Monday, June 7, 2021

06.07.21 College Daze

I know it's a cliche to say "where does the time go?"... 
but it is hard to believe that four decades have passed since I went off to college! 

A few weeks ago I got a box in the mail from my alma mater - the University of Virginia - as part of our "virtual reunion".  Our actual (35 year) reunion was cancelled last year due to Covid, and although many of us are getting vaccinated, and students will return to Charlottesville in the fall, this year's events (for classes ending in 0,1, 5 - that's me - or 6) will be held online.

I certainly put my formal education to use in 30+ years working in public policy, but what makes my connection to UVa so strong are the experiences I had with the people who became part of the fabric of my life.

I'll start with my college roommate, Kerry, who has made multiple previous appearances here on the blog...most recently in October, 2019 when we had a girls' weekend in Chicago and went to the UVa-Notre Dame football game. 

We met when we moved into the dorm, and have been in almost daily contact since.  Before there was Facebook, or email, or even cheap long distance - we stayed in regular touch the old fashioned way - with letters and snapshots.  She's the reason I got onto Facebook, so we could share pictures of our kids.

Anytime I need a lift to my spirits (not just in the last year through the pandemic) she's there...and she's the one who suggested we have a mini-dorm reunion on Zoom, since our real life reunion was cancelled.  She and her husband are some of my favorite, most spirited Wahoos, and I can't wait until we can see them again in person.

Closer to home (lots closer - about 10 minutes away) is my friend Dorsey.  We met taking religion classes together (she was a major, and I minored) and reconnected in Austin.  Unbeknowst to me, she had moved here right after graduation as well, but our paths didn't cross for a couple of years. We ran into each other one night in a restaurant - and have been in touch ever since.  

The restaurant she ran for years was in my neighborhood, and always a favorite.  These days (and for the last decade) she has been running an urban farm and guesthouse.  When the pandemic hit, she was no longer selling her eggs and produce to Austin's many farm to table restaurants, and began offering them online to friends and neighbors.  My weekly visits to pick up eggs, greens and veggies has been on of the truly bright spots in the past 15 months...I can't overstate the joy of seeing a friend in person...and now that we are both fully vaccinated, hugs are back.

There are so many more people - here in Austin - and around the world that are only part of my life because our paths crossed in those short four years we found ourselves together as students at UVa.

While it would certainly be lovely to return to Charlottesville, I'm looking forward to the online programs that the University has put together for next week...and I'll be wearing my UVa jewelry while we Zoom.

Until next time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

05.25.21 Cookie sez...hello!

After more than 30 years of having a critter or a kid (or both) around the was just to quiet after MoJo left us, so we have a new furry family member.

Meet Cookie.

We adopted her from the Austin Animal Center not quite a month ago, and she has settled in nicely as the cat about the house.

When I decided I was ready for another cat (and it didn't take long), I thought I would probably adopt a slightly older cat - under two - and didn't really plan on bringing home an eight week old, two pound baby...but that's exactly what we did!

We met her on Sunday, she was spayed on Monday and came home with us on Tuesday.  She was pretty skittish at first...and found a place on the kitchen bookshelf to hide, but it didn't take her long to figure out that as humans go, we are pretty acceptable.

Her extended family sent her all sorts of wonderful welcome home gifts - a climbing platform, a bunch of toys filled with catnip - but her favorite things are champagne corks (a carry over from MoJo) and a cardboard box.

I was told - in no uncertain terms - that the occassional post on social media was not going to be enough kitten content, so I succumbed to peer pressure and created an Instagram account for her.  She's Cookie the Whale Nosed Cat, because of the shape of the mark on her nose.

I'm not sure creating a second IG account was such a good idea, because I'm actually trying to get back to posting jewelry on a daily basis on Facets of Myself...but it's done.  Even if you don't want to follow Cookie's account, she will definitely show up on mine, too.

She's full of life and energy - and has already brought us so much joy - but she does take up a lot of time, which is why this week's post is both a day late, and on the short side!

However, now I'm caught up, and I need to get to work writing more!

Until next time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

05.10.21 Ingenuity...and inspiration

Photo credit: NASA/JPL

Recently, I had a burst of creative thought, and allowed myself to start thinking more seriously about returning to the studio. 

A few weeks ago, when NASA shared the first photos of the Ingenuity helicopter's shadow on the surface of Mars, I was awestruck...and immediately saw a compass rose.  I can't help but think this was intentional - as it is a universal symbol for travel and navigation.

It's also one of my favorite cut outs to put on the back of a much so that I made one for myself with an incredible rutilated quartz and gold prongs.

2019 was the year I built up my inventory, did three holiday shows, and I felt like I was ready to make the leap to jewelry.  I closed my consulting firm at the end of the year, and I was ready to take my work to the next level...and gold was going to be a big part of that...

2020 started off great, with multiple custom pieces, and I was signed up to take a three day class working exclusively with gold, but then Covid happened, so the class did not. 

Although I have sold a few pieces in the past year, and I'm grateful to everyone who has bought something, I've still got a lot of inventory in my Etsy shop. 

Metal prices are going to have a big impact on just how much I am willing to make for inventory...the price of silver is more than 50% higher than it was a year ago - $26/ounce versus $17/ounce. 

The cost of recycling scrap (which is how, at least in part, I paid for more metal) has gone up too, exacerbating the issue.  Prior to 2020, I could ship scrap metal back to Rio Grande and they would purchase and recycle it, and any amount, and I would receive an account credit.  There's now a $50 charge for recycling, so I have to consider both how much metal to buy, and reconsider how to reclaim the value of my scrap.

So, rather than jumping back in with both feet, I think I'm going to wade back in slowly. Rather than immediately renting bench space, I'll go back to open studio.  Instead of adding to my Etsy inventory, I'll focus on pieces that I want to make for myself, or as gifts, and custom pieces.

Before I start anything new, I'd like to finish this two stone pendant that has been languishing in my jewelry tote bag for over a year...I'm so glad I was able to finish MoJo Sez before he left us.

Maybe I'll return to the theme of space and travel...I have a beautiful piece of red rosarita that would be perfect for an Ingenuity cut out...since I've already done one to celebrate landing on the moon.

Whenever I return, and whatever I work on, I promise to share it - here and on Instagram - with all of you.

Until next time.


Friday, April 30, 2021


After an inauspicious start to the vaccine rollout...which included the Governor lifting statewide mask mandates and indoor capacity limits back in March, before most of us were getting shots...the state of Texas managed to get its act together, and as of now all adults (over the age of 16) are eligible.

I was 1B, so I got my first dose in late February. In mid-March, the process was opened to anyone over 50, so my husband got his first shot.  As of today, we are both vaccinated and are past the two week mark that represents maximum immunity - and we are grateful.

Over the next few weeks and months, we'll be venturing out again, to some of our favorite restaurants (although still dining outdoors), small gatherings with vaccinated friends, and hopefully by the end of the year, seeing our children again.

But, there are things I did before, without giving them any thought, that I won't be returning to. 

The yoga studio...

I have been taking yoga classes online with some of my favorite teachers three or four times a week.  It has been one of the most important things I do for myself, mentally and physically...and I'm going to keep doing it, but virtually.

I cleared out my office to make room, and have acquired a full set of mats and props so there's no need to return to the studio.  I haven't missed rushing to get to class on time, trying to find a parking place and being squeezed into a room with 20 other people.

At first it surprised me, how much more I seemed to be getting out yoga by doing it at home...but then I realized I was practicing with teachers who are friends, who know me, and my body's quirks and limitations. 

For those times when I can't attend class in real time, I'm taking advantage of recorded sessions with my instructors, and bought a set of yoga dice, if I want to squeeze in a quick practice on my own.

Finally, if I want to stay in savasana for 30 minutes at the end of my practice, no one is forcing me to roll up my mat and move along.

The nail salon...

One thing that did annoy me as I practiced was bending over in forward fold or downward dog and seeing naked nails on my hands and feet.

I bought an Olive & June nail polish set last summer, because it was clear to me that I wasn't going to get a salon mani/pedi again soon, maybe ever. I'd read lots of good reviews, but honestly, what sold me on their kit was the tools...because (as I have written about before, in previous posts) having the right ones can make all the difference.

Olive & June mani vs
memory of a Shellac mani
I've actually become quite proficient at manicures, and at making them last several days to a week.  It's not like the before times, when I had a UV cured Shellac mani - in the salon - that would last at least two weeks...but I could do it safely, at home.

My toes were a very different story...

Nearly 20 years ago I was in a truly horrible automobile wreck.  A woman ran a red light and broadsided me.  She broke the axle on her car, totalled mine, and as my car was spinning around, my spine twisted...and one of the disks in my low back ruptured like a Christmas cracker.  Within a matter of hours, my entire left leg had gone numb.

I needed back surgery and 18 months of physical therapy - which were some of the longest, hardest months of my life. I am fortunate to have made a virtually full recovery...due in very large part to an amazing medical and rehabilitation team as well as my regular yoga practice. 

But I have residual nerve damage on my left side, and painting the toenails on my left foot is a difficult process that usually ended with a less than satisfactory result (with as much polish on my toes as my nails).  In the before times, it wasn't an issue...during the winter, it didn't really matter and during the summer I had a pedicure once a month.

Enter Olive & June again, this time with a pedicure kit.  It really is all about the tools, and in this case, erognomics. The kit comes in a container that becomes an angled foot rest...which means I don't have to contort myself to reach my left foot.  

The result is that instead of swearing and making a mess of my feet...I can polish my toenails - and look down at them on my yoga mat - with a pretty significant sense of satisfaction, feeling no need to return to the salon.  Not to mention, the pedi kit costs less than two appointments!

The grocery store...

In the before times, I had pretty much quit cooking.  We were busy, sometimes my husband and I had different schedules, so we weren't home at the same time or dinner was late.  Covid changed all that.  I've returned to cooking, and baking, and because I wasn't able to go to the jewelry studio - my kitchen became my happy and creative place.

We will eat out again, but not the same way...and I won't shop like I did in the before times, either.  I've come to love my Sunday trips to the farmers market, and incredible the fresh meat, produce and specialty baked goods I am able to purchase from vendors I have come to know.  

What I can't get at the market, I will continue to buy at HEB or Target (when HEB is occasionally out of something I want that week)...but I am a curbside convert! Before the pandemic it never occured to me, an able bodied person with a flexible schedule, not to go into the store and do my own shopping...but I have been so impressed with the process and the consistent quality of items that are picked for me (even when there are substitutions), I see no reason to return to the old way.

The jewelry studio, on the other hand, is someplace I hope to return to soon...and when I do, I'll share with you here.

Until next time.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

04.12.21 MoJo sez...goodbye

Fourteen is old for a cat, especially one who spent as much of his life outdoors as MoJo did...and I hadn't noticed how much he was aging (or maybe it's just that I didn't want to)...

we called him the Tabby Spaniel, because when he joined our family as a kitten, he was trained by our cocker spaniel, Max.  They did yard partol (sniffing along the entire fence around the backyard) every morning; they came when they were called for meals; they slept side by side, indoors or out.

When Max died, more than 5 years ago, we had entered a busy part of our empty nest lives, and didn't get another dog.  Honestly, I didn't feel the need for one...we had MoJo.

When I say he was more dog than cat, I mean that he came running when he was called, slept in a crate in the house, and never ventured far from home. Sometimes he'd go to one of the houses next door, or across the street to hang out on a porch with a neighbor cat...but mostly, he would nap close enough that he didn't have to walk very far if he wanted to come in for a snack.

He would snooze in the corner just outside the kitchen door (where you had to be careful not to step on him if you went out)...or under the silverleaf bush just across the driveway.

He was also like a spaniel in the way he ate.  We tried free feeding him once Max was gone (we used to feed them at the same time, because otherwise Max would eat his own food, and then the cat food).  However, with his bowl always on the floor, and a constant supply of kibble, MoJo got fat, so we had to put him back on a scheduled - and a weight control diet.

He had no fear of preditors (you'll notice he sleeps with his feet up and belly exposed, like a dog not a cat) and believed that he, not he humans, was in charge of the property.

Covid was great for MoJo because there was almost always a human opposed to be before times...when I would go to the jewelry studio and my husband went to the office.  Back then, sometimes, he'd have to go *gasp* more than four hours between feedings!

Even when we were home all the time, except in cases of bad weather, he preferred to spend his days outside.  Every few hours he would appear at the kitchen door during the day, or on top of a patio chair behind the family room where we watched TV in the evenings, announcing his presence and demaning that a human let him in and give him his portion.

He did this every night...he didn't want to come in while the humans were eating dinner, or even cleaning up.  No, he waited until we were settled on the sofa to appear in the windows behind our head barking orders.

It's what he did the last time we saw him.

On a Sunday night, a few weeks ago...during the 10 o'clock news, he made himself known and came in.  He ate a little - but not very much, he got his chin and ears rubbed, then he went to the door and asked to go out...of course, we let him.

Thinking back...all the signs were there...he was eating less; he'd had terrible allergies for years (and we happily purchased and administered expensive medication from the local compounding pharmacy to treat him) and they had been pretty bad - but we just attributed it to spring allergies.  His eyes had become glassy and droopy, he was coughing more and sometimes his breathing seemed a little labored...but nothing that set off any alarms for us, or frankly the vet, who had seen him recenlty.  We all thought he was doing pretty well, considering.

When he didn't show up after 24 hours, I was worried...he'd wandered off before, but never for more than one or two feeding cycles.  We posted his information on neighborhood lists and missing pet forums. We put his favorite towels out on the front and side porches, so that he would be able to smell his way home.

I kept refreshing the water in his bowl on the back porch...and on the third day he was gone, there was a cardinal perched on the edge of the bowl drinking...something I'd never seen before.  I noted it, but didn't think much of it.  But, when...after more than a week of searching for him, checking with neighbors and shelter postings...the cardinal appeared again, I thought maybe the bird, the cat, the trying to tell me something?

We left the towels, and his rag toy out on the porch a little longer, but I knew in my heart that he had crossed the rainbow bridge...and I had to let go.

This pendant was last piece I made in the jewelry studio before everything shut down...I bought the stone and designed it for myself, and named it "MoJo sez".  

I stayed late that day to finish it, because I had a sense that it might be a while (I thought maybe a couple of weeks, or a month) before I got back...and I'm glad I did, because I can wear him close to my heart on a day I need some warm fuzzies.

Before MoJo, I would have put myself squarely in the "dog person" camp...but he changed me.  Dogs need their people, cats appreciate you but want their independence, and are okay if the humans have some too...which is where I am in my life right now.

There's a lot of joy in having four legged members in a household, and imagine we will invite a new feline into the family sooner, rather than later.

Until next time.

Monday, March 29, 2021

03.29.21 Let's Dance

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia in the 1980's - during the Ralph Sampson era - I was a four year season ticket holder for basketball.  Those were great teams, and they won a lot of games...but never a national championship.

In 2018, UVa went into the NCAA Tournament as the overall #1 seed...only to be knocked out in the first round by UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County). They made history...but not in a good way.  That team was the only #1 ever taken out in the first round by a #16 seed.  It was awful.

In 2019, the Hoos came roaring back - vowing redemption - and earning it by winning it all against Texas Tech in overtime!

Last year, like everything else, the NCAA Tournament was cancelled, but this year it's back...and my beloved Hoos were the #4 seed in West Region (even though the entire tournament is being played in Indianapolis).  

After winning the conference championship for the regular season, and a buzzer beater in the first round of the ACC looked like they might be cancelled by Covid this year, too...but they made it to the big dance.

However, there's a reason fans refer to them as the heart attack Hoos - Coach Bennett and his players love to keep it interesting until the last seconds tick off the clock - and this year, that meant not making it beyond the first round.  Neither did the University of Texas (where I earned my graduate degree) or many of the other top seeds.  

The first weekend of play was upset central...and by the time the slots were filled for the Sweet Sixteen, there was not a single perfect interactive bracket left!

Even with my alma maters out of the running, I still had a couple teams to pull for...

The University of Houston, which has had great teams since the 60s! My Dad taught physics there in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and was in the arena when Elvin Hayes (the Big E) and the Cougars matched up against Lew Alcindor (most of you know him as Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and UCLA in first ever March Madness game, also called "the game of the century".  Living in Texas for most of my life, including in Houston when my Dad taught there, the Cougs are a sentimental favorite.

The University of Maryland, which was part of the (original) ACC and a huge UVa rival in the 1980s when I was in school.  Like Guy Lewis of Houston, the Terps also had a rough around the edges coach named Lefty Driesell.  They also had an incredible player named Len Bias, who had he not overdosed in the summer of 1985, would have gone on to greatness at the level of his ACC opponent, Michael Jordan.  In addition to seeing Maryland play a lot of basketball during my high school and college years, three of my children have degrees from UMD.

Villanova, because their chaplain is the brother of a dear friend.  Whenever we get together we always talk about family, education policy and NCAA basketball. 

Photo: NCAA Sports, 2019 Champs
Neither Maryland or Villanova - along with several other higher seeded teams - made it through the weekend, but Houston did! 

I'm going to keep watching it all...until the streamers and confetti drop and CBS plays the last note of One Shining Moment...

...grateful for the little bit of normal that comes from watching three weekends of great, if heartbreaking, college basketball.

Until next time.

Monday, March 15, 2021

03.15.21 Quarantinewhile* - The Kitchen

I'm pretty sure I've spent more time in my kitchen over the last year than in the previous seven (when our youngest child went away to college, and I started this blog).

Early on in the pandemic I realized I needed to clean out the pantry. I'll spare you the list of things with "best by" dates from the late 00's to the early 10's that went straight to the compost (and their containers to the recycling)...let's just say it reinforced how little cooking I'd done in that period.

It also rapidly became obvious that a lot of things in the kitchen were worn out. It wasn't long before kitchen appliances - large and small - started failing

We replaced the mixer, toaster oven, microwave, a refrigerator and two hot water heaters over the course of the spring and summer...just a couple of weeks ago, we had to have the "pilotless ignition" on the stove replaced...and this morning, as soon as I get this post up, I'm shopping for a new dishwasher (the panel on ours is now blinking like a pinball machine).

Despite all of that, I realized I was enjoying cooking and baking again...but, like my office, the contents of the kitchen needed to be sorted, purged and updated.

I started with baking pans.  Instead of sourdough, I baked muffins...but the pan I had dated to my days as a student. It was flimsy and rusty, and needed to be replaced.  I also bought some really nice (and just plain fun) odd sized measuring cups and spoons.  I think it's worth noting, that I am still baking several times a week, so these were good purchases.

From there, I moved on to cabinets and drawers...that was almost as big an undertaking as the office.  For years I'd just shoved things in where I could find space for them. There were threadbare linens that should have been tossed on the rag pile a decade ago, cheap bakeware with dented bottoms (metal) or chipped glaze, as well as sippy cups and plastic juice boxes (did I mention that my youngest child - referenced above - is in the third year of her PhD?). 

One of the most satisfying outcomes of this process is that now, when I open the cabinet that contains plastic storage containers, not only does nothing fall out...but I know every piece has a matching lid.

Last, there were the the cabinets and drawers...they were overloaded.  I pulled everything off, and gave it all - the books, the tchotchkes, and the shelves themselves - a thorough dusting and wiping down.

I recycled years' worth of magazines that I had kept - for reasons I could no longer remember (or, because they contained a recipe that is now online) - which freed up a whole lot of shelf space, and made it possible to line the books up properly, with nothing stacked on top of them.

I don't think it's much of a leap to guess what I did with some of the newly available space...

...I upgraded!

Dented baking pans and cheap plastic utensils (from the same era, with melted spots on the handles) were replaced with deep ceramic pans and silicone untensils.  I traded frayed, faded linens for new, bright colored ones...and all those new tea towels (both the ones sent by friends, and those I purchased) fit in the drawers.

I'm really glad to have gotten rid of things I wasn't using, and not feeling any buyer's remorse about the new stuff. I'm going to be serving up three meals a day at home for the foreseable future.  This is the new normal - at least as far as dining goes - and it's nice to have things that are pretty and functional.

Now, you'll excuse me while I go whip up a marble pound cake.

Until next time.

*again, the disclaimer that I totally stole this term from Stephen Colbert.