Saturday, February 19, 2011

Writing's on the Wall

Sometimes it takes a random act of grocery store bathroom graffiti to make you realize you're not living to your full potential.  After all, there is a difference between "living" and "making a living."

Like so many other people in this world, my goal in life is to live in a way that makes me personally fulfilled, satisfied and happy.  Until I feel those three descriptors, I don't feel successful.

Not unlike writing, designing jewelry allows me to use my hands to organically express my point of view.  I put my work out to the masses to inspect, assess and (hopefully) admire. And that makes me feel successful.

But there is a fourth little necessary evil.  And that, of course, would be money.

For me, feeling like a successful artist unfortunately does not necessarily equate to a heavy cashflow.  But in this economic mess we're currently wading in (and waiting in),  success has to equal money.  We've all heard of the "starving artist."  Well, this successful, starving artist had to take action.

I haven't made jewelry full-time in about a year. I've been working as a Freelance Communications Consultant.  And I absolutely love it!  I have some great clients who are (like my former artist and new consultant self) mommy-prenuers.  They have their own businesses and are able to make their own hours.  They have great ideas about how to grow their businesses and I help them make it happen.

This is the perfect job for me.  I get to write, create and interact.  I get to manage projects, web sites and social media.

But alas, if I were to be hired by the number of clients it would take to actually make a decent living, I would be unable to provide the high-quality results I demand of myself.  So, although I will continue on my Freelance journey for now, I am seeking full-time employment at a company that can offer me regular work, health benefits, and the all-too-important paycheck (with Uncle Sam's cut already paid, of course).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Triple Threat Necklace

Exclusive Collection at Station 5 Salon

My new Triple Threat Necklace offers - you guessed it - three different looks! The multi-faceted necklace features scrumptious handmade glass beads by Being Beads. The color combinations the artist chooses to create her beads are stunning. The rest of the components used in the necklace are all sterling silver.

Coordinating earrings can be purchased with the necklace, as a set - or separately.

The 36-inch necklace can be worn straight down. A long necklace is the current trend.

The lariat is always in fashion and can be worn like a choker or pulled down lower.

With the chain wrapped around the neck, the third look is created.

All of these looks can be combined with other pieces of varying lengths already in your personal collection - like pearls, gems, chains, etc.

You can click on the photos above to enlarge or stop by Station 5 Salon in Belchertown to get a closer look!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Challenge Coin

A kind man gave me a gift today. It brought tears to my eyes.

Very emotional about our troops, I find it touching when I encounter them in places I visit. Choking back tears, I take every opportunity to thank them personally for the freedom I have. I make sure to look them in the eyes and thank them for their service.

Today, I saw a group of soldiers approaching me in the parking lot as I got out of my car. I was going to eat with my mom and sister. I walked slowly until they were within ear shot, and I thanked them.

Inside the restaurant, two tables full of soldiers sat eating and talking. I went to each and thanked them. As I walked away, I fought back my tears - for reasons that are obvious and complicated. Soldiers touch my heart for their bravery, courage, and honor - for their selflessness and for their sense of self. And because they give and I receive.

As my sister, my mom and I sat eating, my phone rang. My husband. With a mouthful of food and a phone to my ear, a kind man dressed in Army fatigues approached our table and extended his hand to me.

He said, "I just want to give you this and thank you because we really appreciate it when people thank us." A bit speechless and choked up I said "Thank you." I stretched my hand to him and we shook hands. He turned and walked away.

I was on the inside of the booth and didn't have a chance to get up and properly receive his gift. I didn't get his name or an explanation of the gift.

Tonight, I searched the internet until I uncovered the term "Challenge Coin." Very interesting.

The Challenge Coin has an origin of helping to save a solder's life - it helped to identify him as belonging to a specific company. Instead of being killed, he was given a bottle of wine.

The challenge comes into play later on in time - when a soldier is asked to produce his/her Challenge Coin, they must do so within 60 seconds. If they do not, then they owe the challenger a drink. If they do, the challenger must pay.

Challenge Coins are created for the military with specific insignia to prove membership. They also help build morale within units and are earned for good deeds and proven fellowship.

Today, I was able to see firsthand, the second use for the Challenge Coin - as a "reward or award." I accept it and promise to always thank our men and women of the military and to do it in a way that will challenge and encourage others to do the same.

Here are some interesting links to learn more about the Challenge Coin:


Global Security

Monday, October 19, 2009

Make Stuff, Reduce Stress and Live Longer!

You heard it right - take my class and you will live longer! Sound like a midnight info-mercial? Well keep reading.

I will be teaching Free-Style Jewelry Design at Mud Spun Arts Center in Belchertown on Wednesday nights from 6:30-8:30. This is an ongoing drop-in class with a six week commitment. So if you have to miss a class, you can make it up when it is convenient for you.

You can learn new techniques and create heart-felt gifts with your own hands.

Topics covered are:
  • Basic beading
  • Basic wire work
  • Advanced jewelry design
  • Creating pendants
  • Creating jewelry components
Materials used are:
  • Glass beads
  • Natural stone beads
  • Sterling silver components
  • Precious Metal Clay*
  • Fine Silver*
The cost for the workshop is $160 – that’s about $25 per class including high end materials! Students will be able to create many pieces of wearable art during their six-week excursion.

*Additional cost for precious metal clay and fine silver.

An added benefit to a class like this is living a longer life. Sounds funny to say, but the truth is, people who have less stress in their lives live longer. And gathering together, making new friends and creating beautiful things with one’s own hands will definitely lower stress levels!

Classes begin Wednesday, October 28 at 6:30 pm, so contact me if you'd like to join us for an enjoyable night out!

I'm also available for Girl's Night Out - beading parties and home jewelry shopping parties!

Friday, October 2, 2009


Brand New at The Gallery: CHAMILIA JEWELRY

Mud Spun did their homework when they decided to offer this exciting new addition. There are many bead companies with whom they could have partnered. Mud Spun chose CHAMILIA for its artisan quality and beautiful variety -- and because CHAMILIA jewelry is crafted right here in the United States.

CHAMILIA’S impressive collection is handmade in Atlanta, Georgia by experienced glass artists using time-honored techniques and genuine Murano glass imported from Italy.

You’ll be glad to know that CHAMILIA jewelry beads are compatible with other European bracelets, such as PANDORA and Trollbeads.

CHAMILIA jewelry complements Mud Spun's current artisan offerings and they’re proud to provide customers this enticing element of The Gallery!

Limited time offer: visit The Gallery and enter a drawing for a FREE CHAMILIA FLEX BANGLE bracelet. No purchase necessary.

Gallery hours:
Tues. .... 9 am - 2 pm
Wed. ... 4 - 9 pm
Thurs. ... 4 - 9 pm
.... 9 am - 2 pm
Sat. .... 9 am - 2 pm

New in the Arts Center: FALL WORKSHOPS

Take your inner-artist on a fall retreat with a weekly class. One of these six-week art workshops are sure to help you tap into your creativity.

Adult Potter's Wheel
• Learn basic wheel throwing techniques
• Thursdays starting October 15 from 7 to 9 pm

Potter's Wheel for Teens (age 11+)
• Beyond hand-building and clay forming
• Thursdays starting October 15 from 4 to 5:30 pm

Free-Style Jewelry Workshop
• Create one-of-a-kind pieces of wearable art
• Fridays starting October 16 from 7 to 9 pm

Glass Bead Making Workshop (age 10+)
• Introduction to flameworking
• Mondays starting October 19 from 7 to 9 pm

Learn more and register online today!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Bridal Collection

What a lovely opportunity I had recently to create some custom pieces for an equally lovely bride-to-be.

She came to visit me in my studio, we chatted and looked at my current work. She quickly decided what she wanted.

These pieces are for her wedding party to wear on her wedding day, but they are also her gift to them.

Her wedding party is quite large: eight bridesmaids,

one junior bridesmaid,

and two flower girls.

Once we ironed out those details, we moved on to her gift to her mother. We talked a bit and then I sketched out a design that she loved.

The bride gave me a lot of artistic license, so I had some creative freedom, as well as her direction.

I wrapped up the collection in these pretty little bags I found at the Christmas Tree Shops.

I was able to provide the bride with a preview of her collection via a Facebook photo album. (One does not need an account to have full viewing capabilities.)

My bride was very excited to be able to give one-of-a-kind gifts to her special ladies and I had a lot of fun creating them for her!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Parting is such (bitter)sweet sorrow

I would rate yesterday's show as a success. Based on the economy, that is. Normally, I'd have thought the day was a little less than stellar.

Offering the $5 off was definitely a smart move. I never did anything like that before. And I don't do sales. I make a conscious effort to create beautiful jewelry at a cost people can afford. I often get comments on my prices - and how fair they are. That's why I don't usually offer any "deals."

But I witnessed many people thinking very hard about whether to buy or not, and also when they knew they would buy, what they would buy was also a careful decision. Being able to offer a discount really helped them. I was glad for them and for me!

One customer really sticks out in my mind. She was so kind and appreciated my work so much. She bought the most special piece in my collection. It was one that I poured my heart and soul into - one that I created with my favorite subject matter in mind.

The piece is called Ebb and Flow - a necklace with a handmade pendant which, to me, exemplifies the ocean waves and the bubbly water that hits the beach. I set a round paua shell into it as well. The necklace features sea glass from Hawaii and some neat rings that remind me of barnacles. The whole thing is asymmetrical with a handmade wavy toggle clasp.

I love the piece and I'm so happy it now lives with a woman who truly understands and appreciates the art that it is. She even bought a mini version of it for a gift.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Five Bucks Off(er)

Fancy Free Me will be showing tomorrow in Amherst, Mass. The show is an annual arts and crafts fair on the town common.

The participants' entry fee benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County.

This is the largest (FREE) summertime show in the area. They have a ton of great artists in many genres. And local food and live music and the biggest used book sale I've ever seen.

Come take advantage of my $5 off(er). Or just stop by to say "Hi!"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sat., June 13 - A Day in B'town

I've got it all planned out for you.

You're going to spend the day noshing, browsing, and sight-seeing - all in our sweet little old Belchertown.

(click on map to enlarge)

8:30 am - Breakfast
Enjoy a wholesome, organic and hearty breakfast at the award-winning Roadhouse Cafe located on Rte. 9 across the street from Bay Rd. entrance.

9:20 am - Visit

Come see the brand new Gallery at Mud Spun Arts Center located on Rte. 202 (just past the intersection of 202 and 9). You'll find local art including pottery, paintings, sketch art, jewelry, wood working, glass and metal sculpture. (P.S. My work is available at this gallery.)

10:00 am - Peruse

Wander through approximately 75 booths at the 22nd Annual Arts and Crafts on the Common. Area crafters are out in full force with everything from fiber arts to jewelry. Refreshments are available for purchase should you become parched or in need of a baked snack. I'll be showing my best at this venue and would love to meet you!

12:00 pm - Lunch

Stop in Apollo's for a comfortable seat and a big Greek salad or a fat grinder. They're on Rte. 9 just past the intersection going back toward the Roadhouse.

Quabbin waterway spills out to waterfall on other side.

1:10 pm - Drive
Head on down Rte.9 going East and you'll run into a few places you'll want to stop - the fish hatchery is fun for kids and adults to watch and feed the fish; The Quabbin Reservoir (two entrances on Rte. 9) is a great place for a hike, photos, climbing the summit tower and witnessing the water fall.

3:00 pm - Homebound
Before you leave town, you might want to stop by the Charleston Shop, a great antique and collectible store (up the street from the common); or visit the Stone House Museum where you can learn about the history of our cozy little town; or stop by Stone Soup Farm and getch-ya some fresh veggies to take home.

There. A full, stress-free, pre-planned day laid out for you like a sun goddess in the middle of July. All you have to do is soak it up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Lovely Evening at The Gallery

Mud Spun Arts Center - The Gallery's Grand Opening was last weekend and I had such a great time. So much so, that I took only one photo. Not like me, the "crazed paparazzi", as I'm known in some circles.

Here's where the evening began. Out front, before we headed in.

I had a mini posse with me, which made me feel very special - my mom Peg, my mother-in-law Pat, my sister Deborah and my brother-in-law Wayne. Later on, my friend Brooke Lacey, came out to our little town of Belcher-tucky (as my friend Malinda Lastowski likes to call it).

We walked into a buzzing room full of artists and art admirers. We split up to browse and after about five steps, I heard my name being called. It was Andrea Filipkowski, a woman I befriended on Facebook. She's a fellow writer and has also written for our local newspaper, the Sentinel. She currently has a column on, which is owned by another Sentinel alum, Michael Seward. I mention this because I was able to meet Mike that night too. Both Mike and Andrea are Facebook friends whom I had not met in person until that night. I've trusted them to proof my work, we've made comments on each others Facebook updates, photos, etc. and we all try to help promote/support each other. Very cool to see them.

Also in the house was owner Becky Laliberte. I was able to introduce her to my family and we all had a nice chat. She is such a sweetheart. Becky has been working very hard toward this end for quite a while. It was nice to see her in her element and enjoying every second of it. Her husband, Martin, built The Gallery space by extending her original footprint - p.s. they own the building.

Sketch artist Wayne Gagnon was in the back room (where clay workshops are usually conducted) with his son, who was playing the trumpet for a nice little bit of ambiance. Set up next to the snacks and beverages, Wayne was offering his own "visual hors d'oeuvres" - business card sized works of art. Very clever Wayne!

Andrea's daughter was at the prom that night so Wayne created her a custom hors d'oeuvre featuring a dressed up young couple titled "2009 Prom."

P.S. Wayne's depiction of Mario Cuomo (above), was published in The New York Times. You can learn more about this exciting illustration right here.

I also got to chat a little bit with metal and glass sculptor Katie Richardson - very talented young lady who lives on Stone Soup Farm in Belchertown with her boyfriend, attends graduate school and teaches preschool - wow!

Another person I saw at the opening was a big helper to me earlier that week - Andrea Zax. She has a bridal boutique, ZaxWear, in town. I interviewed her for the Sentinel a while back. Andrea did some last-minute alterations to my daughter's First Communion dress, which I picked up earlier in the week. In fact, my daughter's First Communion was earlier that day!

We enjoyed a glass of wine, chatted with folks and then my Brooke-E arrived. We worked together back in my corporate days. She is one of the best people I have ever met. I was so glad she made her way from Springfield to our little town.

Several of my pieces (pictured above) were sold that night - very exciting for me. In fact, I think many pieces were being snatched up by many of the art fans in the room. My sister purchased some of Becky's work - beautiful wheel-thrown bowls.

My family went on their way and Brooke and I went to a local establishment, the Grapevine Grille, to enjoy a drink or two. While we were there, we got to chat and laugh with my friend Malinda, who manages the place.

Like Andrea Zax, Malinda helped me out earlier that day. She delivered all the food for the dinner we had at the house to celebrate my daughter's First Communion. The Grapevine has excellent food - everyone raved!

I had such a wonderful (day and) evening. It was so nice to see my family come to the event to support me. And it was awesome to see Brooke. Seeing Malinda at the Grapevine was fun too, even if we did shut down the bar before 11 pm.

Who says you can't wrap up an incredible girl's night out before midnight?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Press Release: Grand Opening May 16, 2009

Mud Spun Arts Center adds “The Gallery” to its Artsy Offerings


Contact: Becky Laliberte
Phone: 413-530-8883

BELCHERTOWN, MA, APRIL 16, 2009 -- Nearing its one-year anniversary, Mud Spun Arts Center announces the Grand Opening for “The Gallery” at Mud Spun. The event, to be held at 40 Daniel Shays Highway, Suite 8, Belchertown, Mass, will take place Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.

Mud Spun Arts Center opened its doors in spring 2008 and has since afforded many adults and children the opportunity to learn the basics of clay building with hands-on classes and workshops. Mud Spun Arts Center Owner and potter, Becky Laliberte, began her business with the primary desire to practice her art while utilizing her teaching skills. “Working as an instructor and potter was the ideal way for me to bridge my background in art with education,” Laliberte said.

With her primary goal accomplished, Laliberte paved the way for her secondary goal - opening a gallery - by organizing an art show last fall. She invited many local artists to participate, several of whom will be showcased in “The Gallery” at Mud Spun.

Elms College 1998 alum with degrees in art and education, Laliberte has added “curator” to her resume. “I feel fortunate to be able to collaborate with other talented local artists who share the same vision,” said Laliberte. “The pieces come together to offer the conscious consumer a wide selection of individually handmade art anyone can feel good about owning or giving.”

According to Laliberte, there will be a variety of art genres represented at a wide range of price points. “The Gallery will provide consumers with the opportunity to purchase original art from a vast selection while at the same time supporting local art.”

Represented artists include: jewelry artist, Leslie Alibozek; painter Carol Belliveau; potter, Nicole Bruno; enamel jewelry designer, Donnabelle Casis; ceramic tile artist, Michael Cohen; blown glass artist, Tony Faith; sketch artist, Wayne Gagnon; potter Beth McConnell; potter Chris O’Niell; fused glass artist, Kim Rich; glass and metal sculptor, Katie Richardson; silver jewelry designer, Deanna Roux; and woodworker, Ron Shepard. Laliberte said she is open to accepting additional artists in the future.

The Grand Opening for The Gallery will be hosted by Laliberte and several represented artists. The event will include a tour of the center and gallery; introductions to the artists; and cheese and wine.
For additional information on the Grand Opening of The Gallery at Mud Spun Arts Center, contact owner and artist Becky Laliberte or visit

ABOUT MUD SPUN ARTS CENTER - Mud Spun strives to offer experiences in art that encourage exploration, discovery and creativity. All ability levels are welcome to join us in our friendly and relaxed environment. The new gallery space will be dedicated to featuring a unique selection of fine art and original works in pottery, glass, paintings, metal, jewelry and more.

- END -

For more info, see previous articles:
Releasing the Artist Within
Mud Spun Arts and Musical Festival

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Stunning Sea Gems Found in the Sand

A few months ago I purchased some beautiful sea glass from fellow-Etsian 808Sunshine. She resides in Hawaii and seems to be as happy as I would be if I lived in Hawaii. She searches the beaches practically daily for new sea glass and has many collections for sale on her site.

I bought a sizable amount of sea glass from her to use in some new summery designs. And we communicated quite a bit on my choices. I have to say there are few sellers who tend to their customers as 808 does. She even included many free gifts.

I told 808 about my and my daughter's unrequited love affair with the tiny sea gems. We love to behold them but they do not reveal themselves to us frequently.

Anyway, she was just so sweet. I was extra pleased to show my daughter the free little gift that was lovingly put together especially for her by a kind stranger in Hawaii (pictured above). My daughter absolutely loved it!

So far, I have only made one pair of earrings from the lot I purchased from 808 (pictured below). I plan to create a whole collection of new pieces in the coming weeks.

Enjoy this lovely slide show I found on a blog I follow called By the Sea Jewelry and Sea Glass Collecting

Find more photos like this on Seaglasslovers

Thursday, March 26, 2009

CHCS to present ‘Superhero’ musical

By Deanna Roux

Josh Guerraz, co-writer of the original musical that will be on stage at the Belchertown High School this weekend, started playing guitar at six years old. “My uncle taught me. He couldn’t read music, but he taught me chords and things like that. Then I started getting books as gifts and I ended up figuring it out. I taught myself how to read music and as I got older I started playing guitar in the school jazz band,” said Guerraz.

During high school Guerraz realized he wanted to play music for a living. He attended Western Connecticut State University and majored in jazz performance. “In college I got really big into music composition and arranging. When I graduated, I taught guitar lessons as a private teacher. As I continued with that, it sort of propelled me into getting more into education. Then I went back to school to earn a master’s degree, which I’m working on right now,” said Guerraz.

Guerraz’s main goal during school was to simply play music, but the real world of the starving artist put things into perspective. “If you asked me ten years ago [at twenty] what I would be doing in ten years, I would have said, ‘Oh, I’ll be playing on 52nd street in New York City.’ I wanted to be a full-time musician,” Guerraz said. “As I graduated, I got a reality check. That’s why I’m so glad I had education to fall back on, because I can make a living and still play in bands.”

“Perfectly Normal: The Superhero Musical” was written in about three weeks time last summer. Guerraz teamed up with fellow Chestnut Hill Community School (CHCS) teacher, Steve Walkowicz. Walkowicz wrote the play and the lyrics, and Guerraz wrote the melodies. “There are six original songs. I wanted to expose kids to different styles of music they never played before,” Guerraz said, “So if you notice, there’s a reggae, there’s a tango, there’s an old R-and-B church style, a fast fifties style, and a ballad.”


The pit band is composed of all sixth-graders, with the exception of one fifth-grader. The audition process began right away when school started in September. Of the 30 or so kids who tried out, about 20 of them made it into the band. “We have four clarinets, four alto sax, a baritone sax, a trumpet, a trombone, three pianos, two guitars, two drums, and three flutes. I’d say about 90 percent of the pit band is in the school band,” explained Guerraz, “Most of these kids just started playing their instruments. My [main] piano just started playing over the summer.”

The mutual respect and admiration between teacher and student is apparent at rehearsals. The kids may get a little loud and Mr. G., as he is referred to, lets them know with authority that they’re there to work. The rapport they share allows for work in the classroom and a high-five in the hallway.

“All of my pit bands before this were at the high school level. Last year was the first year I had a pit band this young. I was blown away with the talent,” said Guerraz, “Many of those kids are in the pit band this year and they’re better than some of the high school bands I’ve worked with. They’re dedicated; and this is tough music!”

Pit band members Jaclyn Symiakakis, clarinet; Alice Langlois, clarinet; and Joseph Brozek, trumpet,take a short break from some hard work.

Pit band member, Alice Langlois (pictured above, center), plays clarinet. However, her musical creative outlet doesn’t end there. Langlois entered the play’s contest to come up with the best logo. She started her idea with the Superman emblem, but changed the “S” into a G-cleft. She added the silhouettes of the superheroes and the winning entry was born. Her winning logo is featured on the commemorative t-shirt. “I was just really excited,” Langlois said, “When they announced my name and that I won, everyone in my class clapped for me.”

The original musical has caught the attention of Belchertown’s local cable channel, BCTV (channel 5). They’re producing a "Behind the Scenes" look at the making of the play. “We've had a team of students shooting film for two weeks and the results have been sent to BCTV for editing,” Walkowicz explained. “The final product will air on BCTV during play week and will help us, we hope, promote the performances.”

There will be two 7pm performances on Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28. Tickets are selling fast. Information is on display at Stop-N-Shop, the Town Hall, the Clapp Memorial Library, and in the lobby at CHCS. Tickets cost $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. For more ticket information, e-mail Steve Walkowicz at

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Journey

New Blog

When you go through a difficult change or a major challenge in life, writing about it often presents things in a more clear and honest way. Well, for me anyway.

I am going through a big change in my life. I've been struggling for many years to overcome what I perceive to be the only problem in my life - my weight.

My new blog will track my journey and help keep me committed, accountable and honest with myself.

I welcome comments, support and sharing on my new blog. I have a top ten list, a link list and a poll. And I have cookies! Just kidding. But it is pretty sweet looking.

Stop by, if you like.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vintage Shopping Bag

Just because you don't always get what you expect, doesn't mean you won't love what you get.

The other day I took a drive down to Conn. in search of a guaranteed find at a bargain price. Is that what I found? Well, kinda.

Rewind about two years (ish). My mom and I are at the Brimfield Antique Market (click image to the left to learn more) in, you guessed it, Brimfield, Mass. and we are on a quest: find vintage buttons to add to my (then small) collection. Here's why.

First, let me tell you that if I am in search of anything, my mother is the one I want to take with - she will uncover every nook and cranny like she's searching out my heart transplant donor. Plus, she will get the price that is fair - with just a raise of the eyebrow. AND you cannot find a better support system. Yeah, momma's got my back.

So there we are in the midst of thousands of dealers on twenty different fields, all lining a one-mile stretch of Route 20. We park down this long alley, pay our five-dollar parking fee and get out of the car. We pass the port-a-potties and head straight to the first pavilion. Behind the very first case we see is standing a friendly, chatty woman. I ask if she has any buttons and there began my serious quest for antique buttons. She whipped out tons of special beauties - metals, glass, mother of pearl, ceramics - you name it, she had it. I picked out my favorites and I walked away with a happy little bag full for 20 bucks.

On this day we visited a permanent building that I had been to once before (months earlier when I dragged my helpful children to join my search - but that's a story for a different day). This place is called the Brimfield Antique Market. Straight through the door, hang a left at the back wall, down several feet and there lies the mother lode of all mother lodes. I picked but didn't buy much there because I was out of cash. But I vowed to be back.

So fast-forward a few months. I go to the spot of the mother lode and to my horror, mother lode has packed up and left town! What a disappointment. The woman working there, who probably sensed I was on the verge of tears, was kind enough to give me the name and number of the owner of the mother lode - a.k.a. "the button guy."

I got in my car and called the button guy right away. I felt like I was on a drug quest - I needed to gain access to those buttons! The button guy had moved his stuff to a new location - the Vintage Shop in Conn. - his own shop. Whew.

So this week I finally made it down there and was surprised to learn that not all of the buttons had made it. He said he has more in storage and I'm convinced those are the ones I came to see. Well, I browsed around anyway and I found some very interesting collectibles.

(click image to enlarge)

  • Two silver button hooks that were used in the late 1800s to early 1900s for buttoning up items with many small buttons - womens' garments and boots.

  • A hand-carved bone hair pick/hair stick/hair pin - something like that - ca. 1800s - I'll have to do more research on this item.

  • A pair of large green celluloid buttons - they almost look like carved wood. I think these are from the early 1900s.

  • A bunch of small carved mother of pearl buttons with a purple tint added - gorgeous!

  • Some glass buttons from the turn of the century - they actually look like they may be mother of pearl.

  • Three different sizes of mother of pearl whistle buttons from the same time period.Whistle buttons have one hole on one side and two holes on the other.

  • And some snap cuff links from the 1920s-1930s - never saw these before and had to Google them to confirm my suspicion - art deco era.

There are some other items too: a pair of resin covered golfers, more mother of pearl finds, some hefty wooden buttons, a couple brass beauties and a tiny 4-H pin that I found cute.

My favorite? The snap cuff links - because they're new and interesting to me. I searched them out online and found similar pairs going for upwards of $50 - wow.

So, how much did I drop? A measly 15 bucks. I got an excellent deal and the "button guy" has definitely found himself a return customer - even if he didn't have what I was expecting to find.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Perfectly Normal: The Superhero Musical Hits the Stage in March

by Deanna Roux

Two Chestnut Hill Community School teachers, Steve Walkowicz and Josh Guerraz, teamed up last summer to write an original play called “Perfectly Normal: The Superhero Musical.” At the end March, all their hard work - and the hard work of 100-plus students, teachers and parents - will be presented on stage in two performances at Belchertown High School.

“We had to write a play that involved fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. It had to be kid-oriented with a lot of speaking parts,” Walkowicz said, “We had about five rewrites. It was like a summer job,” he laughed.

Josh Guerraz, Music Teacher,
rehearses with the "Super Chorus"

Guerraz, music teacher and life-long musician, wrote all the original music for the play and Walkowicz, sixth-grade math teacher, wrote all the lyrics, as well as the play itself. All the acting, singing and musical instruments are performed by the students. “We have six original songs in it and there are eight scenes. At times, we’ll have 100 kids singing on stage,” Walkowicz said.

This isn’t the first play the two have produced. “In the last two years we spoofed High School Musical and we called it ‘Elementary School Musical.’ So we rewrote the songs and it was really successful,” Walkowicz explained, “The kids loved it. We saw that kids really aren’t afraid to sing. Maybe it’s the American idolization of kids,” he added. This year the two decided to write their own musical to avoid costly fees incurred by copyrighted material.

“Perfectly Normal: The Superhero Musical” is the story of a fictional country that segregates all of the super heroes. They live in a camp called Super City. “The superheroes are obviously not too happy about this so they come up with the idea of inviting a perfectly normal family to live with them to show that perfectly normal people can live side by side with super heroes.” Walkowicz explained.

The play centers on this “normal” family and how hard it is for them to blend in with the super heroes. “It’s all about fitting in and what it feels like when you don’t fit in. It’s also about equality,” said Walkowicz, “It’s supposed to be funny - that’s what we try for - but it also has a serious side to it.”

In addition to the speaking parts, the show boasts over 50 cast members in a Super Chorus which sings throughout the musical. With the help of one of the teachers, they design their own super hero costume, write their autobiography and essentially create their own character.

To help pay for the play, the kids paid $15 to participate. So far, that fee has paid for cast t-shirts and part of it will go toward the background scenery. Ticket sales will fund things like lights, sound, and janitorial services. “The program will feature small ads bought by moms and dads. It’s all self-sufficient. There’s no money from the school and we didn’t get any grants because we started kind of late, but we’re learning what to do for next time,” Walkowicz said.

Walkowicz admits that it’s challenging to get through a 100-person rehearsal, but adds, “Five minutes after it’s over I always feel good about how much fun it was and how charged up the kids are.”

There will be two 7 pm performances on Friday, March 27th and Saturday, March 28th. Tickets are on sale now and cost $5 each ($3 for students and senior citizens). For more information, e-mail Steve Walkowicz.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Journey to the Bottom of the C, as in Clergy

By Deanna Roux

I’m the type of person who likes to go to a movie without knowing too much about it. I like to be taken on a journey of sorts. When I interviewed 14 members of the clergy over the last year, I enjoyed every twist and turn. I was not afraid or intimidated; rather, I was excited and interested about what I was about to learn. Judging from my past life as a corporate writer, I knew that pastors, like executives, put their pants on the same way we all do - one leg at a time. I also knew that “what they do” is not nearly as revealing as “who they are.” For me, digging into one’s character is far more interesting to write about - and to read about.

It turns out the journey makes the person, which in turn makes the story. I have to credit, and thank, the 14 men I sat down with who graciously peeled away their layers to expose their journey to me. After meticulously quizzing these men and writing honestly about their lives, I thought it was fitting to share my journey as well.


It seems to me we’re all on some sort of journey. We all have our own paths to forge, opinions to form, and crosses to bear. At times, life may seem like a series of random events, but I’ve always held the belief that things happen for a reason. I used to think that was my way of getting through the tough times. You know, “That which doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.” It is true; it’s just that now I know God has been there throughout my life, guiding me and giving me strength.

I grew up in a (mostly) non-practicing Catholic home. My two older sisters and I were baptized and we made our first communion. After that, we’d go to church only when we visited our grandparents. We would walk to mass with my grandmother after an early supper. I’m sure I looked very confused by all the standing, kneeling, singing, reciting and such. I tried to follow along. Going forward, I didn’t really have that much to do with my religion, except for the occasional wedding and funeral. That’s not to say I didn’t think about God or talk to God.

In my early twenties, I moved to Atlanta and began to attend mass with two of my girlfriends. They were sisters I knew from back home, who grew up in a very large Irish Catholic family. They helped me feel comfortable in the church. I felt a sense of belonging and community, which was important to me, especially being 1,080 miles away from my family. The sisters and I would have many conversations about God and His ways.

When my sisters were married, for personal reasons, they both chose an Episcopalian (non-denominational) minister to preside over their ceremonies. So when it came time for my wedding, I planned to go the same route; until my mother asked me, “Why do you want to get married in the Episcopal Church?” Of course, my answer was, “Because that’s where my sisters were married.” My mom opened my mind to the possibility of choosing the Catholic Church and that’s what I ended up doing. One question changed my spiritual journey.

A short time later my marriage ended and I still had a baby son who needed to be baptized. That brought me back to the church - for a short time. Around the same time my oldest sister, on her own religious journey, was attending RCIA sessions. RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. In short, you learn more about your religion in order to make the necessary sacraments (she made her confirmation) to be in good standing with the church. She suggested I may want to do the same. I was suddenly a single mother trying to make ends meet on a 10-hour work-week - essentially working for health care insurance; RCIA was not a priority for me. But God was. I spoke to him frequently.

Next, my journey took me to a new relationship; a divorced Catholic man. We decided to have our wedding and our reception in a hotel. It was beautiful and we were happy. God gave my son and me a special gift and now He was about to give us all another - a baby girl. So again, a new baby sent me to the church. Now, many people might be thinking, “How convenient; you need something from the church so you go back.” I present a different view: that was my journey; it was meant to be. Many stages of my life have brought me back to the church. It’s God’s way of not giving up on me.

The impending birth of our daughter caused some huge turning points in our lives. We began attending mass every weekend. I opted to go through the RCIA process (several years after my sister suggested it) and finally made my confirmation. My husband and I received annulments, had our marriage blessed in the church and our baby girl was baptized. When my son (who was adopted by my husband after our wedding) made his first communion, it seemed like everything came full circle. We currently participate in religious education and our daughter will be making her first communion this spring. I look forward to seeing how the future will continue to shape our spiritual journey.


Interviewing priests, pastors and ministers has further enriched my religious journey. Talking about the reasons one becomes a pastor is quite interesting. But what I find even more intriguing is the journey they describe. Not all pastors wanted to become pastors. Some were actually very much against the idea. Some felt a calling. Some heard a calling. Some ignored a calling (for a period of time). Others felt it was more of a natural progression.


The “theater of the divine,” as termed by Father Vern of St. Francis, seemed to be a common thread as many pastors had a serious interest in the big stage.

Todd of UCC Belchertown wrote an adaptation of a 1940s radio show for a Christmas performance that benefited the town fuel assistance fund; Rabbi Bauer of the JCA (pictured at left) was an opera director for 15 years prior to his current position; and Pastor Bruce of Hope United Methodist Church has a puppet ministry, performing part of his sermon to the kids as a bear from Maine named Portland.


The nearly universal concern shared by pastors is the need for individuals to enjoy a relationship with God. Most felt it didn’t matter where - their church or a church down the street - but having a spiritual relationship with God was more important than the actual religion. Pastor Dale from the Christ Life Fellowship (pictured with his wife and co-minister Fran) suggests religion is not even necessary. He said, “God doesn’t care about what religion you are; he only cares about what’s in your heart.”


Coming from a Catholic background, and never having considered changing my religion, I was surprised to learn many pastors were not born into their religion and some didn’t even have a religious upbringing at all. More interesting, were the churches where what brought the people together was not necessarily their religion, but rather a sense of true acceptance. At the Assembly of God in Wilbraham, Pastor Brian Tracy (pictured at left) shared a surprising anomaly: they have many more attendees on a Sunday (about 325) than they do actual members (189). He cited the reason as “specifically reaching out to people in the community who aren’t of faith.”


Most pastors (Pastor Tracy excluded) were concerned about the number of members attending services versus the number of members on record. In other words, many have aligned themselves with a church, but far fewer actually participate on a regular basis. Most pastors with this concern had programs in place to help bring members back to the church community. At Immaculate Heart of Mary in Granby, Father Benoit’s congregation holds “town meetings” to help address the concerns of the people in order to attempt to fix the perceived problems. Father Vern of St. Francis (pictured at right - and my priest) implemented a post card campaign - a series of post cards sent to all members to bring awareness to the effects on the church when all members do not actively participate.

In doing this series, it is my hope that the reader has been taken on a revealing ride that shined a light in the shadows of their own spiritual journey. Where your life’s journey has taken you may not always be evident. Taking a step back in reflection may help reveal an otherwise hidden path. I would have to agree with the majority of the clergy I spoke with and say, choosing a relationship with God - in any small way you can muster - can and will improve your quality of life. I’m living proof.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Gentle Reminder

I hate the bitter cold. I hate being cold. I can't stand driving in the snow. I don't like how others drive in the snow. I'm not a huge fan of removing snow. I hate slick stairs and walkways. I don't like snow days because my kids have to stay in school while summer is starting without us.

When I was a child, my family lived in California for a few years. It never snowed. I don't recall being cold. I remember the ocean and the tide pools and the sun. I remember sun dresses and bare feet and vegetable gardens.

In the 90s I lived in Atlanta for five years and it snowed once the whole time I was there (one time too many). The whole town was at a stand still. They have no plows, no salt - not prepared at all (not that they should be - it is HotLanta after all). Trees in the Georgia clay were uprooted and fell over. Branches literally covered the streets. Random do-gooders were out in full force brandishing echoing chain saws. It was like a natural disaster had occurred.

The one (and only) thing I love about this time of year is the visual beauty. When the snow gently covers the dark bare trees, and it throws a soft blanket over the dormant grass, and a vibrant Cardinal floats through a sea of white and tucks down into the woody brush - it makes me smile.

The view from my house is hilly and woodsy. Our house is on a street that runs north/south so the sun rises in the front and sets in the back. This time of year, the sunset is a mix of oranges and pinks. I've tried to capture it many times, but a photo cannot really do it justice.

These photos are from December 10, 2005 - a friend took them from our back yard with his fancy camera.

And the following are my attempt at capturing our backyard beauty with my far inferior camera. I took these December 28, 2008 at 4:45 pm - it was actually very dark outside.

Yesterday, while coming home from a long day of shopping - in and out of the wind and cold - I was getting on the turn pike when a hefty hawk swooped in and landed on a heavy branch in front of me. I got a good long look at him and he reminded me that I can be happy - no matter the temperature.

God's beauty is there every day of the year, it just takes a little effort on my part to see it - in spite of the winter forecast.