Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A matching bracelet for the hematite rope necklace

I liked that rope stitch necklace I made with the hematite drop, so I decided to make a matching bracelet. But I didn't want the bracelet to be a bulky as the necklace so I modified the stitch on my own to make the diameter of the rope smaller. I also used beading thread with the bracelet instead of fishing line, so the bracelet feels more supple and flexible, not nearly as rigid a body as the necklace (I used large gauge fishing line on the necklace). I used the exact same beads (what I had left over from the necklace) and I found a smaller hematite drop that I wanted to use too but I didn't want to suspend it from the middle like I did with the necklace so I added it like a fancy tag to the matching sterling silver S clasp. I am happy with how it turned out.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Technophile

Have I mentioned that I love technology? All kinds of technology. Computers. Home Automation. Communications. It makes me warm and fuzzy inside when I think about building another gaming computer from the motherboard up. I will willingly volunteer to install a friend's home theater system without hesitation for free (okay, maybe beer and pizza). When I design a new home theater system, I draw out schematics for the new design. I tell you, I get geeked out!

I remember wowing my friends with my home theater design in my home in Wisconsin. In my master bedroom on the 2nd floor, I could turn on my 42" plasma hanging on the wall with full surround wall-mounted speakers, and using the Pronto remote control I'd programmed myself, turn on the DVD jukebox in the media room down in the basement, and pipe the audio and video signals via RG6 cable on a piggy-backed signal using an RF modulator, a coax amp and splitter, back up to the A/V receiver in the master bedroom where I could scroll through the movies loaded in the jukebox, remotely load a DVD and play it all without leaving the comfort of my bed.

Of course, things have changed since then. I want to figure out how to set up a movie server where I can rip my DVD collection to terabyte hard drives and stream A/V via my wireless network to any TV in the house. Not sure exactly the best way to do it but when I have time, I'll be doing this.

I also have a bit of a dilemma with that huge entertainment center that I did a while back in the new house. It covers the thermostat on the wall controlling the central AC and heating for the first floor of the house. I'm getting a bit tired moving those huge units around to get at the thermostat (and am afraid to put my wine glasses on the wracks because the movement will surely break them). I want to figure out the best (and most affordable) way to get a IP accessible thermostat installed that I can then access via the wireless network and ultimately access via my iPhone. Yes, I want to use my iPhone has a home automation remote control. Doesn't that sound cool? It does to me. The options I've found so far for a thermostat solution are over $400 so I'm going to keep looking. But rest assured...this will happen (I want to put my wine glasses in that entertainment center!!).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Diagonal Peyote Stitch Project

Here is my latest completed string and needle beading project. This is done using a diagonal peyote stitch. This is the first time I've used this stitch and I had a really hard time starting it because my bead count wasn't consistent, but after 5 tear-outs, I finally got it. This is fastened with sterling silver crimp tubes and S hook clasp. I used black KO beading thread and number 8 seed beads. I have a number 6 seed bead project using an even-count peyote stitch that I did earlier that I will post once I find a wide enough tube clasp. My next project is using number 11 seed beads and a right angle stitch pattern, much more difficult. I'll post these when they're finished.

The Poet

One thing I've loved to do since grade school is creative writing. This includes both pros and poetry. Here are a few of my favorite poems (really just what I had copied on my thumb drive), all written quite some time ago:

"Like I Am"

Like the settling of an old house

My soul creaks under the weight of its burden

Like the life of a river stone

I have weathered into beauty

Like the tree that drops its leaves for winter

I need no buffer from the cold

Like the delicate tulip bulb survives frozen earth

I am stronger than I might appear

Like the brook babbles anew in the spring thaw

My heart gives way to new beginnings

Like the eagle afloat on thermal winds

My spirit soars in the warmth of love

Like the yin and yang

I am the saved and the sinner

Like the parched branch thirsts for the monsoon

I crave that which delivers relief and pain

Like the orchid dependent on fragile conditions

My sustenance is not guaranteed

Like the heart can break and yet still beat…still love

I endure


written by Tracy Talbot, 2003



"My Glimpse"

I am saddened that it cannot be

Holding yourself back

Such an empty success in that control

If love could be yours for the taking

If you allowed yourself

Eruption of satisfaction without reigns

Scary thought for one like you

Never one to lose control

Or look to fill your own cup

I would pour myself on to you

Filling that cup a lifetime over

Without effort or want

If only you accept it freely

Alas, freedom is not ours

To be who we would be

To love as we would love

To experience such an embrace

So instead we stand,

My searching look lands on your avoiding glance

And sees the beauty that will not be, but is.


written by Tracy Talbot, 2002



"With Love"

So different than it's ever been

Strength replaced with softness

Certainty with searching

Bravado with sensitivity

What it is you thought you knew

No longer answers questions on your mind

Crisp lines are now shadows

As the fog sets in, you strain for vision

To see it clearly as a whole

Your conclusions are foreign

The emphasis a new hue

But for the first time you feel you've got it right

The simplicity appears deceptive

But you trust it more than life itself

It cannot lie to you like others have

And so you slowly loose your grip

Slipping comfortably without regret

Knowing now what was elusive a lifetime

Will carry you lovingly through eternity


written by Tracy Talbot, 2004


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Valkyrie

We finally made it to the cinema to see Valkyrie this weekend. Good movie. True story. Well done. The tragedy was an eye opener to me. "History Love" is never going to be one of the things you'll find on the right hand side of this blog as part of The Menagerie Mind, but I found this film to have a sense of authentic and realistic direction, not overly dramatic, not too glitzy, and not even particularly vilifying either. If you like this sort of thing, you'll like this movie. Even if history isn't a big thing on your like, like me, you may find it engaging. Highly recommended.

A Call From Home

"Calling Home"

I see it here before me
And I wonder why it's not enough
What have I become to think
That I deserve any more?

I've lost a part of me you see
Once found but now abandoned
It's stranded out there without
A way back home.

I sit and meditate in written word
Trying to find it and bring it
Safe harbor from the storms
Yet it chooses to stand out in the rain

To weather the storm and feel
its harsh reality so as to
fully grasp that which it
is no longer a part of

Find your way back home sweet child
And take your place among friends.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The DIYer - Laminate Flooring

Another thing I like to do is home improvements. Here are a few of the biggest things I did to my house in Wisconsin before I moved. The flooring is laminate click-lock purchased from Menards. The stuff in the back bedroom was cheap, and I had a lot more problems with it chipping while tapping the boards into place. I didn't realize this until I started on the great room where a higher-end product was used and it resisted chipping from the tapping block much better. That flooring had the foam underlayment attached to the board too which eliminated a step in the installation process which was very nice and I didn't have any problems cutting through the foam with the saw either. I was really happy with how both floors turned out. I saved enough money doing it myself to justify the purchase of an entry level portable contractors table saw and still saved money in comparison to a professionally installed floor. It definitely increases the wow factor when you walk in the front door; although, it hasn't helped the house sell...yet.

The Stained Glass Artist

Stained glass is another hobby of mine. I took some really amazing classes at The Vinery in Madison, WI. I haven't yet found a good glassworks establishment in Austin, TX yet so if you know of one, please pass it on. Here are the pieces I've completed to date. The three red, amber and brown pieces with a Frank Lloyd Wright art style are the first pieces I made. I then took a snowflake class and made a half dozen of those. Some have already been given as gifts, but here are the ones I still have. The dragonfly is the last one I did while taking an advanced workshop with a friend of mine. The body of the dragonfly is actually a full 3D pewter dragonfly body that is tacked on top of the glass with solder. The original designed called for cutting out a dragonfly body from foil but I thought that would really look cheap, so when I happened upon the dragonfly body at The Vinery one day, it fit perfectly and I was overjoyed with how it turned out. I think it really makes the piece. Sorry you can't see it better, but I don't have a good digital camera yet and take these pics with my iPhone for now. I don't have a lot of window space in the Texas home to hang these due to all the blinds to keep out the sun during those hot summer days which is unfortunate. I'm not sure if I'll do any more stained glass in the near future unless I find a place to take more classes which always inspires me to do more and extend my abilites. Hope you like them.

The Organized Way to Happiness

One thing I promised myself I'd do during my holiday vacation was get caught up on paperwork. I'm one of those people that thrives in an organized environment. Everything has a place, by design, in my world. I once had someone make note of the fact that my junk drawer is organized, that the labels of my canned goods all face forward and that the handles of my coffee mugs all face the same direction in the cupboard. Okay, I can be know to go overboard at times. I am okay with clutter under certain circumstances, but for the most part, unless there's a work-in-progress, I'm much happier with the dishes in the dishwasher, the clothes folded and put away, the coats hung up in the coat closet, and the counters clear of clutter. Actually I had always loved organizing, and if I could manage a decent living, I'd love to organize for other people. Truly, I love organizing every room of the house, computer files, file cabinets, glove boxes, you name it. However, for a while there, I was receiving a lot of very unpleasant mail (going through a divorce sort of thing) and thus I avoided opening mail, and eventually doing all paperwork. I learned how to setup bill payment online automatically. But the rest of it, well, it just didn't get done. So now I find myself with perpetual piles of paperwork needing to be filed most of the time. Every once in a while (once a quarter perhaps), I get up enough gumption to file everything but it quickly piles back up. Every time I walk past one of those piles, I feel bad. No, I feel horrible. Since I'm on the eve of a new year that I've dubbed: 2009 The Year of Happiness, I realized that those piles of unfiled paperwork are a huge happiness drain for me, and one that is entirely within my realm of control to change. So I emptied the piles onto the kitchen table, and began opening every envelope. Some went in the trash, some in this file, others in that file, some got translated into contacts on my iPhone, some got translated to To Do list items via a Jott recording, but nothing got left in a pile unless it was a form needing to be completed, etc. I cannot express the relief I felt 4 (yes, four) hours later when I was completed with my quest. Since then, I've been very good about opening mail when received, filing billing statements and receipts, and the other tasks necessary to eliminate the creation of a new ugly monster (paperwork pile). For 2009, I promise myself that I will treat myself well, and promote my own happiness by eliminating the happiness drains that I create for myself. No more piles of undone laundry, no more piles of unfiled bills, no more sinks full of dirty dishes, no more cluttered countertops. This one's for me.

Kung Fu Panda

Last night, Christmas day, Jason and I wanted to see the new movie Valkyrie. When we arrived at the theatre, the parking lot was PACKED. Since it was pretty clear we weren't going to get good seats (we never manage to arrive early), we just turned around and went home. It was opening night and a holiday so we shouldn't have been so surprised. It was a good thing though as I had forgotten that I'd preheated the oven and taken out the Stouffer's lasagna from the freezer. Boy oh boy did I catch grief for that, and rightfully so.

So I popped the lasagna in the already hot oven, and we did pay-per-view and watched Kung Fu Panda. With Jason being a professional CG (computer graphics) artist, I am happy that we see most of the animated movies targeted for kids because I just love them. I am pretty sure that I've watched some animated movies more than most because of my son, Nick. He wanted a video playing at all times, so I can recite the words to plenty of animated movies including: The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., Ice Age, Cars, Lilo and Stitch, Shrek, Toy Story, Treasure Planet, and Finding Nemo to name just a few. Pixar and Dreamworks do simply amazing work and I look forward to each new movie either release.

Kung
Fu Panda was simply adorable. I absolutely loved this film. The story was cute. The art style was appealing. The characters were beautifully well done. The humor was clever and spot on. Jason fell asleep partway through but when I told him this movie was one I could watch again and again, Jason decided to start where he left off and watch the rest of it and he wasn't disappointed. I immediately recognized Commander Vachir as the voice of Michael Clarke Duncan but I had no idea until afterward what a star-studded cast this film featured. Wow! Dustin Hoffman, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, and a few actors that had to be looked up on IMDB. I hope you have a chance to see this film.

I learned a piece of trivia too when Jason told me that Oogway's voice was Randall Duk Kim (the keymaker in the movie The Matrix Reloaded) and that Randall was one of the founders of my favorite theatre, APT (American Players Theatre), in Spring Green, WI. Every time I visit Wisconsin I will be sure to visit this amazing outdoor theatre at least once. If you are ever find yourself in southern Wisconsin during summer/early fall, I highly recommend that you take the scenic albeit long drive out to Spring Green, with a picnic dinner, a good bottle of wine and some friends to catch one of their outdoor plays. You won't be disappointed!

The Fitness Lover: Wii Fit-ness that is!

For Christmas my boyfriend gave me a Wii game console and Wii Fit (this was a requested item, not a hint from him to trim up). I was like a little kid on Christmas morning (but a few days early), sitting down on the tile floor, barefoot, in my PJs, unpacking the boxes and wiring the unit into my A/V Receiver and syncing the Wii remote and balance board. The Wii Fit game has 4 sections: Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics, and Balance Games. But first you have to take a fitness evaluation. Let's just say this isn't a, well, flattering experience.

I like to think of myself as being in better shape than most 40 year old female non-athletes. Perhaps it's the non-athlete part that played a factor here, but after entering my age and height, doing the weigh-in and the simple balance assessment, I was informed that my BMI (Body Mass Index) was too high (I'm overweight), and my fitness age was 49!!! Talk about a blow to the old ego! Now I wasn't too surprised by my BMI as it's always been off. Even when I was running 3 miles daily, weight training, and doing 100 sit-ups a day, my BMI said I was overweight (my fitness coach at the time seemed a bit embarrassed by this..."You carry your weight well" is all she said). I've always won a prize at the carnival stands where they guess your weight. Of course part of this may have to do with my extremely heavy head...Jason once speculated that if a man ever tried to attack me from behind that I need only swing my head back in a full headbutt and the man would surely be rendered unconscious. I believe he likened my extremely heavy (and large) head to that of a "wrecking ball"...no, I'm not making this up!!

As for as the fitness age, it appears to be related to your balance. Since I have always had poor balance because I place my center of balance too far forward into my quads and knees instead of my gluts and hips, I don't shift my weight correctly or as quickly as I should. This is probably why I cannot ice skate or do anything else on ice for that matter...except give myself a concussion...thank goodness for that thick skull of mine as it's come in handy a time or two on the ice! Plus there was a learning curve for me with this balance board and it was my very first "game" so I pretty much sucked just because of that.

So, on to the game. The Yoga was great, except that I can't touch my toes (not the most flexible person anyone has ever met), but I did okay (meaning I didn't make Jason laugh too many times while I performed the different exercises). Yes, he was sitting on the couch watching me. Great entertainment I was, apparently. The game assesses your center of balance on the board and forces you to try to maintain your balance within a small area much farther back than I'm used to. The strength training was a mixed bag, some of which I could barely perform, and others which I hit 4 stars right out of the gate (you are ranked with 1 to 4 stars...1 being labeled Couch Potato and 4 being Body Builder). The aerobics were fun, with hula hoop and step and running exercises that I found very entertaining. Then there were the balance games. These are the most like traditional games. There doesn't appear to be any "real" multi-player game option though which would be really fun with the balance games. Jason laughed quite a bit as I tried to hit the virtual soccer balls being thrown at my head and miss the soccer shoes being thrown my way...I lost points for each shoe that hit my head. Nice. Would have been cool to say well YOU get up here and try it Mr. funny man!

The longer you play, the more games/exercises you unlock. It looks like it will take about 5 hours of play to unlock everything at the current rate. It reminds you to take a break after you've been exercising for a period of time, and I took that break to sync the Wii console with my Wi-Fi. You can buy and download some of the games using this link, but the marketing for them is pretty disappointing. I did have fun creating my Mii though (a Wii representation of me!)

The game tracks your progress and keeps a calendar of your workout time and any assessments you've done. I did another assessment after my 2nd workout (on the 3rd day as I skipped a day due to soreness after playing on the darned thing for over 2 hours that first day). I am happy to report that I not only lost 2 pounds (had to be water), but I also lowered my fitness age to 36. Boohya!

After two work outs, my gluts are KILLING ME! This forcing me to use my hips and gluts is tough work, but I can already feel the benefits. The only big complaint I have about the game is that you can't string the exercises but instead have to back out and select each exercise you want to do as you go so there's always a pause between sets/reps. A smooth workout routine this is not. With the advanced step game, I wish I could speed up the tempo, change the music, make the balance board (makeshift step) taller, and lengthen/vary the step routines. I guess what I really would like to see a dedicated step game from Wii and balance board extensions to add height to the step.

I checked out the other Wii fitness games offered, and there is a highly rated fitness game that doesn't use the balance board, but nothing using the board that is worth my money. How disappointing. There is a highly rate dance game that comes with its own dance pad. Not sure what kind of work out that provides though. I'll have to stay with the Wii Fit game exclusively for now. I still have games to unlock, since I've only play it for about 3 hours. It's too bad Nintendo didn't see the full potential for this game. I could see a game like this being customizable, where you can string any number of yoga, strength and aerobic exercises together in any number of sets to different selections of music, being fully integrated with the Internet interface where you might purchase new workout add-ons, for say kick boxing, or pilates, or Tai Chi, or dance step, and where you could purchase new music options, or new additional exercises, or other new releases that could be periodically offered that are fully integrated with the Wii Fit interface so tracking of progress is done in a single spot and not different games with different game discs. Having new add-ons offered periodically with keep the game fresh and new so fitness gamers keep coming back instead of losing interest with the same old, same old.

In any event, I love this game even with its shortcomings. And I'm feeling more fit already. Who knows, maybe in a bit I'll be up on the treadmill, or better yet, out running with Abby!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thank Heaven for the Little Creatures

As I was laying in bed this morning, thinking of the Christmas Day ahead of me, I intentionally tried to focus on the things I appreciate. This year is very difficult for me as it's the first time that I've not been able to see my dear family members: my son, mother, and brother, as I moved across the country this past summer and, for the first time in my 40 years, I'm not in Madison, WI at all for the holidays. It's easy to get depressed and just want to sleep all day, or over eat, or equally non-productive activities, none of which solve my problem of missing my loved ones. So today I decided to just think of the things that I have that I do appreciate, those things that bring me happiness in the here and now. This is a good exercise for me, with my Year of Happiness right around the corner. Laying there, I felt the warm soft fur of Bosley against my feet. Pure bliss. I am so thankful for these little (and not so little) creatures that are a part of my family. My dogs are a huge joy in my life. To hold them, pet them, smell them, play with them, to talk to and, yes, even confide in them at times is a very great pleasure of mine. The love I share with my pets is something I treasure. Their love is innocent, simple, and unconditional. They often help put things in perspective for me when things feel overly complex. And, when I'm sad, or feeling particularly lonely, they need only lick my face, wag their tails (or their entire rear-end in Bosley's case), or paw playfully at me to bring a smile back to my face. And today, all he needed to do, was sleep quietly at the foot of the bed cuddled up by my feet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Meet Abby

This is Abby. We adopted Abby a couple months ago from Camp Wolfgang, which is a couple hours drive from where we live. While we were looking at a bunch of other dogs, Abby followed Jason around from inside her kennel, staring at him intently and kissing his hand when he was close enough. We didn't find a dog that first visit, but our second visit we asked to see Abby specifically and we didn't even need to look at another dog. We took her home that day. She'd apparently never been an indoor dog, as she was confused when we let her in the house. It took some convincing for her to get up on the bed or the couch. But now the loveseat is her favorite place to lounge, and she takes up the whole thing as big as she is. She was super skinny when we got her and her hair was coming out in clumps. She's been recently treated for heartworm and that's tough on a dog. She's gained nearly 10 pounds now and you can no longer see her ribs. Her coats looks nice, full and shiny now. She's very sweet and calm. She gets along very well with Ruby, and sometimes we think she is treating Ruby like she's her puppy. Ruby is afraid to play with Abby but who can blame the little girl...she doesn't want to become one of Abby's squeaky toys! Abby and Bosley are still struggling with one another for the alpha position. They still growl at one another at times (usually resource related) and won't let the other be ahead of them on walks, but for the most part we're one big happy family. Abby is definitely smitten with her "dad" and you'll always find her in the same room as him when he's home. She's starting to warm up to me now though too. She likes sleeping on the couch, visiting "dad" while he's taking a dump (captive audience?), and going for walks (she's 100% on alert and on guard). She doesn't really have anything she dislikes, except being locked in the guest bath. She tried to dig herself out of the room the last time we left her in there (highlights of that repair will be a future entry). She isn't completely house trained, but she doesn't have any accidents when we're at home. She really tries to please us and she's a smart girl. I'm hoping to start running with her soon. I'll definitely feel safe with her at night by myself. We've been talking about getting a doggy door so we don't have to get up at night to let them out. Jason asked, "If we got a doggy door big enough for Abby, what would prevent a person from coming into the house through it?" I said, "Abby." He said, "Good point."

Meet Bosley

This is Bosley. We adopted him from a Cocker Rescue organization in Wisconsin several months after adopting Ruby. He was rescued from a Missouri puppy mill (via petfinder.com) and he's got some serious psychological scars. Bosley was pretty much a train wreck when we first adopted him. He was afraid of everything, including ceiling fans, doors, TVs, tile floors, dog dishes, anything with a cord, and knives, yes, he'd run away from us when we had a knife in our hand. Sad, huh? If you moved furniture, or placed something new, like a delivery box, in a room, he'd be so afraid that he'd run into the bathroom and hide behind the toilet. Seriously! We lovingly call him our cowardly lion...he sort of looks like a lion with all his buff colored fur. Jason says he's too pretty to be a boy...the Farrah Fawcett of dogs. Bos loves Ruby and actually protected her from one of the big shepherds we met at Camp Wolfgang where we adopted Abby. Since Abby moved in, Bosley has become much more assertive. He even growls and charges the Roomba. It's pretty funny. Bosley loves his "mom" (me), walks, rawhides (he chews them all night long), and is a really good eater. He doesn't like loud noises, the Roomba, or anything changed in his environment. He is a little furnace and loved the cold weather of Wisconsin, but was having some issues with Austin heat, so we keep his hair short now. He's very thankful, but freaked a bit the first time he felt rain on his back without all that hair. He is very much a nocturnal creature and drives me a bit nuts with the number of times he wants to go outside while I'm sleeping. But I love him dearly in spite of his quirks.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Almost Level 50!!!!

I've been playing MMORPGs with Jason for nearly 4 years now. Jason doesn't usually stick with any game for any lengthy amount of time, and, if he does, he creates new characters frequently because he's bored with them or doesn't like the class. So here I am having never experienced end-game content on a single MMORPG that I've played, while my mother has several maxed out characters in her favorite MMORPGS: EverQuest2.

It's looking like this may finally change however. We're still playing Age of Conan. Not only are we still playing, but we're still playing our original characters and tonight we hit the all time highest levels we've both ever achieved in game...47 (see Tazriel on her steed at level 47 at left). It's amazing really. In spite of the fact that AOC has some serious issues with having enough quest content to keep a single pair of players busy in the relevant zones without scratching their heads wondering where in the heck they're supposed to go NOW or if it's intended that you must group in larger groups or grind your way to the next level...yes, in spite of these tedious facts, we are loving are characters, feeling very compatible, love the art and game design, with enough balance between our classes that neither of us feels like the other is carrying us along, and we're effective while still having plenty of opportunities for challenge (aka we still die a lot). I am so excited to think that I may actually get to see end-game content and with Jason no less!!! wOOt!!.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Meet Ruby

This is Ruby (snuggled up with her "dad"). She's a Beagle. We adopted Ruby a couple years ago from a kill shelter in Wisconsin a few hours drive from where we lived. We found her sad story on Petfinder.com. She was found out in the woods by a hunter with her two little nursing puppies in freezing 10 degree weather. She wasn't even a year old, so she had to have gotten pregnant in her first heat. She was so skinny that her ribs were showing and her pups were nearly as big as she was. When we drove out to see her, everyone at the shelter raved about how sweet she was, even the visiting canine unit sheriff. When we adopted her, there were actual tears shed at the shelter. Ruby wasn't eating and she slept way too much. The vet found she had a severe case of Lyme disease. She was much spunkier and hungrier after treatment. She isn't a typical Beagle though. She isn't the baying, digging, running nut. She is very calm and likes to layout in the sun and sleep, cuddle up with family, go for walks, eat chicken jerky treats, and listen for us to say words she knows. She doesn't like cold weather, rain, wet grass, or being put in a dog crate. She's a bit of a priss, and won't go outside when it's yucky out. At least in Austin there is less of that. But when there is bad weather, Ruby becomes our indoor potty ninja. Puddles are only found hours later when they are cold and well saturated. Thus the crate.

Divinity

"Divinity"

In each moment there is a beauty
A unique and gifted essence
So quickly it passes by
So easily missed or forgotten
If we could only slow it down
And appreciate them all
They alone could sustain us
And bring us closure for
Things left wanting
To capture that divinity
Beauty, understanding, and peace
To need no reward for the moment
But to simply take it in deeply
A satisfied thirst is born
And searching eyes rest upon
The presence of a faith in spirit
That leads us away and
Then back home

Friday, December 19, 2008

Regretless

"Regretless"

Empty hollow within me
Speak to me in your haunting tongue
Tell me of those things I lack
That would make me whole, if only

Tender heart within me
Be still and ache no more
The music's stopped yet you dance on
Without a partner or a cause

Wounded spirit, heal thyself
Make no demands on others
Find a place to stand alone
And sing to sing a sweet sweet song

Happiness don't run away
Don't hide among memories long gone
Come and join the present
Hold my hand and warm me

Silly life so frivolous
The lessons so basic they're often lost
Be my friend and lead the way
And in that, in the end, regretless

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gnosticism, Afterlife, and Beyond

Have you ever had the feeling that something wasn’t quite right with the doctrine of the religion you’ve been practicing your entire life? I, for one, can answer ‘yes’ to that question. Originally it was more the question: why does the Holy Bible have so many inconsistencies? Later, it became: why are the only women in the Scriptures mothers or temptresses? Then, it became: why does everyone go to hell if they haven’t had the opportunity to know and accept Jesus as Savior? And later: Why does everything seem to boil down to motivation by fear? Slowly over time, I began to see organized religion, and specifically the “church” to be a means of power and control. It made sense that the most efficient way of controlling large populations of peoples was by fear. Not all people understand or agree with higher modes of reasoning and decision-making, but everyone absorbs the concept, and Christianity has particularly gruesome depictions, of burning in hell for eternity. So I started questioning my religion’s doctrine, but thankfully not my spirituality. Luckily, I’ve had enough personal experiences with miraculous events that I know with every fiber of my being that God exists. Perhaps it is that internal knowledge or faith that pushes me to search for religious and/or philosophical ideas that are more in line with what I intrinsically know about God. This course on the exploration of various cultural, historical and religious views of the existence of an afterlife gave me an amazing amount of food for thought along this same vein. When I first heard of Gnostic Christianity and the concept of the Sacred Feminine, well I just had to find out more and what better way than as my creative project for this course!

Before I go jumping into an analysis of the views on the afterlife held by Gnostics, it makes sense to frame this into a context of Gnosticism as a whole, its history, its sects, its influences, its beliefs, its critics, its champions, its place within the study of world religion and even a psychological slant (ala C. G. Jung). Okay, so I only have 10-12 pages and that sounds more like a textbook, but in actuality I hope to touch upon all of these things, ever so briefly.

A primary purpose of any major religion, in my opinion, seems to be to provide human beings with a purpose, a reason for being, hope that there is meaning for what happens to us in this life, and that there is something after this life as well. In fact, “nearly every major world religion, whether mono- or polytheistic, whether Eastern or Western, affirms the continuity of life after death” [1]. So I’m guessing I’m on to something here.

Major world religions, while extremely diverse in beliefs and practices, usually have a few common themes. They usually have some sort of explanation for: how we were created, who is/are the deity, why we exist, how we attain salvation (aka. life after death), along with a means of passing along this belief structure to others, whether by written work, symbols, oral traditions, ceremonies, or other practices and events. Another interesting tidbit I stumbled upon is that “mysticism appears in all the world religions” [2]. Mysticism has etymology to the Greek term myein, i.e., “closing the eyes” [3] and can be loosely defined as a practice that looks within oneself to find oneness with the divine [4]. Hmmm, so where exactly am I going with this? Oneness can have many names depending upon the religion: Union (Christianity), Nirvana (Buddhism), Moksha (Hinduism), Irfan (Islam) [5], or Gnosis (Gnosticism). Ah hah! See, I wasn’t going off on a tangent! The really cool thing is to see an analysis I found of some world religions and their associated mysticisms:
Dogmatic Religion:
Mystical Compensation:
Christianity
Gnostic Christianity
Judaism
Kabbalah
Islam
Sufism
Buddhism
Tantrism
Hinduism
Kundalini-Yoga
Natural Science
Quantum Physics
Predominant Principle: Logos
Predominant Principle: Eros [6].

And because mysticism is all about finding the divine within oneself, just imagine how that might threaten the clerics, priests or other such castes (of the non-mystic variety), with their value and purpose in knowing how to guide their followers toward salvation, when salvation might actually be found from within ones own being! Talk about being out of a job so-to-speak. So is it any wonder why a developing non-mystic religious group may want to challenge, discredit, or even try to do away with the concepts, or even an entire sect of mystic believers such as these? And if a religion was quite successful at stamping out its competition (mystic and non-mystic alike) in this manner, it stands to reason that they might have a chance of becoming a “mainstream” religious movement. Hmmm, that sounds sort of scary now, doesn’t it?

Early Christianity had a ton of different sects with any number of different beliefs, including reincarnation. “A church council was required to settle the matter some centuries [my emphasis] into the development of “orthodox” Christianity (Fifth General Council, 553, in condemning Origen’s doctrine of pre-existing souls)” [7]. So you see, Christianity was not always so organized and standardized and “mainstream”, as we know it to be today. What separated Gnostic Christianity from the other developing Christian sects of the time were these four factors:
  • Novel beliefs about God(s), the Bible, Jesus, and the world that differ from other sects
  • Tolerance of different Gnostic and non-Gnostic religious beliefs
  • Lack of discrimination against women (Jesus and Paul did too, but other Christian belief systems started to oppress women in later generations)
  • A belief that salvation is achieved through relational and experiential knowledge. [8]

DeConick coined a term, normation, defined as “the process whereby one religious tradition asserts its superiority over others, particularly laying claim to being ‘the’ orthodox tradition, while others are considered to be lesser, defective, or downright errant” [10]. If normation is occurring right now with the Roman Catholic Church and other current religious sects like Protestantism and the Orthodox Catholic Church, it stands to reason that normation is something that has been happening throughout Christianity. In those early years Gnostic Christians were (through normation) eventually deemed heretics. Nearly successful attempts were made to completely wipe the Gnostic movement and its literature from history via Catholic heresy hunters and the Roman Army [11].

Gnosticism has historically had a vast variety of sects with different beliefs and traditions. Persian Gnosticism (the oldest forms of Gnosticism) includes Manichaeism and Mandaeism (which survives intact today mostly in the Iraq/Iran region). Syrian-Egyptian Gnosticism includes Sethian, Thomasine, Valentinian, Bardaisan, and Basilidean sects. Early Gnosticism includes Ophites, Marcionism, Cainites, Cerinthus, Carpocratians, and Borborites. Medieval Gnosticism includes Paulicianism, Tondraikanism, Bogomilism, Catharism, and the Bosnian Church [12] [15]. There isn’t enough room in my report to explore the specifics about each one of these sect nor the specifics about the religious leaders/champions for which they are named, yet I wanted to show the general volume and variety of the Gnostic movement historically. Gnosticism as a whole is considered a syncretistic religion combining elements taken from Asian, Babylonian, Egyption, Greek, Syrian, Judaism, Christianity, as well as astrology [13].

With only a few exceptions such as Mandaeism, Gnosticism that survived the religious inquisitions of that time did so in secrecy so as to prevent further persecution [14]. This is perhaps a contributing factor explaining why Gnosticism is often associated with the term ‘secret knowledge’. “Because the Gnostics were labeled as heretics, it became a crime to be in possession of any of their texts. Many of the Gnostic scriptures were burned. [18]”

Since most Gnostic literature was destroyed, the majority of what we knew about ancient Gnosticism was inferred from the writings of Christian heresiologists, like Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertuliian, and Hippolytus, where great investment was made in writing extensive attacks again the Gnostics. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that someone trying to discredit another would be wholly concerned with accuracy and objectivity in terms of the facts about their self-perceived enemy. [16]

However, this lack of objective historical information changes drastically in 1945 when the Nag Hummadi texts (and a subsequent text was discovered in the 1970s) were discovered inside a large clay jar buried in the sand in Egypt. Thirteen codices survived, made up of 51 works, a total of 1153 pages. Six works were duplicates of already known texts, 6 others were duplicates within this library itself, and 41 were new, previously unknown works, not all of which were Gnostic or Christian but many of which were. The texts were originally written in Greek and this library was comprised of Coptic translated copies of those original works. It’s estimated the works were buried circa 365 CE (some business documents were also in the jar), and was apparently hidden for safe-keeping during a religious purge. [17] [11]

What we have now with these discovered texts is a wealth of information about the religious structure of the early Gnostic movement, including creation and salvation concepts, deity descriptions, and detailed investigation into the ways Gnostic Christians were different from and interacted with other religious and Christian sects of the time. It is clear that Gnositcism helped shape the dogma of mainstream Christianity, even if only by forcing other Christian sects to clearly delineate where they were different from the Gnostic Christian sects as part of their normation strategies. [19] [22]

So now we get into the juicy stuff. What is gnosis? Gnosis is Greek for ‘knowledge.’ But, this is not the kind of ‘brainy’ knowledge that we typically talk about. This is a knowledge that isn’t taught, but a knowledge that is experienced. Someone cannot ‘teach’ you intellectually what heat feels like, or what cold feels like, or what it is to hear or see or smell or love. You simply have to experience ‘it’ to have that kind of knowledge. In the same way, gnosis is experiential knowledge of a divine nature. This folds into the previously presented idea of mysticism. Gnosis is enlightenment; an awakening; oneness with the divine. To have gnosis is to know God, to have experienced God. This is not something that can be learned intellectually. And, it is not a passive knowledge but is knowledge that redeems. It requires many things to attain this salvation. Those “things” and what is experienced differ from sect to sect, as do many of the beliefs and practices.

Earlier, I mentioned the four factors that distinguish Gnostic Christianity from other Christian sects. The novel beliefs, religious tolerance, feminine equality, and gnosis are defining parts of this religious movement for most sects. I kind of feel like I’ve just grabbed on to the tail of the bull right now, but, here we go!

‘Novel beliefs in terms of Christianity’ is an understatement. There are significant differences from mainstream Christianity and all its major religious components: how we were created, who is/are the deity, why we exist, how we attain salvation (aka. life after death), views of women, the world, sin, evil, Satan, Heaven, Hell, angels and the list goes on.

Now, granted, not all Gnosticism is Christian. But what I’ll be exploring here is primarily Gnostic Christianity as this was the focus of most of the research material I was able to find, but I’ll touch on Gnostic variations when I can.

Let’s start with: “In the beginning…”, shall we? The story of creation or cosmogony is a huge part of any major religion. Hold on to your seat. According to Gnostic scripture, a false god, the demiurge, created earth and all it’s life forms. And in so doing, the world was created imperfectly as a result. Different Gnostic sects have different understandings of the nature and intent of the demiurge (was he evil/Satan, or was he simply ignorant, being unaware of the True God). But all sects agree that the false god trapped spirits into bodies of flesh, creating Adam and Eve, again imperfectly. Gnostics believe that we were not born into original sin, but into ignorance of who we are and how we got here, via a false god that doesn’t want us to know he is not the True God, and that our purpose is to attain gnosis so that we might join back with the spiritual beings to which we belong, with God, once again. [20] [23] [26]

In some sects, the false god is seen as a Lower God while the True God is seen as the High God [22]. This Lower God was created by Sophia (we’ll get to her in a moment), and is, depending upon sect, called Yaldabooth, Ialdaoath, Jaldaboath, Sakla, Samael and in some sects is also Jehovah, the god of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Yikes! I always wondered why God seemed to have a split personality between the Old Testament and the New Testament…high-minded and forgiving one moment and hell, fire, and brimstone the next! Go figure.

So Adam and Eve, all of mankind, was created not in Gods image but in the image of a false god that intended that humans worship him for eternity. The Tree of Knowledge, in Gnostic dogma, does not bring forth knowledge of original sin, but brings forth knowledge of the false god, which is why they are warned to not eat of it. In some sects, the serpent is actually a hero for convincing Eve to eat the apple and learn the truth of human existence, being trapped in a material body by a false god which is not the natural state of the spirit, that he is not the only god, and ultimately that a True God exists. In those sects the serpent is seen as a liberator instead of a seducer. [21] [23]

Sophia is probably one of the most complicated topics that I’ve encountered in my research. Sometimes she’s referred to as an angel created by the True God, and sometimes she is not created by God but exists independent of God, thus being equal to and a counterpart of God. In other cases, she is said to have split into a Lower God and a High God. I am suggesting that all of these discrepancies are related to beliefs from different Gnostic sects but it is possible that I simply had a faulty understanding of the concept of Sophia. In most Gnostic sects, the True God is described as a dyad, both masculine and feminine so it’s a bit confusing for me. In all cases Sophia is considered an aeon, that is part of the Pleroma. Yes, I know I sound like I’m speaking Greek here. An aeon is an eternal being (Jesus is an intermediary aeon), often referred to as an angel, and in some sects archons are also aeons (the demiurge is an archon in some sects and a lower god in others). Archons appear to also be eternal beings but not of the True God and not of the Pleroma, and it is the demiurge and his archons that control earth. The Pleroma is the totality of all that is regarded in our understanding of ‘divine’ and is occupied by spiritual beings that self-emanated from the Pleroma. I like to equate the Pleroma to Heaven. The Pleroma is viewed in Gnostic Scripture as aspects of God, who can only be partially understood through the Pleroma. All aeons have a name (some of them several) and they all have a feminine aeon counterpart. The aeon called Wisdom has the feminine counterpart called Sophia also regarded as Wisdom. Now as I mentioned before, this is probably only believed by some sects, so I apologize. Sophia separated from the Pleroma to emanate the demiurge and thus also created earth without consent of the Father. This caused Sophia’s fall from grace, which is interpreted differently by various sects. Sophia is still regarded by Gnostics as the bride of Christ and the female counterpart to God at least within some sects. Through Sophia’s redemption through Christ, her redemption is the central drama of the universe. Gnostics equate Sophia to the human spirit, the divine spark within every human being. Some readings infer that some sects believe the divine spark is not in all human beings but only some, or that at least not all human beings are ready/able to achieve gnosis, and different categories of human beings in this regard exist in different sects' belief structures. Jesus and Sophia were sent out from the Pleroma to bring humanity gnosis (to recover the lost knowledge of the divine origins of humanity) and in so doing reunite humanity with the Pleroma. [23] [24] [25] [26]

I don’t know about you but Sophia and all that surrounds her confuses me to no end!

So thinking this through, we have a divine spark/spirit inside our bodies that wants to get back to God and the other spiritual beings in the Pleroma. This can be seen essentially as the reason people in all of history have gone around searching for the meaning of life, and how to find answers to the questions that their spirits keep asking, that our collective unconscious knows something that we are still searching for consciously, the unfulfilled part within us that we try to fill with worldly things: food, money, pleasure, success, religion and the like. But all we’re really searching for, all our spirit is really trying to do, is get back home to the Pleroma, to God. So once we figure out how to find the Pleroma, how to join with all the rest of the spiritual beings there, we will be fulfilled and no longer search for fulfillment in things external to ourselves. Now I have to say I like the sound of that. It’s sort of attaining heaven on earth. And without gnosis, you could say that we’re in a kind of hell on earth, being separated from the Pleroma trapped in a material form. So, if we’ve attained gnosis while we’re alive, when we die, we’d have no problem joining the Pleroma permanently. How cool is that, no more anxiety about death or dying! Even more interesting though is the idea that during life, there is an inner sanctity to shelter you from the chaotic changing world. Having that inner connection would allow one to have much less anxiety about the temporal nature of our material existence. [30] [32]

There is often the concept of dualism within Gnostic sects; although, monistic Gnostic sects also exist. Dualism refers to the existence of two opposing and independent divine entities that may be equal in force or one entity may be superior. This is the good and evil concept. Sometimes they are equal and sometimes good is superior to evil. In monistic sects, only the True God is divine, and the demiurge is not considered a god. [27]

In terms of the world, Gnostic Scripture does not contain anything equivalent to the Ten Commandments. Gnostics believe that the spirit within will instruct you on how you are to conduct yourself on earth and that such commandments are only of value to bring order, maintain social groups and to ensure societal harmony. [28] [29]

Okay, on to religious tolerance of other sects and religions. Basically, this is not complete religious tolerance but it certainly is more tolerant than mainstream Christianity. Gnostics have historically been syncretistic belief systems that pick up attributes from the various religions and sects around them and in that way they are tolerant. Gnostics are also often accepting of other mystic and/or wisdom traditions and are in that way also practicing religious tolerance. Although not found in my research, I imagine that Gnostics are also tolerant of other religions in terms of their beliefs that gnosis is a personal experience and that one’s Gnostic experience with God does not necessarily match that of others’ experiences and that the instructions provided by the inner spirit may differ in how the religion is practiced and interpreted, thus there is no one ‘right’ way of attaining enlightenment. Also, solitary practitioners of Gnosticism are accepted freely. Different renditions of Gnostic scripture exist for different sects which is also accepted. [13] [29]

The third factor was the lack of female discrimination. I must admit, women’s equality was a very attention grabbing point for me as a female as it is something rarely seen in religion or history. To see females as equals in a historic Christian sect was amazing to me. The capacity for women to enter into cleric roles (in some sects) is found in Gnostic scripture. Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute but instead one of Jesus’ innermost disciples, a spiritual master, the apostle to the apostles, and second only to Jesus in status. Many Gnostic texts were written by or attributed to females. Gnostics often also have male and female images of God (not all sects). Theologians speculate that women were treated as equals or nearly close to equals within their religious society. [23] [31]

The last factor is where the meat and potatoes lie in terms of this course. Attaining gnosis, the understanding of salvation, and the concept of an afterlife are all rolled into this last differentiating point of Gnostic Christianity. As with any religion, salvation belief systems are highly controversial, as they typically state that salvation and eternal life can only be attained by that religion and by their specific set of rules and criteria. In Gnositicism you must first free yourself from the material world, and what this means is that you must shed yourself from not only your obsession with any materialism, but also your ego (namely your fear, guilt and shame as part of being in a physical body). Once you’ve purified yourself from the ego and the trappings of the material existence, you are prepared to begin your inner journey in the search of gnosis. This journey is taken, and gnosis attained through repeated meditation and visions. If a human being does not attain gnosis in their lifetime, or if they are not capable yet of spiritual existence (this refers to the sects that believe that human beings have different groups related to Gnostic capabilities), when they die, they will reincarnate into another human being to continue the spiritual journey toward attainment of gnosis. This reincarnation cycle repeats until the spirit has developed enough that it has reached the point where gnosis can be and is achieved. When gnosis is received, the spirit reunites with the Pleroma, ending the cycle of imprisonment in a physical form. So to Gnostics, Jesus was still the Savior by most sect definitions, but was the liberator from ignorance, not the one that atoned for original sin. It is my understanding that Gnosticism is still an apocalyptic-based faith, but I found very little discussion about the End Time. What was found simply stated that if gnosis had not be attained before the End, then the soul would go to hell for eternity but that hell would be not unlike the existence on earth in which the spirit is cut off from the Pleroma and God. It is interesting to note that much criticism against Gnosticism is raised around the lack of a foundation in the afterlife; when in actuality, Gnostics are talking about the afterlife and heaven whenever they refer to the attainment of gnosis and being one with the Pleroma and God. Just because there is not a physical heavenly end-time body, and just because the idea of reaching heaven prior to death, does not mean that it is not present, discussed and fully expressed. All that it means, from my perspective, is that it is a concept that most mainstream Christian believers have a hard time wrapping their minds around. [33] [34] [23] [29]

And lastly I’d like to discuss Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and their views on the unconscious as they related to Gnosticism. Dr Freud was the first to discuss the concept of the ego and the unconscious in a manner that used empirical study to justify the existence of the unconscious by proving that it impacted the conscious mind. The most common example of this would be the Freudian Slip in which the conscious mind says something other than what it originally intended but what is said is actually in alignment with the unconscious views of the individual. Carl Jung expanded upon Freud’s concept of the unconscious to include both a personal unconscious (equivalent to Frued’s unconscious) and a collective unconscious (haven’t I used that term before?) in which the unconscious is no longer just a composite of repressed/unresolved childhood manifestations, but includes that which is part of the collective mind, known by all, which might be equated to gnosis and the Pleroma if one were so inclined. Now the really cool thing is that Jung was also interested in empirical study like Freud and he too found empirical evidence that the collective unconscious exists. Noted as an example was a psychotic patient of his that had repeating dreams and visions, which incorporated a sun with a tube hanging from it. Jung knew this to be a sun phallus, which is a motif only occurring in the Gilgamesh Epic. The Gilgamesh Epic, however, had not yet been translated into a Western language and so was not something this patient would have any access or knowledge of. And yet the motif continued to appear in the patients dreams and fantasies. Jung attributed these and other similar experiences to the collective unconscious as the patient was consciously unaware of the knowledge, and was also unaware from a personal unconscious perspective, but was still somehow in possession of the knowledge, and sometimes knowledge in great detail, of times and events that the person themselves has no access toward personal knowledge related to the subject matter. Although Jung never went so far as to call the collective unconscious divine, he did associate a patients individuation process as one in which the person finds this collective unconscious within themselves, and that he calls a god-image. The scientist is not at liberty to call it "God", but he also does refer to the ‘pleroma’ when talking about the collective unconscious, so I really think it’s just a hop, skip and jump to calling it divine. But even if the collective unconscious has been/can be proven with empirical study, how does one prove the existence of the divine? Therein lies the rub. [35]

The Jewelry Maker

Shortly after moving to Austin, I met a couple new friends both making their own jewelry. After attending a Bead and Vino birthday party (cool idea, Emmy!), I was hooked. Here are a few of my very first pieces. I started with beading and quickly added chain work, as seen in earlier entries.

Chains and More Chains

I completed the rest of the chains in my beginner's kits. Here's most of them. I also completed a bracelet design inspired by the link posted earlier on this subject. The square pendant is a crystal with the same rainbow colors. I'm having fun with the chains, but without making my own jump rings I'm limited to designs that work with the jump ring sizes I can buy pre-made. Investing in mandrels, saws and a tumbler would easily get into the $300+ range so I'll stick with the stuff I'm limited to with the jump rings I can buy, since I tend to be fickle and jump to other hobbies quickly and frequently. If I don't abandon this, I may invest in them. Only time will tell.

The Theology Lover

I am fascinated by religion, spirituality, and the concept of a higher power. I'm not mainstream in my own beliefs but I respect those that are. I'm not close-minded. It's a great topic with no "right" answers...we're all right, as long as we believe it's right for us. That's my take. Here's a paper I wrote earlier this year for a course I took. It was an opportunity to research a little into Gnosticism. It dovetailed nicely with the Eckhardt Tolle books I was reading at the time (A New Earth and The Power of Now). It challenges some current religious views, but I'm a feminist so that's bound to happen.
http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddpj6w79_57gnntx7k6

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Clear Mind to Happiness

I have a long commute to work. The drive used to be really stressful for me until I stumbled upon this nugget that changed my commute (and my life in some ways). While I'm driving, I tend to think about all the things I need to get done, when I get to work, or when I get home. I also remember those important things, like my mom's birthday is coming up, or that I promised to send a friend in need contact information for a great attorney, and other things that I really need to remember. The problem is, while I was driving, there wasn't much I could do about all the important information percolating up from the depths of my multitasking Menagerie Mind and I'd stress out that I was going to forget the information that my conscious mind had just captured. It caused my commutes to be stressful and overwhelming because I ended up feeling overloaded with all the things I needed to get done, and anxious that I wasn't going to remember it all.

That all changed a while ago, but I didn't really think about how important that change was to my psyche until I was hanging out at WineStyles after work with friends last week. We were talking about the stress caused by our never ending To-Do lists, and came upon the idea that sometimes just capturing those To Do's when you remember them is therapeutic. By capturing the To Do, writing it down, you give your conscious mind permission to let it go, to stop dwelling on it, so that you can move on to other things and not get wrapped in anxiety trying to remember that important tidbit. But while you're driving, you ask?

My first PDA with a voice recorder did the trick. Every time I'd think of something I needed to do or remember, I'd hit the record button and capture it. "Buy bathroom vanity light bulbs!" "Make vet appointment for vaccinations." "Send birthday card to Mary." Over time, it changed from my PDA to my cellphone. And now it's Jott on my iPhone which automatically converts my verbal recordings into text (how cool is that?!?) AND ties into Toodledo (for a fee) to put the item into the correct category within my web-based To Do list which is then accessible by phone or computer anywhere with phone network reception or Internet access.

It's amazing that once I've captured those important things, my mind feels satisfied, and I can mentally move on to other things. I don't feel the stress or anxiety that used to plague my commutes because of this great little technique. Of course, you also have to DO the things you've captured (procrastination will be another blog entry, if I don't procrastinate too long) or the stress will still rear it's ugly little head. But you get the idea. One more step toward happiness! Cool, now I check off my Toodledo item: Pay some attention to your Blog! CHECK!!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Seven New Chain Patterns















This weekend was very productive! I made 7 more chains. Here are the patterns I've learned:
  • Byzantine
  • Queen's Link
  • Flat Queen's Link
  • Contessa
  • Jazzi-Chain (has beads in it!)
  • Serendipity
  • Double Lace
  • Lacey-Chain
Currently working on the Foxtail pattern. I'm having a blast learning everything, but my hands are sore!! The beginner's kit has 12 more patterns waiting for me. Fun fun fun!

The DIYer

I love to decorate my home in unusual ways, particularly when it can save me money without looking like it. Case in point, our new entertainment center. My boyfriend bought a new TV (I'll address my love of home electronics at a later juncture), so I bought the entertainment center to hold it, as the new television was too big for the current TV stand. Actually what used to be on this wall of our living room was a painfully small TV/stand and an outdoor patio end table (no kidding) holding the AV Receiver, cable box, modem, wireless router, and Xbox 360. Let's just say it raised many a visitor's eyebrow. The TV wall is 16ft long and when I started pricing units that would fit that size and a 61" TV, I quickly determined that I was in the $5,000+ range which was not going to happen on my budget. Starting to think outside the box, I took a visit to IKEA. Did I happen to mention that I love IKEA?!

Take a look at these individual IKEA pieces. None solve my problem since I'm looking for a big screen entertainment center with a built-in feel. But wait! Stack them on their sides on top of one another and voila! It still wasn't exactly what I hoped because I wanted to surround that big new TV with a pier shelf extending across the top of the TV as depicted by the red box.

After about a week of mulling over possibilities, my friend Tom came up with the solution (Thanks, Tom!) using single plank shelves to frame the TV and hold up the pier shelf without drilling into any of the finished exteriors of the shelves (and the shelves are finished on all sides except for the single planks). The single planks were joined together using flat L brackets and just sits on the top of the base shelves holding the TV. Since none of the other pieces are attached to one another, I cut up a piece of silicone cookie sheet and placed the non-slip sections in between the different shelves. As you can see the before/after pics are pretty dramatic. But I'm not done yet!
Since we're trying to furnish our new home, we wanted a liquor/wine cabinet and the entertainment center had more than enough room to accommodate this. First, I added a couple of under counter mount chrome stemware racks from Target. Then I made wine bottle rack inserts. I'd seen X shaped racks and they were very pricey so I made it myself. I used 3 pieces of 1/4" 2x4 Hardyboard from Home Depot. I cut them to fit the cubes on the diagonal, then cut halfway through them with a 1/4" cut (the thickness of the piece) so they'd slide together to create an X. I painted them and inserted them in the bottom shelves. They slide around a bit, but Tom suggested that I use some removable silicone adhesive and a caulk gun to adhere the inserts without ruining the shelving finish. I'll pick that up on my next trip to Lowe's or Home Depot. Turned out nice, didn't it?

I didn't like the backless look (seeing the wall behind each shelf) so I made removable backs. Using painted 1/8" 4x8 hardboard cut down to fit the various shelving units, affixed to the backs of each shelf with self-adhesive Velcro strips. The great thing here is dealing with electrical cords. I don't have to drill any holes but instead simply pull away the backing for that particular shelf, pull the cord through and Velcro the backing in place again. I omitted a few interior shelves to fit the big components like the receiver.

I installed IKEA under-cabinet lighting but it had a very Euro bluish cast that didn't fit with the warm Pottery Barn feel of the room. Worried the halogen lights would burn any sort of filter added to the lenses, I tried a Minwax wood stain pen and put a coat of stain on the lens of each light. It didn't burn off, and it gives the lighting a pleasing amber cast. They're self-adhesive and I used black electrical tape to hide the silver power cords. I'm still trying to find the remote that I'll use to control these lights.

I found some leather organizers that fit perfecting in these cubes to hold all the console game CDs, owners manuals the home theatre and gaming equipment, and gaming accessories. These are not inexpensive, so I'll pick up a few more when I can.

Here is the finished project. I am very happy with the results. Considering what this 16 ft unit looks like it cost, I'm thrilled how the itemized cost schedule posts. No one would ever guess it was less than 3 times this price.
Item Unit Cost Qty Total Cost
Expedit 4 by 4 $159.00 2 $318.00
Expedit 2 by 4 $89.00 2 $178.00
Lack 1 by 4 $79.00 3 $237.00
Lack Long Plank $30.00 1 $30.00
Lack Short Plank $20.00 2 $40.00
Lack Lighting $25.00 9 $225.00
Stemware Rack $15.00 2 $30.00
Velcro $17.00 2 $34.00
Hardboard $6 5 $30.00
Handyboard $5 3 $15.00
Paint $8 1 $8.00
Hardware $6 1 $6.00



$1,151.00