Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blooming Humans

I subscribe to several kind of "woo-woo" emails. I live in Taos, remember? We're like that here. I guess I'm sort of like that anywhere I go, but it's more encouraged here than in a lot of places. This morning I was greeted by several inspired emails that were all saying more or less the same thing, and all tied in, at least loosely, with my Hoop Dreams post from yesterday. It seems that nurturing our dreams is a popular theme these days. Well, you know me. I'm all for that!

The email from Go Gratitude, announcing the Blooming Humans project particularly got my attention, and has had me pouring over their website for the last couple of hours. The idea is to plant a Dream Seed in the Dream Seed Garden, and to nurture that seed for the benefit of yourself, as well as the the Whole. It's simple and fun, and even if you're a skeptical person who shuns all things woo-woo, I see no reason not to play. There's nothing to lose, and possibly Everything to gain. Here's a wonderful video to get you started. I know it doesn't fit on the page very well, but it will move out of the way in a day or two. No worries. It's worth the space it takes up. Watch all the way to the end. We really do need to be listening to the Children...

I'm in! I planted my Dream Seed this morning. See if you can find it in the Garden, and let us know here when you plant yours. Come on! Let's grow!

Visit Blooming Humans to learn more.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hoop Dream

I guess it's been about two years since I first got excited about hooping. Not those little childhood shoop-shooping hoops, but big, adult size hoops made for fun and exercise and even... Hoop Dancing! I bought a couple of DVDs from Hoopnotica, made some cool hoops, and then forgot all about them as we traveled for a year. I had all my hooping stuff with me, but I was too self conscious most of the time to practice in the campgrounds and RV parks. I'm a beginner. I'm learning. I drop the darn hoop a lot. But of course I didn't get any better by hanging up my hoop and avoiding practice. Grownups can be so dumb.

The other night we went to the Taos Feeds Taos benefit at the Solar Center. A lot of food was donated, we saw some friends, and danced to the fun band Last To Know. But the best part of the evening for me was the Hoopers. They brought these amazing LED hoops, and performed sort of spontaneously when the mood struck them. They also shared their hoops, which made me very happy. 

Mostly it was kids who got out there, but I left my shyness back in the campground and grabbed one of those beautiful, glowing hoops. They're harder to use than the bigger, heavier one I have at home, but I did OK. And one of the Hoop Girls came up to me later to tell me I'd done great, and was welcome to get up "on the box" any time I wanted to. On the box! Wow! I know I'm not ready for that, but her kind encouragement got me thinking...

I've been on my own in learning to hoop, and keep coming up with nothing when I look for classes near me, wherever I am. The DVDs are good, but learning in a group would be way more fun. It seems like if I want to do this, there are other people who do too. I have friends who say, I wanna hoop!, when they see me twirling around with a big smile on my face. And if there are those people saying it, there are probably more of them out there thinking it. 

So now I'm finding myself with a new daydream in my head. My Hoop Dream. What if I could work really hard, and practice a lot, and get really good, and then start teaching hooping? All the beautiful young Hoopers out there are sort of intimidating to less young people like me. I think people--mostly women probably--of a certain age would trust me, and would see that they don't have to live in a perfect little 20-something body to have fun hooping. 

Is this crazy? Of course. That's why it just might work. Can I actually do it? It remains to be seen. But I think the point is to allow the dream to take shape, and then see where it takes me. Grownups can be so dumb, and so practical, and so boring. I think if we let ourselves be more crazy and silly sometimes we'd have a lot more fun, and our dreams would take us to adventures in life we might miss otherwise.

I made some new hoops yesterday, for me, and any friends who want to play. I also got my DVDs out and had a great time dropping my hoop, over and over again, in our empty living room. Today I'm going to raise the chandelier as high as it will go, so I have more overhead room. And then I'm going to reach way up there and see if I can catch this Hoop Dream of mine. Silly as it is, it's making me happy, at least for today. And who knows where it might lead, if I'm just silly enough to follow it.

Comment on this post to be entered to win this week's Gratitude Bracelet. 
Details are in the column to the right.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gratitude Bracelet Winner!

And the winner is...


Your comment, left on Tuesday, was the winner, picked by a random drawing on Random.org.
Please contact me at kim@kimmiles.com by Wednesday, and let me know where to send your bracelet.

Everyone else, THANK YOU so much for all your beautiful, thoughtful comments. I read every one of them, and although there are too many to reply to personally, I want you all to know how much I appreciate you!

I knew you were out there, and I hoped I could entice you to come out and play. I did it!
And it was so much fun for me, I'm going to do it again this week, and every week in December.
Same rules will apply. Starting Monday, leave ONE comment on each blog post through Friday. (I hate to have to mention this, but there was a bit of a problem with multiple entries this week. More than one comment per post will get you disqualified. Sorry!) I'll pick the winner on Saturday. And if you don't want to wait to win a bracelet, you can buy one in my BeadShop!

Happy Holidays to you all! Thank you for being there!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Resisting Black Friday

I had the most wonderful Thanksgiving, with Rick, and friends, and candle light, and food so good we all had to take a moment to just be quietly alone with it. Waking up to Black Friday is a bit jarring to me, after all that glowing happiness. And even though I sell stuff for a living, I can't participate in all this marketing madness.

My hope is that the people who are in a shopping mood this year--and I hope there are lots of them--will at least consider buying some of their holiday gifts from the little guys like me who make beautiful things with our own two hands, infusing them with love and heart and soul. Idealistic, I know. We're up against all those Retail Giants, but maybe we can still get a few crumbs of their fiscal pie for ourselves.

My plan for today is to go into town and visit a couple of craft fairs. If I buy anything, it will be from someone local, who made that thing themselves. We're in this together, and we all need to support each other. I hope you'll do the same. Buy my beads, or someone else's hand crafted treasures. It doesn't matter who's, but it does matter that we resist the mass marketing hypnosis, and put some thought and consciousness into our gifts this year.

Have a great day, and kiss an artist if you get the chance.

Comment on this post to be entered in this week's Gratitude Bracelet Giveaway. 
One comment per post, please!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving because it's an all-inclusive holiday. There is no way to offend someone by wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving, no political correctness involved. On this one day, in the good old USA, everyone is on the same page, celebrating the same thing. I know that not everyone has a turkey feast, and not everyone is able to find a reason to be thankful. But I also know we have enough in this country. More than enough. The problem is in distribution.

I went to Europe when I was 19, with my friend Shauna. We left in the fall, and traveled for three months. It was the first time I had ever been away from home for the Holidays, and it was shocking. Somehow it didn't occur t me that our American Thanksgiving wouldn't overflow across the ocean and find us somewhere in Spain. When we set out in search of our holiday feast that evening, we were met with blank looks and regular menus. As I recall, we settled for a greasy chicken soup with chickpeas, and several bottles of cheap beer. It was an eye-opener. Wow... the whole world isn't like us...

The only other time I've spent Thanksgiving outside the US was two years ago, when Rick and I went to Ethiopia as volunteers. Certainly the local villagers had no concept of our holiday, but the Cunninghams, who were excellent hosts for our journey, make it a tradition to cook a big Thanksgiving feast for all the volunteers each year. Food is bought in Addis Ababa, and transported three hours on bad roads to Project Mercy, where the wonderful cooks on staff assist Noel in preparing the meal. It was wonderful... and also quite unsettling for me.

It was still a school day for the village kids who were lucky enough to attend. Part of the draw to apply for a place in the school is the two meals that are provided each day. A day off from school means a day without food for many of them. I watched those kids line up for their cup of fortified hot cereal and hunk of plain hard bread, knowing they could smell the turkey cooking behind the scenes for us. Talk about a distribution problem... and another eye-opener.

I didn't know how to fix it then, and I still don't know now. I enjoyed my dinner in Ethiopia, and was grateful to have it, but I also came away with a deep, heart-centered wish to work on distribution wherever I can. I can't save the world. Neither can you. But we can do small, and sometimes large things to help. Oh dear... This was not at all what I'd intended to write this morning, but it's what came out, so I'm letting it stay. I don't mean to bring anyone down. I mean to boost you up like a balloon in the Macy's Parade, point out that we have a gifted and glorious life, and encourage all of us to be more grateful than ever for what we have, and to share just a little bit more than usual this season.

Like I said, I love Thanksgiving, and I want everyone to be included. I intend to enjoy my day, my friends, and my food, guilt-free, with gusto and gratitude. I hope you will too. And in the back of our minds, lets all try to come up with ways to fix this Distribution Problem, not from a place of feeling sorry for someone else, but from feeling our own abundance, and sharing our own gifts and talents. That's where we have the most to offer. That's where the real changes start to happen.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, with Love, from me.

Comment on this post to be entered in this week's Gratitude Bracelet Giveaway. 
One comment per post, please!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Not Oprah ~ Audio Version


I'm Not Oprah

Did you watch Oprah's very last ever Favorite Things show the other day? I did. I watched both of them, Friday and Monday. Like so many people, I've dreamed of being on that show for years. And as those last two gifting frenzies rolled before my eyes, I was a little bit sad that my chance to be there was really, officially over. Not that I ever thought I'd actually get there, but knowing there was still the teensiest possibility was fun.

To be honest, I really only coveted a few of the things those people were given. The iPad would be wonderful, and the sparkly Uggs, in black, of course. The clothes didn't really suit me, and the panini maker would take up too much counter space, especially in the trailer. I already have a very nice frying pan, thanks. Some of the other stuff, like the huge TV and the Le Creuset cookware could be stashed away for when we live in a house again. And the diamond earrings... not my style at all, but I bet I'd wear them once or twice before selling them.

Only one thing caught me off guard, and it was a big one. The car. The brand new, so new it's still top secret, 2012 VW Beetle. All the lead up told me they were getting cars. I knew it before they did. But when it actually happened, I was washed over with a crazy wave of emotion, and I cried like a baby, right along with those people on the show. I felt like I had actually won a car, even though Rational Mind was yelling at me to shut up and get real. What can I say? It's embarrassing, but I felt it, and I allowed myself to feel it for a few minutes because it was fun.

I've given up a lot of stuff to make this "travel time" possible. As winter closes in, and it remains illogical to move back into our house, I'm finding myself missing some of the comforts a slightly bigger life would hold. Like a couch in the living room, and a bed for my daughter to sleep in when she visits in January, and maybe a different room to go in and close the door and just be by myself, and the hot tub... I really miss the hot tub. I also miss having a car of my own. We traded in two smaller vehicles to buy the big diesel truck that pulls our trailer. It's a wonderful truck, and it does its job well, but it's our only vehicle, and it's really hard for me to drive. The result is, Rick and I go everywhere together, and he always drives. Sure, I could take the truck and go into town, but parking is a problem, and I'm not confident driving that thing. It's huge and scary, and I just don't like it.

I've been yearning, in a silly dreamy schoolgirl way, for a cute little car of my own. From one extreme to the other, I was looking at Hello Kitty Smart Cars online the other day.

It's not at all practical for Taos, but Selfish Me, who I'm not very proud of, says, Well, at least it would be mine, all mine. True. I doubt Rick would want to drive it to the hardware store, although I'd sure take pictures if he did.

Anyway, my reaction to that car giveaway really surprised me. I don't need a car. I just want one. I don't need to live in a house again, but I want that too. We've been looking for Home for about a year and a half now, and I'm tired and ready to be there. I want to know where I live. I want to round up the pieces of my life and put them back together again. I don't want a lot, but I want to be Home.

Oprah said something at the end of that show that really gave me hope, not for anything specifically, but for the possibility of everything. She said something like, It's not about the stuff, although stuff is fun. It's about knowing that something wonderful can happen to us at any time, when we least expect it. I like that, and I'm holding onto it. When the time is right, Something Wonderful will find me. Until then, everything I have is already pretty wonderful. I just have to remember to see it that way.

Oprah inspired me to do the Gratitude Bracelet Giveaway. I'd been thinking about it for a while, but what she said at the end of the show cinched it for me. I'm not Oprah, but I do have the ability to offer some fun and hope and possibility in my own small way. All of us do. I can see how she must really enjoy doing that show on such an enormous scale. I'll bet it's as much fun for her as it is for the people who get all that stuff. I've always said my favorite thing to do with beads is to give them away. Ask Rick. He'll tell you. And I'm enjoying this bracelet giveaway so much, I think I'll do a new one every week from now until Christmas. I'd give you all bracelets if I could, but maybe it's just as good to share the message of Something Wonderful Can Happen... at any time.

Comment on this post to be entered in this week's Gratitude Bracelet Giveaway. One comment per post, please!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gratitude Bracelet Giveaway!

I think Thanksgiving week is the perfect time to give away one of my beautiful Gratitude Bracelets. These are made with my colorful, simple Zen Beads, and one sterling silver bead, all strung on elastic, so they fit just about any wrist, and are also easy to restring of you need to.

These bracelets are a pretty way to help you focus your thoughts on the positive things in your life. Similar to prayer beads, you work your way around the strand, pausing at each bead to give thanks for something you're grateful for. When you come back around to the silver bead, offer a prayer or wish for something that's needed, or an extra big thank-you for your practically perfect life.

I'll be holding the drawing on Saturday, randomly choosing the lucky winner. The bracelet will be a surprise of my own choosing, and it will be a good one!

Please read the following carefully:

To enter the drawing, leave a comment on any or ALL of my blog posts for this week, from Monday through Friday.

ONE comment per POST please. But you CAN comment every day to enter.

Do not send comments by email. Have someone help you post on the blog of you need to. Email entries will not be counted.

If you choose to post anonymously, please include at least your initials so I can find you if you win.

The winner will be posted here on the blog on Saturday, and must contact me by the following Wednesday to claim your prize.

If you wish to comment, but do not want to be in the drawing, please note that in your comment.
I want to give this to someone who really wants it!

That's it, I think! Leave your comment here on this post, and on yesterday's too. Then come back Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to leave your comments on those day's posts for more chances to win.

And whether you win the bracelet or not, I hope you'll start being extra conscious of the good things in your life. Happy Thanksgiving Week to you!

Comment on this post to be entered in this week's Gratitude Bracelet Giveaway. One comment per post, please!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Kind of Christmas

Christmas has gotten tricky, hasn't it? It isn't what it used to be. It is what it is. So I wonder what makes so many of us long for what is was, missing the magic that's available in this particular Holiday Now. 

To be clear, I'm using "Christmas" kind of generically here, because it's what I had as a kid, and what I still have, although in a completely different way. Of course I realize there are loads of other winter holidays to be observed. I'm not counting those out. I'm just speaking my own language. 

We all have our childhood Christmas memories, good or bad. Mine happen to be good. Really good. Mom was a master at Creating the Magic, from the silly music, to the candy pink tree, to the home made cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. Santa always filled the entire living room with gifts for my sisters and me. It was a wonderful, magical superabundance that still makes me happy. That's some powerful magic, to last all these years.

The years in between my childhood and having my own children were sort of lost as far as Christmas went. Some years I went home, but magic like that can't be sustained forever. Kids grow up. Moms get tired. The responsibility and effort involved are huge and exhausting. I know that now. But then in the years when my kids were little, I think I managed to pull off some pretty good Christmas Magic of my own. I hope I taught them how to do it for their own kids someday. 

But now we're in the in between years again. My kids are all grown up, none are married, and there are no grandbabies--yet! Julia is having a baby in the spring, so in two or three more Christmases he-or-she will be old enough for all of us to sprinkle with Christmas Magic. Until then, we have to get creative for ourselves and make a new kind of Christmas.

Our trip to Ethiopia two years ago changed the way Rick and I see Christmas, and life too, for that matter. We were there for three weeks, up close and personal with a kind of poverty we really could not have imagined. Landing back in Denver, greeted by a snow storm and Holiday Madness everywhere, we looked around us and thought, this is obscene. We just couldn't do it anymore. Since then we've pared it down to simple gifts for our kids, and donations and volunteering around town, with friends and gatherings to keep us feeling festive and connected. 

This year, none of our kids will be "home". I worry that they don't come home because they don't trust a Christmas without huge amounts of stuff. They know we won't do that anymore, and I'm sure they understand how it makes no sense to go into debt every year buying things nobody will even remember the following year. But I wish they'd trust us to still create a beautiful, meaningful holiday for them. We'd still do that if they were here. We'd just do it differently.

I guess it's up to them to find their own way and their own magic now. Maybe it won't happen until they have someone else to create the magic for. I've been on both sides of that now, as a child, and as a parent, and both are pretty good. But now it's a time for something different, something smaller, warmer, more personal. For me now, it's not at all about Christmas morning. It's about the entire season, starting now, and including Thanksgiving, and the opportunities to bring light into the dark corners. It's about getting out there and seeing friends and smiling at strangers and feeling the Magic wherever I find it.

Yesterday we put some lights on a tree that grows right outside the trailer window. We'll add to it, and maybe put some birdseed ornaments on it too. Last night, the full moon broke through the clouds long enough to shine down on our little tree--a moment of magic that did not go unnoticed. And during the night a dusting of snow fell, and continues to fall this morning. Yes, it's beginning to look, and feel, a lot like Christmas. Not past, but now, in the present, which is a really great gift.

Comment on this post to be entered in this week's Gratitude Bracelet Giveaway. One comment per post, please!


Audio for this post:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's Giveaway Time...Almost

I'm working on a Gratitude Bracelet Giveaway! Why? Because it will make me happy, and it's perfect for this time of year, when we turn our attention to what's right with our lives. With Thanksgiving in mind, I want to say that I'm so very grateful for all of you who read my blog. Thank you! The bracelet giveaway is one small way I can show my appreciation. I'm waiting for a shipment of big silver beads from Thailand, so I can complete a batch of bracelets. As soon as I have them--and figure out the details--I'll post it all here on the blog. Soon, I promise! Stay tuned, and have a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hope and Defiance

I don't journal, and I don't draw. I wish I did, but it's never caught on for me. I doodle sometimes, and I carry a notebook always, so I can jot down random thoughts that seem like they might want to go somewhere later. I would love to create those beautiful art journals and sketch books I imagine all "real" artists to have. I even beat myself up over my failings at this, telling myself I can't be a real artist if I don't do these things. Absurd, I know. But don't we all have these illogical confidence meltdowns now and then?

I sat at the torch the other day, notebook open to this dumb little doodle, and the words practically flew out of the pencil on their own. (I always use pencil. I just happen to like it.) I'm not sure if Hope and Defiance are the best way to approach a day of creative endeavor, but there they were. The Hope is obvious, I guess. I was certainly hoping I would make something that someone would want to buy. Thoughts of going out and getting a job have been going through my head recently, and they aren't happy thoughts. I am embarrassed by my lack of a resume, not to mention my lack of education or formal training of any sort. Despite a long and varied list of jobs, I have no solid, provable skills I can market. At a particularly low point the other day, I told Rick that if I can't make this bead thing work anymore, then I deserve to be punished. And to me, the worst thing I can think of would be to work at Walmart.

That's where Defiance stood up and cleared its throat, reminding me that I am a Miles Girl, after all, and we Miles Girls do not crumple and cringe when things get challenging. We get tough, and we get to work. So I sat my self down and made some beads, determined to disprove the childhood message that I would never make my way in the world as an artist. Too impractical. Too competitive. Too uncertain... My parents weren't consciously trying to squash my creative nature. They just wanted to be sure I could make a living in the big, mean world. I can't believe I'm still battling that particular demon. I've already proven that I can too make a living making beads. I hesitate these days to call myself an artist, but I have to believe that somehow I can keep doing what I do best, with heart and soul and a bit of brain, and continue to make my way in the world as me.

But Defiance gets tired, and Hope forgets who it is sometimes. After posting two new batches of beads this week, and watching them sit there, sit there, sit there, I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon looking online for jobs in Taos. There was nothing. Truly nothing for me. And so, feeling like I needed a good flogging, I opened the Walmart website and began filling out an application. No resume required. No degree even wanted. I've seen the people who work there. They all appear to be beaten down, unhappy drones. I was sure I would fit in nicely. 

Fortunately, Defiance came around again, after a bit of a rest, bringing up the little fact that we don't even shop at Walmart. Haven't for years. We do not support their crush-kill-destroy business philosophy, choosing instead to shop at small local businesses whenever possible, and online as much as necessary. We do not go to Walmart. But I was beginning to imagine myself as some sort of Gloria Steinem, infiltrating the Playboy Club. Imagine all the great blogging material I'd come up with. And Hope joined in and said maybe it wouldn't be so bad. It might even be kind of fun to take on the task of making people happy at Walmart. I reminded Hope that it probably wouldn't last long. I'd likely be found out. Someone in management would discover my blog, or determine me to be too happy, and therefore unfit for service. And then I'd be fired from Walmart, which would be the greatest failure, and blessing, I could ever imagine...

All this was going on in my head while I mindlessly clicked away at the application. And then I got to the "references" section. It took me about two seconds to realize there is not one single person I could put down there. Not one person I would want to admit to that I was actually asking for a job at Walmart. In that instant, I snapped out of it, came back to my sensible senses, and killed that browser window. And when I clicked over to my email... a miracle... I had sold some beads while I was lost in Walmart Hell. By the time I went to bed last night, I had reeled in about a month's worth of Walmart wages. And so, I took this to mean that God does indeed still want to make beads with me. A sign when I most needed it. 

Maybe I just had to prove what I'm willing to do to keep this ship from sinking. I had to be willing to cheerfully take on the worst thing I could imagine happening. It's almost biblical in tone... Artist comes to the very end of her rope, and just as she's about to fall into the abyss, lost for all eternity, she is scooped up by giggling angels and set gently back in her studio. Those angels are named Hope and Defiance. I will love them forever. And maybe they'll even teach me how to draw someday.

Hope and Defiance Audio Version:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taos Pictures For Mary

I have an artist friend, Mary Van Kampen, who spends part of the year in Taos, and the other part in Michigan. Understandably, to me at least, she misses Taos a lot when she isn't here, and relies on her Facebook Friends to help keep her connected. This morning, she sort of jokingly commented to me that she would depend on me for her "descriptive Taos fix", and when I read that, it instantly turned into a project--Taos Pictures For Mary.

I tossed together a Facebook Album, using three photos I snapped with my phone yesterday. The plan is to add to the album frequently, with words as well as pictures, so that Mary, and anyone else who yearns for some time in Taos, can have an ongoing, living, breathing look at our little town as it changes with the seasons. There are a lot of great photographs of Taos out there, taken by real photographers who know how to get it just right. My humble offering is more spontaneous and organic. These photos will always be in-the-moment bits of life. Not art, certainly not art, but quick thoughts and postcards, taken on the run.

These will be my personal view of Taos, taken from where my days take me. Sometimes I don't stray any farther than my own driveway, and other days, like yesterday, are spent driving all over the mesa, just to see what it's like out there. At the end of most days, there's an inspiring sunset. You'll be seeing a lot of those, because if you were here with me, this is what it would be like.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Let It Snow

We had our first dusting of the season yesterday afternoon. We sat in the house, by the big windows, and cheered for each flake as it danced and landed gently in the yard. I love snow this time of year. I love it a whole lot less in the spring, but right now, snow means holidays, friends, family, celebrations, calm, joy, peace, hope...

I started putting Christmas/Holiday music on my iPod a few days ago. I add to it a little every day. We have over 50 Holiday CDs, which I know is excessive, but I imagine we'll buy more anyway. I can't help it. I love it. Every bit of it, from Dean Martin to Pavarotti, and everyone in between. I used to wait till Thanksgiving before pulling it out, but these last few years, I just need more. I'll probably listen to nothing but this stuff until December 26th, when I'll sadly put it all away for another year, although I have been known to play Christmas music on a hot summer day, to help cool me off.

My cousin Mitzi sang "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" to me yesterday, via Facebook, which pleased me immensely. Mitzi normally shuns all things Christmas, especially the music. I know there are people like her out there, the Humbugs who for whatever reason, choose to find no joy in the Holidays. I don't hang out with those people, and because I love my cousin, I'm so happy to see her making a different choice this year. We're only here for a little while, folks. Might as well have fun. And if Mitzi can bust loose with a perky Holiday tune and a new attitude, well, I believe there's also hope for Peace On Earth.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Simple Bead Photography

Photographing my beads has always been an inexact science, with a lot of guesswork, hit-and-miss, and retakes. The challenge is getting a good, clear, close-up picture of an object that's highly reflective, and at the same time, full of depth and interior detail. I've tried a lot of things over the years; full sunlight, with and without flash, indirect sunlight on various backgrounds, makeshift light boxes made from translucent white "Tupperware", and most recently, plain, bare tabletops.

The quality of light in any given location makes a big difference. Seattle light often needs a lot of artificial help, but natural light is always better. Ashland light was good when I shot under the white roof of the EZ Up canopy I used as a studio, but I had to time it right so the tree shadows didn't interfere.

Taos light is bright, pure, and intense, because of the 7,000 foot elevation. I used to get pretty good results here if I went outside on a sunny day (which is most days), and let the plastic "light box" filter some of the rays. The downside to that method is ripping winds in the spring, and freezing cold temperatures in the winter. So starting here again, and doing almost everything differently than I've done in the past, I've been looking for another way to take bead pictures in Taos.

I tried the picnic table, because it gives me the option of full or indirect sunlight, depending on whether I set the beads on the table top, or the bench. I like the peeling paint background for an arty effect, but I really think it distracts from the beads themselves. Besides, it takes me outside again, and that's something I really want to avoid.

So, I was sitting here in the trailer the other day, wondering where to take my next batch of pictures, enjoying the nice, soft light coming in through the windows behind me and next to me at the little dinette table, and blam-o! Of course, as usual, the answer was literally right under my nose.

The light at the table is perfect. Nice and bright for most of the day, but not too harsh, and the table top is a nondescript grey-ish white with a matte finish that reflects some light while still absorbing shadows. All I have to do is shove a few things out of the way, lay the beads out one by one, and snap away. Most of the time I don't use the flash, but it really depends on the bead. My little Olympus pocket camera, set on macro, works as well as my larger, fancier Sony. I make a few small adjustments in iPhoto, to get the exposure and color as accurate as possible, and that's it. Another simple solution to the rescue.

Once again, the simplest solution is the best. Isn't that the theme of my life right now--simplicity? I wonder why I sometimes put so much effort into complicating things.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Last year, while visiting our beadmaker friends Jim Jones and Lani Ching in Portland, OR, I spent a little time in their studio, showing Jim how to put rivets in beads with a Bead Press. Jim Moore Tools makes this amazing device, as well as lots of other great things for glass artists. I just love mine. I was never much of a tool girl before I started making beads, but now the perfect tool can make my heart sing like a walk in the park in new shoes.

A few days ago, a little package arrived in the mail. It was from Jim Jones. It was a bead. Oh-my-dear-lord-in-heaven-with-all-the-singin'-and-dancin'-angels, what a bead... Jim's note thanked me for helping him figure out the riveting thing. And this bead is where he went from there...

He calls these Steampunk Beads, which is exactly what I'd call them. They're every bit as intricate and gorgeous and amazing as Jim's glass beads. In fact, as I look through the Bead Gallery on Jim and Lani's  long-awaited new website, I see that some of the Steampunk Beads have glass in them too. This all falls firmly into the I Wish I'd Thought Of That category, and I'm really glad Jim did.

If you're quick, I think you can catch Jim and Lani at the BABE Show in Oakland, CA today. If not, do visit their website. These two are not only dear friends of ours, they're a couple of the best darn beadmakers this side of... anywhere.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Time Well Spent

Today Rick and I are celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary. Amazing how the time has gone by. As with anything that's good in life, it seems like it was just yesterday that we stood in that strange, crystal-filled room in Seattle, with only our kids in attendance. Time is a funny thing. And looking back in a different way, we've done so much in these 18 years. More than some people manage in a lifetime. And we're not done yet. If we're lucky enough to have another 18 years together, it won't be enough. But as Doris, the minister who married us said, "When you're married in our church, you're married for all time." Good thing we like each other.

We're not a couple who needs to force a romantic evening. We have a pretty romantic life every day. So tonight we're meeting friends for pizza, and then going to the Taos BRAWL event at the Solar Center, where a bunch of women will gear up in silly and fearsome personas for a "woMano A woMano" arm wrestling match, benefitting a local literacy organization. Honestly, doesn't that sound like more fun than a fussy, expensive dinner all by ourselves? We think so. And since we sort of see our anniversary as the start of the Holiday Season, I'll probably wear my wine colored velvet dress, just to be festive, with my stompingly hip Frye boots, because boots are the only footwear that make any sense on a chilly November night in Taos.

Starting the morning off slowly, we took our tea and toast up to the Nest, and gazing out the frosty trailer window at the rooftop of a house we once called home, we talked a little about time gone by, and looked ahead, over the chimneys, into the clear blue sky, to what waits for us in years to come. But mostly we just sat there in the moment, warm and cozy, and happy to be together, right where we are.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


 I made two extravagant purchases yesterday. Even in times of sluggish cash flow, it's important to treat ourselves extra sweetly now and then. I bought a copy of Artful Blogging magazine, just for the beauty of it. I'm going through it slowly, turning every page, savoring it like a piece of fine dark chocolate. I'm looking for something, and I don't know what it is, but I know it will find me if I make a welcoming place for it.

I also bought a skein of beautiful, hand dyed, pink yarn from Weaving Southwest, which is becoming a set of felted coasters for my daughter, just because I think she should have them. This week I am suddenly, inexplicably obsessed with these coasters. I see no potential for profit in this excursion, but I'm so enjoying the beautiful yarns, the process from knitting to hand felting in hot soapy water, and the soft, finished mats, cushioning my cup, keeping it from clunking and grating on the table. It's a simple pleasure, but extravagant in that there's no money in it. That just has to be OK right now.

This morning I was slowly knitting the pink yarn, and sipping tea, and as I glanced at the new magazine, I noticed a beautiful color connection between that moment in my day, and the open page in front of me. I'm watching for connections and synchronicities these days, watching for signs and encouragement. It was like I fell into that magazine for a moment, or it expanded out to greet me. There is magic in moments like that, where extravagance becomes a comfortable part of reality, rather than an infrequent guest.

(please visit soulaperture, a very beautiful blog)

I have a tendency to be stingy with myself, and I think the Universe responds to that by saying, Oh, you want nothing? OK! Here it is--nothing! It's true that I'm happiest in a simple life, without the burden of too much stuff. But I'm starting to understand that surrounding myself with simple things of beauty will encourage more beauty to come looking for me.

Maybe extravagance isn't extravagant at all. Maybe it's important now and then to say to ourselves, Hey, I like you! Here's something nice, just for you. A magazine and yarn and coasters aren't going to change the world, but they're a step in the process--in my process--and I'm happy to have them here, keeping me company today.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Exploring Taos - Part 3 - the Mabel Dodge Luhan House

We had our first flurries of snow here in Taos this morning. The fall weather has been so warm and beautiful, it's been hard to realize that it's almost Thanksgiving. It's time for winter to make its way here. I'm thinking back to our first winter in Taos, back in 2001, and the things that kept us busy and entertained and happy. Curious about Taos History, and in particular, some of the early artists who came here, I picked up a book by Mabel Dodge Luhan. I've read several books about, and by her, but my favorite is still Winter In Taos.

The Mabel Dodge Luhan House is now a beautiful inn that houses tourists, and hosts workshops throughout the year. We like to visit every so often, just to walk around the grounds and imagine the people who have come and gone from there. Mabel was a "gatherer" of talented people such as Georgia O'Keefe, DH Lawrence, and Ansel Adams. She was wealthy and scandalous, and from what I've read, cared little about what others thought of her. I wish I'd known her.

On a recent visit to the house, Rick and I spent some time enjoying the outdoor views and changing leaves. It's a large and elegant house, but in a solid, down to earth way. I'm not one for big houses, but if I were offered this one, I think I'd have to take it.

My experience in Taos has certainly not been like that of Mabel Dodge Luhan. But from the beginning of our time here, I've felt a sort of kinship with her. I know it's silly. I think she was such a force of nature, it's still possible to connect with her in some way. Time spent at Mabel's house is a good way to get a feel for what Taos was like in the early 1900's, when the world was different, and Taos was just beginning to blossom as an art community.

For more information and reservations at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, please visit their website.
Read more about Mabel and Taos History:
Taos And Its Artists
Edge of Taos Desert: An Escape to Reality
Mabel dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Quick Catch-Up

I'm rattled today. Nothing bad, just a lot going on. So it's a good day for some quick updates. Some days are deeper than others. I'm all on the surface today, slipping along like a water bug...

The stinky couch is still on the patio. We can't seem to unload it, not even for free, and not even to someone who just wants it for a dog bed. I'm bummed that we might have to take it to the dump, but it really can't stay here. Phooey! The good news is, the house smells very nice without it... And, we've decided not to bother replacing it. Why buy furniture that we (hope to) have to move in the near future? The big empty living room makes a great dance floor this way!

I posted some beads on my website over the weekend. Sold a few too. I'm pleased. I guess I'll make some more. I have to admit, it's nice to have the studio back in action, in this new, low stress sort of way. Pretty things are happening in there...

The opening at the Parks Gallery for the Daughters of Juarez show was amazing. It wasn't easy work to look at, given the subject matter, so I have to admit to skimming over a lot of it. The piece by Deborah Rael-Buckley is even more beautiful than I'd imagined though, and I spent a lot of time with it. You may recall that Rick and I helped with this piece, by making some of the small chairs that are seated in the large chair. I'm really happy we could help, and that we came up with chairs Deborah could actually use.
(The gallery photos are by Thomas Buckley)

And Sunday was one of those beautiful fall days that just has to be spent outside. A small group of friends met at the John Dunn Bridge, where the Rio Hondo meets the Rio Grande. It's a beautiful, magical place, perfect for one last picnic before winter sneaks in.

OK. We're all caught up. I hope today is the start of a great week for you!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Buddha of Balance statue peaceful yoga pose sculptureI'm wondering if allowing beads back into my world will take away from other things. I imagine so. How can it not? I guess I'll just have to find a new balance, because balance is not a thing we find once, that stays put. It takes constant adjustment, whether we're standing on one foot, walking a tight rope, riding a bike, dancing, or just getting through a regular day filled with Stuff To Do. A statue of a balancing Buddha has it all figured out, once and for all. It stands there, perfectly balanced, almost mocking, and yet encouraging, seeming to say, HA! You'll never do this, but please DO keep trying! We just have to wobble along, losing and regaining our own balance the best we can. 

I have a silly habit of standing on one foot to put my socks on, rather than sitting down to do it. I don't have time for a yoga class, but Sock Yoga is really helpful. After doing this for years, I'm actually very steady on one foot, and then on the other. Not Buddha-steady, but still, pretty good for a mere mortal. Maybe it's helping with my inner balance too. After all, physical and inner balance are inseparable partners.

I feel fortunate that the beads that are "making themselves" these days are being very gentle with me. They know what to do, right down to staying round and balanced, even when there are five on a mandrel. There's no stress in making them, and if I start to feel any of the old resistance again, that will be a good clue that my own balance needs to be readjusted. 

But making beads, cleaning beads, photographing beads, posting beads, selling beads, and mailing beads all take up a lot of time. I don't know yet how I'll also get the writing done, and the lunches and coffee dates with friends, and the walks around the neighborhood, and so many other things I was really enjoying doing. I had gotten used to a slower pace while the studio was packed away, and I liked it. I wonder if it's possible to still go slow, and still get it all done. There's only one way to find out. Trust the process, breathe, wobble, wobble, adjust... 

Some things won't get done. Some will get done later. Any time we add something to our lives, other things have to scooch over and make room. We do it all the time, with new jobs, new babies, new hobbies, new friends, new loves. Letting my old friend, Beads, back in isn't really such a hard thing. And I trust that the balance will come if I can just relax and try to stay centered. 

First things first--time to go put my socks on and get on with this day.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Zen Beadism

The Question was, and probably still is, Make beads or wait tables? Those are the options I know about. There are countless others I can't see, but for now, I have to work with what I know to be available. One by one we're making little commitments here in Taos. The stinky old couch is officially unsalvageable, so it's on its way out. A new couch says, OK. We'll stay a while. Borrowing a day bed for Lauren's room says, OK. We'll stay through the holidays, so the one kid who can make it "home" for Christmas will have a place to sleep. Spending half my days pretending to be a writer is lovely, but there's still that other half of the day, which really needs to be used to replenish the bank account. I've had over a month away from the torch, ever since we left Ashland. Time away is a good thing. And now you can probably guess my answer to the Question...

A few days ago, I just decided, out of the clear blue Taos sky, to drag out the torch, the glass, the tools, the kiln, and set up the studio. It was not a happy decision. It was a painful one. I resisted. I cried. I hung my sorry head. And I knew I had to do it anyway. It was the only practical thing to do, and besides, it wanted to be done. I made a few little beads that day, and they are beautiful. I made a few more the next day, and they are also beautiful. And somewhere in surrendering to the making, I began to remember that I am not the one making the beads. And so it didn't matter that I didn't want to make them. They wanted to be made, and my only job was to allow that to happen.

I'll keep it simple by saying God is the one who wants to make beads. Substitute any term that makes you comfortable. God, Goddess, All There Is, One, Universe, Great Spirit, Creator. It's all the same. What occurred to me is, if God wanted me to do Something Else, I would probably know about it. If I was supposed to be doing something else, I'd be doing something else. The fact that I'm doing what I'm doing, means I'm supposed to be doing it. It's all perfect, even when we can't see that it is. And since nothing else has presented itself, and beads are still there whispering, YooHoo, remember us?, I figured I'd better listen. I think when we're at our best, we are the hands of God, the Universe's way of expressing creativity and experiencing the physical world. At our best, we step aside and allow whatever it is that wants to come through in the name of Truth, Light, Creativity, and Beauty. At our best, we don't do the doing, we only provide the tools to get it done. So if God wants to make beads, well, who am I to argue?

I don't want to come across sounding like some kind of religious fanatic. I couldn't be further from it. In fact, I have very little use for, or interest in religion. I know that will upset, and even offend a few people. But that's certainly not my intent. My interest is in spirituality, and yes, I do believe in God, whatever that is, and I also believe that religion is divisive, while God is all-inclusive. To quote Michael Franti, "God is too big for just one religion." So, I sample from all of them, and claim none of them as the only way to go.

So how do I know that God wants to make beads? Well, because the studio is set up, and I'm letting it happen, and it doesn't hurt. When I got my whiney baby princess self out of the way, and relaxed into the work, it became easy. All I had to do was get my Self out of the way, and agree to sit there and "be the hands". I'm coming at it in a different way than I have in the past. I used to care deeply about proving myself, about showing off and getting noticed and making the next, newest best thing. I wanted fame, and I got it. I wanted fortune, and that happened too, for a little while. It was all very exciting, and also very stressful. Most of the time I wasn't very happy, even when I was making loads of money.

So we have a new deal, God and me. We're starting from zero, at the very beginning. No showing off, at least not just yet. It's not up to me anyway. When I go to the studio, I burn some incense, plug into my iPod, check out of the world around me, and light the torch. I say, Well? What do you want to make? And I pick up the glass and get started. I move slowly, which is new for me. I breathe and take my time. I pay attention to the signals my body gives me. If I'm smiling, I'm doing it right. If I have a knot in my stomach, I'm working from Self again.

The beads are small and simple. Some are the Zen Beads I started back in Oregon. Some are even smaller and rounder, and seem to want to be called either Zen Pearls or Baby Steps. They make my eyes happy. They make my hands happy. It remains to be seen if they will make my customers happy. But that isn't really the point. Paul Stankard says, "Your work is your prayer," and I had forgotten that. Now it's like I'm forming a new, personal un-religion, sort of a "Zen Beadism" that requires focus, acceptance, and humility. As a Zen Beadist, making beads is my version of "chop wood, carry water."

This is going to take some practice. Old ways are hard to change. It's still very possible that I'll have to wait tables. It's possible that I'll never sell another bead, or that God will tire of this hobby quickly and close up the studio again. Whatever happens, by at least agreeing to allow it, I make the way easier for myself. And my Self can continue to take a break. It's time to let Someone Else do the work, but that doesn't mean I don't have to participate. My job is to show up, to breathe, to allow the Worker to do its work, the Creator to create, God to play with glass. All I have to do is be the hands, and yes, when I get out of the way, it's really as easy as it sounds.

Zen Beadism - Audio Version

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We Need A New Couch

We have begun the destinkification process on the couch. No, it's not a real word, but it's the right word. Our big, soft, brown couch became a dog bed while we were away. Maybe a cat bed too. And a scratching post. Maybe even worse. Day after day I go in the house, and see the sun streaming into the living room, and think how nice it would be to stretch out on the couch with my computer, or a book, or just a cup of tea. And then I get close to it and catch a whiff of pet stench, and go running for the door. No wonder we can't sell the house. That couch has some seriously bad juju. We only leave it there because it fills a large space and makes the place look somewhat lived in and homey. But if we're going to reclaim the house as even a part time homey hangout, we're going to have to do something about that couch.

Rick went to the tack store yesterday and picked up a gallon of enzyme pet-odor-eliminator. He put it in his big pump-up yard sprayer gizmo, and we dragged all the couch cushions out to the patio, where he soaked them to near drowning, and left them gasping in the sun to dry. They will stay out there for several days, or until it rains. Maybe even if it does rain. Meanwhile, I'll keep sniffing the arms and back of the couch, which still stink, even after a good enzyme dousing.

To be honest, I don't have much hope for this couch. I don't want to invest any more in cleaning it up, because I really think it needs to be replaced. It still looks pretty good, sort of, except for some cat clawing on the side, and the shredded throw pillows that went straight to the trash can. But otherwise, it's just sort of a frumpy old friend who deserves better than a trip to the dump. I kind of have a yearning for a new one though, and maybe Old Frumpy can be happy on somebody's front porch, filled with dogs and cats again.

Rick and I went all over town the other day, looking at every furniture store, from high end rich-people stuff to overpriced thrift store junk. Of course the only thing I found that made my heart sing was a gorgeous, oversized plushy tapestry number that was on sale for a mere $3,000. Moving on! I looked on Craigslist, and decided not to bother with somebody else's old couch when we already have one of our own. Then I did a Google search for "discount couches", and a few clicks later, I hit the jackpot.

I found a place called HomeReserve.com, that offers a "furniture concept" I've never seen before. They have all sorts of styles of couches and sofas (I'm not really sure of the difference, except for the number of cushions), plus chairs, loveseats, and ottomans (which I really think should be ottomen.) You can choose the style and fabric, they send it to you in boxes made to fit through doorways, and you put it together yourself. Sort of like Ikea, only it looks more like real furniture. Every piece has storage under the seat, and many of the fabrics are machine washable. They even offer special pet-proof fabrics, and you can replace fabric and padding on any section if it gets damaged, or the whole thing if you just want a change of color. All this, and the prices are better than a lot of the used stuff I've seen. I don't like the slippiness (another perfect non-word) of slipcovers, and I love the idea of keeping a piece for years, and updating it with new fabric. These people are brilliant.

I guess the real test is in the sitting. But the prices are great, customer comments are good, the website is fun to use, and I think it's worth giving them a try. I'm having fun "trying on" various fabrics on my virtual new couch, and might order a few swatches before I commit to a whole couch full of anything. Of course, I do have to be sensible and give Old Frumpy a fair chance. If he can be de-stunk, he can stay. If not, I'm going shopping.

We Need a New Couch - Audio Version

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What Color Is The Cheese?

Several years ago, there was a discussion at our patio picnic table, over glasses of wine and a lovely piece of port salut cheese. As I recall, there was some difference of opinion on whatever the topic was, and to illustrate some point I was trying to make about differences of opinion, I asked my friend, What color is this cheese? Her answer was something like, White. Creamy, yellowy white. She was right. Yes, I said, and rotated the cheese plate so the orange-colored rind was facing her. Now what color is the cheese? ...

We've used the cheese analogy for years now. It's a good reminder of how a simple shift in perspective can make all the difference in understanding another person... or even in understanding ourselves.

These days, I'm considering some things I had ruled out in past weeks. Things like maybe moving back into the house. Or even just partially moving back in, like some sort of compromise between trailer life and house life. We like having friends over, which is a pretty silly thing to try in a trailer. And as the days get cooler, and the nights are downright cold, and we spend more time indoors, it might be nice to have a little more elbow room. It would mean having to super-clean the couch to make it useable again, or maybe getting a new one. It would mean we'd need some firewood. And if we decide to really move in, at least to live lightly on the surface of the place until we can sell it, we'd also have to get a new mattress for our bed. The one we moved from the house to the trailer is probably wedged in there forever, and besides, we want the option of driving off, with the trailer ready to use, for at least short excursions now and then.

It would be expensive to move back in. So that leads to the next reconsideration I'm mulling over. Rick will be working at least part time, and has also started collecting his social security early. It won't be quite enough though, so I need to do... something. I could look for a job in town, but my skills are pretty limited, especially after 20 years of working for myself. Logic, and a sad little bank account tell me that my best bet is still making beads. I could see this as painting myself into a corner, or I could see it as a gift I've been given that's still something worth sharing.

I've been using words like "stranded" and "trapped" in reference to Taos, our house, and our current situation. That's certainly one side of the cheese. But what if I turn the plate around and look at it from a different angle?

The mind trick I'm using is just a simple word swap. I could see all this as some sort of "defeat," like OK, I surrender. We're stuck here. Blah, blah, blah... But what if it's actually an "invitation" to stay and play a while? Even if it's not, if I look at it that way, it lightens my mood and allows me to feel less helpless, and more powerful. Is the cheese white? Is it orange? I guess it's both, but I can only look at one side of it at a time.

Maybe today we'll take a crack at cleaning the couch. If it works out, we can round up some firewood and a good bottle of wine, and discuss further options over a nice celebratory hunk of port salut, making sure to turn the plate often.

What Color Is The Cheese? - Audio Version

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010


I'll wander away from Halloween in a moment now, after just a few more pictures to show you how much fun we had here in Taos. The crowds of kids always come out in the early afternoon, leaving the evening for the grownups to go out and play. We were out early, and back home for dinner, but I still donned my fabulous hat and my bonehead necklace. Heidi was a very popular little bee, and wanted nothing more than to snuggle with us on the couch last night. Those adoring kids wore her out.

I have to admit, we're really still enjoying Taos. Maybe we're stranded here, and maybe it's just a matter of perspective. These beautiful fall days are perfect for sitting in a sunny spot, and just listening quietly to whatever "comes through." We certainly don't have all the pieces to the puzzle yet, but little hints are managing to work their way to the surface. The trick is to shut up my own chatter long enough to hear them. 

I dreamed last night that I was trapped under our trailer, which had lost its footing and was sinking into the ground. There I was, with just enough room to breathe, wondering if anyone would ever find me. I woke up as I was digging my way out with my hands, and realizing that I could also simply open a window...

I have a feeling I should pay attention to this dream. Yes, I'm feeling a little bit "squeezed" by the smallness of the trailer, our financial situation, and the apparent lack of options at the moment. And true, I wonder if there's anyone "out there" who might help me. "Digging with my own hands" has always been my automatic response to tough spots in life. Coming from a family with a steel reinforced work ethic, I learned that when the going gets tough, a Miles Girl just "digs in" and works harder. But what if that's not the only way? What if there's a simpler, better, more effective way? What if, instead of clawing at the dirt to escape my own personal captivity, I simply open a window and climb out?

I'm no expert on dream analysis, but this one isn't too hard to figure out.  So, OK, I'm listening, even though I'm not sure who's doing the talking. I'm waiting for Further Instructions. Next message, please...