Written On My Heart

As many of you know, June of this year marked the beginning of something that had been the humblest of thoughts in my heart since my daughter died. From 2008 until this year, 2012, it slowly evolved until, in one day, the final light bulb moment came and my little dream was birthed into reality.

I’m referring to my Christmas ornament donation program at Skye Blue.

One of the first, only, and most cherished gifts I got in memory of Skye came at the perfect time. The funeral was over, she was buried, the mourning visitors had gone home, my husband (and I, for a short time) went back to work, life began as the New Normal. I was anything but normal though. Nobody talked about my little girl anymore, no more cards came mentioning her name. My memories had been stolen from me before I had a chance to make them with her, and winter descended like a vulture on my soul. There was nothing to look forward to, no bouncing baby girl, no milestones, even the Holidays promised pain and tears without my little bundle to show off, to cuddle, to open presents with, and mostly just to hold and love.

And then, in November, I got a little parcel in the mail. It was from the organization Hearts and Hands. We had been connected with them soon after Skye was sent up to Kosair. At first I didn’t understand who they were and why I was being pushed to meet with yet another set of people when I could be spending time with my daughter. In fact, I don’t think I understood who they were and why we were being introduced the whole 17 days I was there. It was only in the months following Skye’s death that they became the most invaluable comfort to me. You see, they are a group of people who deal with families who have babies that have a huge chance of passing away soon after birth. I guess this is why I didn’t make the fateful connection. It never sank in that I probably wouldn’t bring my little girl home. Nobody thought they should “burden” me with the gravity of her situation.

In the blur that night, when my daughter passed away, it was the sweet ladies from Hearts and Hands as well as one of Skye’s regular nurses that lovingly prepared her body, unwrapping it, dressing it in real clothes for the first time, putting baby lotion on her damaged skin so she would smell like a baby and not a hospital when we held her for the first time without her wrappings. They made the little molds of her hand and feet, they photographed her and us holding her. And they told us that they would be in contact with us over the next few months, we didn’t have to answer back at all, but they would send us some things in the mail. I barely heard this and remembered it at that time, I was too shattered and numb.

I believe the first thing I got was that package in November. I had pretty much forgotten that they had said they would be sending anything, so when I opened it I was a little puzzled and wondered what it was. As I pulled the little tissue paper parcel out of the mailer and unwrapped it, I burst into tears. There was a little pink and white candy cane ornament and it had Skye written on it. Not Elizabeth, her first name and the name so many people used because they didn’t know her, but the name I had chosen so long ago and given to my precious baby while she was still a tiny hope.

We didn’t even put up a tree that year, but that ornament was so precious, because somebody cared. A virtual stranger cared enough to send something with my girl’s name and a hand written card telling me how sorry they were that I’d be spending the Holidays without her at a time when everybody had stopped talking about her for fear of “ruining the season by reminding me”. As If I could have forgotten her!

To this day, that ornament and the others we have accumulated each year are among my most precious earthly possessions. Pulling them out and hanging them on the tree with my family is a cherished moment each year, remembering, and making new memories with my children here on earth, telling them about their sister they have never met and why they are even more special to us because of how special she is.

That is the story behind my donated ornaments. They are a labor of love, not to families that are monetarily needy, but to those who are in need emotionally of someone, anyone, remembering their children. I want you to know, those of you who have requested an ornament for your child or children who have passed, I am touched and humbled as I sit at my table and shape the clay with my fingers. I contemplate your child who was and is and will always be. I say their name, I marvel at the beauty of their names, I think about the dates you have chosen to record, whether birthdays, conception days, due dates, their date of passing. I think of the colors that you choose to represent your child, I think of the short stories some of you send with your email request and I grieve with you, I truly do. Sometimes, when the house is very quiet I even shed a tear as think of these beautiful little lives and the people left behind to mourn them for the rest of their lives. I consider it a great honor to have my finger prints mingled in the same clay that bears your child’s name.

I felt like all this needed to be said, and now it still seems inadequate to convey what I feel, but I will post any way. God bless you all, thank you for letting me be a part of your remembering.

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For information about my program and how to request an ornament, please visit this link on my Facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151009575456271.479378.362725131270&type=3

 

Capture Your Grief Day 8: Jewelry

I’m not much of a jewelry wearing person, never really have been. I love earrings of all shapes and sizes, and I wear my wedding set of course, but beyond that I don’t usually wear many pieces of jewelry on a regular basis. I’ll slip on a necklace when it’s cool, usually a unique beaded creation from http://www.deserthippie642.etsy.com , I hate wearing things on my neck when it’s hot, it makes me feel strangled.

However, I do have a bracelet I used to wear every day, even to bed sometimes. I only stopped wearing it so often because the delicate inscription on the metal heart is beginning to show the wear of just rubbing against my skin, it has started to fade a bit. I received the bracelet as a gift from my mom in law while Skye was in the NICU.  At this point, Skye had actually seemed to be improving and we were all very optimistic. I still remember the day clearly when my mom in law handed me the little box with the leather bracelet and shiny, silver metal accents. On one side of the thin, delicate heart was inscribed “Skye 9-25-08” her name and birthday. On the other side was one simple word, “Mommy”. I remember being so touched. I was Skye’s Mommy. I had been through hell and unknowingly had much more hell to go through, I had not even held my baby girl, but I was her mommy.

She passed away just days later.

The other most important bit of jewelry that I wear all the time and associate with Skye has double importance. It is a pair of earrings with 2 crystal gems, one is Skye’s birthstone and the other is my rainbow baby’s, Faith’s. I got them for Christmas one year after we lost Skye. Faith’s story is very remarkable, I’ve touched on it a couple of times but I’m not sure I’ve ever written out how amazing this little girl has been and how uniquely she came into our lives. Maybe when I’m done with this month of grieving in blog form I will tell her story in its entirety to demonstrate the power of hope that can work even in the face of tragedy. Faith’s story is intertwined with Skye’s, I truly don’t think I would have Faith if Skye had not passed. At any rate, it is very fitting that those birthstones sit together and frequently adorn my ears. My girls are precious gifts and I’m reminded of how special each of them are when I put that set on.

Day 8: Jewelry
These precious items are always associated with my angel when I wear them,

Capture Your Grief Day 5: Memorial

There are several memorials scattered around middle and western Kentucky, Skye’s head stone on her grave, a memory brick in the Bi-Centennial Garden in Salem Kentucky, the place of her Daddy’s family roots and the tiny town where she is buried, and of course the hearts of her family, especially the few people who got to meet her while she lived.

Josh and I have moved so much to pursue career opportunities for him that we have yet to settle down and really feel like we’ve found a home and put down roots, so I’m very glad Skye was able to be buried in Salem in the little cemetery shared by family. It is a place we will always make at least an annual pilgrimage to no matter where we move or live because that is where we celebrate the Holidays with his side of the family.

However, I believe the greatest and farthest reaching memorial I have is one that travels with me no matter where I am and that is Skye Blue, my online store and community on Facebook that has supported my art. Everything I make at Skye Blue is inspired by my daughter, even the name is inspired by her. I make a lot of grief and child loss related items and custom memorial items for grieving parents as well as every day home decor and non-grief related art. Even the regular items are inspired by her though, she taught me many things, but one of the biggest things I carried away from losing Skye was that you can’t wait for a convenient moment in life to do anything, if it is important to you, seize the day and do what you love.

Making art, working from home, and being an everyday part of my kids lives as a stay at home mom – those are all dreams I had long before my daughter lived and died, but she was the one who helped me realize that things that important to me couldn’t wait, I had to jump in and make it happen, the details would work themselves out.

Every day as I sit at my table creating, or pack up an order, or post pictures to Facebook, or even just take Faith to the park or lay and feeling Gavin kicking in my belly, those are moments I think of Skye. I’m thankful for the things she taught me. I’m glad that I’m young with lots of time ahead of me, but if my life were to be shortened unexpectedly, (nobody is guaranteed one day or hour) I would go with peace knowing I lived every day being alive, not just going through the motions, and I tried to remember what was truly important. That is a grand memorial, her legacy, and it touches many people every day. I am humbled by the messages from people who have been touched in some way by Skye Blue. It comforts me to be reminded that Skye is more alive right now than she could ever be in her mortal body and that gives me hope for my future also. This life is just the beginning friends.

This “Beauty From A Broken Heart” sculpture is just like the ones I make at Skye Blue, this one bears her name and birth date etched into it. The base is a broken heart and the peace lilies grow from the broken cracked middle.

The Pitfalls of Surprise Etsy Packages

I think everyone will agree, there is just nothing better than a good old-fashioned snail mail parcel. Wrapped up in that manilla envelope or cardboard box is more than just the object of your anticipation, especially if the goody is a gift from someone who knows you well. Contained in those amazing little parcels are thought, love, care, – the things we crave as human beings from the day we take our first breath. They say, “I’m thinking of you” in the very best way. As joyous as it is to receive a parcel from somebody you love, it is even more thrilling to get a surprise parcel, one that shows up in your mailbox to brighten your day and you had no clue that is was coming.

I am an Etsy seller and several members of my family are Etsy sellers. There is a little activity on Etsy that has become fairly popular, the “Buy and stay” and “Buy and Replace” sales. These neat little promotional tools work thusly: A curator collects an item from several different shops to feature in a “treasury list”. She then invites her Etsy friends and associates as well as the featured shops to come look at the items, chat in the comment section, and see if there is anything they are interested in buying. The featured shops do the same with their friends and contacts and those friends and contacts can even invite their friends, etc. The incentive to buy for an Etsyan is you get to replace the shop you buy from with an item from your own shop, plus you support small business, PLUS there is some really neat stuff on Etsy that you just can’t find at Wally World.

This turns a lot of eyes onto the featured shops from people who might not normally come into contact with them, it helps a buyer sort through the mass of unknown Etsy shops to find a seller who they can chat with and ask questions in real-time, and it is just plain fun. It is much like the modern version of a Tupperware party.

 

So, now that my readers are more familiar with how these sales work, let me resume the purpose of this post: Avoiding the pitfalls of surprise Etsy packages.

French vanilla coffee soap by http://www.sweetturquoise.etsy.com smells absolutely heavenly, like a softly cinnamon coffee latte with undertones of vanilla. Yum!

Anyone even vaguely familiar with the world of hand-made knows that homemade soap is about as delectable as it gets. On Etsy you can find droves of soap makers, each with their own specialty, style, etc. There are vegan soaps, natural soaps, highly scented soaps, non scented soaps, colorful swirled soaps, soaps with names like cinnamon bun and chocolate toffee. There are soaps that look, smell, and sound good enough to eat. There are even soaps made to look exactly like different edibles.

Also by SweetTurqoise, cupcake soaps.

I was chatting with an Etsy friend the other day, during one of these BNS sales, who talked about getting a surprise goody in one of the packages she had ordered, a lovely hand towel from Mouse0403.

I love this coffee themed towel by http://www.Mouse0403.etsy.com

This seller and Mouse are pretty good Etsy friends and run in each others’ BNR/BNS circles a lot. They have ordered from each other multiple times and so when there was a little yummy surprise in with the towel Mouse sent, my friend did not think much other than, “Awww, so sweet!” It was labeled Chocolate Patchouli and looked to be a small sample of hand-made chocolate bar, wrapped up nice and cute with a hand written note from Mouse, “Enjoy this surprise sample!”

Now again, if you are at all familiar with Etsy, you know there are all kinds of creative chocolatiers and candy makers and bakeries on Etsy vending their wares, and it is not at all uncommon to see Chocolate Lavender truffles or Peppermint caramel, or other weird flavor combinations you would not have thought would taste good. So my friend thought nothing as she took a bite of her Chocolate Patchouli and was horrified to find out it was actually soap.

“Gosh! How silly she must be! ” I know that’s what you are thinking, but that isn’t all. As I laughed with her and everyone else, I knew I was going to have to share something that had happened to me that very morning.

I had gone to check my mailbox that morning. I had been participating in the BNS world all week and had several packages I was expecting. As I said before, I have some family members that are heavily involved with those type sales too and I had already received a wonderful box with hand crocheted face scrubbies, beautiful jewelry, some little boonie hats for Faith, and some other little goodies earlier that month. So, I was surprised when I found a little manilla envelope from CakeOrDeath5 that I wasn’t expecting. In retrospect I am vaguely recalling my Aunt Shannon of JunqueyardRoyalty ( www.junqueyardroyalty.etsy.com ) messaging me for my mailing address, but I spaced that out on this particular morning.

I didn’t even wait till I got in the house, I started ripping it open excitedly as I walked up my drive way. Out tumbled a small package of clearish, brownish, coffee cup-shaped unidentifiable little objects that seemed bite sized. They were obviously coffee flavored from the smell, and I am an absolute fool for anything coffee (as you will see).

I was intrigued, yet wary. After all, I knew that Etsy has all kinds of treasures and just because it looks, smells, and seems edible does not mean that it is. I wondered if this delectable little bit was a candle tart, soap, gummy candy, hard candy, or just something else altogether. I was somewhat thrown off by the shop name, CakeOrDeath5, and I just couldn’t recall what it was that Cake sold. I looked for a note, but all she had in the package was a business card and a little hand written “Enjoy!” written on a little tag. I’m sure she assumed that Shannon had told me about my coming  package.

Well, those little coffee flavored something-or-others were so good-looking and smelling, and they most resembled a candy, what with being bite sized and clearish, and my mind flashed to a conversation not long ago about a fellow Etsyan’s coffee flavored taffy, so rather than wait to inquire or search Cake’s Etsy shop for what the item was, I decided to lick one of the little buggers.

Tell me these don't at least resemble candy.

Yes, I licked it, not knowing what it was. It was, in fact, kind of sweet, but I easily and quickly determined that is was not edible. It was soap, little individual soaps. This did not disappoint me, I love soap, and I loved that they were coffee flavored and shaped into little coffee cups. I just wish I had not been sucked in by their wonderful aroma and appearance to actually lick one.

So, the lesson of the day is: If you order from Etsy and send a surprise gift to someone, be sure to tell them not to taste the soap even if it looks edible. 😀

Individual coffee soaps by http://www.CakeOrDeath5.etsy.com perfect for guest soaps. 🙂

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here are some other awesome and unique Etsy finds:

"A Break In The Lining" necklace by http://www.JunqueyardRoyalty.etsy.com

Chocolate sea shells by www.AndiesSpecialtySweets.etsy.com , do they not look totally real??
Fairy portal by www.ClayByKim.etsy.com

And I could post so many more! The best thing is for you to browse and discover Etsy for yourself. www.etsy.com

Talent in the Bluegrass

I have been busy for the month of April, as most of you know, moving from one house to another and it has been a while since I posted. I am taking time now to say we are moved and loving our new rural farm-house. I want to write more and post pictures soon.

This post will be short, but I wanted to call attention to my fabulous Etsy team, Team Bluegrass! This is a group of wonderful artists and craftsmen that specialize in everything from soap, to pottery, to jewelry, to garden decor, and everything in between. There are currently 139 members throughout the state. Everything we make is crafted by hand. (With a smattering of vintage items here and there.)

Making a purchase on Etsy is as simple as any other online site for one of the megastores, except when you purchase from someone on Etsy, you are purchasing from a small business, and if they are a Team Bluegrass member, your dollars go right back into our local Kentucky economy! There is something for everyone and many items are surprisingly affordable. Why not stay at home and have an original, made-with-love item delivered to you instead of going through the hoopla of Wally World only to feel like just another number running your stuff through the self check line and wondering if the quality is really there? Think about it.

For those of you who have not yet discovered Etsy: www.etsy.com

You can browse without a profile, and if you find something you love (and I’m sure you will) the site will walk you through a very simple, free sign up so you can purchase items through PayPal with your credit card, or some vendors (such as myself) have a pay with money order option.

In the Etsy search bar, you can type in any search word to find exactly what you’re looking for, but type in teambluegrass (all one word, our team search tag) and you can browse literally hundreds of items made here in Kentucky. Birthdays, holidays, just because days, a treat for yourself, or just something you have been needing, they are all covered!

Team Bluegrass is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/kentuckyhandmade

We recently decided to create a team coupon code good in many of the Team Bluegrass shops on Etsy. Using this code at checkout will take 10% off your purchase order. You just type BLUEGRASS10 into the coupon code box upon checkout and your order is automatically adjusted. This is our first team code and is expected to run quarterly. This particular code will be available to anyone on every order until July 1, 2011. Below is a list of the shops currently offering this code in their shop, but we expect this list to change and grow as our team grows and as we get feedback on the popularity of this endeavor.

Skyeblue85, Glasgow KY – that would be me! Original works of art that “regular” people can afford. I specialize in wall decor, original paintings, home decor items, ect.
The Loop Designs, Frankfort KY – Quilts, bags, pillows, and fabric goods for your home.
Whimsy Beading, Lexington KY – Whimsy in beadweaving jewelry.
SeeSpace, Frankfort KY – Jewelry, stencil goods, appliques.
Bluebirdheaven, Louisville KY – The original printer drawer jewelry displays.
Lexigirlcreations, Lexington KY – Eclectic, unusual, steam punk, and everyday jewelry creations.
CreativeEyeStudio, Louisville KY – Handcrafted, unique beaded jewelry and greeting cards.
Earth Aria, Florence KY – Unique custom gem, pearl, and bridal jewelry.
Sweet Pea Murals, Florence KY – Custom painted wall murals, decorative borders, and room decor for kids.
Jorgensenstudio, Louisville KY – Stacking and promise rings, engagement and wedding jewelry.
Stephaniemakesall, Bowling Green Ky – Crochet and knit items, journals, soap savers, boot anklets, a variety.
Glory Be Herbals, Lexington KY – Natural bath and beauty products, essential oils, soap, lip balm, lotions.
Charlotart, Louisville KY – Exciting home decor and mixed media art form repurposed items.
Cafecharlot (Jackie Charlot) – Charlotart’s sister shop consisting of vintage items.
Jdbeaner1, Louisville Ky – Baubles by Jill, unique jewelry creations.
Hotoffthelathe, Louisville KY – Beautiful word working, pepper mills, duck calls, deer grunt calls.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/hotoffthelathe?ref=pr_shop
JASaromatics, Lexington KY – essential oils, soap, perfumes, bath and body items.
 
As most of my readers know, I’m a firm believer in supporting small and local businesses. I think the megastores have taken away some of our American heritage. Our country was founded on free enterprise. Mom and Pop stores used to be the beating heart of the American economy. Great products at fair prices, yes, but also relationships and outstanding customer service. You’ll find that by exploring the different Etsy shop profiles, each owner has a unique story and drive behind their online store. Most are very committed to making every purchase feel like a personal experience. You would think an online purchase would be about as impersonal as it gets, but I have found through personal experience that my Etsy purchases are much better experiences than every purchase experience I’ve ever had at the megastores or other online stores. There are message options right on Etsy where you can communicate directly with the seller and almost everybody is awesome about answering questions about their products and working with you to customize your order.
 
I think I’ve said as much as I can say, I’d rather you just check out these awesome shops for yourself! 🙂

Plans (Note: don’t mind my bumbling in the dark.:D)

As many of you know, I have been marketing and selling my art work for about a year now. I have been amazed, excited, and humbled by how well I’ve done, all things considered. It started as a hobby and now I am seriously researching the development of my business. How hard can that be? You put product up where it will be seen and you put a price on it, right?

Wrong.

Since I started with a hobby in mind, I did not really research all the points I should have that regard marketing and the business side. This isn’t so bad, I find that many things in my life seem to start out backwards and they almost always turn themselves around the right way before it’s over. However, I’m at a point where I need to really start getting serious if I want to see serious results. This is good, this does not intimidate me, it exhilarates me because I finally know, at almost 26 years old,  just what I want to do in the way of job and income long-term.

I really want to accomplish so much more than just creating and selling art, though. I want to be that business where when you purchase something from me, you feel like you got a superior product for an amazing price. I want to connect with my customers and be more than just “an artists I bought a piece of art from”, I want to build relationships. I don’t want to be that annoying online business that sends out emails every other day and posts on their Facebook wall about their product until when you see their avatar you just automatically scan over them or worse, delete them.

That being said, I am trying really hard to find new and interesting ways to connect and market and promote. Since setting up shop on Etsy I have learned so much from other small businesses and online shoppers. I really admire all the unique and handmade items I’ve seen and I’m striving to be just as unique in my own field.

I will be taking some time out all this next month of April, mainly to move my household once more,( this time at least we’re getting a bigger house with more room to create and be productive) but also to work on my new business and give it some TLC. I want to be a little more organized, a little less all over the place, figure out my short-term and long-term goals, work out my exact costs to price tag ratio, and work on new items and new kinds of items. I’ll have my Etsy shop on vacation mode for all of April, but I’ll be back at the beginning of May, hopefully with a clearer vision and consistent direction.

Feel free to keep up with me on Facebook and leave any suggestions about what you’d like to see me do. I love feed back!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Skye-Blue-by-Natasia-Champion/362725131270

"In Spite of the Pain" (SOLD)

The Sunshine State of Mind

 I sat here this morning and reread a few posts I wrote several months back touching on my childhood. I love to walk down memory lane and it’s fairly therapeutic to tell of my life, even if I’m the only one who ends up reading it. However, I can’t help but be frustrated and a little sad that there are huge chunks of my life that are literally indescribable. I can’t seem to put into words, that most people will grasp or understand enough to do the story justice, some of the fragments of my life. I have lived a rather strange life, plain and simple. I’m not apologetic, I’m just stating a fact.

 As I sat here for a moment this morning, wanting to write a little more about my life, I scanned through the files in my mind and came upon my teen years. The years between 13 and 19 are so chock full of rich history that makes me who I am today that it is impossible to truly know me without knowing all of that. However, it is also the most difficult part to tell, more difficult than my wild days as a young adult, more difficult than the loss of our business and the death of our daughter. Perhaps one day I will be able to put it into words, but that is not today.

 Instead, I’m going to call on a much earlier time frame, my childhood in Florida, and our recent vacation.

 All the memories of this happy time in my history came flooding back last summer when Josh and I went on the first real vacation of our married life and really since our childhood. He’d been to Florida on vacation several times with his parents and to visit friends long before he’d met me, but I had not been back to the state since my family left for Colorado when I was 9 years old. I had not seen the ocean at all since then, though I had been just a few hours away in  South Carolina, New York, and Texas at different points in time.

Me, my brothers Nick and Naaman, my mom, and our dog, Sandy. I think I was about 6 or 7 years old here

 My childhood in Florida ranks among the happiest years of my life. My family was all together in one state (my Gramma, Mom’s sisters, her brother, and their children.) and we were all close. We’d go to the beach together, go to the park, the mall, the flea market, hang out at my Gramma’s house and swim in the pool, there was almost not a day that went by that I didn’t spend time with my cousins, aunts, uncle, and grandmother.

 I remember cook outs by the pool, the grill fired up, chicken and corn on the cob and baked potatoes wrapped in shiny foil all laid across the grates, fresh fruit salad with kiwi and mangos and bananas and watermelon. (You could not have a cook out without watermelon.) All the kids would be splashing in the pool, my brothers and I, my cousins Jessica and Kaleb, sometimes cousins Jon and Greg, and later, Rebecca and little India. To this day, grilled chicken ranks among my favorite foods.

 We lived only fifteen minutes from the beach, so we went often. Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s there was very little environmental awareness connected to global warming and marine conservation. We would go to the Bathtub Beach and swim right out to the reef. When the tide was out it was very easy to access, sometimes you could even wade, you didn’t have to swim. We would climb right up on the reef and explore, searching for marine life and sea urchins, using our little snorkel sets to dip beneath the water and watch the fish and search for sand dollars. Today, this Beach is in danger of being shut down due to the deterioration of the reef. They started implementing a “no walking on the reef” regulation in 1994 as this problem began making itself apparent. I remember this because the very last time we went to the beach right before we left Florida the life guard was shouting for people to get off the reef and I was confused since we had always gone out there for as long as I can remember.

 In Florida’s hot, humid climate, knowing how to swim is all but a requirement. I learned at a very early age. I don’t think I can even remember as far back as when I didn’t know how, that’s how young I was when I learned. We might as well have been fish, that’s how much time we spent in the water. My Grandmother’s pool was an in-ground with a 7 foot deep end. I remember being very afraid of the suction cleaning system that rolled along the bottom of the pool when we weren’t using it, sucking up the debris that would fall in. My father had personally landscaped Gramma’s back yard while he was running his landscaping business when I was very little, and he had put in some big palm trees, nice and close to the concrete walkway around the pool. They made for some very nice shade, but they would also drop big round seeds, about twice the size of a marble. The pool system, nick-named “Creepy”, would suck them up when they would sink within reach of its submerged vacuum head. I remember frogs would fall into the pool too, eventually meeting the same fate, being sucked up through Creepy’s long hose and ending up in the filter basket. It was always fascinating to find them, in a gross sort of way, when we would clean the filter.

 Sometimes we would jump in the pool before Creepy could be taken out and coiled neatly out-of-the-way. I was always very careful to stay clear of “him”, but my brothers were not afraid of him at all. My older brother would often dive down and grab the vacuum head and chase me with it. It made a horrible, loud sucking noise when it reached the surface and started gulping air, helping to perpetuate its illusion of being alive. I was so terrified, I thought I would be sucked up through the hose and end up swirling in the filter, bloated and lifeless like one of those poor frogs. (I’ve always had a vivid, if rather unrealistic imagination.) I would swim for the nearest edge of the pool and bolt out, sometimes scraping my knees on the rough cement, and scream and cry until my mother or aunt or grandmother would come outside scolding, telling us we needed to take the vacuum out before we got in or we might break it. I would have gladly done this every time if I wasn’t so terrified of Creepy. I couldn’t even bear to touch him.

 Such carefree days those were! The year round warm weather made it seem like summer all year. There was no division of the seasons and time seemed to float by lazily. I was so young, my biggest worry was when lunch would arrive. (All the swimming and out doors play made us very hungry.) Even back then I had very few friends and while my brothers were hanging out with the neighborhood kids, I was hanging out with my mom and Gramma and Aunt Shanny at the bead table in the living room.

 Ah, beads! Yet another fond memory and love that carries into my life today. My grandmother and aunt Shannon had their own business, they created unique beaded jewelry and would sell it at the flea market and to area surf shops and high-end consignment stores. Their work was always in demand and my mom would often help. It was a great time for family bonding. Since I was the only girl and my brothers were always off doing their own thing, Gramma, Shanny, and Mom would often let me have my own corner of the big bead table set up in the living room. It was a big formal dining table, completely covered in plastic containers of beads, leaving just enough space for 4 or 5 people to work on a piece of jewelry. There were seed beads and clay beads, trade beads, polished stone beads, round, square, cubical, large, small, shiny, dull. Every kind of bead you could think of in every color of the rainbow. And not just on the table, but in boxes and bins and drawers under the table and around the table. It was an artist’s heaven.

 We would spend weekends just sitting and making jewelry. Necklaces, earrings, anklets, bracelets, whatever our creative juices would demand. I would usually have the job of making the coffee, you could not make jewelry with out a cup of coffee to stimulate your creativity, and the older ladies would talk and visit and I was allowed to be right there, feeling all grown up, if I promised not to get too chatty. (I was a very “talk your ear off” kind of kid once I was allowed to get going.) I think most of the jewelry I made was disassembled when I was done, but I remember some pieces were deemed good enough to put on the “sell” rack. I was so proud when this happened, and even prouder when I’d hear the news that one of my creations had sold. To this day, my grandmother and aunt Shannon make beaded jewelry and sell it. They live in Arizona now, and they have a few other irons in the fire in addition to beaded jewelry, but it is still a family passion.

One of my Grandmother's lastest creations for sale online in her Etsy store.

(Feel free to check out my grandmother’s Etsy store, it’s becoming quite popular in the short time she’s had it open, just since early 2010.

http://www.etsy.com/shop/DesertHippie642?ga_search_query=deserthippie642&ga_search_type=seller_usernames 

My aunt Shannon also has an online Etsy store she has been filling with her own line of creations and neat treasures she has picked up from here and there.

 http://www.etsy.com/shop/JunqueyardRoyalty?ref=pr_shop )

 All these wonderful memories and more were pulled out and dusted off on mine and Josh’s recent trip to Florida for a much-needed and long-awaited vacation. Granted, we stayed on Fort Walton Beach, and that is a long ways from where I grew up in Stuart on the East Coast, and very different, but it was Florida and it was ocean and beach. It was fantastic! The weather was beautiful the whole time and there were barely any people for the beginning of August. The oil spill in the gulf had scared a lot of vacationers away, but there wasn’t a trace of oil to be seen where we stayed. We left Faith home with her grandmothers and it was just me and him, very carefree and romantic.

 I’d never been to the Destin area, and could not believe the scenery. I now know why they call it the Emerald Coast and talk about the sugar white sand. It was so different from what I remember as a kid, yet comfortably familiar. The water was the color of green Listerine. I don’t really know how else to describe it. It was crystal clear, beautiful emerald-green.

Listerine Green!

 We were able to do a lot of activities that we hadn’t counted on because our condo came with discount offers and we didn’t have the baby to think about. We were very busy for being on vacation. We went snorkeling and road a giant speed boat called the Seablaster, and we went deep-sea fishing. (Josh caught fish, I did not, but we had loads of fun.) We got sunburned in spite of plenty of sunscreen, and we went sand crabbing well into the night every night. We didn’t do much sleeping because we tried to catch the sunrise on the beach, coffee in hand, almost every morning. It was glorious to be back in the sun and the sand after years of being away. We spent five days there, a rather generous amount of time for a vacation, but it still wasn’t even close to enough. We were like most people I’m sure, spending the whole drive home trying to figure out how we could move there permanently and not be excommunicated by our families. Of course, once we got home and settled back into normal life those thoughts were replaced by reality and common sense.

Destin's Harbour Village from the bay.

 Still, on cold days like this, with snow piling up outside my door, I think about Florida and relive the good times. I’m back in the sun with a really nice tan and there is water everywhere I go. Walks on the beach, fishing from the pier, salty ocean air, seagulls, and all the other sweet memories. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll figure out how to make a relocation work. (Not anytime soon, don’t worry.) For now, I’ll just treasure the recollections.

Taken on our deep-sea fishing trip.

Dawn