Thursday, March 15, 2018

Spring is Coming - A Time for Change, Hope, and Renewal

A Time for Change, Hope, and Renewal

Moving on to a happier place isn't a straight path.  There are twist, loops, dead ends, and hills to climb along the way.  My journey without Jack is moving forward.  He is with me in so many ways and I can feel and hear him when I stumble or shout for joy.

As part of my journey, I have continued to work on a plan started early in 2017, before the day my world changed.  I want to discontinue shipping of product and the whole cost of goods sold part of my business.  My goal is to reduce my inventory in 2018 to close that part of my business at the end of the year.  I don't know if I will reach that goal, but nevertheless, that is my goal.  To accomplish that, I have been running some great sales of 50% off kits and at or below wholesale lots of some beads.  I have lots of clasps discounted.  I will have some Swarovski in larger lots as I get them counted.  I do it all as I have time.  These sales are mostly in my Etsy shop.  Etsy Shop

Slowing me down is a good news story.  After the sale of our home in Groton, MA, I was able to make a change in Florida I'd only been able to dream of.  I had looked and considered a move several years ago but could not afford it.  Yup, crazy as it sounds, I've bought another house here.  It is about 8 miles from my current house.  It is on a lake.  When I walked into the house,  I teared up when I saw the living room.  It was an overwhelming feeling of "this is right".  I tried to discount it at the time as emotional.  It is emotional, why not?  But we went back to see the house a second time and I felt the same.  Now I'm in the middle of something I would not have chosen to do, fixing things up.  I thought I wanted something 'move in ready'.  This property needed a little updating and TLC.  It is quite therapeutic to get things ready to move in.  The neighborhood is great for walking and sitting on the dock is quite serene.  I'm not there yet but it is now part of my daily routine to do something in the new house while getting my old house ready to sell.  My fall house guests who are teaching at The Beaded Garden in Oxford, FL (The Villages), will be in for quite a change of venue.  Yup, the secret is out.  I host the national teachers at my house for the store.  Oh, let's not get too carried away, I don't cook much, but have a great guest room.  The house comes with cats.

Needless to say, the time required to make this happen, is slowing down some of my plans to close out inventory in 2018.  So we shall see what happens over time.  I'm hopeful but also realistic.

More happy news relates to my book.  I had quite a thrill looking at the proof of my book!  The final copy will be so exciting for me to hold.  It is scheduled for release at Bead and Button in June.  I am using the book patterns to make up some kits for the big Bead and Button show in Milwaukee.  These will be limited  in quantity and not replicated.  I'm trying to use up some special inventory, have some unique kits available, and, at the same time, promote the book.  These kits will come without patterns.  The patterns are in the book.  So if you are going to the big show in Milwaukee, come see me!  The two pictures below are samples of two that I will have.  Needless to say, I'm picking my personal favorite designs for these kits.

My book signing is set for Friday, June 11, 2018, on the show room floor in the Bead and Button area.  I will also have an Artist sales table in the designated area toward the back of the show room.  And of course, I will be at Meet the Teachers.  Receiving this flyer from Bead Smith in one of my orders was quite exciting.  Sherry Serafini's book just released is on the other side.  That sort of blew me away.  I am starting to schedule Book Signings for after Bead and Button.  Locally in Florida, the first official event after Bead and Button is set for The Beaded Garden on June 28 from 3-5pm.  The book is available now for pre-order on Amazon and Kalmbach the publisher.

I am scheduled to teach 3 classes at the Bead and Button show.  At this point, to be honest, one or two may be cancelled due to low sign up.  So do not delay if you are considering classes!  Our cancel date is coming up fast and I will make a decision soon.  At this point, Stained Glass is the only class I can confirm will be held.  I'm excited about it as it will be fun to custom design color kits for the students.

I am hopeful for more sunny than cloudy days in my future.  And at some point, I will start designing again.  I have been in a design void now for months.  When I sit with a pile of beads, I find I am empty of new ideas.  In the mean time, I am enjoying working on my rather large pile of UFO's and kits and working up other designers patterns.  It is all good.

I hope to see many of you at Bead and Button or elsewhere, Bead Cruise maybe?   I look forward for the opportunity to reconnect and to say HI to you!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Looking Forward

I have a lot to look forward to in 2018.  I'm so thankful for my many friends and family who have helped me so much the past few months. 

I just ordered a new Fitbit as I've worn the old one out.  I hope to wear this one out too!  It is fun, if I've been sitting too long it nudges me to move.  

I will be travelling a bit more for fun.  The time to do some of the things I've dreamed of doing is now.  I'm very fortunate to be able to do so and to have a good 'beady' friend who also loves to travel that I can be with.  One thing on my list is to return with Beadventures to the Czech Republic this fall.  That is the trip this year I am most excited about.  Beadventures to Czech

My book is pending release this summer.  The projects in the book are the result of 2 years of designs.  The book is available for pre-order now on Amazon.   PreOrder my book on Amazon  It is exciting.  For a year, when Jack and I spoke each morning, he would ask me what I was going to do for the day.  I would say "work on my book".  He would reply, "oh, something different" and chuckle with his deep voice.  I'm happy he saw the cover.

I have 5 classes scheduled at the annual Bead and Button show in June.  I am looking forward to that big event.  There will be a book signing during the show.  I will have a sales table in the show room and a Meet the Teachers table Friday night.  My personal favorite class this year is "A Moment in Time".  The other classes I'm teaching can be found on the Bead and Button show web site.  Bead and Button Show classes.  Registration is Tuesday, January 9th at 12 central time.

I expect to do some travel associated with the book and teach while visiting stores.   As always my teaching schedule will be announced on my web site.  My classes scheduled

I am looking forward to designing new projects and to getting projects published.  I am continuing with Starman as a Trendsetter and have a few ideas in the works.  I look forward to showing you many new projects in the coming year.  I have been quite enamored with the Hubble stitch.  My Pinterest has a whole page dedicated to Hubble.  Pinterest page for Happy Hubble  I love this necklace, which now belongs to a good friend, the Lampwork by Natalie Zhitomyrsky Etsy shop at GLASSFANATA.  Isn't it pretty?  More to come.

Bead Happy!!  I do.  Marcia

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The House that Jack Built

The story of the house that Jack built                             Written by Marcia Balonis, November 2017

About 1975, Jack had a dream.  He wanted to build our home up on a hill.  We were living in an apartment in the farm house and did a lot for the owner.  She agreed to sell us the land to build the house.  The whole of what is now considered Skyfields area in Groton, MA was once her farm.  That purchase was completed about 1979. 

During the late 70’s Jack also teamed up with a close friend who owned a lumber mill.  Jack and Bob dropped pine trees all over the area to clear lots for others for the pine which was then hauled to the mill.  One weekend a month for about 5 years, Jacks' logs were cut into desired boards.  The other three weekends, he worked for Bob on other paying wood jobs.

Yes, a long time.  To cut the logs into boards, he needed to have his design to include the detail of what was going to be used where.  He did the plans and calculated the board feet needed for floor, walls, inside and outside, posts and, well every board that went into the house.  Much of the design was based on “Your Engineered House” by Rex Roberts of Groton.  There are notes in the book which I made to discuss points or questions from my read of the book.  There are significant variations in Jack’s version of the house.  Most significant is the whole basement.

Finally, the wood is ready, it was sent to another mill to plane most of the boards to be used.  We were also clearing the lot and stacking up the hard wood for burning later.  That took many months.  The area was ready to start.   Foundation went in.  The dream started to shape up.

There was no contractor per se.  Jack did that himself.  We obtained multiple estimates on the various components to include carpentry, electrical, masonry, plumbing and anything else required.  The carpenters name was Barry.  There are a lot of unique features of the woodwork which Jack and Barry worked out.  We walked from the apartment to the house daily to see what had been done.  More than once, when Jack saw Barry the next time, he would have an idea of something else to be done.  The built in wine rack and glass holder is but one example of the special touches created.

The house that Jack built is nearing completion with some very unique elements.  The mantle in the living room is a beam from the first parish church steeple of Groton.  The steeple was removed, and the beams sold for new work at the church.  Some nails from the church are remaining on the mantle.  The cobblestone fireplace in the master bedroom is made with authentic stones from the old rail yard in Plymouth, MA.  Jack grew up in Plymouth and a friend was able to get those stones when the rail yard was demolished there.  The fireplace itself is a heat-a-lator model.  If there are still little bricks in the base openings of the fireplace, they were put there to prevent the kittens from running from one room to another.  Kittens were in the house in 1990 or so.  The fireplace is another of the many energy efficient elements of the house.  The front light is an authentic old street lamp from Groton which Jack was able to obtain from the town when they were removed.

At the base of the driveway are some granite posts.  Sorry to say, I don’t recall where he obtained those.  The granite back steps were from the foundation of the Haney property from an old barn long gone.

The living room stove is a wood or coal stove from an old general store in Brighton, Maine.  He bought it after hunting one winter.  The little one in the basement will also burn wood or coal.  The big basement wood stove was all set up to add heat to the house, shop, and greenhouse for the plants with piping.    

The windows are fixed.  Most of the walls do not go to the ceiling.  This is for air flow.  There are vents all along the back of the house designed to be opened in summer along with the vents up high on the front of the house.  This air flow worked to cool the house.   Drapes pulled at night to retain heat, opened to capture solar heat during the day.  The overhang is specifically designed to block sun in summer and welcome it in the winter.

The greenhouse or spa area was mine.  I spent hours with my plants in that room.  There is a powerful fan, sealed for winter, in the greenhouse.  And there is a 4th heat zone out there.  

The stained-glass piece inserted over the door in the master bath was something I designed and was made by a local artist.  The antique black glass doorknobs throughout the inside were collected from a local old colonial.

The porch over the garage was also my space.  I love bright open rooms.  From this room, the view is spectacular and I so enjoyed many stunning sunrises.

The back office or corner bedroom, has little cabinets at the base of the closet.  They were built to keep ammo and originally guns out of sight. The pantry includes the step shelving so that you can really see everything in the pantry not have to move things all around to find a desired can of something.  The little corner alcove in the pantry for brooms.  Near the back door a special place for coats and hats not kept in the closet. 

The rounded wall, circular stairs, and diamond artistic wall were all design elements which Jack and Barry discussed.  I came to love the circular stairs and wall.  Walking up and down that set of stairs is easier for an older person.  Like the rest of the house, it is solid.  For me, I was able to just lean a bit on the rail to stay stable.

We moved into the house in fall of 1982.  I left when Fort Devens closed for work in 1993.  In the early years we travelled back and forth every few months.  For a time, Jack looked for work in Colorado but then decided he wanted to stay in Groton in HIS house.  I continued to pay the mortgage, worked hard, changing jobs may times, and dreamed of returning.  Over time that changed.  But I was always able to come home to our dream for our visits and to do special projects. 

Jack loved watching the birds each winter and feed them faithfully.  I have watched many come by to check for food this fall only to find nothing but a few bread crumbs.  The hangers off the front on the pullies and other stakes were for the many feeders.  In the summer, he hung plants.

Jack was blessed to have good friends who helped him as his health declined to do the many chores.  I am thankful for those who made it possible for him to stay here, in his house.  Many friends and family have helped me with the massive clean out as well.  A big part of me would love to return to wrap myself back in our dream, but that is my past, and I move on to a future with a big hole in my heart.

Jack with his nieces, 2017.

There are fixtures that need changing to be pretty and things to upgrade.  But even today, 35 years later, this house still has the warmth of the beautiful native wood, the work of a master carpenter, and the love of the owner.  It is the house that Jack built. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Fall over the cliff

Warning, this is going to be a sad blog.  I like to try to keep things happy in my life but sometimes it is just not possible.  This is one of those times.

My husband of 46 years, Jack E. Balonis, passed on October 10, 2017.  It was quite sudden and a total shock.  He was all set to come to Florida in just a few more days.  A close friend found him in our driveway in Massachusetts.  I pray his passing was quick for him. 

We had a unique arrangement over our last years, which, for the most part, suited us.  We talked an average of 3 times a day, two of the calls at an appointed time of the day and the third rather random.  Sometimes we spoke many more times in the day, on rare occasions, not at all.  Sometimes we would talk a long time.  He had a way of making a short story into a long novel.  We visited back and forth between our two homes.  It wasn't perfect, but for a number of reasons, it worked for us.

The void in my heart and in each day is real.  I know it will get better.  Each milestone to be crossed will be a reminder of the change in my life without him.  Each day the phone calls are missed.  We talked about all kinds of things every day, some rather silly, but I miss the constant connection we shared.  I've always had my good morning and good night calls and the other random chats with Jack making me whole.    We had our many visits where each of us did some chore to help with maintaining two houses.

The house we built together will be gone before I know it.  He cleared the trees off of lots for other people by dropping the pine trees to build the house.  He worked the lumber yard for years to cut the trees into boards of all the different kinds needed for the design.  We were there for construction every day as we walked up to see what was done from our apartment just down the hill.  It was our shared dream home.  It is quite spectacular.  Environmentally sound, engineered for efficiency, passive solar, and unique.  I will miss it.  Part of me would love to wrap myself back into that house and a cocoon of love and memories but it is quite impossible.  I could not cope with the long steep hill in winter, the New England cold, the dreary days of winter so common up there and finally, most of my family and friends are not there....only memories.  I will miss the spectacular sunrises from our hill and well, the house that Jack built.

So now I am starting to carry on alone without him.  I am a solitary person, content to do many things alone.  I go for my walks alone, I ride my bicycle alone, I bead alone, usually shop alone and eat alone.  I'm used to that, it is normal for me.  This, however, is not a normal time in my life.  I am quite sad and feel quite empty.  My family and friends are supportive and it does help.  As in most life changing events we cope differently.  I will find my way as I strive to go forward without the man who has been with me for over 46 years.  It will not be easy.  I will be different, but I will go on.

To all who have been there to support me and continue to support me, thank you.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer of Dreams

I am enjoying a relaxing summer filled with lots of different chores and beady projects.  After the relief of turning in my book to the publisher at Bead and Button, I have found a lot of time.  I am no longer chained to my computer diagraming and checking patterns.  The book took a lot out of me yet I am so excited to talk about it.  When I know something more about the time line, name, cover and other bits of information on the pending BOOK, you will know!  Right now I'm enjoying a dreamy summer.

One of the areas of my life that I knew needed to be restored was a better balance of my time.  And that is what is happening this summer.  Doing some things other than so many bead related tasks is a good thing.  Lots of neglected chores and daily living tasks are getting done. 

I am getting out in the morning for my walk.  I enjoy seeing the birds and water around me.

With some help, I am also spending some time and energy getting my yard in better shape.  I'm doing more cleaning of neglected areas.  Little by little the house and yard is taking shape.

Speaking of cleaning, that also included kitty baths.  They do not particularly enjoy this task. An early morning bath followed by sunbathing on the porch to dry.

Of course I've been beading.  Some UFO's have been done.    Projects started months ago have taken shape.  I have actually made some pieces for me with no intended purpose.  Not for a class or for a kit but just because.  That is a wonderful thing.
New kit projects and color combinations are in progress for the sales table at BeadFest Philly and Tacoma.

And of course Bead and Button 2018 class proposals are almost finished.

I also gave in to the little voice in me telling me to re-join my local gym.  I just don't seem to be able to walk as long each morning in the heat as I would like to get in my steps.  So late after noon or early evening, depending on my mood, I go to the gym to walk some more.  To kill the boredom on a tread mill I listen to books on tape.  It is more entertaining for me than TV.  Maybe I'll progress to use a machine other than the tread mill, but at this point, I'm quite happy with just walking.  Getting my 10,000 daily steps on my Fitbit is a great thing.  And I feel even better when it is over 15,000 steps.  My next little goal during this summer of dreams, is to dust off the bicycle and get out to do some peddling.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Ready set GO!

I'm off to the annual Bead and Button show in Milwaukee, WI.  My bags are packed.  Many items already shipped to help lighten the load.  I always feel a little better when I get to my hotel with my luggage and boxes all arrived safe and sound.  But not every being is happy with my pending departure.  All three of my cats have taken turns sitting on my suitcase.

I have some special kits in limited quantity which will be released first on Friday Night at Meet the Teachers.  I also will have some one of a kind finished earrings, all unique, and all bead embroidery available. I wanted to do something special to bring customers to me at that event.  I'm excited about offering these special items at that event first.  I expect some may sell out there.  The coupon in your show registration goodie bag will only be honored at MTT.  She's a Suburban Girl is limited to 7 kits!  I wanted more but this is it!  And I won't be asking the artist to do more for me as it is time to move on.  This little collage is just a sample of what is to be offered first at MTT.

I am also selling at Moonlight Madness and in the Show room all weekend.  Loads more kits including newly released Tila or Tile Mosaic.

In addition to the show items, I am also hand carrying the pieces to go in my book.  I meet my editor with Kalmbach books on Wednesday.  We do have a little video clip planned.  I'm a little nervous about that!  I have practiced a few times.  I even got a special manicure for the taping.  Mostly they will be looking at my old hands.  I have not been video taped for production for DECADES. 

The book is expected to be published late spring.  I hope before Bead and Button 2018.  To say this has been an experience is an understatement.  Many times I said that I will never do this again.  And I believe that, but you never know do you?  I will miss wearing some of these pieces for almost a year!  And I am very grateful to several ladies who made extra samples knowing they would also have to wait a year before getting their pieces back.

I look forward to life after B&B&B.  Bead and Button and Book.  This past month has been crazy busy with those two big things happening at the same time.  I suppose I could have pushed to have one or the other done a couple months ago.  Right!  Seriously, who can do that?

I hope to see some of you in Milwaukee!  Say HI!!