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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

You probably know that I've been on call for jury duty for several weeks now. Here in Taos county, the gig is two months long, so I'm still on the hook for the whole month of March. Each weekend we have to call in to see if we need to report for jury selection the following week. This week we all showed up at 8:30 Monday morning, and waited to see what would happen. I brought a book and a notebook, and tried to keep myself amused while we waited. But the court room is so distractingly ugly, it was almost impossible to relax and enjoy a few minutes of quiet reading time. The entire courthouse complex is a retro nightmare of cinder block construction. The outside hides fairly well under a coat of adobe-looking stucco, but they've painted the inside in pastel yellow with blocks of other easter egg colors strategically painted to resemble Native American designs... and then there are the "art" pieces on the walls... huge white 3-D things that telescope out from the center, looking like overgrown acoustic tiles that are only meant to suck the life, intelligence, and inspiration from the room. They work pretty well. And just to be sure to make it the ugliest room in the world, they covered the ceiling with cheap fluorescent panels that haven't been cleaned or maintained in 30 years. A few were actually working, but most were either out completely, or flickering on and off.

So there we sat, 50 or 60 of us, in the huge, pit-shaped room, wondering if we'd be sent home, or needed for a jury. Eventually we were told that the case would go to trial, and they would begin the jury selection process right away. Great...

I'd gone in there fully intending to get out of it any way I could. I was prepared to lie, or pretend I was sick, or even make some skanky racist comment... anything to avoid actually serving on a jury. After all - I'm a busy woman. I run a business that supports my family. Without me, there is no business and no income. I have no free time for things I want to do, and certainly had no interest in spending my own precious time on total strangers who were stupid enough to land themselves in court!

The process began, with no opening for me to speak up. The basics of the case were told to us, and the two parties involved were seated there. The group as a whole was asked several questions about whether we knew either of the women or their attorneys.
Clearly, in a small town like this, a lot of people knew someone involved, and would have to be dismissed as jurors. But that still left maybe 30 or 40 of us, and they only needed 13, so as we were sent on a short break, there was still some hope...

Not for long though... the whole group filed back into the courtroom, and 13 names were read off. My name was in there, and we were now jurors. No further questions. The job was ours. But interestingly, by this point, I'd begun to look around the room, and realized these people needed me. I sure didn't want to be there, but since I was there, I figured I'd better do a good job and see what all this was about.

Instructions were given to us, seating was assigned, and the opening statements began immediately. It was a civil case concerning a traffic accident that had happened in 2001. Mrs Plaintiff claimed that her back injuries and general deterioration were a direct cause of the accident, which was pretty obviously the fault of Mrs. Defendant. Without too much detail - because lawyers do their best to muck up a clear case with too much useless information and conjecture - we sat there until lunch, and then came back for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

It was starting to look like we knew all we were going to know, but I tried to keep an open mind and wait for more information. It never came. And the second day was much like the first, with more witnesses, and more lawyer blahblahblah. When it came time to send the jury off to decide what to do with these ladies, we were overloaded with facts and non-facts, and left on our own to sort through it all.

Fortunately, we were a relatively intelligent group of people. One of us was told she'd been the "alternate", and could go home. The other 12 of us squeezed around the conference table in the tiny jury room and looked at each other. None of us had ever served on a jury before. We knew we had to choose a foreman, and nobody wanted the job. Wouldn't you know it - they all turned to me and said, How about you? You're sitting in the middle so we can all hear you. High praise indeed. Well.... I'm thinking OK, I'm here for the total experience, and to do my best job, so why not. Just like that, I had a stack of papers in front of me, and I was Jury Foreperson, which really felt more like Jury Mom.

I kept everyone involved and made sure we heard from each person in the group. I turned to the guy next to me and said, "We're not going to rush this, so you just have to stop it!" And to the woman who was feeling overly sympathetic, I had to say, "I know you feel sorry for her, but we have to stick with the facts. You can take her to lunch next week if you want to be nice to her." Very mom-like leadership.

It didn't take long to decide that the accident was indeed the fault of Mrs. Defendant, but that years of poor health were not a direct result of the accident. There was long history of car accidents on Mrs. Plaintiff's record, and an even longer history of health problems, along with the refusal to follow prescribed care and physical therapy. We decided that we'd only compensate her for the few weeks following the accident in question, since she stopped seeing doctors for over a year after that. We generously awarded her $5000, knowing that her medical expenses had only been about $300 during that time, but not wanting to be insulting to an elderly woman who had a lot of pain and suffering in her life. Bottom line was, the other woman ran a red light, and we couldn't ignore that. $5000 was too much, but we knew her sleazy attorney would take a big chunk of it, and that if we came in too low, he might even ask that the case be re-tried with a new jury.

It's a tricky little walk across that tightrope of justice. Facts and truth and reasonable doubt are pretty slippery tools, but they're all we have. I went in there as a total cynic, and came out with a renewed belief in a judicial system that's all we have to hope for. If I found myself as a defendant in a case like that, I'd sure want to know that the jury was taking their time and considering everything presented. Sure, my time and my business are important to me, but when it came right down to it, it was important to me to take these people's lives as seriously as my own.

There's still the possibility I'll have to serve again this round, since we're still on call through March. But I don't think that local attorney for the plaintiff would have me on his jury again! Everyone in the room looked surprised when the wild haired woman in the front of the jury box stood up and handed the verdict to the bailiff, calmly, loudly saying, "Yes, we have reached a verdict, Your Honor." Not a push-over in the bunch, and I was there to tell them so.

Case closed. Back to beads!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Rick and I have lived in Taos for almost 6 years. We like it here. We almost love it here. But I guess we're gypsies at heart, because we remain open to the idea of moving on at some point. Taos has a way of holding on tight to people. We've created a nice little life for ourselves here, but Taos "Herself" seems to be loosening her grip on us. There's no real reason to stay, except for a few good friends, which is a very good reason actually. But then again, there are so many places to explore... For a couple of years now I've been in love with the Grand Canyon. I actually cry like a lost two-year-old when I have to turn and leave it each visit. So I've started wondering how a person could actually live there. All this wondering has led me from thinking is was impossible, or at least crazy-expensive, to now thinking there's a way I never thought of before. What about downsizing! Why in the world have I bought into the idea that when you sell a house, you have to go buy a bigger one? How totally silly. We're seriously thinking about buying a big chunk of land in northern Arizona, and putting a tiny house on it. Turns out, there's a whole "small house movement" going on, that I've only just heard about. I'm intrigued, even smitten with the idea of living smaller, and as a result, having a much bigger life. Of course, this is a new crush, so it might dissolve in a few days. But in case it doesn't, I'll show you what I'm talking about. This is the most adorable 500 square foot house I've ever seen. See the plans for this one, and several others at Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.

It's inexpensive to build, and almost free to heat and maintain. With this and a small studio space, we could spend far less time making a living, and more time actually living. It's exciting to think about. You know I'll keep you posted! If you want to know more about the small house movement, start here, at the Small House Society. There was also a great segment on Oprah earlier this week, where architect Jay Shafer gives a tour of the tiny house he designed and lives in. Keep an open mind, and imagine working for yourself, rather than working for a mortgage. Imagine spending a lot of time outside... maybe lunch every day at the Grand Canyon. If you're going to dream, might as well do it big... and small!

Monday, February 19, 2007

I decided to try a little weekend project, and made this cool chain!

It's fine silver, which is 99.9% pure silver, unlike sterling, which is alloyed with copper and usually nickel. Contrary to popular belief, fine silver can be used for jewelry. It starts out quite soft and bendy, but can be "work hardened" to hold its shape. I'm so excited about this! I've wanted to make nice, heavy, real chains for years, but was too intimidated by the process. Fine silver is much easier to work with that sterling. Anne Mitchell showed me this when I was in Tucson. I can't wait to go back and take the Anne and Kate class, to learn more. Let's all go!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Family heirlooms sometimes carry a curse. Not the kind of curse in fairy tales, but more a curse of expectation and responsibility... For my 21st birthday, my youngest sister, Jill, gave me a beautiful crystal wine glass, on which she'd had engraved, "21st". A truly thoughtful gift, but one that didn't seem right to use after that particular birthday. I kept it in the back of the kitchen cupboard, and carefully wrapped it in newspaper every time I moved over the years. Eventually I stopped unpacking it, leaving it in the box of "unused things I can't get rid of", out in the storage shed. I'd taken a perfectly lovely gift and turned it into a dreaded family heirloom...

Recently, my daughter, Lauren's, 21st birthday came around. I remembered that glass, and finally brought it out, unwrapped the layers of old newspaper, and hand washed it until it sparkled again. I gave it to Lauren on her birthday, and of course she loved it and the sentimental story that went with it. It had traveled years from my 21st birthday to hers. But neither of us knew that it had a curse attached...

She took the glass back to school with her, and placed it high on a bookshelf to keep it safe. But a stack of books slipped sideways and knocked the glass off the shelf, shattering it into a zillion shards all over her desk, her computer, and the carpet. Poor Lauren was in tears when she called me, still standing in the middle of the broken pieces. I told her to sweep up the glass she could see, vacuum the carpet twice, and then wipe everything down with a wad of wet paper towels. I know what to do with broken glass.

The rest of the cleanup was a little more difficult. It took some thoughtful words and determined convincing to get her to understand that it was OK that the glass was broken. It's good that the glass is broken. I'd hauled that thing around for 28 years, from my birthday to hers, and it had completed it's mission. No way did I want her to feel obligated to do the same. Over the years, the weight of the "value" of the thing would become too much for someone. When that glass broke, a lot of future people were spared a lot of effort and silly responsibility...

And just like that, the curse was lifted, and we move on to things more important.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I know... I'm not very chatty this week. There's just so much going on... I got out of jury duty for a few days, after an hour of waiting around for plea bargaining... doesn't that sort of imply admission of guilt? What the heck did they have a jury pool standing around for? Oh yeah... it's Taos... Anyway, we're on call for 2 months, so that drags it into sometime in March. I'm not thrilled. At least I remembered to bring a notebook though - I sat there looking surly and suspicious, and wrote a lot. Not a total waste of time...

The raffle for Jean Yates is hopping along at a good pace. I'd love to see all the tickets sold this week, so I can get the money to her, get the prizes to the winners, and get back to concentrating on making beads. I can do it all, of course! It's just easier if I don't have to. So help me out. Buy a bunch of tickets.

I want to thank Chris Bettini for turning me on to a book called "Curly Girl", by Lorraine Massey. She saw the photo of me here a few weeks ago - this one, where I looked like a tumbleweed in a black sweater...

and she bravely and sweetly stepped in to offer some advice! If you have curly hair, and you're lost in the woods as far as caring for it, styling it, nurturing it, read the book! And then go to AvenueYou for the wonderful Deva Curl line of products. It's made a huge difference in my relationship to my hair! We all know how important that is! Now I'm "embracing my curly nature", and look more like this...

I think I'll even let it get a little longer again. We're friends for the first time ever.

And last, but certainly not least, a belated Happy Valentine's Day to you! I used to think of it as a silly Hallmark Holiday, but I've changed my mind. Now I see it as something more like "Loving Day", as Danny used to call it when he was little. A day to share the love in any way you can. Romance is all fine and good, but the world needs bigger LOVE than that. Hope you got the chance to spread some around!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Before I move on, just one last note about the trip to Tucson. You know you're traveling in the southwest when you see signs like this in the rest stops...

My guess is even the most drowsy drivers become instantly alert.

Now quick! Go to my website and buy a raffle ticket to help my dear friend, Jean Yates. The prizes are terrific, and so is Jean. Read all about it there!
I make it so easy for you to be a Good Person!

And last up today, it's raining... yucky-poopy-messy... melting the snow, making goat poop soup in the yard, and creating a preview of the actual Spring Mud Season. Not pleasant. But luckily, I have some wonderful rubber rain boots!

I got them at Target (online only, I think). They're listed as "rain boots", and come in lots of adorable colors and patterns. And the best part... they're only 20 bucks! Got mud? Get these!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

So Long Tucson...

It's our last night here. We dropped Jim and Lani off at the airport this morning, and finished our shopping a few minutes ago. In between, we dropped by Kate and Anne's studio to pick up the killer ring I won in an Emma Ralph auction benefiting our dear Jean Yates and family. More on that in a sec. First you have to see the ring. I love it entirely. I have many rings, but none a uber-cool as this. And to make it even better, I had several to choose from, but took this one because it's Kate's personal favorite, and one she's been wearing. I took it right off her hand, and felt guilty for only about two seconds. There is nothing more pleasurable to wear than a gorgeous handmade object infused with love. I hope to take their Low Tech Metalsmithing class so I can do great silver work with my beads. Check it out on either of their websites above.

As soon as we get home - Thursday or Friday - I'll wrap and ship all the stuff you bought from me here. Then I'll put together a quick fund raiser for Jean, who's son Dylan has been having very scary seizures, and the huge medical bills that go along with such a mysterious thing. Jean is so generous in the bead world, with her designs, articles, patterns, and kits, and a book in the works too. She shares so much, and is one of the designers I work closely with. We've never met in person, but we're friends, without a doubt. My way of helping her out will be to lug home a big bag of Tucson Loot, divide it up into three generous servings, and sell raffle tickets to all of you. I'll only sell 300 tickets at $10 each, so you'll have a good chance of winning one of the three prizes. And $3000 will help Jean and Jim catch their breath. I'll let you all know when I have it ready to go.

The other thing I have in the works is a bunch more silver to sell you, so I can send an equal amount to the HOPE Bracelet Project along with my beads this year. I bought some sweet strands that will work great in the bracelets. My idea is to sell half of them to you, to pay for the other half that I'll donate to the project. You'll get cool Bali silver at a good price, the HOPE folks will get the same, and I'll break even except for my time, which I'm willing to give. Be watching for that one soon!

That's it for now. One last patio dinner in Tucson before we head back into winter tomorrow. I'm OK with it. Lots to do at home, and we've had a truly scrumptious time here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

We had a great time at Kate McKinnon's last night. Here we are, just hanging out by the pool. I sat on the edge for a while, soaking my tired tootsies. Ahhhh.....

Now I want to come back and take the low-tech metalsmithing class Kate teaches with Anne Mitchell. Imagine the things I could do if metal work wasn't such a pain...

Today we'll visit the desert museum while it's still cool outside. It's supposed to get to 80 today. Yay! Later we'll hit the shows again. I have a really great little fundraiser coming out of this. My pal Jean Yates needs some help with medical expenses for her son. I'm shopping for Tucson Loot, which I'll raffle off when I get home. Fun!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Yesterday we "did the Dome"... the Holidome, which I now lovingly call "Thunderdome".
Lani and I spent the entire day in there. It's so huge... it makes even the biggest shows look like little peewee yard sales. I found another excellent source for silver, as well as gold vermeil, and another one for gorgeous blue-green turquoise. I'm sharing, but making sure to keep some too!

One end of the Dome is like an ocean of pearls... it took great restraint to keep myself from climbing up on the tables to nap on a "bed of pearls". Here's Lani, indulging a little...

Saving the best for last... we went to dinner with a big group of HOPE Bracelet folks, hosted by Noel and Tammy Cunningham, founders of the Cunningham Foundation, and the steam behind the project. (If you find yourself feeling hungry in Denver, be sure to visit their beautiful restaurant, Strings.) I was so honored to be seated next to Marta, who is visiting with her husband, Deme, from Ethiopia. They started Project Mercy, thirty-something years ago, and have done so much good with their lives... I truly felt like I was sitting next to a real live Angel. After salads, Noel had Marta and Deme switch seats, so I also had a chance to talk with him. Another Angel at my side. I'm telling you sistah, I was dedicated to the HOPE Project already, but meeting the two of them sealed the deal for life. I'm inspired! And I hope to inspire you too.

See the bracelet on my arm? The beaded one... I have a lot of bracelets... I bought it off Marta's arm! It's one of the HOPE Bracelets, which are all beautiful, but this one is extra special. Not only was Marta wearing it, it has a small heart bead in it. It's the first, and so far, only heart bracelet made by the young beadmakers in Yetebon, Ethiopia. It's a treasure! I have four others for those of you who asked me to buy one for them. Anyone else like one? I'll try to find them for you!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

We went to the ISGB party last night. What a nice group of beadists.
Here I am with Eleanore MacNish and her Lovely Assistant, Marci.

And to set the record straight, I am not Kim Fields, and she is not Kim Miles... people mix us up all the time... must be because we look so much alike...

This morning I'm posting some silver for sale. Here's a preview... the rest will be on my website. Come and get it!

Friday, February 02, 2007


We're here. This is overwhelming as always. I only took one picture today. The shows themselves are so enormous it's impossible to get a good perspective of size in a photograph. This was taken outside one of the many, many, many shows... acres of pallets of "extra stuff" that didn't fit in the tent...

I did some shopping today. Silver and cool resin spacers that look great with my beads. I think I'll post some for you on my website tomorrow, so I'll have time to go back for more if you like them. I'm finding good prices, but I have to buy in quantity, so can't go crazy all at once. Check my site for the loot, and back here for more pictures.