Raised in Arizona:

This last week in Arizona has been a catharsis from the complete and utter madness of starting a brick and mortar business. That's right folks, 3 days after getting laid off of work I bought a building for The Hot Spot, a small metals studio I ran out of GR Makers until some asshole thought it would be a good idea to assault one of my members. That was just the cherry on top of the shit cake for the final reason to bust out of there. Bodies and benches were not being respected and the onslaught of creepy men hovering over us while trying to work was aggravating. 

Myself and my amazing members pooled together one Saturday to pile up as much of the equipment as possible. We moved swiftly in the light of day to avoid any trouble. We did a pretty kickass job of getting everything loaded up in all the vehicles we had, save for a trailer load of the larger items that Justin's dad and I packed up the following week. Since then it's been a frenzy of painting, breaking down, sawing, and rebuilding. I've made trips to find cabinets, counter tops, salvaged a sink, and even found time for less glamorous tasks such as accounting, expenditures/income assessing, crowdfunding, permits, regulations, and basically just trying to figure out the what-the-fucks if navigating michigan.gov.

Throughout this whole daunting experience I found myself hungry for the day. Waking up at 6am and actually excited to start the tasks ahead of me. I forgot how completely brain dead and miserable that job made me. It's funny how we accept that as part of life for the simple comfort of having a steady paycheck...

Luckily I predicted the forced respite because, let's face it ladies, in this world you're either going to get fucked, screwed, or both. The fuck-off fund I created allowed me to pay my rent ahead of time for the entire year. I don't have to worry about where I'm living. My debts, save for the building I purchased, are all paid off. For the past year I've been able to actually save 54% of my income now that I don't have a husband blowing it on all the things to fill the voids. Though I'm sure it would be nice to cash in on the $12k investment that is the Boba Fett costume- his once a year robing for social benefits.

I digress...some mild post divorce angst.

That money I saved created another safe fund to fall back on for emergencies and start-up costs. An extra 7k would have been nice too had there not been the 83% disparity. Equal pay folks, it makes a difference. Good thing I know how to make a mean ketchup sandwich.

....................................................................................

So with the stress and overhaul of this past month, going to Arizona with Justin and his family was the perfect comfort. I spent 2 years of my youth in Phoenix Arizona. My dad carted my mom and the 3 of us children up and made the move to Glendale. He studied for his Masters degree at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in the hope that some day he too could have the American dream of a fat steady paycheck doing a job he liked. 

I hated moving.

My 8 year old self did not want to be ripped away from my friends. In the long run it worked out for the best to be torn away from the Forest Hills Public School District. I adapted quickly. As a quiet girl, It got me to be even more introspective while massively broadening my horizons. Everything was so new. Mountains, climate, people, the culture. I absorbed as much of it as I could. We did a lot of camping and outdoor stuff. My imagination went wild...

.......................................................................................

It was great to be back. The smell of Arizona is always sweet and the air is quiet. In Michigan I have to tune out a lot of the background noises. Maybe the mountains just dampen a lot of the drifting sound waves. All the citrus trees brought back memories of thieving oranges and lemons from the neighbors yards. 

We toured the retirement community that Justin's grandparents, Bernie and Elsie, are in. Highly impressed. It's like a college campus for the well seasoned. There were rooms for quilting, billiards, glass work, lapidary, woodworking, folks drove around in golf carts. I'm not fond of the prospect of losing my abilities to work with my hands at that age, but it was hopeful seeing all the cool things they were doing. Bernie was definitely proud of this place and all it offered, being a man accomplished in lapidary and woodworking.

The Upper Antelope canyon was one of the coolest sights we saw, along with the Horseshoe Bend. It was a chilly experience at the Grand Canyon but the sun was out in full force and the wind subdued itself for a day exposing all the layers and folds of the natural monument.

It was a long exhale to be back. Shaking off the past 20 years and breathing in that clean Arizona air. Hiking and feeling that dry desert dust. rock hopping. Flowing with the cavalry. Letting it go. 

With a whisper instead of a bang...

For the past 2 days I've been reflecting on my entire year of 2017. It left me incapacitated all of yesterday, save for the 3 hours spent doing festivities in all traditional manners of ringing in the new year and the better part of today being frustratingly productive. Like, doing things beyond your skill level but still attainable with time and patience kind of frustrating. 

Technology. Web design. Unlocking achievements.

I considered just plastering this page with a word vomit consisting of putrid chunks of emotion, streams of bitter bile, and partially appetizing chunks of what use to be. However, that's not how I want to remember 2017...

Because 2017 deserves a better title than the year I got divorced. It was the year I gained freedom and the ability to see my own strengths and faults for what they were. I didn't have to maintain a happy facade for a guy that wasn't happy with himself. I didn't have to prove my self worth to a man that no longer wanted me. I didn't have to pretend to like the women that he chose to "impress" himself upon. 

Nobody saw the years of break down, they just saw me move on. And how dare I. 

A friend of mine who went through a similar situation in life told me about this unspoken rule that after a divorce, women are expected to take time off to "be sad", "single", and "discover ourselves" for the sake of social appearances. She laughed, as she talked about her adventures with moving on, dating, and marrying the British man she loves. We poured our hearts out that morning as we secretly poured whiskey into our coffee...

I've always known that I've had certain strengths. The ability to plow forward through obstacles. Creativity in finding multiple ways of accomplishing something. I can dive into things and never look back. Those are the tools that have greatly helped me get through this year. It helped me stand by my decision to get the divorce, it also helped me get through a lot of the tougher things to navigate as a result of that. 

I packed up as much as I could and got out not really knowing where i'd go. My weakness was never allowing myself to open up to anybody. All of my dreams, goals, passions, and fears were locked away in a man that indifferently flicked it all away. My initial saving grace was a close friend in Whitehall. I'd drive the hour there and back a few nights a week just to have a warm place to stay and good conversation supplemented with plenty of wisdom...and mead. As I opened up more and more, it became easier to discuss with others. Slowly unraveling my layers of depression and anxiety that I masked with focus and overworking myself. I didn't realize how uncomfortable I was, and allowing myself to be that uncomfortable was the worst realization of all. I was in a 7 year relationship where my self worth was only measured in income and status.

My life meant nothing.

We lived his life.

I was just allowed to pick out the tile.

..................................................................................................................

And so I took my life.

This past year I have slept on couches and discovered stronger friendships. Recognized that I have to open up. I've familiarized myself with the signs of discomfort, though I'm still working on allowing myself a voice. People I don't know, I don't let hug or grab me. I reach out to other people more. I follow my original passion of making art- whether its writing, drawing, or working with metal. Surrounding myself with other like-minded people has been key.

Ultimately, that's what I want to go into 2018 with. There are a lot of strong willed and inspiring people, mostly women, who are also breaking into 2018 with the tenacity to succeed and go even further.

The alienated woman.

The alienated woman.

Welcome Back.

We've all done it. Started reading a good book, we flip through pages as the story shifts from intensity to monotony and back again. Before we realize it we're 20 pages ahead of ourselves and failed to pick up on any the details. With books, we're able to flip back and re-read. With life, I guess we can only stand back and reflect. 

The world has gone almost one full rotation around the sun since I've last posted and have felt every bump and turn it's thrown at me. Rare birds like me can enjoy the thrills of new things both chaotic and painful to the exhilarating and adventurous. New experiences have ways of making life slow down...just a little. When we are young, everything is so new that hours feel like days as we struggle for summer break to arrive. Now we ask where our winters have gone. 

This year has certainly been all of the above. Good ol' strife and self discovery.

As I bid myself to reflect on these moments, i'll share a moment from this past summer. A good one, to kick off the new year. 

......................................

Justin and I landed in Grand Marais just as the sun was completely blanketed the horizon, casting a purple haze over everything. Our motorcycles parked at Lake Superior Brewing, we walked straight out to the closest bench overlooking the inlet. We talked over plans for what to do, where to stay. The trip thus far has been led mostly on impulse. We both needed to feel the freedom of possibility and strength from making decisions. 

We came to the conclusion of beer and food at the brewery and then sleep...wherever the fuck else. As our evening went on into the night having had the standard bar experience, we packed up on the advice of our bartender and headed to the beach. 

It was dark at this point and only relying on a couple flashlights we meandered our way from the coast to the wooded edge. Our resting place ended up near the lake next to a beached log where we made a "sand nest", of sorts, digging out pits for our bodies and piling on the layers of clothes and woobie blanket coverings.

The sky was clear and the wind whipped past us. The cold didn't seem so bad while we were awake and talking about the stars. But as we slept, that icy wind was ruthless in finding every crack and slight opening to blast into. At one point in the night I stopped shivering, only to discover that Justin had put his heavy leather riding jacket on top of me. It weighed down the flimsy nylon blanket allowing the heat to stay in. The comfort was outweighed by guilt when I could hear him shivering next to me. An icy blast ripped away all that good accumulated heat as I put his jacket back over him and combined our blankets to allow for some body heat to pull us through the night.

We survived. 

Grand Marai.JPG

Waking only to ourselves amongst thousands of stones along a crystal clear shoreline. The sun blasted us with it's unseasonable heat for being late September. A comfort after our icy slumber. We picked through rocks, finding the nuanced and the unique and attaching personas to them. Eventually stumbling across a fossilized rock that looked like all the swirls of Jupiter and special enough to contain a tiny pocket of druzy crystal. He spoke about how his sister's favorite planet was Jupiter. This, I thought to myself, I'll have to make something special at some point with this.

It was a feeling of being tired and yet strangely fulfilled, that led me to strip down to nothingness and run into the icy lake. The feeling of elation and icy chill putting a new energy back into this body. Vigor for the road ahead.

We packed on.

Grand Marai bikes.JPG
marai beach (2).jpg

A Dog is just a backwards God

 

One of our flaws as humans is attaching personifications to other living creatures. Dogs aren't human and they don't experience emotions in the same way you and I might. 

We create things in our image. that's just kind of the ego humanity has. Dogs don't create anything in their image. they have no ulterior motives. they live in the moment. they do feel pain, sadness, and loss, but not in the same way we do. 

Dogs and Gods are both at the mercy of humans.

Chicken Feet over Turkey Legs

One year ago today I was celebrating Thanksgiving in Thailand. This was actually during the Lantern Festival (Loy Krathong) in their country.  It was a week long festival that started while we were leaving Bangkok that Tuesday. When we arrived that afternoon, the festival was well under way within the walls of Chiang Mai where we ended up staying in one of the many *hostels.

Our day started out with Matt and I leaving Drew behind. Drew, being of Viking origin, does not take kindly to heat and humidity. The poor bastard was stuck with chaffed inner thighs and a bit of sun poisoning...maybe even a bit hung over.

We hopped on the first Tuk Tuk and ventured to the National Museum of Chiang Mai. Sadly, this was pretty run down and in the middle of renovations that wouldn't be complete until 2016. But it was free! It seemed where there was some cool artifacts there was incomplete information and where there was information, there was no artifact. Therefore any education from this experience was a bit discombobulated. Matt and I decided to take the 45 minutes to just walk back to the city and get a better lay of the land outside the walls.

Chiang Mai is great, but this is a city with some history that kind of turned into this walled up place for tourists. It was interesting to see all the variations of other cultures within these walls. We saw pizza places, burger joints, Mexican food, even an Irish tavern. I think the quisine I fell in love with the most was a restaurant called The Swan. It's actually a Burmese restaurant and was one of the first places we landed at to grab food upon our arrival earlier in the week. That Thursday after our tiny morning adventure, we had lunch there again.

Afterwards we made our way back to the hostel for naps until the weather cooled down. At one point I left to go sign up for an excursion and a **cooking class. 

The Three of us hit the road in the evening and enjoyed a little more of the festival. At one point I mentioned going to a tailor shop and getting something made. I ended up at CM Custom tailors while the guys chilled next door at a hostel and had a drink. Inside there was a large group of British people arguing about how their stuff should be free. I grabbed a seat thinking to myself that it may take a while. 20 minutes later, another gentleman walked in, sat down at the table, and got immediate help. So I ghosted. 

My anger was quickly quenched when I sat down with Drew and Matt next door. Can't go wrong with  Smoothies, beer, booze, and food. Drew, I have to admit, is very good at being unabashed in dealing with people. He was able to quickly make friendlies with some locals that frequent this particular hostel to drink. We ended up buying these guys a round of Thai White Whiskey which came to .28 per shot. We were having a great time trying to figure out what they were saying and getting our stories out. Also, we had a laugh at some hipster taking dumb-face selfies with his computer at a table nearby. 

Round after round, the matriarch of this establishment would bring us snackies. Though it isn't her name the title of Mama-san became the endearing title we attributed to her. After rounds of puff snacks, boiled peanuts, and cheap whiskey, Mama-san ladled us some bowls of her chicken parts curry. I think she tried to get as much of the "tame" bits as she could into the bowl. Luckily Matt, Drew, and myself are no strangers to strange parts in our foods. We thanked her kindly and enjoyed the searing heat and aromatic spices of these hot bowls of curry along side our newly acquired Thai friends. 

Whiskey gets you frisky.

Some Kiwi by the name of John showed up to the group. We drank, talked about tattoos, lifted some shirts, and some butts got grabbed. One, or both of us, may have gotten propositioned for sex. When things started getting too far south, we slowly parted ways. Mama-san made sure that the heavily inebriated Thai fellows got on their Tuk Tuk/walking in the right direction safely. We gave our hugs, our thank you's,  and our goodbyes to Mama-san as well, and made our way on to new adventures for the night alongside John the Kiwi. 

We got nachos at one point. The cheese was strange but oddly good. Almost like a more watered down Chihuahua brand queso cheese. Then we ventured to an Irish pub around 1am. I think John left us after a round of beer (or two?) and then I started growing weary. Matt and Drew dropped me off at the hostel before they wandered more of the dark and festive ally ways of Chiang Mai.

I'd do this all again for Thanksgiving if I could. Chiang Mai, while I may despise large crowds of people and cringe at all the tourism; your streets, your food, your locals, sure are a hell of a lot of fun.

 

* Even during the Festival of Lights we were still able to find a place to stay for the week upon our arrival.

** Went through BaanThai Thai cookery school. Easily one of the best experiences in Chiang Mai the whole week.

 

If wi-fi is not working, please talk to your neighbor...

Concerning cheese, time warps, and weather patterns

A commercial came on the radio as I was driving home from the studio late a few evening ago. It was for a grilled cheese competition hosted by a local cheeserie (?), The Cheese Lady, that was happening on October 8th. My first inclination is to always assume I've somehow gone back in time. It's usually then that I double check certain known variables within this reality to make sure I have, in fact, gone back in time. Since technology lies and I don't know astrology enough to dare figure out the skyline on a dark night going 70 down the highway, I figured i'd ruminate on weather patterns. It was pretty warm October 8. And now....now it's cold as fuck at night.

riddle solved. 

I have not gone back in time.

Brie. The most gooiest and decadent cheese of all cheeses.

Brie. The most gooiest and decadent cheese of all cheeses.

Will-O'-the-White Guys

We have a rather jovial term for upper management. We call them white guys. I'm not sure if that's more in reference to the white collar of their shirt or the color of their skin. 

Regardless.

One man taught me everything I know about welding when I first started working here. He was ...callously pragmatic, in terms of communication. And that was something I've always respected him for. Granted, it made him a notorious asshole which was a mess for upper management. It was also a quality that made him genuine. Sadly, he's no longer my mentor; and, like clockwork, one asshole will inevitably replace another.

I've held a position here long enough to see people slowly rise up into ivory ranks and witness these developing stages. Enough so to learn that people don't change. It's really just a matter of becoming more of what they are allowed to be. It starts as a glint in their character and then it becomes their character. 

Genuine people are seldom found in upper ranks. It's a bit of a blanket statement but please note i'm not saying genuine people can't be good people. Their demeanor is just a facade that can be difficult to navigate. I think that's why I'm ok with being blue collar. Chasing lights you can't grasp are but a fools errand and i'll decide for myself when I've reached the top.

"Only cream and bastards rise"- Harvey Danger

Sean Nelson 

Sean Nelson 

The colors of fall and an internal conversation involving the evolution of human creativity.

It's Halloween. It's Monday. I took the day off as I'm still not feeling better despite the big bowl of Pho I had Saturday night on top be being confined to home and studio all weekend. I even missed out on hitting the dog trails yesterday with some friends. To make up for it, I took Penny to Aman Park this morning. It's on these solitary walks where I enjoy most of my internal conversations. 

The turning foliage brought my mind to those with color blindness and being better at seeing patterns. Most of the population with colorblindness are males. On the topic of evolution, this made them better equipped for hunting as their minds weren't distracted by color. Which made me think about what seeing color has done for our brains over thousands of years of evolutionary history. Has the ability to see color been the precursor to creativity? Humans are really the only mammals that see full color. Granted very few mammals are limited to just grey scale. Cats and dogs have a limited color range of blues, violets, and yellow. Birds, fish, and monkeys can see a pretty good range of color, though still no where near what we see in this modern age. Has seeing color just been an acid to the brain allowing ourselves to see things that aren't there? No longer seeing moving shapes as dark shadows, allowing our minds to relax, to think, to create? I'm sure my primate counterpart would have used the skills of seeing color more for gathering than imagining up the next Mona Lisa. However I can't help but think of what color has done to make things more interesting. And when things are interesting, can we make new things to be more interesting?

Naturally, when I got home, I googled that.

Interesting stuff. We also haven't been able to see the color blue until about 150 years ago. Which makes me wonder what colors we'll see next...

The one eared Penny.

The one eared Penny.

No Master

My husband initially experienced this faux pas of being called a "master brewer" when he started brewing professionally about 8 years ago. When I say professionally, that is to say, he works at a brewery in a rock star position for what is essentially a factory job. Somewhere along the line people became enamored with addressing him as "master brewer" at every introduction. He would always be sure to correct them by saying he's just a shift brewer and explain that the title of master is reserved for an individual brewer at the top of the ladder of a brewery or someone who has a record of excellence in the field of brewing after many well-involved years of dedication. To this, folks will either nod in acceptance of fresh knowledge, or attribute this explanation as testament to said brewer lacking confidence...

I happily assumed no one would ever dare call me a master silversmith. 

Until it happened the other day when one of the members at GR Makers had introduced me to a bunch of 7 year-old-or-so's as their resident "master silversmith." I really didn't care to correct him. They were kids.

They didn't care.

I didn't care.

No matter.

But honestly, it's like calling someone without a PhD a doctor.

Makers Mark of Alice Burrows and husband George Burrows (1807)

Makers Mark of Alice Burrows and husband George Burrows (1807)

Touchstone Center for Crafts

This past weekend I was in the hills of Pennsylvania at Touchstone Center for Crafts. Typically my jewelry consists of silver and sometimes gold, copper, or brass. However, I figured i'd take a workshop on steel jewelry to broaden my horizons. Originally, the instructor for the weekend was supposed to me Maia Leppo but I received an email a couple weeks prior saying that instead, Sharon Massey would be teaching. This was pretty exciting as I've heard her name float around a few times with her involvement in SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths). 

Foot path to the metal studio. Stone shack is not the studio. I don't know what that was.

Foot path to the metal studio. Stone shack is not the studio. I don't know what that was.

Touchstone has a beautiful campus set in the middle of the woods on what is dubbed "Danger Mountain". There is little wi-fi and barely any cell phone reception. It was exactly what I needed to be completely absorbed in my craft for a whole weekend. 

The above are just some images of campus as well as inside the blacksmith and metals studio.

This was a wonderful experience and I recommend this to anyone wanting to get into a craft or to expand their knowledge within a craft.