About Me

I am a 30-something working mother, artist and performer. I have been a professional puppeteer, a massage therapist, real estate asst, a high school French teacher...I'm always a dreamer, a maker, a do-er, a finisher of projects. I love Terry Pratchett, Jim Henson, the Muppets, David Bowie, Cary Grant, Carl Haiasan, 80s horror films, the 1st and 4th Pirates of the Carribean films, anything Hallowe'en-y, cats and Mello Yello.

Monday, May 21, 2012

It may appear that I have dropped out of existence and vanished from all humanity.  Rest assured, such is not the case.  I did get very busy with normal life events and one week turned into a few and then months and, in that way that time  has of progressing, to my horror I found that I haven't posted since some time last year!  And I'm vaguely annoyed that I am having issues with some of my postings - Copying and Pasting do not seem to be preferable to the creators of Blogspot...It changes colors on me and when I look at my finished piece it's all difficult to read.  Grumble-snort!
One happy thing has been my own entree into the vending world.  Look at me and my bad self, in possession of a business license and vending dates.  Go Iza!!!  And I have done some pretty good bouts of vending.  I was invited to join Festival of Legends ...but I wasn't anywhere near ready for vending + travelling out of state + trying to figure out taxes for it and so on.  I...chickened out.  On the other hand, I applied and was accepted into CraftyFeast and did very, very well.  And it was fun.  I have had several vending opportunities in the garden side of Riverbanks Zoo.  I have been pretty fortunate so far.
Alas, the vending, and the prerequisite crafting, along with real life (kids, husband, house, job, family, cats...aliens) has caused me to completely neglect my pretty little blog.
It may be redundant, but I am also attempting (valiantly) to create a website.  I even took a class to learn about this process.  Google Sites, Joomla...so far I'm thinking the blog may be the less infuriating choice.  I am not a natural programmer.  Le sigh.
Oh, in other news, should you be interested and kind enough to still be giving me any attention, seeing as how I shamelessly left you alone and neglected you for the past...7 months now?  Anyway, Christoff, my sweet husband who cannot swallow after his radiation treatments for throat cancer (5 years ago now), has a new toy. He found a group on Facebook for people who tube-feed...who evidently call themselves Tubies.  He's a tubie...I'm a not-tubie (a little Shakespearean humor - I'm so glad you can't throw things at me).  Anyway, he found a recommendation for a book on tube feeding and ordered it.  Yay!  Recipes and tips and tricks and ideas from an author w/ a lovely sense of humor.  Christoff found sites and suggestions for a super industrial blender.  He found one online and put in a bid.  We now have...a Vitamix!  This thing is unbelievable, despite its rather 1950s sounding name...
Firstly, it is steel rather than glass or pyrex.  The lovely little video that accompanies it shows some guy doing fair-type demos making ice cream in seconds and turning blocks of wood into sawdust.  The vitamix comes w/ a wood tamper that has a cross bar so it won't drop into the blades while it's running.  I commented that I'm a touch wary of any appliance that comes with it's own crucifix.  We have been trying to find a suitable name for it - we name things in my family.  Imagine that somehow a normal household blender was genetically mixed with a Rancor..
 We have now been able to feed him more real food, by putting it in the vitamix and letting it reduce the food into molecular-sized bits that will go down the tiny passage of his tube.  Even celery, with those stringy fibers, was totally reduced to a liquid.  Success!   And unlike the blender or food processor, it cleans really quickly and easily!  We girls in the house have had fun trying it for smoothies, ice cream, fruit purees for oatmeal...we picked strawberries the other weekend and I think most of them have ended up in the Vitamix...and then yummily consumed by us.  It is all good...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

All eyes on Kerry, visual artist

My next guest is a fellow Renaissance Festival performer, 22 year old Kerry Forgione.
Stormy Brimstone and dragon

Ron Tencati, another amazing creative spirit, does a lot of the Ren Fair photography.
 At festival she  portrays Stormy Brimstone, the dragon keeper.  I have always loved the levels of detail she includes in her character.  Stormy wears little flight goggles on her head and carries a baby dragon (puppet) on her shoulder, sporting matching goggles.   Stormy’s overdress has scorch marks on it (they can’t help it, really) and she has smudges of soot on her face.  The character is mostly mute, she occasionally whispers but mostly signs; Stormy had a bad fire-breathing accident whilst trying to teach young dragons to spark up. 

Kerry has this year introduced a second character, an Italian plague doctor, complete w/ long-schnozzed mask and a fierce-looking syringe.   She has been part of my troupe on street for two years now and I can attest that she is sweet, fun and very creative. 

Kerry kindly donated a flower to my bouquet for my wedding.  I asked all my creative friends to make one for me that somehow represents themselves.  Kerry’s flower is one of my favorites.  It is a purple flower with an eyeball dead in the center, surrounded by eyelashes.  I instantly fell in love.  I wanted more!  She sent me her Etsy shop address, http://www.etsy.com/shop/MischiefInTheMaking,  where she had 6 more ocular floral pieces that can be worn as broaches, hair clips or whatever.  Now she has a few more.  So, I sent her my usual questions…
One of Kerry's flowers
Best sleep mask ever!!

1.     When did you first discover or notice your creative spark? I noticed my passion for creativity at a very early age (somewhere in grade school). I remember always drawing and doodling with my older brother and thinking "I want to be just as good as he is!"

2. What forms of creativity have you explored? What sort of things have you made, dabble in, etc--- Oh man, if I started a list of all the things I've ever made creatively... well, we'd be here until the moon's next rise. However, I'd be happy share some of my favorite mediums:
The classic pencil wins over my heart one-hundred percent! I adore drawing and writing in many different styles and genres. I've been doing it most of my life, so naturally it's a huge part of me. To be able to allow someone to see the quirky worlds within my mind on what once was a blank page is something I simply love.
Clay works is another favorite medium of mine. I'm not saying I'm an expert on this particular medium, but my hands sure love keeping busy in the squishy-squashy concoction! What could be better than holding a physical embodiment of a random creature that was dreamt up the night before?
Leather craft is also quite fun to work in. I've always been a fan of unique masquerade masks which has lead me to learn more about it. It is quite versatile and there is plenty to learn as you go along.

My hand has also been in knitting, crocheting, painting, cement sculpting, nature-made material sculpt, acting/theater, cake decorating, etc. for all the wondering minds out there.

3. What inspired you? What are your inspiration sources when you feel 'dry?'--- The inspiration for my work has been coming from not only family and friends, but life all around me. I know that sounds like such an 'artsy-fartsy' answer but it's so true. Every experience that I witness or feel has a chance of sparking an emotion or idea that I want others to know or see. I want to create a replica of that same feeling in a form that others can appreciate.
Inspiration can even come from boredom. When I'm bored, I'll go play with some clay or start sketching random doodles. Before I know it, something forms and wah-la! Art has been born! Haha, honestly I don't take my little sketchbook doodles that seriously.

If nothing is sparking on its own, I'll usually go look up the artwork and talents of others. People are always inspiring each other with their personal styles or artistic methods.
Especially when it comes to photography. I have really come to appreciate a good photograph of a cryptic, yet serene scene. Some of my favorites are of old graveyards and crumbling asylums with a setting sun or gentle moonbeam for "mood lighting". I know, I know it sounds totally weird, but I'm telling you with the right photographer you can be looking at a truly enchanting setting. Just imagine all the stories these places could tell; all the emotions they've seen. Take what they can share and make it known to the world they're hidden from.

4. How do you fit crafting in with real life? Or is that a problem? --- I will always make time for crafting in my life. I don't think I know how not-to-craft. It is simply part of who I am.

5. Is there a market for your creations or is it just for fun? Or both? How do you write your Etsy descriptions?--- http://www.etsy.com/shop/MischiefInTheMaking.  Actually yes, there is a market for some of my creations. ...It's just a rather small market. I say this because I tend to have a unique flair in my work. I generally like to put a bizarre or silly twist in what I make. That's not to say everything I create is weird and wacky, just a grand portion of it.

When I write up my Etsy descriptions I want the potential buyer to know the personality of the product. I want the description to be an enjoyable, yet accurate read.

Let's face it though: creating was all for fun (and still is) waaaaay before the idea of selling ever came into the picture.

6. What is your dream creation? What is your dream for the future?--- I don't think I necessarily have a dream creation currently in mind, but I certainly have a dream for the future! My dream is to be able to turn my passion into a full-time business. I've grown to realize that this is where my heart lies and what I am most happy doing.

7. What sorts of things do you do for fun?
--- You mean besides all of the above? Hmm... I really love watching horror flicks with my movie buddy, Mom. It's best when the movie becomes so lame and cheesy that we laugh the entire way through it.
Mint choco-chip ice cream, dark chocolate, pizza and a comical horror with no intention of being so= epic girl's night in!

I also love to ice skate, write poetry, act and do minor costume, character and cake designs at random. And of course hang out with family and friends, but that's a given. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The French Prince of Belle-Heure...

My next creator and magic-maker is a Renaissance man of the truest form.  I first met JT somewhere in the very early 2000s as a fellow performer at the Renaissance Festival.  I was playing a French peasant back then and he was on the Royal Court as the French Dauphin.  He sparkled and certainly commanded the attention.  He was pretty to look at and had a gorgeous singing voice during the Queen’s Musicale.  I think he was delighted that I reverenced to him (as my Crown Prince).  So many years later, I’m now Carpathian nobility and he comes back as a ‘playtron.’   I make a point to find him each year and see what he has been working on.  He currently runs his own business, Kesler Kouture.  He makes period pieces for renaissance festivals and play productions as well as formal gowns for special occasions.  
JT in one of his creations
I asked JT when he first noticed his creative drive.  I believe with him, he just never didn’t have it.  He tells me that he was around 3 when he began carrying his little casio keyboard with him (even into school), a plinky security blanket.  After seeing the Salisbury Symphony perform at what would become his alma mater, Catawba College, JT took up the violin at the delicate age of 9.  He knew early on that he had an “undeniable love for music and the arts.”

JT confides that he was amazed at what wonderful things could be accomplished when artists collaborate and that he determined that he would take part in said collaborations.  He studied every sort of artistic expression he found: painting, drawing, small scale sculpting and eventually sewing - which has become the primary focus of his artistic endeavors.   JT is fortunate in that his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all strongly encourage his artistic studies and added to them.  They demonstrated to him several of the special sewing and jewelry-making techniques that he uses today (cross-stitching, all types of needle point & hand-stitching techniques, making beaded & braid work jewelry).   I will refer to my eldest daughter, who plays a princess on the Royal Court.  One of her crowns is a JT creation and it is beautiful, a gold confection with hearts and butterflies on it. 

JT is not limited to the making of beautiful things.  He also loves singing, making music on a variety of instruments and ballet, though he amends he has not pursued dance in formal study but admires the forms and loves to watch it.  JT is also attracted to drawing, painting, sculpture, foreign languages from all over the modern and ancient world (written & spoken).  He enjoys the history behind the art forms as well, the origins and evolution of them.  He is fascinated how work in one format or genre will lead to advances in another; moreover, his own work seems to progress in the same fashion, one design influencing and inspiring another.   

I asked him what he is working on currently.  “My current projects consist of completing a Cinderella ball gown and beginning a costume representing my Idea of what the Queen of the Fairies would look like, I call it the "Queen Mab Dress." Both of these gowns were inspired by my love of the classical fairy-tales and folklore from all over the world. I feel there is a great need to bring these creatures/people into our world/reality for others to enjoy and to hopefully inspire interest in these subjects for future generations. Fables, Folklore, and fairy-tales in their pure original forms are a virtually endless source of morals and ethics that I believe are crucial to maintaining our existence as a tolerant/intelligent/compassionate society.”  I have seen JT at the festival in masculine and feminine garb and it all looks magnificent on him. 
JT and friend, both wearing his work

Juxtaposing the need to create Art against maintaining an existence in the modern work is a constant struggle.   JT explains, “I have to create to exist and vice versa but making it all work in the confines of the modern society in which we all live is quite daunting at times. The most frustrating thing about being an artist of any sort in this day and age, is that most people are not willing to pay for quality artwork and for the most part people as a whole are more interested in instant gratification and quantity rather than in quality of workmanship. I think this problem is mainly due to a lack of understanding of what all goes into creating a quality work of Art. There are many years of study and days of preparation (sometimes months and years) that go into making a wonderful quality work of art that most people are not even aware of. I think it is this lack of compassion/understanding for process that makes fitting in crafting with real life the most challenging of all for me personally.”  I have heard that argument amongst my other draper and seamstress friends as well.   

When asked if there is a market for his work, JT replied, “There is definitely a market for my creations but almost all of them must be scaled down in the details in order to make them cost effective and more accessible to the general public. Most of my original creations require many hours of skilled handwork and cannot be mass-produced, making each one a very unique and personalized work of art. Alas, I do end up making many things for just myself so that I don't have to think of cost and time factors. Making things for my personal collection (as well as gifts for family and friends) allows me to continually develop skills and use the different types of hand work that I love to do without having to always worry about the budget.”  Another observation I have often heard from my needly friends, that people are so used to mass-production and garage sale prices that customers balk to hear $300+ prices for hand-made work. 
beaded bodice close-up
This dress was for a production of "Playhouse Creatures" at Catawba College.

What is his dream creation?  “I've always dreamed of creating a ball gown that looks like two roses made with crimson silk, satin & silk velvet. A rosebud for the bodice turned upright and a rose in full open bloom for the ball gown style skirt covered in red swarovski crystals and accented with clear swarovski crystals to look like dewdrops scattered over the entire gown. For now it will have to remain a dream though, because the cost of the materials alone is in excess of $800. However, I hope to open my own boutique one day and maybe have this gown as a showpiece for the store. I know it's a whopper of a dream but hopefully one day it can be a reality... le sigh.”

So, what does this consummate Renaissance man with more hobbies than eyelashes do for fun? 
“This is a hard question...I like to make people smile, laugh, and feel good about themselves. I love to see people happy and enjoying life. I also love playing with my niece Maydie and spending time with my family and loved ones. What we do for fun is not as important to me as knowing that I am spending quality time with the ones who matter the most. Some of my most cherished moments in life are the ones that I have spent with my mother, she is now and always will be the embodiment of what I love most in this world.”  Don’t I know how that goes? 

So, anyone in North Carolina (or anywhere really) who would like to have some stunning work done by an accomplished man of the needle, please feel free to check out his Facebook page.  He can be found under Kesler Kouture. If you would actually like some work done, JT asks, “If you would like to hire me for a specific sewing endeavor,  please contact me directly at infernoangel16@hotmail.com. When doing so please include your full name, preferred contact information, and a fully detailed description of your idea/request.  I will respond to all serious inquiries within 24-48 hours of receiving it to follow up with you.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My mother the muse...and fine example

Carol Ryall
I would like to inaugurate my blog on crafting and creative mania with the first crafty person I ever knew, my mother.  I cannot remember a time when she wasn’t making something and I think that is a formative aspect of my life. I find that a lot of my fonder memories of growing up were doing things together, making things.  All kinds of things.
We colored in my coloring books.  I recall that in her basement ‘studio’ she had a drafting board to draw on and I distinctly remember her stenciling phase.  A particular duck pattern is lodged in my memory from that era.   Mom taught me to do cross stitch and thus introduced me to needlework, which I would do off and on for the rest of my life thus far.  She encouraged me to play with creative outlets.  I recall some experiments in latch hook that no doubt left little 2 inch-long bits of yarn in the carpet for years to come.  She was…very patient.  She went all out for my first wedding with copper pipes and streamers and made beautiful ribbon trees to line the aisle.  I also have several of her photographs on my office walls from her photography phase.  She is something of a dabbler. 
As I sit here trying to consciously summon up these memories, I find that they come in waves.  She has an amazing nativity set that she cast and painted herself that I have always loved.  I still think it’s the prettiest one I’ve ever seen.   My youngest now has a lamp that my mom made for me when I was 4ish.  I remember decorating for almost every holiday.  At Easter we dyed eggs and decoupaged Styrofoam eggs with white glue and clear glitter for an Easter tree she had made.  I vaguely recall a ghost she made one Halloween out of a birdcage, a sheet and a jack o’lantern.  It was great.  And I vividly recall a great Halloween costume that Mom made for me – one of her few attempts at sewing clothing.   Probably her crowning Christmas creation is an insane piece of work that covers the front door that she did in the ‘60s – a 6 foot tall piece of green felt covered with tinsel in the shape of a Christmas tree!  She hand-glued the tinsel in little bunches until the whole tree outline was covered.  And it has lights and little red ornaments sewn in.  I have this piece now, which I handle ever so carefully!  I periodically think about refurbishing it…and then I decide that this idea is crazier than a hatful of spoons and move on to something else. 
I just realized that I could go on like this for a long while.  I think she’s amazing, but you know…she’s my mom.  I am just a touch biased. So let me now introduce you to my first mentor and inspiration, Carol Beth Adcock Ryall. 
Here is an excerpt from her website, Earth Available Realty
“I was born in Hickory, NC. We moved to Greenville, SC when I was two and then to Florence, SC when I was nine. I graduated from McClenaghan High School in Florence and attended Winthrop College in Rock Hill. I moved to Columbia in 1969 and have been here ever since.”
As you might gather if you bothered to follow that link, she is also gainfully self-employed as a Buyer’s Agent in real estate.  Take the hint, peek at the link.  I’ll wait. 
Welcome back.  Cute site, no?  What I have done here was ask a series of riveting questions and hope that my person of interest would answer them in a fashion that proves to be fascinating.  As you can tell, Mom is also my guinea pig…
When did you first discover or notice your creative spark? “ I loved to color as a little girl. Me too!  My favorite aunt, Bunny, aka Leesa, taught me how to blend the crayon colors and I went wild from there.  I had really nice coloring books with pictures with a lot of details to color and shade.  I haven’t seen what I would call a decent coloring book in years.  They all look like they are designed for 3 year olds and nobody beyond that age would be interested in coloring.  I think that’s a shame. The next thing I remember doing was drawing evening gowns for my paper dolls.”  I will also add in here that my endlessly delightful great-aunt Leesa is known for crocheting for days at a time and I think her afghans are something everyone in the family must have one of.  Or two.  Leesa also taught me to short-sheet a bed so I could ‘get’ Mom one evening. Tee hee!
 What forms of creativity have you explored?  My parents were not “crafty” and didn’t really encourage that side of my personality.  Whenever I mentioned wanting to grow up to be a “something” – clothes designer, interior decorator, architect – their standard answer was, “You have to be talented to succeed in that field.  You need to be a secretary.”   Um, harsh much?  It was only after I was grown and married that I had somebody say to me that something I had created was good.  But I have over the years dabbled in stenciling, sewing, crocheting and knitting, some paper crafts, some painting on glass,  ceramics, and I can’t even remember what all else.  Let’s not forget the cross stitch.  I don’t recall how old I was, but Mom designed cross-stitch patterns for a while and I thought that was so cool.  The family tree that she designed is still in my possession and one of my favorite pieces.  I think she called that endeavor Heart of Gold Designs.   
 What are you working on now?  The latest thing I have been doing is painting on wine bottles.  After we get moved, I want to develop that a little further and do some other types of decorating with the bottles. I am also crocheting afghans for all five of my grandchildren.
How do you fit it in with real life? I don’t very well - It has taken me a long time to feel free to do the things I want to do and not feel guilty, or like I am wasting time and I still have to work on that a lot.  I am always so impressed that while I spend a lot of time thinking about things I want to do, you just sit down and do them.  I hope that means I was able to nurture that part of your personality.  I totally understand that feeling that I’m wasting time, or feeling that someone else thinks I’m wasting time.  I love that I’m actively encouraged nowadays! 
 Is there a market for your creations or is it just for fun?  Or both?   I was hoping there would be a market for the wine bottles but I have not found it yet. We have jointly vended at local festivals and events at our zoo.  People loved the look of her work, but it did not move very well. 
What is your dream creation?  What is your dream for the future?   I have had a line of garden furniture in mind for several years, but I need to team up with a woodworker to get it done.  My dream would be to have a permanent spot to work that didn’t have to be cleaned or cleared up until I was done with a project.   Oh yeah, I think that is every crafter’s dream!  
I am happy to report that we continue the tradition.  My eldest daughter seems to be picking up knitting and/or crocheting – though not from me.  That is one of the few things I can’t seem to do.  My youngest is learning how to embroider and loves to paint.  We are a line of makers, creators, dreamers of designs and patterns, images of realization that traverse the generations.

Mom and me on her wedding day. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First days of the Renaissance Festival

So, we have had the first weekend of the Carolina Renaissance Festival, now in its 18th year.  What a beautiful weekend!  The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cold.  Last year, I was taking my hat and bodice off backstage and sticking them in the freezer during breaks.  This year, it was somewhere in the 70s, sunny and breezy.  And we had 11,000+ people join us on Saturday.  As far as I can tell, the shows all went well, the joust was great and everyone seemed pretty happy.  Here am I as Countess Batista Nadasdi and my husband as my manservant, Lickspittle.

One of the things I lovelovelove about festival is all the crafters and artisans who are there.  I just adore walking the lanes and seeing all the pretties.  I naturally have my favorites.  Christoff is partial to pottery, of which there is plenty.  I admit, that is not my favorite, but I don't dislike it.  I love the jewelers and the metal-working.  We have everything from molded and cast pendants to hand woven chain maille, wire-wrapped pieces to ceramic/pottery pendants, epic examples of beadwork, blown-glass delights and even more.  It really is grand.  And then we have the woodworkers, furniture builders, the sculptors, the puppet makers, the blacksmith, the bookbinder!  So many things that you just don't see everywhere these days. 

I am hoping that I can have some of these crafters featured here.  But I must also say that the participants are also a crafty crew.  Something about having to make all our own clothes, assemble our jewelry and accessories makes us rather creative.  We have a handful of really excellent drapers, tailors and seamstresses who work on the royal, noble and lesser garb and show those of us who are not as sewing-machine savvy how to build decent clothes.  Many of us are leather-workers, embroiderers, beaders and can more or less hold our own with the sewing.  This is my 13th year performing and I have learned so so much in that time.  Again, I hope to feature some of these talented individuals here.  I have sent out requests (please, oh, please) to a group of my friends in an attempt to entice them to let me interview them and feature their work.  So, while the posts are still pretty bare, I hope you will stay tuned.  I think we'll have lots to share very soon! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Equally as wicked as the blank page is a blank screen.  I had sufficient inspiration to set up a blog...and now what do I do?  I have so many interests and quite a few are already well represented in the blogisphere.  However, in any writing class or workshop I've attended, the cardinal rule when one has nothing to write is to just write anyway. 

So...here is a little bit of what you might find here over time, an appetizer if you will.  I do love needlework, though I'm not that great at garment construction.  I love to embellish, to bead and to embroider.  I might share some how-tos and tutorials as I find them or even compose them.  I enjoy papercrafts and discovered Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) a couple of years ago, so you might get to hear about my ATC swaps.  I have been taking belly dance lessons for about 4 years now, so you will probably get some shimmylicious posts upon occasion. 

One of the bigger excitements in my life is the Renaissance Festival, or Ren Fair as we cast/participants call it.  I first joined it in 1999, having already gone for some years as a patron.  I live in SC, so the Carolina one is where I headed.  I met my first husband that very year.  We ended up with two daughters.  It has been about 10 years since we got married. 
Which brings me slightly to the next tidbit.  We divorced in February, 2011.  I will hasten to say that it was extremely amicable and we worked to evolve our marriage into a sustainable friendship, or at minimum a kinship (depends on the day).  We both found our 2nd spouses at the festival.  I have said it often, Ren Fair is great for spouse-shopping.  And if you did the math, you would realize that I got divorced and re-married this year.  So did he.  Personally, I don't recommend it.  It wreaks havoc on the waistline.  However, we are all 4 friends and a parenting committe to the daughters, those poor doomed creatures.  I hope you can imagine the sound of wicked laughter in your head...b/c we laugh a lot. 

I will occasionally talk about my ex (like I said, we're friends), but I also like to talk about the rest of my family and especially my new husband.  My ex and I met him almost 4 years ago (3 or 4?) at the festival.  I will give my ex these props - he is one of the best improv performers and stronger street/cast characters at the fair.  There are a handful of really great performers, and he's one of them.  'Christof,' my beloved fool, is one of the others.  We noted him b/c he was one of the few performers who would 'throw down' w/ my ex (I really should give him a name, no?).  By the last weekend of the season, we were all laughing ourselves silly. 

One of the more curious things about Christoff, character name of 'Lickspittle,' is that he can't swallow.  He is a throat cancer survivor.  By the time he and the doctors got coordinated, his cancer was growing very fast and was a single centimeter from both his carotid artery and his brainstem.  They proceeded to nuke him w/ radiation, 5 times a week for 5 or 6 weeks.  While giving him chemo.  They killed the cancer (he happily remains cancer free).  The doctors admitted afterwards that when he first came in they didn't think he'd make it.  However, such intense radiation to his throat messed up his throat muscles.  He'd been given a feeding tube b/c they knew the radiation would blister his esophagus and he'd not be able to swallow during the treatments.  The tube was supposed to be temporary.  He had his last chewable meal 5 years ago. 

When the ex and I first met him, Christoff had just gotten to the point in his recovery that he could come out and play.  His voice was weak and sort of high-pitched.   He has very few salivary glands. He was very nervous of being noticed when he pulled out his tube, attached a funnel to it and poured in a Dr. Pepper.  We have since gotten him to where he will actually go to restaurants.  I puree fruit and veggies for him to supplement his formula.  I do a lot of massage on his throat to loosen up the permanently tightened muscles and his voice actually sounds pretty normal now.    I am proud to say he lives a mostly normal life. 

Christoff is a fascinating person.  The cancer/tube part of it is an interesting side note and is sort of hard to completely ignore, but it is so not the totality of him.  He is wickedly funny, charming, sweet, very considerate, generous, a talented and graceful performer, a keen IT computer geek, a Whovian in the first degree and a total cinemaphile.  We have such a good time together. 

I'll probably get around to talking about my mother, my original crafty inspiration.  And my dad, who seems to have been adopted from the Addams Family.  And my respective steps... I probably won't get too much into the daughters - not that I'm not proud...but I'd rather they not be too public.  Say hello to the paranoid parent. 

I will mention, brag about and highlight my crafty friends.  In the Rennie circles and the belly dance community, creativity are an absolute necessity.  And many of them make things that are awesome, cool, different, fun and sometimes just odd. 

For someone who didn't know where to start...I seem to have filled up some space rather respectably.  I hope you'll enjoy, maybe pass it on and encourage others to find me.