Monday, March 11, 2019

47th Wedding Anniversary!

I hate it when the time changes because my sleep gets interrupted!  It's 4:45 am! So, I'll tell you a story.  I met my husband through a work friend, Maria Cordone, on February 22, 1971, the freezing night of George Washington's Birthday.  It was about 7 pm when we arrived at Maria and Doug's apartment and it was love at first sight!  We were engaged after two weeks ... but we allowed ourselves a yearlong engagement for possible reconsideration! Ha!    

Our wedding day, March 11, 1972, was cold and blustery.  I wore a white mini-skirt and matching top I had made from the NEW fabric that didn't need ironing! It was a polyester double-knit probably still survives at a landfill somewhere. Fr. Petrini officiated the wedding ceremony before a few friends and family at St. John the Baptist De La Salle, Chillum, Maryland.  
St. John the Baptist De La Salle
The reception was at our apartment in Queens Manor Gardens, Mt. Rainier, MD, a few blocks from the Washington, DC line. 

Our apartment building

We had been planning to marry in May, but when the apartment became available in February, we moved our wedding up.  We were practical people ... and neither of our families had any money to host a wedding and reception, which made it quite easy to change the wedding date.  Jim's mother had been widowed a year earlier, leaving 6 children without a father and my mother was a single mom raising 4 kids. 

We managed to get our apartment through the influence of my grandmother, who also lived there.  It was unspoken but understood that you needed a reference to gain occupancy.  The management discriminated against young people and minorities.  Our $112 a-month rent got us a 2-bedroom apartment with beautiful parquet floors in a solid early 1940's building.  Current rent for our apartment is $1400.  

Our building had four apartments.  I didn't know much about two of our neighbors, but our downstairs neighbor, Mr. Tinsley, worked at the local funeral parlor.  When I told him that my wish was to be cremated when I died, he was aghast and described what sounded like the fires of hell!  This didn't bother me a bit.  I found it preferable to being buried in the dark, moist ground with worms.  I mean, I shouldn't care ... presumably I'll be unaware of where I am! I've since made my children swear to uphold my cremation wish, however, because I secretly suspect a traditional burial would suit Jim better. 

In 1971, Jim entered his first year of the Ph.D. Clinical Psychology Program at The Catholic University of America (est. 1887).  Coincidentally, this was a school he said he would never attend because its spooky and foreboding architecture.  He also said that he would never work with children in his psychology practice but which became a focus of his career. 

The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC

I was working as executive secretary to George Kourpias of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at 1300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D. C.  Mr. Kourpias would ultimately become President of the Union.   

International Association of Machinists Building

Since Jim got home before I did, he started doing some of the cooking.   I wisely complimented him on his chili.  Little did I know it would become a weekly staple! But, he branched out to Steak Diane and other tasty dishes.  Listen, I really don't enjoy cooking and hate going to the grocery story, so I was thankful.  To this day, he does all the grocery shopping and cooking.  On the rare occasions that I go into the Publix with Jim, they smile when they meet the mystery woman ... since Jim knows the cashiers by name ... and probably knows the names of their kids and their birthdates.   

July, 1973 saw us leaving for Jim's internship in Miami.  It was either Boston or Miami, and we wisely chose Miami. 

We traded in my 1969 Plymouth Barracuda

for a Volkswagen 411 ...

Miami was the scene of many fun times.  We moved into a former hooker motel that had been converted to one-bedroom and studio apartments at the exclusive address of 2665 S. Bayshore Drive, Coconut Grove, FL.  In our bedroom, our full-size bed nearly went wall to wall. Talk about tiny!

Many weekends were spent snorkeling at Long Key State Park, sleeping in a tube tent.  It is currently described as an "emergency" tent.  Heck, we didn't know that or we would have splurged for something much nicer!  No, this was our go-to shelter.

Tube Tent ... which we used on our many camping weekend at Long Key State Park 
The social life at the apartment complex was wonderful.  We all moved in at the same time and became fast friends, with people the likes of Leapin' Larry Greene, who was behind the camera filming for CBS, etc.  Unfortunately, Larry was  killed in a US Navy helicopter accident flying over the North Arabian Gulf near Iran, in September 2002, shooting a story for CBS.  

So, it's now 6:30 am.  We're planning a trip to Anna Maria Island with our friends of 43 years, Jan and Tom Moskitis.  We were neighbors in Clinton, Maryland, where we both become homeowners for the first time. 

This has been a meaningly walk down memory lane for me.  Since I seem to be blogging about once every two years, we might have to wait for my 50th anniversary for the "rest of the story," as Paul Harvey would say.  

If you've hung in 'til the end, thanks for allowing me to share part of my life with you!  Barbara


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The "little-known" parathyroid gland!

Hi friends, I'm writing this in the hopes that my experience can save you from the devastating effects of an often over-looked disease.  

Are you tired, irritable, and depressed? Do you feel older than your chronological age and have "foggy brain?" Have you suffered from kidney stones?  How about constipation, GERD, and other digestive problems?  If so, you might have Primary Hyperparathyroidism.  Yes, it's a mouthful but it describes these teeny, tiny  "punks" that are robbing you of full and happy life.  

If your blood labs have shown high calcium levels, there's a 99.9% chance you have a benign tumor on one of the parathyroid glands. Post-menopausal women are at higher risk.  If you've never heard of parathyroid glands, you're not alone. We have four and they rest on the thyroid. They control the amount of calcium your body produces.  If your calcium blood levels are normal, it means that your parathyroid glands are taking a nap.  If your levels are high, it means they are fully engaged but should be napping.   

So, what is a high calcium reading?  For someone in their 50's or 60's it would be in the 10's. In 2014, my calcium level was 10.5.  My doctor never addressed my high Calcium level.  I noticed it but thought it was good.  I thought it meant I would have strong bones, which is so laughable to me now that I realize the devastating effects of high calcium.  

In 2017,  I started seeing a new PCP, Dr. Gigi Lefebvre. Besides having a very pleasant demeanor, she's very thorough and methodical during patient visits. She doesn't miss a thing.  At the end of the visit, she hands you a copy of the notes she took during your visit.  

My first blood labs with Dr. Gigi revealed high calcium of 10.7.  I had two doctors prior to Dr. Gigi who didn't notice or address my high calcium levels. Dr. Gigi referred me to an endocrinologist who ordered more tests with the same results, normal PTH and high Calcium. He said, "You can wait and see ... or you can go to the Norman Parathyroid Center (NPC)  in Tampa." By the time of my visit with the endocrinologist, I had already researched the Norman Parathyroid Center. They specialize in parathyroid surgeries.  That's all they do. People from all over the world come to the Center and here I am living across the bridge.  I thought, "Hell no! I have three years of blood labs showing high calcium levels, I don't have to wait any longer."  If it had not been for Dr. Gigi, I would still be suffering!

I filled out the NPC online questionnaire. They received my records from Dr. Gigi within three days. Dr. Daniel Ruan, who would be my primary contact on my three-member surgical team, called me on the phone while driving to his vacation destination. In short, he said I had primary hyperparathyroidism and the only cure was surgery.  I said, "What's the next step?  Do we meet?"  He said, "I'll meet you on the day of surgery."  In the meantime, the surgical appointment was set up and I started receiving informational emails from their supportive staff.  

This is the ugly thing they removed from my neck 6 days ago!

My gland should have been the size of a grain of rice not the size of a kidney bean! They use a specialized scope to detect the amount of hormone the gland is producing.  Normal limits are between 30 and 80.  The reading of this tumor was 1709! 

If you've made it this far, what you've read is a patient's explanation of hyperparathyroidism.  If you want to hear the explanation by my surgeon, an expert in the field, click here.  You'll hear Dr. Danial Ruan explain this often overlooked disease in an easy understandable way.  Please don't let the day go by without taking a look at your last blood labs!  If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.  Here's to good health! 


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hello, friends!

It's been a long time, but Facebook doesn't give me enough room to really write!  I miss writing ... not enough to write another book ... but enough to get my blog going again!

Family is so important.  People ask me, "It's great that you all live near one another.  How did not happen?"  Well, it wasn't an accident, let me just say that!  From the time Laura was 12 years old she complained of Maryland winters.  She would say, "When I grow up, I'm going to live some place warm."  This was not a single complaint mind you.  This happened every winter.  I'd hear the familiar refrain many times throughout the cold, dark Maryland winters, something not easily forgotten.

So, when it came time for Laura to transfer to a four-year university, I said, "If you want to live some place warm, why don't you consider finishing your degree in a warm climate?"  Then I put on my thinking cap, "Hmmm, where would Jim and I like to live?"  He did his psychology internship in the mid '70's in Miami, but so much had changed there.  When we lived in Coconut Grove, it was filled with creative people who owned and operated the shops in the village ... instead of Banana Republic and Gap!

St. Pete's sense of community, affordable housing, arts and culture, and beautiful water has been a great choice for us.  We bought a home for Laura to live in while finishing her degree in Finance at USF.  The difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition nearly paid for the monthly mortgage payments.  We moved Painting with Fire to its location on Central Ave and David, our inventory specialist, came with it.  Laura graduated from college, she moved out of the house, we moved in!  It was like synchronized swimming, very well orchestrated, with God's hand moving us as if we were marionettes. Life is good! 

A birthday celebration is all the sweeter when you're with family.  Jim graduated from his 66th birthday (which he called being "two-thirds evil") to 67.  His interest in music was re-emerging.  He figured out how to create a play list on Amazon through his Prime membership. :-)   Songs we grew up with by Creedence Clearwater, Gordon Lightfoot, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix ... it was quite the mix.

Then the light bulb went on ... Jim used to love to play the mandolin.  When I first met him he serenaded me with Quicksilver Messenger Service's "Who Do You Love?"  I was impressed!

His mandolin was so tired looking and had a crack.  It was barely holding it together. David, our musician son, picked out a beautiful mandolin for his father.  Without any thought, Jim placed the mandolin here ...   Could it be a more perfect setting?  

Laura and Matt, our daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Green Thumb, brought plants.  Here's the little vignette they created on the porch.  This is only a sample of what they've done in the yard since Father's Day! I feel as though they're landscaping the yard a little bit at a time! 

It was the perfect day.  I'm now babysitting the plants so they won't die in his brief absence. I'm really not a good babysitter! 

I'd love to hear about special moments you share with  your family.   

See you soon!  Hugs, Barbara

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sources of Inspiration

Have you ever gazed at the burning embers of a fireplace and thought, "I wish I could get my enamel (or ceramic glaze, or textile surface, etc.) to look like that? 

These earrings by Lynn Burcher of Gilded Lily Glass on etsy is a perfect example! These made-to-order earrings "smolder with red and copper dichroic glass."  Lynn also makes a matching pendant.  And, guess what, we're coming into that time of year where fireplaces will be lit ... even in St. Petersburg!

You can get inspiration from the work of other artists, too. I'm drawn to the richness of the work of Janet Loomis of Anvil Artifacts, where the edges of painted tin appear to have been lovingly rubbed to reflect the patina of age.

When I was writing my second book, I thought, "How can I recreate that look of wear?"  "I'm Distressed" a project from "Mastering Torch-Fired Enamel Jewelry" is my stab at it.  

Here are the steps I took to make these earrings. You could also bump it up a notch by adding painted detail through the use of acrylic or liquid enamels!

I'd love to hear about some of your favorite sources of inspiration and would be happy to post them on my blog as a follow-up to this post!  This could be fun! All the best, Barbara

You can find Janet's lovely work here:


Thursday, September 3, 2015

New Classes:
Lost Wax Casting & Metalworking I & II

In the 3-day Lost Wax Casting Workshop, you'll learn this age-old art that dates back to 4500 BCE.  You'll participate in creating your own wax jewelry or component pieces, attaching them to the "tree," and casting them in sterling silver.

The Painting with Fire Team has been enjoying casting organic pieces as a part of a ring.  A pistachio shell on top of a ring with 2410 Copper transparent enamel in the interior is our new favorite. One of the wonderful things about cast jewelry is that you can eliminate solder joints, which prove to be somewhat problematic when enameling pieces.  I find this to be a very big deal! 

Casting offers options for creating jewelry that would be all but impossible using fabrication techniques. You'll experience the ease of carving, filing and polishing wax, which will then be transformed into sterling silver. 
The cast tree! Look at all the pieces one tree can hold! It's amazing!
Let's shine it up :-)
We have also added Metalworking I & II to our class schedule as well as other new project workshops.
Please register here and pass along to a friend.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When "DIY" can hurt your business

This thoughtful post is from my daughter, Laura Lewis Albright, Manager of Painting with Fire Studio

First I would like to say that I absolutely love do-it-yourself projects. From making my own garlic olive oil to dying lace curtains (to replace the ones that my dog destroyed during her puppy chewing phase!) But when does "do-it-yourself" become do-it-inferior?  Maybe a better question is, "When a company or individual gives you an idea or teaches you how to 'do-it-yourself,' how do you show your support of that small company or individual?" 

I will admit that there are times when I've picked up Elmer's glue from the grocery store to make my own "Modge Podge" instead of going to my local art supply store. But you know what? Most of those times I couldn't get the right consistency and I didn't feel good about not supporting a small business, like the Art Supply Store across the street from our studio. 

I know the purpose of do-it-yourself is to be more cost-effective and experience self-gratification for a job well done.  However, when does that come at the cost of quality?  For example, in our small city of Saint Petersburg, we have a specialty olive oil shop. My husband and I love to garden and are growing garlic. So, of course, we want to try making our own garlic olive oil :-)

It would be very easy for us to go out to our local super center or grocery store and buy an inexpensive brand, but we like to support the business that gave us the idea!  To show our support of Kalamazoo Olive Company, this is what we do. We buy one of their simple olive oils that has no zest or extra pizzazz.  We can take James' great olive oil and spice it up ourselves, while saving a few dollars and supporting a small business. Voila!  I feel good about supporting the individual or small business that was generous with their knowledge and ideas while still being able to do it myself.  

For our family, we see teaching and, hopefully, the inspiring of others to "D-I-Y" as our calling in life. We truly admire and appreciate our customers, friends and those who inspire us! We appreciate their support so that we can continue to do what we love to do which is to ... you got it ... teach and inspire others.  Through their support, they give us a reason for our calling.

Sometimes it may require a little extra effort, but it can be so worth it for all! 

Please share if you love do-it-yourself projects and have a calling or desire to support creative individuals and small businesses. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

An interesting use of torch-fired enamel!

I have to remind myself that not everyone who uses the immersion process of enameling is a jewelry maker.  Recently I received an email from Robin of The Dancing Goats saying that he bought my book and taught himself how to torch-fire enamel to be used as an accent to his spectacular turned wood.   Isn't this stunning?   I just love the enamel tide pool with the turquoise inlay!  Take a look at his etsy shop.  You'll find some really beautiful things ...

Do you use the immersion process to enamel items other than jewelry?  I'd love to feature it here. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Silhouette Die

Inspiration can come from the unlikeliest place.  How about the result of cleaning out your garage? Absolutely! Some time ago I picked up this hunk of metal from a recycler.  I don't even know why or when I bought it but it sure made a great silhouette die for the hydraulic press! 

Hunka, hunka metal!

24-gauge copper over the silhouette die produced a great form, but I see this as only "the beginning" with this die.  Liquid enamel painted on the front and back with 2300 Opalescent Green sifted on top produced the "canvas."  A few strokes through the liquid enamel with the end of a mandrel produced some graceful forms.  These particular pattern decals have become a favorite for background texture.  

Multiple layers usually equals rich design.  Sometimes I think we stop too soon. Keep going with color, scratch marks, decals and see what you get.

Have you ever had the experience that you stopped too soon in the design process?  I'd love to hear about it.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

True Confessions: I was a color-phobe!

I know, it's hard to believe that I really disliked color ... in the past!  I used to wake up and wonder what shade of beige I would wear that day.  It wasn't until I was introduced to over-fired enamel that I became enamored! 

Over-fired white enamel features subtle color with added texture being added by copper oxides that bubble to the surface.  I was in love!

But over time, more color crept into my work ... 

Although, currently, a little less color appears  ...

Now I find that I want a BALANCE between having color that will KNOCK your eyes out and no color at all, plus now I want BLING!  But I know very little about stones because, like I said, I never liked color.  I mean, my birthstone is Diamond so I guess I could  have been working with Diamonds!  LOL!

Today I signed up for the Accredited Jewelry Professional course offered by the Gemology Institute of America.  Shane Socash, owner of David Reynolds Jewelry and Coin, can be credited with bringing this information to the students of the Jewelry Making and Repair Program at Pinellas Technical College.  AJP classes begin July 7, 2015.  I've always loved being a student.  Thank you, Shane, for sharing your information and experience. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Alternative shopping sites for jewelry tools!

I make jewelry so I usually check out sites that sell jewelry or metalworking supplies when I need a tool.  But friend, Larry Mellgren, St. Petersburg jewelry artist, tipped me off to another way to shop.  He buys many of his tools on Ebay by searching "Machinist Tools" instead of "Jewelry Tools." He's found that he pays a fraction of the price had he bought the same tool through jewelry searches.  

Taking his advice, I searched Ebay for a digital caliper.  I was looking for a Mutitoyo, which I discovered are quite pricey.  The budget doesn't currently permit this purchase, but some darling dividers popped up on the screen.  In a recent workshop with Wendy Thurlow I admired her smart-looking 3" divider, which was easily maneuvered in one hand.  Mine, on the other hand, were big clunky things. 
Say hello to my new "$15 purchase," a divider made by Starrett, a USA company manufacturing precision tools since 1880  You'll notice the $58 price tag on their website. Mine even came with little covers to protect the points of the legs, which may no longer be offered by a review of their listing. 

Just to visually compare the Starrett divider with the others I own, the divider in the middle is one I bought from Eurotool.  There's nothing wrong with it, but it's unwieldy when compared with the Starrett.  The divider on the right end has some nice replaceable points, but is even larger.

The divider doesn't replace a caliper.  It is simply used for marking ... or dividing ... lengths.  For instance, you can easily mark off a strip of metal by placing one point along the edge of metal land drawing the other point along the metal; mark divisions on a ring; mark lengths of a prong, etc.  These tasks can all be done with a divider.  I'm still in the market for a digital caliper.  I'm sure I'll be checking Ebay!