Sunday, February 25, 2007

Art Show News for 2007

My art show calendar for 2007 is shaping right up! I’ve just been accepted into the Saratoga Rotary Club’s annual Art Show on May 6th, and will be at the Mountain Art Guild Art and Wine festival on June 10th and 11th, and the Bargetto Fine Arts Festival on July 7 & 8 this year. Time to get busy. The cold, rainy months of Northern California winter are good for that.

The holidays took their toll on my inventory, but I’m excited about some new more “summery” designs I’m working on (pictures soon). I’ll be doing some new things with fine silver wire (along similar lines as my “Cool Coils” necklace), and some beads done with only ivory colored glass, and silver leaf and foil, which makes some incredibly cool organic patterns in the flame. I’ll also be playing some more with hollow forms, capturing some of the bright, airy colors of the warmer months. Time to play with encased florals again, too.

I seem to do most of my design work when I’m lying in bed, either in the early hours of the morning, or at night while trying to fall asleep. I find it an incredibly productive time where I can hardly keep these creative ideas from flooding my brain. It’s probably why I often have trouble sleeping, but you gotta let the inspiration in when it shows up, right? It’s just such a perfect time to explore these possibilities fully, when there’s no competition from other day to day thoughts.

I promise, pictures soon.


Before we even knew about Rio’s cancer I had booked a trip to visit my mom during her annual winter stay on Maui. It would be a girl’s trip, just she and I, and a nice, but short break from my job. As it turns out, we would be having him euthanized the day before I left, so my packing that evening would be done with tears running down my face.

On the flight over to Maui the next day, I thought, if the change of scenery and seeing my mom doesn’t help me feel better, I’m hopeless. As it turns out, it was the right medicine at the right time. It was wonderful to see mom in her element, her yearly sojourn back to the place she and my dad loved to visit when he was alive, and I had plenty of time to rest and reflect.

It was great that my mom had lots of events on the calendar for us…a spa pedicure, a massage (two things I hardly ever do, I swear, but helped to immediately induce relaxation), walking, Whale Day in Kihei, dinners with her friends at the condo, daily walking and sunset conch celebrations, and whale watching. Sigh. The air there is magical, whether it’s pure sun or that delightful combination of sun and “pineapple mist” (their clever way, as a tourist destination, of describing “rain”) on my skin.

Symbolically, the mother whales were out and about with their offspring, and we were lucky to observe a mother and very new calf just out in front of her condo, close to shore. The binoculars gave us a very clear view of a touching scene, with mother buoying her newborn off her head, hardly moving at all in the water.

While I felt that once on Maui I was making progress in dealing with Rio’s death, it was clear to me that I still had a long way to go when some friends of my mom’s asked me about him and I became too emotional to speak. Hmm. Still have some work to do on that.

When I got home I noticed that there were quite a few of Rio’s things out and about in the house, so I began to put them away. His two metal food bowls, his water bowl and the placemat we had underneath them. His toys. I guess that’s a necessary part of moving on.

Last night we had a pretty good rainstorm, and in the early hours of the morning our electricity went out, causing our wired-in smoke alarm to make its usual very brief, high pitched sound, and then later all of the household electronic machinery to kick into action when it returned. It gave me goosebumps, and both my husband and I immediately thought of Rio. In his later years, those sounds would cause him terrible fear, and wherever he was in the house, he would come to find me, and sit quaking at my feet. This is the same dog who would bound out into the driveway, hackles full up, barking his best guard dog bark to greet anyone who came to visit. In reality, he was afraid of a lot of things. The vet's office. Loud noises. Stairs. Jumping out of the truck once his sight was nearly gone. One time the power went out and he sought refuge with me in this way. Through the sudden darkness I heard a chattering sound, and when I turned my flashlight down to the floor where it was coming from, I saw that it was his teeth. Oh my God, I thought. The poor guy was just frightened out of his mind.

I guess sometimes things just aren’t what they seem.


I’m not sure that Rio fully ever grasped the concept of “privacy”. Perhaps it means something different to a dog, or maybe they just have no use for it. I mean, yeah, it was heartwarming that all he ever wanted to do was be right there with us, but there are just certain times when one likes to be alone. He’s always liked to accompany me to the bathroom, or at least pay a dutiful visit to make sure that I had not fallen in, and then he would leave. I guess I could have completely shut the door to prevent this, but I must have found some aspect of this behavior endearing since I allowed it to continue. I would get settled on the toilet, and he would stroll in, turn around so that his hind quarters were pressed against my legs, wait for me to pet him, pause for about 5 seconds until he heard the signs of progress, and then he would leave. It was very regular like that (no pun intended).

There was a variation on this theme which he would carry out when we went camping. Most of our forays into the wild were exactly that, and we camped in places where there were no facilities. A trip to the bathroom thus meant a short (or long, depending on your sense of urgency measured against your sense of modesty) hike to a suitable spot, some digging, and then some squatting, oftentimes precariously depending on the terrain. Apparently Rio thought that this was some grand game of hide-and-seek, for he would wait until you had been gone for about 5 minutes, and then come charging through the forest looking for you. Overjoyed to find you, he would express his delight with a Labrador body check, which posed a certain danger to the squatter, depending on the stage of their project. At the very least you could end up sprawled on the forest floor, pants at your ankles, covered in dog spit. I remember one time when he was quite young, he tracked me down when I was nearly finished, and decided to steal my toilet paper, as it was being buried. "Get out of here!!!" I yelled at him, to no avail. Victorious, he snatched the paper and ran off with it like some kind of prize. It took a few trips before I could send the message to him that just because I bury something doesn’t mean that he can dig it up.

Probably the most bizarre, yet hilarious instance in which he invaded our privacy was when I noticed during the middle of a romantic interlude with my husband that Rio was standing motionless at our bedside, chin planted firmly on the edge, watching with fascination our every move. What the hell was he thinking?? Needless to say, that sort of threw a wrench in things, as there was no ignoring that intense gaze. "Don't you have a bone in the other room?" I'd say, but he prefered the entertainment in our room. And they call the vizla the "velcro dog" - ha!

Pavlov's Promise

It’s been very quiet around the house without Rio, even in the short few hours since he passed away. I had no idea how much auditory conditioning we had been doing with him, and without him there to respond to our stimuli (picking up car keys, opening a door, throwing a leg out of the bed), it’s like a canyon without an echo. His collar had a couple of metal tags on it that jingled whenever he moved, so we always heard a report back after he took note of our “cues”. He would even detect the faint sound of the remote control turning off the satellite receiver (not the sound, but just the satellite electronics) in the evening, and would rapidly jump up off the floor in order to accompany us back to the bedroom.

Of course, the sound of the doorbell (ours or one on TV) caused a huge response, and I learned to absolutely hate the Pizza Hut commercials for that very reason. Man, his “guard dog” bark could curl your hair! The clang of his metal dish being set down on our granite counters caused him to come running, as did the rhythmic sound of the peanut butter jar lid being dropped onto the counter. When either of us sat down on a chair with shoes in hand, we would hear the jingle of his dog tags as he ran over to us to express his complete excitement about the possibility of going outside. In fact, you could hardly bend over to get your shoes tied without getting a face full of dog tongue. What made it awkward (OK, downright dangerous) once he was blind was his inability to precisely approach your face in these situations, and often we would end up with a painful nose in our eye, or a dog tooth in our lip. He was simply not one to hide his true feelings.

One poignant footnote to this notion of auditory conditioning came just after Rio died. I had expressed some concerns to Dr. Stone about making sure that he was really gone before putting him to rest in the ground. I guess I feared somehow that he could still have some life left when the dirt came raining down on him, and suffer somehow. My helpful, worrying mind at work once again. Of course, our vet reassured me gently, but firmly that Rio was indeed gone before he packed up his medical bag and left our house, but I guess I just wanted to make sure for myself. Barry had gone outside to bring the garden cart to the front door to help us take him down the hill to his grave (he weighed 70 lbs), and when he got to the front porch he found me standing there, pressing our doorbell once, then twice. There was nothing but silence. Peaceful, lonely silence.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Farewell, friend

It was a good day, filled with love, and our favorite things. Run, and be happy.

ay your soul be blessed
may your body rest
on the mountain where you were born
may your spirit soar
where there's joy ever more
may you find your way in peace

and there’s no more harm
in your savior’s arms
see you fly away in the sky
did you hear the call of angels one and all
may you find your way peace

may you know you’re loved
may you shine above on the mountain where you were born
may your spirit soar
there’s no pain anymore
may you find your way in peace

and there’s no more harm
in your savior’s arms
see you fly away in the sky
did you hear the call of angels one and all

may you find your way in peace
may you find your way in peace
may you find your way in peace

Lyrics from "Mark's Song", by Eastmountainsouth

Rio wanted me to pass on some messages to his friends (in no particular order).

1. Thanks to Heidi & Dennis, Art, Tom, Tracie & Melissa, Chad, Gary, Rina, John, Don & Sally & Sean and Linda for hangin’ with me at the house when my mom and dad went places where they couldn’t take me. I enjoyed your company, not to mention the treats.

2. To Digger, the really fast 3 legged dog across the pasture – dude, we almost had a club. You rock.

3. To the UPS, Fed Ex, US Mail, PG & E, and Coast Propane delivery guys – hey, nothing personal, it’s my job, ok? I’m sure you can understand.

4. To Jake, my departed best buddy next door – see you on the other side, dude. Is it really true that the squirrels run slower there?

5. To Purnima, from my mom’s garden club – I’m sorry that I frightened you. See #3.

6. Tom – you were a good friend from the get go, and I’ll miss you (and your darned good treats). Thanks for loving me.

7. For the technician at Wilson’s Veterinary Hospital – I’m sorry that I tried to bite you. It’s just that I thought you were trying to hurt me. Now I know that you guys were all on my side.

8. To the trainer at Saratoga School for Dogs – I know you had doubts about me, but I made it to the Big Time. The off-leash stay. That’s right. Executed perfectly in front of a steaming bowl of human food. I'd like to see one of your obedience school flunkies do THAT.

9. To Jimmy, the driver of the Red Truck – sorry if it pissed you off when I chased your truck, but hey, I take my sport where I can get it. No harm done, right? Besides, if you didn’t want me to chase you, you shouldn’t drive by every day with your dog in the back. Be real.

10. To Gary, my human brother – I’ll miss kissing you goodnight and good morning. Oh yeah, don’t tell your mom, but I slept on your bed when you were gone. Hey, it was low to the ground and easy to get up on. Don’t worry, I bathe.

11. To the kids next door – I’m really sorry about the soccer balls. I thought they were for me. I’d have my mom return them, but they now have a few holes…

12. To the neighbors’ cats. I guess you can come over after I’m gone. My mom thinks that you keep the gophers in check.

13. To the deer. I may be gone, but you still need to STAY OUT of my mom’s gardens. Seriously. I’ll be watching, and I’ll find a way to get you if you don’t.

14. To the possum who played his part perfectly that night that we met outside - you got me once, but you should alert your friends in heaven that I'm wise to the act.

15. To the Barbers - thanks for letting me and my peeps regularly walk on your trail through the redwoods - it was a great new adventure full of good scents every time. It was also a very satisfying place to take a dump.

16. Gary, I'm sorry but I lied. I don't bathe. Something must have freaked me out when I was a puppy. But I smell pretty good for a dog. Must have been the wood chips in my dog house. I love you.


I didn’t get much sleep last night. Later today Dr. Stone comes over to put Rio to sleep. I spent the night as many mothers do, listening. My ears reached out into the darkness for every slight sound from Rio, and fully scanned the topography of each breath. For about the past six months I’ve noticed an irregularity with his breathing when he’s at rest. It sounds kind of like the stutter a crying person makes when they try to take a breath of air. Sometimes, when he’s really tired, he snores – a sound that used to evoke a smile from me when I heard it. There was something very satisfying to me in hearing this, perhaps because it meant that he was tired (a tired dog is a good thing), and fully relaxed. I recall a number of trips in the car after camping or hiking where he would do this, and it would make me and my husband laugh. The sounds he makes in the night are not reassuring to me any more, and I feel like a watchful, worried mother with a sick infant. I can hear the effort in his breath as he tries to change position while favoring his lame leg. He is no longer able to quietly move around, and makes a heavy “thud” after turning over.

It has been only recently that Rio would sleep in a dog bed. When he was younger I think he must have eaten 3 of them – I would foolishly put them in his kennel with him when we were gone at work for the day, and I would come home to find nothing but shredded fabric and chunks of foam rubber. When in the house he was always content to just lie on the floor, and would sleep next to our bed at night. I guess it was his blindness that made me think that he might appreciate a “home base”, a bed in a place that he could rely on, that was somehow a comforting to him in his darkness. I got him his last bed late last fall, after his blindness was diagnosed, along with some noisy toys I thought that he might be interested in. I took him with me to the PetSmart, and had him try out each bed that I pulled from the shelves. I liked the oval shaped, soft sided ones made of foam rubber, with a washable sheepskin liner. It warmed my heart that he took a liking to the bed, and I swear that a few sounds of contentment punctuated the night after that. I heard sighs, and lip smacks, and dreamy stretching sounds. In the morning I would look over the edge of the bed and smile to see him curled up in a ball, in the bed I had gotten him, and my heart was glad.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Beach

Since he was very young we've been taking Rio to the beach. At first, it was to a recognized dog beach to help him gain some social skills with other dogs. However, once he discovered "the ball", his main objective in going there was to retrieve. Endlessly. Like a job. Like a machine. He loved the smell of the ocean, the sounds, the feel of the sand as it coated his wet fur and ground itself into his mouth as he rolled around, over and over again.

So, it didn't take very long for us to figure out what he would most love to do with his remaining time. "Eat human food!" was obviously at the top of the list, but running a close second was a trip to the beach.

We drove him there and as usual, within a few miles from our destination he became excited. Even though we were on the highway I rolled the windows down so that he could take in the maximum number of olfactory treats possible. He began his trademark whine of anticipation as we got closer, and once we were out of the car he nearly drug us all the way to the sand, even with one nearly useless leg.

We were unsure whether it was wise to let him off the leash, thinking that he might decide to run and break an already weakened rear leg, but we did it anyway. He wanted badly to fully appreciate the beach as he had always done, and given that it was his last visit we gave in.

After just a few minutes it was clear that his joint was visibly swollen, so we put him back on the leash, but he pulled hard to make us walk faster. We decided to let him roll around in the sand, and he really did seem to love just being there. Our trips to the beach have become less and less frequent as his eyesight has declined, mostly because he became less and less able to find the toy we'd throw and more afraid of the powerful waves. He would still fetch sticks that we'd throw into lakes and slow rivers, but the ocean was just a little too much for him at this point.

He rolled over and over, back and forth between the two of us, soaking up the sun and the sounds of the birds and the waves. We tried not to look at the enormous swollen joint which still bore the stitches from Monday's bone biopsy.

It was a good day for a dog.


“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in loving a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?”

-- Sir Walter Scott

In ANGEL PAWPRINTS: Reflections on Loving and Losing a Canine Companion, the wonderful anthology of pet memorials edited by Laurel E. Hunt, 1998.

Yesterday was a very difficult day, but we have resolved our path forward with Rio. We don't want him to suffer through an amputation, and the recovery afterwards, and then chemotherapy, only to potentially have just a few more months with us. Despite his tough exterior, Dr. Stone thinks that Rio is in a great deal of pain now, even while on the Tramadol, since he's not putting any weight on his leg. We're going to have the vet come to the house early next week, and help us say goodbye to our friend peacefully.

Until then, he's living the life of a canine king, eating anything he wants, and getting affection around the clock.

Friday, February 9, 2007

About Those Beads

"Ornament" necklace (SOLD).

How about those beads?? I swear, I've never been so addicted to something before. The act of choosing color, and form, and then literally dancing with molten glass as you're mesmerized by the flame is something I can't live without. Not for very long, anyway. Working with hot glass has been very therapeutic for me as I face all manner of life's challenges (see prior post on our dog Rio). It is a complete and utter escape, with a tangible, palpable "take home prize" when I'm done.

Anyway, here are some things I've made recently. I have a whole slew of new beads awaiting just the right findings, and they'll make their way to the blog when they're married to the perfect piece of jewelry. Look for pictures of juicy Valentine's Day hearts soon.

The top image is of some hollow beads I made as a tribute to the festive nature of the holidays. There are 16 hollow beads (about .5" in diameter) floating on a fine gauge silver knit choker, with a handmade fine silver clasp. Something about it reminds of of the Medeival days.

The next image is some "off-mandrel" leaves (no hole) I did using a new leaf press I got from Arrow Springs. They are lightly etched, and attached to another fine silver knit choker I did using some heavy gauge wire. It's a sturdy piece, to say the least, and not for the faint of heart (SOLD).

The second image is my favorite work from 2006 - the "Canyon" series.

My "Canyon Series" bracelets were inspired by images in a book called "The Hidden Canyon: A River Journey", by photographer and former river guide John Blaustein. The photographs in this book were so beautiful, I just had to find a way to represent their rugged appeal in glass, a fluid in itself.

Each bead suggests some of the remarkable nature along the Colorado River: canyon walls bearing the memory of powerful currents over the centuries, lush backwater pools and smoothly worn river rock, and layer upon layer of history revealed.

This bracelet has another one of my handmade fine silver toggle clasps, and some sterling silver and semi-precious stone accent beads.

The next piece is a charm bracelet that I made for the wife of one of my husband's colleagues (a Christmas present he comissioned me to make for her). It's totally loaded with beads and baubles, the centerpiece of which is a blue heart with scrollwork trim. I think there were probably about 45 or so charm components on this one, at least half of those my lampwork beads, with some sterling and Swarovski accents to complement them.

Well, that's all the eye candy for now. I'll get some photos of my new work up soon.


My First Entry, With Sad News

Greetings from soggy California. A soggy day to match the sad news we just got about our beloved dog, Rio. He has cancer. Osteosarcoma, it's called, and like most cancers, there's no cure. This is pretty hard to take after learning just last fall that he had Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration, or SARD (another incurable disease), and would soon be completely blind. We were just getting used to living with this handicap, and were quite amazed at how well he did without his eyesight. He still fetched like a fiend (only every chance he could get) and was in general a wonderful pet whom I adored. He had pretty much convinced me that he was an unbeatable spirit.

It started over the holidays when we noticed he had been limping a lot - his right rear leg was lame. We had several visits with the vet, who took x-rays and even had them reviewed by a specialist, and there was no conclusive diagnosis. We decided to wait about 3 weeks and take some more images to look for changes between the two sets. This time it was enough evidence for the vet to suggest a bone biopsy, and we just got the results today after waiting four long, anxious days. The vet had been pretty honest with us and said that he suspected cancer, and that we should prepare ourselves for an amputation if the news was good, and euthanasia if it was not. If indeed it was the "bad" kind of cancer, it would just be a matter of time before we would be forced to put him down. If it was the "good" kind of cancer, we might be able to stop it with an amputation. Such choices. To put this in perspective, he's only 7. Or at least in a couple of weeks he will be.

Osteosarcoma is a very aggressive, fast-growing cancer that metastasizes throughout the body very quickly, although the x-rays the vet took of Rio's lungs were clear. Without any treatment he may live a couple of more months. If we amputate the leg (often done to help alleviate the tremendous pain of this disease) and treat him with chemotherapy, we may help him to live 6-8 months, or maybe a year if we're lucky. Somehow "lucky" is not the word that comes to mind when I think of this dog.

So, we have some soul searching to do. Certainly we don't want him to be in pain. It's going to be another long night.

All for now,

Thursday, February 8, 2007

About Me

I have had a love affair with beads since I was a little girl growing up in Iowa. During the long, hot summers, I discovered seed beads at the local hobby shop, where they were relegated to a tiny corner of a dusty shop that mostly featured model planes and trains.

My friend Lori and I collected tubes and tubes of these beads, which we strung on elastic cord or dental floss - whatever we could find. We even hounded the visiting telephone repair guys, who kept coils and coils of brightly colored plastic-coated wire in their trucks, and which made the coolest rings and stuff. Needless to say, our creations were pretty crude. I used a toy loom to make hip, Native American style headbands (hey, it was the 70's!) and rings. I quit beading probably when I hit my teen years, when most of my free time was spent doing other crafts, reading, and trying to meet the challenges of the adolescent years.

After many years without beads, I rekindled my fascination with them about 5 years ago after discovering bead shops. Imagine - entire stores filled with nothing but beads and beading supplies! I had died and gone to heaven. But wait - that was only the glimmer - the real spark came when I took a glass beadmaking class a few years ago, and learned how to actually melt glass to make my own beads. Hmm, this was dangerous, fun, AND beautiful! What more could a girl want?

I was plain and simply toast after that - there was no going back. My first beads were really, really awful, but something inside me kept urging me to keep trying it. I read everything I could find on the internet on glass beadmaking, or "lampwork" as I learned it was called. I read Cindy Jenkins' book, Making Glass Beads, and also Corina Tettinger's book "Passing the Flame". The latter I found really, really helpful in explaining various techniques and styles of bead decoration, and I practiced everything that Corina wrote about. If you're thinking of getting into beadmaking, I would highly recommend this book - it's well worth the price (about $75), as every page is like a private lesson with Corina herself.

Now I find time several days a week to make beads, and I'm still playing, reading, and learning. One of the things I find so fascinating, so addictive about this art is that the possibilities are endless - countless colors, techniques, styles, and I want to try them all. I have been lucky to have taken classes from some amazing artists, Kate McKinnon, Tink Martin, Jennifer Geldard, Michael Barley, Andrea Guarino, and Trey Cornette, who have taught me a ton of amazing and endlessly useful things about fine silver, glass, electricity, color, and form. I expect to continue learning and growing as a bead artist for many years to come. So, that's my story. I will keep you informed as it evolves.

Don't think for a second that this is how I hang out. A year or two ago our local garden club decided to host a "formal" garden tea party, and requested that we all come appropriately dressed. Not having actually attended a tea party before, I had to run out to the local thrift shop to get a dress and a hat. I decided to keep it edgy and accessorized my dress with my mud boots and gardening gloves, in addition to my pearls.

This is more typically "me". That's a Jack Crevalle from the Sea of Cortez. Yes, he lived.


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