Luckily a Picture is Worth 1000 Words

because even though I have lots of blog post topics in my head, and even in draft mode hidden here on the blog, my words are not flowing at ALL.  Everything I write sounds like blah blah blah blahblahblah (think Charlie Brown's teacher...) So, you get thousands of words through photos (and a few words from photo captions).
Electroforming Set-up
I dug my electroforming supplies out from the back of the cabinet and dusted them off for a top secret project I will reveal this weekend because you never know who might be reading.
  [caption id="attachment_600" align="aligncenter" width="442" caption="My little performer. This was how I spent 14 hours of my mother's day. Her dancing has improved so dramatically this year, they considered putting her on the master's competition team for next year which is made up mostly of 16-18 year olds. She's 9."]Clowns Dance Production Mother's Day Competition[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_601" align="aligncenter" width="442" caption="I wouldn't let hubs treat the dandelions this year because all the honey bees are starving to death (although he did ultimately treat the lawn cuz he couldn't take it). Add rain and busy schedules, and this is what our yard looked like a couple weeks ago. Notice the neighbor's perfect lawn in the background? And the cardinal (that I didn't see when I snapped the pic) enjoying the perfect lawn? Seriously? That neighbor is outside almost every single day, shirtless, mowing his lawn. I bet he HATES living next to us. Bwahaha!"]Dandelions and Cardinal in the grass[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_602" align="aligncenter" width="432" caption="We love this tree, but it's barely hanging on. Only about 1/3 of the branches flower and get leaves. But WOW...look at those flowers "]Dogwood Tree Blossoms[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_603" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Celebrated our son's 13th birthday this month. I made this giant ice cream cake and frosted it with a cool whip cream cheese frosting. It was delicious and there was only a sliver left at the end of the party. Bummer"]Ice Cream Cake[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_604" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="My nephews came over to play for a couple hours. Within minutes the noise canceling headphones made the youngest into a storm trooper and the bubble wands became light sabers. I think our dog (Nim) was the Wookie. "]Backyard Star Wars[/caption]

What do you get when you combine Middle School Students, Metal, Acid, and Fire?

You get lots of really cool pieces of metal for making into jewelry and have fun in the process:

Middle School student firing metal with mini butane torch Middle School student firing metal with mini butane torch Middle School student firing metal with mini butane torch   For the last 2 Fridays, I have been teaching metal etching and firing. This week we will be creating jewelry with the metal. Because of how the class is set up, I may not have the same students every single week. I don't want anyone to not be able to play along because they missed one or both of the weeks. So I have been creating extras of everything in addition to the samples I create in class. Here are a few of the samples I've made that haven't been claimed by students yet: Etched and fired metal I made this one because I am anticipating our trip to Ireland/London/possibly Paris this summer: Etched and fired metal This one is my favorite that I've made so far. I was secretly hoping none of the students would use it: Etched and fired metal Etched and fired metal   I etched this particular piece of metal and one of the students who missed the first class got to use the torch on it and It turned out so awesome! Etched and fired metal   I am so proud of the work these kids are doing. They are seriously rocking it out. I am hoping we will have enough time to get projects completed in the final hour long class we have together. Eek!

The Art of Action and an Interview with Tara Gentile

 Science of Making Big Stuff Happen   Have you ever read the Scoutie Girl or Tara Gentile blogs? If not, and you are a person who creates or is trying to run a business based on being a creator of something...anything, really....these blogs are for you. I am not kidding when I look at my blog feed, see something Tara has written, click on it and her topic for that day is like she was reading my mind. It's scary and awesome all at the same time. So when she opened registration for her course, The Art of Action, I signed up immediately. Yes, it cost more than any online class I've taken before. However, it is less expensive than taking a college class, traveling to and paying for a workshop (if she were to offer that option), and MUCH less expensive than sitting and spinning my wheels for weeks, months, or even years on end. The Art of Action is also so much more than a class. Not only do you get podcasts with inspirational and practical information from Tara, but you also get accompanying worksheets to reveal more about yourself, your goals, and how to take action on those goals, and so much more than you ever thought possible. Also, Tara does interviews (some are video, some are podcast) with some mega mover shaker types of women, a weekly coaching call where you can talk directly to Tara to ask your specific questions (you can also listen in on the computer or, if you can't make it, listen to the recording later). One last detail included in the class is a forum...or community of those taking the class with you. This particular feature, which I completely underestimated, really added so much more value to the class and to my personal journey of taking action. Tara also spent time in the community answering questions and adding comments or WhooHOOs. How has The Art of Action helped me personally? I am not sure I can give an in depth answer to that question... One visible action I've taken (and it was a very scary thing for me!) is moving my blog from blogger to (thanks to my awesome friend Robin doing all the hard work!). Some in-process actions that will not be visible for a little while or perhaps never include things like writing a free e-book, I've submitted a design to do a tutorial for in a magazine, working with a professional photographer to submit a design or two to a book, I have a short action list every single day to keep me focused. There are benefits which are not visible to anyone....a shift in my thinking process and how I view tasks which seem like mountains or goals which seem impossible. Do I recommend this class? Absolutely. It was worth every penny and then some. Do you have to have a business to benefit? Absolutely not. Registration is currently open for a new session of The Art of Action and when it closes, it will not run again until October. Also, due to the added benefit of personal coaching, there are a limited number of spots. When I decided I wanted to write a review of my experience with taking The Art of Action during the current registration, I asked Tara if she would be willing to do an interview. I was thrilled when she agreed. Tara is someone I see as a role model, so it's totally awesome when a person you look up to, a person who is incredibly busy, takes time to do an interview. Enjoy what she has to say about The Art of Action, click on the link, read what else she has to say about it and see some sample materials. At the end of the interview, Tara is offering a sweet deal you should take definitely take advantage of. How was the The Art of Action e-course born? The Art of Action was born out of a pretty simple question, "How do you do it?" I get that question in emails at least a few times per week. I wanted to give an answer that wasn't just an explanation but a game plan for repeating my own peculiar kind of productivity. So I started writing more on the topic, asking questions myself, and digging into the problems & difficulties others have in "producing." What I learned is that it's not only getting to the end of a project that's a problem, but that there is fear in starting, difficulty in finding your own motivation, and    anxiety around the idea of success. My goal with The Art of Action is to provide a real coaching environment for my students - so they are not only learning but producing & creating as part of the process. After teaching the first session, what important things did you learn? My main concern with eliminating perfectionism as a barrier to productivity has always been about getting people finish what they start. But what I learned in the first session of this program is that there is another barrier that perfectionism creates and that is a barrier to even beginning a project. We get hung up on wanting to have everything just right, to understand all the contingencies, to have the perfect idea. That's not being thorough - it's being unrealistic. You'll never start if you wait to have those things in place. So you have to start when you have no idea what you're doing and trust that you will be open to learning as your work & produce! What was the biggest surprise? I've been teaching online for a while now and I'm used to the way groups of people bond quickly. But I was really surprised at the way the participants created a support network for themselves. Inside of our course forum, they were cheering each other on. Outside of the course forum, they were connecting, promoting, and creating with other participants. It was beautiful & so inspiring! What was your favorite part about teaching The Art of Action the first time around? My favorite part was seeing all the amazing results come into focus. Participants created new blogs, rebranded their businesses, developed new marketing plans, mobilized Kickstart projects, and got their art into new galleries. Every time someone had something to announce, I gasped! I also really loved how participants weren't afraid to expand on their original goals. The further we got into the work, the more possibilities opened up. The possibilities turned into results & tangible ideas. Being a part of the flow was thrilling. What will be different or better for this session? I think what will be better is that I understand that the environment I'm creating with the program is not just another "course." It's not information you just take in and learn from. This program is very much like hiring me as a coach. I'm going to hold you accountable, ask you hard questions, and demand some good answers! This time around, I'm going to be even more mindful of approaching it as a coach as much as I approach it as a teacher.   And what is this super awesome sweet deal Tara is offering? A FREE live preview of The Art of Action. This will be your opportunity to listen to Tara, ask questions, and more without paying a single penny. Plus, the first 5 people to sign up after the call are going to get a FREE personal coaching session with Tara. That offer makes the class an even better deal. I'm kinda jealous.... All you  need to do to get this free preview is click the link to go to The Art of Action, then on the right hand side is a a box that says "A word from Tara" with a personal message from Tara and the link to the free preview below it. Click that link, sign up for the details, and you're in! The free live preview is on May 11, only two days from now, so there is definitely a limited amount of time to take advantage of the free preview. If you're interested, take action now before you forget about it during your busy day.

Organize Your Life (and your family's too!)

I think Google Calendar is the best thing EVER! I have it set up so my husband, my son, or I can add or subtract things off the same calendar. It's installed on my cel phone, hub's cel phone (both of which are Droid X), and my son's iPod touch. All devices plus the actual Google calendar on the internet all sync at the same time without connecting anything to anything else and they sync immediately so nothing is ever out of date.

Half Marathon? Check!

We did it! Hubs and I both finished the half marathon and neither of us died. In spite of the impending run, and the feeling of our legs being beaten with a baseball bat after the run, it was a very fun weekend. Some highlights and lessons:
-research what you will need to take with you during that 13.1 mile run. I was just going to wing it (aka-be "surprised" by the entire experience). If my sister in law Rebecca hadn't mentioned some of the things she does before a race and during a race, I would have been screwed. So, thanks Rebecca!
-hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, then hydrate some more.
-visit the convention center to pick up all the gear you didn't pick up before hand because you were just going to be "surprised" by what happens during the marathon. (I got energy gel packs that were very...thick, knee high compression sleeves, and a belt with water resistant pouch to carry phone, ipod, money, id)
-visit the starting line the day before the race so you know exactly where it is and that there are enough port-a-potties:
Port a potties as far as the eye can see
-do not walk for hours the day before the race. Oops. We were too busy having fun and living the experience. -set everything out the night before and pack the pouch with everything you are taking with you -eat high carb meal the night before. -get up 2 hours before the start of the race, chug bottle of Gatorade and eat a high fiber, high protein energy bar. People, I was paranoid of puking or peeing the entire time. That's why I was up at 4:30am. -stay at a hotel within walking distance of start/finish line so there is no commute or finding a parking spot. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="The view of the Ohio River and downtown Cincinnati, taken with my cel phone. "]View from Millenium Hotel Cincinnati[/caption] -stay at a hotel that has a table piled high with bananas and water bottles for the runners streaming out of the hotel at 5:45am I grabbed a banana, started to peel it on the walk to the race and was thinking to myself "Do I REALLY want to eat this? My stomach feels full still" and at that exact moment, we were passing a man holding a Homeless sign. Without even thinking about it, I went up to him, asked if he wanted my banana. He took it from me and I walked away. I felt kind of bad about giving him a banana I had started to peel (no bites taken though). However, he yelled thank you several times as I walked away. Even though it is easy to be cynical and think poorly of people who beg, clearly he needed that banana more than I if he was that appreciative of it. -wear a "throw away" sweatshirt that is old or even from Good Will. They collect them and donate them. It started raining right after we got to the starting line, so I ditched mine right there by laying it on the fence. Being wet, it would have made me colder than not wearing it. -Pace yourself no matter how fast others are going. -Enjoy the scenery -Enjoy the entertainment being provided. -Take a small sip of water or Gatorade at every water break. -Stopping to walk in the middle makes you feel WORSE than just pushing through...even if it's a very slow jog -when your right calf cramps up just before mile 12, massage the cramp. Do not try to stretch it out. -use the downhill portions to make up the lost time for the steep 3 mile long uphill portions. -no matter how tired and in pain, pick up the pace for the last quarter mile and finish strong. -get cool medal.

Flying Pig Half Marathon Medal

-pick a half marathon that the medal is just as cool on the back as on the front: Flying Pig Half Marathon Medal Back Side -be glad you stayed at a hotel within a few blocks so the direct route is blocked off and you get an extra long cool down walk hobble back to the room. -running 8 miles during training will not guarantee you will have worked out all the kinks in the clothing you choose to wear for 13.1 miles. Let's just say my sports bra did not work out as well for the longer distance and I have two sores along the edge of the bra to prove it. -Enjoy the entire experience, the good and the bad. -Start planning next half marathon.

I'll Run a Half Marathon When Pigs Fly

January 23, 2011 And apparently they will be flying this coming Sunday at 6:30am. Two impossibilities in one morning! #1: getting up by 5am (psst! Not a morning person!) #2: running/walking a half marathon. Why the Flying Pig? Because my husband received a pig valve to replace his very stenotic aortic valve in his heart last November. So now anything having to do with pigs... We will be spending quality time together in Cincinnati this weekend while my awesome mom hangs out with the monsters and the zoo. I will not be blogging from the road. Sorry. Please take a few minutes to sign up for the charm exchange. I am extending the sign ups until Monday when I get back. I will not be emailing anything until then either. Have an above average weekend.

Bead Table Wednesday: The Blog Slacker Edition

Remember me? I'm the one who writes this blog. As you can see, I've been making changes. Big changes. Little changes. The most obvious change is my blog. My wonderful, awesome, couldn't have done this without her, friend Robin Koza got my Blogger content moved to and all my "followers" and my feed and all kinds of stuff that I didn't think could make the move. Plus, she restored all the buttons I somehow deleted without trying. Of course, I somehow managed to delete most of them again, but I can find them now and have the code saved to put them back in place when I have time. Let's chat about time for a minute. There is still time to sign up for the charm exchange. Why should you sign up? Because you will get a charm back from each person in your group. Not a good enough reason? Does the fact that the extra charm you send in will be placed into a group with all the other charms to be auctioned off for Beads of Courage entice you? How about the theme of "play" for the charms? How about because I asked nicely? LOL! On to the real reason you are see the disaster I made today. But first, a backstory. A common thread in what I want to do when I grow up is to teach, but not in the traditional model of elementary school teacher. I enjoy teaching. When I was a surgical technologist (scrub nurse), I was responsible for teaching  nurses and techs that entered the operating room how to scrub and how to observe sterile technique, etc. My year as a student and then the orientation period (3 months) to my first job were miserable, soul crushing experiences. I swore that if I ever had to teach someone how to scrub, I would NOT follow in the footsteps of my preceptors. So I didn't. I was kind. I was patient. I took extra time outside of actual surgeries to work with nurses who had spent zero time in the OR and were I protected my "students" from the rampaging surgeons. I almost always had a student or new hire with me. It was tiring, but I enjoyed it. Friday I will be teaching 3 different groups of middle school students how to etch copper and brass. (weeks 2 and 3 will be patina, heat treating, and jewelry design). Today I did a dry run to see how long it would take if I focused and so I could have some samples to take with me to class. This is a small portion of the kitchen table during this session:

Stamping copper and brass for etching

On the other side of the table sat the copper and brass sheets waiting to be made into kits.

Copper and Brass sheets

I am really excited (and a bit nervous) to teach this class. I hope it goes well and my son isn't totally embarrassed by his mom. I really would love to teach, but wonder if it just seems like a good idea inside my head. Through teaching this 3 week class, I will be getting my feet wet  and using my kid's classmates as guinea pigs. What could possibly go wrong?

Parkinson's Law

Have you ever had the experience of learning of something new to you. Maybe it's a celebrity, or some bit of research on the dangers of plastic, a new jewelry making technique or material, or even a theory. Once you hear of this person, place, or thing, you suddenly start seeing reference to it EVERYWHERE? This has happened to me in so many instances I cannot even count that high.The most recent example of this phenomenon is Parkinson's Law. I was listening to Tim Ferriss's 4 Hour Work Week audiobook, which I find completely fascinating. One of the things that caught my attention is Parkinson's Law, which states:"work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion"Ferriss expands on this law by stating the task grows in complexity and importance the longer the deadline. How to compensate for it? Set shorter deadlines. Rather than giving yourself a week or an entire month, give yourself a day or two to complete a task. Why? Because the longer the deadline, the more complex it will seem and soon we are making a "mountain out of a molehill."Now I see Parkinson's Law mentioned all over the place-online and in print. I also see it in my life every. single. day. Let's give a couple examples of just how bad it is, shall we? I give myself two weeks to complete a custom order. Guess how long it takes me every single time? Two weeks. It should probably take two days assuming I'm home and not traveling.How about taxes? We always wait until the last minute and then it just seems overwhelming to do them. We end up cranky and impatient the closer the deadline comes. If we started them in February, they would be done and it would be a non-issue.Another example: the way I run our homeschool is I assign work to be done for the day. I let my daughter choose in what order and how long she spends on the work. This is a mistake. What should take 30 minutes often takes HOURS so that the entire day is spent doing schoolwork when we could have been doing something fun in the afternoon instead.How many people do you know claim to work better under pressure with that deadline looming? I know I do. Why is that? According to Parkinson's Law and Ferriss's method of using it to your advantage, a shorter deadline=more focus, less distractions, and the ability to get more done in a shorter amount of time. Ironic that it's pretty much the same thing as "working better under pressure"?I am taking this new information and trying to stop expanding the work for myself. How do I do this? Set shorter deadlines for myself or take the 30 seconds to deal with a task immediately rather than letting things pile up. Seems simple enough. I've had some success and some not so successful attempts at applying this to my life. It helps to make an "action list" (term and technique learned from Tara Gentile in her Art of Action ecourse) each and every day with 3 very specific bite-sized items-nothing sweeping like "work on a novel today".How about you? Do you let the work expand? How do you handle it?

Bead Table Wednesday: The Business, The Branding, And The Random Edition

Good morning! It's that time of the week. Again. There's not much new on my bead table except creating one of these made to order Nurture necklaces. The lampwork bead is made. However, the customer wants it slightly altered so it is more personalized and I've been playing around with the design in copper before I move on to the sterling silver (because I would be less than thrilled to mess up a silver disc when sterling is now more than $38/oz!). For each one of these I sell, I donate $5.00 to the March of Dimes.
Hand Stamped Necklace with lampwork bead
I just got these new Moo MiniCards in on Monday. They are slightly different than the ones I ordered before. The side with my etsy website is still the same:
Front of Mini Moo Cards
However, on the back, I came up with a checklist of potential materials used in each jewelry design. At the bottom I added a #____ so I could assign an inventory # to each piece. Hubs has been on me about not keeping track of my cost of materials for each piece for tax purposes. One of my arguments was when I was at a show, I had no idea what I sold. This is my solution to simplify. Each piece will be given an inventory number and a spreadsheet will contain the materials and the cost of each material used. When each piece sells, I will write it on the receipt and add it to the spreadsheet. These cards will be kept in the box, the price tag (which is much smaller) marked with the inventory # so I can pull the card out and stick it with the receipt. This has the added benefit of informing the customer what materials were used in the creation of their piece-especially since I have been branching out on types of materials used. 
Back of Mini Moo cards
It sounds good inside my head. We'll see how it works in practice. The breakdown in the system will more than likely be using the spreadsheet. I am spreadsheet impaired.
If you want me to send you a jpeg file of this list, email me. I am happy to share it. However, do not ask me to alter it in any way...because I won't, unless you want to pay me for design services.
I also got some Moo Stickers.
Moo Sticker Book Cover
I really love these, but I do wish they were a little larger. The plan for these is to add them to the tissue paper wrapper when I ship beads. Also, I will stick them to jewelry boxes and shopping bags.
Stickers from Moo
Yesterday I went yarn shopping and brought home a bag full of summer:
Yarn Shopping
I am going to make some of the projects out of Spud and Chloe go to the Farm for my daughter (specifically the sheep and probably chickens. I want to make Chloe too, but she keeps telling me she's too big at 12" tall...) I am also going to make some hats out of Welcoming Home Baby the Handcrafted Way for my husband to give out to some of his patients when they get to leave the hospital. He "ordered" 60 hats. Bwahahaha! I have the awesomest mom EVER. When I give my mom an "assignment" she takes it on with great gusto. I asked her to save bottle caps for me. Last week she gave me this quart sized bag:
Beer bottle caps from Mom
I was kind of scared to ask why she had that many bottle caps (even though I've never personally witnessed her drinking a beer...just a glass or two of wine at dinner parties) and it took me a week to finally work up the courage. You know that saying "Don't ask if you don't really want to know the answer"? That was me. Anyway, I finally asked and she laughed and said she found them. Guess I better start trying out bottle caps and resin. I don't have a single good reason not to with such an ample supply of bottle caps. Perhaps that will be next week's Bead Table Wednesday post...

The "C" Word

A few months ago my "getting a subway system in Fort Wayne" obsessed son says to me in an offhand way that the name Metrolink (the name he came up with for the FW subway system) has apparently been used by lots of different subway systems. Now, you have to understand something. That child throws random informational tidbits at me all. day. long. So I responded with the "mom trying to sound interested" response of "oh Really?" Yeah, I know. Real clever.
That is when he made a statement that struck me and made me pause to really listen to what he had to say on the subject. He says "I thought my idea to name the Ft. Wayne subway system Metrolink was creative and original." I told him I didn't realize he had come up with the name on his own. I just figured he based it off the name of the only subway system he has ever used-the Washington DC system.
We then had a talk about creativity, and original ideas and how often the same exact idea can come from multiple sources at the same time, or even thousands of years apart but that doesn't make a person any less creative. He's 12 and he gets it. His ego wasn't any less bruised, but he understands how it can happen.On a side note, I told him I was relieved he came up with a name people would instantly recognize as being a subway rather than calling the system "Purple Bananas" or something crazy like that. I mean, who would take an ominous never ending escalator to something called purple bananas? And yes, I stole the phrase purple bananas from a Prince song because we had just heard it in the car and it was the first crazy name that popped into my head.
Anyhow.... based on the number of times I've seen the "C" word start virtual wars in forums, facebook, etsy, blogs, and everywhere in between and the very real pain the "C" word causes in the years since I started making beads and jewelry, it's a topic every creative type should consider outside the influence of accusations.
What's the "C" word? Copy. Copied. Copies. Copying. Copier. Pick a copy and leave as is or add whatever suffix you choose. It is the number one thing (based on my non-scientific evidence gathering) that gets creative types riled up. It is not just in the beadmaking world or jewelry design world. It's everywhere creativity is desired or required.
The push for original ideas is stressed at an early age. What are kids taught in school? They are taught to never copy another person's work or it can result in penalties as stiff as expulsion from school. Schools push originality and for students to come up with their own ideas. Students are given a blank piece of paper and told to draw a picture or write a story. Those students who come up with the more creative and original ideas are publicly praised.As adults, we crave that same praise plus the ability to buy things like food and shelter can depend on our level of creativity.Fortunately, our ability to eat has never depended on my creativity. However, I would be totally LYING if I said I didn't have an ego that wants to be stroked through being acknowledged for creativity. When I had been making beads for about a year, I came up with a design I was SO excited about. I had never seen it anywhere and thought I was rather clever for coming up with it. A week later I got an issue of Lapidary Journal (now Jewelry Artist Magazine) containing a lampwork bead tutorial that was almost exactly like the bead I had come up with.I was crushed, but it made a huge impression on me that has molded my personal opinions about the "C" word...that more than one person can have the exact same idea at the same time. It doesn't make each person less creative. It also doesn't mean that one person will starve while the other gets all the recognition for being creative .A few months ago I clicked on what looked like an interesting blog from another blogger's blogroll. I really wish I could remember who wrote the post so I could link it. I think it was a polymer clay artists...but I don't remember for sure. Anyway, the gist of the post was that she found someone on etsy who made work very similar to hers, but just different enough that she was uncomfortable but unable to do anything about it and went on. Doing a search on etsy, she discovered another person whose work looked exactly like hers. She was (understandably) upset and was considering writing the other artist when she noticed this other artist had been selling that same style of work longer than she had. Talk about shock! The other etsy artist could have accused the blogger of copying her even though she had never seen this other person's work before.Has this happened to you? Has it affected your opinion of copying? Please share your views and  continue the conversation by clicking the little comment link below.This is Part 1 of what will ultimately be a 3 part series spread over the course of a couple weeks. Please stay tuned.
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