Adventures with Isabel

This post is also available in: Spanish

I have a treat for you today! Chandra Ramirez, Isabel’s fabulous assistant, shares her story of bead shopping with Isabel. To say that she learned a few things that day (about both beads and Isabel) doesn’t even begin to cover it.


Besides being a writer, Isabel is an accomplished jewelry maker. Her beading table is set up in her casita near her computer. When she gets stuck writing, she often switches over to beading and works with her hands creating beautiful necklaces and earrings for dear friends and family until her mind relaxes and she finds the path into the story again. It’s a beautiful thing.

With all that beading comes a need for an endless supply of beads. The gem fair came to town last week, and as a neophyte to the whole beading scene I asked if I could tag along. Isabel said of course, and that she would bring cash and we would divide and conquer. She also told me to wear comfortable shoes. Which to Isabel means a 2- to 3-inch heel with a strap instead of a strapless 4-inch stiletto. I showed up at the appointed time and place with my sneakers and was given a very brief tutorial on which beads were preferable and which ones weren’t. She also handed me a muffin and a latte for sustenance. We were on a mission.

Isabel pointed out colors and the prices of different beads, handed me a wad of cash, told me not to buy anything depressing or ugly and sent me on my way. I quickly spent just about everything she gave me, as those little beads can be expensive—especially the pretty-not-depressing ones! The huge assortment of colors and styles was overwhelming, from cheap, plastic-looking, fluorescent happy-face beads to gorgeous pieces of whole white coral plucked from the sea. There were tables upon tables of turquoise, amethyst, glass, jade and onyx in every shape and hue.

When I found Isabel a couple of hours later (she is hard to find in a crowd), I eagerly shared my purchases with her, humbly seeking her approval.

“These are all wrong,” she said. “The shapes won’t lie flat.”

In Isabel’s defense, she was right. I seem to have a preference for teardrop-shaped and oval beads.

Although my picks, thank goodness, weren’t depressing or ugly, they were mostly too large or too oval to make good necklaces. Now I need to learn how to bead key chains or bookmarks so we can put these gorgeous beads to good use.

To end the day we stopped off at the vendor who supplies Isabel with jewelry boxes for her creations. She wanted a large box of them and I offered to carry the box to her car. Isabel quickly interjected that the vendor could carry it to the car for me since, she announced loudly, “She is very pregnant.”

I am not pregnant, let alone very pregnant. I protested, declaring my un-pregnant state. She shot me a look and said, again, for all to hear: “Don’t listen to her, she is super pregnant and makes no sense.” To which the vendor inquired as to how one becomes “super pregnant.” Without missing a beat, Isabel proclaimed super pregnancy to be the result of sleeping with more than one man. With my cheeks now aflame (and still not pregnant, not to mention very happily married to just one man), I grabbed the box while Isabel was distracted by another shiny gem and carried it to the car, feeling now completely and appropriately initiated into the world of bead shopping with Isabel.

—Chandra Ramirez

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