Junk Gypsy Book Signing in Roundtop, Texas

fayatteville-texas-by-michelle-e-black-copyLife can be so unexpected at times.  A spontaneous reaction to a call for applicants from the Junk Gypsies to be apart of a their first book launching team, lead to the honor of actually being chosen.  Once again reminding me of the old attige “Nothing Attempted, Nothing Gained”.  Once accepted I was invited to private Facebook group where many of us shared our giddiness for being apart of something so amazing.  We all had one thing in common we loved the Junk Gypsies.  A few of us were more vocal than others and I relished in their southern expressions and the sound their accent in their enthusiastic writing.

Soon on our page was this announcement…

Biscuits & Books          Before I knew it I was researching plane tickets and “Bless my husbands heart” he said Yes.  With his blessing I made plans to head to Texas for the first time in my life.  I was beyond excited!

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Not shocking to my husband…I did manage to get a little lost in my rental car just after arriving.  Having just navigated through Houston’s crazy traffic and those disconcerting highways that go along side the highway where you have to pull onto and off to get to any food or gas I was soon on my way!  In full Michelle fashion it seems I actually Wander AND Get Lost!   You see, apparently there is a Fayatteville, Arkansas and I was three hours into my trip when I stopped for gas thinking I should be there already.  To my utter frustration I saw in the micro writing of my gps map on my phone I saw that my destination time was 12 hours away!!  Calling the sweet owner of my cottage, Maria Stein, I broke the news that I would in fact be a few hours late!  My husband did remind me when I called him next that I said I wanted to see Texas.    I pushed all of those Texas Chainsaw Massacre visuals that were trying to creep into my mind as the sun was setting!  Soon it was dark and I still had 2 hours to go.  Man, are those country roads dark at night!!  I got within a few miles and found my GPS trying again to pull a fast one, saying I arrived when clearly the address did not match.  So I called my sweet hostesses and Bless their hearts, they got in their truck (which btw most Texans own!!) and found me and I followed them to the cottage a few miles away.  Seriously there was an army of angels looking out for me with that!

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www.rolling7cottage.com

ball-of-barbed-wire-by-michelle-e-black Their adorable cottage in Fayatteville, Texas  (www.rolling7cottage.com) was truly a home away from home!  Through happenstance we were able to book it during the peak of its season in what I can only attest to being a God shot for me.  The second or third or fourth by now, was having the BEST roomie and tour guide extravaganza I could possible ask for.  Liz Dujka (https://www.facebook.com/JunktionAlley)  She too was from the JG Book Launching Team and within minutes of meeting her in person I knew we would be lifelong friends!  She made me laugh and introduced me to the most interesting and endearing people, some of which she herself had just met in the two days before.  I soon realized that I had not discovered this jewel, but she had that effect on most she met.  To top it off she then showed me here jewelry line and I was blown away by her talent and attention to detail.  I have a few of her pieces now and will be getting more for friends!

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My own quote and sign that was published in 2014 Somerset Studio magazine, Thanks girls for being such great sports!

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Liz Dujka of Junktion Alley, The Junk Gypsy and me doing a kissy face because well apparently I’m 14 years old!

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They were kind, loving and so grateful to all those that stopped by. These ladies deserve all the success they are given!

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This woman has MADD cooking skills and her displays were amazing as well. Great food and awesome personality!

If you are local and by chance have found my tiny little blog please look her up.  My next adventure will be going to Cyprus and visiting her cafe The Bake Shoppe and Cafe in person.  Until then I will drool over my computer at her www.thebakeshoppeandcafe.com. As for the Junk Gypsies they are just what I knew they would be.  They are embraced by their community, are kind and loving to all walks of life and their charm is authentic and from the heart.  It was an extraordinary event and I am so glad I got to participate it in it.  https://www.amazon.com/Junk-Gypsy-Designing-Crossroads-Wonder  This is their story of how their journey started long before their “overnight success” and that they were not discovered, but evolved by holding onto to their dreams, their freedom and defining THEMSELVES in the flea market fields of Texas and those “flyover states”.  It truly was a pleasure to meet them and those closest to them.   To them I say, “I miss Y’all already!”

M.

Craftcation Conference

Sometimes we have to leave something in order to see what it is that we really want or, in my case to see that it was within my grasp the whole time but was too far-sighted to see it.  When it came to Craftcation that is exactly what happened with me.   I attended the first three conferences and loved each of them, growing leaps and bounds with the knowledge and support I received there.   Then I took a break and did not attend it last year.  I wanted to stretch myself and see what else was out there.  When I got there I found myself wanting more, expecting more, spoiled by the expertise and caliber of business people, artists and community that Craftcation attracts and nurtures.    Like a computer that sometimes needs to be powered off to fully reboot itself, I am returning this next year with a vengeance.  I will no longer take for granted the amazing workshops, the fun and thoughtful visuals that saturate the senses with inspiration or the amount of amazing artisans rubbing shoulders together, exchanging ideas and contacts, even the food is thoughtful and delicious.   I’ve missed my Crafty community and going there this next year will be a homecoming of sorts for me.  So join me if you can…

To Register for this next years conference go to www.dearhandmadelife.com/Craftcation-conference starting October 13 so mark your calendars!  It’s for next year April 27-30, 2017 in Ventura, CA.  If you are among the first 50 people to sign up you will in fact get $50 off registration!  If this has inspired you to go please by all means let them know I sent you and remember… Craft is not a bad word!

Black Out,

Michelle

Spike Our Gentle Giant R.I.P.

spike-looking-outsideFor some people they do not realize they like children until they have their own.  For me that was true but with how I felt about dogs.  Growing up I was deathly afraid of them.  Little dogs seemed more like annoyances, and big dogs… well fear would paralyze me and in my mind I could see even the sweetest of dogs, suddenly going rabid.  (Perhaps the movie Kujo had something to do with that perception as well.)

So when our son was 4 years old he began his campaign, begging us for a dog.  He knew the names of all the dogs in our neighborhood, asking if…he could go and ask our neighbors if he could play with them…the dogs… like most children ask if they could play with their friends.  I knew deep down I would lose this fight and as a parent I wanted my children to be happy.  So when my husband found a flyer of a breeder that had just had a litter of puppies, he talked me into it.   These were no small dogs either.  Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred in Africa to chase off lions.

These puppies were adorable however, and the mother so loving towards them.

Here their mama says goodbye to her pups

Here their mama says goodbye to her pups

Some were a little hyper, chewing on my husband’s laces with their ridges fully visible and tales wagging.

puppy-chewing-on-shoe The one we chose was what they described as the runt of the litter and did not have the genetic trait of the visible ridge .

That drive home I sat with this tiny creature on my lap, having just photographed his last moments with his own mother and realizing I was now his new mama.  He turned out to be the perfect dog for our family.  He was so loving, he grew to be huge but only once showed aggression and that was too a Great Dane that tried to bit him.  He rarely barked, except for at the mailman.  He was not perfect though…He did go through a phase of chewing on things, a few of my shoes were donated to this lost cause and some stuffed animals lost their battles having crossed him somehow.  He was mind you a puppy.  People would stop us and take notice of his paws saying that they could tell he was going to be a BIG dog because of the size of them. I would smile not fully realizing just how big he would grow to be.  He became 138 lbs in adulthood.

Spike A Member of Our FamilyWith this breed we learned that they are prone to hip dispacia (arthritis in the hips) and this could be problematic in his later years.   In these past few months we began to notice his hips start to give out on him and he would start to drag a paw when we would walk him.  For that reason we took him into the vet.  With that visit our vet suggested we also get his teeth checked at the next appointment.  The gums looked suspicious and were bleeding a bit from time to time.  That next appointment he had a biopsy and we got the devastating news…it turned out to be aggressive form of cancer.  He had maybe a month at tops.  I was stunned.  We were not expecting Cancer to take him before he could reach old age.

It seems 2016 has been the year of Cancer in my life.  From my dear friend Wendy, to my Uncle Bob and now my dog.  Within the two weeks I saw the vet we brought the girl’s home from college to say goodbye for a family weekend and I spent most of my time by his side listening to him breath and refilling his water bowl as his mouth progressively got worse.  I had to start sleeping downstairs, because he could no longer climb down the stairs and insisted on trying if I went up there to sleep.  After purking up to visit the girls by  Sunday evening he went downhill fast and I could no longer watch him suffer.

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Taken the last week of his life.

As fate would have it, it would be me to take him to the vet and hold his head while he took his last breath before sleeping eternally.  My gentle giant was gone and no longer suffering.  His absence is felt in the most unexpected ways… in the gaps and in-between moments.  I never quite realized just how he filled up my life with so much love before and would turn back time to have some of the frivolous annoyances back in my life.  The memories seem to feel like a hollow echo in my home as I slowly learn to fill in the gaps and mourn his loss.

It is the smallest of details I miss.  Moments such as opening a can of food… waiting for him to come into the kitchen expecting it to be for him and saying, “Nooo it’s not for you.”  Or shooing him outside every time I made dinner, because his would want to circle the kitchen island to get a good whiff of what we were cooking.  And then watching him trying to squeeze his big old body underneath our dinner table undetected while we ate.  Hearing the thumb on the ceiling, whenever I would come home from an errand, because he was getting off Carson’s bed…something he was NOT allowed to do.  Or simply protecting my first cup of coffee, because for years that is when he too would come bounding in the room to say Good Morning to me… forever oblivious of what I was holding in my hand.  Even yelling at him to stop moving the couch with his body in his attempt to prompt us to pet him.  These are the moments I long for.

Sometimes there is this irrational desire to make this reality NOT be, the strong desire to rewind the clock because the pain feels so crippling and unpredictable at times.  Seriously do I need to cry at every Dog Food commercial?!

I do hope he is there to greet me when it is my time to cross over.  He was such a loving dog and I am sooo grateful I said yes to having him be apart of our family.   Oh how I would have shortchanged our lives by not letting him in.  Rest in peace Spikey…save me a seat.

Spike trying to help with homework

 

 

West Coast Road Trip 2016

Road TripEvery couple of years I take this road trip… leaving my driveway of a cookie cutter suburb of Los Angeles, CA and driving up to the state that raised me, my Oregon.  There have been years where I packed up our 30 foot RV with our 3 kids and I made the trek without their dad for he had to work. Sometimes a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do.   We didn’t want to shortchange ours children’s adventures because he couldn’t make it, so we just went ourselves instead.  Luckily there were a few years where my husband was able to take the time off and go with us.  Without question I forfeited the driver’s seat, reading magazines and a good book, glad to have him joining us.  As the kids got older however and more involved in their various sports those trips became fewer and fewer.  We still would fly up to see family and friends, but it wasn’t the same.  To me there is nothing like a good old-fashioned road trip.

Going by car (or motor home) has its advantages, its slows down the process for us to really see the changing of the landscape.  Stopping in various diners and exchanging chit-chat with locals, counters the constant negativity that is so prevalent in our various portals of communication these days.  Changing vignettes and a good road trip soundtrack brings a smile so deep,  your heart cannot help but feel it.  I wanted to share this with my son this year, he is now a teenager and soon will be driving on his own, just beyond my grasp.   The girls had experienced these road trips it at his age, now it was Carson’s turn.

Road Trip pit stop

“Fine take your photo MOM… but I’m not going to smile!”

This year I had many reasons for going North.  Not only to visit my eldest daughter soon to be a senior at U of O, I had also signed up for a conference called Startup Camp Summit in Bend, Oregon. (Ironically I had even told my Uncle about it weeks before his passing, sharing with him that I was worried he wouldn’t be around for me to see him after my conference.  He then told me it sounded wonderful and to go anyway regardless of whether he would be around or not. That was by far the most profound and loving conversation I have ever had in my life btw. Looking honestly at death and given the permission to live life fully in their absence…heartbreakingly beautiful!)  I had a high school reunion a few weeks after my conference so it was all coming together.  I also needed to see and check up on my grieving family and touch base with my life long friends.  Knowing that my son would not want to be carted around for all of my adventures, I signed him up for two weeks at YMCA’s Camp Silver Creek camp.

On the drive up Carson, my 13-year-old son would be my only companion this trip around and we were both looking forward to it.  The plan was to leave at dawn, drive up Interstate 5 and then cut over to the coast and by the afternoon stay the night in Fort Bragg, CA.  I had seen and heard of a beach that was full of natural sea glass and I wanted to see it for myself.

Fort Bragg, CA beach

Sea Glass

My son loving Sea Glass beach

That night we stayed in a quant hotel that had maybe a dozen rooms.  This was our view from our balcony…

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Northern California Coastline

This was a put on the brakes, pull off to the side of the road, run across the street and take a photo moment.

The next morning we headed North to visit the Redwoods, something in all of these years I had never experienced first hand.

California Redwoods by Michelle E Black

Sure, this part of the trip had winding roads and I had a hard time not stopping after each turn… for it was sooo beautiful!  I wanted to bottle it up, breathe it into every part of me and capture it for myself.  I needed to take a part of it with me, soak in every bit of its beauty it its vastness.

What was an unexpected gift of this portion of our road trip that I am grateful for was that Carson had no wifi. He was forced, not by me… to look out the window and let the scenery impress upon him and hopeful carve a memory for him.  As we drove with our windows down, breathing the air that only such massive trees can filter, gave us medicinally, and spiritually that for me at least I will remember fondly.Oregon Road Trip

The land of Christmas Tree farms

California now in our rear view mirror we are in the land of where most of the country get their Christmas trees from, my home state…Oregon.

At this point in our trip it became less about the journey and more about the destination.  We both were ready to see my eldest daughter who for the first summer was not coming home from college.  We couldn’t reach Eugene, Or fast enough and although exhausted when we landed on her front steps, we were so happy to see her.

My loves in Oregon

It’s a necessity to travel for me, its in my blood from the first plane ride I took at 19.  I’ve taken the Amtrak train, Greyhound bus, by car, by motor home, a tour bus, cruise ship and many airplanes in my adult life to get to and through my adventures.  I’ve done is cheaply, sticking to youth hostels and fast food and I’ve stayed in luxurious hotels and eaten in exquisite restaurants world-wide.  I even eaten an amazing Native American taco in the middle of the open prairie with a panoramic view of a lighting storm.  I’ve wandered far from the tourist ports into the streets of Puorta Viarta to eat the most delicious street tacos that beat the finest cuisine our resort had to offer.  Traveling and experiencing life to the fullest is essential to my well-being.  It has forced me to find the common thread from which we can all can communicate from and opened my mind to be less judgemental and more curious to our differences.  Hopefully I have passed this onto my children as well.

Next I will write about my journey IN Oregon becasue the destination was also amazing and heartwarming.

Black Out…in a good way.

 

Watching Our Children Go Out Into the World…

Graduation ceremonyMy second of my three children is now ready to go out into the world.  She graduated high school and is now enrolled in college with her first classes already on her schedule for the upcoming fall.  I cannot fully express how grateful I am, that they have surpassed what I was unable to accomplish all those years ago.  I marvel at how both my daughters seem to possess a strong sense of self and confidence that took me many years to build for myself.  To say I am proud is an understatement.

My Circus

As I often referred to my family as my circus it seems less like a circus these days.  Our nest is now down to three.  I know some who have only experienced this type of family life, but for us it’s a new adventure.  Although Kennedy is still around for the summer with her busy schedule it has prepared us for her leaving in just a few months.  Dinner for three will be our new norm.

Adventure...As my daughters are young women now, I try not to think about what could happen to them as they go out into the world.  I won’t be able to have them check in or know where they are at a moments notice.  To be honest I don’t want to know.  I have always wanted them to be strong and independent and now they get to be just that.  I’ve already given the cautionary talks and debriefing of the lessons of adolescence that often foddered conversations about safety and learning from our choices and from their peer’s mistakes as well.  From here I can only trust and have faith that there are forces greater than myself keeping them safe in order for me to sleep at night.  That they are self aware, street smart and savvy with their instincts.  Praying that they will be watched over, that God will not give them more than they can handle, that they do in fact make, “Good Choices.”