves in the bathroom to escape the kids long enough to take a deep breath?  Does anybody else ever lock themselves in the bathroom, or is that just me?).

If a piece of jewelry that I make reminds just one girl to remember those things, to feel loved and brave and strong and happy, then that's all I need.  I'll consider my "little business" a huge success.   My own bit of Girl Power!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Love and Bravery

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.

- Mahatma Gandhi

The bravest person I know lives next door to me.  You wouldn't think it to look at her.  She's a petite, well-mannered, white-haired mother of five, grandmother of twelve, who walks with a cane and has a soft-spot for Starbucks.

Long story short (since it's not really my tale to tell), she's quietly and with great strength been battling cancer for the past few years.  At this point, her doctors say there's little they can do.  They might be able to give her a little more time with treatment, but she wants her remaining time with friends and family to be quality rather than quantity.  And there's that "prerogative of the brave"...she loves those around her enough that she can face the end bravely if it means having even that little bit of time with them.  Let me tell you, from the traffic in and out of her driveway these days, they love her back in equal measure.  Her children and grandchildren are taking time out of their own lives to visit her in droves.

It works the other way, too.  Not only does love make us brave, but we must be brave in order to love.  Because loving someone puts us in a position to get hurt.  We become invested, and face the very real possibility of losing that person.  My children are in this position right now although they don't know it.  My neighbor and her husband have nicknames; they are my daughters' "next door Nana and Pop Pop".  The girls have no idea that she's sick (they think nothing of her greeting them at the door in her pajamas at lunchtime; pajama day is something to aspire to among the elementary school set) .  At some point I'm going to have to explain, and I have no idea how.  It will be the first time their little lives have been touched by the death of someone they love.

But for right now, I'm trying to focus on the positive.  I'm trying to learn from her grace and bravery and love.  Appropriate given that it was just Valentine's Day.  Despite everything else she is facing, she had the usual bag of goodies for each of my girls.  There hasn't been a holiday or birthday in the four years we've lived next door to them that she's missed.  We brought them gifts, as well.  Chocolate heart-shaped cookies with icing and sprinkles for Pop Pop, who is also known as "the Cookie Monster", and a little something special for Nana...

It's a textured copper circle stamped NANA with two rosebuds.  Twelve pewter bali beads represent her twelve grandchildren.  When I made it, I wanted to honor the garden that this amazing woman had grown and cultivated with such love for so many years.  She cried when I explained that.

She convinces me every day that Ghandi was right; bravery is intertwined with love.  It's a lesson I hope I've learned, and that I am determined to teach my daughters.  May they grow to have that much grace and strength every day of their lives.  Let them be brave enough to love, and love enough that it gives them bravery.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Deer in the Yard!

Walking in a winter wonderland...

At least, that's what two deer were doing in my yard at 12:30 this morning.  I, personally, will not be walking anywhere any time soon.  Stuck a ruler in the snow on my front porch...we're at 10 inches so far and it's still falling.

This is the view out my back door right now (or, more accurately, after I had to rush to deactivate the alarm because I forgot to turn it off *before* I opened the door!) -


Beautiful.  Peaceful.  Truly a winter wonderland.  You can't see them in either of those shots, but the tracks left by those early morning visiting deer are visible in the back corner of the yard as a reminder that nature survives and continues on.

And then the deer put their little deer lips down to the cool clear water...BAM!

Let's not forget, deep down I am and forever will be a Jersey girl, often accused of having a New York-strength accent.  I've got no problem channeling my inner Mona Lisa Vito (and if you don't understand that reference, get yourself a copy of My Cousin Vinny and watch it RIGHT NOW!  Or as soon as you get shoveled out.).

What a snow day really means to me is two kids who originally cheered about no school but still have homework to finish, who will have cabin fever by lunchtime, and who will eventually realize that they have to make this up in June when they'd rather be on summer vacation.  It means digging out the car and shoveling the driveway, which is probably not what my physical therapists had in mind when they discharged me with orders to "ease into" activities "in moderation".  It means freezing all day because I'm always cold anyway, and I live in a house with a heat pump that's great in moderately cold weather but starts failing miserably below about 20 degrees F.

How does all of this relate to jewelry, you ask?  Because fortunately, I just received a new supply order consisting of a much-coveted pair of stepped-nose pliers and these -

Copper, aluminum and brass petals.  You combine these with my new riveter (amazing tool!) and you end up with flowers.  So that's how I plan to deal with this winter weather.  I'm going to start planting a Springtime garden in jewelry.  That will keep me wishing and dreaming and feeling strong today, which is what I'd like the result of my jewelry making to be for people.

Hope everyone out there stays warm and finds something to bring them happiness today.  For me, that's going to be wishes for warmth and sun and growing things.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Throwing like a girl.

Fight like a girl!

A friend from high school used to tell me I "threw like a girl".  My response was "sounds good to me, since I am a girl!"  Besides, why is throwing like a girl a bad thing?

My last post got me thinking about that, and a few other things as well.  One was the fact that I'd mentioned not being sure why I tried jewelry making as a hobby, other than that it seemed like a good idea at the time.  But looking back more closely I've remembered that's not entirely true.

The process started a little over a year and a half ago, with my older daughter.  When people ask what her hobbies are, they're often surprised to hear that Tae Kwon Do is up there at the top of the list.  They're even more surprised to find out that she's a first degree black belt.  Yep, she could take me down in five seconds or less if she wanted to...makes me think twice before asking her to take out the garbage or do some other icky chore.  :-)

Here she is at black belt graduation.  Not the greatest picture, I know.  But hugely important to me.  She's bowing in respect to a fellow student, the pair having just sparred for two minutes.  She'd probably use some of those skills on me if she found out that 1) I'd posted her picture here, and/or 2) I mentioned that her opponent (who was a good six inches taller and two+ years older) knocked her on her butt twice.  I was never so proud as when my kid stood right up each time and got back into it.  She held her own.

This is a kid who, in general, is the shy, quiet type  She rarely calls attention to herself if she can help it.  Put her in the dojang, though, and she's a different person.  I wanted to recognize that when she graduated to her black belt by getting her a necklace listing the five tenets of Tae Kwon Do:  courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit.  All of the qualities that were emerging in her as a result of her participation in martial arts.  But I couldn't find anything like what I wanted out in the marketplace.  I even contacted a few jewelry vendors asking about custom work.  While their initial response was "What a great idea!", in the end nobody ever followed through with a workable design.  I ended up giving my daughter a collage of photos from her various colored belt graduations, and making her a photo book of the black belt graduation afterward.  She loved them, but as she approached the time when she'd be ready to start preparing for graduation to second degree black belt, I still wanted that necklace.  I decided I had plenty of time, so I'd try to make it myself.  I ordered a stamped metal starter kit and had at it.

Stamping turned out to be more fun than I'd thought, and I ended up making a lot of other things.  Initial necklaces for my cousins, charms for my girls in the shapes of their favorite animals and accented with their birthstones, bracelets for my mom.  And I enjoyed every minute of it.  So much so that I gave myself a rotator cuff injury before Christmas, from repetitive motion (in other words, too much hammering!) trying to finish up a bunch of projects.  The bad news is that I haven't been able to make many new pieces since then.  The good news is that I graduate from physical therapy next Friday and get the go ahead to work as long as I'm careful and don't over-do.  That means just over a week until the jewelry-making will be gearing up.  Hooray!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Every dream begins with a single wish.

Every dream begins with a single wish.

When I was growing up, it seemed like all the girls I know (yep, even me!) wished to be Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.  Someday, our Prince would come and give us a kiss of true love.

I'm a stay at home mom to two amazing girls.  Their heroines are Mulan, Merida, Rapunzel, and Elsa.  Modern-day princesses who are strong, and brave, and self-saving.  And my dreams for them starts with the wish that they, too, will have such determination and independence.

That independence has been showing a lot more these days, as the girls need me for less and less.  It's a double-edged sword.  On one hand, I'm sad that my babies are growing up and can do so much more for themselves.  On the other hand, I'm so proud of their strength and the fact that they're becoming these amazing young women.

They're still young, though, and I need to find that balance between providing both roots and wings.  I started to think about finding a new way to teach not only my own girls, but maybe others as well, that they *can* be self-sufficient.  That they should continue to have faith in themselves and believe in the power of their dreams.

And, of course, now that I've got this extra free time on my  hands, having a hobby I enjoyed wouldn't hurt.

So I decided to make a few pieces of jewelry for fun.  Don't ask me why I settled on that, it just seemed like a good idea at the time.  I ordered a stamped metal starter kit and things just kind of went from there.  My first piece sort of summarized what was driving me -

That was about six months ago.  A lot has changed since then and my little hobby has taken on a life of it's own.  Landed me in physical therapy, too, but those are stories for another time.  That's why I decided to start this blog...to have a place to talk about the evolution of a dream (if only so that some day, my girls can read it), find a place to share some ideas, and make sense of what my ultimate goals really are.   I can't wait to see where it leads me.