Wednesday, July 28, 2010


There've been a couple of comments about the new woman in some of my photos, so I thought I'd introduce her. I think of her as the "fiat woman".

I first met her when I was in college. She was in the chapel at a retreat house I went to occasionally. It was an informal chapel where you could sit on the floor, and since she was also on the floor I saw a lot of her. What impressed me then - and still does - is her posture of total openness. Hands open at her sides, head facing forward to whatever might come. A complete fiat ("let it be") attitude. But it's not a passive openness; her hands aren't relaxed and she's leaning forward as if she's listening intently to something. Her eyes are open, not closed in contemplation. She's actively holding herself open.

I hadn't seen her since college, except for a few years in the Abbey Press catalog. I didn't have the money or the space for something as frivolous as a statue, so I didn't buy her although I wanted to.

Then, a few weeks ago, I unexpectedly saw her looking at me from a vintage shop on Etsy (I don't need a reminder that anything from my college days is now considered vintage). Her description there was as an "ethnic woman"; the seller hadn't been able to figure out what ethnicity she was, so listed a number of possibilities. This surprised me, as I'd never thought of her in that way. In fact, one of the things I've always liked about her is that she's really an everywoman. Her features are undefined enough that you can see anyone - even yourself - in her. Maybe that's why the seller had a hard time connecting her to one ethnic group.

For the same reason, I've never thought of her as being Mary. Although Mary's "Fiat" can be a model for us, we each have our own fiat moments - some big and life changing, others so buried in everyday life that we may not even notice them. She reminds me to be aware of those moments, rather than drifting along not paying much attention to how I make decisions, large and small. Am I responding to God's call? Am I even recognizing God's call?

So I'm glad to have her back; I need those reminders. And, yes, she'll show up in my photos from time to time when I'm listing rosaries that aren't too large for her to hold. Because of her vertical orientation, she probably won't be in the first photo very often; she'll have to be looked for.

Even though I don't see her as "Mother Mary," I find her very much "speaking words of wisdom: Let it be."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another Push for "Christmas in July"

Ever heard of a Cyber Monday for Christmas in July sales? Me neither, but it's today, and someone posted about it at Etsy so I said I'd mention it here. Evidently Target started it (according to the poster).

I guess it does give some notice that this is the last Monday of the sales being run by people - like me - who are having them through the end of the month. This coming Saturday is the end of July.

So anyone who does their internet shopping at work has to get on the ball. If you've had your eye on something, now's the time. My "Etsy mini" running in the right-hand column of this page is already full of my on-sale-for-$10.00 items, but here are a few more (click on a picture to see more photos and a full description):

...and they'll be gone after Saturday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It Can't Be

To anyone reading this: I seriously need to sell some rosaries. Not only do I have 122 of them in my Etsy shop (124 by the time I finish listing this morning) but I'm running out of rosaries to make - which I didn't think was possible, because I had so many of the parts grouped in little plastic bags just waiting to be put together. But back when money was coming in because people were buying Easter and Mother's Day gifts I got brave and decided that I wasn't going to add funds to my PayPal account: anything I spent would have to come from sales. And there haven't been too many of them lately. There have been some, for which I'm very grateful - I had enough to buy two sets of lampwork beads to go with two sets of glass pearls that were still waiting for "Our Father" beads. But otherwise I'm starting to catch up with myself.

This could get serious. I might even have to start cleaning my apartment.

I do have a whole group of rosaries that need to be taken apart and restrung. When I got my one neutral feedback on Etsy because some of the seed beads broke on a rosary, I pulled all the rosaries made with those same seed beads. They've been sitting in the inactive section waiting to be remade with better (I hope) beads. Since the broken beads were green, these include half of my Irish-themed rosaries; I'm down to two of those in my shop, so I really need to get them listed again. I haven't been taking care of this because, of course, it's not as much fun as making new rosaries.

But it might be better than cleaning my apartment.

I now have three rosaries listed that have lockets as centers - two copper ones and one gold-tone. I feel kind of proud of myself for having found these. The seller had them listed as "connectors" and said there was "a woman" on them. Well, the connections are set up perfectly for a rosary, and the woman is Our Lady of Grace. I think, myself, that it would be kind of fun to have a rosary with a locket on it. It would make a great gift. Anyway, here are the current three. Clicking on one will take you to more photos and a full description:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Meant to Be

Signs from God aren't something I go looking for. I joke about them sometimes (you know, some little coincidence happens and I say, "Oh, it must be a sign from God."). Not that I don't believe that God can have a hand in such things. Tom Bombadill's line about "chance, if chance you call it," rings true with me. But, as a good Catholic, it seems a bit presumptuous to expect it. I also agree with the statement by Charles Williams (the "third Inkling") that our little minds were meant... and God wants us to use them. 

Before I tell you what happened, I have to tell you my favorite joke about divine providence:

There was a flood and Charlie's house was in the path of the water. He was sitting on his roof with water all around, when a small boat came by and his neighbor shouted from the boat: "Get in the boat, Charlie!" To which Charlie replied, "No, I have faith in God. He'll save me."

The flood got worse and Charlie was holding onto the highest point on his roof to keep from being swept away. A larger boat showed up and the person in it shouted, "Get in the boat with these other people. We'll take you to safety." but Charlie replied, "No, I have faith in God. He'll save me."

The waters rose even higher and Charlie was hanging onto his chimney. A helicopter hovered overhead and let down a rope ladder. "Climb up!" shouted the pilot. But Charlie said, "No, I trust in God. He'll save me."

Then Charlie drowned. Standing before the throne of God, he complained: "I had faith in you! Why didn't you save me?"

God rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Charlie, whaddaya want?" God asked. "I sent you two boats and a helicopter!"

Anyway, my story isn't as momentous. It helps to know that I have to be pretty careful with my money in order to stay solvent. So any purchase is given a lot of thought, especially if it goes above $100 or so. Maybe too much thought.

A few weeks ago, I killed my printer. It wasn't murder but unintentional printerslaughter. I asked it to print on something I shouldn't have and it effectively had a fatal heart attack. My printer was five years old at the time of its death, but it should have had a lot of life left in it.

I'd been debating for a long time about getting a wide-format printer. I'd love to have one that can print 24 inches wide, so I could make "real" gift wrap. But those cost a few thousand dollars. My brother thought I was more likely to make money from my graphics if I put them on scrapbook paper, so he thought it would be a better idea to just buy one that could print 12x12. One of those would cost less than a thousand dollars.

After my printer died, I went looking. I found out that the brand I like has put out a second generation of their printers that can print up to 13x19. The new one got good reviews and, as usual, cost several hundreds less than its predecessor. It could be had for under $500. I went to see what bargains I could find on amazon, and discovered a couple of dozen people who were selling that model "used/like new." The lowest prices were around $200. Evidently, the company had had such a good rebate offered that people bought the printer just to get the rebate and then turned around and sold it. Each description said, "Factory sealed. UPC has been removed." I put one of the used/like new printers in my cart - not the cheapest one, but the cheapest one from a seller who had a good feedback record.

I did this at the office late on a Friday, but I wanted to complete the sale from my home computer so I'd be at the email address amazon knows me from. It was also another way to delay spending the money until I was really sure I wanted to. I went home, but didn't think of it Friday night.

Saturday afternoon I was trying to get some things taken care of and decided I might as well go buy that printer - assuming I'd decide to buy it when my finger was over the purchase button.

I went to amazon and the printer was still in my cart. But out of those couple of dozen used/like new offers, not a single other printer was left. The only one not already bought was the one I'd put into my cart! With no hesitation at all, I bought it as quickly as I could. Not to do so, it seems to me, would have been a lack of faith and gratitude. I can almost picture God throwing up his hands and asking "Whaddaya want?"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The End of an Era

I had today off from work and it's been almost entirely an Etsy day. I finished making one rosary that I'd started yesterday, took photos of and listed four new rosaries and pulled a couple more out of the "inactive" void, learned how to make treasuries and made two of them, spent too much time on the forum (which isn't unusual) and generally did everything I could to avoid doing what I need to do... write an email that will probably shut down the forum on my Tolkien-related site.

It's all Etsy's fault. For about the last year I've been spending so much time working on  my Etsy shop that I've basically ignored the forum, and evidently I missed some updates to the program I use and now the security is breached and someone has injected malware, so my webhost has blocked all access to the site. The only way I can get it open again is to let the webhost remove the forum, and then check all of my other files. (Every other file on the site is static HTML, so there shouldn't be any problems there.)

The forum is a fairly new addition to the site - it's only been there for two or three years while the site's been around for about a decade. Its most important use has always been to hold my Tolkien-related writing: essays and such. A few years ago, a forum some of us frequented shut down and I offered to host a replacement on my site. Only a handful of people made the trek from the other forum to mine, and even most of those have wandered off. I think the three or four that still drop in are just being nice to me. I've been actively working on one set of essays, but the forum is pretty much off the radar.

I'm not sure what I'll do from here on out. I tend to like static pages better than blogs for serious writing, because new posts don't push old ones down into oblivion; you can organize the pages any way you want, and it doesn't have to be by age. The only problem, of course, is that people can't comment. I might start a second blog where I can just link to new stuff I've done on the site and let people comment there. I'd rather have blogspot worry about the security than needing to do it myself.

So, anyway, I'm kind of sad and I'm hoping no one will be too upset about losing what they had posted on the forum. I'll have to write that email tomorrow.

Just because we always need to have some rosaries to link to, here are the four new ones listed today. They're all in the pinkish range because those are the backgrounds I was using for the photos:

(How do you like my new hand?)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't tell anyone...

I’m probably an unusual rosary maker in that I don’t really, well, pray the Rosary. I think one reason for this is that the nightly family Rosary was forced on us as kids. The lovely pictures of a family praying the Rosary together don’t show the internal kid itching to get it over with and go on to something else. The dog got more out of it than I did – she knew that if she came and sat by me, she’d get her ears scratched for a solid 15 minutes. When I was minister of our local Secular Franciscan fraternity, it was my job to lead the Franciscan Crown Rosary at wakes. I used to say that, because it was so difficult for me to pray the Rosary, my praying a seven-decade Rosary would certainly get someone into heaven.

Another reason is that I’m an “N” (intuitive) personality-wise, and we tend not to get as much out of the type of mental meditation that’s supposed to accompany the Rosary as do people who have the opposite “S” (sensate) characteristic. Since intuitives aren’t as in touch with their senses, using those senses to imagine an event in the life of Jesus isn’t as rewarding. The most helpful use I’ve found for a rosary is simply as a set of counting beads to center me as I pray.

One reason I haven’t gotten into the Rosary as an adult is that since my college days I’ve been praying the Liturgy of the Hours (with shorter and longer lapses – I’m actually in a long one right now). One of the original purposes of the Rosary was to act as a substitute for the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours for people who were illiterate (which was most people in those days). I’d reason that if I was doing the “real thing,” why worry about the substitute? The Liturgy of the Hours, after all, is official prayer of the Church – the Rosary isn’t.

So why the heck do I make rosaries? Why am I addicted to making rosaries? Why can’t I stop making rosaries, even though my Etsy shop has over 100 and I’m making them faster than I sell them?

I’ve puzzled over this myself and I’m not sure what the answer is. I think part of it is that making a rosary is somewhat like composing a sonnet, in that there’s a very specific pattern to follow but within that pattern you can be as creative as you want. The geeky part of me likes the patterns – one reason I also get along well with the Liturgy of the Hours. I like knowing how to do the stem on a Franciscan Crown and how to arrange the “weeks” on an Anglican rosary. When I think about making jewelry instead, the vast possibilities just overwhelm me. I’d also have to learn some new skills; there are a lot of things that go into making jewelry that don’t go into making rosaries. You’ll notice that the few pieces of jewelry I have made are single-strand necklaces, which isn’t too different from making a rosary.

There’s also a bit of a feeling that I’m providing a service. Even though praying the Rosary doesn’t do much for me, it’s very helpful to a lot of people. This runs head-on into the fact that I am trying to make some money from them. When I started this venture, one of my brothers assumed that I was losing money on each rosary and that I was just doing it because I enjoyed it. I let him know that if I didn’t want to make a profit, I’d be giving the rosaries away on street corners instead of selling them. The one type of item I don’t really make a profit on is the St. Gerard chaplets, which I do consider to be providing a service. I don’t get as worried about selling lots of stuff as do many Etsy sellers. I’m basically trying to get some things started that can give me an income stream after I retire, which is still several years away – I just didn’t expect this particular stream to become so addicting.


PROGRESS REPORT: I’ve now sold five of the rosaries from the “Christmas in July Sale” section of my shop, where I’ve marked each item down to $10.00. I’ve already sold the rosary that was the best bargain (that is, had the highest original price). Here are a few more good bargains that are still left:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blurry Thinking

This is another "Don't just write about your successes" post. Maybe it will help someone caught in the same blurry situation.

I'd had problems with my product photos for about a week - no matter what I did, every single one was blurry. It seemed to have happened suddenly right after I changed my batteries, so I even posted in the "Materials and Techniques" forum at Etsy asking if the batteries could have anything to do with the blurriness. I got lots of other photo-taking tips, but no one could see how it could have anything to do with the batteries. So, like any other logical thinker, I tried to remember what else I'd changed recently. I'd just gone from using fabric backgrounds to using paper - but when I reverted to cloth the pictures were just as blurry.

I was at a loss until I was puzzling over some of the enlarged photos on my computer screen and realized they looked the same way the world looks when my glasses need cleaning. Of all the silly solutions - my camera lens was dirty! I'm not a pro at cleaning camera lenses, and I did so pretty gingerly. There's a spot on the right-hand side of all my photos that's still blurry because I didn't want to damage the lens by cleaning too vigorously.

Of course, I should go back and retake all the blurry photos and I might do that... sometime. In the meantime, here's a "before and after" look at a rosary that got caught in the middle. It's a more conventional rosary than most of mine - just teal-colored glass "Hail Mary" beads and some coordinating glass "Our Father" beads. It's also a Franciscan Crown:


After (you can even see the texture of the background better)

And here's a blurry (and sideways) view of the entire rosary:


Don't forget the Christmas in July Sale on Etsy. In my shop, there's a group of rosaries - both five-decade and Franciscan Crowns - on sale for $10.00 each.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Of Rosary Centers and Hope

If I'd stayed with the Carmelites, I'd be having a "recreation day" today - which basically means you get to talk all day. This only happens for Very Important Feast Days, and today (July 16) is one of the biggest for Carmelites: Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In the Church in general, it's an "optional memorial" (not very important - you can completely ignore it if you want to), but among Carmelites it's a solemnity (as big a deal as you can have outside of Holy Week and Easter).

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is one of Mary's more nebulous titles. Its most direct link to earthly affairs is Mary's apparition to a Carmelite (Raymond of Pennyfort, if memory serves - and I'm not guaranteeing that it is) to give him the scapular for the Order. Most pictures of the event show Mary handing him what non-Carmelites usually think of as a scapular - two little pieces of cloth tied together with ribbons; the "brown" scapular is the one connected to the Carmelites. But the more formal Carmelite scapular is the layer of cloth that hangs all the way down the front and back of the habit. Our Lady of Mount Carmel is always, as far as I know, shown dressed in a Carmelite habit including a full-length scapular, and she's usually holding one of those "two little pieces of cloth" scapulars.

But the devotion Carmelites have for Our Lady of Mount Carmel goes beyond the gift of the scapular. The Carmelites are an unusual religious order in that they don't trace their origin back to one founder. It began among crusaders who stayed in the Holy Land to become hermits on Mount Carmel instead of returning to their homes in Europe. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some practical reasons for choosing Mount Carmel, but the spiritual reason was that the prophet Elijah prayed there. In the old days, the Carmelites claimed Elijah as their founder, but now they tend to call him their "spiritual father."

If you attended Mass in a Carmelite monastery (where the women live) or convent (where the men live) today, you'd hear a reading from the Old Testament about Elijah praying for rain during a drought. At first, nothing happens, but then he sees, far off on the horizon, a small cloud. The Carmelites see that small cloud as an image of Mary - Our Lady of Mount Carmel - whose appearance on the horizon was the first sign that mankind's drought was ending with the coming of Christ.

(I've purposely not distinguished here between the two orders of Carmelites that exist today, because devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel predates the split, so both O.Carm.'s and O.C.D.'s share the celebration.)

Anyone who was around for our discussion of medals as rosary centers a little while back knows what this all has to do with making rosaries. A scapular medal is a medal that shows the Sacred Heart on one side and Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the other. A rosary center with those same images is a scapular center. Our Lady of Mount Carmel isn't always labeled as such, but the image normally used has a very recognizable outline (even if the image is too small to see clearly). Here are a few rosaries I offer that have scapular centers (I've picked ones that have good close-ups of Our Lady of Mount Carmel). Click on the picture to go to the full description of the rosary:

with mother-of-pearl beads and glass hearts:

with red agate "Our Father" beads and synthetic amber (resin) "Hail Mary" beads

a ruby red rosary for the July birthstone

To see more, go to the main page of my Etsy shop and type "scapular" into the search box.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Now It's a Sitewide Sale

I started my Christmas in July sale a little early, but today it becomes site-wide on Etsy. The sale will be site-wide through July 25, but mine will last until the end of the month - unless all 19 rosaries I have on sale are sold before then (I've already sold 3).

Rather than take a percentage off the price, I've marked down a group of rosaries to a flat $10.00. Since their original prices varied, some are a better deal than others - one of the 3 already sold was the biggest bargain, but there are still some good ones left. There are both 5-decade and Franciscan Crown rosaries included.

I've set up my featured items so that all of the rosaries showing in the box on the right-hand side of this blog are in the Christmas in July sale. If you click on one of the pictures on the right, you'll find yourself in the Christmas in July sale section of my Etsy shop, where you can see all the rosaries on sale for $10.00 (and, of course, if you don't find anything you like there, there are still about 85 rosaries in the shop that aren't on sale).

-- That's today's commercial. The whole reason I started this blog was because the general wisdom among people who sell on Etsy is that, to be successful, you have to tweet, facebook, and blog. There's no way I'm tweeting or facebooking, but since I like to write I figured I might be able to blog. So there has to be a commercial occasionally to keep the Etsy gods happy. Tomorrow is a Very Important Feast Day when it comes to rosaries, so I won't be posting a commercial - but there will always be pictures of rosaries you can click on to get to my shop. There will even be some that are directly connected to tomorrow's Very Important Feast Day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Poirot's Rosary

This past Sunday I watched the Masterpiece Mystery version of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. It's been so long since I've read the book that I can't tell you if anything I say here also applies to it. I'm guessing the religious aspect was emphasized by this particular production.

We see Hercule Poirot's rosary twice during the show: once toward the beginning and again in the very last shot. Between the two appearances, it (or at least Poirot's Catholicism) has taken on more meaning.

I'll try not to give away the solution to the mystery to anyone who doesn't know it, but the real emphasis in this production isn't so much on the who-dun-it as it is on the self-righteous mindset that led to it. The murder victim is a person who some might say deserved what he got - not only dying, but suffering as he's dying.

After we've met the various characters, there's a scene that cuts back and forth between Poirot and the murder victim as both pray that night. The victim pleads with God for forgiveness and protection - he's already terrified that he's going to be killed. Poirot, on the other hand, thanks God for having created him and for making him Catholic. Instead of begging for forgiveness, he asks God to accept "whatever good I might have done" that day. This could come across like the parable of the tax collector and the pharisee, except for the fact that Poirot doesn't put himself above other people ("I thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men..."). I also wonder if the "good I might have done" didn't include Poirot's refusal to accept the professional job of protecting the victim, thereby forcing him into his honest pleading with God. We don't see Poirot praying the rosary, but he's holding one and kisses the crucifix at the end of his prayer.

Another important reference to Poirot's religion comes during the murder investigation, when a suspect who has "accepted Jesus"  but is anti-Catholic says to him, "But the Catholics have it all wrong, don't they, with their penance and their forgiveness." Poirot asks, "Because there are some sins that cannot be forgiven?" and the suspect replies in the affirmative. (To be fair, I don't think most people who've accepted Jesus would agree - at least not the way this character means it, which has nothing to do with the sin against the Holy Spirit. I also think most would disagree with her belief that she is "without sin" so is qualified to cast the first stone.)

When we finally come face-to-face with the self-righteousness that led to the murder, it seems that it's expected that Poirot will agree that the killing was justified. He's told in an almost joking manner that his presence on the train was "the first bit of bad luck" when it came to carrying out the crime perfectly. But Poirot vehemently disagrees that taking the law into one's own hands is justifiable. I think one of the marks of a good actor is the ability to play suppressed anger and David Suchet does a masterful job; it's clear that what we see on the surface is nothing compared to the rage within. 

In the last shot of the program, we see Poirot walking alongside the train. His rosary comes out of his coat pocket long enough for us to see that he's grasping it. Is it a reminder that even the sins of the murder victim could be forgiven? Or is it a statement that Poirot (still with suppressed anger) is struggling with the belief that even the self-righteousness he's witnessed is forgivable?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Perfect Joy

It's not surprising that the Franciscan Crown rosary is all about joy - specifically, the Seven Joys of Mary (the Servites get the Seven Sorrows). Franciscans are generally a joyful bunch. In fact, you could say we're called to joy.

Joy isn't the same thing as happiness. It's much deeper, and isn't swept by the winds of whether or not our lives are going the way we want them to. Francis defined perfect joy by asking his listeners to use their imaginations. (This won't be exact, but I think I'll hit the gist of it.) Imagine that you're returning from a long trip. You've had to walk the entire way, and you're tired and footsore - and hungry. It's night, and you're trudging through a cold rain with a biting wind. You're chilled to the bone and your wet clothes are plastered against you. But, said Francis, that's not perfect joy. Imagine, he said, that you arrive at the place you call home and find the door locked. You knock but a voice from inside says, "I don't know you! Go away!" You beg for a piece of bread or a cup of soup, but the door stays locked. But, said Francis, that's not perfect joy. Imagine that the people in the house all shout at you, throw stones to drive you away, loose the dogs, and threaten to call the authorities if you don't go away and leave them alone. That, said Francis, is perfect joy.

There's a lot I don't know about Francis, but from what I do know, I don't think he was saying that the worse life is the more joyful you should be. I think he's saying something about perfect joy - that perfect joy comes only from God. If you can be joyful when nothing in your life is inviting you to be joyful, you can know that your joy comes from God. It's perfect joy.

Mary certainly had her sorrows, but she also had joy. The Seven Joys of Mary traditionally used in praying the Franciscan Crown are:

1. The Annunication
2. The Visitation to Elizabeth
3. The Birth of Jesus
4. The Adoration of the Magi
5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
6. The Resurrection of Christ
7. Mary's Assumption into Heaven and her Coronation. 

How about some joyful Franciscan Crown rosaries?

Here's one in the colors of the rainbow (in proper Roy G. Biv order):

One all dressed in white:

And one made out of hearts - that's on sale for $10.00 during July (or until it's sold):

Monday, July 5, 2010

New Etsy Team - and a Sitewide Sale

Our new team at Etsy is now official. It's called "Prayers on a Wire" and is made up of people who make rosaries (mostly those who use beading wire), bead suppliers, and a jewelry maker or two who wanted to be involved. There's a profile page at Etsy for it. There's also a team blog. I'll add the link to that when I get a chance.

Now that it's after July 4, we can publicly announce the Etsy Christmas in July sale. The main dates are July 15-25, but a lot of sellers will be having sales before and after those dates, some for the entire month of July. There will be some Christmas-related items on sale for those who like to get started early, but most things offered won't be holiday themed.

For my part, I'll have a group of rosaries on clearance. Instead of taking off a certain percent of the price, I'll be selling them for a flat $10.00 each. Their original prices are varied, so some of them will be particularly good buys - there will even be some Franciscan Crowns. Some of the rosaries are Christmas-themed ones left over from last year, and all of them are rosaries that have been "on the shelf" for quite awhile that I really want to move out. I've started listing a few of them in a special Christmas in July section in my shop. I'll be adding them gradually until the sitewide sale starts on July 15, so if you don't see anything you want to purchase right now, be sure to stop back. Here are some that are already listed:

Stop in early - then come back to see what's added.