Carolyn Wing Greenlee

I’m Making Progress

I’m making progress—and rather quickly too. Here’s the update as of June 15, 2011, smack in the middle of the year.

Project 1: Eternal River, Volume III

I’m in the third edit. Always surprising how many things I missed. It’s getting to be fun now, because I get to sculpt it. Draft One is the hacking part, knocking big chunks off the block of stone. Draft Two is shaping it. Draft Three is seeing what needs to go and what needs to be clarified. Draft Four will begin the refinement.

Project 2: Scripture Album with Youth

Dan, Nathan and I just spent two days in the Sacramento area recording for the album. Friday, June 10, was Calvary Chapel Laguna Creek—their young people full of energy and enthusiasm. Two moms told me their sons and daughters were singing Scripture in the car and in the house. That was so gratifying.

June 11 was the youth of Sacramento Presbyterian Korean Church. I especially enjoyed singing with them because my son sang a duet with me. He had everything memorized, but that’s not surprising since he’s known most of my songs for twenty or more years. It was difficult to arrange this special recording session, and people had to drop out due to illness and other unforeseen interruptions in schedule, but the few that were there were troopers through the multiple takes required to fill out the sound.

And now Dan is mixing, mixing, mixing. He completed the mixes on two songs already. The first time I heard one of the mixes, it brought tears to my eyes because it was all I’d hoped for and more. Young voices are unique in character. They add so much to the songs. I’m thoroughly delighted.

Here are two examples, both from the Korean Church.

“The Commandment is the Lamp”
[haiku url=”″ title=”The Commandment is the Lamp (My Son)”]

“The Lord Will Give Strength”
[haiku url=”″ title=”The Lord Will Give Strength”]

Project 3: The Jewelry Adventure gets a name

necklace of black onyx ovals with thin white lines in them and silver and black square beads.
Line Art on red hat

This is the story behind the line of custom jewelry I call Solo Uno.

Solo Uno

It began in the late 1950s when my mother asked me to design a piece of jewelry for her. Even as a pre-teen, I knew my mother’s taste. She was attracted to big rocks—a diamond worth more than a house, an emerald big as your thumbnail, sprays of rhinestones on a cornucopia five inches long. I tried to draw something that I thought would satisfy her love of the dramatic, but it turned out only a paltry imitation of what she already had.

Decades later I realized that my mother probably intended to have my design realized by a jeweler. My parents had lots of money and my dad loved to indulge her. Having been to museums where I saw the gold and lapis of Egypt (Mom’s favorites), the fine gold filigree of Tang Dynasty hair ornaments, the diamonds of royalty in England, I thought I would like to try my hand at it. Fifteen years ago, I made a brief foray into the world of French wires and beaded necklaces at the invitation of my friend Stephanie, but I really didn’t have time. I had books to write. The beads and supplies went into the art room with all the other crafts and art supplies I intended to get back to someday.

Then, about a year ago, the bead store in Kelseyville was going out of business. My friend Nancy drove me down to take a look. We went several weeks in a row, for prices dropped every seven days. Together we picked unique stones, ropes of pearls whose colors had been induced by laser, needles, thread, findings, and a couple of how-to books. We planned to get together and see if we could figure out how to make jewelry, for neither of us knew what to do.

Then my husband died. Then my father died. Then a number of friends, and, recently, my last uncle died. I thought a great deal about life and the possession of things and what we put off. I thought about my remaining 4% of sight and asked myself, When are you going to get around to doing things you’ve always wanted to do—things that require sight? That’s when I got out the beads.

I call the line “Solo Uno” for several reasons. First, I had no idea where to get specialty beads like the ones I had, so when I was making the first piece, I decided right then that each would be one of a kind. There would be only one.

Second, I wanted each piece to be something the owner loved—that made her feel uplifted because the piece that called out to her fit her own unique personality—her style. There would never be another like her.

And third, because there is only one God—the Creator who made individuals and heaven and earth, the universe, alligators, butterflies, stones, stars, colors, metal, crystals, and creativity. He made the seeing eye and the hearing ear. It’s by His grace I can still see enough to enjoy designing jewelry, and prompted me by His Spirit not to wait, but to do it NOW.

As a legally blind bead-person, I have limitations that are life lessons.
• I can’t always tell what colors the beads are. That makes combinations more adventuresome. I have always been overly cautious and monochromatic lest I make something garish, but now I let it be what looks best to me.
• I can’t see the intricacies in the beads. That makes it easier to give them up.
• I can’t see the holes. My neighbor Moe told me she asked God to help her thread her needles—and He did—so I asked Him to help me thread the beads (particularly pearls, which are slippery and have tiny, tiny holes). I had rolled one pearl around in my fingers, peering at it under a magnifying glass for about five minutes before stopping in exasperation. Finally I asked Him to help me—and He did. I asked Him five times in a row to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and five times the needle found the hole without my looking. So I don’t look when I thread the beads. I just ask God to help me. The Only One helps thread my beads! In this way, every piece is blessed because He makes it possible. It is a joy. I sit there tickled because Almighty God is involving Himself, participating and enabling instead of leaving me in a frustration of blindness and regret because I let one more thing go until I was no longer able to do it.

I have been surprised at how much I’ve gotten from making the pieces. They have ranged from earthy to playful to sleek and sophisticated. They satisfy my need for color, shape, and variety. They rest my brain from so much writing. But, as in anything I do, the greatest thrill is seeing someone love it so much that she wants to make it part of her life. It feels the same to me as when a reader says, “You spoke my heart.” How gratifying is that?

It’s been half a century since my mother asked me to design a piece for her. I could not, because I can only design for myself. I didn’t know that when I was ten, but sometimes when I create a necklace, I think of her. I think, Mom would have loved this one, and it makes me feel closer to her.

Solo Uno pieces have this in common:
Each one has a number and a birthdate.
Each one has a name and a story.
Solo Uno pieces are as unique as their owners
and there will never be another like it.


  1. Toni Behl

    August 29, 2011 - 11:10 PM

    Carolyn, I get to see a picture of you too. Do you have a song about today being today? This is what your writings brought to me. Thank you for writing about blessings and beauty nourished through sorrow and loss giving birth to creativity and hope. Toni

    • Carolyn Wing Greenlee

      September 12, 2011 - 1:52 PM

      Yes, Toni. If you click on “Music” in the main menu bar on my home page, you will be able to go to the “Battle Belongs To The Lord” album where every song is available for free download. “Just Today” is there, remastered. May it bring you strength for whatever comes. Remember that all you have to do is today, and only one step at a time.

  2. Nancy Cardoza

    June 16, 2011 - 9:25 PM

    To the Progressing Woman of God!

    Hi Carolyn,

    Oh, thank you so much for the two songs you gave us all an introduction to!

    I think I have played them each for about 10 times…listening, listening, receiving, and delighting in not only the “sound” (awesome Dan!) but just the fullness of joy in my spirit in hearing the Word. A song will stay in my heart. How incredibly appropriate your son sang “The Commandment is a Lamp (my son) with you … what a prayer that is for all mothers of sons.

    I LOVED the piano & strings with “The Lord Will Give Strength”. I wanted it to go on and on and on to soak in that truth. The children’s voices are so wonderful and uplifting!

    Solo Uno

    What a unique name for your God-given and inspired jewelry line.
    I printed out your story behind the line to tuck away with my one and only Fish Parade. The background letter makes the piece even more valuable to me.
    You write from your heart, and it is beautiful.

    Nancy C.

    • Carolyn Wing Greenlee

      June 16, 2011 - 9:44 PM

      Nancy, you’re the one who pointed out the stripes on the fish beads—details I couldn’t see. That’s when I realized how much that “disability” is an advantage. I get so much joy out of seeing someone enjoy one of my pieces. It’s better than keeping all of them for myself.

      Dan worked really hard to get those mixes just right. I’m glad you noticed. And I’m glad that the songs give you strength and delight. It lets me know they’re doing their job. The duet with my son is especially wonderful for me.

      Blessings to you! Keep a song in your heart. —Carolyn

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