In the very early spring of 1967, the year Kay turned 10, her nuclear family – her mom and dad, her older brother, and her – moved away from St Joseph, Missouri, where Kay had been born and raised up to that point, to Durham, North Carolina, over a thousand miles away. They left behind a big extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins, friends from their neighborhood and friends from school, and, hardest of all for Kay, her paternal grandparents. The move was somewhat sudden, and the reasons for it were murky, mysterious, grown-up reasons, which to Kay meant they were not really reasons at all, but angry secrets involving raised voices, slammed doors, hidden tears, and strange silences.
Shortly after the move, and just in time to celebrate Kay’s 10th birthday, her grandparents made the journey to North Carolina to visit them in their new home, and for a full week the whole family did all kinds of fun, tourist-y things, a welcome respite for Kay from not just the painful homesickness and the strangeness of everything new, but also from the boring business of unpacking.
When they visited Duke Gardens in Durham, Kay and her brother posed with their Grandpa for a photograph in front of the famous terrace gardens. Kay’s Grandma and Grandpa had given Kay her first wristwatch for her 10th birthday gift, a very big deal back in the day, and you can see her proudly wearing it in the photo: a tangible sign of her double-digit, big-girl status, one foot still firmly planted in the childhood, the other tentatively stepping out towards that murky mysterious land of grown-ups.
This was our neighbor’s cat, Sammy, and I adored him. We had two Siamese cats who loathed small humans in my house, in spite of my persistent worshipful adoration, and we also suddenly (to me, anyway) had a brand-new baby, so I escaped next door as often as possible that summer.
Sammy, like most brown tabbies I’ve known, was sweet and cuddly and would fall over in a heartbeat for a brushing, a job which my lip-biting shows I took very seriously. Our elegant and aloof Siamese cats, on the other hand, never missed an opportunity to hiss, slash, and run, which I always took very personally.
I’ve had a couple of brown tabbies over the years, and they’ve all been similar in temperament to Sammy. This is Peanut, who crossed the Rainbow Bridge a few years ago (taken too early by coyotes, a sad story for another day) in his classic sleeping position, and I believe this series of photos is a clear indicator of his personality – Honey Badger, only super-sweet and maybe a few fries short of a happy meal.
This is me, at my grandma’s house, in 1959, and you may be wondering whether I’m laughing hysterically, or crying hysterically. The answer would be, well, yes.
Those fabulous slippers were a gift to me from my paternal grandma and grandpa on my first birthday. Do they kinda look like baby Goofy or baby Pluto, just a little bit? I don’t remember whether or not they were supposed to be any particular character, or just cute little puppy slippers, but they were crazy awesome. From the moment I first saw them, apparently, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry, and so I would do both. Loudly, dramatically, and with gusto, alternating rapidly between the two extremes.
And thus, I believe, my lifelong love affair with footwear was born. The shoes! The boots, the booties, the sandals, the heels, the flats, the *cute* sneakers, I love them all.
Gem silica is a form of chalcedony, thought to be the rarest, partially due to such a limited supply. While small amounts of gem silica have been found in southern New Mexico, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Peru, most gem silica came from locations near copper mines in Arizona that have now been depleted. When new pockets of gem silica are discovered in copper mines today, only the smaller mines that still use pick and shovel methods of mining can actually extract the gem silica. The larger mines, where the mining procedures are automated, simply destroy the pockets and continue mining copper.
This lovely rare gemstone gets its stunning colors from the presence of the copper, in the same way that turquoise and chrysocolla do, but because gem silica is substantially higher on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness than either of those minerals (gem silica 7 v. turquoise 5ish v. chrysocolla 3ish), it makes for much more durable jewelry.
The stunning color alone would make gem silica one of the most beautiful of all gemstones, but in addition to that, gem silica possesses a translucency that makes it almost appear to glow from within – very magical!
Yeah, yeah, the little red-headed kid’s super cute and all, and I know you remember having a stacking rings toy just like that one, but before you trip too far down your own memory lane, let me tell you the story of that end table there on the right.
Our kitchen table, where we ate all of our meals, was just around the corner from that part of the living room, you see, and once a week my mother served peas at supper. She not only served them, she actually expected me to eat them, never mind that I hated peas like nobody’s business. Despised the little smushy grayish-green soggy balls of ick – I mean, these were canned peas, early 1960s commercially canned peas, and they were gross. My mother would have none of my pea-hating ways, though, and there were always threats of forcing me to sit at the kitchen table all night until I ate them. I’d eventually gag my way dramatically through a spoonful, sobbing, and end up getting sent to bed in disgrace, but at least I’d gotten away from those damn peas… until next time. And I always knew there’d be a next time.
I don’t know how the plan came to me, but it was so simple and brilliant and beautiful, and it quickly became my routine when faced with the dreaded legumes. I’d be left sitting at the table by myself, pouting, with those nasty peas. Momma would take baby brother over to the sink for a wipe-down, and, with her back turned to me while she was attempting to clean a flailing toddler, would lecture me on the health benefits of all vegetables, especially green ones, peas in particular.
And that’s when I’d make my move. I’d grab my bowl of untouched peas, leap lightly from my chair and around the corner, lift the lid of the end table, dump the offending contents of the bowl, and be back in my chair before Momma was halfway done getting my little brother’s face clean. See? Brilliant. I felt mildly guilty while receiving praise for being a good girl and eating my peas, but the relief at having avoided having to taste those peas always outweighed the guilt – a little bit, anyway.
Did I ever look in at the old peas while I was dumping subsequent bowls? Heavens, no, no time for that, and I honestly can’t say if it even crossed my mind, but I doubt it. I don’t think I gave a single thought to the fate of those peas once they left my possession.
I’m not sure how much time actually went by – linear time has never been one of my strong suits – but at some point my mother began sniffing at the air strangely when she’d walk through the living room, and it wasn’t too long after that that she found them. I was playing in the back yard when I heard the screams, and I knew instantly what had happened, although at that point I was unaware that quantities of margarine-soaked cooked peas, when placed in a covered warmish area and left to their own devices, will, over time, grow huge amounts of hairy mold resembling nothing more than a huge dead rodent, with an accompanying dead rodent smell.
I was headed at full speed towards our big forsythia bush that was in glorious yellow bloom and that I knew made a terrific hiding place when my mother hit the back porch, yelling my full name at the top of her lungs. To say that my blood ran cold in that moment is one of the great understatements of all time.
Of course I did the only logical thing: I blamed my little brother. The fact that he was just learning to walk seemed completely inconsequential – perhaps I was channeling the spirit of Kellyanne Conway-Future and her alternative facts, I do not know – and I went with my story hard.
Sadly, and much to my astonishment, my story did not fly with my mother – not even embellished with much waving of arms, eyewitness accounts of the many times I’d seen my baby brother do superhuman and evil things, ugly sobbing, tears, and big puppy eyes. I do remember my mother’s face and mouth shaking strangely after she spanked me, though, as she was sending me to my room, and her voice sounding funny, like she was choking or something. It wasn’t until many years later, when I had kids of my own, that I realized she was doing her absolute best not to give in to hysterical laughter.
February’s birthstone, amethyst, is purple quartz, 7 on the MOHS scale, which means it’s perfect for carving.
The word “amethyst” comes from a Greek phrase that means “not drunk.” The ancient Greeks named it that because they believed that amethyst prevented people from getting drunk no matter how much alcohol they consumed. They also believed amethyst prevented, or at the very least lessened the effects of, hangovers. So those canny ancient Greeks carved cups and bowls and goblets out of the stuff as drinking vessels for alcohol.
This is a carved amethyst bowl that I found in Amazon Crystals on etsy, and you can see more of it with details by clicking here.
The ancient Egyptians used it for jewelry, too, before the Romans.
This is another particularly lovely vintage piece, carved amethyst beads in a 14 karat gold lavalier necklace, listed at Belmar Jewelers on etsy.
This is a necklace in our shop, multi strands of freshwater pearls with beautiful vintage carved amethyst beads from the 1960s – click here to see it up close and personal.
Kay’s pretty sure we’re going to find amethysts on our property eventually, because we certainly have plenty of quartz, and we have found the other minerals, like manganese and iron oxide, necessary to produce amethyst and smoky amethyst. So we’ll keep digging, y’all.
This is my maternal great-grandmother, Pearl Brite. What I know about her are simple facts, learned through internet research. She was born in Lawrence, Missouri, in 1884, and she died in 1939, probably in Oregon. She gave birth to my maternal grandfather in 1906, when she was 22, and they were living in Kansas in 1910, not too long before this photograph was taken. By 1920, they had moved to Portland, Oregon.
I love this photo a ridiculous amount, given that all I know about her are those basic facts – I didn’t know her, or my grandfather who was her son, and barely knew my mother. Pearl looks like an intelligent woman, a compassionate woman, a strong woman, a woman with a sense of humor in spite of, well, life, and someone I would’ve liked to have called friend.
She looks like a woman who would’ve marched with us yesterday.
Over 10,000 amazing, passionate, committed, determined human beings (and dogs – can’t forget the fabulous dogs!) came together yesterday for the Women’s March on Charlotte, one of the many sister marches to the Women’s March in Washington, DC, that were held all over the world.
Waiting for the train to take us to First Ward Park, where the march began, we were surrounded by other people headed to the march, many of us with signs, and the phenomenal energy of the march began in the parking lot of the train station. The determination was palpable and the air seemed to be vibrating with purpose. Our train car was packed, and we chanted several times as we made the 30 minute trip to our destination, everybody in that very crowded train car, all colors and shapes and ages and genders and personal reasons for being there, and we were all just yelling it out, together: FIRED UP! READY TO GO!
In the photo below you can see how the tops of the skyscrapers in the background are obscured by fog. This is what it looked like in Charlotte as masses of people were still pouring in. When we finally began to march – didn’t happen till 10:30 instead of 10, and I’m guessing that might have a bit to do with the fact that they weren’t expecting more than 2,000 or so people and instead got at least more than five times that many -but when we did finally start moving, that fog began lifting, and the sun came out. How’s that for a powerful metaphor? I know I’ll take it. I’m ready to take it.
For me, at least, the fog of despair and dread is lifting, and I can feel the brilliant, powerful heat of unified determination waiting. Hard work ahead, my friends – it’s time to pick up that phone and make those calls to your senators and representatives, to the White House, to whomever needs calling to be reminded that you vote and you are watching. It’s time to volunteer locally on a grassroots level. It’s time to stop mourning and it’s time to take action. It’s time.
Born of broken people
She inevitably arrived broken too.
No visible signs of damage, but
that really only made things worse, not better.
A white chenille bedspread,
blood stains on the pale pink
roses turned to shadow rust,
faded like the memories of the day
it happened, the stains and scars and rips and tears
nearly blending in now, so many years gone by,
just another part of the pattern.
Understanding remains elusive,
always just out of her grasp, it seems.
She thought it would arrive when her own children did,
that she would suddenly get it, suddenly know,
but of course it didn’t happen that way – this is
real life, after all.
I wrote this many years ago, and have published it online a couple of times since then. I feel absolutely naked every time I do it, but I also hear from people who feel it, and that makes me feel like it’s worth the nakediditty anxiety. Well, almost.
There are six different kinds or species of January’s birthstone, the garnet, each stunningly lovely in its own right. Here’s a list of all six, along with a bit of info about each and pictures of them in their rough forms.
(1) almandine – most common form of garnet; deep red to reddish orange, purple red to red purple, usually dark, transparent; found in metamorphic rock, like mica schists; also called “carbuncle”; ground up and used as an abrasive; sometimes confused with pyrope, but most almandine is much more opaque; found in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Australia, Switzerland, East Africa, and the US
(2) pyrope – the only garnet species that’s always red, and the red can be so dark it looks black or purple; can be confused with almandine, but has fewer flaws and inclusions; found in Bohemia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Scotland, Tanzania, Kenya, Canada, and the US
(3) grossular – light to dark green, light to dark yellow to reddish brown, occasionally translucent to opaque pink, rarely colorless; some examples of grossular garnets are Hessonite or cinnamon stone; also tsavorite, a rare green grossular garnet found in India; grossular garnets are also found in Tanzania, Sibera, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and the US
(4) uvarovite – emerald green; the rarest of the garnet species, and seldom found in crystals large enough to be faceted, because the mineral that causes the lovely green color also stunts crystal growth, so it’s usually seen as drusy in jewelry; found in Canada, Spain, Finland, Norway, South Africa, and Russia
(5) spessartine – bright orange, orange-red, yellow to red; also known as spessartite; named for the area of Bavaria, Germany, where it was discovered in the 1990s; second rarest garnet; also found in Brazil, Madagascar, Australia, Myanmar, India, Afghanistan, Israel, Tanzania, the US and Bulgaria
(6) andradite – most commonly golden to brown; much less commonly found in a green form known as demantoid, an orange-yellow form known as topazolite, and a black opaque form known as melanite; found in Norway, Brazil, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, and the US