How to turn your heart inside out in one easy step

Send your first born child to college. 

Seriously. It turns out that's all it takes to turn my heart completely inside out and throw me into sobs of primal transitional grief. (Son, if you’re reading this, it’s not your fault. This is what happens to moms who love their children.)

He was ready. He was 19 years old. I, at 45 on the other hand, was not ready for this. Nor was I ready for a piece of my heart to travel with him halfway across the country and stay with him there in another state. I was certainly not prepared for the vivid slide show that ran through my head on the ride home after dropping him off at said college, which began with still black and white images of his birth and progressed through each year of his life with increasingly vivid color, only to re-live in the end the most recent photo I took of him, a young man, waving goodbye to me over his shoulder as he literally walked down the path into the new world of college and life on his own. This slide show was so real, so joyfully gut-wrenching, I have never felt anything like it before. I guess it was my brain grieving a loss I didn't know how to incur.

I thought I had been handling this whole thing pretty well. Getting him all set up to have everything he would need to be reasonably comfortable in his dorm room. Helping plan the family road trip through several national parks on the way to drop him and all his precious cargo at the college. Sewing him a quilt from all the t-shirts and sports jerseys he had worn over the years. Helping him pack. Some significant tears came during the process and I considered them par for the course.

Because I cry. With anger, frustration, sadness, extreme joy, pride, love, disappointment, regret, pain, elation, fear, nostalgia, empathy, happiness...pretty much all the big feels. My eyes cannot contain these emotions and they run over like leaky faucets or geysers depending on the situation. It's part of who I am. And yet, I did not expect the gut wrenching sobs that overcame me the first time I was alone in our quiet house after he moved away. I was not in control of my body. The emotion was bigger than I knew possible. It was as if part of my being was leaving my body. Permanently. Against my will. And all the little regrets of motherhood were needling me in my tender places. I should have_____, shouldn't have_______, could have______, meant to_______, wanted to___________, wished I could have_____. All rose to the surface in little accusations of regret, failure and inadequacy. I tried to sweep them aside knowing I have done the best I could all along. Knowing that modern motherhood is an impossible task. That I should be gentle with myself knowing that I have been the best mother to him that I possibly could be at any given moment, including all the mistakes. But the ache was so deep, so all-consuming. It was truly overwhelming.

I had spoken to some friends in the spring before his high school graduation who said things to me like, "I cried all the way home on the plane." Or, "You'll get through it." Accompanied by looks of deep empathetic grief and longing. But it turns out that this separation is another on of those things that everyone experiences in their own unique way.   I don't want to make it sound like it was unbearable to send my boy to college. (But it was not the hallmark movie experience I had been conditioned to expect…) I'm incredibly proud of him for venturing out in to the world much farther than I ever did at his age. I want my boys to thrive out in the world. I want them to go away and find themselves and come home and tell me about their adventures. But the enormity of the emotions did surprise me. A friend of mine who has two adult children tried to tell me. She told me of her overwhelming  waves of sadness and tears that followed when her firstborn left home for college. I filed it away under the "thanks for the warning, but I'm doing this my way" file in my head. I owe her a thank you letter. Without her words, I might have thought I was having a nervous breakdown. Which in a way, maybe I was. A breakdown of a relationship that has to change and grow. A breaking away from how I used to relate to him. Being ripped  away from how often I get to hug him, how often I get the privilege to hear the  music that flows through him like blood flows through the rest of us. The loss is almost indescribable. Our family is different now. Our middle son is now the oldest kid in the house. Our youngest will always be so. And where there were 5 places at the table there are now 4. Food lasts longer. It is quieter. The dog was even confused for the first few weeks. She kept wandering around the house trying to find him when we were all home...all except him. 

Thinking back to my own time away from home in college, I wonder if I would have been less homesick if I had had FaceTime on a cell phone like he does. I wonder if that digital connection has allowed my son to venture farther out into the world, knowing we are only a touchscreen away. It has definitely made it easier for me being able to see the work he is doing, the movies he creates, the photos he shares. It connects him with his brothers in a way that my brother and I never could be while I was away at college and he at home in high school. And those relationships are so precious. It allows me to measure time by how much longer his hair is than last I saw his face on the tiny screen of my phone. It allows me to grieve and move forward while staying connected. To stay present for my two sons who are still at home. And it allows them to stay connected with their big brother. 

The thing is, even with the technology, I still miss him like crazy. The next spring/holiday/Christmas break can't come fast enough. I try not to bug him too much. But he’s so fun to chat with and I am pleased to say that so far his college experience is really positive, and I love hearing about all his cool assignments and adventures. He is growing and learning and doing all the things a parent can hope for...and probably some things I don’t need to hear about. And I’m okay with that. I am so blessed to have my three boys. Maybe by the time the third one leaves for college, I’ll have a better idea of how to handle it. Maybe. But fair warning, boys...I’ll still cry.

And it will still all be okay. 

 

Oh, Karma.

The rest of the "Namaste, you big jerk" story:

Someone mentioned the story to me the other day with concern, and was relieved when I told her that indeed, I had gotten my money back, that the credit union I belong to was very nice to me and helped me navigate the process…so here’s the rest of the story…

After the shocking experience of having my money stolen by a stranger in Florida, I steeled myself for the complicated process of reclaiming my stolen money at the credit union. Then something remarkable happened. My last blog post about my reaction to having my accounts hacked and money stolen inspired a lovely woman I know named Susanne to send me private message about a similar experience she had. Her response was a little different. And brilliant. And challenging. When faced with similar theft, instead of "why me?" Susanne asked herself, "why not me?"

At first my defensive self scoffed at the question. Then I took a deep breath and realized she was right. For someone else, having all their money stolen and having to wait 10 days for the bank to take care of the problem could have been devastating. Just having to take time off work during the day to go to the bank and file the fraud report can result in lost pay. I am privileged to be part of a household where mine is not the primary income. I work from home and make my own schedule and can afford the time to go to my credit union and let them help me file a fraud claim and get my money back. My money was protected, thanks to the insurance the institution carries. I will lose only a few hours over this. And perhaps gain a few more grey hairs. But I will not be harmed. No children will be hungry. No wages lost. I have a strong supportive community who care about me. I will be fine. If it had to happen to someone..."Why not me?" indeed.

So when I went to the credit union to file the fraud claim, I took my journal with me and sketched out some new design ideas as I waited, Suzanne's zen-like wisdom fresh in my mind.  I sat for almost two hours with a lovely woman who helped me feel better about the situation and gave me some good advice about how to help prevent this from happening in the future as I filed the report. I signed a bunch of official documents. I initialed the 9 fraudulent transactions. I made a new PIN number for my shiny new debit card. When I went out to the ATM to activate the new card, it didn't work. So back into the credit union I went, and the kind folks took great care of me. Again. The next day, my balances were restored to their pre-theft levels. Suzanne was right. And I find myself now feeling a bit more grateful for the privilege that I so often take for granted. And for the abundance that has come to my business since this theft occurred.

Thank you, Karma. 

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Namaste, you big jerk.

I’ve been very proud of myself for never, ever spending more money on my creative business than it made. I have no debt associated with my little jewelry biz. No credit cards. Just old fashioned budgeting and hard work. I’m frugal and buy quality tools one at a time and take good care of them. I buy raw materials wholesale. I do my work in a sweet, tiny studio. I’m a one woman show, I do it all. I do these things because I don’t want my business to be a drain on my family. We don’t need the added stress of a financial drain on our budget. One of my goals is to grow my little business into a even more profitable one to help give us a bit more breathing room in said family budget. So today when I was checking the balance on one of our personal accounts and noticed red numbers I didn’t recognize in my business account details, and a balance of $0.00...I got a familiar, sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I’ve been here before. Our personal checking account number was used by someone in Texas one day last year. It took us until after business hours to notice, of course. They went shopping at Walmart and a few other places. To me this indicated someone at least in need. Hungry, maybe desperate. Somehow it lessened the blow in my head. Maybe “they” were just trying to feed a family. It wasn’t that much money, really. All we had to do then was go to the bank and get new debit cards for that account. Fortunately, we belong to a credit union that makes the process of fraud claims relatively easy and painless. We went to the credit union office, identified the fraudulent charges, signed some papers and walked out 45 minutes later with shiny new debit cards and our balance restored to what it was supposed to be. It was a nuisance, but it didn’t feel like such a blatant violation.

The discovery of this theft tonight feels more like a punch to the gut. Those red numbers? Someone got hold of my business account debit card number and totally wiped my checking account clean of all my holiday sales income. I had made plenty. They even continued charging long enough to drain my business savings account, thanks to the overdraft protection I signed up for. I’m not going to give numbers. It was all the money that I had made since October. The Christmas and winter holidays are my most lucrative season. I feel so violated. It turns out this time, “they” went to a Verizon in Florida and just kept buying things one at a time until they couldn’t anymore. The hardest part of a crime like this is that you don’t see it coming. And I’ll probably never know who “they” are. I want to have compassion. I want to find a way to explain or justify this behavior. Unfortunately, I think this is one of those times when it’s fair to conclude that sometimes people just do shitty things. 

Here’s the thing; I’m the person who randomly gives flowers to strangers. I try to be as kind as possible to people and the planet. I make jewelry using recycled materials whenever possible. I create pieces that speak to people’s intentions and hold positive meanings. I attend and donate to a UU church, I sing in two community choirs. I’m a good mom, wife, friend...damnit, I’m a good and decent person. I would never, ever even think about doing this to someone else. Yet, not for the first time I’m the victim of theft. In my adult lifetime, I have had my home(s) broken into three different times, my car stolen, another car broken into, packages stolen from my front porch, my wallet stolen, my social security card and identity stolen...when I get to thinking about it, it definitely feels like more than my share of this kind of crap. And now this. Some faceless stranger across the country decided to steal all of my hard earned money. And then spent it all at Verizon. I want to be able to forgive them without reservation. I want to be the kind of person who refuses to give “them” any power over me. I want to rise above and move on, knowing that I’ll get my money back after a couple hours at the credit union tomorrow. (This time it’s many transactions over several days because I didn’t catch it right away.) I want to be able to see how well prepared I am as a credit union member for situations like this. I want to not have to worry about when it will happen again. I want people to behave better. And for the love of all that is holy, I want them to stop taking my money and my stuff. But it’s hard to be those things right now. Right now, I’m angry, anxious and a little more cynical than I was this morning...

So to “them” I say, I hope that you can make better choices in the future. I hope that you know that even though you could have, you didn’t hurt me. I hope that your face shows up in the security feed and that somehow you are held accountable for your crimes. I hope you know that I will forgive you. Maybe not today. But sometime soon. And I will be free of the consequences of your bad behavior. I hope your life or thinking improves somehow so that you no longer act as if stealing from innocent people is an okay thing to do. I hope you know that my faith in humanity will be restored by others who do the right thing by me. I hope you discover a better way to use your creativity. 

Oh, and I hope you learn that karma is real. 

 

 

Introducing 'Nicole' earrings

Ladies & Gentlemen, the 'Nicole' earrings:

Nicole earrings with faceted ivory freshwater pearls  

Nicole earrings with faceted ivory freshwater pearls  

I got the best text message a while back.  One of my first, best and most loyal customers sent me a quick snapshot of her jewelry box.  It was full of earrings she had purchased from me over the years.  Nicole loves the earrings I make with a single hammered silver circle on an ear wire, with a natural stone bead or pearl suspended from the bottom of the circle.  She has enough colors by now to wear with almost everything in her wardrobe!  Between Nicole and her lovely teenage daughter, the two of them have collected 15 pairs of my earrings!  That is love, folks.  I am so grateful for Nicole and G's support over the years.  So, I decided that since 11 of the pairs of earrings these lovely ladies have collected are Nicole's that I would do something to honor her consistent support & loyalty.  This collection of earrings shall forevermore be named the  "Nicole Earrings".  And I think in their honor that I'd better come up with a frequent buyer discount or a punch card...and maybe a rewards program.

❤️ Thank you Nicole, your support means so much!

 

Nicole's jewelry box full of my earrings 💕 

Nicole's jewelry box full of my earrings 💕 

#30dayjournal

I decided to take part in Lisa Sonora's #30dayjournal project again this year. I'm learning that a daily artistic practice is very difficult to stick to. Especially when it isn't something that comes from my own design. It's a process of stretching myself to combine words and thoughts with visual arts media. I have a sketch book and I have done several different journaling techniques, but this project combines the two into a visual journal. 

Quotes provide inspiration for the daily prompts provided. 

Quotes provide inspiration for the daily prompts provided. 

I'm experimenting with collage painting, and mixing wax based medium with watercolor pens and a dash of acrylic paint.  

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This is supposed to be a 30 day process. I'm on day 19 and 4 months in. I've given myself permission to take all  the time I need to process and fully absorb the content of the quotes, then move forward with creating each page from a place of authenticity. So far I have confronted a few gremlins I have been ignoring for a while, enjoyed the creative time and I remain curious and open to what this project might open up in my creative life.  

 

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