Sunday, November 13, 2011

Adoption Awareness Month

Years ago I used to blog on the topic of state adoption. I used to keep up with the latest statistics, resources. and laws. The past couple years, since the finalization of the adoption of our 3rd child, I've forgotten much of what I used to know and haven't kept up much on new laws. That's because I've been able to just step back and be a mom!

I first became curious about fostering and state adoptions from my old boss who was adopting her nephew. She shared with me the heart wrenching reality of the thousands of waiting children in the U.S. and the desperate need for good foster and adoptive families. I went home and talked with my husband about fostering and possibly being open to adoption. I was shocked he was so open. We then began the journey of trainings, background checks and a home study.

Our first son was placed as a legally freed adoption. This meant his birth parents no longer had parental rights. I wish I could say it was a quick process but it wasn't. From the time we started our orientation to the time he was placed, it was 19 months. Some families get placements more quickly, some wait longer. He came to us as a young toddler, just over a year old with these amazing big bright blue eyes. I missed so many firsts, however, 7 days after his placement we witnessed his first steps.

Our second son came to us as a foster placement at 5 months. His former foster mom was wanting to retire from fostering and Oregon's Department of Human Services (DHS) was concerned he would not be returned to his birth mother. Because of this, it was important to place him in a foster home who may be open to adoption, lest he have to be moved yet again. After praying, we felt a peace that we were the family to take that risk and love him as long as we could have him. This wasn't easy. Balancing loving your child unconditionally and guarding your heart in case you lose them is hard! But he was worth it. He is now ours.

Years passed and we were notified of siblings to our boys who were born. Some were adopted by a wonderful foster mom, and others went to live with another adoptive family who had other birth siblings.

One day we got notice of another sibling born. She was/is fully biologically related to our oldest son and therefore was placed as a kinship adoptive placement. We were notified right after she was born and asked if we would initially foster her until she was officially deemed adoptable--and this case would without doubt be going to adoption. Our daughter had more significant special needs than our boys had and her future was very uncertain. Still, there was an undeniable peace to move forward.

I've spent about 11 years co-facilitating support groups and advocating for children and their families both in local settings and online. The past few years I just haven't had the time I used to. With 3 kids, my school and my Etsy shops, I've stayed pretty busy.

Each one of our children are considered "special needs". Each had a rough start in life. I'm happy to say, in spite of this, they are healthy, amazing, lovable and loving children. My husband and I got to be the ones to witness them grow and thrive. As I've shared many, many times with others: I consider it a humbling honor to be entrusted with my children. I believe children are given to us by God, whether it be by birth or adoption, for a time and are a gift to be cherished. It isn't easy; I don't know anyone who has found parenting easy.

If you are at all interested in being a foster resource or even an adoptive placement, contact your local social/human services department and request more information. Please also visit, in no particular order:

North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Adopt US Kids
Heart Gallery of America

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oregon Sunstone Mining

Family vacation 2011 we decided to venture through Oregon's outback to mine beautiful Oregon Sunstone; an all natural labradorite feldspar sometimes containing beautiful copper shiller. It can be clear, yellow, with reds, or even greens .

We loaded up the RV, made sure we were topped off on gasoline, water, food, and our holding tanks were empty. I had no idea how important this would be.

Coming from the more densely populated part of Oregon (our city neighbors Portland), I had no idea just how empty parts of our state were. We were on probably 30 miles of dirt road before we reached Dust Devil Mine past Plush, Oregon. (I think it took Bryan a couple hours to wash all the dust off our RV once our trip was over.) Living in an area of vast greenery, I found the golden scenery beautiful and serene. Nothing but sage, hills and blue skies--oh yeah, and dirt!

We arrived and were greeted by the mine owners who instructed us in how to find sunstone rough. Shame on me, I should have used the sunscreen. I only lasted about an hour mining with my husband, my 2 boys ages 7 and 10 and my 3 year old daughter. Thankfully I was the only one who ended up with sunburn. My husband Bryan and I dug the dirt and sifted through material and found the sunstone fairly easily. Our younger son didn't even lift a shovel and found more pieces of better quality than we did.

When we were finished, we brought our material back to be inspected for quality pieces we'd then have the option of buying. We got to keep everything we found because nothing Bryan or I mined was of any real value.

I'd never enjoyed a shower so much after that dusty day. I enjoyed walking around the desert with my kids picking up pebbles here and there. Maybe they weren't worth much but the experience was priceless.

That night I heard my oldest son yell, "look at all the stars!". Never in my life have I seen so many stars. While my youngest slept, the remaining four of us went outside the RV and just looked in wonder at the beautiful night sky. My boys saw their first shooting stars that night.

After our visit to the Dust Devil mine, we went south to Davis Creek, California to collect obsidian, a natural glass. From there we went to Sparks and Virginia City, Nevada before heading home. Our 6 day adventure came to an end.

During the trip I was able to make some great faceted sunstone purchases from the Dust Devil mine which I'll be setting into jewelry and selling in my shop soon. I hope to visit the area of Plush, Oregon again soon.

August is Anniversary Month in My Art Shop!

It's my art shop's second anniversary on Etsy. So, what does this mean for you?

Every item purchased in my art shop during the month of August will entitle you to a raffle ticket for my anniversary drawing. This is what you see in the photo above. Included is a blank card, a signed ACEO print of one of my most popular paintings, a 1" square pendant of my artwork--with chain, 2 stickers, and a magnet.

You'll receive a free print of my choice with every order. I have pulled some of my older prints to make room in my shop for newer ones and I'd like a good home for them.

Don't forget to take 10% off your entire order at checkout! Use coupon code "save102" when you check out with your order and save money.

I have been truly blessed with my customers and friends' support these past couple years. I can't thank you enough. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Little Color

Upon completion of a drawing, I consider whether a picture's appeal will be enhanced by color or if the adding color will become a negative distraction. I've ruined many good drawings by coloring them in the past. Now I scan the piece before I add color this way I can create prints, if nothing else, out of the black and white drawing should I be unhappy with the painted version.

Adding color can really bring a piece to life. The colors I choose often reflect the mood I'm in. For this reason I often give it a day before painting.

Above is an example, before and after, of one of my drawings. I don't always draw out my pieces first--only if I think I'll like it more as a black and white piece. More often I outline and detail after I paint.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Family Dinner Revival

A while back I would have been completely embarrassed to share our family dinner routine--mainly because we had no routine; or structure. With such picky eaters (much of it due to my own lack of discipline), my husband and I found ourselves making separate dinners for each of our children. He and I wouldn't eat together until the kids were in bed where we could eat in peace without the "eww" and "I don't like that".

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says, "Everyday I give my family two choices for dinner...take it or leave it." I've intended to live up to this, but it's rarely happened. I have always envied families who have sit down dinners, where everyone eats and passes the side dishes around the table. I admit, I hate cooking with a passion! In order to balance the need for family dinners together and the kids actually eating we eat out quite a bit at "sit down" restaurants.

I'm excited to say I've found a solution! It's only been 1 week but I'm blown away at the results. Curious yet? Okay, here it is; we have a family of 5. Two days a week, Fridays and Saturdays, we've committed to eating out still for tradition's sake, and because those days we're often away from the home at dinner time. For Sunday through Thursday each of us have drawn days out of a jar. Those are our permanent days we are each responsible for preparing dinner for the family--yes, even our 2 year old daughter with help from Mommy and Daddy!

When it's our day to cook, we get to choose what everyone eats. We lead prayer, and we set the table. We each bus our own dishes afterward. This is what has happened as a result:

  • The children get excited to create what they want knowing (within reason) everyone will eat it or at least try it, no rude comments allowed.
  • They learn cooking skills.
  • They also learn to be sympathetic toward those making meals they may not like and try them anyway knowing a lot of work and preparation went into it. After all, they wouldn't like it if someone complained about the meal they carefully planned and made with love.
  • The children have gained such pride and self confidence as they watch their family eat what they've prepared.
  • My husband and I kind of get a break from cooking. We still help guide them with their preparations.
  • We are bonding and creating lasting memories. Today as I was helping my 9 year old make French toast, he offered me a high five with our spatulas as one of his toasts turned out beautiful.
I'm sure there are other benefits of our new dinner routine. Finally, we get to live up to the magnet quote about two choices; taking it or leaving it. My hope is my kids, oral sensory issues and food aversions or not, will learn to appreciate new things and cherish family dinnertime.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Big "C"

The big "C" I'm talking about is "cancer". Recently another close family member of mine was affected by this disease; my mother-in-law. It seems all too common now days and no doubt cancer can have an impact on the whole family as well as the patient.

My husband and I traveled out of state to be there for his mom while the doctors removed her tumor. As we returned home after a successful surgery, I thought about how wicked cancerous tumors are. I prayed for my mother-in-law's continued recovery and complete healing. I thought about how God can take something so awful like cancer and make something beautiful out of it. I envisioned what His love love could grow in the place of my mother-in-law's cancer: love, perspective, endurance, patience, faith, strength, perseverance, courage, hope and compassion, to name a few. This vision is what inspired the piece to your left.

This exact drawing will go to my mother-in-law but I will be offering prints of it in my shop soon. 50% of the profits will be donated to cancer research centers in hopes of one day finding a cure.

If you know someone who is about to go through chemo therapy and risks losing their hair, I'd like to recommend a shop on Etsy called English Traditions. This seller makes and sells well crafted chemo scarves. She will ship directly to your loved one if need be and thoughtfully wrap the items and include a personal message if you wish to send one. My mother-in-law's package also included a nice poem.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What's New and What's Happening

I can't believe how long it's been since I've written! I promise I've just been busy rather than lazy.

This last week I passed my Colored Stones class with the Gemological Institute of America bringing me a step closer to my gemologist diploma. Since completing this class I've found time to paint and to wire wrap a bit. I look forward to bringing new pieces to each of my shops soon.

I held my anniversary drawing in my jewelry shop but never got around to blogging showing what was being given away. It'll be a surprise to my winner whose raffle ticket was drawn today. Missed this drawing? No worries because there'll be one in my art shop in August.

I plan to add more gems to my gem shop, however, since I'm taking Gem Identification next, I am going to hang onto whatever I can until I'm done with this class.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gemology Pursuit

Today's challenge is to see how much I can get written with my toddler competing for my attention. It's been difficult to write lately with daily demands of appointments, school, working and full time with my kids, still making time for my husband... but I really want to give an update.

With my latest store sales I've been able to pay for some of my classes to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) "The world's foremost authority in gemology." Recently I received my AJP which stands for Accredited Jewelry Professional. Currently I'm studying Diamonds and Diamond grading with the intent of completing the program to gemologist.

I've been studying gems since I was about 16 years old and as I'm sure I've mentioned before, have built my own gem lab more recently. I've always had a love for fine jewelry especially. While in high school I would save portions of my lunch money to buy jewelry at the local pawn shop. From there I would trade items up as I had money and ended up with a nice collection of gemstone jewelry, much of it in karat gold.

My grandma had a love for jewelry and perhaps influenced my early appreciation for fine pieces. She has since passed on but I'm sure she'd be proud of me pursuing my interests.

Well, it only took me 45 minutes to write this.

Thank you for your support in helping me do something I've always wanted to do.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Considering a Store Close

I have a passion for jewelry making and design but the reality is, the time it takes to produce my pieces and the cost of my supplies versus the price that moves them through my store leaves me at a financial disadvantage. There are so many jewelry artists out there and in order to compete with others' prices I feel I'm having to sell myself short.

In order to get items noticed among the hundreds of thousands on Etsy I must advertise and/or consistently relist pieces to move them toward the top of the "most recent". Doing this also puts the piece in a brief front page viewing as "recently listed items". This costs money and can add up quickly. So while Etsy's commission is very reasonable, an item, for example that cost me $5 to make that I'm selling for $10 on clearance, I may have to pay several dollars in relisting fees to get it noticed before it actually sells; thus being out time and possibly money. This is not to mention Paypal's fees.

In my jewelry I use sterling and fine silver. If you've followed precious metal prices lately, you'll know they've gone up exponentially. In fact sterling wire prices alone have nearly doubled since I started my Etsy shop just less than 2 years ago. Fine silver in clay form has always been pricey but so far my vendor has kept the prices the same. As a result I've been making more items out of fine silver lately. While the supply cost is not much different, my prices are higher because it takes me 2 days to make these pieces. I've considered doing a tutorial--and perhaps at some point I will. Experiencing the labor that goes into PMC and Art Clay pieces in forming and finishing them, I've come to appreciate other artists' creations in a renewed way.

So, what's happening now in my jewelry shop is I've clearanced out many pieces. I have no official plan should I phase out completely. I'm considering pulling some pieces I've gotten compliments on from family and friends and may save them as gifts and keep some samples of work for my own collection; things I've put a lot of heart into. I will not likely reduce the prices anymore than I have but have a coupon code being offered on my store's front page for additional savings. I also may auction some off on Ebay.

Another shop I'm considering closing is my gem shop. I've got hundreds upon hundreds of loose gems. Listing these take a bit more time because each one is measured weighted and sometimes run through expensive tests before being photographed for entry into the shop. It's a bit much for a $5 gem. I've got a coupon code floating in that shop too.

As for my art shop, I don't have plans to close it down anytime soon. I need some sort of outlet after all. I do, however need to move things along so, that store as well has a coupon code.

I'm not going to close out anything in a haste. I thought posting this might give people a head's up as to what may be coming. If there is something you're interested, please consider purchasing it while it's still there. If there are multiple items you're interested and want to make an offer for a discount, I'm totally open to that.

Thanks to those of you who have taken time to read my blog and especially those who've supported my shops. I can't thank you enough.