Friday, May 30, 2014



One of my favorite words.

Inspired by three women.  Maya Angleou, Gerda Lerner, and Starhawk.

Thank you, Dr. Angelou.  Thank you so much.

The passing of Dr. Maya Angelou on May 28, 2014, reminded of my of my determination to work to empower women.  Men, too, yes.  But, mostly, women.

Women who aren't told often enough that they are good enough, just as they are.  Women who aren't paid fairly, so that the inequality affects every aspect of their lives and self-esteem.  Women who don't/can't feel safe walking through their neighborhoods at night.  Women who are unaware and deliberately left uneducated about their history.

So many reasons to empower women...

From Dr. Angelou, I first learned to accept my body and my experiences as a source of strength.  That one experience might inform my life, but didn't determine my worth.  I also learned, from watching her poem "Phenomenal Woman" being performed by a trio of women, that sisterhood is powerful.  That together, our voices are stronger and louder.   

When I struggle with being an older student, with being in a profession that too often marginalizes women and women's knowledge, I use Gerda Lerner as my inspiration to keep pushing forward.

Dr. Lerner didn't start graduate school until she was in her forties.  Like me.  And then she let nothing get in her way of building the first Women's History graduate program in the US.  And building a body of scholarship that helped to define the discipline of Women's History, and changed History.  While my goals aren't that lofty, my determination is that strong.

When I need to remind myself of the power of the feminine, I turn to Starhawk.

I met her years ago, as I tended a ritual fire at the Sekhmet Temple in Nevada.  She was present to lead a large gathering, at a site not far from the Nevada Test Site.  We bumped into each other, working around the fire, nodded, and moved on, two priestesses busy centering their intent.  Throughout the ritual, I was struck by how she quietly directed the energy by honoring the best that each person present had to offer.  Recognizing the power led everyone - women, men, children, into their own empowerment.

The writings of each of these women has transformed my life.  I would not be who I am, where I am, without their wisdom.

Dr. Angelou's passing reminds me that life here on this physical plane is short and precious.  That it's the connections made that last.  That words have power.  That sisterhood is infinite, but needs to be nurtured.

What's my path to empowerment?  This is something I continue to work on.  By connecting with sisters, by writing, by studying, by teaching, by speaking, by being an example.  Mostly, by remaining aware that it's my responsibility to use my power.

Who are your heroes?  How do they inspire you?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Growing Pains

I'm in the process of learning lots of new things.  French. Nuno felting.  Chicago Manual Style. Ice Cream.
First felting attempt.  On mesh = fail.
With French, even when I look up every word in the translation and think I'm doing okay, I'm not.  It's the tenses.  Present, past imperfect, past present, future past indefinite infinity tense - these are all so jumbled up in my mind.  I give up.  Today, I translated a passage about camels and math.  I think.  (I don't understand the language of math, either.)

Over the weekend, I played with felt, trying to figure out what wool works with what fabric.  I was somewhat successful.  I'm happy with the patterns I laid out.  Some things stuck together better than ever.  (In this respect, nuno felting is a lot like learning French.)
Second attempt - on cheesecloth.  Mostly felted, very random pattern.
With the felting, I think I need to stick with using silk chiffon as a base, until I get the hang of how this works.  Even though I want to jump in and go right to the beautiful.  I get that I need to develop my knowledge and skills.

With French, it feels like more a matter of endurance than anything.  I am constantly reminding myself that my (in)ability to learn French is NOT a reflection of my intellect.  I'm good at many things.  I'm not good at French.  The plan is to keep working at it.  (And take out my frustration during the felting process.  Rolling those jelly-rolls of felting back and forth lets out a lot of frustration.)

I also worked on organizing and proofing 22 pages of a bibliography over the weekend.  If I haven't learned the ins and outs of Chicago Style by now, well, just hell.  

As for ice cream, I got a new maker for my birthday.  Yay me!  Going to try strawberry ice cream first.  Hopefully, the batch of strawberries I bought this morning won't spoil as quickly as the container I bought on Monday.  Sigh.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

My First Playdate with Nuno Felting

I've waited all winter, through 100+ inches of snow and over 80 days of below freezing temperatures, to get out in the garage and play with felt.  Nuno felting, in particular.

Finally, last week I got my chance!

I started with making prefelt.  Really thin layers of roving that aren't all the way felted so they can be used in other pieces.  Since I needed to get a feel for how nuno felting worked, I thought this would be a good place to start.

Most of these squares are about 3 x 5 inches.  Some felted better than others.  Some blended better than others.

Now I have a better idea of how to work the felt - how wet it needs to be, how to blend colors better, how to work in other textures and fabrics better.

It's a definite learning process, one I'm looking forward to.  And it's nice that felt is a lot like beads.  Nothing goes to waste.  If you don't like what you make, you can always use it in some other form - tear it apart, cut it up, layer it into something else.

Next week, I'm trying my first scarf.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Nostalgia, Part Deux

(notice the French in the title?  I'm taking a French translation class this summer - ALL SUMMER.  Not my idea.  A requirement.  Sigh.  Even though I'll never use it in my research.  Ever.)


I wrote last week about how Mom and I went to an estate sale at my Aunt Jen's.  When we walked down into the basement, this caught my eye:

This wooden cabinet used to sit next to Aunt Jen's old wringer washer when I was a kid.  I thought it'd be perfect to keep my fabric in.  Then Mom started telling me about how my Grandpa had built it before she was born.  It sat in the hallway in the house Mom grew up in and was where her clothes and my Aunt Jean's clothes were kept.  Mom started laughing, telling me about how when it got cold, Grandma would send her and Jean to look through the cupboard for warmer clothes.  An "ugly brown corduroy dress," in particular, hated by both Mom and Jean.  Mom told how they used to push that dress way into the back of the cupboard, so that Grandma couldn't find it.  Since Grandma had a form of MS, she didn't move around too well, so they could get away with lying.  Naughty!  (Actually, as Mom was telling the story, I could see the naughty little girl that she was, still giggling at getting one over on Grandma.)

Naturally, I bought the cabinet.

Here it is, tucked into my garage.  Just like it's always belonged there.

Which it does.  The joy that this brings me, reclaiming something that my grandfather made - probably from scrap wood, over 80 years ago, plus Mom's memories of it, and now my memories of her telling the story, (and of conning my brother Joe into getting it home!), make this so precious.


Every time I walk in the garage, I smile.  And not just 'cause of all that fabric and felt to play with.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bead Soup! It's What's On!

Bead Soup creation - Flora

 My lovely Bead Soup partner, Marie Covert, sent me such a wonderful bevy of goodies that I had a really hard time deciding what to use for the Bead Soup Blog Hop event.  So, I used a bit of everything.

 I started working on my main piece, an embroidered necklace, when there was still 22 inches of snow on the ground.  All I wanted was to see my garden, full of flowers.  I tried really hard to be as zen as this face cabochon, but doubt I ever managed to look as calm as her.  So I surrounded her with a riot of ribbon that Marie hand-dyed, and lucite flowers from my own stash.  Crystals and czech glass from my soup worked well as accents.  Even the butterfly that Marie included fit in well with the design.  I used some of the lampwork Marie sent as well, for the neckpiece, thinking the aqua color mimicked a nice blue spring sky.

 Since part of the challenge is to stretch yourself, making jewelry out of your comfort zone, I'm happy that I incorporated the ribbon.  I think it adds a bit of whimsy, but it might also be too much.  I know, as if flowers and frills could ever be "too much." 

I'm sending the necklace off to a little 2 1/2 year old girl who is currently entranced with beads, and frills, and being a princess.  I think she'll have fun playing dress-up with this piece.

 I made myself a bracelet from the pearls and stone roses that Marie sent, and a pair of earrings that go with the necklace.  I'm fairly certain that when I see the MaMa on Mother's Day, the bracelet will disappear.  Hard to deny the MaMa anything.

I think this is my fourth time enjoying Bead Soup.  So Much Fun, Always.  If you want to check out past creations, go here.  And here. Thank you, Lori Anderson, for bringing all of us beady people together!  And thank you, Marie - for all of your generosity!

Now, I'm off to blog hop!  Here's the list link to join me!

Thursday, May 8, 2014


My Aunt Jen and I shared the same birthday.  Most of my early childhood, we spent time together on our special day, at least long enough to have a piece of cake.

This past weekend, my Mom and I went to an estate sale at Aunt Jen's.  Jen's been gone for several years now and my Uncle Hank is in a nursing home.  I wasn't sure what to expect, standing in the drizzle outside their house, waiting to go in.  Mom was alternately teary and giggly with memories, missing her sister.

I knew I wanted something special from the house.  Something that my aunt had held, maybe loved.  Maybe something with strawberries, as a memory of her wonderful strawberry patch.

When I walked down the hallway and saw a big wicker basket of tatting, emotionally, I lost it.

My Grandma M tatted.  ALL THE TIME.  I don't ever remember her hands being still.  She was either snipping green beans into a pan (ping, ping, ping) or tatting.  And here, in her daughter's house, was a basket full of her beloved work.  

Talk about a flood of memories.  Good memories, as the happiest times of my childhood were spent next to Grandma, talking about flowers or the moon and stars or about her first love or our mutual love of writing. 

This one even has beads!
 Grandma tried to teach me how to tat, how to crochet.  I never did get the hang of it.  But she also taught me how to embroider.  And, well, take a look at other blog posts to see where that's gotten me. 

Apparently, Grandma taught Aunt Jen how to embroider, too.  'Cause I found this in the closet, along with extra crewel thread.

Now, the sweet little pillow lives in my bedroom, and my sweet memories of my aunt, and of my Grandma, and of my mom, live in my heart.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Iris Arpel

Style Icon:

"The fun of getting dressed is it's a creative experience."

So much inspiration in this clip!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Karma Model

Sometimes you get the opportunity to be a part of something really wonderful.

Through a friend, I learned about this new business venture in my hometown.  The brainchild of the wonderful Krista, this boutique offers gorgeous goodies for women: clothes, hats, scarves, soap, jewelry.  And yoga!  The shop smells divine when you walk in.  It's like walking into a Temple.  And Krista is so warm and so welcoming, you just want to sit and chat, then get up and browse through all the vintage finds, then sit and chat some more.

I LOVE her business model.  For every $5 that a customer spends in the shop, $1 in "Karma Dollars" is donated to the local women's shelter.  So that the women in the shelter can come and shop for lovely things.  Even better, much of the Angelique Boutique stock is donated.  Any items that are donated but not necessarily suited to the shop are then given to the women's shelter.  You can read about this in more detail here.

Since I regularly donate jewelry, I dropped off some necklaces and earrings.  Look at how lovingly they're displayed!

BrisingBeads benefits from free advertising.  (Thank you, Krista and MLive!)

Mostly, I'm excited about being part of a venture I agree with.  Women supporting women, in a business model that makes sense AND does good work.

Thank you, Krista, for your grace and generosity.
It's a perfect mix.

And, I learned an important lesson through this model.  About listening to your heart for the message of your dreams.  About asking for what you need and also asking for what you want.  So often, as women, we're taught to set that aside.  In the interest of another's needs/wants.

Imagine the world we could create if we were all brave enough to ask for the things that make our dreams come true...