Monday, December 31, 2018

Practically perfect in every way

And I know that I am dreaming
As I memorize each part
In the telling lies a reverie
In the details lie the heart.

It's a well known fact - if you know anything about me - that the holiday season brings out the worst in me when it comes to gift giving.

While I admit that it's fun to open a gift-wrapped package, I truly mean what I say, when I say, I don't want any gifts. I don't want to receive them, and I don't want the obligation to give them, just because there is a certain date on the calendar.

I would't describe myself as a generous person on the whole, but I can be sporadically generous when the stars align just so.

For example, when I went to my ceramics teacher's open house, which she holds to sell her work, I immediately picked up a large mug. I walked around with it, picking up other things, putting them down, but I never set down that mug. Eventually I set it on a shelf designated for the things you wanted to buy, to free your hands while you still were shopping.

One of my classmates was there and after a bit she came up to me and asked if I was going to buy that mug. I said, oh yes, I love it, definitely. She was disappointed and said she collected mugs but they had to hold at least 16 oz. and that was the only mug that fit the bill. I hesitated, then said, it's OK, you can have it. She expressed how grateful she was, and I magnanimously said, it's Christmastime.

Just like I was this really nice, unselfish person. Which I can be, but only when and if the spirit moves me.

When if comes to gifts, I do like giving them, but also only when and if. When and if I see something that I'm sure will delight the recipient, and that may happen whatever the day of the year. Or when and if I suddenly feel the urge to do something nice for my kids, out of the blue, such as send them some shoes (after checking with them on their size of course).

On a related note, I find that I am always buying things for myself, and that plays into why I don't want gifts. I have so much already. I hoard, I stockpile. This year I was particularly ridiculous about buying shoes. And sandals. And boots. And every time I say, enough already, no more, I'm done, something else pops up on social media and tempts me. The social media marketers have totally got my number.

It seems there is always one more thing to buy. If I just get that last thing, I will be done with shopping for a while. Oh wait, there is that other thing I need. And yes, that thing too. But if I get it, I should be set for a bit. Except, I do need those. And if nothing else comes to mind, I will always shop for socks. Because you can't have too many dozen pairs of socks stashed away for a cold rainy day.

So, today I am sitting here on the last day of 2018, with a couple of hundred dollars worth of yarn in my shopping carts. And I'm magical-thinking that if I check out and submit my orders, I will be able to use what yarn I have for a long time and not obsessively keep shopping.

I started crocheting early this fall and immediately fell down the rabbit hole of end-of-summer sales, back-to-school sales, early Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday sales, and naturally Christmas sales and after-Christmas sales.

I've added to my stashes of Bath & Body Works lotions and potions, Life is Good Crusher Ts (long-, short-, and sleeveless), Lush bath bombs and soaps. I'm still eyeballing one more pair of Fluevogs. I'm just 127 points away from Gold Level rewards from Origins (and I can't even swear I love their products, but how can I leave money on the table?).

I'll probably wind up with the yarn and a firm-ish New Year's resolution to resist impulse buying for at least a month. Wait, is it impulse buying if I've had the yarn in my cart for a week or more?

Right now I'm finishing a scarf for Chelsea's boyfriend, in lovely merino wool shades of black and grays. Even though I already knew the answer, I asked Neil why I was making scarves and blankets for everyone in the family. He agreed with me that it's not because I am being nice, it's because I like the making part and I need an excuse to keep doing it. Unlike beads, there is no way I could sell my yarn-wares for anything like a fair price, given the cost and time involved, not to mention that for every lampworker there are probably thousands of knitters and crocheters.

There are probably also dozens of fiber artists for every glass bead maker. It did briefly cross my mind that I could learn to weave or spin or whatever one does to make yarn. But I'd need a spinning wheel and who knows what else, and I already have a studio full of bead-making equipment, tools, and supplies. And I'm not done with that by any means. I might have slowed down just a bit, but I still enjoy the process of melting glass into things with holes.

What I have stopped is buying other artists' beads. I still look and appreciate, but any temptation is short-lived. I can pretty safely say, my art bead collection is complete. I didn't go to the local bead store's annual blow-out sale. I have a few jewelry projects that I want to complete, but I have all the components I need or close-enough substitutes. I still want to complete some sort of larger art project with my own stash of beads.

You'd think I had nothing but time on my hands to get everything done, but the first truth you learn about retirement is that there is never enough time. My mom used to say, you think when you retire you'll have time to get to all those things you thought you'd do, such as straighten out your junk drawer, but five years later your junk drawer is as messy as ever. I used to think that would be because you knew there was no rush, there was always tomorrow. And as my dad used to say, why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

Now, having been retired for seven and a half years, I know that your junk drawer still isn't sorted because of the other 15 million things on your proverbial to-do list. Things like scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, reading, binge-watching something on Netflix or Amazon, going to see Mary Popping Returns, taking walks, having a third or fourth cuppa, getting your $5 Smoothie King treat every Friday, going to Trader Joe's just because. Things like making beads, walking on the treadmill, yarn-spotting, writing email or another blog post, cooking the veggies you grew and froze, baking a fruitcake from your mom's recipe. Like texting with your brother or kids, Face-timing with your grandson, playing Jeopardy with Alexa, daydreaming by the gas fire.

I have to say it.

It's a wonderful life.


We are sitting at a table
In a bar in Baltimore
It’s the last night of December
And the room is nearly full
And the front door pulls a draft in
Every time it opens wide
And you are telling me a story
From another time and life

And the waitress brings our order
And we’re tucked in mighty close
And I feel like we belong among
The living and these ghosts
And I know that I am dreaming
As I memorize each part
In the telling lies a reverie
In the details lie the heart

Like the folds of summer dresses
Like the scent upon my wrist
Like the way you played guitar
Like a boxer punches with his fist
And taken or just lost to me
It’s better now to say
I dwell in possibility
On New Year’s Day

There’s a jukebox or a bandstand
And we’re on another round
And the night’s just getting started
Or the night’s just winding down
And your stories are not clouded yet
By the ale or by the gin
They just make me feel as if I’ve known you
All my life again

And this is what it looked like
When we started walking home
The night sky bleached to silver
Against the city’s bones
In dreams or in our waking
It’s just enough to say
Love and grace and endless flowers
Be ours on New Year’s Day

Like the folds of summer dresses
Like the scent upon my wrist
Like the way you played guitar
Like a boxer punches with his fist
And taken or just lost to us
It’s better now to say
We dwell in possibility
On New Year’s Day.


(Mary Chapin Carpenter)