Hello from this time of corona-isolation-will-we-ever-be-normal-again days!
I’ve got a post in the works about emotional struggles with life at the moment, but I first must share the sparkling, wondrous, amazing news of the birth of my nephew, Cade Emerson!
He is one month old today, and we have yet to see him in person (thanks a lot, coronavirus!), but thankfully his parents share photos and videos of him every day. Usually toward the end of the workday I will hear a pleasant chime and know that fresh Cade photos are available. It’s a welcome sight! Thank goodness for technology.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and that is (partly) because I have been focusing on learning the art of stained glass! If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve seen plenty of my posts over the last 6 months or so involve glass in some way. Here’s the back story:
At the end of last summer, I was feeling like it was time for me to try something new. I get this urge from time to time, when things in my life are feeling stagnant, or I am feeling creatively stunted. It is what motivated me to take pottery lessons so long ago, to get my degree in landscape architecture (an expensive foray), to take the master gardener certification course, and to get involved with Toastmasters.
I’ve always had a thing for glass. Perhaps it’s not really glass itself, but light. Glass is a medium that changes appearance depending the light source, intensity, and movement. I guess what I really love is light itself. I love light.
Ahem, back to my story. So late summertime, I’m looking for my next creative adventure and it hits me – GLASS! It is one of those things I always wanted to try, and I’m at a time in my life where I can easily afford to take a class and buy supplies, so why not? I googled “glass studios” and found a place about 20 minutes from my home. I also found that a local art center was doing a one-night class to make fall leaves. I asked my dad to join me and we made our very first stained glass pieces.
Dad foiling his leaf pieces!
Our finished leaves.
The stained glass classes at the glass studio were offered in 6-week sessions. I wasn’t able to sign up for a session right away, so in the meantime I took a couple of the one-day classes they offered on Saturdays. I asked my friend Stacy to join me.
The first class was pretty minimal work. We had to select a piece of glass that would be slumped over a form in the kiln to create a vase. We could trim the edges of the piece however we liked. After we left, the studio owner would fire the piece for us, and we could pick up the vase the following week.
Although I had done some cutting to make the leaf mentioned above, I was still getting the hang of it. I found the glass cutters offered at the studio were a challenge for me to hold. I watched as the instructor held the cutter in his hand. His index finger extended down to the cutting head while the rest of his fingers gripped the handle. Well, that didn’t really work for me, since I was working with two less fingers.
Nevertheless, I persisted and was pretty happy with how my finished piece turned out. Unfortunately for Stacy, her piece broke when they attempted to drill through the bottom so she could use it as a lamp shade.
After that first class, I emailed the studio to ask if they had different cutter styles I could try out, since the pistol grip style was clunky and hard for me to control. It turned out they had a couple of options. The next time I went in, I tried a pencil-style one and one that had saddle-shaped handle. The saddle grip worked best for me, as it allowed me to grip close to the tip with my fingers and use the pressure from my palm to push the cutter.
I ended up buying a really cool cutter that has an adjustable grip handle. It has made cutting the glass so simple and fun!
Fused Wind Chimes
The next class we signed up for was to make wind chimes. We were given a wide array of fusable glass to choose from and allowed to go wild. Stacy went with an aquatic theme for hers, but I decided to make abstract leaves for mine.
Once again, we had to leave the items behind for the studio to put into the kiln, and then we could pick up our work the following week. I was really happy with how mine came out, although I think the stick I hung them on is a little too big, so I may re-hang it later.
As the holiday season approached, the studio offered fused ornament classes pretty much every weekend. By this time, Stacy and I had already started the stained glass course, but I figured the ornaments would make really unique Christmas gifts for the family.
Stained Glass Butterfly
The first night of the 6-week stained glass course, I had no idea what I wanted to make. I’ve never really been interested in the cookie-cutter stained glass designs you see in people’s front doors or in bars. I wanted my piece to be funky and artsy and different. The first night, I began sketching out this crazy spiral design that I’d been doodling in my notebook for weeks. It would look so cool, but as I drew it larger, I was intimidated by the complexity of it.
The following week was Thanksgiving, so there would be no class. Plus, Dave and I were going to Costa Rica, so I’d be missing the class after that as well. That bought me some time to think about it and come up with an idea. While in Costa Rica, we saw lots of blue morpho butterflies, which inspired me to do a butterfly pattern.
My first thought was to do a realistic rendering of the blue morpho, but as I searched online for stained glass butterfly patterns, I came across a drawing of a celtic knot butterfly, and I knew that was the one I had to do.
Little did I know, as I began that project, just how hard it was going to be to cut out the curvy shapes. I broke several pieces before the instructor informed me that they had a saw that I could use for the especially curvy parts.
Even with the saw, I left a lot of extra glass on my pieces, which meant that I had to spend a LOT of time using the grinder to get my pieces down to size. At first I found it very hard to hold onto the small pieces, and my hands were cramping up. I asked if they had something to hold the pieces with, and it turned out there was! Once I used that, it alleviated the strain on my hands and made for a more pleasant experience.
By week 3 of cutting and grinding, I was feeling somewhat downhearted about my project. I confess, I’m an instant-gratification kind of person, at least when it comes to learning new things or creating something. In my artistic experiences, I tend to prefer projects that can be completed in one sitting. I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing something. Of course I am aware that working on something over time can also be gratifying, but I was really getting tired of grinding the life out of my glass pieces.
It took me most of the 6-week course (actually 5, since I missed a week while I was in Costa Rica) for me to complete the butterfly. I did learn a lot through the process, mainly that I should cut much closer to my pattern lines so I wouldn’t need to spend hours grinding.
Once the butterfly was finished, I wanted to try my hand at a slightly larger piece. I had a couple of octopus drawings I’d done in the past that I thought would be cool to modify into a glass piece.
I redrew the design on a larger piece of paper, and then traced over that with tracing paper to create my new pattern. Originally I wanted my octopus to be bright orange with pink undersides like the drawing, but I couldn’t find a bright enough orange in the selection of glass at the studio. I settled for a piece of glass that reminded me of the inside of a seashell. It was mostly beige in color, with hints of purple and green and an overall iridescence to it, like abalone. For the underside I found a piece of glass that was swirled through with bright orange-red. And for the skirt, as I called it (I guess really it’s the armpits? ha ha), and the eyelids, I chose an iridescent white. For the water I just laid low and went with a clear cobalt blue.
By now I was much more comfortable cutting the glass, and did not have to spend nearly as much time grinding, which was a huge relief. Also, by this time the new year had rolled around and the studio had put fresh grinding bits on all their grinders so that also made the grinding process less annoying.
I’d come to grips with the fact that this was going to be a multi-week process, so I was feeling less angsty about the time it was taking to get my octopus put together. It ended up taking me about 10 weeks from start to finish. I made some more rookie mistakes in the process, but I am happy with how it came out!
Over the past few weeks I’ve been putting together a small glass studio of my own. I am keeping an open mind as to where it will take me. I have no shortage of ideas for future projects, and perhaps once I’m more confident with my skills I can start taking commissions. We’ll see!
Dave got us 23andme kits for Christmas. You’ve probably heard of it before, but in case you haven’t, it’s one of those DNA testing kits where you provide a saliva sample and send it to a lab that analyzes it and tells you where your ancestors came from and if you carry any genetic markers for disease or hereditary conditions.
I’ve long been interested in learning about ancestry and genetics, but had been somewhat hesitant to provide my genetic material in this way. I’ve seen arguments against it saying that by giving a corporation access to your genetic code, insurance companies could potentially buy and use that information to deny coverage for conditions you’re genetically predisposed to, or maybe to harvest your organs for a wealthy person who has a similar genetic makeup (I don’t know, we watch a lot of post-apocalyptic and sci-fi movies in this house).
I thought about the above scenarios but decided that, at the rate my hair falls out, my genetic code could easily have fallen into the wrong hands by now. Plus, I blog about my medical condition on the internet, so it’s not like I’m keeping any secrets about that either. So, I decided to go for it. My urge to know how much Viking blood really flows through my veins outweighs any concern over my medical privacy.
The first step of this whole process, after signing all the virtual paperwork is collecting the saliva sample. Let me tell you about that. As you know, if you or a loved one has EEC, we tend to be rather dry-mouthed folks. I’m pretty much never caught without a water bottle in my hand or a pocketful of hard candies or gum, because left to it’s own devices, my mouth would be as dry as the Sahara in minutes.
The instructions for collecting the saliva sample explicitly state that you have to wait 30 minutes after eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth before you can spit into the vial. Other than while sleeping, I can’t tell you the last time I’ve gone 30 minutes without putting something in my mouth, so that in itself was a challenge. Then came the spitting part. Dave, the healthy-mouthed person that he is, was able to fill his vial in less than 5 minutes, with 3 or 4 spits.
Meanwhile, I swept my tongue around my mouth, from cheek to cheek, silently summoning my saliva glands to produce. My spit was very bubbly – more air than saliva – but I kept at it. I stuck my nose in a bag of Pepperidge Farm Mint Milano cookies to try to stimulate the juices. I sniffed lemon juice, as suggested by the 23andme instruction card. I massaged my cheeks (also suggested by 23andme). I kept looking at the clock as my tube filled up with bubbles. The sample had to be collected within 30 minutes and time was running out! Finally, just as the last minute was slipping away, my saliva reached the fill line on the tube. As a reward, I ate a cookie and had a glass of water.
Dave and I dropped off our samples at the post office on December 28. We anticipated the process taking about 6 weeks, but were pleasantly surprised to get an email about a week later saying that our results would be done by January 16th. Then, on Saturday I checked my email and discovered that mine were already ready! Of course I couldn’t wait to look at them. For some reason, Dave’s results are still not done, but I’m hoping that he’ll get his tomorrow.
Unsurprisingly, my ancestry results show that I am 100% European. I was a little surprised by the French/German part, as culturally, there is absolutely nothing French or German in my recent family history. But I also know that these results just show where your recent-ish ancestors descended from, and I think they are really just comparing DNA with people who live in those regions now.
The other fun factoid that 23andme will tell you is how many Neanderthal variants you have. Apparently I have a lot compared to other 23andme participants. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it’s fun to know.
There is so much more to explore in the results. A lot of it is just fun, silly stuff, like how your genes affect hair color or other physical traits like finger length or freckles. There’s also an DNA relatives part, which shows you which other people out there (who have also used 23andme) are related to you. My results list a second cousin – turns out she is my grandfather’s cousin. There are a couple of other second-to-third cousins, but the majority of the results are 4th cousins or beyond. Still, it is kind of mind-blowing to look at the map and see how many people out there are descended from the same ancestors as I am.
I was curious to see if the report would pick up anything related to my EEC. It did not. But that was another reason I wanted to participate – so that I could provide my DNA and tell them I have EEC, and perhaps eventually others could be helped by it. An optional feature of 23andme tests your health and carrier status, so it tells you if your genes carry variants for particular diseases. Of course 23andme reiterates that their tests aren’t meant to diagnose any genetic conditions, and that you should see a doctor if you think you are really at risk of some thing. I was pleasantly surprised that my genes appear to be pretty good. I carry one variant for celiac disease, but apparently it only *slightly* increases my risk of developing celiac disease. Amazingly I carry none of the variants that could negatively affect my offspring… too bad I don’t plan to produce any offspring. (But duh – EEC is heritable, so there is that.)
I can’t wait to see what Dave’s results are. He was born in Bogotá, Colombia and as far as he knows, his family had always been in Colombia. But South America was colonized by the Spanish for like 400 years, so there would have been mixing of multiple cultures. I’m thinking his map will be a lot more colorful than mine.
I’d love to hear if you’ve done 23andme or Ancestry.com or any other DNA-testing to find out about your genetic building blocks. Did you find out anything you didn’t expect?
Going through my photos from 2018 has reminded me of how many good moments we had throughout the year, and how much I have to be grateful for.
The year kicked off in a dark place with Mom’s cancer diagnosis, but after chemo, surgery and radiation (and now oral chemo), we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The experience, plus some other incidents this year, taught me that no matter how much you may try, you’re never really in control of your destiny. An illness or an accident can so quickly end or derail whatever you’ve got going on. Worrying about that happening doesn’t do any good either – you just have to swing at the curveballs life throws at you and hope for the best.
This year I got out and did some exciting things – I marched in marches, and I ran in 5k’s. I learned how to cut glass, make a slumped glass vase, make fused glass ornaments and I am currently working on my second stained glass piece. I travelled to Vermont lots of times to visit Mom, Indianapolis for a work trip, Maine for a family get-together, and the grand finale of course, was our impromptu trip to Costa Rica!
So, despite whatever bad things happened in 2018, they were far outweighed by good things and positive experiences. I’m sure 2019 will be the same – while you might not be able to control your destiny, you can certainly control your attitude along the way.
So much for my “life purpose” of sharing my experiences so others can know they aren’t alone. Failure!
I won’t bore you with excuses for why I haven’t written all summer. None of them are really valid reasons. The truth of the matter is that I am just lazy and unorganized.
Today I write to you from the shores of Lake Champlain. I am up here to help my mom recover from her mastectomy. She is doing really, really well. It’s so awesome. The chemo was incredibly challenging, especially the last couple of doses of the cocktail I mentioned in my last post called the Red Devil.
I had been worried about her all throughout chemo, because it is really hard for me to accept that in order to fight the cancer, they have to practically poison you to death to do so. The Red Devil was no joke. She felt worse than ever. Her blood counts were incredibly low. After her last dose, she had to get a blood transfusion because everything was so low. However, within a few days of the transfusion, she was feeling much better. She said she went from feeling like 40% of herself to about 70%, and that now (5 weeks post-chemo) she feels like her normal self again!
Obviously chemo is a tried-and-true method, because her tumors shrank significantly, and one of the smaller ones disappeared completely. The cancer that had been in her lymph nodes was nowhere to be found at the time of surgery.
As for the surgery, they removed her affected breast but only took out a couple of lymph nodes. This made the surgery a lot less invasive than it could have been. It also means she won’t have to worry about lymphedema, which is a condition that can develop if you get all the lymph nodes taken out of an area.
I can’t believe how well she is doing for someone who just had a part of her body removed. I was expecting her to be bedridden and immobile, but if you saw her out in public you wouldn’t even know she’d had surgery less than a week ago. Well, unless you saw the drain poking out of her shirt. Ew!
Well, time for me to take the doggie for a walk. One of my goals this week is to get back into the blog and plan out the content for the next few months. I’m taking requests! Let me know if there’s an eec-related topic you want me to talk about, or if you would prefer I philosophize about some aspect of life in general, I could obviously do that too.
So much has been on my mind lately (what else is new?), and I’ve made multiple attempts to write, only to save my posts as drafts for one reason or another. (Mainly because I think they are all dumb!)
Today I finished up a course called Coretography, which was designed by Tracy Otsuka to help people develop a roadmap for their lives. Of course I already know a lot of things about myself, but I’ve always had trouble figuring out what road I want to travel down, and where exactly I want to end up. Her course helped me narrow things down a bit. I figured out:
My top 8 core values: Creativity, love, brilliance, humor, authenticity, health, environmentalism and mindfulness.
My passions: Being creative, being authentic and self-improvement.
Combined with my top talents: Empathy, humor and intelligence.
And my skills: Writing, grammar, and teaching.
Plus a few other things… resulting in my PURPOSE: to share my own life experiences in order to help people going through similar things.
At this point I think my best way of doing that is to continue with the blog, so I had better get writing!
The most prominent life experience I am currently experiencing is watching Mom go through chemo. At first it was so scary to know that she had cancer and that the prescribed course of treatment was to pump her full of hazardous chemicals.
Watching her lose her hair, lose weight, become fatigued and worn out has not been fun. I feel pretty helpless, and as a result I worry that I am not being supportive enough. I suppose one positive aspect of the whole thing is that we have been communicating a lot more than we used to.
Her treatment is progressing nicely though. Since February she was one one chemo cocktail, and today she just started a different cocktail. I probably shouldn’t use the word cocktail because that sounds like a fun drink garnished with fruit on a plastic sword. In reality, it’s about as opposite of that as you can get. One of the drugs they gave her today is nicknamed the Red Devil. She was warned to expect nausea, among other things. Fortunately she is only getting 4 doses of that, so I am crossing fingers and toes that she can bear it and get through it as quickly as possible.
It’s so mind boggling to me that in order for a person to fight cancer, they have to take in such toxic chemicals. I suppose there is a metaphor in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is. She has been doing what she can with diet and supplements to help her body stay strong, and I am sure that is helping her. I even started taking one of the supplements myself (tumeric cucurmin) and I am about 90% sure it is helping my eyes, but that is a topic for another post.
I hope you, whoever you are who is reading this, is well. Thanks for reading, and please check back soon.
Hi guys! I just did a new thing! I went live on Facebook to do a Q&A about EEC! There wasn’t a lot of Q’ing, so I mostly rambled on about life with EEC, but despite my internet connection cutting out a little bit, and my occasional “uhh” moments, I think it went pretty well!
Check it out!
I wish I could figure out how to change the preview so I don’t look like I just sucked a lemon.
I will definitely do more live videos in the future, so if you would like to hear me talk about something in particular, please let me know!
And don’t worry, I WILL blog again… with words and pictures… I promise. 🙂
Autumn is the queen of our household. We joke that if the house caught fire, Dave would grab Autumn and leave me to fend for myself. It’s really not even a joke, but a fact I’ve come to terms with.
Autumn was rescued from the streets of Springfield, Ma, along with her daughter Reeses. My brother Kris and his then-girlfriend adopted them both from an animal shelter. From the beginning, Autumn and Reeses did not get along. It was so bad that Autumn stopped eating because she was so stressed. The vet said that if she didn’t start eating again they would have to put her down.
Luckily, she rallied and ate a couple of bites of food just hours before the deadline. Kris decided it would probably help Autumn to be away from Reeses for a while, so that’s when she came to live with us.
Dave had never had a pet cat before, and he was a little reluctant. I told him it was just temporary, so if he didn’t like her, we could send her back to Kris at the end of the summer. That was 11 years ago.
After we’d had Autumn for a few years, she began having some issues. The vet did an x-ray to check for a bowel obstruction. There was no obstruction, but they found an airgun pellet lodged at the base of her tail. They performed surgery to remove it, just in case it was causing her pain. She looked so funny with the bald spot on her tail. But my heart ached to think of how much pain she must have been in, and how scared she must have been when she’d been shot!
When Gram died at the end of 2012, I inherited her black cat, Ebony. We felt awkward calling her Ebony, so we renamed her Sophie. Autumn was pissed that we brought a younger, slimmer cat into the household. For months we had to keep them physically separated so they wouldn’t fight. Even today, the occasionally lash out at each other, although very recently they’ve come to share the couch – as long as they are at opposite ends. Progress!
Today, Autumn spends much of her day sleeping. Additional hobbies include eating, pooping, and torturing Sophie.
Autumn has the terribly annoying habit of waking Dave up multiple times in the night (this is where I’m grateful for being deaf in one ear), and waking me up about 10 minutes before my alarm goes off. She wakes us up in one of two ways.
Most commonly, she will sit in the doorway of the bedroom and make a variety of noises, ranging from huffy little grunts and chirps to operatic crescendos. Sometimes she accompanies her vocal stylings by picking at the baseboard moulding with her claws.
Her second wake-up method is to sit on the pillow and gently, yet threateningly drag her claws across delicate areas of skin, like the forehead, eyelids, and lately, the throat. Of course this wakes me up right away, and not pleasantly.
I usually wrestle her off the pillow and get her to cuddle with me for a few minutes, but inevitably she will pop up moments later, claws extended, to try again. Sometimes, if she’s not up for wrestle-cuddling, she’ll get back on the floor and belt out some more tunes.
Living with Autumn isn’t all poop-scooping and fitful sleeps. She is a champion purrer. She purrs louder than any other cat I’ve ever known. She will purr for just about anything, whether you’re simply talking to her, petting her, preparing food for her, or just lying in bed snuggling.
Some of my favorite moments with her are when we are lying in bed, about to go to sleep at night. She will nestle down in between Dave and I, purring gently. Sometimes she’ll lie on my chest, and I will pet her with both hands and she’ll give me little kisses with her cold, wet nose.
Having a cat is a lot of work. It can be tough on the allergies (thank God for Zyrtec), tough on the sleep, and tough planning a vacation. (Our cats are very spoiled, okay?) With that responsibility comes reward, though. The eager greeting upon arriving home (even though that’s mostly about food), the wet-nose kisses, and the soft, soft fur… it all makes every 5am wakeup meow worth it.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll recall that I have a fondness for the concept of minimalism. I’ve never gone on a rampage and thrown out all of my stuff or anything, but, section by section, I’ve gone through the house and pared down.
The truth is, it’s not that easy to keep it up. I’ll visit Walgreens during my lunch break to pick up more allergy medicine and by the time I leave the store I’ve got a new bottle of lotion, or a new nail polish, and of course a snack to take back to work with me. It’s possible I’ve even forgotten to get the allergy medicine because I was so enamored with all the shiny trinkets in the store.
When I go grocery shopping, I make a list of what we need based on the recipes we plan to make for the week. Yet every time, I end up walking out with at least 5 additional things I hadn’t planned for. Sometimes it’s legitimately a need, and I had just forgotten to put it on my list. But more often than not, we could have made it through the week without an additional can of diced tomatoes, or another bag of frozen veggies, when we’ve already got a freezer full of them.
The worst is when I’m about to embark on a new life adventure and I get the urge to buy something to prepare myself for it. For example:
I’m going to take up running for exercise; I need to buy new running shoes before I can start.
I want to eat healthier this year; We should get a Ninja blender with food processor attachment and smoothie cups.
I need to write more; Let’s buy 5 notebooks and a 12 pack of pens, just in case the hundreds of pens I have around the house all stop working simultaneously.
The seasons are changing; I need new clothes.
I know I’m not the only one who does this, and in re-reading this list, nothing is really too crazy or expensive (besides the Ninja), but it just goes to show how quickly and easily we can fall out of the routine of being a considerate consumer.
What’s something you have a hard time resisting? Have you figured out a way to avoid the temptation? For me, I limit my trips to Walgreens as much as I can. I try to buy everything I’ll need for the week during my weekly shopping trip, because I find that it’s usually those quick little Walgreens trips where I end up with a spontaneous purchase that I didn’t really need.
Oh, and Amazon. I have to make a conscious effort not to buy every little thing I think of on Amazon. It’s just so easy to impulsively search for something and purchase it before your rational mind can catch up and stop you.
What’s your secret compulsive purchase? As you can see by the header image of this post, mine is nail polish. And I don’t even have 10 fingernails to use it on!
I haven’t felt much like writing lately. I have felt more like burrowing deep into my home and not coming out for an indeterminate amount of time.
I suppose we could blame my melancholy on the time of year, although I am hyper-aware that each successive morning and evening is a little brighter than the one before, thanks to the ever-changing rotation of the earth’s axis. Yeah that’s right, I have a science degree.
Perhaps we can blame it on my mom’s cancer, because you know I’m already milking that for all it’s worth. “Sorry, that thing you invited me to? I can’t go, because… my mom is sick.”
Meanwhile, she’s 300 miles away, so it’s not like I can do much for her from my own home. But, I did go up to visit her last week. At this point my function in visiting her is to bring tidings of comfort and joy. I brought books, magazines, games, and of course, my winning personality.
We shared a hermit-like existence for a few days, which are my favorite kind of days. Introvert life! We sat around reading and drinking tea, slowly plodding away at a puzzle, and when she took her naps, I worked on my artsy things or took the dog out for a walk. In the evenings, we’d enjoy dinner while watching a movie. It’s the lifestyle I wish I could live every day. Except for the cancer part, of course.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what to do next. I’ve been trying to nurture my artistic side as much as I can, and my writing, although many days it’s a challenge to come home from work and plop down in front of my laptop, or at my art table, although it pains me more when I neglect to do so.
Lately, I feel like I am frustrated so much of the time. I feel like there’s never enough time to do the things I want to do. (See above paragraph about reading, puzzling, making art and taking long walks…). I feel like there’s got to be a better way to balance my life.
Speaking of balance, one thing I have done to improve my life lately is join Weight Watchers. I lost 2.4 lbs in the first week, so that was cool. I’ll have to write more about that in another post because my eyes are ready for bed now. It looks like tomorrow will be a work-from-home day, thanks to the storm that’s coming.
So stay tuned, friends, and let’s venture into the unknown together… or, we can just hang out in the same old, predictable middle-class lifestyle… eww, just kidding. Let’s check out the unknown.