Monday, December 5, 2011

R.E.S.P.E.C.T aka Putting Our Founding Mothers Where They Belong

I recently watched the HBO miniseries “John Adams”.  Anyone who knows me (or has read some of my blog) knows I am OBESSED with antiques.  This obsession carries over into my TV viewing (or DVD watching as the case may be.  Even though I pay for cable, with hundreds of channels, I find there is normally nothing on.  That would be a topic for another blog…but I digress).  I love to watch period pieces and not for the reasons you may think.  I watch them to see the “antiques” (or set reproductions as the case may be).  I call it my antique porn (kind of like Dinners, Drive-Ins and Dives is my food porn; once again, another blog topic).

I will watch these period pieces and geek out over the sets.  Most of the time my long suffering husband will sit through them with me.  I’ve been known to pause the show when I see a really awesome piece and say “Aaron – did you see that (fill in the blank)?  I would love to have one of those!”  Aaron will briefly look at what I’m geeking out at, momentarily taking his attention away from Gamefaqs  where he is getting up to speed on the latest game, and say “Yes, Dear”.  Aaron is a very intelligent man after all.

Getting back to “John Adams” - As I watched this miniseries my attention was rapt.  Not just because of the beautiful sets.  The story gave me pause.  Whenever I think of the sacrifice of our founding fathers to form this new nation, I am overcome with gratitude for that sacrifice.  If the English had won the Revolutionary War, all the signers of the Declaration of Independence would surely have been hanged as traitors.  Benjamin Franklin said “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”.

We revere and honor these men.  We celebrate the 4th of July.  We put founding fathers on out money.  We even celebrate George Washington’s birthday.  Indeed we owe these men a lot.  However, in watching John Adams, it made me think of the unsung heroes, or heroines as the case may be.  Abigail Adams had to keep charge of the children and the farm when John was away at the Continental Congress and later when he was sent to France and Holland.  I have heard that Abigail was a better farmeress than John was a farmer (Go girl power!).  Taking over for John, I am sure, was no small feat.  I wonder, why don’t we celebrate the women who helped us win our independence?    Why isn’t Martha Washington or Abigail Adams on our money (I’m not counting the first lady coins; everyone knows, much to the chagrin of the US Mint, Americans don’t use dollar coins).  Why don’t we know more about the women “behind” the founding fathers?

In this week’s blog, I am going to set out to learn more about our founding mothers and give them the respect they assuredly deserve.  Will you come on this journey with me?  ‘Til Tomorrow - Melissa

Abigail Smith Adams

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – Part Three – The Ugly

I’m an artisan jeweler.  I have been making jewelry for about three years now.  I have learned over this time that jewelry can be GOOD, it can be BAD, and it can be downright UGLY.  In this blog today, I will share my thoughts as to what I feel fits into the “Ugly” category.


When you think of jewelry, you probably think of bright shiny pieces of jewelry and glistening gemstones.  This is true, but it is the end result of the jewelry making processes.  These wonderful pieces of jewelry weren’t always so pretty.

Being an artisan jeweler can be a very dirty job.  Of course there is no poop or dead animals, so Mike Rowe wouldn’t be terribly interested.  If I have a client coming to the studio to work on a custom piece (which is one of my favorite ways to create jewelry - with the client), I always warn them: Don’t wear anything too nice; wear something you’d clean the house in.

One of the dirtiest parts of the job is polishing the jewelry.  As you polish, little bits of the polishing compound get on your fingers, on your clothing, and on your face.  Sometimes after a long day in the studio, I will look in the mirror and wonder if I spent the day in a coal mine.  Also, if I have spent a long time polishing, I have to “dust” myself off before going in the house.  The cotton buffs I use to polish deposit little strings all over the place as I polish, which includes my clothing and my hair.  I can brush myself off when I’m done and watch it “snow”.

Another “ugly” part of jewelry is what it does to your hands.  I try to be as careful as I possibly can be, but there is always the occasional accident.  I’ve had the jewelry saw slip while cutting a piece and take a good chunk of finger with it.  On more lucky occasions I’ve had the saw just “trim” some nails.  Then there is the flex shaft.  It’s like a Dremel on steroids.  It’s one of the most versatile and needed tools a jeweler can have.  This multiuse tool can be a life saver.  It can also skin you alive.  I’ve had it happen.

On the one year anniversary of my Grandma Mizell’s death, I wanted to make a ring (me, make a ring, surprise, surprise) that reflected her personality.  It had to be big, bold, and sparkly.  On part of the ring I used my engraving pen to get a textural element.  In order to polish this part, instead of using the cotton buff and polishing compound, I had to use a wire brush attachment.  I lost control of the flex shaft, and before I knew it the flex shaft (still running with the wire brush spinning at many revolutions per second) had traveled down my index finger and part way up my middle finger, coming to rest in the webbing between the two fingers. When it was all said and done, the top layer of that webbing was gone.  That was one of the most painful injuries I have ever received in the studio.  The ring, which I went on to name “The Ruth”, did turn out beautifully, though.

There you have it, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  Being a jeweler is great. I have a ton of fun doing it and I love the creative process.  I love that it makes me grow and stretches me as a person.  As with anything, there are downsides, some of which I have shared with you.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my Good, Bad, and Ugly series as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Tomorrow we will go back to my Random Thoughts.  It may be jewelry-related, it may not.  That’s why they’re random.  ‘Til tomorrow – Melissa

Should you want to see some of my custom pieces please see my Facebook page at!/pages/Chrysalis-Jewelry/193401868091 or my Etsy page at

  The Ruth

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – Part Two – The Bad

I’m an artisan jeweler.  I have been making jewelry for about three years now.  I have learned over this time that jewelry can be GOOD, it can be BAD, and it can be downright UGLY.  In this blog today, I will share my thoughts as to what I feel fits into the “bad” category.


I shake my head (at myself) when I think of what falls into the bad category.  Now granted, the first thing that comes to mind, is well, my own fault.  As I have mentioned earlier, I love rings.  Just metal rings are nice and all that, but I LOVE rings with gemstones (or shineys as my friend who bought the alexandrite ring calls them).  What I really really love is rings with BIG gemstones.  I’m not just talking eye catching big, I’m talking it could be used for a door knob big.  I also love unique stones or stones with interesting cuts.
So why is this bad you may ask?  Well…remember that addiction to rings I talked about.  Here’s what happens.  I order a parcel of gemstones (for those unfamiliar, it’s a grab bag of gemstones usual bought on a per caret basis.  You get 100 or 250 carets of whatever they give you.  It becomes a treasure hunt).  I then get the parcel in and I start geeking out.  Look at this one!  Ohhhhh!  This  one would make a great ring (sets stone aside).  Ohhhhh, look at the cut on this one, it would make a great ring (sets stone aside).  Oh my!  Look at this stone, I’ve never seen one like it (sets stone aside to be made into…you guessed it… a ring).  I get done sorting the parcel and come up with one or two stones I’d be willing to part with and turn into jewelry.  So the parcel I bought to make jewelry (and ultimately money) become part of my own personal gemstone collection.  

Now I have no gemstone stock, what do I do?  Order another parcel!  You see how the circle can be quite vicious.  As the lady who trained me to be an artisan jeweler use to say “At least an alcoholic will pass out eventually.  There is no fail safe like that with gemstones”.  So you can see how this lack of self control on my part could be considered bad.  Now, I try to be an optimist and see the glass half full, so on the flip side, I have a rockin’ gemstone collection.

Similarly related to my gemstone issue is an issue with tools.  Can you do jewelry with just basic tools?  Sure, you can.  But they are always coming out with cool tools, or will save you a bunch of time, or a tool you need to do some new technique.  I subscribe to a couple of “trade” magazines.  These magazines either review these new tools or they have an advertisement for them.  So even when I’m just trying to keep up with information or learn new techniques, I get tempted into buying more tools.  Why is this bad?  My studio has a limited space.  I don’t think I can take over any more of the garage without starting a civil war with my husband.  Trust me, this would also be bad.

Then there is something I like to call Jewelers Tourette’s.  You think sailors have a potty mouths.  You haven’t been to studio when something goes wrong.  Picture this.  You’ve worked for hours on a project.  You almost have it done, just one more thing to solder on and you can start to finish it.  Then something goes wrong…horribly wrong.  It can be any number of things, previous solder joints coming undone (because you didn’t feel the need to put yellow ocher on it), or you get the metal too hot and it either melts or gets firescale on it.  You have just put your heart and soul into this piece.  AND IT’s RUINED (or at the time it feels like that).  The other thing that can happen is you have a piece that just fights you every step of the way.  Everything that can go wrong does.  I made a ring for my husband once that was like this.  I got so frustrated with it, I had to keep setting it down.  It took me over a year to complete.  I think my blood pressure just went up a 100 points just thinking about it.  Whew.  Deep breath.  Calm down…need to conclude this blog.

Being a jeweler isn’t THAT bad.  I think the good far outweighs the bad.  Besides, if you have addictions like I do, you do wind up with really cool collections.  Until tomorrow my dear reader – Melissa.

Should you want to see some of my custom pieces please see my Facebook page at!/pages/Chrysalis-Jewelry/193401868091 or my Etsy page at

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – Part One – The Good

I’m an artisan jeweler.  I have been making jewelry for about three years now.  I have learned over this time that jewelry can be GOOD, it can be BAD, and it can be downright UGLY.  In this blog today, I will share my thoughts as to what I feel fits into the “good” category.


One of the best things about being a jeweler is being able to make my own jewelry.  I don’t need to go to the mall or a jewelry store to get really cool jewelry; I just have to walk out to my studio.  Actually, this was the whole reason I took jewelry classes to begin with.  I LOVE rings.  I mean I really, really love rings.  Good quality jewelry can be expensive.  I figured it had to be cheaper to make my own.  I originally intended to buy gemstones and take them to a jeweler to be set.  Then I got to thinking (which we all know is dangerous) “Why not take a class and see if I can set the gemstones myself?” and so the journey began.

I love making jewelry.  I love the creative process.  I love unique items that no one has ever seen before.  I also love making things for my customers.  One of the best parts of the job is to see their face the first time they see their completed piece.  There is no greater satisfaction than seeing the look of awe on someone’s face when they see the jewelry that has been made just for them.

Another good thing about being a jeweler is I have had to educate myself on gemstones.  Knowing what gemstones are and what to look for can be very helpful.  Recently I went antiquing with a friend and she found a ring that she liked.  She asked me to take a look at it.  The stone was purple, but in the case I was seeing flashes of blue and green.  I first thought it was some kind of topaz (the “mystic” kind that has been treated).  Out of the case, it just looked purple.  I looked at it through a loop and I told my friend, without the proper diagnostic tools, I would guess this is an amethyst.  The price was fair for what the ring was and my friend bought it.  When we got back to my house, we showed my husband the ring.  We were outside.  We kept seeing green and blue flashes.  I ran into the house to grab one of my alexandrite rings so I could compare the two.

If you aren’t familiar with gemstones let me take a moment to give you a little education.  Alexandrite is a stone that changes color.  It is known as “emerald by day, ruby by night”.  What this means is it will appear blue/green under outdoor light and purple/red in indoor lighting.  Natural alexandrite is VERY expensive and quite rare.  To make lab grown alexandrite you still have to start out with a piece of natural alexandrite, so even the lab grown stuff can be pricy.  

Based on what Aaron and I were seeing, we determined my friend picked up an alexandrite.  Clearly it was lab grown, and it didn’t change color 100%, but it was a 13mm round alexandrite.  Trust me, for what my friend paid, she did really, really well.  I was glad I had the knowledge to help her out.

There are many other good things to being a jeweler, but this is a blog, not a novel (if it were a novel, I’d have to charge).  Tomorrow I will tell you about the bad.  Now, you must excuse me, I need to get back to my day job, designing and fabricating custom jewelry.  Until Tomorrow – Melissa

Should you want to see some of my custom pieces please see my Facebook page at!/pages/Chrysalis-Jewelry/193401868091 or my Etsy page at

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Single White Female...A Cautionary Tale of Skyrim

I recently lost my husband of twelve years…to Skyrim.  You could say that I’m a PlayStation widow.  It all started off very innocently.  The night before Thanksgiving Aaron and I were out running errands.  Aarons says to me, “Do you mind if we stop at Best Buy? There is a new game out I would like to get.”  This is not unusual - my husband is a gamer.  So we stopped at Best Buy.  If I had known then what I know now, I would have driven on by.

We get back to the videogame section and Aaron asks the very helpful sales associate if they still have copies of Skyrim.  I politely stand by and wait.  I had no idea what Skyrim was.  I should have done my homework before I let that home wrecker into my house.  The devil you don’t know is indeed very dangerous.

Aaron normally plays first person shooters (think Call of Duty) or fighting games (like Tekken or Mortal Kombat).  The last thing I expected was a role-playing game.  Actually, Aaron normally makes fun of role-playing games, or RPGs.  I should have known then his gamer soul had been seduced by the dark side.  Hind sight is 20/20.

Thanksgiving morning I got up to find Aaron playing Skyrim with my little brother watching.  It’s bad enough to lose your husband, but that trollop wickedly seduced my brother as well.  On the rare occasion that Aaron left her side, Chris was right there to keep her company.  Why oh why did I let this harlot into my house?  I feel so stupid.

At this point I am grateful to live in Texas where basements are not common.  I can at least walk through the living room and catch a glimpse of my husband, however bittersweet that glimpse may be.  He’s always with that tart, Skyrim.   I always hear him talking about Nords and elves and leveling up.  It seems Chris and Aaron now speak a different language, one I can barely understand.

I’ve been told I’m a good cook, or at least I used to be.   Meals have gone uneaten.  I have been unable to tempt them away from Skyrim with the delicious smells of the kitchen.  Is there any hope left?  I am grateful Aaron at least leaves Skyrim’s side to go to work.  There is a plus side.

I think I may need to start a Widows of Skyrim support group.  Would you be interested in joining me?  Until tomorrow – Newly Single White Female – Melissa :(

*Editors note: Some of the information in this post *may* have been played up just a tad for comedic effect.  Aaron’s a good guy really.  Except when he’s killing dragons or orcs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Insomnia...It's not for wusses

I looked at the clock this morning at 5:45 AM.  This was not an extraordinary event.  People do it every day.  I proceeded to ponder at this time, if you haven't been able to get to sleep and it's 5:45 AM, does this mean you are up really early or really late?  At what point to you throw in the towel and proceed to get on with your day?

Around 6:00 I heard my husband stirring in the room next door (Before you ask, yes, my husband and I have separate rooms.  We've been married for over 12 years and it works quite nicely for us, thank you very much).  It was at this point I threw in the towel.  I got out of bed and went next door and told my husband good morning.  He sleepily replied "Good Morning".  He then got a quizzical look on his face and proceeded to ask "Why are you up so early?  Or have you not been asleep yet"?  Ding ding ding Bob, we have a winner.

In addition to other assorted odd things that my body has decided to do this year, I have developed insomnia.  My husband (Aaron, not to be confused with Bob, the game show host...) has even granted me the honorary title of mayor of Insomniaville (I will gladly give you the keys to that city.  Trust me, I'd gladly give it up).  Ambien worked for a few months.  Not so much anymore.

You, my dear and loyal reader, may ask what I do all night.  Well, sometimes I read books, sometimes I surf the internet.  I've been known to work out in my jewelry studio (might as well be productive I'm not going to partake in one of my favorite pastimes).  I  also watch DVD's (because there IS nothing on over night, except infomercials) but a lot of the time I am just left to think.  This might lead one to believe this gives me lots of time to come up with blog topics.  I wish it did, these post would be much more entertaining.

There comes a point when you are so sleep deprived you can't remember what is going on.  For example, another odd thing my body has decided to do this year is to have my heart beat REALLY fast (the doctors call it tachycardia.  I call it my chest hurts, I can't breath and walking any distance is out of the question).  About a month ago I was put on a beta blocker, which has allowed me to return to a "normal" life.  When I remember to take it twice a day.  There's the rub.  One morning a few weeks ago I went to go take it.  I got to the bathroom (where my pharmacy known as a medicine cabinet is) and forgot why I was in there.  I went to back to what I was doing trying to remember what I got up to do in the first place.  I remembered a few minutes later, went to go get my beta blocker again, got side tracked, went back to what I was doing and only remembered to take the beta blocker when it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.  Third time's a charm and all that.

Bottom line, insomnia sucks.  I wouldn't recommend it.  But if you decide to give it a test drive, send me a message...I'll be up anyway.  Until tomorrow - Melissa.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture

If you have spent any time at all in school, you have probably run across the theory of nature vs. nurture (you can familiarize yourself with the theory here ).  I was thinking of this today as I was conversing with one of my cats, Mr. Holstein.  Now, before you stop reading this blog and write me off as a total loon, trust me when I tell you Mr. Holstein likes to talk.  When he has something to say, he will walk up to you, look you right in the eye, and meow.  You then can begin to ask him "questions" and he will meow in response.  He is quite a vocal cat and admittedly, has a very interesting personality. (you can view some of Mr. Holstein's antics here  .  Please note when my husband says "That's Holstein", he meows.  See?  I'm not making this stuff up.)

Now, where was I?  Oh right, Nature vs. Nurture.  Most pet parents will tell you how special their animals are.  While I would be the first to tell you how special my little furry bundles of joy are, I will also admit they are a little odd.  Holstein talks.  Holstein also has a girlfriend; she just happens to be a German Shepard.  Gus (Holstein's brother) has a large tongue, so big in fact, you will catch him with it hanging out of his mouth a lot of the time.  He is also one of the most loving cats I ever met.  He is so into his humans, he sneaks into our bedrooms any chance he can get to sleep with us.  The fuzzy twins (Anna and Nina) are cousins of Holstein and Gus and also have very gregarious personalities.  Then there is Yoda.  We have had her for 11 years, so she is our grandma cat.  She despises the other cats with a passion, but loves the humans.  She doesn't mind the dogs at all.  Oh, and most of the time you can find her on top of the Fios box (cable).  The Fios has never been stolen on her watch, so we call her the Guardian of the Fios, or GOF for short.

So the question is, do I have odd animals because they were born this way?  Or is there something about living with me and my husband that makes them a little off?  I had cats growing up; I wouldn't say they had remarkable personalities.  We got 4/5ths of our cats from my in-law's farm in Missouri.  Is there something in the water up there that makes for very personable cats?

Dear reader, I don't have an answer for you.  I don't know if my cats' personalities are because they are Missouri Mutant Cats (not to be confused with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) or if somehow living with me makes them off.  It was just something I was pondering today and since this blog is about my random thoughts, I thought I would share with you.  Til Tomorrow - Melissa

Nina, Gus, Anna and Holstein (L-R) taking in some fresh air

Gus and Holstein ready for Thanksgiving.  They volunteered to sit at the "kitty table"
 Gus with his "famous" tongue