Friday, December 31, 2010

One Little Word: Dream

I love this concept! Check out Ali Edward's blog and this wonderful project. I found my word filled with possibility for the year ahead. Mine is dream.

I began grad school with a dream. I wanted work with purpose ... I wanted to answer a calling. I made a good decision and I see all the pieces coming together to form this dream. I graduated with straight A's. I passed my licensure exam the first try with the highest score among my peers who took the same test at the same time. I have a job in my field.

But I'm dreaming of the next step. Cameron and I have a possibility of financial stability this year. For me, it would be the first time in my life I would not have to worry about paying the electric bill, buying cat food, or buying people food. My dream, however, goes deeper.

I want to leave my current employment to work at Safe Homes/Rape Crisis Coalition. My current position as a substance abuse counselor has taught me much, but doesn't pay what my peers are making. It also is limiting. We do Methadone Maintenance for opiate addiction -- a controversial program in South Carolina. I am tired of the local police department calling us drug pushers. I am also tired of doing therapy in 5 - 15 minute sound bites. It's not really therapy; it's case management. And above all else, I'm called to be a therapist, not a case manager.

So I am dreaming. I am dreaming, manifesting a dream. I want to complete my internship at Safe Homes. Beyond that, Cameron and I want to work in a practice where we can offer slidingscale fees and meet the needs of our pagan/lgbtq community.

On a personal level, I dream of life where I have time to sleep more than six hours a night. I dream of taking art classes. I dream of developing my polymer. I dream of dancing, playing, walking in nature.

Certainly my dream has begun. I'm delighted to share that I won a contest today!  What a delightful affirmation of my dream. Be sure to check out the Intuitive Goddess. I'm honored to have won. And I adored her thoughts on Grace, which is the first part of my name here. The name Grace, for me, was a lesson in humility when I was told by my priestess that I might not take the name of Dreamweaver until I achieved my third degree. She suggested the name Grace at the time because it was a life lesson I was working on. For me, Grace and Dreamweaver have become the core of who I am as Priestess, Gay Woman, Feminist, and Therapist.

Revamping an Image: Iraq's Emergence from UN Chapter 7 Sanctions and the GOI

For the last six months I have watched, with great fascination and growing horror, the emergence of Iraq from chaos to forming a government. This once prosperous nation, 55% female, once had women politicians, chemists, computer programmers and university students. With the damage inflicted by war came a world that offered these women only a veil and a life lived largely indoors. I've read of a woman who heard her company was reopening. She reports that women many no longer safely go to the market alone, let alone to work. So her brother and father accompanied her to her former place of employment where she found herself no longer welcome and unemployed. They could not assure her safety so longer employed women. Nor would they allow this computer programmer to work from home. Her story seems fairly characteristic of what I've been reading. But these are not the stories of the headlines.

As the new government of Iraq has formed, I've read headlines and articles with great interest. One of my most frequented sources may be found here:|en. Very few women are a part of their newly formed parliament. And headlines regarding the Women's Ministry being headed by a man were quickly shoved aside for other headlines.

Interestingly, they published an average of about five articles a day about bombings, like the police officer who survived five attacks before three suicide bombers finally got to him. His story has been buried, like his broken body beneath the rubble of the soccer stadium that was converted to a police bunker, and I cannot find anything else about the incident. I grieve for the widow and four children whose stories have been silenced. Or other acts of terrorism throughout the country. Now the headlines, only three days later, have changed. Yesterday the ambassador of the Czech suggested, in the articles I read on multiple sites, that the Iraqi needed to take action to protect their image as acts of terrorism had greatly decreased. WTF???? So today a new article appears in the Iraqi news, entitled "The Low Number of Deaths in Iraq Prove that the Security Forces are Best Place to Fight Terrorism." Hmmmm... Don't think I'm buying this oasis in the desert. Today's headlines boast of captures of a weapons cache south of Baquba and the failure of two members of the Dawa Party, Diwaniya for a failed assassination. Or this just posted:

arrest 5 suspects in al-Bakr

. Meanwhile, the Chez ambassador says is quoted as saying [sic]: The Shuba that embassy “organizes from time to time, art exhibitions and cultural activities in the garden of the embassy called by the diplomats, foreigners and members of the diplomatic staff in Baghdad,” she that “this may impose some constraints and limits the presence of a wider audience for such cultural activities, which requires at its discretion extend farther by expanding the exchange of visits by cultural delegations between both countries, friendly countries." How is it that she cannot see that restricting the arts to an elitist few who are in positions of power and have lots of guns for protection, actually means that there is a serious problem?! I predict that future headlines will be similar as Iraq revamps its image (it is rumored that the news sites are owned by members of the government).

Very few Americans seem to be noticing this country's emergence beyond noting our soldiers returning home. Yet now seems a vital time to be mindful of change as it will affect every trip to the gas station and possibly more in the years to come. Iraq promises to be the leading producer of oil, outrunning Saudi Arabia if they can manage to keep the Kurds and the Shiites on board. Internal bickering and civil war has always kept that region turned inward. Unity may at last be coming, however, against their Western neighbors, as promised by their acceptance in the Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce. Americans will eventually notice, however, at the gas pumps. As Iraq nears reevaluating their currency, possibly as high or higher than prewar rates, the price of oil rises. Their budget written last summer was written with the expectation of $72 a barrel. Current prices are around $91; sufficient to meet the shortfall in the budget to be approved in January for 2011. It's predicted the $150 a gallon of the seventies will be commonplace within five years.

I'll leave you with the quote from the Iraqi news website:

Our agency is keen (INA) to put our visitors at the core event of the Iraqi daily, as it seeks a balanced coverage of events at all levels. Political, cultural, economic, sporting, social and round the clock, as well as everything that will put our people the true picture of the reality of Iraq .. We greet you and begin stayed for the day Thursday, 30/12/2010 With God's help.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pro Life is NOT Pro Woman

I've been reading THE W EFFECT: BUSH'S WAR ON WOMEN." While the book was published in 2004, nothing has changed. We are still withdrawing from Iraq. We are still at war in Afghanistan. Women still can't own their bodies, but are discouraged from seeking abortions they deem necessary. Federal funds still push abstinence over common sense and condoms (yeah, you can stop 16 year olds from having sex).  AIDs is still proliferating and killing because we refuse condoms to third world countries. And I was reminded a moment ago, as I checked my email, as to how dangerous it is becoming for women:

Soon-to-be speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner recently told an extreme anti-choice group that he "wanted to be the most pro-life speaker ever." And next week, 92 new anti-choice politicians will be sworn into the 112th Congress. We must be prepared for the avalanche of anti-choice legislation that we will face in Washington, D.C.

Quote taken from: "New Leaders In The House Say Life Is Their Choice," Deacon John's Space, December 15, 2010

Quote from Virginia Woolf

In her 1938 treatise Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf argued that as a woman, she had no reason to be patriotic:
"If you insist upon fighting to protect me, or 'our'country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are procure benefits which I have not fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On Faith: Washington Post's Question on Religion

“As voted by the Religion Newswriters Association’s members, among the year’s most consequential religion newsmakers were Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Pope Benedict XVI, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and the U.S. bishops. How would you have ranked them? Has their influence been harmful or constructive? What issue or person do you expect to have the biggest impact in the year to come?”

First the positive...I like the choice of Feisal Abdul Rauf. He condemned the attacks of 9/11 which inspired my own son's enlistment and current service in the Marines. He has worked hard to create peace and understanding between the Muslim world and the West. I doubt many Westerners, however, even know who he is. Moreover, I admire a man who speaks the truth. It's hard for an American to hear that we might be responsible for the some of the unrest in the world, "because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA." Tough to own responsibility. But look at our role in Iraq or Afghanistan which are obviously more politically motivated than humanitarian and I see his point.

Now my objections...

Are you kidding me??? We are naming conservative, hostile people as leaders in the faith community? What happened to the separation of church and state in this country anyway? Seems to me that GLBT issues and paganism are prime examples of other people's religious views legislating morality. Indeed, many of our founding fathers were actually what's now known as Unitarian Universalist. How many of these people have attended their Sunday morning services? Religion doesn't even necessarily appear to be a part of their service. Communication, discussion and respect is.

Pope Benedict XVI might do a lot of things right. But until we stop legislating morality and denying the world the choice and education to use birth control, people will continue to die of things like AIDS. Until the Pope and the Catholic Church promote birth control, I cannot see them as a positive influence. At the heart of the issue, for this feminist witch, is the need for women to have control over their own bodies. Otherwise, patriarchy controls them. And don't even get me started on the number of people in other countries we have harmed because we teach abstinence rather than common sense. Certainly handing out condoms may not suit many fundamentalists, but the cost to humanity needs to be evaluated.

Now, we all understand that the Pope has made insensitive and critical comments about Paganism and indigenous faiths...but Glenn Beck believes Pagans don't deserve the same protection under the Constitution as Christians. I have to wonder what he would say about someone like myself who walks a duel path of paganism/Christianity. I get half my rights? Beck incites the world rather than bringing it insight. Having looked over his books and listened to him on cable, his negativistic views are over the top.

Sarah Palin scares the bejesus out of me. She has a knack for surrounding herself with folks who know how to make her look good. Now she is going to have a TV reality show. What a lovely way to get oneself elected to office. Now everyone will feel as if they "know" her and trust her because they saw it on TV. Most of those viewers won't be troubled to look beneath the story to the core; to question, to investigate. Instead, entertainment will become fact. And yes, this means of marketing would scare the bejesus out of me regardless of who was being portrayed in a "reality" show and wants to run for office.

Now my joy...

U.S. Bishops: well, if that includes Gene Robinson, the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be ordained a bishop in a major Christian denomination, I'm all about it. He has made it possible for Cameron and I to hold our heads up and attend church. He has made it possible for our priests to support us. While it may well cause a split in the Episcopalian Church, his courage has inspired me. And I'm saddened he has decided to retire in 2013 because of the strain on him and his family due to the worldwide backlash he has faced. Episcopalians again showed their support for same-sex relationships last year by authorizing bishops to bless same-sex unions and by consecrating a lesbian, Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, since the SC dioces does not support homosexual unions, my own relationship with Cameron cannot be blessed in our own dioces.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Enlightened One!

Today is my youngest son's birthday. My relationship with my sons is a troubling thing. I love them both deeply, but I was never the mother I wanted to be for them. Too many marriages, too many divorces, too many layoffs, to much mental illness is the men I choose to share my life with. The damage shows in my relationship with my eldest son, who hasn't spoken to me since his brother got married two years ago. I've never held my grandson and my granddaughter doesn't know who I am. He says it is because I'm gay. But he's known Cameron many, many years and loves her dearly. I know he's internalized those years of damage. So Christmas, birthdays, etc are extremely problematic.

Nevertheless, the youngest son, whom I call The Enlightened One, is joy in my life. He has married  a woman who loves him as he deserves to be loved. Below is the email I sent him this evening:

24 years ago I was eager to have another baby. While my first son was absolutely beautiful, I looked forward to getting pregnant again. They say morning sickness is worst with the first child, so I figured I would be happily married, pregnant and joyful...

Well, I knew within two weeks of conception that I was pregnant. Within a month, I was morning sick. No, I was day and night sick. I averaged being sick 12 times a eldest child, age almost three, learned to empty my bucket...

I'm a type A personality, always going, always doing, worrying, restless. Drives Hannah crazy. But for nine months of my life I learned to lay on a couch and not experience emotion. Any emotion. If I was happy, I threw up, If I was sad, I threw up. If I smiled at Sesame Street, I threw up. The result? Zen A***...

The day of your birth, your dad and I went to see Brenda to get our hair done. Your dad still had enough hair for a curly perm! LOL The chemicals got me. I had actually not thrown up for two weeks. So I spent the afternoon laying on Brenda's bed behind the shop praying to survive the smell.

I called the Dr when we got home. He said I was trying to go into labor and told me to lay down. Kenny Roger's The Gambler was coming on TV that night and i wanted to see it. When the contractions started, I called the Dr. I informed him I would meet him at the emergency room after the movie. I sent your dad to take a shower (he thought I had lost my mind) because he wouldn't have another chance for awhile. He shaved while I got one.

Sure enough, movie ended and we headed to the hospital. I watched a little more TV, things got a little painful, we turned off the TV, I said a few choice comments to your dad, and you were born a few hours later.

You have never stopped being the blessing to my life that you were the moment they laid you on my stomach. Your dad had been waffling on your name (I chose Marcus' so I figured it was his turn), and he said A*** N***.

I love you son.

Reflections and Snow

Cypress was our first Christmas tree, purchased
six years ago. She was about 18 inches tall.
 She now towers at about twenty feet.
Just before Christmas, the clutch went out on my car. Now I knew the damn thing was going out and had been sending up daily prayers for months that it would hold until my income tax refund came in. So the very morning the speed trap got me at 4:30 in the morning on a deserted highway, I was stopped, and then I couldn't get the car over 45 the rest of the way to work. And once I made it home, AAA had to tow it to the shop. That speeding ticket and fine certainly have added insult to injury! My first ticket ever!

So I sent an email to the son who is still talking to me and told him that his present would be late. Not that he or his wife mind in the least. And Cameron and I agreed that one more Christmas would be without presents. Since she moved in six years ago, we've not really exchanged presents. I really object to Christmas occurring at the end of December. Why didn't they schedule it after taxes come back? Or the beginning of the semester when we have student loans?

Christmas Eve is always reserved for Cameron's parents. They've both made it to their eighth decade and are a delight. Every year they give us both the same kinds of gifts and the same number of gifts. This year we received really, really warm winter coats (have I mentioned that the heat is out in Cameron's car and we have had record cold temperatures?). 

Then we went to the Christmas Eve service at out church. Check out Cameron's blog for a much more eloquent account than I can give. I hugged Mother Linda's neck and thanked her for not giving up on us. I think the last service we attended was Christmas Eve last year. Yet I found gift cards for a grocery store in the area waiting in our mailbox last week from the church. Exactly what we needed!

I've been incredibly depressed this fall. Done with school, utter exhaustion has sapped me of drive, energy, creativity... Of course, my millionaire boss refusing pay raises and threatening to sell the clinic to a group that will deny us a raise for another year doesn't help. I owe about $250,000 in student loans to collect pee and not be able to afford my electric bill. No, I'm not bitter...

So sitting in sacred space, listening to the music, seeing the candles was a balm to my soul. And we reconnected with other goddess worshipers that we met at Goddess Fest two-three years ago! Who would have thought?  And South Carolina saw its first snow on Christmas since the 1960's. Don't laugh if you open my freezer. Cameron stuck a snow ball in there! 

So now I trudge toward another New Year, hoping the fruits of my labor will be more abundant in this coming year. Our grove has accepted our first student.  My transgender, lesbian identified wife adores me...and change is coming. I believe this year will be transformative!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Burn Out: Crispy Critter

I thought that once classes ended, I would return to a normal schedule and rejoin the world of the living. I had looked forward to writing in my blog more, as well as many more important activities. I had underestimated the effect of four years of graduate school, the practicum, and working from 5am - 1pm five days a week, with occasional Saturday mornings thrown in. I've actually been getting up at 3:45 for more than two years for this job. A few years prior to this job, I worked as a fast food restaurant manager also getting up at the same hours to drive 45 minutes to work. The years have taken their toll.

Of course, rather than taking a vacation this year, we started Designs by Dreamweaver. I used every vacation day driving to festivals, setting up and selling. I used every minute possible in between festivals creating more jewelry. I estimate I sold over 500 pendants this summer, in addition to about 100 other items. Given that the pendants are made of polymer clay and labor intensive, that's a lot of work for $8 each.

So here I am, graduated from our Marriage and Family Therapy program, a licensed intern, and awaiting change. Cameron and I are expecting huge changes in our lives soon. My plan? I've secured a volunteer position at Rape Crisis/Safe Homes in our town where I'll do 5 hours of therapy a week in exchange for supervision. If  I increase that to 15, it would be sufficient to meet licensure requirements. So if our investment pays off adequately, I dream of working there as a volunteer for a couple of years...with more dreams to be discussed later once Cameron graduates.

In the meantime, I am a crispy critter. I did not realize how burned out I was until I realized that the exhaustion should have lifted with the end of festivals -- and hasn't. Of course, work is also extremely stressful. Holidays intensify addictions. I've also been chronically sick, with every cold my clients bring me and the return of my dysthemia. And our boss sold the clinic -- if the sale goes through. Without the payoff of this investment, it'll be a long time until I get time for a vacation. I'm due to gain two weeks Feb 2. That's when the new owners are supposed to take over -- I'll earn 4.8 hours paid time off per pay period with the sale. So much for the vacation!

So with all that I am, I am sending a call to the universe that our dream might be realized, that Cameron and I might have the financial means to fulfill our callings. I vow to sleep, rest, and serve until I am wholly healed, mind, body and spirit.

Blessed be.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

As the long hot summer draws to the end...and the wheel turns

Wow! What a year it has been. I knew my life would change when I began the practicum for Marriage and Family Therapy and accepted the promotion at work to Substance Abuse Counselor the same week. I didn't know that I would scarcely have time to breath, that I would counsel my first transgender client, that I would love and play and work this hard. And in the midst of it all, we started our small business Designs by Dreamweaver. We attended about a dozen festivals, sold almost everything we made, and still had to have a little help to make ends meet. Nevertheless, I'm preparing for the licensure exam at the end of the month, followed by our last festival. I feel like I have been tempered by fire.

Hopefully, once the licensure exam is completed, I'll have time this winter for more reflection, journaling and introspection. And reading everyone else's thoughts, too.

Blessed be.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Festivals...on the road with Designs by Dreamweaver

It had been my intention to create a blog entry following each festival, but graduation, applying for taking the board exams, and all of life's little crisis have gotten in the way. So I'll do my best to share a few pictures and comments on our experiences. For folks crazy enough to think about vending, these entries will at least give you a feel for what you should expect. I'll probably enlist Cameron's story telling as well. But since she's now fully immersed in sanding and buffing pendants, it seems only appropriate to give her the space to write as well!

We had a fabulous time at the Fabulous Forth in Columbus, NC. Perhaps the greatest grace, besides excellent sales and a lot of fun, was the fact that our art was truly appreciated. Folks there valued the work that goes into creating pendants for our table. It was a wonderfully organized festival - they had trash cans down the middle of the street at regular intervals with boxes for recycling; the only event we've seen that did that. They had virtually no litter at the end of the event!

We did have the privilege of being stuck with a tent on the right hosted by a local Baptist church, and on the left were the Shriners with their fancy little cars. I say "stuck", because the Baptists were blowing up helium balloons for the kids, so on the right we had these sound effects - *FWEEEEEEP* with an occasional *BLAM* when a balloon popped. On the left, the Shriners were letting the kids honk the horns on their show cars - *AHHH-OOOOOOGAH!* So all day long it was *FWEEEEEP-AH-HOOOOOOGAH*, *FWEEEEEP-AH-HOOOOOOGAH*,*FWEEEEEP-AH-HOOOOOOGAH*, with the occasional *BLAM* thrown in. Cameron developed a nasty twitch and may require therapy... The weather was excellent, as it was still early in the season, and not too hot - also we were into the edge of the North Carolina mountains and the elevation also meant it was cooler.

We each bought watermelon for the other on the sly and had a great laugh over that! One sale we remember in particular was to a lovely older woman dressed elegantly in a pink outfit. She spotted one of Dreamweaver's polymer clay necklace creations (priced at $45.00) and it was a perfect match for her beautiful attire. She stood there awhile and tried to talk herself out of the purchase, but she had clearly fallen in love with it at first sight, and it truly fit her as though it had been specifically designed for her. She of course, bought it and went off very happy!

We also saw a magnificent parrot riding around on a man's shoulder that preened at all the attention it gathered. Another wonderful encounter was a group of very talented young people who were in a local theater troupe who were all wearing shirts advertising their latest production - "Aida". When we talked to them about it, it turns out that this was the Elton John/Tim Rice version of the opera (Cameron has seen Verdi's version). We were invited to come see their show later in the week, but our schedules made it impossible, alas! These kids pounced on Dreamweaver's earing selection and about bought it out, which was great fun! The Fabulous Fourth ended with - what else? - a fabulous firework display which was glorious! Then, very late at night, we packed up and drove home, happy and exhausted.

Our next event, however, was - um - challenging. We went to the Gaffney SC Peach Festival, a few weeks later with high expectations. Its the largest Peach festival in the state, with festival locations all over the town for 2 days. We were signed up for both Friday and Saturday and discovered that a crucial alteration was to have extreme effect on us. The past years, the Peach Festival had the arts and crafts section located indoors in a building. This year, for some reason, they had moved the Arts and crafts section outside. This proved to be unfortunate.

We arrived to find chaos already there ahead of us, as there had been a mistake in measuring out the 10x10 booth areas. They were hastily rearranging vendor locations to fit and we wound up around a far bend, in the sun, just past the shade trees...darn it! Oh well. We got the tent up, and Cameron ran an errand for extra drinks and lunch supplies, while Dreamweaver set up the tables. When Cameron returned,sales were brisk and things were looking good....until Cameron peered around the back of the tent and saw THE CLOUD.

Hastily, she informed Dreamweaver that we had better batten down the hatches because a bad storm was coming. However, all Dreamweaver could see was a bright sunny day out the front of the tent, so she assured Cameron that it would be OK to continue a little longer. After a couple of repetitions of this, Cameron finally asked Dreamweaver to look around back, because The Cloud was now a green-black wall of thunder and lightening taking up most of the sky behind us, where upon Dreamweaver's eyes bugged out and we began dropping the tent flaps and pulling in the merchandise! We almost didn't make it!

The howling maelstrom struck moments later and we tell you folks, given that there was some cloud rotation, 60 mile per hour winds, hail and continues lightening, thunder and a solid wall of water out there, it was as close as we EVER want to come to sitting out a tornado in a tent! We had discovered moments before that the zipper on the front tent flaps had broken, so Cameron valiantly grabbed the two front flaps and held them together, and was swiftly soaked through from head to toe. Dreamweaver was inside the tent hanging on to the frame, that despite being pegged firmly into the ground, kept lifting off. Without Dreamweaver hanging on for all she was worth, the tent would have flipped.

At one point a large crash heralded the large double tent two spaces down from us being hurled across the road, smashing and scattering merchandise everywhere - several other vendors suffered the same fate. But the worst was yet to come...the water began to rise. With appalling lack of foresight, the festival planers had placed us in a field with no drainage...and we were at the low point. Helplessly, we watched the water flow into the tent and steadily rise until we were standing in a foot of water that would not drain away! So there stood Dreamweaver, knee deep in water, clinging to the shaking tent frame, and she finally yelled at the raging storm "You can't have it, its MY tent!!!" Several vendors sheltering desperately under another tent near by heard her and broke up in sympathetic laughter.

The storm finally past, but the flood did not. Cameron hiked down to the entry gate to find help and discovered that the woman in charge of the festival had run home briefly on an unavoidable errand, and was not there. She arrived moments later, horrified at the damage and havoc, for there had been no storm when she had left. Upon hearing of our plight, she immediately followed Cameron back over and froze in appalled shock at our tent and area which was now mired in a foot deep lake of muddy water.

She immediately let us choose another spot across the road on higher ground and sent down four enthusiastic strong teenagers to help us move across the way. We are very grateful for the assistance we were so promptly given! (Cameron had a traumatic moment when it was discovered we were once again next to the Shriners! AH-OOOOOGAH!) We got everything moved, locked it down and went home (we were only a little over an hour from where we lived) and changed out of our soaking wet clothing - Cameron literally looked like she had been submerged - showered, got a warm meal in our bellies and came back.

In our absence, another storm rolled through, but our tent weathered it all right, thank God! At this point, there were no customers, as they had fled the storms, and it was growing dark. We have a generator - many thanks to Cameron's electrical engineer of a brother who procured it for us! - so we had lights set up to vend at night. However, that was when we spotted our second serious draw back. The huge field we were set up in had the rides, the music stage and the barbecue area all at one end....and the arts and crafts at the far end away from everything.

Separated as we were from the rest of the event, there was no pedestrian traffic flow our way, and no lighting, so our end of the field was dark. We had lighting - but we were isolated and did not have another customer that night.

The next morning we returned and discovered a new problem...there had been conflicting times given for the opening and closing of the festival. The vendors had been told one time frame, but the public had been told another - if we had known the officially listed times were 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, only four hours - we would probably not have anted up to go to this event. So we sat there with virtually no customers yet again for 2 - 3 hours, before the crowd finally began to trickle by.

At this point, thouragly alarmed by non-existent sales, we began running our sales pitch with a vengeance, It paid off to some extent. We made the (rather higher) cost of the festival plus expenses back, with some small profit. Most of the other vendors were not as woman only made $80.00 dollars combined total for the two days of the festival, which as she was from Tennessee, was a severe loss.

Most vendors there either took a loss, or barely broke even...we were very lucky! At this point, unless we hear that the Peach Festival has moved the Arts and Crafts back into an indoor venue, we will not be returning to this festival!

And then this last weekend, we were in Little Mountain SC for the Reunion Festival and it was fantastic! We had fairly good sales, we met many wonderful new friends, both other vendors and customers, heard great music, and even got some beer - Cameron immediately became the designated driver, but we truly didn't drink that much...and in that heat, it sweated out again immediately anyway!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On the Road with Designs by Dreamweaver: Newry and Trenton

My small business venture is a huge success despite the challenges! The latest challenge occurred two weeks ago, just before we went to a festival, when I realized that the finish I had been using was not trustworthy. I had researched and learned that Varathane and Future floor polish were good on polymer pendants. The only Varathane in the area came by the gallon at $40, but Minwax had a similar product that was $10 for a small amount. I've been using it on all my pendants and beads. Then I learned the hard way that it doesn't work, despite the recommendations on the internet. So I pulled everything on the table (if anyone reading this has a problem, please contact me!!!).  I had two weeks to get enough product on the table to go to festival. Shesh. So I concentrated on pendants, creating about 50 and sanding another 25 before using my new Varanthane. I pulled all necklaces with polymer beads, and only had about four replacements on the table -- but those sell better at Etsy (even when I deliver in person -- the sales number on the site is deceptive).  

I'm pleased to say we visited Newry, SC two weeks for their mill festival. An unincorporated township, they are in Wikipedia but not my GPS! No gas station, nor Wal-mart, but they do have a post office and a population of 52 in the 2000 census. We met a lot of art lovers, however, who truly appreciated our work, and sold five of my handcrafted polymer pendants. They also seemed to appreciate the murano style glass and danglingly earrings from Peru (a real boon since they had only arrived the day before - the lady at the table next to me was selling the same thing for more than twice what I asked). 

We didn't even have time to take pictures, so this picture of the mill, where they offered tours, is courtesy of Wikipedia. The mill has been sold to a development company who plans to invest $11 million to convert it to apartments. We were set up on the main street and the kind people in the house behind us provided me with electricity for my fan. We were impressed with both the music and the hospitality, and plan to attend next year's festival as well. 

Last weekend we got up at 3:45 to drive to Trenton, SC, returning home at 3 the following morning (why didn't we do this when we were in our twenties?). We had a terrific time, located near the bandstand, enjoying local talent. We were entertained by an Elvis impersonator, fabulous local musical talent and dance. 

We had a great reception, once again finding that low prices got us quite a few customers. It's tough watching my pendants, which I spend a great deal of time designing, creating, sanding through three grits, buffing and polishing selling for $5. 

But they do sell! They still don't sell as quickly as the glass, but I'm working on the process and think as the glass becomes a passing fad, their popularity will increase. 

I've also employed the resident artist in more than running the buffing wheel. When we were at Newry, a lovely lady I'll call Miss Betty described her family's life around the mill. Five generations they lived in Newry and worked at the mill. She was looking for a humming bird for her sister for Christmas. When I got home, I put her to work painting. Imagine a mural artist with a tiny pendant! LOL She said she needed a smaller brush! 
I liked the results so much, I asked for a few more and sold three at work. These are priced between $15 and $22. 

I'm not satisfied with the pictures of the pendants I created, so I'll post them next time. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sold! Black and Gold Murano Star Necklace

Because every necklace has a story...

I was busily typing notes for a wonderful woman with whom I often barter services. In the midst of the job, she reenters the room and says, "I love the star necklace on your website. If it does not sell, I'd love to barter for it!" At that point, her wonderful partner cries out "Sold!" And orders my employer to leave the room. "I just got paid, and what I do I owe you?" Smart like a fox, I ask, "Do you want matching earrings, too?" The picture is the happy result.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On the Road with Dreamweaver and other Musings

It's been a long time since I've written in this blog. To catch up, on fast forward, Cameron and I have both graduated. Cameron's applying to grad school school, but is temporarily in a holding pattern. I am officially done, but graduation isn't until August. Since student loads have paid mortgage and lot rent for three and a half years, and we didn't expect the lag time for Cameron's acceptance into grad school, we've been suddenly thrust into overdrive. 

So in addition to working full time and finishing grad school, I've been devoting every spare moment to jewelry making. I work 5 am to 1 pm, Monday through Friday with occasional three hour stints early Saturday mornings. So I would get off work after trying to work in homework where I could, and rush home to the studio. The result has been amazing. I've done great work, if I do say so myself, and have had a wonderful time at various venues showing off. I created wonderful puzzle piece necklaces, inspired by a dream, and thought they would be perfect for Murrell's Inlet. But since I'm so far behind blogging, I'll start with the Myrtle Beach trip several weeks ago.

Immediately following Cameron's extremely successful senior show (he sold a fabulous painting for $1,000!), we went to the Blessing of the Inlet at Murrell's Inlet in the Myrtle Beach area. We had a wonderful time there, learned a lot, and met terrific people. We had been very excited about this opportunity to vend. Last winter, Cameron found the ad in a local paper looking for artists/craftsmen. The first rule was that all items had to be hand crafted by the exhibitor. No reselling of items, representing someone else's work, no kits, etc. Since I not only design jewelry but create much of it from polymer clay, I was certain I would be successful. I submitted a portfolio and was accepted. When we arrived I was surprised by the number of jewelry vendors, since the application stated people would be turned down if too many representatives of any one type of item applied. Nevertheless, I liked the vendors surrounding us, especially Carol from Connecticut who vends gorgeous dichrolic glass. 

Shortly after the festival began, I sent Cameron out to case the competition. He came back rather alarmed at the breach of the clearly specified rules. Cameron stated that a group of four had ten tables and three tents in the center of entrance. As soon as patrons approached, they saw this booth of Murano style glass pendants. No decoration to the tents. Just poster board prices, ribbons, and glass. Cameron even walked up and asked which of them was the artist an the lady just kind of sputtered. Another woman overhead, and walked over bold as brass, proclaiming, "Both of us." Since I have a couple of identical pieces beaded into necklaces on my table, we all know she lied.

My neighbor Carol didn't sell a thing all day. She said she's vended for 22 years and never had that experience before. I sold three necklaces, only earning the cost of the festival (add camping for two days and gas money and I lost $200). Turns out, the pendant people had been in my very spot last year and were the only ones to have a successful day. (Carol and several others were new to the festival, like me). The hosts are aware, but tolerate the fiction in order to fill vending spaces. Carol told me that up until 5-10 years ago, vending was extremely lucrative. If you spent $30 for a spot, you averaged $300 in profit. As costs have increased, standards have decreased. Rules are ignored to fill spaces as older vendors stop vending. Newer folks making smaller profits and sometimes break the rules to be able to come out ahead.

Certainly, many festival do enforce their rules. But smaller ones, maybe not. The more I talk with other vendors, the more I hear about declining income, desperation, and necessity. I knew I to get a new plan...more on that in the next blog. Despite our bitter disappointment, we still had a lot of fun. The day was beautiful, the smell of salt water enticing. We had a steady breeze and later I used a napkin to wipe my face -- it came awake entirely blackened! Silt was everywhere. The music on stage was also off key all day. A comment form passed to the vendors became my opportunity to clearly explain why I wold not be back. But we stayed cheerful, had a wonderful fish dinner at the local eatery, and spent the next morning sitting on the beach.

The following day we headed to Brookgreen Gardens, a treat we have discussed for years. As an English Major with a minor in Art History, I discovered a little known sculptor by the name of Paul Manship. I wrote several papers on his work having seen it in the Dixon Art Gallery in Memphis, TN. Many years ago I told Cameron about him, and he was enchanted. I shared by museum book of his work, and he was stunned. He had seen several of Manship's work, those marked location unknown, in Brookgreen! 

There are no words for the wonder of the experience of Brookgreen Gardens. We arrived at the height of the spring flowers. The walk around the gardens, the heady scent of spring blooms, and the wonder of the art soothed our much wounded souls. I hadn't sold a single puzzle piece necklace, although I must have head a hundred compliments on them, and was bitterly disappointed. As I stood beneath Manship's sundial, I cried in wonder. It had stood at the gates of the 1939 World's Fair and was considered to be the world's largest sundial. 

Then we found the piece from the cover of the gallery book I had shared with Cameron, and I gaped. Diana about to turn the pursuing man into a stag. The detail was staggering. The enameled eyes Manship was famous for still glisten at the viewer with hidden knowledge. Every moment of the trip suddenly was worth that moment of standing in the hot sun, gazing at the works of a man who had inspired by my love of art history. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Symposium Blues

Two years ago Cameron and I attended the Bodies of Knowledge Symposium hosted at USC Upstate. It was a transformative experience for both of us. We met new friends who have become very dear over the subsequent two years. We shared a meal at the same table as Helen Boyd, the author of MY HUSBAND, BETTY and SHE’S NOT THE MAN I MARRIED. (She’s the only person who has ever noted the matching rings Cameron and I wear.) Cameron and I had just begun exploring gender and her transgendered diagnosis. Unfortunately, we could not attend last year. The organizer had mentioned it would be more of an opportunity for students to present papers and she wasn’t arranging it on such a high level while finishing her quest for tenure. As a result of such a positive first experience, I had high hopes for this symposium, especially considering the guest speaker, Bear Bergman, author of BUTCH IS A NOUN and THE NEAREST EXIT MAY BE BEHIND YOU.

I was deeply disappointed. Perhaps because music has become so interwoven in Queer/GLBT issues, a transman rap performer was invited, which was excellent. The DJ and constant bombardment of ‘90s music was not so excellent. In fact, for my hearing impaired wife, it was torturous. Her hearing aids do not discern conversation from music under such circumstances, which reduced her to smiling and feeling rather foolish. I was not doing much better as I fail to hear the space between the words in loud music and end up hearing a blur of loud sound that I cannot parse. A couple of requests for reduced volume were entirely ignored.

An incident occuring there was incredibly jarring for me. I came to realize that transmen were accorded great respect and perceived of as sexy and hot. The transwoman present got a very cool reception and the constant bombardment of the same question, “No, really, what is your name?”

Bear writes of the problem in THE NEAREST EXIT MAY BE BEHIND YOU. Apparently heteronormative folks have no qualms in asking very personal, very intimate questions of transpeople, expecting answers simply because they curious. Indeed, Heteronormative people seem to project an attitude of entitlement to answers, and an expectation that the transperson should be happy to comply, even though they would never answer such intimate questions themselves. Moreover, there seems to be an innate drive to “peak under the napkin” to see what genitalia the person “really” has and a drive to know their “real” name. The heteronormative paradigm simply does not have space for difference or other.

So I pose this question. Suppose I put on a plaid shirt and baggy jeans, leaving my purse at home and put my wallet in my back pocket. And suppose I had neatly printed “George” on my name tag. I wonder what might have happened? I’m not a slender twenty something with long black hair to belie the masculine dress and presentation. I would simply be one more transperson whose body will never conform to societal expectations of the gender role I would be assuming. And because I’m older, obviously female in body build, would that room full of people insisted on reading my name tag as “Georgia” instead?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Go Team!

The challenge: Capture the team spirit that my daughter embodies. Please create a tiger paw necklace using orange, purple and white. My sixteen-year-old daughter loves the design and wear anything thematic.

The answer: rich purple glass beads and seed beads compliment this custom polymer clay pendant and matching purple, orange and white beads. Finished with an extension chain and a tiny star.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

My Friend's Son

Because every necklace has a story...

I adore commission work. It didn't take long for friends, family and coworkers to begin buying necklaces for their loved ones, for secret Santa, or for themselves. But this story probably touches me the deepest.

I have a friend who made hard but wise decisions many years ago. Despite the pain in her heart, she has been separated from her son for a great many years. Now an adult, they recently established contact. Viewing his picture on Facebook, she saw that he wears "guy jewelry" and commissioned this piece. She envision black and silver, giving me creative license to interpret it my way.

This is the result.

Stained Glass Murano Heart

Because every necklace has a story…

Many years ago, I minored in Art History. I loved studying the Gothic period with its marvelous cathedrals and stained glass windows. When I happened upon this heart, echoes of that rich glass letting in the light of heaven compelled me to obtain it. Now I invite you to share that rich spiritual light that fills the heart.

Swirls of gold and silver foil compliment the swirls of red and purple in this stunning necklace. I have added Swarovski crystals and lampwork beads, as well as other elegant glass beads to compliment this heart. The silver seed beads create an illusion of a silver chain without the weight and will never tarnish.

Necklace is 20 inches long and the heart with bale is approximately 1 5/8 inches.

Featured at: Designs by Dreamweaver: Hand Beaded Art

Monday, February 22, 2010

Because Every Necklace Has a Story ...

It's also great to here the stories of what compel people to buy my art. Mel from MI tells me that she has a sister in Easley, SC. When she saw my abalone shell post to Etsy, she purchased in within five minutes of posting. Living near Greenville, the location caught her attention. She says she loves her purchase.

Getting folks to look may be one the greatest challenges I face. People constantly tell me that they love my work, requesting a necklace for themselves or a loved one. Most come back asking for several more. A friend even asked if I would create a dog necklace for her beloved pet. What a delightful challenge!

A work friend, Criss, bought a T-Shirt necklace for her daughter's birthday this weekend after she admired Criss' necklace over the holidays. Criss recounted the phone call word for word this morning. How delightful to hear something so small brought so much joy!

My "adopted" daughter, the daughter of my sister-of-my-heart, got her income tax refund this weekend and promptly bought four necklaces she's been keeping an eye on. Then she requested another, "more mannish" creation, for a friend jealous of her new Celtic Cross necklace.

And yes, every necklace is unique. I never made exactly the same thing twice. What's the fun in that?

And yes, the gorgeous necklaces featured here were listed on Etsy this weekend!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Words Hold Power: Gay vs Homosexual

I've never liked the word homosexual, and have never used it to describe myself. Gay or lesbian suit me just fine. Gay rights. That sounds good. Homosexual rights sounds like a psychotic feature out of the DSM. Apparently a lot of people agree with me. I just found this interesting article on the Care2 website.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I lost Thor several months ago, but I found this glorious picture of him and had to post it! I miss you, beautiful fur child.