My Blog

Whatever rings Mel's bells

Future Mel’s advice

This morning I was on my way to school, jamming to Brick House, thinking about a meme my niece had posted recently about healthy body image.  Like a lot of other women, I do struggle to reconcile my own body, which I know is healthy and strong, with the images I see around me in movies, on magazines and on the internet.  (Mind you, I don’t own a TV, I rarely see a movie, and the only magazine I subscribe to is Guitar Player.  So I’m not even as immersed in these images as most women are.)

As I so often do, I reminded myself that my waist isn’t as thin as a model’s, but my “thick” body is strong.  Could a wasp-waisted gal do what I do?  Could she move materials like I can?  Could she operate a pony threader?  Could she spend all day carrying wire around the job site with 15# of tools on her person?  I submit that she could not.

All that made me laugh a bit about my life.  Here I am, driving my paid-for vehicle from the apartment I can afford by myself to the school that comes along with the wickedly cool apprenticeship I got into, and I thought about how the circumstances of my life have turned out so differently from what I used to anticipate.  Then, one of those moments came when you think of the person you were ten or fifteen years back, and you wish you could tell that younger self that things really are going to be okay.

That’s when it happened.

I realized that ten or fifteen years from now, things will still be okay.  They’ll probably be totally different, and likely in ways I couldn’t even anticipate today.  But that future me would probably look back on me right now and have a message:

Don’t worry.   Things are going to change, not everything you’re doing now will work.  But you’re gonna be okay.  Life won’t happen the way you’re trying to make it happen, but good things will still come to you and you will find success.

And suddenly, some of my stress melted away.

Thanks, future me!

Sale Fail

Have you ever had a marvelous idea?  Have you ever implemented said marvelous idea, and been on the eve of pushing the button to make it happen – only to realize IT CAN’T?

Yeah.  Turns out I’ve screwed the proverbial pooch on the fancy Grand Opening of my shiny new Zibbet store, The Bead and Bean.  The sale was to be BOGO free over the weekend, plus free or discounted shipping rates.  Then Monday it would go to 30% off the whole store, and be that way all next week.

Unfortunately…  Zibbet’s sale function doesn’t accommodate BOGO sales.  And while I can do free shipping, I can’t unless I do a percentage-off sale.  So I changed my welcome message to explain why I’ll have to credit back those amounts via PayPal after the sale, and prepared to go through a lot of hassle.

Then I looked at it from the customer’s perspective.  And immediately decided that as much hassle as it was for me, it’d be more for them!  (Or, perhaps, for you…?)  So I said, screw it, I’m just going to do 50% off the whole store with discounted shipping.  And if I get a bunch of people who each buy one item for 50c and I have to pay $3 to ship them out…  Well, maybe they’ll be happy enough to come back later and buy again.

More importantly, I’ll sleep well tonight knowing I’m not making my customers jump through hoops in an attempt to get them to give me more of their money.  Because, pardon the language, but f&@k that.

I made a THING today!



Isn’t it pretty?  The purple briolettes and rounds are amethyst, and the tiny rounds and larger ovals are natural aquamarine.  It started out looking like this:


“But what is it?” you might ask, and you’re right to ask the question.

I’m really not sure.

Perhaps it’s the middle of a new necklace.  Or maybe, my first set of bodice jewelry.  Tho it’s a little small for that.

Honestly, I’m just not sure yet.  But it came out exactly as I wanted it to, so I’m very pleased.  And I’m sure I’ll figure out what to do with it later!

So I guess, stay tuned.  Sooner or later, this little thing is gonna come back as part of something really fabulous.  And whatever it becomes, I think you’re gonna like it!

Confession time: I don’t really put 100 beads into my hundred packs!

How many are really in there?

Behold, a bag of 100 bells.  Red, aluminum, shiny, very pretty.  Perfect for holiday creations, Mardi Gras, Valentines, or anything you think should be jingly and red.

But wait!  Are you sure there are really 100 bells in there?  Maybe we should check.

Let's count.  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...


Start counting!  1, 2, 3, 4, 5…

24, 25, 26, 27...  Keep counting!


Keep counting!  24, 25, 26, 27…

That's a lot of bells!


That’s a lot of bells!  There have to be at least 100 there, right?

Hmmm.  Actually, there aren’t 100 bells in the bag, there are 104.

How many bells do you have?!?


This bag of green bells has 106!

So what’s the deal with the extras, then?  Isn’t it enough to give people what they’re paying for exactly?

Well, sure, it’s enough.  I mean, when two people strike a bargain, they each agree to provide something specific.  As long as both parties carry through with what they promise, that’s pretty even-Steven.  And for the most part, my counts are exactly what you’d expect them to be – a lot of 36 stone beads will have 36 beads in it.  A 16″ strand will be 16″ long.  (Well, if the 16″ mark lands in the middle of a bead, of course it might be slightly longer.)

But when it comes to bells, or beads, or jump rings, I use what are called heavy counts.  In other words, I’ll count out 100 of the item, then I’ll throw in another 3 or 4 or 5.  Sometimes I’ll have a few extras and no ideas to use them myself, so I’ll just add them to the packs I’m selling.  Also, although I sort all my loose items by hand and discard any unusable ones, I am human and unfortunately err from time to time.  I’m much happier knowing that I can guarantee each bag or lot will contain as many usable items as I advertise.

Also, I’ve never been in the business of giving only the minimum.  I expect more from myself, and I aim to give much more than that to my customers.  So you can rest assured that every purchase you make from my shop will contain AT LEAST as many usable items as you expect it to.  And when your new goodies arrive, if you want to, feel free to count and find out exactly how many are really in there.  ;-D


Such a knockout!

Electricians don’t just work with wire.  In fact, as I was surprised to learn on my first site, electricians spend more time working with the pipe that’s going to carry the wire than with the wire itself!  Where the pipes join together, we install junction boxes – usually steel – in which we cut, drill, or punch holes for the pipe.  The pieces that get left when we cut the holes look like this:


You can see flat ones, which come pre-punched at the factory, then are tacked back into the box before shipping.  That way, they’re easy to remove if we want, but if we don’t want a hole there they stay put and provide a secure barrier to protect the wire.  There are also a couple crescent-shaped ones in there, which are punched eccentrically (rather than concentrically) so you can choose what size hole you want.

Notice the difference between those and the wavy ones.  There’s a size difference, of course, but I love the shape of the wavy ones!  They get that shape because they’re punched out locally with a tool that cuts the hole in two or three places, rather than all around the diameter, at the same time.  So much interest!  So fascinating!  They’re like little pieces of art, all by themselves!

Well, to me they are.  To the rest of the crew they’re so many pieces of detritus, to be swept out with the rest of the garbage.  But the first time I saw one, I saw beauty.  So I took it home and filed it and turned it into this:

First Neck 01


Oh, yeah.  THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, BABY!!!  A knockout necklace that’s made of a knockout! And hopefully will get bought and then worn by a knockout.  ;-D  You can buy it here, BTW.  Just sayin’.

Now I have a million ideas on how I can use these.  With leather, on chain, drill holes in a whole series of them and make a jingly anklet…  So.  Many.  Ideas.

But they all start with finishing the damn things.  *le sigh*  Which means a lot of work.



Have to grind off the sharp edges, file or sand away the scrapes and dings, then get them to whatever level of finish I want.



Aside: I am absolutely giddy with excitement that I finally got to use my polishing compounds!  Squee!

With them and my handy-dandy rotary tool, gift of my darling HSO (who reads this blog but I’d say that even if he didn’t), I got a near-mirror finish on one of them:



The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it is SHI-NY!  Still has some imperfections, but I did rush it a bit.  And I’m relearning stuff I only learned halfway, twenty years ago.  Plus, I’m figuring out how to get different finishes, and I’m not even sure what I want or what my options are.  So I’m giving myself some wiggle room.

At any rate, this is how I spent a couple hours this evening.  Very enjoyable hours, too, though my hands hurt after a while from all the vibration.  Next step is to try out my rotary tumbler with some steel shot, so I can see what kind of results that gives me, then I’ll try them in different orders and see what happens then.  SCIENCE!

Shocking news

Today is a red-letter day, my friends.  Today I’m going to tell you about…  Making jewelry!  Or at least, my jewelry business activities.

Yes, I know!  Unprecedented, isn’t it?  I’m pretty sure I talk about everything *but* jewelry on this blog.  But I figure, hey, why not?  And since I’ve lately been devoting a lot more time to building up my business, I figure I ought to take a crack at it.

What have I been doing, you may ask.  (Or you may not.  But I’m going to tell you anyway.)  Well, first, when I moved the bulk of my item listings to Zibbet, I also started cruising the fora (plural of forum, for those of you who prefer your Latin without the standard American twist) and found a thriving, warm community.  I got involved with a group that does weekly “flash attacks,” trading links and promoting each others’ shops and items.

The best time for me to do this work turned out to be on my morning and afternoon commute, so I ponied up the cash for wifi service on the ferry and signed up for a Hootsuite account to manage all my posts.  And it’s been working brilliantly!

I sign on in the morning and schedule tweets to go out all day while I’m at work.  Generally, I do half of them for the “flashee” at the time, and the other half are divided between my own items and other random things like Seahawks news or current events or useful articles.  I really enjoy finding the twitter handle of someone affiliated with whatever I’m posting and tagging them.  ;-D

One thing I’m really trying to do is provide more content than just sales pitches.  I mean, who’s going to follow me – and pay attention – if all I do is advertise all day?  No, I need to have more to attract people than just that.  So after I schedule out a dozen or so messages (more if the mood strikes) I look at what’s trending and find a discussion to contribute to.  Like the #YesAllWomen, for example, though I wasn’t doing this yet when that got started.

Basically, I’m trying to interact with others in the Twitterverse in a way that encourages them to pay attention.  Thus far I’m meeting with some results.  Pretty much every day something that’s come out of my feed gets attention from outside our flash attack group.  Which is the mark of success for what I’m doing – we’re all very attentive to each other, so when these ladies share my tweets it’s awesome, but doesn’t show the same results that I’m looking for in my other posts.

It’s a slow process, but I think it’s working.  At least a bit.  Which is really all I can ask for!  As my darling HSO is fond of saying, “Progress is.”

Songwriter’s block

I blog when I can’t write a song
‘Cause the words are all coming out wrong
The rhythm and rhyme
All end up out of time
And the meter in one line always seems to end up way too long for the rest of it, but I can’t seem to cut it shorter because I really want to say what’s already in there, you know? And I can never find a good way to restate it more concisely while retaining the meaning I tried to get at in the first place. So it really screws up the whole intent and the – um… Yeah.

Putting out fires at work

Usually when I use that phrase, I’m referring to urgent problems that I have to solve quickly.  Yesterday… not so much.

Yup!  Real fire!

Not a big one, mind you, but still, fire.  Open flame in a place where no open flame belongs.

Brent and I were pulling string into conduits in the north grade level, and Dave was up on a scaffold with Kim, showing her how to cad weld.  He decides to shield everything below from sparks – but he chooses to use a piece of cardboard.  I’d say that was his first mistake, but actually it was his second.  See, Kim was supposed to be his fire watch.  Which means she should have been down below him where the sparks would fall – and (incidentally) where the fire extinguisher was.

So the flammable-object-as-fire-protection was actually his second mistake.  It lit, of course, so he put it out.  Sort of…

Yup!  Third mistake was not making sure it was completely extinguished, which he compounded by then dropping the cardboard off the scaffold.  Needless to say, it flared back up and next thing you know, there’s flaming cardboard landing a foot away from me.

It was easily fixed, of course.  Grab cardboard (by non-burning end), stomp on cardboard, double check that it’s really out.  Problem solved.

But still, it was the talk of the crew for the rest of the day.  And probably will be when I get in today, as well!

Pin ceremony

Tonight I’m at a union meeting, in particular what promises to be a very long union meeting.  They’re never precisely short, but tonight promises to take a little more of my time than usual, because they are awarding service pins to the folks who have been around for a while.

Half a dozen names were read for gentlemen who have been in the union for 65 years.  65 YEARS, people!!  These guys have been working members of the Brotherhood for 30 years longer than I’ve been alive!  It’s kind of crazy, in fact, for me to consider what these folks have seen over the years.  The changes in the industry, in the area, in the world as a whole…  It’s mind-boggling.

It makes me wonder what I’ll see when I’ve been around as long as they have.  It makes me wonder about the things that will change over the years, and how.  It makes me wonder what I’ll see, and how I’ll change as the years pass.

The first 30 years of service had only men, and there have only been a handful of people of color so far; it makes me wonder if those numbers were similar last year, or will be again next year.  As I look around at work and at school, I think they’re probably close.  Most of the folks in the hall are white males.  How much of that is due to like attracting like, how much to active discrimination, and how much to lack of interest on the part of minorities around here?

I guess I’m the reflective type; always thinking and wondering and deducting.  Trying to figure things out.  Attempting to make sense of things, despite the fact that they often don’t.  Glutton for punishment?  Perhaps.

All I know is that sitting here tonight, I feel like I’m part of something greater; something that will be here for the rest of my life; something that I can invest in and that will, in time, pay back strong dividends based on my investment.  It’s an organization that builds the community, that drives the economy, and that raises the bar for worker treatment and for the industry as a whole.

I’m proud to be a union member.  I can’t wait to be up there myself, getting a 65 year pin.  You know, if I live that long!

Taking a break

Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is around the corner, and I’m at home.  Why is that?  Because I got laid off.  🙁  Good news is, it’s temporary.  Being a member of the IBEW (da UNION), and especially being an apprentice, I’ll get sent back to work within a couple weeks any time I get laid off.  And in this case, I’ll be back at the same site by Christmas because as soon as the last concrete pour is ready they’ll need me (and several other people) back again.

This leaves me with a couple weeks of having extra time on my hands.  What am I doing with it?  EVERYTHING.  I’m catching up on sleep, housework, paperwork, correspondence…  And also I’m creating for the first time in months!  It feels GREAT by the way.  My schedule has been so ridiculous (13 hours gone every day for work and commute) and I’ve been so far behind for so long.  I’m not happy with the financial picture this is painting, but I definitely need the break.

All in all, it’s good timing.  Now I’ll have time to make Christmas gifts as planned.  😀  And I’ll try to update this a few times while I’m not so frantically busy!