A Day in the Life

There are so many times where I’d like to leave MS out of the picture. This is a perfect example. I’d love to give you a play by play of my days as a jewelry designer. Just that. Without any baggage or boring health issues weighing in. As much as I wish I could, I can’t. It plays heavily into my work schedule and dictates what I can and cannot do on any given day.

Having Multiple Sclerosis means my days are rarely the same. It’s not that all days are bad days, it’s more the adjustments that I have to make day to day. On my best days, I’m at my bench working with metal. Unfortunately I don’t get as many of those days as I would like, but I sure enjoy the ones I do get. Sitting at my bench means sitting up straight with my feet flat on the ground, many days my torso is too weak to do this. It means that the numbness in my hands must be minimal and it also means having the upper body strength to hold a steady flame and be able to work with my planishing hammer. On days I’m able to do this, I take full advantage. I’ve been known to spend 16 hours at my bench! Yeah, Yeah…with MS I shouldn’t over do it. Those thoughts go straight out the window on bench days!! I never regret bench days regardless of how much I pay for it.

Before I fall asleep each night (or early in the morning!) I make a list of all of the things that need to be done the following day. Usually this means carrying over a couple things that I wasn’t able to do from the day before. I prefer to get orders out the door. My brain needs a clean slate. I always try to make every effort possible to keep cognitive symptoms at bay. Having orders sitting around needing to be shipped makes it impossible to be creative and think of new design ideas.

Once orders are shipped and I’ve got a good handle on any custom orders, I can do what I love! I can be free to experiment and simply create. On great days, you know what that means. Bench work! On the average day, it usually means working with wire and gemstones. This work is usually done from my couch with a couple Chihuahua’s at my side and a Pit Bull at my feet! It really is my favorite place in the world. My favorite creatures surrounding me, a playlist going on Spotify (usually the Rolling stones or some really bad country that my husband hates) and my table covered in a colorful mess of gemstones and precious metal. This is a place where MS can take a back seat. I can just be. I can do what I love and forget for at least a couple of hours that I even have a chronic illness.

It’s inevitable that fatigue will strike at some point. I hate it! I despise fatigue and how it comes out of nowhere. One moment I feel great and the next a flood of weakness washes over me. It’s as if I somehow got the flu in a matter of seconds. These moments I’m always left trying to decide if I want to make it up to my bed or just crash right where I am. I usually choose right where I am because that means a nap cuddled up with my dogs. Fatigue sucks. Sorry, it does. It’s incredibly frustrating. I can do everything right and it will still happen. I can get the perfect amount of sleep and even eat healthy and it still doesn’t keep it at bay. Sometimes a quick rest is all I need, other times it means I don’t get back up for the day. It really just depends.

I don’t mean for it to sound as if I’m bitter and angry. I’m not. It just is what it is. These days I try to look at my life in hours as opposed to days and fatigue is a big reason. A bad day says that the entire day is bad. I don’t think that’s the best way to describe it. It really is more accurate to say I have bad hours. It also helps me to remain positive. Bad hours seem far less depressing than bad days. So for now I refrain from saying “I had a bad day”. I’ll just continue to create and enjoy my good hours and hope for less bad hours the next day.

My MS Journey – Part One

I remember Googling my symptoms numerous times throughout the years and clicking on almost everything. Everything but Multiple Sclerosis. It seemed impossible for some reason. I knew too little about it and what I did know seemed too scary. It’s almost a little bit funny to think back on that now! It was the only thing that seemed to continuously show up in search results, yet in my mind there was no chance that’s what it was.
Up until the facts were in front of my face, I never considered it. Not really. I’d had severe vertigo numerous times in my early to mid-twenties lasting anywhere from two weeks to two months. I can’t begin to find the right words to describe the misery that is vertigo. It’s comparable to being sea sick with a stomach virus. It really is that bad! Anyone who’s had it will tell you so. Yet, no one had ever offered me an MRI. Each time I was treated for an ear infection without any proof that it was actually an ear infection. When I have vertigo my equilibrium is completely off and I can’t walk without at least bracing a wall. I noticed early on that it seemed to take months before I could get back to normal again. It still didn’t ring any bells for me. But, why would it? I had no reason to think I had a progressive neurological disease; a disease with no known cause and no cure. I mean, really, who thinks that?! I sure didn’t.
It wasn’t until a relapse (then I had no idea what a “relapse” was) at the end of 2013 that I knew something was really wrong. The year leading up to that relapse had been hard. I can’t pin point exactly why, other than I just didn’t feel like myself. I would cry at the drop of a hat and I was sleeping ALL the time. I remember coming in from walking my dogs and looking at myself in the bathroom mirror. I remember feeling overwhelmingly fatigued and clammy almost every time I would walk them. I guess I thought the mirror should reflect something about why I felt the way I did? I would always end up sitting on the edge of my bathtub bawling my eyes out thinking “I have cancer and I will die because no one will ever find it”.
I hate ending things on a depressing note. I like to be positive and I like to end things with what I am thankful for. But, there isn’t anywhere else to end this. It was one of the most depressing times in my life. I didn’t know what was wrong with me emotionally or physically. I never considered that they could both be tied into one. During this part of my journey with chronic illness I couldn’t see better days ahead. All I knew is that I was sick and I wanted so badly to feel like myself again.

Introduction to Me

Growing up in a small town in Western North Carolina I spent my days as a total tom boy. I learned to shoot with my dad and rode four wheelers almost every day. I would have never dreamed that making jewelry would be something I would become so passionate about!

Amongst trying to be just like my dad in the day, at night I always found myself drawing or coloring. I loved the satisfaction of my dad telling me that I must have gotten it from my grandfather and my mom putting my latest “masterpiece” on the fridge. As I got older, I let my love for drawing take a back seat. Besides days spent sewing with my great grandmother, I guess it’s safe to say that I abandoned art all together until around 20.

At 18, I lost my dad to suicide. My world crashed. Everything I’d known up until then had changed. He was who I went to for every big problem in my life. I was left feeling very empty after the shock had worn off. I had just began college and moved out of the house I grew up in with my family. I ended up quitting school and moving back home near my mom and brother. I was completely clueless about what I wanted to make of my life. I had no idea of a career anymore and no real passions or even hobbies.
I began working at a 911 dispatcher. My dad had been a prison superintendent and my mom an elected county official who had both began as sheriff’s deputies. My sister was a 911 telecommunicator as well and I always thought she was too cool anyway, so of course I wanted to do what she did! I liked my job. I was 18 when I started and I think with the death of my father it really helped teach me structure and kept me out of trouble. Still, I knew that I wanted something else. I just didn’t know what.

A couple years later, jewelry found me! My sister in law had started making beaded jewelry and I was immediately drawn to it. I will forever be grateful for those first couple basics that she taught me and I know that without her, Bella Tesoro wouldn’t exist today. On my days off from working a “real” job I would make beaded pieces for hours and hours. The years went by and Bella Tesoro was slowly turning into something. I had an Etsy shop and even the occasional order! I knew this is what I wanted!

Flash forward to 25 and I was divorced from a marriage that lasted 6 years. We simply grew up and changed and both knew we needed something different for our lives. Not long after I met Jake. Jake is my husband, my best friend and other half. Jake is everything that I am not. He is organized, he thinks ahead and can be quite structured when he wants to be. I am NONE of those things!! It really is a relationship where one backs the other up on our individual weaknesses.
Not long after our wedding in 2012, we took off on a journey. Jake is a registered nurse and had always been drawn to travel nursing. Our first assignment was Brenham, TX. Texas is where I got into my first gallery! It was called The Starving Artist Gallery. I had found them through a Craigslist search. They wanted to see what I had to offer. So, my husband and I set out to drive to Houston. This is where I would meet someone who would become such a sweet friend and a celebrity at that! Her name was Nikki Araguz. If you haven’t heard of her, a quick google search will return thousands of results! Her and her now husband, William Loyd (an amazing artist himself) welcomed me with open arms. I was officially a featured artist!

Not long after leaving Texas I was in numerous boutiques and galleries. It really all happened rather quickly. I now live in Ventura, California where my husband and I first were for an assignment. He has now signed on full time. We live with a sweet as pie 8 year old Pit Bull named Bella, a not so sweet 11 year old senior Chihuahua named Cuddles (yeah I know it isn’t fitting….story for another day) who happens to be my best friend in the world and a 9 year old Chihuahua Crested mix name Sonnie. They make life beautiful for me. Jake would say his pick is Ms. Bella, of course. I love them all! They love the sunshine, and seem to be Cali dogs at heart. My doctors are here and for now this is where we’re happy. We may head back to Western NC someday, but for the moment, we’ll settle for the coast of SoCal!