At the gathering after my dad’s funeral, my Aunt Elisabeth shared a little insight about him that just blew my mind. Apparently, when Dad was a young man and it was time for him to choose a trade, he was encouraged to take up the family business and become a tailor. But what did he really want to do? He wanted to learn to be a goldsmith and make jewelry. My heart nearly stopped beating when she spoke those words.
This revelation both thrills me and makes me incredibly sad. It certainly helps explain why he was so fascinated by my jewelry work and so supportive of me following my dream. I wish he would have told me himself. I’m sure we could have had some interesting conversations on the topic. It seemed that he never wanted to open a conversation about the past. Maybe he knew we would ask so many questions, and he wasn’t interested in sharing the answers. I’ll never know why he didn’t share this connection with me. I’m happy to learn about it now, and I’ll remember it each time I sit down at my workbench.
May 30, 2013
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This week we faced the painful challenge of saying goodbye to the kind, generous man I was lucky enough to call Dad. He passed from this life peacefully with his three daughters standing strong together by his side.
Born in Vreden, Germany in 1939, Anton Abbing was the youngest of eight children and the only son. His family were tailors by trade, and at 18 Dad emigrated to the United States to find work in the garment industry.
In his new life in America, Anton became Tony as he learned to speak English flawlessly and worked hard to move up the corporate ladder. By his early 30′s, he was the manager of the Somerset, KY Palm Beach Clothing Company plant, and had fathered two daughters, my sister Helena and me. His first marriage to my mom, Joy Lee, didn’t work out, but the two remained friendly and respectful of one another as they worked together to raise their girls.
With Diane Daulton, Dad found love again. They added my sister, Michelle, to our blended family, and once again, Dad was surrounded by females. The young couple followed a series of career opportunities which moved them from Kentucky to California, Pennsylvania, back to Kentucky and then to Tennessee.
In Knoxville, Dad got into sailing and bought a boat. This hobby was well-suited because he loved the outdoors, and needed to challenge himself. While he did take the family out on the boat from time to time, it was mostly a solitary pursuit, which seemed to work out well for a man of few words.
During this same period, Dad got seriously into photography. He built a darkroom in the basement and had the full backdrop and lighting setup for taking formal portraits. He took my senior pictures, and I was so proud that my shots were different from everyone else’s.
When the clothing manufacturing industry unravelled in the U.S., Dad proved his resilience by moving south of the border to continue his career. Dad and Diane spent three years in San Jose, Costa Rica followed by two years in Merida, Mexico. With this new challenge, Dad learned to speak Spanish. I loved how his subtle German accent would come through when he spoke this new language.
Some of my fondest memories of Dad are from a trip Helena and I made to Costa Rica. The three of us travelled the country from the Pacific to the Caribbean Coasts. We explored the rain forests and volcanoes of the interior, and we trekked the streets of downtown San Jose. That trip marked a shift away from the parent/child dynamic to a more adult relationship with Dad, and I began to better understand his subtle humor and his gentle way of dealing with the world at large.
When they tired of the ex-pat lifestyle, Tony and Diane relocated to Naples, Florida. Much to everyone’s surprise, they purchased a local coffee shop and became entrepreneurs. Tony rekindled his passion for cycling, and could be seen decked out in full spandex making 40 to 50 mile bike runs with men less than half his age.
Tony’s next series of adventures began when The Men’s Wearhouse hired him to troubleshoot production issues around the globe. His assignments took him to every corner of the world. At a family gathering just a few months before his passing, we tried to count how many countries Dad had visited. We all called out every country we could think of, and when we ran out of ideas, we got out a globe to help us think of more. We finally counted to 65 countries that Tony had visited. I learned my approach to travel from him. Stay calm. Go with the flow. Enjoy the ride.
When Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dad was so gentle and patient as her caregiver. After 38 years together my dad struggled to find firm footing without his beloved wife, but he put on a brave face and stayed active. That June, on his 70th birthday, Dad rode his bike 70 miles! He was so proud of this accomplishment, and he seemed to be learning how to live his new life as a single man.
Later that same year, Dad’s health began to falter. He first suffered a stroke, then Parkinson’s disease, and finally melanoma that spread quickly throughout his weakened body. The decline in less than four years from a vibrant, physically fit man to his death was shocking to see. Through it all, he maintained his signature laid-back approach to life. In short, he was a class act to the end.
He spent the last year at Dogwood Forest assisted living facility, with a constant stream of visitors. My sister, Michelle, and her family live just 5 miles away, and she was there every day to check on him and take him out for dinner or lunch regularly. He relished these outings, and enjoyed spending time with his three grandchildren, Andrew, Caroline and Elisabeth. Helena and I made the trek from Texas and Florida as often as we could, and we enjoyed many good times together in this last year. The staff at Dogwood Forest loved my Dad, and often spoke of how sweet he was, always smiling and never wanting to be any trouble.
My Dad was a practical man. He always thought he would die young, and he was perfectly fine with that outcome. He never complained, and when he learned of his terminal cancer diagnosis just four months ago, he seemed content to know how his story would end. The rest of us would have to process this development in our own way. We would get no parting speeches from Anton. Even in death, it seemed like he was just trying not to be any trouble.
Dad didn’t really know how to relate to us as kids. He was so quiet that it was not easy to get close to him. As we took on adult lives and careers of our own, our bonds to him grew. Dad hesitated to offer advice, and often stated that he wanted us to make our own decisions. He really felt that we knew best how to manage our own lives. But, from time to time, he would share some words of wisdom. One particular bit of advice helped me to overcome my fears and make a major life change. Click here to read more about my dad asking “What are you waiting for?” and giving me the courage to make a big move in the game of life. Go check it out and get another glimpse into the man he was.
So, this is goodbye, Dad. May you have a safe passage to the other side. You were a good and loyal man. You loved deeply and were loved in return. You will be missed.
May 5, 2013
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I’m feeling a bit sentimental today. It’s my 15-year anniversary, and I spent several hours last night looking through photos of Jim and me. The earliest days are not so well documented. Back in 1998, we were still using FILM CAMERAS! Can you imagine? Can you remember taking photos and having to WAIT to see how they would turn out? Can you remember how each photo was so carefully considered because of the cost of film and processing? And then, where did we put these paper images that came back from the drugstore? If you were organized and on top of things (sometimes I was), they would find their way into an album, which was a lovely format for sharing your photos in person. If you were not so organized (often I wasn’t), they ended up in a box in the closet where they still live today, waiting to be re-discovered in some archeological dig in the 21st century.
Here are a few (mostly digital) shots of our 15 years together. The shot in the lower right corner was taken just last week. I think we’re holding it together pretty well, don’t you? Click and then click again to see a larger image.
But I digress. This post is not about film versus digital. It’s about my sweet husband on our 15-year anniversary, and my thoughts on staying happily married. If I may, I want to offer up some advice for those of you who have not yet found your life partner. First, choose wisely. This marriage thing is not always easy. Even the best relationships go through really tough times that will leave you wondering if you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life. This is an inescapable truth, regardless of how very much in love you feel the day you make your forever commitment. Second, find someone who makes you laugh. The ability to laugh together is a key to happiness, and can really help to overcome the challenges I mentioned above. Third, find someone who likes the same movies, music, sports, or whatever, that you do. You don’t need to be joined at the hip, and it works perfectly well for each partner to have interests and friends of their own. But I know that Jim and I share a common language and thousands of inside jokes because of our common tastes in music and movies. Also, I couldn’t care less about sports, and I found one of the few men on the planet who shares my apathy in that regard. We generally operate at about the same speed, we like doing the same things, and we make each other laugh. As a result, we continue to enjoy each other’s company immensely.
So, here’s to all you lovers out there, and here’s to my sweet soul-mate, Jim McManus. I’m looking forward to our next 15 years together. Remember, “The further we go, the happier we get.” (quote first seen at the FurtherFest in 1997 where Jim proposed to me).
April 25, 2013
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At least once per year, Jim and I load up the camping gear and head to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in beautiful Live Oak, FL for a weekend of camping, music, friends and good times. We had to miss SpringFest this past March, so in October I was determined to make MagnoliaFest 2012 a very special experience.
I can hardly put into words how these festivals have changed my life. We attended our first MagnoliaFest in October 1999 as newlyweds. We’ve been back so many times I’ve lost count, and each time has been magical, restorative and just plain fun. I’ve been exposed to bands and artists I would have never heard otherwise. It’s not an overstatement to say that these festivals have radically altered the contents of my iPod. My appreciation for fast-fingered bluegrass pickers and 3-part harmonies with a high lonesome lead continues to grow.
It’s not just the music that makes these festivals so special. I love to camp and the park is situated along the Suwannee River. That’s right, we get to camp on the river that inspired Stephen Foster’s classic, “Way down upon the Suwannee River.” This place gives you a glimpse into the old Florida. The biodiversity is incredible, with oaks, maples, pines, magnolias and others draped with enormous quantities of Spanish moss covering the land and lining the edges of the river. This is a place where I can spend hours lying in a hammock, gazing into the canopy while my mind wanders.
Over the years, I’ve found that I’m graced with flashes of insight and moments of clarity during these festivals. Solutions to problems I’m not actively thinking about pop into my head fully formed. Visions of potential futures present themselves and it feels like I can try out different paths in my imagination. Somehow, when I step away from my day-to-day life, get close to nature, and listen to lots of great music, pathways seem to open up in my mind that are not always available to me. It’s truly magical.
The people also add so much to our festival experience. Over the years, we’ve had romantic festivals with just the two of us camping together, and we’ve had groups of friends as large as 18 folks come out for the fun. No matter the size of the crowd, we have a blast every time.
Walking around the festival is a visual feast as everyone digs out their tie-dye to let their freak flag fly. There are lots of kids running around, having a ball, and you often see multiple generations enjoying the music together. The festivals attract young hippies, old hippies, and lots of folks that are nowhere close to hippie in their everyday lives. I’ve never seen a fight break out, and everyone walks around smiling. It’s one of the few places where everyone is just exactly where they want to be in that moment. You can easily walk up to a total stranger and strike up a conversation. It’s not surprising to see even the most famous artists wandering in the audience, enjoying the music and the scene.
This year, I spent so much time lounging around camp that I didn’t see as much music as a normally do. Still, what I saw was phenomenal. Highlights included Bonnie Raitt, Mickey Hart, Jimmy Herring, and the Del McCourry Band. Donna the Buffalo did an awesome, but too short set that got us all up and dancing. It feels to good to feel my joints loosen and my muscles stretch out as I jump and dance with a frenzied crowd of Donna fans, better known as “The Herd.”
By Sunday, sadly, it was time to pack it up and head home. I had found a renewed sense of calm and optimism for the future. I had re-connected with great friends and my sweet husband. I was breathing deeper and seeing the world more clearly. It’s so good to come back to center and I look forward to the next festival with great anticipation.
October 28, 2012
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I recently updated the type of earwires used in my copper earrings. Previously, I used a surgical steel earwire with a copper accent ball. I was under the impression that surgical steel would be a good choice, given that so many people are struggling with metal allergies. They use it for surgery, so it must be good, right? Well, not so much.
I learned that surgical steel contains nickel, which is the most common metal allergy. Oops! Armed with this knowledge, I set out to find something that would look great with the warm reddish tones of the copper elements, and would be good for sensitive ears and folks with metal allergies.
My solution is this niobium earwire in a copper finish. Niobium is a semi-precious metal that is truly hypo-allergenic. My research turned up scores of women with ears so sensitive they could not wear silver or even gold earwires, but they are able to wear niobium. The copper finish is anondized onto the metal, so it should be stable over time.
Above all else, I just love how the niobium earwire looks with the copper elements in my earring designs. With its warm finish, the earwire no longer fights for attention. I hope my customers like this solution as much as I do!
Please note that my sterling and fine silver earrings will continue to come with sterling silver earwires. This change affects only the copper earrings in the line.
I still have lots of the surgical steel earwires on hand, so feel free to request this option if you wish.
October 5, 2012
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