Wednesday, April 19, 2017

three decades of me.

Today is my 30th birthday.

That's weird.

I'm not going to spend much time wailing about this milestone birthday and how I feel old, etcetera etcetera. You've heard it before from others, I'm sure.

What I AM going to do is talk about how weird it is to think that I have existed for three entire decades. That sounds a lot weightier than "I'm thirty."

I am just beginning my FOURTH decade on this earth.


Here's a highlight reel of my first three decades as a person.

1987 – 1997
learned to walk and talk
gained a sister and a brother
got a dog
learned to ride a bike

1997 – 2007
learned how to drive a car (officially, not just farm trucks and tractors)
got my first job
graduated high school
started college at U of M Morris
moved away from home for the first time ever
met the guy I would later marry

2007 – 2017
graduated college
lived in New Orleans, Denver, Minneapolis, Sioux Falls
began my career at the library
got married
bought a house
got a cat
started a jewelry business

Of course, there was lots of other stuff sprinkled amongst the milestones: like making lifelong friends, traveling, and learning important life lessons (like don’t leave your parking brake on as you drive the fifteen miles home). But those stories deserve their own blog posts.

While today is the actual day of my 30th birthday, I have jumped the gun and done a fair amount of celebrating already. Mom, Dad, and I went to San Francisco at the end of March to celebrate their 60th birthdays (in March and January, respectively) and my 30th

James took me on a long weekend trip to the Black Hills.

So even if nothing really happens on this, the day that I really and truly turn 30, I’ve had a great 30th birthday already.

While I have few memories of my 10th birthday, one can only assume it was awesome – because 1997 was a GREAT year for pop music. And back when I was turning 10, the only thing my fourth grade friends and I ever did was listen to music.

Let’s review:
“Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik
“I Want You” by Savage Garden
“MMMBop” by Hanson
“Quit Playin Games with My Heart” by the Backstreet Boys
“Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind
“Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba
“Wannabe” by the Spice Girls

Remember those?!

I am reasonably positive that my 10th birthday was spent roller-skating around the Volga auditorium to said songs, and I believe there were glow-sticks involved. I also believe that I received a lime-green feather pen as a gift: the ultimate 1997 gift. Turning 10 was a major success.
Plus, I had those sweet glasses.
My 20th birthday, in contrast, was a TOTAL bust. I was dating the art major boyfriend, and we took the afternoon off from class to celebrate my birthday in St Cloud. I have (thankfully) blocked out what led to this, but he spent a good portion of the afternoon crying in his car. It should also be noted that I had to pay for our dinners at the Olive Garden – not that I believe that it’s the man’s job to pay for the woman’s meal, because I don’t believe that at all. But I do believe that NO ONE should EVER have to pay for THEIR OWN BIRTHDAY DINNER.

I did meet St Cloud Superman, so there’s that.

Upon arriving back to my on-campus apartment, I found out from my roommates that my then-friend James had been at the apartment waiting for me with a birthday twelve-pack of Mountain Dew. He was there long enough to watch the entirety 13 Going on 30 with them as he waited for me. James did leave before I got back, but not before covering the Mountain Dew in little pink heart-shaped sticky notes (provided by my roommate) with a birthday message on them.

I definitely wondered why I wasn’t dating him instead.

Total romantic comedy moment.

Ten years later, I’m celebrating 30 years on earth. Since it’s on a Wednesday and I’m an adult, I can’t just take off in the middle of the day.

Oh wait. I took half the day off from work.

So not really an adult yet.

Maybe I’ll turn into a real adult in my fourth decade.

No promises, though.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lake Poinsett sea glass.

Midwesterners have a thing for lakes.

We all appreciate lakes in general, but we all have a favorite. Be it the lake they grew up with or a lake they adopted, most Midwesterners have THEIR lake. (It is important to note that Midwesterners are fiercely loyal to “their” lake, so don’t you dare say anything bad about it. Insulting a Midwesterner’s lake is a worse offense than insulting their mother.)

Lake Poinsett is my lake.

Every summer of my life has involved the beaches of Lake Poinsett – even those unfortunate teenage summers during which I refused to wear shorts and preferred the clammy air conditioning to the summer breeze. Summers as an adult are sprinkled with Lake Poinsett visits whenever I can manage. I live in Minnesota and am much closer to scores of other lakes than I am to Lake Poinsett, but none of them are my lake. They just don’t measure up.

Most of the appeal of Lake Poinsett is the people who frequent it. Lake Poinsett wouldn’t be the same without my family and our friends the Clellands. We log hours and hours each summer at the Clelland cabin, always laughing until our sides hurt. (But I can’t tell you why, because it’s long been a rule that what happens at the cabin stays at the cabin.)

One of my mom’s and my favorite past-times is to roam the beach near the cabin. We stroll along, not looking for anything in particular – just enjoying the weather and the company.

But last summer, that changed.

As Mom and I were basking in the glory of an early June day, something on the ground caught my eye. I stooped to pick it up and retrieved a cloudy piece of light green glass. It was my first ever piece of Lake Poinsett sea glass.

Sea glass, for the unfamiliar, is glass that has been physically weathered by tumbling around in the sand and the waves. The glass is typically cloudy with rounded edges – those are the pieces you’re looking for. Sea glass begins its life as litter and turns into beautiful mementos recycled by the water.

(Ok, so technically the glass we find at Lake Poinsett is beach glass. Sea glass comes from the sea/ocean, and beach glass comes from other bodies of water. In this story, though, I’m calling it sea glass.)

I showed my piece of glass to Mom and said, “My first ever piece of sea glass!” “WHAT?!” she said. Mom could not believe that I’d never found sea glass before. Thus began an intensive hunt that resulted in handfuls of sea glass being located and brought back to the Clellands’ deck.

Thus began my Summer of Sea Glass. Mom and I combed the beaches for sea glass, adopting a hunched eyes-on-the-ground pose. We collected handfuls, and then pocketfuls, and then jarfuls. We found clear sea glass, brown sea glass, green sea glass, blue sea glass, and purple sea glass. We found pieces with letters on them. We found huge pieces, and we found tiny fragments. No trip to Lake Poinsett was complete without sea glass.

But what to do with all this sea glass? The first thing that came to my mind was necklaces. I consider myself a relatively creative person, and I thought that I could try my hand at Lake Poinsett sea glass jewelry. What did I have to lose?

I had some miscellaneous jewelry supplies leftover from an ill-fated Etsy shop endeavor in late 2013. I decided that, since I didn’t want to risk breaking the sea glass by drilling holes in it, my sea glass would have to be wrapped up in wire.

One trip to Michael’s later, and I had my wire. I took my first piece of sea glass and spent a profanity-laden evening trying to get it right. I poked holes in my thumbs, I broke the wire more than once, and I can’t even count the number of times I just had to start over.

But finally: I had it. One small piece of Lake Poinsett sea glass, wrapped in wire, and suspended from a chain.

That necklace was only the beginning.

Feeling more confidant, I made a necklace for my mom. That necklace turned into six to give as gifts for the Clellands. I set up a little “choose your own ingredient” necklace bar and made necklaces on demand for relatives over my grandma’s birthday weekend. I made sea glass necklaces for birthday and Christmas gifts. My sea glass necklace production numbered well into the 30s at the end of December 2016.

2017 arrived, and with it came the annual resolve to become a better person, do something worthwhile, blah blah blah. I, too, fell victim to those old clich├ęs, and my thoughts turned to those necklaces. Family and friends who had received them as gifts had encouraged me to sell them – but were they just being nice, or did they think that people would actually want to buy my jewelry?

I told myself the same thing as when I started making necklaces in the first place: what did I have to lose?

Besides, I needed something to occupy my time during the long Minnesota winter. The days are so cold, and nighttime comes so early – why not channel my indoor hours into something more productive than mindlessly reading Buzzfeed articles and shopping for shirts with dinosaurs on them?

After a few days of jewelry-making, picture-taking, and description-writing, I opened up my Etsy shop: Midwest Charm by Calla.

The name came from a desire to connect my jewelry back to the Midwest. I make it all in Minnesota, but many of the elements (ie, sea glass) are from South Dakota – and calling it “Midwest” ties all that together. Besides, I love to buy stuff that’s made in the Midwest. Midwesterners like to support each other – we’re friendly like that.

My little Etsy store has been a lifesaver this winter. Like a lot of us here in the north, I fall into a sort of funk in the winter. I would bundle up on the couch and feel pretty useless, all while dreaming about the warm days of summer. During the winter, it seems like an insurmountable challenge just to stick my arms out of the blanket to pet the cat. Winters in Minnesota are rough.

But this winter was different. My Etsy store gave me something REAL to do instead of languishing on the sofa. The store gave me a goal, and with it came a ton of things that needed to be done in order to reach that goal. Ever since I opened my store on January 16, 2017, I have not had one free moment at home. Any time I have is spent bending wire and threading beads, or taking photos and measurements, or writing descriptions and posting listings, or designing business cards and necklace tags, or endlessly perusing Etsy for just the right jewelry supply,  or constantly figuring out what to post on my store’s Facebook and Instagram pages, or painstakingly designing my store’s logo, or planning my first open house, or picking scores of teeny jump rings out of the carpet after I accidentally knocked my jewelry supply box off the table (fml).

Bottom line: I haven’t had TIME to think about how sad Minnesota winters make me. So guess what? This winter didn’t make me sad at all. Turns out Etsy is good for my mental health.

Opening that little online store has not only been one of the most labor-intensive things I’ve ever done – it’s also been one of the most exciting. That may sound ridiculous, but it’s true. It has been such a delight to design and create pieces of jewelry that I love and put them out in the world for others to see. My creative brain has finally woken up after a few years of complacency, and I am constantly dreaming of new jewelry designs. (I actually have to carry a sketchpad with me now. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who had to carry a sketchpad.)

And the feeling I get when someone buys something? That someone wants to own something that I made?

Nothing short of amazing.

Nowadays, I make more than just Lake Poinsett sea glass necklaces. My Etsy shop is stocked with crystal necklaces, druzy necklaces, cameo necklaces, beaded necklaces, and even a couple of bracelets.

But the Lake Poinsett necklaces are always my favorite, and they are always the necklaces I love making most.

Lake Poinsett has a loyal following, and many local shops carry shirts emblazoned with its name. We Lake Poinsett loyalists all want to make it known that we love Lake Poinsett, and we all want to carry it with us when we’re not there. I have found that the sea glass helps me do that – even though I sit more than one hundred miles from Lake Poinsett as I write this, the Lake Poinsett sea glass necklace I’m wearing allows me to keep Lake Poinsett with me. My necklace reminds me that Lake Poinsett, and the people there that I love, are never really that far away.

my personal collection of Lake Poinsett sea glass necklaces. :)
And here we are, at the cusp of another sea glass hunting season. I have big plans to expand my sea glass search to additional lakes. Those of us who love Lake Poinsett can wear its sea glass and keep a piece of it close to our hearts, and I would love to do the same for other lakes. Like I said, every Midwesterner has a favorite lake.

But Lake Poinsett will always be mine.