My husband, Doug, read my first blog post today and said, "It's a bit personal, don't you think?" I thought for a moment. One of my pet peeves is the old adage, "It's not personal, it's business." Really? Because as a human, everything that happens to me is personal whether it happens at home or at work.
I've been the vice president for the company that my father started when I was six months old for many years now. (Shameless plug for my family's company, Ample Industries. Ample is a manufacturer of custom pressure sensitive labels. www.amplelabels.com). On most days at work, I find myself in the midst of more issues revolving around people than labels. I've joked with Doug and a few of my friends that I must have, "Tell me all of your problems!" written on my forehead in invisible ink. People tell me things that are sometimes incredibly upsetting and sometimes, thankfully, funny. It is a relationship that I hope I have earned over the years. My job has evolved into the role of a facilitator of the people that I work with so that they can focus on work. (Notice that I said, "the people that I work with", as opposed to the people that work for me.) I don't know who among us can come to work and actually leave all of their problems at the time clock. Aren't we all supposed to be working together, so that we can earn a living, so that we can live?
Business is about relationships. If there are two convenience stores on opposite sides of the street but you've built a rapport with the attendant at the one on the east side of the street, which one will you run inside when you need milk? I'm betting the one with the guy that has spoken to you and noticed you personally. You must be thinking, by now, "what does this have to do with jewelry?"
To my point then - and I do have one - True Believer Jewelry is incredibly personal for me. It's a jewelry brand that focuses entirely on religion. The single most divisive topic other than politics that I can imagine. You're not even supposed to bring up religion at Thanksgiving, for God's sake. What makes me think that I can interpret thousands of years of complex belief of people all over the globe, boil that ideology and those beliefs down into one item with some symbolic imagery and a string of beads? I'll tell you why. It's because for me, it is personal, which translates into human, and one thing that I have observed over the years of my life is that as humans, we do our best work for our god.
The most beautiful music, the most elaborate architecture, the loveliest of fine art has been lovingly, painstakingly crafted over centuries as a tribute to God, regardless of what name you apply to Him. Thanks to those people the jewelry I make is already purposeful, beautiful and personal as it relates and resonates spiritual meaning to the individual. If you find something in my design that you consider meaningful and visually appealing and it happens to look fabulous with your new dress, all the better. I will stand behind my work because believe you me....it's not just business as usual. It's personal.
True Believer Jewelry really started at a gift shop connected to a cave in Missouri. Billed as, "The Only Cave You Can Ride Through", Fantastic Caverns is just north of Springfield. We were there to celebrate my daughter's birthday and as one of her gifts I told her she could choose a few of the shiny rocks in the wooden bins that the gift shop was selling. I think they were 5 for $10. She was mesmerized by the rocks and took great care in choosing the ones she liked best. As she looked, I began looking too. The rocks were smooth, shiny, colorful and delightful to hold and I too found myself wanting some of those rocks. That was it. That moment in time when you discover something you love that you can't stop thinking about.
Next I discovered that you could buy polished semi precious gemstone chips in bulk on eBay. I purchased five pounds of them and poured them in a bowl and plunged my hands in them. They were cool, smooth and gorgeous to look at. I put the bowl of stones on the corner of my desk at work and soon everyone was asking about them, touching them, immersing their hands in the cool rocks as a stress reliever.
I started to study the names of the individual stones. Dalmatian Jasper. Amethyst. Onyx. Lapis. Quartz. On the internet one link lead to another and I stumbled upon beads. The beads became a way I could do something useful with my newly found love of semi precious gems. I could hold them and compare their properties and admire their colors and variations of color. Little did I know that these rocks would have a profound impact on my life, and in fact be a very important part of my therapy.
In my early 30s I had my first panic attack. At first I thought I was dying, or having a stroke or a heart attack. I was in the midst of a divorce. Divorces are so prevalent these days that I won't belabor the phenomenon here. If you've endured a divorce, I'm sorry. My then husband and I might have had a baby to save our marriage, but instead, we bought a house. A beautiful, Victorian style house that was owned by the bank after its former family had themselves also been broken by divorce and the house by default ended up in the hands of the lender. I found myself alone quite soon after having moved from my first cozy home, into a huge house. Unpacked boxes and bits and pieces of my life were strewn everywhere. As the daylight faded and the house grew dark I limited my movement to the living room and the kitchen. They were the rooms that were most unpacked and therefore the "safest"; away from the unfamiliar, unsettling noises that come with a new house. I slept fitfully and wished that my soon to be ex-husband - or anyone - were there. Although my family lived in the same city, I felt for the first time in my life completely alone. Unable to confide in them that my marriage had failed, I had only myself and my own self loathing to keep me company.
On a grey February day I left work to head home. "Home" to a house that seemed too grand to belong to me. A home that still required hours of work to be fully functional and habitable. Halfway there I began to feel dizzy, nauseous and disoriented. On a freeway without any safe place to pull over I continued to drive slowly, fearing that I'd soon be slumped behind the wheel at the side of the road. I did manage to make it "home". I called my husband who was working late and shakily explained to him that there was something very wrong with me and then collapsed on the floor.
I have spent years and thousands of dollars in an attempt to understand anxiety disorder. For a long time I could not go into a big box store, drive on the freeway or be in crowds of people. I could anticipate nothing but the next panic attack. Fortunately (after several failed attempts) I found a great therapist that taught me cognitive behavioral therapy. It's a method of helping yourself by challenging your own negative thoughts. It works! But the anxious times still come - out of no where. I've found that making jewelry is the very best therapy. I can sit quietly and string them on fine wire and become totally absorbed in the process. I look forward to the end of the day when dinner is over and my daughter's homework is done. I can retreat to my studio that I share with my "new" husband of 16 years. Stringing beads in quiet meditation is good for your soul.
At first I made my jewelry only for myself. It didn't occur to me that anyone else would be interested. If you love beads, you soon find that they become an expensive addiction and I was making pieces faster than I could wear them myself. So, to support my habit, thwart my anxiety and share my love of my rocks I opened up my shop on Etsy. Now I'm building my own website and attempting to grow this tiny company of mine. So you see, I'm a "True Believer". I believe in many things, but it's the jewelry that has helped me appreciate "faith".