Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Finding Family....

Steve with his newly found sisters in California

As a follow up to my previous entry, spending the day with Laura at her fabulous establishment, Beetz Me in Princeton, IL, was truly a lovely experience.  Not only was it a wonderful day for sales, on a personal level - it just left me feeling contented and having come full circle in my circumstances in spending my high school years at Covenant Children's Home there.  With that said, we'll move on.

As previously shared, my husband's circumstances were very similar to that of my own.  Coming from a broken home, being split from his siblings, etc.  As I said, things really can come full circle, even later in life!

Some time in late Spring I received a phone call with a lady on the line saying "I'm looking for my brother, Steve."  After my husband's parents had split up, his mother eventually remarried.  Attempts had been made over the years to find his mom, especially became important to his sister and myself as we were having our babies.  At some point she was found, but stated that her family wasn't aware that there was a previous marriage or children, and that attempts of contact should not be made.  So...we kind of let it go, but I know my sister-in-law tried again a few times, especially since now she knew there were other siblings.

Apparently after a little bit of digging, the younger of the two of Steve's half-sisters found us!  She'd found the divorce decree, the birth certificates, approached her mother who was still in denial - but nonetheless, forged on with the help of a colleague and found us!  It was a little surreal at first... and maybe even a bit awkward, but these women were so open to the potential and possibility of the two brothers and sister that they had yet to meet.  How awesome is that?!

My husband is currently on assignment in California, where both his sisters live.  We had already been planning a visit there to the Sacremento area, so we switched gears and made plans to go to L.A.!  I have to admit, I was a little bit anxious, his older sister really wanted us to stay with her.  None of us knew anything about each other.  But we agreed and 13 total strangers occupied the same household for 9 days and it turned out fantastic!

All the cousins on Hollywood Blvd.

I think for my children, having grown up with virtually no, or very inconsistent family, it was a superb experience.  For myself, I had spent years trying to be the "glue" that held my family together and after a time, it took it's toll on my children.  So having this experience where we were the guests & every possible opportunity was given to foster fun and happiness, combined with getting to know one another, was truly the very best!  My kids are stinkers, meaning our vacations never turn out great.  I mean seriously, NEVER.  This was indeed the best vacation experience we have ever had!

a little horseplay at the pool
A true treat for me, was that my newly-found sister-in-law took the time to find out everyone's interests, created opportunities for each of my children to go and do something special and I had the great fortune to realize my life long dream of spending the day alone with my husband, driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible!

lisa looking funky and windblown down the PCH!
I am super grateful that Steve's sisters took the initiative to find us, invite us to be with them & created such an environment of comfort and fun so that we all could have the opportunity to get to know each other.  I find it to be one of the most amazing experiences in my life.  Not to mention, I totally learned about myself that I could live in Cali at any time in a red hot second AND I want to go back....SOON!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's Been Awhile...My Journey - More on 34

I cannot believe how long it's taken for me to get back here.  Part of it is the organized side of me, that was waiting for some pictures from a friend so that I could blog in chronological order.  And part of it was that I just wasn't ready to blog about this.

In July I had the great opportunity to spend a day with a couple of friends and attend More on 34.  This is a 100-mile garage sale spanning from Sandwich to Galesburg, IL.  It was a superbly adventurous & emotional day for me.  Never thought when I woke up that morning that as we took that journey, I would begin a conversation about my journey through life as we wound through the rural roads of Illinois.

So here is Valerie & I getting ready to start our day.  Miss Martha was the road trip picture taker.  There were some fabulous vintage finds to be had....

And we finally had to set a 15-minute limit to each stop because Miss Martha was very contented to peruse...but we wanted to make some headway!  We met so many fabulous and hysterical people...  Like these gentlmen shown here, who were a little worse for drink...

We found a fabulous local city hall that had the best barbeque and crock pot sweet onions... a fantastic barn sale with some of the coolest fixtures we had ever seen and all along the way, somehow we got started on my life's story.  Now I knew we may eventually end up in Princeton, IL.  This is where I spent my high school years.  After coming from a severely broken home and being placed in a children's home - Lydia's at the age of 10.  A brief stint at a relative's house which simply did not work out, and then ending up living in a group home in Princeton, IL - Covenant Children's Home.  So we just fell into this conversation about my entire childhood throughout our journey.  It was emotional... it was personal, but it felt right.

As the day progressed, we were heading into a storm.  So here I am white knuckled and nervous, being urged on by my fellow adventurers to press on.  A few days later, I learned we did indeed drive through tornados!

I was superbly happy that we had made it through.  And low and behold right before my eyes, we end up in Princeton!  As we drove past the children's home, I felt the tears just well up (kind of like right now) and by this time I was speaking about how my husband and I had met.  We were so young, I in my senior year of highschool, he was in college on the military delayed entry program - and he was my math tutor through the high school in order to earn a little extra money.  The irony of it all is that he too came from a broken home and had lived at both of the same places I did, but at a different time, so our paths had never crossed. 

original buildings ca. 1921

It felt to me almost as if I was meant to take this journey that day... verbally...emotionally & socially.  It was, incredibly powerful.  And I cannot think of two more loving & patient people who cared and listened as I poured out the history of my 46 years of life.  Unspeakable emotion.

So, now to lighten things up a bit.  We had just gotten through this storm...we were tired, we were hungry & we found one of my favorite places to go for pie & coffee!

The Coffee Cup brings back some fond memories for me.  Growing up in Princeton, my husband had met a nice large big Greek family - the Lymberopoulos clan.  The dad had been deeply in love with his wife & had 8 children (I believe) with her & lost her in childbirth.  This crazy guy...Panos, managed to raise the most awesome group of people to ever grace this earth all on his own.  On top of it, he kinda adopted my husband into his family as he was close to his sons and by the time I met my husband, he adopted me too!

Once my husband went off to basic training, Panos would call me every week or so and say "let's go for a coffee."  We either went to Stuckey's at the end of town or the Coffee Cup.  He'd take my car "for a ride" and always made sure it was tuned up, gassed & that I had a good meal whenever I saw him.  You could see Panos often riding down Main St. on his bicycle and in later years on his moped.  A well-known, beloved man by many.  He is truly missed.

Okay so I got a little emotional again.  Back to the lighter note!  It was late in the day, but there were some fabulous little shops on Main St. and around the corner.

and the sweetest, never-ending antiques shoppe...

But the best find of all was a well-established gift & coffee shoppe - Beetz Me!

This is a fully-restored ca. 1800's hardware store which had been lovingly brought back to life by Proprietor, Laura Maxwell-Massey.  A true "gem" of Princeton.  So many fabulous things to purchase & Laura is a lovely and very friendly woman.  Things do come full circle, as my good fortune would have it, I will be doing a trunk show in her store in a few weeks on November 6th.  It was no coincidence in my opinion that we ended up meeting and I am so looking forward to "coming home" so to speak, & sharing my art with all of her lovely patrons.

Last but not least, we certainly could not leave Princeton without visiting the Red Covered Bridge.

Bureau County Red Covered Bridge - ca. 1863
As crazy teenagers, we spent alot of time on the bridge, jumping into Bureau County Creek & generally goofing off.  Ah, good times...good times.

We had a fabulous journey home....

And as you can see, Martha ended up with the lion's share of the vintage booty!

In closing I'd like to say I know it took me a long time to get here & write this.  It brings up alot of memories - sad & happy alike.  But I am so grateful that this day & that time spent with Martha & Valerie afforded me the opportunity to share and make a beautiful memory together.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ah yes...sour grapes, to smash or to savour...

I know it's been quite some time since my last blog post.  There has been so much that has gone on since Spring Break.  It all seems a blur now... well not really.  I just have finally come to terms with it all.

I went into Spring with a positive approach.  My business goal this year being "location, location, location." You know, streamlining how I obtain my accounts.  I thought my ideas were attainable and even sustainable, but so far been proven as I would say "not so much."

My first venue was to participate in the Modern Vintage Chicago Spring Clothing & Jewelry Explosion.  I will say that while my display was kind of over the top, it did turn out beautifully.  I did feel kind of like an old-timer amongst all these savvy and sassy indie designers, but it was fun.  I learned alot and more importantly I was vetted to do a bigger, more important show.

The next event was a huge decision for me.  I'd been told about it years ago... but felt like I just wasn't ready.  In order to be considered, you needed to submit a portfolio of work, bio, etc... In my opinion "big fish" and I surely didn't feel like one.  So when I was asked to participate, I was proud & honored.  Albeit a little bit freaked out by the cost, but I felt that it was the next logical step into growing my business.  Because afterall, this is my goal this year.  So it was with bated breath & much excitment that I submitted to participate in GenArt Shop Chicago for Spring.  Their website is no longer up for viewing, but I will link an article to this post which pretty much articulates how I feel about the closing of the organization & the perceived duplicity in soliciting participants for an event within three weeks of closing the doors & accepting our money.  Needless to say, I was devastated.  I am a very emotional person...my art is deeply rooted in my emotion and everything on every level affects it.  It may sound a little ridiculous, but I was a bit emotionally destroyed by this.  It took me many weeks to overcome and get a better attitude.

In the meantime, I had also already commited to participating in The Randolph Street Market.  A phenomenal show which showcases some of the most interesting vintage and antique finds of a more urban feel, culiminated with the talent of indie designers of Chicagoland.  The end result was a break even on show costs & a very small profit, of which I could totally accept.  I was grateful to at least cover my costs.  The upside, all the wonderful vendors, spending time with a friend and some major shopping after some fun negotiation with my husband over "found money."  I can find the silver lining, if I truly look hard enough.

The latest is that some wonderful friends of mine who own a local shop will be closing their retail doors.  I will not disclose at this time their identity because this is all too new.  But this week I found myself withdrawing my inventory from their store.  Nice people, huge hearts with roots in our community.  I am sad that they will not have a presence here, but am happy to learn that they will continue to grow their wholesale and online business ventures.

I know....I sound like such a downer, right?  Business has been slow even in my other bricks & mortar locations...but I am not giving up.  I feel right now that I cannot continue to take risks to put myself in the positions of securing accounts and I need to withdraw a little bit.  My ultimate goal for this year being the Chicago One Of A Kind Show.  But I know now that is a lofty idea as the fees for participation are staggering in comparison to all of the shows I've been involved with thus far.  But you know what?  I've decided I'm okay with it.  I mean we all know why, everyone is struggling, people cannot put food on their tables, afford healthcare, provide for their own basic needs - so in the grand scheme of things, this is small fish.  What I do is a luxury...a frivolity - not a necessity.  And I am fortunate, as I have been told many times, that I have a wonderful husband who has committed most of his adult life to travelling full-time in order to provide for us on a moderate level.  And while my goal is to be able to contribute to college for my children, it is not a necessity, I am still a whole person - even if I am unable to share my art out loud at this time.  And...I have found...I am okay with that.

I promise to be more in good cheer and be more interesting again in my next post...promise.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Funkymom & The Family - Part II - Spring Break!

I always reminisce to the days when I was younger & had more energy to be "super mom" and able to fulfill everyone's needs, requests & desires... ah yes, to have that ability again. As I am fully in my middle-age years now, I am less patient, a bit crabby & less likely to "turn it on" and show everyone a good time. Maybe I drank the koolaid this week, I don't know, but somewhere that crazy, energetic mom of yester year came creeping slowly to the surface & I was able to pull it together. Minimal arguments, everyone was happy & along for the ride. A truly rare occasion, given the age & gender differences. But somehow my kids all came together this week & we had a super time!

Okay, so the week started out slow...I have to admit. I worked for my friend in her boutique on Sunday. And now that I'm older, I always seem to need a day of recuperation. Can you tell I've been out of the daily grind for 16 years? What would I do if I had to get up everyday & do a 9 to 5 job? I'm sure I'd find my way back into it, but after all this time, I guess I am conditioned to the fact that if I have to work really hard for a day, I must have a day to rest! However, the eldest did have sleepovers two days in a row... the middle & youngest tramped on the mega trampoline in our backyard most of the weekend.

On Tuesday we had some dental appointments late afternoon. So we went to see Diary of A Wimpy Kid...but the eldest went off to see Bounty Hunter instead. That's okay...I understand, not every movie is for everybody. They were satisfied that they at least got to do SOMETHING. As they heaved & sighed...worried that they were going to be bored to death this week.

Wednesday we set off for Chicago & spent the entire afternoon at the Museum of Natural History. We have been to every other museum in the city except this one. The older two seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, while the youngest was getting a little bit tired of the walking. So we cut our time short, & since we got a family membership, I know we'll go back. It was a beautiful day on the lakefront & since we were right there on Museum Campus, we sat on the concrete edge while the kids teased those poor water fowl swimming at our feet with rocks when they were really looking for food. Of course by this time everybody was hungry...so we went to our favorite kid-friendly place to eat, Ed Debevics. I also think the kids enjoy it so much because it's the one place they are allowed to be belligerent - because part of the "atmosphere" is purposely rude wait staff. Of course we had to tame the boy... he was getting a little out of hand in the mouth. My girls did their daddy proud, throwing down on a slab of ribs (oldest) and a HUGE chili cheese dog (youngest). We rolled our way outta there. To wait out the wonderful after work traffic, we made a quick stop over to an old family friend, & then we were off home.

Thursday was supposed to be a gorgeous day...80 degrees & for some reason I was still feeling super adventurous, so I figured what the heck - lets go back into the city to the beach! We met up with a former classmate of my eldest daughter & spent the afternoon at Foster Beach. Where the boy daringly submerged his body in icy Lake Michigan (crazy kid) and played soccer with his younger sister & the eldest got to spend time chatting up her girlfriend. I sat & watched, sipping my iced mocha & read a book, because when I woke up this morning, I almost felt like I had a hangover - apparently not used to all this activity. Glorious! We were right in the area of the city that my daughter's friend described as "Vit Town" which has a largely Vietnamese population. So after a little prodding, I encouraged her to take us to her favorite place to eat & order for us so that we would have the opportunity to experience the authentic cuisine with someone who knew her stuff! I could not believe it!! ALL of my children tried everything & enjoyed it. I'm sure if you are a parent you surely know, it's no easy feat to get all your kids at the table to enjoy and eat everything placed before them. There is always at least one crinkling their nose at something. So, I was super thrilled that everyone kept an open mind and enjoyed trying something new. A little bit of traffic - then we were home.

Friday was a bit different. Dad was home...after a long week on the road to Sacramento, CA. For those of you who don't know, my husband has spent almost 14 years on the road in support of his family. A wonderful provider, but this latest assignment as he hits middle age is kicking his butt a bit. It's a lonely life to lead...I believe, spending your entire week living out of a suitcase & eating out all the time & very little socialization. But it is with superb diligence & dedication that my husband continues to provide for us - and for that, I am forever grateful. So, dad was a little bit crabby. Five-hour plane ride which includes a layover in Denver & a 3-hour time change. I went back into the city for our 3rd & final day with our eldest to visit some old family friends we hadn't seen in a long time. The other two remained with dad & were supposed to see a movie...BUT that didn't quite work out - apparently there was a squabble in the van which prompted dad to turn around & go home. Ah...but tomorrow is another day. So after a great visit with our old friends & a brief sit in traffic, I got this wild idea that I wanted to do a yummy dinner on the barbecue for the family. So, quick stop to the grocery store...onwards home & halfway through unloading the groceries my husband saw me kind of shrivel up. Ha! What was I thinking? Well, apparently he realized I had surely planned for much more than I could handle, so he took us out for dinner.

Saturday found me with a bit of energy to run some errands in the morning, but by afternoon I was fast fading & feeling ill. The children had redeemed themselves so off to see Avatar they went. I loaded up on sicky meds & spent the rest of the day in bed... Dad was even super enough to take the kids to an annual Spring party that we get invited to. He came home with an extra teenager for an overnight, to which I was very grumpy about, but I feel asleep and was none the wiser.

So here we are at Sunday...I'm still not feeling 100%, the kids are a little tired, but happy. After this, I'll be packing dad's suitcase for his evening flight. A busy, fun filled week was had by all. No regrets, lots of fun and so glad that some of the "old mom" was back for the week and found her way back to the surface to create an environment where there was little bickering & much fun had by everyone!

Until next time...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The People Who Have Touched My Life...Touched My Art - Meet My Aunt Rita!

While we are not an overtly artistic family... there is some "creative gene" lurking somewhere in the family tree. I always remember that my Aunt loved to paint & never really knew how she got started or where it came from. Well, we're in for a real treat! As I got her to tell her story, which most was unknown to me - just so neat!
I remember for my 18th birthday (at least I think it was then) she asked me what I wanted. I told her I wanted her to paint me a ballerina. I remember her being a little anxious about it, because still life painting was something relatively new to her. It turned out so beautiful! I still have the painting and the House In The Woods that is pictured in My Life In Vignettes - The Foyer. I will treasure them forever.
This was something we shared in common, our love of art. We would ocassionally over the years go & do artistic outings together like seeing Phantom Of The Opera and the Monet Exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Our funniest outing was going to the Museum of Contemporary Art and seeing some shocking exhibits of eh em...unmentionable body parts. She just kept giggling she was so shocked. We were in quite disbelief of what we saw...boy did it make a memory.
So now I'll share with you Aunt Rita's story...
I'm not sure when the creativity began exactly but I think it must have always been there. My earliest memory of being creative was when I was about seven years old and had a bald-headed doll. I guess the ones with hair cost more money and my parents couldn't afford one. So, I got hold of a ball of string (see where I'm going with this?) cut the string into different lengths, wet the string, squeezed the string into ringlets and attached the pieces to my doll's head with tape. Voila, a doll with hair!
Because of the creativity, I got in trouble a few times. I remember as a very young girl we lived on the first floor of a two-flat building in Chicago. The landlord lived upstairs and didn't take care of the yard very well. The yard had bushes that were dead and really looked ugly. I decided to do something about that. I got hold of some of my mom's crepe paper, cut out several strips, fashioned them into flowers and attached them to the bushes. I thought it looked great, but the landlord was not too happy. She complained to my mother and I was punished.
In grammar school I was always drawing in class and trying to conceal it from the nuns by holding my book in an upright position. Of course, I was caught, nuns have x-ray vision. They finally decided that if they couldn't beat me, they might as well join me. So I became the class artist and it was my job to decorate for every holiday, including painting winter scenes on the classroom window and for all the other holidays as well. I loved it! In my senior year of high school I was the art editor of the school newspaper.
After I was married and my children were grown, I finally decided it was time to take art classes. I joined the Fedelle Art School in NW Chicago, IL and following that, I took private oil painting lessons with Jean Bisek from Elmwood Park, IL. Landscapes are my specialty, but I do enjoy doing still life and florals. When I moved to Arizona, I was presented with an opportunity to share my gift and for the past seven years I've been giving watercolor classes to early-stage Alzheimer's patients. The program is trademarked as "Memories in the Making" and is sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association. My students enjoy the process and the end result. Sometimes I feel I get more than I give.
Hopefully soon, I'll be able to encourage my dad to share his story. See? I get that creativity honestly. Until next time...
**Notes: Estelle Fedelle is the Author of How To Begin Painting for Fun
YouTube Video Clip of an Example of Memories In The Making

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Love Affair With Glass Continues...

Since I just spoke about my glass obsession, I thought I would take the opportunity to give some examples of why I get so darn excited about it! Last Fall I had the opportunity to do a trunk show at The Genuine Article. The proprietor, Betty James is a fantastic glass bead artist. Her gallery is also host to nationally known glass art as well as being a bead store/studio where classes are taught by herself & other professionals in the field of jewelry design.
Recently Betty had acquired the inventory of a bead shop. Her wonderful manager Mary Beth asked me to take a look at a small box that they had acquired as a part of the inventory. It contained a decent sampling of W. German art glass, along with some period & vintage buckles & buttons. I gladly sorted everything & was thrilled to be able to cherry pick my way through the box of goodies! I came away with what I considered a small treasure trove of some of the best examples of W. German opaques as well as other types from the 1940's.
A week or so later, I came back into the shop & noticed that they had managed to incorporate much more of the new inventory into their own displays. However, what they didn't realize & what caused me to gasp with glee was the now HUGE showing of vintage west german art glass beads that I've ever seen in one place! I eagerly sorted it out from the rest of the inventory & created it's own area. I know we all have our things that give us inspriration... I get so jazzed when I see beautiful new/old stock - meaning never been used glass beads. So of course, I HAD to get more!
I've been playing around the past few months or so with my interpretation of a bygone design which can reach back into Egyptian Revival as well as Victoriana with the bib necklace. My design incorporates funky texture with art glass and vintage Swarvoski crystal. The fun blue design has been dubbed the "ju ju bees necklace" by Mary Beth.
Art glass & swarovski crystal beads and victorian & 1940's black glass buttons, just totally get me going! I figured I had to share where my recent inspiration is coming from. And thank you to Miss Mary Beth for asking me to come on in, woo hoo! It was a pleasant surprise.
Quick note, I am unsure why the top picture continues to come in upside down, and I tried to alter it several times - but it makes an unusual visual, don't you think?
until next time...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The People Who Have Touched My Life...Touched My Art - Ethel & The Murano

I touched on this a little bit during the How I Fell in Love with Vintage Beads & Buttons Series... how a part of this journey was discovering more and more about the types of materials I wanted to work with - in the early stages, ah... I knew so little.

Meet Ethel! A largely boisterous old lady who had a 2-3 pack a day habit & went to bed each night with an old-fashioned as her toddy. Tough as nails, rough around the edges old farm girl who had dug her way around old barns and houses, went to every flea market and auction she could, to feed her specialty of glass treasures.

I'll never forget the first day I walked into this great little antique shop in St. Charles, IL...there sat Ethel behind the counter, and as she barked out "can I help you" in that deep, scratchy voice, I remember being a little bit afraid. But oh...Ethel, her bark was much worse than her bite & it was the start of a beautiful, every-so-often friendship. Every time I'd see her she'd yell out "hey kiddo," and we'd be off on an adventure of her educating me about art glass.

I never realized just what an impact those first several encounters had, until I walk around eight years later & see all the paperweights, pheasants and art glass that I now cherish. It was a delight to sit and learn from her, and listen to her tales about how she found some of the most exquisite examples of pre-1940's glass I have ever seen.

Not only did Ethel aid in starting my addiction to glass, but she was also one of my first connections to obtaining large quantities of vintage beads. She had a gentleman who would come from Georgia with bags & bags of beautiful necklaces. I remember her taking a chance on me when my pocketbook was small and I'd stash away 50-60 strands with a promise of return with the money & she believed in me. That very first purchase, was supposed to be with a friend, and I was never able to get this person to pony up the cash... and I was embarrassed, it had been far too long since the last time I had seen Ethel with the promise of a soon return. Somehow I finally managed to get the money together and make my visit to pay for all those treasures she had been patiently holding for me.

Little did I know at the time that I was primarily sitting upon the biggest collection of antique & vintage murano glass beads that I have since never seen. Unknowingly, I parted with some of these beauties to my friend for a song! As I continued to research & learn more, I honestly told my friend that I had made a mistake, and if I had known, I would not have been such a good sharer! But that's okay, I learned as I matured in my interest & knowledge of glass. And honestly, Ethel knew very little about beads herself, so neither of us knew the value of the treasure she had bestowed upon me.

Ethel isn't around as much now, having lost her husband about 3 years ago. I have tried to keep in touch with her, but I think her passion for glass has waned a bit and she's getting up there in years & now lives a more quiet & peaceful existence. I will forever be grateful to the old lady who may have been gruff, but was willing to share about her stuff. If it wasn't for her, I would not have evolved and grown my passion for all things glass.

More soon....