Well, as you can see, I have made some changes. I changed the theme of the site so that there was a lighter color, and I have updated a lot of the information. There’s been a lot going on since I last posted, a year ago. Let’s catch up!
When I posted last August, there was a ton of stuff going on here. We had just started a renovation, converting what used to be my pottery studio/the garage of our house that had never had a car in it, to a fully functional mother-in-law apartment. I had just started the last round of three chemo treatments to get rid of the endometrial cancer, or more accurately, to keep it from coming back. I finished those treatments up in October, and my mother-in-law moved into the apartment around the same time. I had started making jewelry again over the summer, and some of my new metal work was featured in my booth at the fall 2015 Keep It Local! show in Oak Ridge, North Carolina.
My mother-in-law began a decline in health over the Thanksgiving weekend, and she died on December 14. (We now have the apartment listed on Air B&B!) I started learning about enameling around the beginning of the year, and have been working on that ever since, in addition to designing and fabricating jewelry using sterling, copper, glass, natural stone and other materials.
In January, Ginny and I attended a lecture by Dr. Renee Raynor, a brain researcher/neuropsychologist from Duke University about “neurological deficits” caused by chemotherapy, a.k.a.: chemo brain. I really thought the woman had been following me around and making PowerPoint slides about my life! Apparently, contrary to the opinion of many oncologists, chemo brain is NOT a psychosomatic problem; it DOES exist. According to her research, chemo brain can happen to anyone who has had chemotherapy, and the severity of symptoms, onset and progression (or lack thereof), varies from person to person. For some people, chemo brain never happens. For some other people, chemo brain happens, but it gets better over time after chemotherapy is stopped. For other people, chemo brain occurs later in treatment, or even after treatment has finished. For some people, chemo brain never gets any better.
Chemo brain is somewhat similar to ADHD, with main symptoms that include short attention span, difficulty with concentration and memory, reduced ability to retain new information, depression, anxiety, short temper, changes in personality, etc.. Dr. Raynor stated that some symptoms of chemo brain can be helped with ADHD medications, so I started taking mine again, and have noticed a slight improvement.
I was supposed to start back to work teaching in February; however, due to a massive fustercluck on the part of the school system, coupled with the fact that I really wasn’t healthy enough to be back in the classroom at that point, I ended up resigning my teaching position. I started physical therapy, which was very helpful in terms of physical mobility and reduced pain, and joined the LiveStrong program at the Spears Y. I started spending more time in the studio, selling pottery equipment to purchase jewelry making equipment and supplies, and building up inventory. The spring 2016 Keep It Local! show was a nailbiter for me, because my booth had no pottery at all. For the first time since Leanne Pizio and I started the show in December 1998, I sold only my metalwork and some of the jams and pickles that my loyal customers have come to expect. The work was well received, and I have continued trying new techniques and expanding my skills.
In May, we went to Denver. Ginny had been there before, but I had never been. She had a business meeting there, but we went three days early to do the tourist thing. We stayed at one of those really extremely tall business hotels downtown, I think maybe a Hyatt? I can’t remember. Anyway, it was very nice. We took their brand-new commuter train from the airport into town. It was just like the commuter train from Cherry Hill, New Jersey to Atlantic City, only newer and with better colors. (Atlantic City trains are brown on the inside.) The train had an armed policeman every two cars. It takes about 30 minutes to get into town from the airport.
Denver is a pretty nice place, but it is very spread out. Thanks to their new recreational marijuana law, there are dispensaries on almost every block, literally. We went in a couple of them because, when in Denver…. For some reason, the dispensaries seem to be mostly in the basement of whatever building they are in, LOL. There is a lot of security, because marijuana selling is an all-cash business – no credit cards. The banks won’t deal with dispensaries, because marijuana is still a federally prohibited drug, and the banks are run by the feds, so…. In the dispensaries, they have every form of marijuana that you can think of, and a whole lot that you never thought of or dreamed about. They have chocolates, like truffles and caramels, that are made with THC. They have this weird stuff called resin, which looks like really thin peanut brittle. I never did figure out how that stuff was supposed to be ingested. They have joints, they have loose leaf and buds of every description. One of the places we went was actually growing the stuff on site. Apparently, there are two different strains of marijuana. One of them provides a “head high”, which is the type of high that is usually seen in movies. The other varietal provides a “whole body high”, which is, supposedly, very relaxing. We did try the stuff, in candy form, but it was nothing to write home about. Big whoop.
Most things in downtown Denver happen along 16th St., where they have a lot of high end shopping, restaurants, etc. There is a free bus that goes up and down 16th St., and stops every block, 24 hours a day. You can get on the bus, ride to where you need to go, do your thing and then reverse the process. We had a lot of really nice food while we were there, and I got to go to a jewelry supply store! There is not even one jewelry supply store in the state of North Carolina, and I really like being able to see things and touch them in person before I buy them.
The one downside to Denver is the homeless population. We have been in several major cities up and down the East Coast and across the country, including New York, Boston, Provincetown, Washington DC, Orlando, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Augusta, San Francisco, etc., and nowhere else have we ever seen a more obviously mentally unstable homeless population. They are, almost literally, everywhere, and they raise all kinds of ruckus at all hours of the day and night, on the buses and in the streets. At one point, we were on the bus when a verbal confrontation broke out between one guy and a couple of others, and we ended up having to get off the bus because we were afraid there was going to be a fight right there in front of us.
Ginny talked to some of the homeless folks, and found that they weren’t actually from Denver. The cities where they had originally been located, paid for them to go to Denver and stay, instead. I never heard of such a program before. Homelessness is a really big problem in Denver. The week after we got back, we saw an article that said Colorado was going to spend a big chunk of the marijuana tax money on doing something about the homelessness problem in Denver. I hope that happens.
In June, we went to New York City for Ginny’s 50th birthday, and we stayed in an Air B&B apartment near Union Square. It was quite interesting. The neighborhood was great, and there was a Blick art supply store (drool!), a coffee shop and several restaurants in our block. There were a lot of restaurants in the neighborhood, and we did eat at a couple of them. The two places I had wanted to eat were a Poke’ restaurant, and the Second Avenue Deli, which was actually on Second Avenue the last time I ate there. Apparently, that was quite a while ago. They are no longer on Second Avenue, and we were told that they had not been there for over 10 years. The corned beef and the house made pickles were just as good as the last time. Yum! Poke’works was awesome! if you haven’t heard, Poke’, pronounced, “pokaaay”, is the recent food fad from Hawaii. It features cubed, sashimi grade tuna, dressed in soy sauce and sesame oil. Here on the mainland, this is usually made into a Poke’ Bowl, which means the fish is served over rice, and with various toppings of choice. It’s delicious! We also went to Metalliferous for jewelry making supplies, which we mailed back home so we would not have to carry them. (Sheet-metal is heavy!)
Last week, I had hand surgery, done by Dr. Robert Wainer. Making jewelry requires a lot of fine motor coordination and manipulation of small items with the fingers. This caused a problem called stenosing tenosynovitis (a.k.a. “trigger thumb”). Currently, I am typing this using voice recognition software, because my left hand is wrapped up in a giant ball of Ace bandage. I go back to the doctor tomorrow to have the dressing changed. There has not been very much pain since surgery, for which I am very glad.
Having my hand all balled up like this has made it very hard to create new pieces in the studio, but I will get back to it as soon as the doc will let me, probably next week. This will be just in time to create new pieces for my booth at the Southern Ideal Home Show in Raleigh. I plan to be there all three days, September 23, 24 and 25. If you are in the area, come see me! There will be a special area at the home show for artists working in various media.