cut cord

I knew that I had decorated my last egg when Lindsey became engaged and I wanted to commemorate the occasion, as I had when Rob proposed to Anne, by making a Double Wedding Ring quilt-patterned egg with the couple’s names following the curves of the design.

I went to the sink in my studio to fill the kettle in which I boiled water for the dye baths. I had taken a fresh set of powders out of the drawer to dissolve into the colors I’d need: yellow, pink, aquamarine, red, violet and black. Two packages per jar, plus vinegar to help them set on the eggs.

But as I went to run the tap, I felt a wave of resistance in my stomach and chest. Not quite nausea, but a complex set of synapases firing up and down my throat, lungs and solar plexus. I paused. Took my hand off the faucet and stood in that small kitchen space of my studio for a minute or two.

“I can’t do this anymore.”

Those were the classic words I’d used when my longterm relationship with Sarah eneded. She’d called to invite me out for a walk after three weeks of silence. I’d been processing all along, but it felt fresh to her to hear my voice.

“Want me to come pick you you for a walk at the beach today?” she chirped.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I replied, and she knew exactly what I meant. I had the same sense of finality at that moment by the sink.

The end of my egg era wasn’t dramatic or emotional. I’d been working at the craft for over 30 years. I was done.

If I had to make a list of what contributed to its finale, it’d be short.

1. I used to hate when customers or fans would walk by my booth in November, say “Everything looks beautiful!” and that they’d see me at the show in May. I had worked so hard. Didn’t they know the unwritten obigation to patronize the artist? Could they really have so little commitment to keep me in business?

2. In the early days, especially when I had Lydia assisting me, I was undaunted when a technical issue arose. She was vital in my making a success of the epoxy-filled jewelry pieces I made using duck eggshells. Those last few months in business, the final coat of epoxy–the one I used to create a glowing coat over my handwork–started buckling. I didn’t have energy or desire to find the root cause. Lydia, or anyone else in my studio, might have taken on the challenge. But I was done. I didn’t care any more.

3. I had said everything in “eggs” I needed to say. After 30 years of painting the shells for 4-8 hours per day, I had conquered the medium and was no longer in its thrall.

So I had a blowout studio event to sell off all my inventory. I cleared over $10,000, then gave away my equipment, packed up a few items to save for posterity (or the Smithsonian), and actually cut the cord on my egg-cutting box because it was tucked behind the counter in such a way that I was unable to pull the plug. I loved the metaphor.

My friend Betsy helped me turn my artist’s studio into a coach’s office. She moved my art books from one side of the space to the other, creating plenty of room on the shelves closer to my computer and phone.

“We’re leaving room for more to come in,” she explained as she replaced the volumes on batik and ornamental design with my scant collection of business-building literature.

I could feel waves of fear churning in my gut. But I’d taken risks before and recognized this physical sensation as necesssary when planting seeds for continued growth.

“You can’t leap a chasm in two bounds,” I’d been told.

I fully embraced letting go. I have never regretted it.

A Similar Egg to the one described here

A Similar Egg to the one described

At a friend’s 40th birthday party the guest of honor ceremonially opened her gifts, one by one, and acknowledged the person who gave it to her. As she got closer to the gold-wrapped box I’d brought, my heart started to beat more rapidly. Id’ been having an enjoyable time at the party, had met a few kind women, but being my typical shy self, I knew the next moment would alter that dynamic, as it always did. I was about to become somebody.

My friend picked up the small cube of a gift I’d brought, gently removed the large bow and gift wrap which revealed my signature logo on the top of the shiny white carton. She carefully folded back the tissue paper and removed the enclosed literature I’d painstakingly created to establish my craft as more than loving-hands-at-home. It was a well-written marketing piece that I tucked into every customer’s purchase.

Under that folded piece of paper was my art. She very gingerly extracted the egg between her thumb and middle finger, and held it up for everyone to see. On it was an elegant pattern that I had batiked, a floral arrangement, with her name in tiny letters (similar to the one on the left designed for a friend’s mother) along the border design. There was a moment of silence followed by an audible intake of breath.

And then the comments came, as they always did.

“Who did that?”

“Jane! Did you make that?”

“How do you do that?”

“That’s incredible!”

“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!”

Invariably, one or two guests would come right over to sit beside me and insist that I tell them all about this unusual art form, how I got started doing it, and where they could get one of these exquisite pieces.

I’ve never been good at social events, but learned along the way that if I brought something special, it would get me the attention I craved. I believe that a large part of my artistic development came out of the need to show who I was through my art–all the love, the beauty I see and know, and creativity was more easily expressed in an object that in words or behavior. My art was my entree into life. Love my eggs, love me.

Brooches and Earrings made from duck eggshells

Brooches and Earrings made from duck eggshells

When I exhibited at craft shows, my booth was 10 feet by 10 feet and filled with hundreds of intricate patterns done by my hand. Jewelry pieces made from eggshells lined the vitrines in my corner display. There were bright red eggs dangling from thin gold ribbons, decorated with fine lace-like snowflake patterns, and my objets d’art under glass domes with price tags in the hundreds of dollars. I had had a huge sign made: AN EGG BY JANE that let fairgoers easily find me.

Holiday Ornament

Holiday Ornament

I often had people come to my booth at these shows and make the same remark. “Did you make all of these yourself?”

I loved the attention. I didn’t know any other way to achieve the awe, admiration and attraction, so I kept doing my craft for 30 years.

It was my silver bullet.


Portrait of My First Love

Portrait of My First Love

Apologies for the lack of paragraphs. I’d prefer to get these up and out by cutting and pasting rather than re-keystroking.
I’m not sure there’s ever been a gender attached to this entity, but let’s assume my first love was male. And his name was Sugar.Of course, I didn’t know I was in love until it was time to let him go.
But a little backstory first. A child of the 50’s and 60’s, there was not the awareness then about the evils of this guy. White Sugar was king of the hill. It was in everything, delicious, highly addictive and readily available, not like the unavailable guys I sought later in life.
He ruled the household I was brought up in. Nary a day, nary a meal passed without his appearance. Besides sweet treats at breakfast, lunch and dinner, a typical Sunday evening ended with us watching Perry Como in living color on the tv set in our den where there was a jar of Hopjes, an opened package of brown licorice, and more often than not, the offer of a scoop of ice cream brought out on a tray. This was a sign of love. I readily ate it up. Sugar and me forever.
Sugar was my best friend. Any time, and I do mean any time there was anything the least bit distasteful occurring in my day, I would unroll a Life Saver or a wrapped peppermint candy and pop him into my mouth. Ahhhh. Now I can handle it. Sugar was in endless supply, served as a balm in testy relationships, and ever-present at meetings where there would be a tray of donuts in the center of the table to get you through.
In my early 20s there was an article in the Times about finding housemates for summer rentals in the Hamptons. One group of renters met their prospects at a hip Manhattan bar to test the fit. I wouldn’t have made it to first base with those folks. Had they said, “Let’s meet for an ice cream sundae at Friendly’s” – my all-time favorite House of Sugar–I might have considered a seasonal opportunity that would never have attracted me otherwise. That’s how powerful my feelings about Sugar were. I would do things I wouldn’t ordinarily do if it were available and on the table.
One of the things I most enjoyed about going to my husband’s childhood home in NJ were the generous portions of mint chocolate chip ice cream his mother would serve me. None of those measly one scoop bowls in their household. She’d fill a cereal bowl with 4-5 scoops of that luscious light green treat flecked with dark brown pieces, and bring it to me with a soup spoon. I took large bites there. Nothing bothered me in those days.
But this love of mine was not always kind to me. He was reliable, but there was a residual effect to being in his company. While I was high, happy and satisfied anticipating our time together, during it and for awhile afterwards, inevitably I would begin to notice feelings of disgust, disappointment and depression within hours of our coupling.
It took me a long time to make this connection, because I was so deeply in love. How could I accuse the one relationship that made me so ecstatically happy of also making me consistently so unhappy. No! Please! Anything but that. Don’t take away my Sugar!
I toyed with a break-up. I’d hear friends saying things like, “My doctor says this relationship is bad for me and doing terrible things to my body.” I thought, so is mine, but…whatever. And I’d dabble. “Let’s do a trial separation,” I’d offer. “One week. We won’t see each other for one week.” Sugar made no counter offer. He accepted my decision. He was quiet like that. Never made a fuss. Let me go.
But my desperate need for him would weigh on me. I’d think about him incessantly. Not just daily, but hourly, even minute to minute. I missed him something fierce. After a few days of separation, that craving for his presence in my life would let up. My head would be clear and I’d have bursts of joy for no particular reason. I knew then that I could live without him, and I stopped missing him.
And then, inevitably, there’d be a reminder of our joyful times together. Heading through the checkout line at Waldbaum’s, I’d pass the candy section on my right—Peppermint Patties, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, packs of Bazooka bubble gum called my name. And Sugar would be back in my life, taking over every waking minute of my existence with his profound impact on me, my body and my life. He was so sweet, so there, so fulfilling.

The affair lasted over 40 years. The final breakup was swift and decisive. Sugar is out of my life. I miss him occasionally and allow some of his cronies in in small amounts, but net-net, I don’t miss him at all anymore. There’s a Leonard Cohen line that sums it up: I lost the one thing that makes me happy. Now everything makes me happy. Goodbye, Sugar. Hello Life!

diplomaA work in progress…

I hung our graduate school degrees from Columbia over our marital bed. My husband’s on the left where he slept, and mine on the right. Mine was actually delayed in its receipt as I took an incomplete in the pottery course I should have finished in 1971. I hated the cliquish atmosphere of the ceramics studio and stopped going. I had learned to center pots on the wheel, but didn’t get much further than that. Ultimately, I designed enough hand-built bowls and mugs to fulfill the requirements of the course and received my physical diploma a year late. My parents never noticed the year on the sheepskin.

I’ve always had a high regard for certifications. If you had letters after your name, that spoke for itself. No one would question your presence here on earth.

When I attended Mount Holyoke College in the late 60’s, there was the unspoken desire to graduate with an M.R.S. My freshman year, every senior in the dorm had an engagement ring, subscribed to Bride’s Magazine and was given a surprise bridal shower by her classmates. By the time I graduated in 1970, everything in our world had changed. No one in my dorm was engaged or read Modern Bride. Kent State happened that spring. There was a moratorium on final exams, and we wore peace signs on our mortarboards.

I’ve taken a lot of courses since graduating. The first non-academic class I enrolled in was Assertiveness Training. No certification, but a world of difference in my life. It was only four sessions, and there was no piece of paper indicating I’d achieved anything. But that one unaccredited course began a trajectory of self-examination, self-improvement and self-acceptence that has been a theme for me ever since.

I went to LaMaze classes to learn how to give birth. My husband and I returned to the group after our successful delivery to share the experience with the still-pregnant couples who craved hearing real-life stories and how the breathing techniques worked in the labor room.

I attended La Leche League meetings for years before and after my first two children were born. I wanted to learn how to be a mother. I learn best by being in a real situation, not reading it from a book. When I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my first, I found my way to a woman’s apartment in Stamford and watched wide-eyed as infants suckled at their mother’s breasts on and off for the entire 2-hour meeting. One woman said during her share, all the time with her infant latched onto her nipple, “I believe this is the best thing for Alistair.” Beyond the constant sucking, I also learned that a baby born in 1974 could have that big a name.

I nursed each of my three children for three years. I learned a lot from those women.

Including from Sharon Roberts who talked about going to her gynecologist with a concern about a small growth in her vagina. “What were you doing with your fingers in there?” he grilled her. She repeated his outrage at her self-examination. I have to admit, at 26, I, too, thought that was his territory, not hers. I had so much more to learn.

Although this wasn’t really a course, part of my parental education included enrolling my kids at the Community Cooperative Nursery School where parents worked in the classroom alongside the paid teachers on a bi-weekly basis. I learned how to say, “Use your words” and “You need to tell me what you want” instead of “Don’t do that!” or “She had the toy first.” I learned to use my words and speak from the I perspective–all new to me.

Through the nursery school I enrolled in PET – Parent Effectiveness Training class to become a more effective parent. This was all pre-internet where blogs sharing experiences proliferate today. My mother was not a reliable source of parenting education. I needed to go where women were parenting the way I wanted to parent. These courses and schools that required hands-on classroom time were good filters for finding role models and peers.

In addition to finding classes for parenting and life, I was introduced to audiotapes by my chiropractor. She lent me her set of Wayne Dyer’s cassette collection called “Choose Your Own Greatness.” I honestly believed that I was engaging in some counter-cultural movement listening to words without really knowing the author of its message.

A funny thing happened though. I loved it. I loved being able to rewind and re-listen. I loved that he told stories of magical coincidences. It was the first time I ever began to contemplate the role of the universe in my life. Wayne Dyer was making a case for it, and I was buying it.

I was careful who I shared this new knowledge with. Maggie, my new friend down the street, also listened to these messages. Others, closer to me, thought it was hooey.


Remember that sister I mentioned who cheated me out of my Ginny doll clothes?

All I wanted was her attention. She was beautiful, creative, smart and bigger than I was. I wanted to sleep in the bed with her, cuddle, have her love me and pay attention to me.

But, no.

She shunned me. Maybe it was because I was the perfect child. She came along in my parents’ new marriage and was a challenging baby. Even more challenging than the average infant. My mother was inexperienced with no maternal skills and no role model, and along comes this needy child who vomited after every feeding.

Having had my own share of projectile-vomiting babies, I know what’s it’s like to have to clean up everything–the crib, their clothes, your clothes–let alone have some semblance of order in your life. And I had support in my marriage, which Mom clearly didn’t. No wonder Molly became the scapegoat in the family. Everything that went wrong after that became her fault.

Along comes Jane. Dad’s in a new job, we’ve moved to the middle of the country, and I’m born. I’m placid, brown-eyed like Mom, and quiet. Prop a bottle of sweet formula in my mouth and I’m easily satisfied. Then, anyway.

I guess she resented me.

We grow up and Beth and I share a room. Molly gets her own room and promptly shuts the door and keeps me out. We had a wall phone in the hallway with a cord long enough that the receiver could be pulled into any of our bedrooms and we could talk there. This was in the days of one phone number per family, no call-waiting, and no privacy in my room. I had nothing I needed privacy for, but Molly did.

She would lean up against the door, phone cord dangling between the middle of the hallway and her bedroom, and stay there for hours.

Of course, I had to look under the door to spy on her.

And what did I see? Mom’s slipper ashtray, the bronze one, with a cigarette resting on the curved holder. Molly was smoking! I had to tell on her.

That may have added to her resentment, but my hunch is that it started before that. Hiding boxes of chocolates under her bed, then lying about where they might be when Mom or Dad asked if anyone had seen them. Molly would collude with us by inviting us in to partake of the bounty. Crushing the bottoms of the candies to determine if they were the disgusting gel-filled ones or the highly sought after creams, caramels or mints. Now that we were party to the crime, we couldn’t snitch anymore.

Maybe my tattling had something to do with Molly not wanting me  to ride in the car with her and Sally Harris who drove her to school every day. I had to walk two blocks and stand outside in the freezing cold and wait for the bus. Those were the days when girls not only had to wear skirts to school, but nylon stockings were de rigueur and short skirts were in style. Imagine standing in 20 degree weather waiting for the bus with your ass sticking out, holding a boatload of books because no one carried a backpack or even a book bag. There was so much to balance.

But Molly was picked up at the door and I had to navigate the freezing cold. “Sally doesn’t have insurance for another passenger,” Molly lied.

She always lied. Not that anyone believed her, but it delayed the response time and punishment.

Little Janie cropped

This is a work in progress. Names have been changed to protect the truly innocent from my childhood opinions.

Even though there were four of us kids, I felt alone.

It helped when my brother Jay was born, because I had my own real Betsy Wetsy to take care of and nurture. A terrible thing I remember doing when he was old enough to hug was smacking him to make him cry, then soothing him with hugs and kisses.

I remember my very negative feelings around my relationship with my older sister Ellen. How we played Ginny dolls and how she arranged everything to suit her needs and wants. She was super-creative. Play began and ended with her say-so. She’d name the game, claim that her doll’s father was the richest, smartest, etc., leaving second and third best to me and Beth. Ellen would set the stage with a scenario for us to act out and play would continue for hours.

I remember saving up my quarter allowances each week so I could go to County Book and Toy store and buy outfits for the Ginny dolls that came in those pink boxes with cellophane panels so you could see hwat was inside. One ball gown with elasticized puff sleeves cost $2.00–eight weeks worth of saved quarters. And Ellen traded some crappy outfit of hers for it. She sweet-talked me out of it.

I remember Beth’s heavy breathing, but not much else.

I remember being alone in my room and teaching myself how to knit.

I remember sitting at the dinner table waiting to be seen or heard without much luck.

I remember being in the car with Mommy and having her all to myself on occasion. I loved that.

I don’t remember a best friend until Amy Wills introduced the idea to me in fourth grade when she claimed me. I remember going to her house and seeing her family photos on the wall. One included a sister who’d died before Amy was born. I remember that being a very scary concept to me. At least a brand new one.

I remember crying myself to sleep at night, having nightmares and wanting to be in bed with Mommy. But getting kicked out because it wasn’t okay with Daddy.

Even when Daddy and I were alone together I was lonely because he never talked. It felt doubly lonely. I wasn’t lonely with Mommy because she always talked.

I don’t remember Mommy tucking me in much. Rather, a good night kiss from downstairs. When she did come up to put me to bed, she would say, “Sand in the right eye. Sand in the left eye. And fairy dust all around.” That was my favorite way to go to sleep.

Here’s my first post since declaring July the time to share more personal, non-entrepreneurial, writing with you. Remember, positive support only. Thank you!


A paid job in a theatre company? How lucky could a girl get? I was hired as the property mistress at the Trinity College Summer Theatre. It was 1969, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and Teddy Kennedy’s car went off the bridge in Chappaquidick.

Peter and I had broken up after his graduation in May. He’d made the decision to attend law school in the midwest. I still had senior year to go in Massachusetts. It was clear to me that I was not first on his list. I bought a pack of Tareytons and started smoking again.

Most of the company at Trinity were from the Yale School of Drama. They talked among themselves referring to playwrights I’d never heard of, directors I didn’t know and productions they’d seen in Europe or the East Village. The set designer was married to the costume designer. The Czech director was married to the Brazilian lead actress. They, and the rest of the company of Yale actors and crew, huddled together between scenes and over meals collaboration on the details of the production. There was an ease in their connections that I observed from a distance.

How lucky was I to be working shoulder to shoulder with this level of talent? Shining that brass pot for the set of A Doll’s House was an honor worth exerting elbow grease for. When there weren’t too many props to build or gather, I sat
and sewed in the costume shop. I’ve always been a listener, so I felt like I was part of something as the conversation flowed among the workers there.
Colm, the young son of the play’s designers, romped innocently and happily in the straight-pin-free safety zone his artistic parents had created for him as a large playpen. Every adult who passed through the costume shop picked him up, chucked him under the chin or played peekaboo. I resented his presence.
We worked together all day in the theatre and lived together in the same fraternity house on a residential street in Hartford abutting the campus. We ate our meals together which were prepared by the resident chef. Every morning I ordered the same thing–a bacon and cheese omelette, buttered toast and home fries. I’d fill my coffee cup and add a dollop of Friendly’s vanilla ice cream as a substitute for cream and sugar. I sat at their tables, but never spoke.
The cook was the only one who addressed me by name.
By mid-July my bellbottoms were too tight to wear and pimples began appearing on my forehead and chin. We were in production for the third show of the eight show season when I realized I had to leave.
I called my mother. “Come and get me,” I announced. Ever the rescuer and care-taker, she replied, “I’ll be there tonight.” No questions were asked.
I didn’t have much stuff. My suitcase was under my bed. As the company descended the stairs for dinner that night and went off to rehearsal, I packed my suitcase and emptied my room of the few possessions I’d brought with me. I crept out of the Delta Phi house at quarter of nine to meet the getaway car.
I wondered if anyone even noticed my absence that night or ever.


I love writing.

There, I’ve said it. Growing up, my mother labeled us. “Jane, you’re the artist.” (Thank God I got that one!) “Meredith, you’re the writer. Barbara, you’re the pretty one. Andy, you’re the funny one.”

Because my older sister was awarded claim to all things literary–she’s become a mega-successful literary agent–I dove into art, and happily so, for 30+ years.

Decades pass. Life happens. Careers change form and substance. These days I find my creativity in writing. But what to do about the mantel my mother bestowed on an elder over 50 years ago?

After taking Ann Randolph’s superb writing workshop at Kripalu in late June, I’ve started an official writing practice. I ordered 4 books on memoir writing from amazon, hired a writing coach and established a writers group in the city. I’m on it!

But, the voices in my head say, this is not a money-making proposition. Your public wants information about how to grow their businesses. YOU ARE NOT SERVING YOUR AUDIENCE.

And then a whisper comes trailing along, “Your message is about following your passion. That’s what they want to hear.”

Who to listen to?

I asked for a sign, and I got one this morning. On my cup of decaf from Starbucks. The cup-holder spoke to me.

Follow your passion. It will lead you to your purpose. Oprah Winfrey

Dammit. This is what I teach, and yet when it comes to this shoemaker, I forget.

So, during the month of July, you will be reading, if you so choose, pieces I’m writing from prompts given to me by my new coach.

Because this is uncharted territory for me–sharing my personal essays–I have a request. I would appreciate your kindness in offering ONLY positive comments. Likes, thumbs up, a word or two of support. No grammatical corrections or probing inquiries required. Enjoy, and only let me know if you are.


Nancy Williams – Grand Passion Piano

Since speaking and writing about getting picked, I’ve become more aware of the invitations I’ve received from women business owners seeking my support and endorsement.

I’m always delighted when successful women like Nancy Williams find me and my blog and view it as a potential platform for promoting their passion. (Lots of p’s there.)

The most flattering invitations include some form of cross-pollination, as Nancy’s did. She had seen my list of no-no words and phrases: little, just, can’t afford, should–and requested permission to use them in a talk she was giving. I was pleased to share my intellectual property and doubly pleased that Nancy credited me in her recent press release.

The release relates Nancy’s story of how she reclaimed her passion for the piano which helped her to come to terms with her hearing loss. Nancy will be delivering a workshoop in Austin, TX next week at the Hearing Loss Association of America convention there.

Nancy’s request to share her press release came with an invitation to meet. I look forward to that. Women who are passionate about what they do top my list of pickers.


HypnoBirthing of CT

I rent space from Cynthia Overgard, President and CEO of HypnoBirthing CT. She has a warm and welcoming space in an office building well-located in Westport on the Norwalk/Westport line directly across from Whole Foods and Panera Bread and equi-distant between I-95 and the Merritt Parkway.

The rooms are equally well-suited for Cynthia’s birth classes and the Mastermind Intensive that I hold there once a month–large comfy sofas, walls painted in a relaxing, soothing hue, and a separate room for lunch away from our workspace. It’s ideal for women learning how to deliver their babies as well as business owners birthing ideas and visions.

Cynthia and I re-uned yesterday to catch up, talk business and also enjoy the magnificent spring day. We met for a walk at Compo Beach, then lunch at The Granola Bar in Westport. Over lunch we reminisced about Cynthia’s decision to take the space originally a few years ago.

Whenever  you make a big decision like assuming a lease on outside space or hiring employees for the first time, it’s wise to get feedback from trusted counsel. It would be a much easier decision  if you’re going to be working 5 days a week in an office. But in Cynthia’s line of work, she wouldn’t need the  space 40 hours per week. Cynthia questioned whether the expense was justifiable.  She consulted a most trustworthy businessman for his thoughts–her father.

“Cynthia,” he told her, “Giants Stadium was built to be used 8 days a year.”

That succinct wisdom turned the key for her.




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