Thursday, August 30, 2012

The inconsolable babykins

"Here we go again, another round of blues."

I've been busy blog hopping and I'm still only halfway through the last reveal. There are so many imaginative bead jewelry designs to admire and comment upon. I'm determined to finish visiting all the blogs by the end of this coming holiday weekend. If I don't leave a comment, its either because I couldn't get the letters and numbers in the captcha right, or the blog was in another language and I couldn't figure out the instructions for comments.

In the meantime, I've been away visiting my baby grandson who is almost 12 weeks old. He's smiling now and is the most adorable little flirt, with his blond hair and big baby blues. Good thing he is such a cutie because he's also a little rascal.

I would say that I never had an "easy" baby. My oldest, Ryland's momma, was a busy bee. She took 30 minute naps and was happy all the time, as long as you interacted with her. She liked to be walked, to play peekaboo, to go for a ride in the stroller. She did not, as some of my friends' kids did, like to sit contentedly in her baby seat, watching the world around her. She could be counted on to fall asleep in the car or in her baby swing.

Ryland is completely unpredictable, and the first baby I've been utterly unable to console. When he's happy, he is a bundle of smiles and cute baby noises. The other 80 percent of the time he is fussing if not out and out bawling. He's awake every couple of hours during the night, which is not exactly my problem, but still a worry, because I love my daughter and she has to go back to work next week and I don't know how you do that when you're up and down with a baby all night.

I try very hard to practice what I preach. As my mom liked to say, I don't try to live other peoples' lives, I have enough trouble living my own. But it's hard when I think my daughter is making things harder on herself than they need to be. She is dead set on giving Ryland nothing but breast milk and unwilling to consider the possibility that he might be less miserable on something like soy formula. Or that he might sleep longer at night with one formula feeding at bedtime.

I went with her this morning to her weekly breast feeding support group, and I had to wonder what kind of koop-aid these women were drinking. The lactation consultant talked about studies showing that breastfed babies tested higher in intelligence at 6 months. I sat there getting madder and madder. I breastfed my girls at first but despite my efforts to build up my milk supply I had to supplement with formula early on. My girls spit up a lot, and soy formula agreed with them better than milk formula. I pumped for a while after going back to work, but my meager supply dwindled further and continuing to breastfeed seemed more trouble than it was worth.

But I resented the implication that I had shortchanged my children by bottle feeding, and at the same time I disagreed with the premise. My girls are plenty smart and you have to consider all the variables. Such as the probability that the same moms who are hell bent on breast feeding are also more likely to be providing stimulation of all types to their kids, probably reading to them more and spending more time catering to their baby intellectual development.

Whatever. The bottom line though is that it isn't my decision. If I truly believe, and I do, that what other people think about me is none of my business, it stands to reason that what I think about my daughter is none of her business. And that includes the sleep issue. The one where my daughter rocks the baby to sleep each and every time, when I would bite the bullet and let him learn to fall asleep on his own

Both my girls slept through the night by the age of two months. Whether or not it was because cows have 4 stomachs so cows milk formula takes 4 times as long to digest, at least according to the lactation consultant, who can say. Whether or not it was because we learned from our mistakes with Baby One, who had to learn how to fall asleep on her own at 15 months, and put Baby Two in her crib, wide awake, much sooner, is anyone's guess.

This morning my daughter woke me at 7:30 and asked me to take the baby, so she could go back to bed for 2 hours. I said, sure, just let me brush my teeth and put on some coffee. Ryland was a joy for about 5 minutes and then the wailing started. I walked him. I rocked him. I put him on his tummy and patted his back. I repeatedly offered him his pacifier, which bought me 30 seconds of peace at a time. I took him into his room and shut the door so his mom wouldn't hear him and think I was beating her child.

Nothing worked. Ryland cried. He didn't pull up his legs as if he had tummyache, he didn't have gas. He wasn't wet or hot or cold or in any obvious physical pain. He was throwing a baby tantrum. And the funniest part was that every so often he would stop crying, smile at me, and then immediately resume crying. When he did finally cry himself down, I put him in his crib, covered him with a light blanket and left the room. Five minutes later, yes, you guessed right, he was ready for another round of blues.

At 9:30 I gave him back to his mom. I felt defeated. I had some belated insight into her postpartum depression that I had largely chalked up to hormones and the aftermath of anesthesia and childbirth itself. Add to that the experience with the breast feeding group and top it off with a 5 hour drive home. I feel so done.

But it didn't rain. And I was able to appreciate the beauty of the late summer countryside once I escaped the evil traffic that relentlessly blankets Fort Worth. Best of all, I'm home. I sleep in my own bed tonight. In my book, heaven is in the details.

"Here we go again, another round of blues
Several miles ago I set down my angel shoes ...

"So wherever you go, you better take care of me
This time, if you're gonna go, remember me and all this time"
Shawn Colvin

Friday, August 24, 2012

The bead soup blog hop big reveal

"Who for such dainties would not stoop? Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!"

It's (almost) August 25 and the reveal date for my first Bead Soup Blog Party!

First a big thank you to Lori Anderson who writes the Pretty Things blog and organizes the Blog Hops. With some 400 participants that is a really big feat. Check out Lori's blog this weekend for some amazing deals, including discount codes for my beads and frit blends.

Second, a shout out to my Bead Soup Partner, Margot Potter, whose blog is Make it with Madge. Margot sent me an inspiring mix of beads that challenged me and I hope I pulled it off OK. On a side note, Margot was a recent contestant on Craft Wars and you can download the episode (A Christmas Craft-Tastrophe) from iTunes for $1.99. Fun to watch!

Next, another look at the Bead Soup Margot sent me.

The pendant is a collage Margot created from a fashion illustration in a 1930s magazine that she found at a flea market in Paris. The crystals are Swarovski Elements ("the sparkliest of the sparkly") and the little orange flowers are Lucite.

Margot also sent another pretty clasp that I used in this necklace made with my beads. The beads are all made with my frit blends and wasn't it the perfect accessory for a bead bazaar where I had my blends for sale.

So this is what I made with the pendant, the chain, the bird toggle closures, the crystals and the lucite flowers.

I'm personally tickled with the asymmetry of the beaded part of the necklace, the length and the way my lampwork floral blended in perfectly.

I had enough beads left for a pair of earrings to match my necklace.

I used the rest of the chain to make a little jingly jangly bracelet with the charms.

Those of you with eagle eyes may notice that I didn't use the wire mesh (yet) or the blue stars. The mesh is so pretty and I have a great idea about how I want to use it. I just have to make some big-holed beads, which I plan to string with knots in between. I'm still thinking about how to do the closure/clasp. I promise a picture when it is done. I'm still pondering the blue stars. I'm sure the perfect application will come along. It usually does.

I'm looking forward to blog hopping tomorrow (and probably the day after and the day after that). I looked at every post from the first and second reveal dates. I'm hoping to have time to make more comments on this reveal. I tried to paste the list at the end of this post but I kept hosing up the html, so you will have to go to Lori's blog, Pretty Things, and scroll down to Reveal #3,

And of course I am bursting with curiosity to see what beautiful concoction Madge whipped up with the Bead Soup I sent to her.

"Beautiful soup, who cares for fish, game or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?"
From Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by the inimitable Charles Lutwidge Dodgson perhaps better known as Lewis Carrol

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The train ride derails

"Trouble ahead, trouble behind, and you know that notion just crossed my mind."

On our last day at Glacier National Park, our plan was to take the 10 am train heading east to Chicago via North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Train novices that we are, we booked our flight home 4 hours after our scheduled arrival in Chi-town.

Only there was a little hitch, that turned into a big honking hitch, by degree. Our train was delayed. Ultimately by 8 hours.

Normally, having an extra day at a national park would be like cake and ice cream when it isn't even your birthday. Unfortunately the good folks at Amtrak gradually ratcheted our departure time hour by hour. So we were captives at the lodge until we could hear that metaphorical train whistle blowing. The lodge would only extend checkout time by one hour, until noon. I used that hour to take a nice nap.

The one redeeming thing about being stuck at the lodge all day is that the day was overcast and cool, cool enough for a blazing fire in the huge great room fireplace. It rained lightly and would not have been a particularly pleasant day for hiking. Or for a Red Bus tour, for that matter. We had glorious sunshine and comfortable temperatures for our tour. I've said it before, I'll say it again, I'm lucky with weather.

By the time our train was four hours late it didn't take a math genius (not to say Neil isn't one) to predict that making our air connection in Chicago would be highly unlikely. Despite talk of making up time, we thought of a brilliant solution. Debark the train in Minneapolis and fly home from there. God bless America and frequent flyer miles. A call to United let us know that we could change our itinerary for a $50 per person fee.

I walked over to the Amtrak station, a stone's throw from the lodge, and changed our tickets. Getting a $225 refund for cutting 7 hours out of our train ride was the candle on that unbirthday cake. Our train rolled into East Glacier at 6 pm and rolled out soon after.

We got the back story on the delay. The original train derailed before departing Seattle. Passengers were bused to Spokane where a substitute train was put into service. Passengers and employees spent part of the night in a train station in Spokane instead of their (relatively) comfortable roomettes. Our car attendant assured us that no further delays were likely, so we pulled the trigger and changed our plane reservations.

Dinner was served in the dining car and the big disappointment was that there was only vanilla ice cream for dessert. Things went downhill from there. We had the beds made up in our roomette but it was a long night. The car was stuffy and I kept waking up and noticing that the train was moving very slowly or not at all. By morning we had lost more time and the chances of catching our flight home that night were slim to none.

The day was more of the same. At breakfast we were seated with a veteran train traveler who explained that as long as Amtrak ran on time it was king of the rails. Once a train got behind schedule, it had to yield to every freight train along the way. So we made tedious progress across North Dakota. The one bright spot was stepping off the train in Minot and snapping a photo of Neil touching down in State 48.

Breakfast was totally fine. We weren't hungry when lunch rolled around but I have anxiety about getting hungry and the prospect of no dinner. Lunch was a mistake though. The dining car was out of almost everything. Even vanilla ice cream. We had salad and lukewarm soup and I had an orange that was the most delicious thing I ate all day. I wish I had asked for two.

At some point we called United again and the agent was compassionate enough to change our flight to the following morning without charging a second change fee.

I'll skim over the rest of the trip. We were 13 hours behind schedule when we detrained in Minneapolis. Our taxi driver dropped us off at the wrong Hampton Inn. Who knew there were two Hampton Inns close to the airport. I saw the Mall of America on the cab ride. The hotel airport shuttle driver took us to the right Hampton with ill grace. We had a perfectly nice room, a lovely Hampton breakfast and an uneventful flight home. I slept through most of it.

I woke up the next morning, Sunday, with a raging sore throat and body aches. Because I am a lunatic, I made beads in the hot garage. My baby came home for her birthday and got her new wheels from her dad, which was possibly the most significant financial contribution he has ever made to our children's health and welfare. We had a $40 cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes and a nice time considering I was battling the URI from hell.

I have no idea where I got the bright idea to let my immune system fight this one out, but when we got back on an airplane on Friday to Philly for a coin show and a baseball game and on to New Jersey for a visit with Neil's mom and Neil's dad (respectively) I was coughing and generally miserable. I slept in the hotel while Neil went to the coin show. I struggled though 8 and a half innings at Citizen's Bank Park, a shame because it was a lovely night for a ballgame.

I slept at Neil's mom's house while he visited with her. I dragged myself around to visit with Neil's dad and sister and nephews and niece. I spent a lot of time on the sofa and the ipad. I seriously considered going home early. I alternately ran a low fever and no fever. I welcomed any fever as an ally in my fight against the alien strain resolutely stationed in my respiratory system.

The saddest part is, I tried and failed to use the time to dream about new bead designs. I always amuse myself when away from the torch by making beads in my mind. Except this time. My creativity was as useless as my immune system. We got home on Thursday night and on Friday I went to the doctor and got a scrip for Amoxycillin. I bow to the gods of antibiotics. Within 24 hours I felt human again. I was born at the right time. I have no doubts that I'd have had a much shorter lifespan without bacteriolytics.

Plus, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than sleeping in my own bed.

Creativity returned with health. Ideas began to flow again. I'm working on a new design and I'm excited about it.

"I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains,
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains,
There's more than one answer to these questions, pointing me in crooked line,
And the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine."
(Amy Ray, Emily Saliers)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The train to Glacier

"Sometimes the light's all shining on me, other times I can barely see."

A long, strange trip it's been, indeed, and it ain't over yet.

This is the last stop between me and my own bed at least. I love my bed. I love my house. I used to think I could never live anywhere more rural than suburbia. With the advent of the Internet and cell phone technology, now I think I could be perfectly happy without ever leaving home. I can buy anything I want and have it delivered to my door. I can chat with people all over the globe. I can get a daily picture of my grandson in a text message. I can get a video too and hear him make his baby noises.

Nonetheless, on July 27, Neil and caught an early flight to Seattle. In the next 8 days we covered 5 states, although admittedly we slept through all of Idaho and much of North Dakota. Most of the trip was spent in Seattle at the annual ISGB bead makers conference, and in Montana, at Glacier National Park.

As an adult, I've been visiting America's National Parks and in a way I feel about America like I do about my home. I never want to leave. There is so much beauty to see here that it takes a lot to tempt me to leave U.S. borders. I loved my trip to England and visiting my French cousins will always feel like the adventure of a lifetime. But traveling long distances to places with unfamiliar languages and currency and transit systems introduces more stress than my ideal vacation needs.

At the age of 20 I hiked in the Canadian Rockies with my best friend from college and another friend. We had an awesome time, traveling from Montreal to Vancouver on the Trans-Canadian Railway, stopping in Banff and Lake Louise, where I earned my first hiking blisters. We were so young and fearless, hitchhiking from station to campground to trailhead and seeing the most magnificent vistas I'd seen in my short life.

I knew I wanted to see more, to return one day to what I was sure was the most beautiful place on earth, but it took another score of years until I hiked again seriously. In the interim there were camping trips with girl scout troops and some lovely visits to Vermont's Green Mountains, but it wasn't until my early 40s that I got refitted with hiking boots and tackled the trails of the Smokies.

One of the joys of my life with Neil has been our yearly visits to National Parks and State Parks, from the Grand Canyon, to the Painted Desert to the Petried Forest. From Larsen to Zion, Sequoia and Kings Canyon to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, from the Great Sand Dunes to Mesa Verde, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulfstream Waters. I cant speak for you, but this land really was made for me.

We try to combine business trips, coin shows and bead conferences with a visit to whatever park is in a reasonable vicinity. Many are repeats for Neil, and I finally did get back to the Canadian Rockies, although we chose different hikes. In April we visited Yosemite. Yellowstone hovers near the top of the list, along with a return to the Great Smoky Mountains.

I don't remember how or when Glacier got onto the list. It may have been after I read Blood Lure, an Anna Pigeon mystery by Nevada Barr. I discovered the series starring the fictional park ranger in 2010 from a reference in National Parks magazine to Winter Study, the 14th book in the series. From there I went back to the first book and read them in sequence through the 17th, although technically the last is set in time before the first.

Glacier National Park, the U.S. part of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, also known as the Crown of the Continent, is quite a way off the beaten path, unless your beaten path includes a road trip across Montana. Montana is a freaking big state.

There is a train called the Empire Builder that runs between Seattle and Chicago, six trains actually, with one leaving every day from both cities. Number 8 runs east and number 7 runs west. Taking the train with a stop in Glacier seemed like an awesome way to visit a remote park and allow Neil to tick off the last of the 48 continental states that he has now visited. We have photographic evidence from the train platform in Minot.

Despite its intriguing name, Empire Builder, the Amtrak experience had little in common with the Orient Express, as depicted in film and print. We did travel by sleeper car, in a roomette, and the first leg of the route between Seattle and Glacier, was reasonably enjoyable. Our attendant was attentive, dinner and breakfast in the dining car were perfectly fine, and we both slept better than I expected.

We left Seattle and arrived at East Glacier about 2 hours late. East Glacier the town is barely more than a whistlestop, composed of the grand and historic Glacier Park Lodge where we stayed and a handful of eateries and souvenir shops. The lodge is located outside the park boundaries on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. On the first afternoon we drove up to the park and hiked around Upper Two Meddicine Lake. I wish Neil hadn't spooked me with bear fear, or I'd have enjoyed it more. We climbed enough to see some amazing views and then enjoyed huckleberry soft serve ice cream in perfect temperatures by the beautiful lake.

Neil will be the first to admit he was born without the spontenaity gene. In all fairness he disclosed this in our earliest correspondence. I like not having a plan and wandering where the spirit moves me. Neil likes scedules, lists and agendas. He was sweet enough to arrange the trip, so it would be uncharitable to say I would not have spent our one full day in Glacier on a 9 to 5 Red Bus tour. Even though the very same red buses, refurbished in 2001 (see photo below), have carried visitors through the park since the 1930s. Even though we did learn a lot about park history, as we, along with our 11 bus mates and driver, rode the entire Going to the Sun Road, with periodic stops to stretch our legs and buy refreshment.

Losing a favorite work shirt that I was wearing as a jacket and having to get back on the bus without a proper chance to look for it reinforced the fact that I'm just not tour bus material. I tried to be a good sport though, and the many beauties of the park were not a wasted on me. The day ended with burgers back in town and our last night at the lodge, which also brings me to the end of the most fun part of this leg of the odyssey.

The less fun part of our travels, including the proverbial train wreck, to follow soon.

"Lately it occurs to me, what a long strange trip it's been."
Garcia, Hunter, Lesh, Weir

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

First boyfriend redux

"You know I've been to sea before, crown and anchor me, or let me sail away."

This wasn’t the post I intended to write. I got sidetracked. (Having recently spent 24 hours on a train that was running 13 hours late, that word has special meaning for me and I’ll get back to it one day soon.)

My small liberal arts college class has a Facebook page and I've been a member from the beginning. Yesterday the class pres welcomed two new members. My first serious boyfriend (and his wife, also an alum).

Things didn't end well between us. I was pretty immature then. I wanted too much too soon from the relationship. Instead of giving it time, I broke up with him to date someone who "needed me" more. I was stunned when P went to pieces because I never felt like I was that important to him. He even dropped out of school for a semester.

When he came back he started dating a transfer student. That was our junior year. I was still dating G and we stayed together until after graduation. I broke up with him too, hurt him too, and he later married another classmate.

Both P and G had kids, 4 and 2 respectively, stayed married respectively, and from all I know, which is not a lot, are happy, respectively. I married someone else and we were just wrong for each other from the get go. The marriage lasted 16 turbulent years, but I have my two beautiful kids, so no regrets. A couple of years after my ex and I went our separate ways, I met my amazing future husband. We have been seriously happily together for ten years now.

Seeing P’s name and picture on Facebook stirred up some nostalgic feeling and provoked some strange dreams. I fleetingly toyed with the idea of adding him as a Facebook friend, but why? What could I possibly have to say to him? That I'm happy that he is happy, that things worked out for him, and that I'm sorry I hurt him. But 30 years is a day late, right? Why poke at old wounds?

And what if he isn't really happy, do I even want to know that? He would think I had a hidden agenda and I don't. Or is it that I want him to know I am happy? Admittedly there were some very rough years for me between then and now. Between my marriages a man I loved very much threw me over for the woman before me. If you believe that karma is a boomerang, then I paid for any and all hearts I hurt and my slate is squeaky clean.

I know I need to back away and do nothing and that is what I will do. It's temporarily out of perspective, I dreamed about it once, but it will morph into background noise soon enough. I'm not contacting him.

A friend told me that she looked up an ex who had hurt her and was happy to see that he had lost his hair. P did keep his hair. If he didn't I wouldn’t have been happy about it, but I might have moved on in a split second or ten. I'm that superficial! Not only that, his wife stayed slim and trim. Like me. In my dreams. OK, so maybe this will motivate me to work out and lose that extra 20. Why? I don’t know, I’m not planning to go to any reunions, I’m comfortable in my body, but hell, if she can stay slim, I can be slim too. It’s healthier, OK?

So I broke hearts and I had mine broken. Payback is hell. As I said, I was pretty immature when I was 20. And pretty vulnerable when I was single again at 40.

When I first got on Facebook, M, the man who broke my heart in 2001, sent me a friend request. I thought he might have something he wanted to say to me, so I accepted it, impulsively, curiously, (stupidly?). But then he never said one word to me. And so, a couple of weeks later, I de-friended him. After he had ample chance to see how well and happy I am. And beautiful because, above all, happiness is what makes a person beautiful.

Ah, that was satisfying. Hearts make miraculous recoveries.

I have absolutely no reason to contact P. It's way too late to say I'm sorry I hurt him, and I'm pretty sure I told him so way back when anyway. It was just the tiniest of jolts to see his picture appear, out of the blue, so to speak.

There's an Alanis Morissette song called Unsent in which she reflects on her old boyfriends.

The last line goes "I will always have your back and be curious about you, about your career about your whereabouts."

I sent that quote to M in an email once, about 6 months after the terrible, horrible end of our relationship. (We both said regrettable things and he basically told me to "have a nice life.")

I meant it too. Then. I never thought I'd stop loving him. But I did. And frankly, my dear, today I really don't give a damn about his career or his whereabouts.

I didn't go looking for P. His picture got posted on my FB wall. I'm over it already.

Even if at some point in history I would have given a lot for a second chance to get it right the first time, even if we had stayed together, who can say what would have happened, if we'd have been happy and stayed happy. I've changed, I'm sure he has changed too.

That's life.

"Blue, here is a shell for you, inside you'll hear a sigh, a foggy lullaby,
There is your song from me."
The ever brilliant inimitable Joni Mitchell