Stack it Up: The #Armparty

It’s been some time since I last wrote a post about my personal collection, and I have some recent acquisitions that deserve a little time in the sun. To be clear, these are pieces I own and wear and adore, and were all created by members of the industry whom I’m proud to call dear friends and colleagues. I link only because I love.

For a long time, bracelets were my least favorite accessory. Not because I didn’t like them — in fact, I love them — but they rarely ever loved me back. Call it #skinnygirlproblems, but stock sized bangles are always too big, chains and links are too long, and cuffs just won’t close up enough to stay put. So for a while, I simply gave up on the idea of a wrist stack, and went on to collect other things.

Enter: the medical ID bracelet. Oh, this hated but necessary piece of stainless steel (ugh, I know) that now accompanies me wherever I go. Once my doctor and family convinced me to wear it, I started to realize that I couldn’t let it just sit there, seated alone in miserably glory. If nothing else, I needed something to distract myself and others from the atrocity.

Fortunately for me, an extremely talented and thoughtful jeweler named Irene was near at hand. I first commissioned a custom rose gold bangle, hammered to a perfect texture and sized just for me. This piece accompanies me almost everywhere, as does its beautiful cousin on my mother’s wrist. Shortly thereafter, I asked my colleague and friend if she would help me create my own hammered argentium silver cuff. Some hilarious mishaps and serious hammering, clanging, swearing, polishing, and finishing later, I gratefully completed the first and only wearable in my collection.

Next in line is a bangle from my travels, purchased in Jackson Hole, WY on an anniversary trip. I spent far longer than necessary chatting with Bri, a young industry newcomer who patiently listened to me drone on about jewelry until I finally decided on a two-tone gold traveling bead Snake River hammered bangle, custom made by a talented goldsmith on site.

And finally, the most recent addition is a pure and shining contrast to my mostly textured stack. My silver slip-on bangle bracelet nestles with the rest as though it were made for stacking — which it definitely is, and makes the most charming chiming sound any time it’s gently kissed by its golden brethren. I’ve had this piece on my wrist since the moment it arrived, and I’m overwhelmingly grateful to designers like Alexis who are so mindful of creating for all shapes and sizes.

As you can see, I’m a dedicated adherent to the MaN club: Metals are Neutrals! Mix them, match them (or don’t), wear them together or feature them singly. They’re a social bunch, those shiny metals, able to play well with others or travel solo as the mood strikes.

It might still be sweater weather here in New England, but I’m daydreaming of warmer temps and shorter sleeves so I can continue to show off (and build on) the glittering group in my #armparty.

 

 

One Kick to Win it: Goal Line

This time last year, I wrote down a short list of goals for 2016 and beyond. I had never done so publicly before, but this is a personal habit I’ve long maintained in place of making resolutions. At the halfway point, I paused to do an assessment, and was surprised to note how much progress I’d made in so short a time.

To say that I exceeded my own expectations might sound like hubris, but in fact I’ve somehow managed to humble myself even further because of it. I’m proud to have accomplished so many of the things I set out to do, but even in doing so, I’ve been able to realize how important the long view can be — my goals are never truly reached, they’re extended and transformed and pushed and dragged, forcing me to adapt and change and grow.

But I’ve been struggling to come up with a well-articulated list this time around. Perhaps it’s due to the past year, where part of my personal growth has been in acknowledging and embracing just how much more growing I need to do. I know I’d like to get down to the business of my career development and really kicking some major tail in 2017 and beyond. It’s also pretty clear that I need to prioritize sustaining and nurturing the relationships and friendships I’ve been establishing, so as not to let all that excellent drinking time socializing go to waste.

So, let’s see what I end up with:

1. Build and strengthen my network
I’m nobody and nowhere without the people I meet along the way, and there’s always room for more on this train. I’m surrounded by fascinating people, and there are few things I enjoy more than turning strangers into friends.

2. Lift up and lean in
I’d like to think I’ve had a positive impact on the people around me, and that at least a few people have found value in knowing me. But I know I can continue to do more for the people — particularly women! — in my life and my industry to help them with their own ambitions. A rising tide lifts all boats.

3. Get thee to a new country
More travel, please! For business, for pleasure, or my personal favorite, combining the two. There is surely no better way to learn about yourself than when trying to explain the US election process to an Australian linguistics professor on his way to a conference in Germany (true story) or the in-field fly rule in French to a Swiss businessman en route to Spain (also true story).

4. Play a complete round of golf
I/we can totally do this. Right, mom?

5. Finish. My. GG.
I know, I said that last year. It’s one of the few things I didn’t manage to accomplish in 2016, but I did make excellent progress. This is the year.

6. Find my balance
Like many of you, the tussle between work and life can start to make me feel as frayed as the cat’s favorite mouse toy. So in the process of finding myself, my voice, and my calling, I think it’s only fair I also seek out that ineffable happy place, the center of gravity on the high wire we walk when confronted with dueling demands for our time and energy. Someone toss me a balance pole?

I have a lot to anticipate in the coming months, and I can only hope to meet it all with grace, good humor, and the fervent believe that the energy you put in is the energy you get out.

Wishing one and all good times and great karma in 2017. Please feel free to share your own goals in the comments — we can all use a little inspiration!

 

 

 

Working Through It

I was not what you’d call a sporty child.

Other than some halfhearted attempts at tennis and a little time in the marching band, dancing with Boston Ballet was my physical torture of choice. And torture it was — injuries were frequent, soreness a constant companion, and my feet have never recovered from those bloody, broken years of toe balancing.

But if there’s one good lesson to be learned in tolerating physical pain for a reason, it’s this: perseverance. When the going gets tough, the tough gets a pen and paper, makes a lot of lists, devises a plan, and relentlessly pursues every item until (a) the plan succeeds or (b) a better one comes along.

My years as a ballerina (and actor, and musician) also imparted the gift of competitiveness — as an only child, this wasn’t something I’d likely develop independently. While I certainly did compete for solos, orchestra chairs, leading roles, and the occasional bragging rights, I found that artistic competition is centered far more on being better than yourself than your closest competitor.

The way to “win” in the performance world is to distinguish yourself from the pack, offering a tiny spark of something other (rather than simply better) than what the people around you might have. The only way to accomplish this is to become immersed in your own inner process — the artistic soul, if you’ll forgive the expression — and nurture it until it rises up and overtakes the performer entirely.

Working as I have been, with one foot in a technical and business world and the other in pursuit of a degree, has given me somewhat of an inner dichotomy. Until quite recently, the two pursuits have been behaving like lines of counterpoint: always opposing, occasionally harmonizing, but never resolving.

But lately some new ideas have been making their voices heard, which has begun to round out the chorus, paint the backdrop, and perhaps set the scene for an interesting new act. Consider this a teaser trailer, a preview before the opening night. I’m working through things and working up to… something.

I’ll let you know how rehearsals go, and hopefully will set a date for the out-of-town trial very soon. Until then, tell me this: where does your own inner spark come from?  I’d love to hear about it.

A Tale of Two Evenings

I might be leading a double life.

Right in the middle of an otherwise normal (read: boring) week, I spent two back-to-back nights out, quite a bit past my bedtime. I’ll say up front that I thoroughly enjoyed them both, and that I wish every night out could be as successful as they both were, in their own ways. But the experiences couldn’t have been more different.

On Wednesday afternoon, I ducked out of work a little early to make it home in time to grab a snack and my favorite notebook. It was time for my first meeting as a board member of the WJA Boston chapter, and I was trying very hard not to feel a little anxious.

After a few hours spent planning and brainstorming with a handful of some remarkable women, I can say without any hesitation that this is going to be fun. There is a shared vision amongst these leaders to bring the local industry together, promote women in business, and focus on collaboration and creating a true community. I can get on board with this board, if you know what I mean.

With great courtesy, these women welcomed me as a young but eager member who is ready to contribute to their (our!) goals. I can’t thank them enough for the incredible amount of work they put into this organization on top of owning and running their own businesses and lives, but I hope they understand how much I appreciate them as mentors and role models as well.

So, that was Wednesday. Inspired and full of brain activity, I arrived at work on Thursday morning feeling pretty damn good. And then, shortly after a round of morning meetings, I remembered: the sales outing. Cue the uh-oh music.

As a reward for blasting past our collective sales goal last quarter, the team was given a 3-hour evening on the water to drink and be merry. Well, to drink and dance and sing and laugh and bond and essentially feel like college kids again… which, for some of the team, was like turning the clock back about three days. But a few cocktails and airbrush tattoos later, we sure did have a great time.

I know what you’re thinking. Waitaminute, you went on a booze cruise?

Yes I did. And I wouldn’t trade those hours of hair down, bottoms-up, early-2000s singalongs for anything. When I promised to say yes more often, I really meant it — for my career and my personal life.

As many of you are aware, our move back to the city was in part motivated by my desire to take on a larger role in the jewelry industry and give my career some new energy. I needed to meet more people, learn more things, and hit the ground running in a vibrant and forward-thinking community.

I can’t believe how incredibly fortunate I’ve been to find not one but two of these groups which, despite functioning in every possible way as polar opposites, have contributed significantly to my overall ambitions and quality of life. And while they occasionally stress me out and keep me up at night (again, for very different reasons), I realize that they also provide balance for each other. And this, in turn, balances me.

 

Best Laid Plans: We Don’t Do Pink

Well, you know how life goes. The minute you plan things out just a little, the big karmic wheel turns and your priorities are flipped upside-down and inside-out.

In the space of a handful of days, I found out that I’m joining the local WJA chapter’s board of directors, probably going to Europe for two weeks for a work/vacation combo, and my mother has breast cancer.

What a week.

Mom has been surrounded by an outpouring of love and support — not unexpected, given how ridiculously amazing our friends and family are — and she’s gearing up for a battle royale. We’re all pulling on the metaphorical gloves and dusting off the proverbial swords, readying ourselves to fight the good fight and make sure those nasty, invasive little cells realize they messed with the wrong woman.

If mom’s reaction to the inevitable side effects of this war is any indication, I’d say our chances of victory are excellent:

“I don’t do pink.”


As for me, well, there are okay days and not so okay days. There are times when I’m on a call at work, or chatting with a friend, or nose-deep in my colored gem studies that I can almost forget to be worried and scared. My husband is a steadying presence even when he’s thousands of miles away, and I know I need only pick up the phone to call any number of people who will tell me everything will be just fine.

I find the motivation to keep moving forward in the understanding that the more I do, the more I have to share with my biggest cheerleader, the more reasons she has to never give up. And that, in turn, forces me to get up every morning and do the things I need to do.

So bring it on, GIA. Have at it, heavy workload and overseas tradeshow and event fundraising. Let’s do this. Just don’t ask us to wear pink.

Halfway There: Goal Posts

Snow.
Ice.
Boots.
Earmuffs.
Michelin-Man-inspired outerwear.

Remember these things? Other than a useful mental exercise to keep myself cool, I’m recalling the cold December days in which I wrote this post about my personal and professional goals for the coming year. We’re well into the 80s here at the midway point of 2016 (already!), so I thought it was time for some updates.

1. Give a talk/speech/lecture to a crowd of more than 10

Just this past Monday, I did a brief presentation about my company’s newest materials and updates related to the jewelry industry. Somewhere around 40-50 people were present at this event, so I’d say that definitely counts!

This one stays on the list, because one is never enough. I would like to do many, many more of these (longer! bigger! that’s what she said!) but it was a great starting point.

2. Publish something longer than 500 words, with a byline 

My company published my whitepaper on how to sell custom jewelry, complete with photographs and byline. It got picked up and referenced by a few other 3D printing publications, which was really neat.

As with #1, this one is by no means finished. Ideally I’d like to see my words reproduced in a jewelry industry publication, so it’s time to get to work on that.

3. Finish my G.G. 

My home lab setup will be arriving very shortly (note to self: clean off designated lab space) which means I can make even more progress towards this one. I’m aiming for the end of the year. Diamonds, gemstones, and jewelry… oh my!

4. Meet new people 

Possibly one of the most fulfilling goals I’ve ever set, simply because I created it without any real plan to reach it. But with my new job came many new people to meet and get to know, which has been a surprisingly joyful and experience for this high-functioning introvert. My happiness in succeeding here is largely due to the quality of people I’m around every day, but I’m also just a little proud of myself for learning to say “yes!” to a whole lot of new experiences.

5. Talk about what I do, what I love, who I am 

Many people would argue that I usually don’t shut up about what I do, what I love, and who I am, but those people would only have recently met me (see above). Allowing my passion to come to the forefront of my personality (see below) has been a challenge, and not without its fair share of pushback. But I’m working through it and learning more about myself along the way.

6. Embrace my personality 

Perhaps both the easiest and most difficult goal on this list. It’s been so long since I’ve been willing to be my authentic self that it’s taken a little time to figure out just what that personality really is, these days. I consider myself a work in progress — forever — and so have come to embrace the journey of my personality, complete with more attention to its changes and nuances than ever before. Self-awareness is a process, but I might be learning to enjoy it.

 7. Improve the quality of my downtime 

I can hit a tiny bumpy ball with a stick (er, sometimes). I can crack a perfectly-timed joke to a crowd without feeling self-conscious. I can have more than one alcoholic beverage in a day and not feel guilty. I can list five new favorite date restaurants (and about fifty more we want to try). I frequently have plans that might almost resemble a social life, if you squint and tilt your head 20 degrees to the left. Yep, I’d say this one is well on its way to become a great habit.

Satisfactory progress all around! This year has been a big one for changes in every single aspect of my life, and I have a funny feeling I’m nowhere near finished with it (or perhaps it’s nowhere near finished with me). I don’t believe in a lot of things, but karma is a concept I fully embrace. So I’m “putting it out there,” as a dear friend would say, that as long as I’m trying to give the best of myself, I’ll be open to receiving the best the universe can offer.

 

 

 

How to Say Yes

The title sounds like a self-help book, I know. But hear me out.

My new commute affords me plenty of time to read each day, and I’ve enjoyed taking full advantage of that quiet(ish) time. Interspersed between fun fiction and travel tales, you’ll find me reading a number of books related to success, leadership, leaning in… you know, those.

It seems that a running theme in many of these popular reads is the power of saying no. Evidently a lot of powerful, successful women have learned that a healthy ability to say N-O at work is crucial to maintaining both their status and their sanity.

I don’t disagree.

But some of these fine ladies gloss over the fact that to even get where they are now —  and have the ability to say no with authority — they first had to learn something else: how to say yes.

I don’t mean the kind of yes-ing that leads to overwork and underpay. I definitely don’t mean the kind that can cost you more than your career.

But as a woman who is perhaps a shade too comfortable, too quick to say no to things outside of my comfort zone, I’m working on a process to teach myself to say yes.

Yes, I can handle that report. Can you show me how to format it?

Yes, I can take the lead in that conversation. Let’s go over an agenda.

Yes, learning to do that is important to me. Are you available on Thursday?

Yes, I will join the team after work for some social fun time. How do I sign up?

For my fellow actors, this is my version of “yes, and.”** It can ease my way into saying yes to things that might otherwise intimidate me by asking a follow-up question. This lets the other party know I’m involved, but doesn’t force them to assume I know everything and won’t need any guidance.

Yes, that big sale was mine.

Yes, I know how to do that.

I’m also learning not to apologize for my success, which is another way of saying yes to myself. It used to be my habit to downplay the sales I made when I was selling jewelry, because the experience I received from it always seemed to trump the actual fact. I’ve since learned to value the more cut-and-dry factors in addition to the less tangible gains. Dollars and… sense!

For me, saying yes has been as challenging to embrace as saying no can be for others. There’s a freedom to it I hadn’t anticipated, almost like that feeling I used to get while on stage — embracing a feeling, committing to the scene, making the magic happen. How nice to see that play out in real life.

**When you take a class or perform improvisation, it’s crucial to move the scene along by always saying some version of “yes, and…” You don’t want to be the one to kill the momentum of the scene by refusing to go with the flow.

A Conversation With Two Ladies

I had a conversation with two lovely ladies just the other day. It had been about a year since I last saw one, and the other it’s been around 12 years. We’ll call the first “N” and the second “G.” Here’s how our conversation went.

Me: Hi! I guess it’s been a while. I’m sorry about that, I’ve certainly missed you both.

G: That’s all right, I’ve been getting updates every now and then. You’ve grown up!

N: You’ve been busy.

Me: I’ve definitely been busy. I also have a new job!

G: That’s wonderful, I’m so proud of you! You’re such a hard worker.

N: Oh? A new job? And what are you doing?

Me: Well, I guess it’s a little hard to explain. I work for a company that’s bringing  a special kind of new technology called 3D printing to the market. It’s a way for people to create things using a particular type of machine. My job is to market it and sell it, especially to the jewelry industry.

G: Sounds exciting! I’m sure you’re great at it. You always loved talking to people.

N: Is it expensive? Do they make you travel a lot?

Me: It’s not expensive relative to other machines that do a similar thing. Yes, I do get to talk to a lot of people and travel quite a bit, but I love it!

N: What about your husband? You need to make sure you’re spending enough time with him. That’s really important.

Me: Yes, it is. We try to spend time with each other, and our families too.

G: I’m sure you do. Your mother and father miss you a lot, you know.

N: Well, she can’t be everywhere at once. But as long as you’re happy and doing a good job, it will be good for you.

Imagine having these ladies perched on your shoulders, whispering questions and comments! One is an eternal optimist, reminding me to be kind and thoughtful whenever possible (or even when it’s not); the other is a consummate realist, insisting that I keep a watchful eye on my own words and actions, not to mention the habits of everyone around me. Both continue to guide me with the occasional tug on my ears to correct my course.

Chanel perfume, hand-knitted blankets. Grace and poise, kindness and gentility.

We lost Nana and Grandma in April, just over a decade apart. Both were cornerstones of their respective families, and represented two very different but equally important styles of living: the homemaker and the working woman.

I imagine the conversations I’d have with each of them now, as a woman and wife and worker. They might ask about my marriage and job, the details of my latest vacation or recently read novel, or if I’m keeping up with my studies. In their own special ways, they would ultimately be asking one simple question: are you happy? Because despite their differences, that’s what always mattered most. And that’s the greatest lesson I could ever hope to learn.

 

Adrift at Sea

I’ve tried to write (and re-write, and re-re-write) this post over the last week, and I think it’s time to admit something to you and to myself: I’m a little lost.

Changing jobs is always a precarious balance, particularly when we live in a world that often uses occupation to define who we are. Intellectually, I knew this. But I guess I just never thought about what it would feel like to lose my sense of definition and identity for a while.

I wrote just a few weeks ago about having the courage to make changes and sail off in a new direction, but right now I’m more like a rowboat caught between islands, unsure of my direction but unwilling to just row in circles.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I don’t know what to call myself anymore. For a few years I had a title, an easily understood introduction at parties, an actual noun to use when filling in the blank. It was comfortable and comforting to hide behind that title, because it allowed other people to understand me. Now I’ve had to leave that role behind, but haven’t replaced it with anything concrete — no meat, just spirits.

The wise amongst you will counsel me to embrace this lack of definition, and use it to expand my horizons and force myself to look beyond the job titles for something greater. You might even suggest that this is exactly what I should be doing at this stage in my life — loosening up, removing the rigid boundaries I set for myself, exploring the things I didn’t even know existed.

And you’re right.

But that doesn’t make this feeling go away, and it really doesn’t make the more practical consideration of introducing myself any easier. I can’t stop my natural craving for a label, even a strange-sounding one that requires explanation. I just haven’t come up with one yet (suggestions are welcome, creative friends).

I continue to explain to friends, family, and coworkers that I’m still very much a part of the jewelry world. If anything, my resolve to make an impact and breathe new life into this beloved industry has strengthened, and my drive has actually increased thanks to the bold new direction I’ve taken.

Still, I look forward to a time when a few more puzzle pieces of life will fall into place, giving me a peek at the bigger picture of my life.

I write a jewelry blog — for consumers, for industry members, for everyone.  Normally this space wouldn’t contain any commentary on current events, because as a social and political activist, I give myself plenty of alternative outlets. But I feel compelled to express my horror at the events that have unfolded across the world over the weekend, particularly as I experienced the live updates about Paris while frantically attempting to contact my parents as they slept in their hotel beds in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Once I ascertained their safety, my thoughts turned as they always do to a piece of music that expresses my personal feelings about the world in which we live.

 

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be

 

I took the featured photo last Wednesday, never dreaming it could be used to represent one of the many nations currently mourning the loss of life. There is beauty in all things, and I am positive that there is beauty yet to be discovered in this world, regardless of the actions taken by those who attempt to remove it.

Je crois en la paix.

 

My regularly scheduled posts will begin again tomorrow.