Friday, July 15, 2011

The Love of My Life

During the summer of 1987, I met Gary at a Sierra Club event. 6 weeks later we were living together. From the beginning to this day, he is the love of my life.

Gary is an amazing man, a fact with which all my friends agree. During our working years we did everything together---grocery shopping, cooking, laundry cleaning, and especially the fun stuff. We had ocean kayaks and camped on the beaches of Baja California. We traveled, camped, hiked, and had wonderful times. We held hands everywhere we went.

Just before I retired in 1999 we got married. Gary retired in 2002. He is from Albuquerque and wanted to come back to New Mexico. Our equity from a 2 bedroom condo near San Diego bought us a 4 bedroom house on 2 acres in the country southeast of Santa Fe. As Gary says, "We fell into a vat of chocolate." The sky is huge, sunsets are fabulous, and the mountain views are wonderful.

Five months after we moved into our new home, my daughter and granddaughter Abby moved in with us. Soon after that, I found a wonderful opportunity to go Ecuador to study beadwork with Saraguro women (an indigenous culture in the Ecuadorean Andes.) But I felt I couldn't go because our granddaughter was 2, still in diapers, and my husband had never raised children. He insisted I go, and he took care of Abby all day while my daughter worked for 3 weeks.

We have had some rocky times adjusting to retirement and to my daughter and granddaughter's presence in our lives. Now we are closer than ever. Santa Fe has so many cultural events it is hard to choose. Gary records Rock Art (petroglyphs and pictographs) so that the images will last at least in photo and data form. He also builds furniture through classes at the community college. I bead! And we both have good times with Abby.

I am a lucky person!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Divorce Fears Not Realized

I knew my marriage was not good for me or for my kids, and had not been for a long time. My husband was a self centered man and paid little or no attention to me or the kids. He refused to go to counseling. I resisted divorce for a long time but several things made me realize that living without a father would be no worse for my kids than living with the one they had. We did nothing as a family and he took no part in raising them.

I remember the day my 5 year old son came up to his dad who was reading Time magazine after work. My son wanted to show him something but his dad said don't bother me I'm reading. Once in awhile we all do things like that but I realized that this was typical behavior for my husband.

Shortly after we moved to Aberdeen SD I told him that I was going to divorce him. I can't imagine where I got the courage. His reaction was "We can't afford it." I had already worked out a financial plan that was fair, and said I was hiring a lawyer. He did not get a lawyer, did not appear in court, and never mentioned it again. I stayed in Aberdeen long enough to finish my degree to become a school counselor.

It was a huge step for me, and I worried a lot about telling my parents. As it turned out, they were very upset the evening I told them. By morning they had decided he was a "dirty rat". They wanted me to come home to LA to live with them. I had had enough of other people controlling my life. It was the first time I ever said no to my dad.

My new found confidence, represented by the white side of my piece, has helped me live a better and happier life since then.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pine Ridge

In July 1971, my husband, our 2 children and I moved from Los Angeles to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. My husband was a doctor working for the US Public Health Service and he was assigned to the PHS hospital there. We lived in a government housing area next to the hospital. It was my first experience with another culture.

When I learned of the assignment, I had some fears---even some nightmares about Pine Ridge. I was sure that everyone there would hate us, because, after all, "we" had destroyed their culture. In one nightmare I dreamed that people were burning something in our front yard. The experience was much better than I feared.

Because we lived in a neighborhood of outsiders, we were quite isolated from the natives. My son was 5 and needed to be in kindergarden. Other doctor's wives told me that the best school was at Holy Rosary Mission, located outside of Pine Ridge village. One of the nuns there had trained in Montessori techniques and had a pre-school/kindergarden class. She wanted some "token" white children to interact with the native children so I enrolled my 3 year old daughter along with my son.

Eventually it came out in conversation that I had a teaching credential and they were desperate to have a qualified teacher in the middle school. They hired me and I started the Monday before Thanksgiving. I was the 4th teacher that year for 3 science classes. The principal asked me to cut down on tobacco chewing and swearing in class, and also to do my best to keep them in the room. I confess it was hell. I went home crying nearly every day. But gradually I became determined to stick it out. I made a deal with the kids that if they would do their science lessons for 4 days, we would take a nature walk every Friday. It was during these weekly outings that I became friends with the students. (By the way, I was paid $2 an hour, $6 for 3 classes.)

My best experiences on the reservation were getting together with the students outside of school. I taught several of the older boys to drive, using my old VW yellow van. (They promised not to tell anyone.) I also let them have parties in my basement with unlimited soda! And I went horse back riding with them. Since then I have often thought my actions were inappropriate in light of my lifetime of experience as an educator. All I can say now is that it was this experience in Pine Ridge that I fondly remember.

I was particularly astonished to learn that so many people in Pine Ridge had been sent to Los Angeles for jobs. (Pine Ridge had, and still has, a very low employment rate.) The poverty was extreme. I experienced a similar culture shock in reverse, moving from the city of freeways and fast life, to a place on the prairie where homes were scattered over 4,353 square miles and life was lived at a much slower pace. Today it still bothers me that I can't figure out how a way to improve life there. They are out in the middle of nowhere and don't even have the option of a casino. The best thing that has happened since I was there is that there is now a 4-year college.

(Please forgive this overly long post.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Adventure is Therapy

After a divorce, I was lonely and depressed. I forced myself to go to a singles group, but it wasn't great. I did meet a man who was very helpful. He suggested that I meet people by becoming involved in activities. So, at 44, I went white water rafting for the first time and I loved it. The same man then suggested the Sierra Club outings activities as a good place to meet people.

The next thing I knew, I was taking a Mountain Wilderness 10 week class. I told myself that I wasn't "actually" going to backpack. 4 weekend outings were part of the class and I thought I could at least do the car camp. Then I got talked into the rock climbing weekend. This was followed by a short overnight back pack, and then "Snow Camp." Yes, I did them all, and then I decided to train as a outings leader. Through that process I met my partner and husband of 24 years. We have had many adventures together, including ocean kayaking.

Pretty soon my 50th birthday crept up on me. I was determined to not act old, but I was concerned that some of the things I wanted to do were only going to get harder. So during my 50th year we hiked to the bottom of Grand Canyon and back in December. In July we hiked to the top of Mt Whitney (14,500 feet). We had such a great time we did it again the next year. My March picture commemorates these adventures.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Occidental Fair

The summer before my 10th grade year my family moved. I entered a new school, California High School which had 2400 students. It was overwhelming to my semi-shy personality at that time. Eventually I did OK socially, but was fairly insecure about my friendships. Then I went to Occidental College near Pasadena that had 1400 students. The smaller population suited me very well. Best of all I lived in a dorm (all girls of course) and there I made lifelong friends. Also, being away from my family forced me to take more responsibility for myself. Oxy provided me with an excellent liberal arts education that has served me well all my life. My February BJP honors my Occidental experience.

Alaska Childhood

When I was 9 my family moved from Boise, Idaho to Juneau, Alaska. From the sagebrush desert we moved to the land of dense forests, glaciers, rivers and ocean channels. I had much more freedom than kids do today and used it to explore the town and the mountain near our house. Juneau is landlocked by glaciers and huge mountains, so the only road out of town was a dead end. (We called it "going out the road.") For me it was a world of adventure. Dense old growth forests were full of things to explore. On weekends we went to Mendenhall Glacier, hiked, picked blue berries and had blue berry pancakes in the picnic shelters, and collected wildflowers. Even the frequent rain or the winters didn't faze me.

From these experiences my love of the northwest environment was born. My Juneau memories are very strong. We left when I was 11 and my memories of the next 3-4 years are minimal compared to my 2 years in Juneau. The childhood friends I remember are from Juneau. When we left these friends gave me a Bilikin for good luck.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Welcome to My Life in Beads

My first blog! This might not seem like a big deal, but I've got my toe in the water. The purpose of this blog is to share my improvisational bead embroidery with my friends, family, and members of the Bead Journal Project. For more information on the BJP, click

Robin Atkins inspired me to try a whole new direction in bead work. I read her book One Bead at a Time often. It has changed the way I see myself. This led to my participation in the Bead Journal Project. My focus for 2011 will be to make a monthly piece based on important events in my life.

My January piece is about 2 years of my childhood when I lived in Juneau, Alaska.