Thursday, July 21, 2016

Susan’s TEDx Ubud Talk is Online

I gave a talk on being a caregiver at TEDx Ubud on May 28, 2016. The talk is now on You Tube and you can see it here:

People asked me afterwards what it was like to stand in front of an audience and speak intimately about my life as a caregiver. As with many events in my life, this one had a life of its own. I did the work and followed along. Yes, I had to push myself beyond my fear of public speaking but the rest felt fluid. The script seemed to write itself. The memorization was surprisingly easy.
My creativity is much like that too. Inspiration comes and I follow. I find it difficult to conjure up the creative spirit – it conjures me.

I’ll be posting soon with some of our latest creations and new directions we are going in here at ‘World on a String’.

In the meantime check out my book, Piece by Piece: Love in the Land of Alzheimer’s.  The story is much more than about Alzheimer’s. It’s a terrific love story and a travel adventure as well. You can find it on Amazon at: 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Anatomy of a TEDx Talk

TEDx Ubud happened this year on May 28.  TED talks are inspirational and informative whether I watch them on YouTube or actually have the privilege to attend the talks.  I always feel fired up watching people so passionate about their subject. This year was no exception - only this year I was a speaker too,

I spoke about my fourteen years’ experience as a caregiver to my husband, Bob, who had Alzheimer’s Disease. It was an intimate look at life with Alzheimer’s and how it affects the caregiver. 

Giving this seventeen minute talk with no notes and no prompter was no easy task. It was an endeavor of love and strict discipline.  When I was first asked to speak my immediate response was, “Oh no, I could never get up in front of all those people!”  I asked if I could think about it. 

I sensed, in spite of my fear, this was a once in a life time opportunity.  I thought, I mulled and I tried to visualize myself on the TED stage but that vision had adrenaline coursing through my body along with feeling a rock was solidly forming in the pit of my stomach.  

I have been a risk taker all my life and I’ve vowed as I approach 70 years of age, not to stay quietly in my comfort zone or rely on rigid routines to run my day. I have vowed to push my boundaries and break down barriers. Last year I did it with a solo trip to Sicily. This year I did TEDx. 

With heart pounding and adrenaline rushing up my torso filling my arms and legs, the TEDx host invited me up to the stage with 350 pairs of eyes watching my every move. A wave of nervous emotion swept over me but I managed to push it down knowing how difficult it is to talk and weep at the same time.  

I had been preparing for this for months. As per the TED guidelines, I wrote the script of my talk, memorized it, and rehearsed it with the organizers. We tweaked it a little bit each time crafting a talk that would touch people. 

I practiced it in the gym when I was on the elliptical and the treadmill machines. I practiced it daily at home and when I really had it down, I invited friends to be my audience.  At one rehearsal someone’s phone rang and my mind blanked. It wasn’t that I couldn’t remember what to say but there was just nothing there but emptiness.  Maybe that’s why Zen teachers rap their students’ shoulders suddenly with a stick! 

From that day on my partner, Alan, became my distractor and what a funny distractor he was.  In the middle of my practice he’d call me or bang on the wall. Sometimes he’d cough loudly, hum, or clean the fish pond right in front of me. He also took to staring at me from only a few feet away. At first I’d laugh because he was so funny but soon I learned to focus no matter what the interruption. As it turned out this was all unnecessary because there was not a sound in the room except me talking. I had the audience’s attention. 

A funny thing happened early on in the talk. It was like I left my body and watched myself giving the talk. Then I realized this, so it was like I was watching myself watching myself giving the talk.  I didn’t have to do anything! 

When I got toward the end I got teary and croaked out the last lines as a photo of my husband and I hiking in the Himalaya’s appeared on the screen behind me. I couldn’t see it but I knew it was there. It was a beautiful tribute to Bob and to our life together. 

There wasn't a dry eye in the house - including mine.

This talk was a joint endeavor. Without the support of the TED team, my friends and family, I don’t think I could have done it. This was my boundary breaker for my 70th year. 

Now which barrier shall I spar with next?

The article that goes with the TEDx photo above:

A video of the talk will be on YouTube around the end of June 2016. I'll post the link then. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Book!

Finally, I have published my book - six years in the making along with fourteen years of care giving. It’s published on Kindle. Later there will be a hard copy but for now it's readable as an e-book. This has been a creative endeavor of love and passion but also darned hard work. I had a fantastic editor, Kristi Graham, who could see the forest for the trees. 

I designed the cover to convey life as we knew it crumbling around us.
I hope the book will be a good read as well as helpful to other care givers. Here's a summary of the story:

Susan and Bob felt they were living their dream life. They lived in Bali, had a growing business together, they traveled and they were still very much in love even after fourteen years of marriage. When Alzheimer’s hijacked their lives, Susan vowed to give Bob the best life possible.

Written honestly and vividly, Piece by Piece: Love in the Land of Alzheimer’s tells a caregiver’s story of facing the emotional, physical and every day challenges inherent in caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease for fourteen years. Susan shares the practical lessons and techniques learned along the way to help other caregiver’s in their journey with Alzheimer’s. 

This is also a story of following one’s dreams, travel, adventure, and finding humor and insights in life’s challenges. Above all, this is a story of enduring love. 

                              AVAILABLE ON KINDLE

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Through Darkness to Light

My last blog entry was in January 2014. I went to the States, did my shows, and returned to Bali. My husband passed away three days later. He’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s for fourteen years and then he was free. I felt he waited for me to return. 

Our Early Bali Years
Bob’s death affected me more than I expected. I’d been grieving his loss all those years of the disease and thought this final piece wouldn’t be so difficult. I was wrong.

I stopped writing my two blogs and concentrated on my book, Piece by Piece – Love and the Land of Alzheimer’s. It’s finally finished (for the third time) and now comes the hard work – getting it published whether that is traditionally through an established publisher or doing it myself.  I’m querying publishers and at the same time preparing to self-publish. We’ll see which direction I’m steered in. 

Working with Milly
Two days after Bob’s memorial and the scattering of his ashes off the east coast of Bali, a just hatched all-black baby chicken wandered into our yard.  She quickly claimed me and my staff as her flock and settled in to grow into a healthy hen.  During that time Milly’s favorite perch was the computer monitor and when she became too heavy for that we built her a desk perch. Milly became the house clown making me laugh and bringing light to an often dark year.

In all her Glory
Creativity is always a joy for me - but marketing a challenge. Since the only shows I do for my jewelry are in February at Tucson, my pieces are in storage for the rest of the year. This is a waste of time and space but previously I didn’t have the energy to deal with it AND care for Bob. Finally a solution evolved. 

A lovely young woman, Ariana Schwartz, is now working with me to promote my creations on Etsy through Face Book, Instagram and Pinterest. We are just getting started but you can see my Etsy Shop at: We’ll be putting on a lot more pieces up in the next month. 

Ariana, an award winning costume and clothing designer, artist and teacher, is a joy to work with. You can check her out at:

You can follow me on Instagram at: where I’ll post process photos and how inspiration blossoms for me. Or on Face Book at:

I continue to develop new designs in mammoth tusk, jet, Indonesian hard woods, bone and a few new materials such as tagua nut and soap stone.  And I’m still enamored with the painted bone pieces pushing myself to explore new color combinations.

I promise not to take a year to write another post so check in now and again to see what’s brewing at World on a String.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

On Fire

I leave Bali in five days for the shows in Tucson. Naturally I’m trying to get as many pieces as possible finished before I go. Down at my painting studio I have four bone pieces in various stages of painting and many more waiting to be started. I hope to have a big enough collection of these time consuming pieces, to make an impression.

I am enthralled with this new direction. The creative process has revved up and so it’s difficult to leave it when the energy is thrilling.  When I return to Bali in two months, I know I won’t be able to just jump into it again but will have to reenter slowly.  That’s the way the process works for me.

I’ve learned a lot in the last year and know I’ve just scratched the surface.  I see other people coloring bone today so it’s not unique.  In fact the Ancient Greeks colored ivory carvings as did the Chinese, Japanese, and Gothic Europeans.  But coloring already beautiful mammoth tusk seems a sacrilege and so I use the white of bone as my canvas. And I hope what I do will be different from others.

My Beading Table with Two Projects in Waiting
Sometimes I wake at night with color schemes dancing across my imagination.  I pray they’ll still be there when I get up in the morning.  This is what I live for - to be on fire with creativity.  I lie awake and think of the beads I’ll string a piece with and new ideas pop in and out of consciousness. 

For some reason it seems I’m at the height of creativity just before I have to leave it all and fly somewhere else. Is it coincidence? Or is the approaching departure stirring the pot of ideas with now or never?  All I know is that I’ll be back down at the painting studio tomorrow morning to complete the four waiting pieces.

How does this work for you?