July 26, 2009

Brutal but Effective

We were living in Chicago while I was doing my graduate work and I blame my occasional migraines on my tendency to internalize stress. I’d get several migraines per month and each one would kill a whole day’s productivity. That was way beyond tolerable levels when papers and class work were constantly piling up.

Every day after class and work, my husband and I would go jogging along Lake Michigan and then we’d jump in the lake for a refreshing swim reward (carefully dodging the dogs leaping into the lake in pursuit of freshly-tossed tennis balls). One afternoon, after a particularly grueling migraine jog, we were astonished to discover that the reward swim in the lake scared my headache away completely. Just like that. One dunk in the frigid waters of Lake Michigan was all it took. Eureka!

The next chapter is about how my husband discovered that making me dunk my head into a kitchen sink filled up to the top with water chilled in a bag of ice has the same effect on a migraine as a dip in Lake Michigan. (Not sure if I resent him more or love him more for discovering this.) I have to bend over upside down (out of the question with a migraine, of course!) and hold my head submerged to cover my entire scalp for a count of ten seconds. Then I stand back up again and cry while he wraps a big towel around my head and hugs me. I do it three more times, (crying and getting hugs each time), and then I’m done. No more migraine.

Just throwing it out there, do with it what you may.

July 19, 2009

Laura Slocum and a Global Embrace

laura slocum etsy project embrace

This past January, I opened my pottery shop on Etsy.com. Although I had been an artist and writer among other things, I had never been a merchant per se and I must admit to having had deer-in-the-headlamps syndrome at the beginning. Navigating my way around Etsy without a map or guidance wasn’t impossible, but until I understood what marketing really meant, it was slow going.

Then I discovered the joy of treasuries – both weaving them and appearing in them. Beyond their sheer marketing value, they allow sellers to connect with each other and they create a venue for an artistic and supportive community of sorts. It was in the treasury comments that I discovered Laura. She stood out like a hammered and throbbing Fred Flintstone thumb because she was such a prolific social butterfly and her comments were so hilariously funny. I was smitten. We started a warm friendship and I quickly came to hold Laura in well deserved high regard.

Fast forward the clock a few months to the beginning of June. I was browsing through the treasuries and finding my favorites when I stumbled upon a few somewhat cryptic treasuries dedicated to Laura that were created by and included Etsy sellers with whom I knew Laura to be friendly. They were “sending Laura love” and she was “in [their] thoughts and prayers.” I spent some time fruitlessly trying to understand what was going on; I could only guess. Then I found her announcement in her Etsy shop—Laura had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Virtual friendship is an odd thing. Although we are removed from each other by everything except a computer screen, one can still develop a close connection and affection nevertheless. I was suddenly feeling a hole in my heart.

I assumed she must have been overwhelmed and had little time for emails, but I sent her my heartfelt thoughts and prayers anyway. Then with her reply came the next surprise – she was at peace with it all. She will (I hope) forgive me for printing part of our email conversation:

“…I have always lived my life in that I take the best care of myself that I can. I exercise, I eat right, try to get enough rest...and if I ever got sick, so be it. I never wanted to be 'kicking' myself that I did something wrong. So, I'm at peace with it and accept that this is the path I'm taking. God has a plan - so it's really not up to me.”

Like a trooper, Laura went in for multiple surgeries, started a chemo regimen and then…well, you should have just seen what exploded on Etsy! Kim of slinkymalinkicat and Amy of ThePeachTree spearheaded a tidal wave of support for Laura in what they titled “EtsyProjectEmbrace” where sellers could donate sale proceeds from designated items to the American Cancer Society in honor of Laura’s new fight. (Click here to view the current EtsyProjectEmbrace selections.) Then Lynn, from UnaOdd, set up the ACS EtsyProjectEmbrace team so making and tracking donations is easy.

Laura sure has one formidable cheering squad. If an outpouring of love and support could cure a disease, Laura could skip the chemo. EtsyProjectEmbrace proves it, the world can be a beautiful place.

Here are some links for more information:
Laura’s blog

The ACS EtsyProjectEmbrace page

lauraslocumpainted, creativelytangled, and CreativelyTangled2 Laura’s three Etsy shops

Some blog posts written by her friends:

July 12, 2009

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

This past Sunday, friends of ours invited us to join them at their daughter’s equestrian competition. We gladly accepted the invitation as the girls had never been to one before and we thought they might enjoy watching the day’s events.

By way of introduction to the genre, my husband gave the girls a verbose “Horses 101” primer so that they could get a sense of what the whole thing was about. By the time he got to the point about safety around horses, they were only half tuned in. He was telling them how to always keep a safe, half-a-horse distance between themselves and the horse's rear. He explained, “Horses can be easily startled and they may do this—," and he picked up his leg to illustrate how they kick. But he never actually got to complete the lesson, because his lengthy oration was abruptly interrupted by communal shrieks and screams, a loud crash, and a crowd—20 feet away from us—fitfully clamoring to clear out. When the dust settled, we discovered that the commotion was caused when a startled horse fell on the woman who had been seated on her lawn chair just behind him. Miraculously, she was ok, though her lawn chair suffered a severe blow.

After that, the girls enthusiastically tuned in for the remainder of the lesson.

July 09, 2009

Breaking Rules and Sleeping Over

Sheva, our 10 year old, is such a good egg. As a toddler, she would exhibit pathos and intelligence beyond that which seemed appropriate for her age. I'll never forget how once--before she was even speaking yet--I was lying on the carpet exhausted from the day's strain and there was little toddling Sheva carrying over a pillow for me to place beneath my head. In Hebrew, to say: "that was touching," they say: "it pinched my heart." Sheva pinches our hearts daily.

As a principle, we are opposed to sleepovers, but when Sheva asked if we could reconsider our long standing rule, we quickly agreed. For a good egg, rules should be broken, no? The party was a huge success; the girls had a great time. Sheva asked me kindly not to orchestrate every move, and I definitely get extra parenting points for dutifully acquiescing. One thing she did request was to decorate cupcakes which you can see in these photos. That was a highlight, and I just want to say: "Long live the disposable tablecloth!" Or rather, "Short live the disposable tablecloth!"