Why the pink tool bag?

                                   Why the pink tool bag?                                       IMG_7902

This is a photo of a pink tool bag.

Why?  Why the pink tool bag???

I was in a store, I can’t remember which one, and Hope and I were in the tool/home improvement section.  She was looking for something that would help her in her bike-building process, and I was meandering about as there was nothing I needed.

I came upon this pink tool bag.  Now…….I am assuming that this tool bag was meant for a woman.  And I am also assuming that the bag is pink because pink is associated with the female sex.


I don’t need a pink tool bag.  I don’t want a pink tool bag.  Someone, somewhere thought I might want one, I guess.  Perhaps they thought I would like the bag, and buy it because it is pink.  Would the pink bag help me to take care of my maintenance issues in a more feminine way?  Or would I have more fun, feel more confident as a female, fix with flair if I had that pink tool bag at my side?

I have had to get used to fixing some things myself, which is not to say that I didn’t fix things when Andrew was here.  In fact, I think it might be safe to say that I have been more of a handy woman than Andrew was a handy Man!  Bob, head of maintenance at The Grier School, can attest to that!  Andrew didn’t call him for everything, but he called him a lot!

I am not claiming to be handy woman extraordinaire, but I can handle a few things on my own.  When there’s something I can’t handle I ask for help, and I’m so grateful to those who are willing to pop over and spend some time with hammer in hand.  And I’m proud to say that I now know the “year” of all our cars and when their inspections are due.

Men and women know these things, men and women take care of all that needs to be done, and we don’t need pink or blue bags in order to do them.  (That being said, if you like your camo carry-all or your fuschia furniture, who cares?!)

Maintenance issues aren’t the only things that I’ve had to get used to taking care of.  Everything has now redefined itself…..every part of my life.  I am redefining myself, from the pink bag dilemma to the checkbook register to the way I need to function in the world…….

I’m fortunate to be able to take my time a little bit and look for the direction that I need to take.  I have heard people say, “Find out what you love and find a way to make money at it.”  Andrew sure knew what he loved.  All his “student friends” from all his years at Grier and in Tyrone can attest to the fact that he loved students and was just overjoyed beyond belief to help them find the education they needed or take the best pic to send to parents.  And in every photo he took you can feel a bit of the artistic, loving genius that focused the lens.


For me it’s a little different.  I love a lot of things, most of them creative…..theater, music, art, writing…… I’ve often felt like that jack of all trades…. How content we all would be if we could make a living doing what we love, right?!

Andrew with monster face

In the days shortly after Andrew’s memorial service, after my brother-in-law flew home and the crowds thinned out, I started treasure hunting for sapphires in Andrew’s gravel (Please see my Gravel Story post if you are confused!).  Even though the rough gems I found were far from their faceted end destination I was inspired by the process.  I got out some colorful beads and a watch face that I had bought months before, and while the girls were watching TV (I’m not always totally interested in America’s Next Top Model!) I made myself creatively busy…..

One thing led to another, and now I have an Etsy store!  I will unabashedly put a plug in right here for myself because people like it so far, and you just might be curious anyway.  It’s DarcyWilsonArt.etsy.com.  I don’t know how successful this venture will be, but at least for now I’m doing something I love.  And I’m learning a lot….it’s really interesting to try to figure out how to make an online store work.  For instance, my listings won’t come to the top of searches right now because I’m an “untrusted” quantity.  People will have to “favorite” my shop and give “reviews” before Etsy will trust me to make a big enough cut for them!  The art is only part of it all…..SEO stuff, choosing the right words, the right items…..

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Anyway, I don’t know if this experience will be the defining one for me but it is at least something to get excited about.  I like that it’s different from what I’ve done before.  Everything I’m doing right now if different than what I’ve done before.  And I am forced to become different now, too…..

Andrew was such a big personality.  When we went places together I really didn’t have to say much.  He was the extrovert and I the introvert…..it was a pretty good match now that I come to think of it.  25 years of not having to come up with small talk!


That’s not true, really.  I had to do my share because everywhere I went with Andrew he was looking up someone that he knew from some other time in his life.  I distinctly remember him sitting on a hotel bed with the phonebook in his hand when he couldn’t remember if he knew someone who lived in the town we were visiting…..

Andrew was the perfect example of how to converse in social situations.  He was totally comfortable because he truly believed that Everyone wanted to talk to him!  What confidence!  He looked at a group of strangers and said, “What fun!”  I would look at the same group and say, “God, help me!”  He’d pick up the phone and just know that the person on the other end would be pleased as punch to give him their time.  I pick up the phone with a sweaty palm and pray the person isn’t home!

Please don’t think that I am socially inept….the part of my world away from Andrew’s side consisted of many wonderful people that did not make me sweat…..my theater friends, my book club girls, my students and colleagues…. but when I was at a party or just anywhere with Andrew I really didn’t have to say much!  In fact, looking back, I think sometimes I didn’t have a chance to say much…… Every once in a while I did have something to say and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise!


So.  Here I am.  I’m filling in the spaces…..those empty spaces.  The dead silences that happen within conversations.  Sometimes it’s really awkward.  Sometimes it’s really lonely to be the one saying it all.  But to be fair, sometimes it’s nice not to have to wait for an opening.  I’m stepping into those empty spaces whether I want to or like it…..and I’m doing it.  I really am.

I’m filling in the empty spaces all over the place.  My friends and family are filling in spaces too.  And even though no one can fill up Andrew’s space they fill up the whole entire area all around it.  I don’t want Andrew’s space to be filled up anyway.

So I reach into my purple toolbox….Oh, I didn’t tell you that I have a purple toolbox!  Yes, I admit it.  I love my purple toolbox.  Dawn gave it to me; I’ve had it for years.  Anyway, I reach into my purple toolbox for the little picture hanger thingy that Jerry and Mike got at Walmart and I intend to put one of Andrew’s photos up in my studio….fill in that big, white space over the piano…..

And then maybe I’ll make a bracelet.  I think I’ll make Lori’s.  It’s the pink one.

The Gravel Story: It’s All Rough

This is the gravel story.

I was trying to think of a really great second post, something lighthearted, not too sad.  My first thought was “the gravel story!”  It’s a great story.  But after I wrote it I realized how sad it is, too.  It’s great, but it’s sad.

I’m writing it anyway.

I can’t avoid telling stories because they aren’t happy.  That’s what life is going to be for me.  Everything that happens, no matter how funny, interesting, adventurous, newsy or scary, everything will have at least a tinge of sadness because Andrew is not here to live out these things with me.  That’s just how it is.  We need to tell about the joy, the love and the happiness while also including that tinge of sadness.  This is OK.  It will be OK.  So here it is….the gravel story……

Some have heard it already, but it’s definitely worth a re-tell.

What you need to know before I continue…..  One, my daughter, Hope, got me hooked on sapphire hunting.  Two,  Andrew enabled my addiction.  Three, we’ve found some really nice sapphires in gravel from Montana mines, and I’ve made jewelry from them.

(Sorry for the interruption, but before I go much further I feel I need to tell you that my brother-in-law, Kim, and my father-in-law, David, who live in Montana, have been very instrumental in this pursuit of the big blue bling, always suggesting activities for visits.  Cousin Mairin has enjoyed the search, and my sister-in-law, Liz, has been seen with her fingers in gravel, too, so henceforth I’m calling it a Wilson family thing, whether they would agree or not!)


At the end of June Andrew went to Montana.  He loved to visit his family and, being the extroverted soul that he was, he loved to connect with anyone and everyone he knew while there.  He’d always fit in an adventure or two just because that was the way he lived.  He arranged to go sailing with his friend Bill, so on the day before he passed away he got to spend time doing one of his favorite things in the whole, wide world…..  And they sailed on Canyon Ferry Lake outside of Helena…..

Over to the Lemont part of the story…..

On that day I got a text from Andrew.  It was a picture.  Actually no text at all.


I respond, “Cool.  What is that?”  I thought he and his dad went to a ghost town or something.

Then I get this pic…..


I’m thinking, “What on earth?……..”  Then it dawns on me!  The first pic was of the store at the sapphire place, and the second was of the bag of gravel and sifting screen that he got for me!  He texts, “Sapphire place and your next bag of treasure!”

I say, “YAY YAY YAY!!!!!!”

He says, “I will check the check-on luggage limit and probably put some in my carry-on.”  (He had a plan already.)

I say, “You are WONDERFUL!”

As it turns out, in Montana Andrew had gone sailing with Bill and when he saw the sapphire place he thought of me, as he always did, and stopped to get me a bag of gravel that I could sift through at home.

If you knew Andrew you have witnessed this kind of caring from him.  He always had other people in mind…. He always had me in mind.  He loved me so much.  He loved the girls so much.  Of course he wasn’t perfect, but I don’t think there’s anyone left in this world who could love me more.

I’m so glad that Andrew was happy.  He sailed, he hiked, he took photos, and he was thinking of his family in the midst of his happiness.  He didn’t know he was writing his final chapter of life. What a huge lesson to all of us left here…..we don’t know which chapter we’re writing, do we?  Did we choose the right book to write?  (Sigh.  That’s another post.)


Back to the gravel….it’s not the end of the story……

That gravel could have been “long ago lost and forgotten,” but thanks to Grandpa David it made a comeback!  Andrew had told his dad about getting the gravel for me, and in the nick of time David told Kim to check the back of Andrew’s rental car.  Sure enough, there it was.

Kim wanted to make sure that I got Andrew’s last gift to me, so he and his friend, Tom, made plans to send the bag to me in PA.

So now we’re present day…….I have gone through about half of the bag.  I’m rationing it.  And I’m saving the parts that I’ve gone through just in case I’ve missed something!  I’ll go through them again someday.  Here’s what I’ve found from that bag so far.


It’s all rough; that’s what these beauties look like in the raw.  I don’t know what the big chunk is.  I’ll do some research and probably send the best pieces off to be examined and possibly heat treated or faceted.

Just so you don’t think I’m totally crazy, I’ll show you what some of my other sapphires looked like after this process……

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Andrew was so excited to surprise me with that gravel.  What a great gift!  I cannot describe to you how it felt to open up the package when it arrived, to retrieve the last physical, earthly, well-planned gift that Andrew could ever give to me.

Yes, it’s all rough……the things we have to search through, the joys that we have to find hidden in the dirt, rocks, dust, and all the rest that we really don’t want…..

It’s a gravel story, and we will tell it every day.