Friday, April 26, 2013

Please pass the bead soup

"Coloring the sunshine hours, they are the ladies of the canyon."

It's one minute after midnight EST on April 27, or it will be when I hit the publish button. Grab a bowl and a spoon because it's time for the third and last reveal of the 7th Bead Soup Blog Party. Beaders from around the world exchanged beads and now we are sharing the *vegetables* of our labor. (Well, you don't ordinarily put *fruits* in soup.)

First, credit to Lori Anderson, who hosts the party, matches up the exchange partners, listens to all the complaints about packages lost in the mail and no doubt a zillion other things, and pulls it off with grace and aplomb. No mean feat when you have participants in 28 countries on four continents. Here's a map she put together showing where we all are.

Second, thanks to my partner, Heather Otto, who lives in the Austin, Texas countryside and raises goats, sheep, llamas and yes, real vegetables. You can read more about the delicious soup she sent me if you wish, but I'll re-post pictures here.

The soup.

Closeup of the focal beautifully wire wrapped by Heather and two copper clasps handmade by Heather.

And I'm pretty sure if you're still reading, and all indications seem to be that you are, you probably want to see what I made with the beautiful beads she sent.

I made a suite of necklaces. They can be mixed and matched or worn alone. Here we go.

A group shot first, then some modeling.

For the short choker I used the white agate druks, mother of pearl coins and sodalite rondelles that Heather sent, with a round copper bead from my stash.

The longer choker uses Heather's laboradite ovals, lapis, onyx and copper rounds, plus copper spacers that I had on hand. It is finished with Heather's lovely clasp, which is meant to be worn to the side.

Then I have Heather's lovely pendant on a simple copper chain. I thought a lot about adding dangles or putting it on another necklace, but honestly, it stands out so well on its own and I know I will really enjoy wearing it this way. Or maybe I'll change my mind and add another strand of beads later.

I used some of the extra beads for a double-stranded bracelet. Of course Zamboni just had to photo bomb the shoot. That cat is bead obsessed. Can't imagine why. He's sitting on the back of my chair, watching me type right now.

I still had Heather's second clasp to use and I'm very proud of this one. I had the glass beads in my collection, just waiting for the right opportunity and this was it. Again, the clasp is mean to be worn to the side.

So I'm happy with my mix and match collection. And I didn't use even one of my lampwork beads. But who's to say I can't add another coordinating necklace later?

I'm looking forward to seeing what Heather made with my beads. Here's another shot of the bead soup I sent to her.

Please join in the hop and see the pretty creations made by the many talented artisans in this global blog party. You can find all the links posted at Pretty Things.

"Trina takes her paints and her threads
And she weaves a pattern all her own
Annie bakes her cakes and her breads
And she gathers flowers for her home
For her home she gathers flowers
And Estrella, dear companion
Colors up the sunshine hours
Pouring music down the canyon

Coloring the sunshine hours
They are the ladies of the canyon"

(Joni Mitchell)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Working slow and cool - not

"The slow grace of time, the joy and the fears, oh, how they shine like diamonds and tears."

I promised eye candy and eye candy there shall be. Finally, the mini glass mushrooms I made after seeing ceramic ones at Cornelius nursery.

And the mushroom man who took them to work, because as he said, that's the kind of plant you have in a cubicle.

I'm still making lots of long tapered tube beads, mostly laden with silver glass shards and encased in clear, with a soupçon of glittery goldstone and sparkly dichro. Because after all, I am the original bling girl and I wear that honor proudly.

So it's not very surprising that I was drawn to visit Austin Thin Films last Tuesday. ATF makes DichroMagic® which is dichroic coated art glass. Dichroic glass contains multiple micro-layers of metals or oxides which give the glass certain characteristic optical properties, including a shimmery finish with colors that shift depending on the angle of view.

Dichroic glass was developed, surprisingly, by space exploration research into thin-film filters for use as very accurate color filters.

Multiple ultra-thin layers of different metals and metal oxides - gold, silver, titanium, chromium, aluminium, zirconium or magnesium - are vaporised by an electron beam in a vacuum chamber. The vapor then condenses on the surface of the glass in the form of a crystal structure. The finished glass can have as many as 50 layers of these materials, yet the thickness of the total coating is approximately 30 millionths of an inch.

Austin Thin Films is located on the outskirts of Austin in an industrial park and sells primarily through distributors and online. There is no storefront but I'd been told if you call in advance they will let you drop in, providing you have a resale license, and sell to you at wholesale prices. Better yet, they have scrap bins of items that are discounted further.

Neil had a business meeting in Austin, so I tagged along. On Monday night we had dinner with my daughter and her boyfriend. On Tuesday I grabbed one of my lampworking friends who lives in Austin and we headed out to ATF. There were two guys working and they were very nice, but they did say we lucked out that it was a convenient day for us to come.

Honesty, if it was my business, I'd never let anyone dig through the scrap, too much risk of slicing yourself badly. Not that either of us got a cut, but still. They had dichro with coefficients of expansion compatible with all the most popular soda lime art glasses, but I could have spent a whole day there and never got past the 104. I would have loved to empty the scrap bins and organize them by color and size, but I'm OCD that way.

We didn't want to outstay our welcome though. The shop space is small and the two men were working around us, so we made a pass through the 104 bins and I left with a half lb. of scrap and some pre-fired rainbow hot stix and possibly some new inspiration.

I've been making glass beads for more than 5 years. I've melted all sorts of silver glass, worked with gold and palladium leaf, fine silver foil, wire and mesh, cubic zirconia and just about every blingy thing that you can jack up your glass with. I've tried to love dichro in the past but it did not love me back, not one little bit.

Dichro is a bitch to work with. It doesn't like being stuck in a torch flame. You can only direct the flame at the back plain glass side of a dichro strip, and lay down the dichro on the bead with the clear glass side out. But here's the thing, the dichro wants to fold in on itself and curl up around the edges and then what you get is ugly scum. You have to work slow and cool, two things I am famous for not doing.

But I decided to give it another shot, and this time I'm not giving up until I master it or burn through all the dichro I own, which is quite a lot.

I'm making progress.

I'm getting the dichro down on the bead and getting it encased all right. I'm just not sure where to take it from there. I've been trying design elements from some of my other bead series and I'm not quite happy with anything yet.

I am happy that I haven't thrown up my hands in despair this time.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

And oh yeah, when and if I get clear-backed dichro down ... they also make it on black glass. It looks killer but it's gonna take some heat control to get it on the bead dichro side up and encase it before it burns off.

Good thing I like challenges.

"Spent my life looking for
Happiness like it was buried treasure
Somewhere behind the secret door
Surely there were riches beyond measure

I would take my sanity to task
Walk across broken glass to find it
And no mountain top was left unclimbed
Before I ever took the time to look inside me

These dreams of mine, these precious years
Oh, how they shine like diamonds and tears
The slow grace of time, the joy and the fears
Oh, how they shine like diamonds and tears."

(Gary Harrison, Matraca Berg)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jonesing for Yellowstone

"I'm reminded how much you've made me believe in the love that survives."

I bought new hiking boots this week!

I didn't even know I needed new hiking boots until I saw these Ahnu Montaras online and swooned.

I don't know how anyone buys shoes online. I have to try them on. So I headed to REI on my way home from class on Monday.

They didn't have them in this color, Tawny Port, but they did have them in Astral Aura.

Not a problem. I knew I could order them online.

Only they didn't fit, dangit. REI has a little simulated rock you can hike up and down. In my usual size, hiking down, my toes were hitting the toe of the shoe.

I tried a half size up and that was worse. I have narrow feet and my feet were actually sliding down in the shoe.

Bummer. Hiking shoes just don't come in narrow. You can get medium, wide and even extra-wide, but not narrow.

I asked if any of the boots ran narrow and the salesman suggested the Vasque Breeze.

I tried a pair on and man, my feet were home.

Sadly it didn't come in Tawny Port or any shade resembling red. I had a choice of Slate Brown/Blue Fish or Gargoyle/African Violet (pictured because that is what I got).

At this point I still hadn't made an actual decision to buy new boots. My hiking boots are about 9 years old but they just haven't seen that much trail use. I'm lucky to go one or two places a year where I can get in a couple of hikes.

As long as I was at REI anyway, I tried on some Keens. The Clearwater was narrow enough for me.

Then I went home and googled and found my way to Moosejaw. The prices were hands down the lowest and what with free shipping and coupon codes and rebates, and the fact that there was one of each in stock in my color and size, I didn't last the night. I have no will power.

On the side of rationalization, these new hikers really feel much more light weight and flexible and state of the art than my old REI-brand clodhoppers. I put those on and walked around the house in them for a while and they felt heavy and clunky and stiff and ugly.

Here they are, the inglorious bastards.

I loved them so so much when I first got them. They were my second pair from REI. I bought the first pair a half size too small and came back from Lassen Park with Black Toenail. Don't google that. Or if you do, don't look at the pictures. They aren't pretty.

I took the shoes back to REI and they exchanged them even though I had hiked in them, because that is their policy. I felt guilty enough about it to buy a much more expensive windbreaker jacket than I would otherwise have ever owned. I still love it. It's almost just the color of those Tawny Port Montaras.

Loyalty only goes so far though and Moosejaw not only had the best prices, they had the best sense of humor.

Today I got an email that said my order had shipped. After the order details, it said this.
Your Order Tracking and Order Summary Information is way above in red. We recommend printing this information and mounting it into a mahogany frame for a foyer or living room. If you don't have a printer they're very easy to take from a friend and bring back later, just something to keep in mind.

Love the madness,
No buyers remorse for this girl. I'm tickled that I'll be tripping the light fantastic (sans the music) in my new Breezes at Yellowstone Park in August. Yes, we finally made a plan. Rooms and flights are booked. We're flying in and out of Jackson Hole and staying two nights in the Canyon area and two night in the Lake area. Three whole days of hiking bliss.

So this was me again on Wednesday. It was damp and dreary but I walked anyway. Neil's away on business until Friday and I had cabin fever.

So I braved the elements and was rewarded with this.

I also saw mama egret and her chick - she keeps an egret eye on him - and the gray heron who looked cold, wet and miserable.

I made a few beads today too, before the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. Eye candy next time, promise.

But right now I have a story to finish.

This will be the last post about Nick. There are no more letters because I didn't save any more of them. We continued to write to each other through the fall of 1999 and into the winter of 2000. Two years had gone by since we first connected.

Nick's relationship with the new woman ended as abruptly as it had begun, although we never really talked much about it. He was on a steady trajectory now toward healing and wholeness and I was in a steady state, if still lonely at times.

By January he was seeing someone new.

I accepted that the love Nick felt for me was filial and not romantic, but I was disappointed that he wouldn't meet me for dinner or see a movie with me or play scrabble or hang out, as friends do. It began to affect my self-esteem.

So I may have tried to lay a guilt trip on him. And he may not have responded to one of my notes. And I may not have written again. And then another year passed and it was Christmas and I wrote to him, but he had changed ISPs and my email bounced back.

I'm sorry it ended, especially in that way. We had given each other so much. But perhaps we no longer needed each other, we had each served our purpose in the other's life, the last chapter had been written and it was time to close the book.

"When there is a great disappointment, we don't know if that's the end of the story. It may be just the beginning of a great adventure." (Pema Chödrön)

In reality, a relationship between us never would have worked, we were too alike, too susceptible to neediness and co-dependence, too sensitive, too fragile, our feelings too easily hurt. Our politics so different, our backgrounds so dissimilar, oh there are so many reasons. Not the least of which is that I'm incredibly happy to be in love with my husband, who I admire and respect and who, after more than 10 years together, makes me laugh every single day of my life.

I have reason to believe that Nick is doing just fine. But it's not my story any more.

"You found me in a sea of confusion drifting with the tide
Living on love that had long since died
But every time that I touch you, baby
I feel a little more alive
And I'm reminded how much you've made me
Believe in the love that survives
You know, we must believe in the love that survives

Oh lessons learned are like bridges burned
You only need to cross them but once
Is the knowledge gained worth the price of the pain?
Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?
Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?

Borne on the first warm winds of feeling newly found
Fly but remember don't look down
Take as much as you think you ought to
Give just as much as you can
Don't forget what your failures have taught you
Or else you'll learn them all over again
Or else you'll have to learn them all over again."

(Dan Fogelberg)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Enchanted with April

"Where do we begin to find the needle in hay or know that there's another way to finding Paris?"

There is one month a year that I love living in Texas and that is April.

The weather can be quite changeable. Me last Thursday and me two days later on Saturday. Self portraits both.

On Thursday I saw a baby heron. And on Saturday I saw this new fellow, a juvenile egret.

Here's another little fellow I can't wait to see again. He looks so much like his mama. Same little imp faces. A summer child and a winter child.

I used to think Ry looked like a combination of his mom and dad, but ever since his dad bailed, all I see is how much he looks like Kandace. With blue eyes, exactly the same color as his Aunt Chelsea.

I guess Kandace and I both carry my grandmother's gene for blue eyes.

Kandace, Neil and I had some fun with this picture that Kandace posted to Facebook and I shared on Neil's timeline.

Elizabeth posted a photo to Neil's timeline.
Aint he cool!
Cause every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man. Black shades, black socks...... (black socks?)
Daddy put him in the socks. They say "boob man"
There were quite a few ways to interpret that comment. There's the classic definition of a "breast man" of course, but I thought it was also possible that she was saying that Ry's dad was a boob for putting him in black socks.

Neil and I responded within about one second of each other. What neither of us noticed was that the socks actually have "boob man" embroidered on them.

In that case, are you sure it isn't "man boob"?
Haha. Double entendre. At least I think that's what you meant/didn't mean.
Ryland is the boob man. 10 months and counting!

Obviously what she meant was that she was still breastfeeding. We were a little dense.

Maybe they're inside out and it's "poopnam", like "gangnam" style, but appropriate for babies.
or maybe "poop man" ?
Nothing goes with black socks like sandals you know.
I'm enjoying this, please keep me up to date on future sock developments.
Poop man is definitely appropriate as well. 10 months and counting!
I think we're up to triple or quadruple entendre now - lol!
Life is good.

Life has always been good.

I'm very lucky.

But that doesn't mean that's it's all been smooth sailing, that I haven't struggled, with or without good reason.

In 1999, as Nick regained his physical, spiritual and emotional well being, mine hit a wall.

Right now, I am struggling a bit. I am grieving over my divorce - yes, I know, it's late. There is no going back, that is not even a question, but I am very frightened that there is some flaw in my heart, that I do not really know how to love, or what love is at all.
In Texas a party can appeal a divorce decree for 30 days, so although my divorce was final in February and although it was highly unlikely that my ex-husband would appeal after the hellish year we spent sorting out the dissolution of our life together, it wasn't until after the waiting period that it fully sunk in.

I'm not even sure if that was the reason for my struggle or if the timing just coincided, or if it had more to do with the new mood med that I took for 3 days and that pretty much left me flattened on the floor. OK, sofa.

There were so many questions that troubled me.

At some point when love stops, there is simply no going back. But my fear comes from the fact that I really don't know my own heart. I might think I love someone, but how do I know it is love? Not understanding how love ended in my marriage, how do I know I will never (ever, ever) get to that place again?
I was squarely back at step one, admitting I had no control over my demons.

I often think that I created the anger in my ex-husband that made him act out the way he did, and that the flaws were mostly in me. If I could have been more loving and forgiving, maybe he wouldn't have become so hostile and bitter, etc. I torture myself with this crap.

If someone handed me a million dollars I would not know what to do with it.

And the crazy thing is that nothing is wrong with my life. I have a good life and I'm grateful for what I have.
And as I had always done, I soldiered on.

Whatever is broken is inside me - I plan to keep trying until I fix it or die, in no special order. When we are in this it is so easy to think that it is going to feel like this forever. But it doesn't. It won't.
This time Nick got to play the healer-rescuer.

Poor, Sweet, Liz. You are on the hamster wheel of life again. We all take turns, it seems.
He was doing well now, which was all the more phenomenal because he had split with the girlfriend and that had always tripped his panic button.

I had to set the girlfriend aside again. There is only so much abuse one can stand and then it ceases to be fun anymore, know what I mean? I have to really look closely at why i keep going back to a well full of mud. But you've seen this for awhile.

I told him I was sorry about the girlfriend. The girlfiend, he used to call her.

It is no fun to be abused, but we seek out what we are familiar with, and of course being alone is way scary.

I'm holding on for dear life. Trying to remember there is a point even if I've (temporarily) forgotten what.

This latest bout has finally forced me to acknowledge that this is an illness, not a choice or character flaw or a moral failing. It shoots all my theories about victims and responsibility and control - I could no more have gotten off the sofa last weekend than if I'd had a bad case of the flu.

I hate this. I hate the self-absorption it causes. I just have no energy right now to take an interest in much else. I am surviving, not living.

I talked to my ex last night. I told him how sorry I was, and that I don't think I could have survived what he went through, and that I hope he forgives me some day. I hope I forgive myself.
One more time, I got the most beautiful response from Nick.

I love you Liz. You have helped me so much. But I also just love who you are.

Keep your face to the sunlight which includes keeping in touch with me.
Slowly, with some help from Dr. Rx, I crawled back out of the muck.

It isn't the depression caused by circumstances of my life that is crippling - it is the depression despite all the good in my life that is. Who could ask for more than I have?

"Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy." G.K. Chesterton

And that is truly what I felt like 3 or 4 weeks ago. I could intellectually remember feeling joy, but not what it felt like.

OK, got the heavy stuff out of the way. This is very difficult for a dyed-in-the-wool depressive to admit, but I feel be-be-better. Whew. Got that out. Probably jinxed it.
As he had said, we took turns. Early in our relationship I started having his symptoms but now we were volleying them back and forth.

I hope I don't alarm you, but I am getting thoughts of suicide and it's happening quick.

God almighty what is this curse? (Might I have already died and this is hell?)

I feel all alone. I feel like nobody really gives a damn. I feel like I need to medicate and do it fast, but I am so scared of medications. I foresee everything and everybody in my life leaving me. I am petrified with fear and I'm agoraphobic again.

I know you have recently gone through a shit storm. I am sorry to lay this on you, I hate to be needy, I'd rather be the caretaker ... but I can't.
Fortunately I could.

I'm here to help. My home is your home. You know I love helping - and I am doing so much better right now, so I can.

I will say the [insert drug name here] is keeping me off the ocean floor. I can still see the bottom, but I think I can see daylight too.
Nick was slowly coming out of the pit too, a step forward, a step back, another step forward.

Alas, I am still tossing salad in the octopus's garden with you.

I'm glad to hear that you are seeing some daylight. I have a good day and then a rough day.

If I take time to stop, breathe, meditate, to the extent I am able, and pray, I find that this cocktail helps me along in my day.

And then sometimes there are those days when I am so "in-it" I cannot do any of the above.
That reminded me how significantly we mirrored each other.

When I was in my "crisis" the Pdoc asked me if I was getting any physical exercise. I said, yes. I'm breathing in and breathing out. He asked if I could "muster the troops" and just do it. I said, I am struggling to eat a meal or take a shower.
Nick was steadily on the mend now. He was making me laugh again.

So much insecurity/uncertainty. And at this stage in my life. Despite all of this, I am still sucking oxygen.

In the meantime, I am selling fish at my brother's place - a sell-fish activity.
For once we were both in the same space at the same time. Better yet, it was on the other side of the mountain, the brighter side.

The future seemed filled with possibilities.

I was unprepared for what happened next. Summer was waning when I got this note.

I am crazy and have recently involved myself with a young attorney ...(my daughter's age, ahem). I must be out of my mind. But it has sorta swept me and I haven't yet been able to regain my footing. I'm both scared and exhilarated.
Oh well. It was fun, or something like fun, while it lasted. And we'd always have Paris.

You know, Virtual Paris. The one in cyberspace.

"Mama started renting rooms when times got bad
Papa'd shake his head, well that was all we had
There's lessons that I learned from living with those two
About trying to do the right thing, and when to make a move

I know he felt like a stranger there in his own house
She must've felt it when she'd lay her china out
She dreamed she'd go to Europe, bought a Samsonite
God I know she'd picture Paris there behind her eyes

We go 'round and 'round on big and little things
Some still hurt and some aren't worth remembering
Where do we begin to find the needled in the hay
Or know that there's another way to finding Paris

Finding Paris."

Tish Hinojosa

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fear of agoraphobia

"Well I don't know where it all begins, and I don't know where it all will end."

Got him. Them.

Finally, the elusive gray heron. Herons. Two.

I really should take my good camera and take it on every walk, because I always see something I wish I could capture. On Sunday Neil and I came around a bend on the path around the lake. Neil spotted it - an egret. Perched on the roof of a two-story house. Like a weathervane. I said I wonder if it's real, and, as if to mock me, the egret turned its head. What are the chances I'll ever get that shot again?

Neil and I have been trying to decide where to go on vacation this year and it's been an Abbott and Costello routine, or maybe George and Gracie. I make a suggestion and he shoots it down, he makes a suggestion and I shoot it down.

Front runners are Acadia National Park in Maine, Great Smoky in North Carolina and Yellowstone in Wyoming (and Montana and Idaho). Bryce and Arches and Canyonlands are on the list but too hot for the middle of the summer. I live in Texas, I want to go somewhere cool (literally) on vacation.

Acadia includes mountains, an ocean shoreline, woodlands, and lakes. The mountains offer hikers and bicycle riders views of the ocean, island lakes, and pine forests. Cadillac Mountain, located on Mount Desert Island within Acadia has an elevation of 1,528 feet. (From Wikipedia) It is the tallest mountain along the eastern coast of the United States.

So why am I worried about what we'll do there? We aren't much for beach sitting. I always want to hike and to challenge myself. There are visitor centers, museums, gardens, hiking, biking, climbing, ranger programs, guided tours, and nearby federal parks, state parks, and wildlife refuges. There are plump lobsters and wild blueberries. There's a flamework and hot glass shop in Rockport. There are tons of reasonable bed and breakfasts. I've never been to Maine.

Great Smoky and other attractions in North Carolina would be at the top of our list, except that I've become obsessed with LeConte Lodge, the one you have to hike up to, the one that books a year in advance. There has been so much snow and ice this season that the llamas just made their first trip up yesterday with supplies.

They usually go up three times a week, but they're doing a back to back trip today, although today's team will consist of seven different llamas. Llamas do have their limits.

We're on the wait list for a week in late July but I'd hate to count on cancellations and the likelihood of planning a trip on short notice, or not at all. We'd be better off making a plan to go in 2014.

I threw Yellowstone into the mix. I finally got to Yosemite last year and I loved it. The wallpaper on this blog is from photos I took at Yosemite. Neil was not enthused. He says it's because the park gets ridiculously crowded in summer, despite being miles from nowhere. I suspect he has some fear of bears and wolves, which is the same reason I think he booked a bus tour through Glacier National Park last year, instead of making a plan to go hiking.

I just checked and against all odds there is some lodge availability at Yellowstone in July. It's not dirt cheap but not out of the ballpark either. Now I'm really tempted. Let's see what the boss man has to say about it.

It would be great to have a plan, just so we can stop stressing about it. Planning our vacations can be so stressful that sometimes I just don't want to leave home.

Without much encouragement, I could see myself becoming agoraphobic. I thought that meant fear of leaving home, but a little research revealed no such specific phobia. Agoraphobia is the fear of open spaces or of being in crowded, public places like markets. Also, the fear of leaving a safe place, which is what home is, so it fits for the most part.

Maybe fear isn't the right word. Maybe it is just laziness or disinterest or lack of motivation to go anywhere. I have my little circuit, the post office, the bank, the library. Starbucks, Jamba Juice. Hair, nails, massages. Doctors and dentists. T.J. Maxx and Ross. Jemco, Michaels, JoAnn's, Hobby Lobby. Lowes. Academy. I guess I'm not hopeless.

Yesterday the main reason to go out was three packages to mail, two frit orders and the replacement beads for my patron customer whose beads were stolen. I managed to put that off until mid-afternoon because I decided to do an inventory of my bead sets.

That turned out to be a brilliant thing because, and I have no clue how this happened, only about half my bead sets are listed on Etsy. You can't sell them if you don't list them. The upside is, if I do any shows this season, I will have bead sets to sell. Long ago I decided to keep my show inventory and online inventory separate. I'll probably list some of the unlisted sets on Etsy but unless they all sell out, I will earmark the rest for shows. And a few that I may restring into ebay orphan samplers.

I finally went to the post office and dropped off the parcels. The feeling that I should be making beads was nagging at me. I mean, the weather is still nice enough and soon it will be summer and I'll be sweating and miserable in my garage studio. So I dutifully went out and cranked out a few focals and a lot of spacers and my first try at a bead set in the Pantone Fall 2013 color trend palatte.

Acai and Vivacious were the most challenging. If any glass company comes out with those colors, the flamework glass community will be ecstatic, elated, enchanted, enraptured, and euphoric.

Here are the beads I made. Pretty good, no?

I need a segue-way here to take you back to 1999, where my story now takes on elements of drama noir.

How about this. It was a dark and stormy winter.

My divorce was final in February 1999. The judge signed the decree one year and one day from the date of my petition.

I was doing OK on the whole. I wrote to Nick.
I think I am really as stable as I am likely to be, meds or no meds. I'm going to try a therapy-exercise-diet-sleep (I hope)-relaxation-vitamins only approach for now. I am feeling really good right now. I am hopeful that I am really in recovery.
Nick wasn't doing as well. He'd broken up with his girlfriend again, which as before provoked severe anxiety.
I haven't seen or spoken with my ex-girlfiend for 'bout 7 weeks. It's so weird. When you grow up in a house that's on fire you have a tendency to walk back into burning houses. It's hard to see them as dangerous. They just look like home to me.
He was suffering from tinnitus and facing surgeries for his sinuses and a lower abdominal hernia.
The dizziness, fear and the ever increasing tinnitus has got me to the point that I don't care whether I live or die. I mean it.

And ... just to spice it all up, depression and anxiety from hell with a shitty response to medication.
I was unbelieving at first when he told me he was addicted to pain meds.
I'm having a real difficult time with my pain meds. I believe I am hooked on 'em. I've got the symptoms. The doc knew this and said we'd just have to step you down off of them when we get the pain managed. I'm still scared.

This is not good. If nothing else, I could use a kind word and a sympathetic something ... maybe a word of encouragement.
Not just unbelieving. Downright heartless and flippant. I thought he was attention-seeking.
No Nick, I don't think you are addicted to muscle relaxants or the crap they are allowed to prescribe OTC. It's in your head, my dear.

So, how was that for a kind word or a sympathetic something?
That hurt him.
I never would have believed that you could be so cold.

The OTC they're giving me is Demerol and Percodan - triplicate script shit. And there is no doubt about it, I am physically, and becoming psychologically dependent on these opiates.

I do not think I have another recovery in me. Eight years ago I knew, or I believed it was my last chance. Now, each night I am finding myself using the drugs for the psychological benefit instead of the intended purpose - the pain.
I still wasn't groking. To this day I don't know why I was so dense, so insensitive.
I confess - I am really your mother. Brrrrr.

Think about this: What is the payoff for being addicted to the pain meds, Nicholas?
I'm surprised that he answered.
You asked what was the payoff to becoming addicted to drugs. It's like a mini-suicide. You get to not experience yourself and others without giving up the ghost I guess. But sometimes people give up the ghost unwittingly while taking drugs.
I was starting to worry just a little bit, but still thought he was playing the victime card.
No, I meant what is the payoff for you - today - for believing you are addicted to your pain meds? You are choosing/creating your state of mind - this is very important.
Then things got much worse.
I'm alive ... but I don't see the point of it.

The revisitation of the opiates has been subtle, cunning and baffling. I am so depressed over this turn of events - this twist of fate - because I feel like I have thrown away eight years of sobriety.

I am still taking percoset, but at a reduced rate. Last week, however, I was running away with it. I was doing them in quantities to get high - for the purpose of getting high ... or blasted.
He still hadn't hit bottom though.

He still knew where to buy the street junk.

I got religion then and started to panic. I knew he had a brother living north of the city. I told Nick I was going to call his brother and that got his attention. He vehemently did not want me to make that call. We had heated words on the phone. He was shooting up while he was talking to me. I hung up on him.

Fingers shaking, I punched in the numbers on my phone to reject calls from him.

My parents were visiting and I had opera tickets for Orfeo that day. My parents loved opera and I was bent on exposing my kids to culture of every kind. I sat there in the Wortham Theatre Center in my pretty spring dress and though about Nick in his home, alone and in misery, and felt ineffably defeated.

But I had done some good. I had scared him, if not straight, in that direction. He had one of his friends call to tell me that Nick was making arrangements for going into a rehab program.

It also drove him to write me another beautiful letter.

I miss communicating with you. You know I am not well and in danger. I feel like you and everyone will abandon me because of what I am doing.

You, without question, are an important figure in my life. Who would ever have guessed that that could be possible considering the way in which we met. I cannot define our connection ... there is the gender stuff which confuses me ... but if I lay that stuff aside ... and I can't ... but I try ... and what is left is, dare I say it? OK, it's love.

And then there is attempting to define that. With you, like all other loves, it is unique. But it is your essence ... soul, if you will ... your you ... and who wants to ever put aside the gender stuff anyway? But I cannot respond that way with you right now and because of that I feel very intimidated by you.

So I am afraid of you...and you have known that about me for some time now I think.

All that to say ... I miss you.
And then a quickie to let me know he was on his way.
Tomorrow. It's 12:30 a.m., so technically it will be today. Today I will go to detox from this crap.

But I will have something in my system today, so tomorrow will be my new sobriety date.

That would be March 25, 1999.
I was so grateful.
I'm glad you are going to the hospital and rehab. It is right. Thank you for telling me.

You are tough - like me - and fragile - like me - and I hope you will be okay now (like me?).

March 25 is a good sobriety date.
And then, mercifully, it was over.
I am home.

I haven't a physical dependence any more.

You are beautiful. Please forgive me for harming you ... I never intended that.

I cannot express the gratitude I feel for having you in my life.

You were instrumental in my looking for help sooner rather than too late.
A terrible weight had lifted. Gratitude flooded me.
Hey Nick - I wasn't angry or traumatized - just scared for you and a little off-balance because both my parents and my kids were there with me (and having my mom around puts me into terminal stress mode anyway).

I am just so happy you are better - and thanks for saying I had anything to do with that.

And I'm also sure you haven't used more than your share of grace - you have a really fine heart and soul.
And then another shocker.
I don't know how to ask ... howzabout you and me doin' lunch sometime soon?

I mean, it doesn't have to be a big deal or anything, but I sure would like to buy you lunch and spend a little real-time with you sometime soon.

What do you say?
I'd been wanting him to ask me to spend time with him in real life since I'd met him.
I say sure. A girl's gotta eat.
We met for lunch at a little cafe near my office. It was May. I wore a white knit top, khaki slacks and a little cropped summer jacket with embroidered flowers.

I told him once again that the past didn't matter, that only the present and future matter.

I felt the old attraction to him. I was seeing someone else though, and he knew that. I'd have given it up in a heartbeat if he'd asked me to. But he didn't.

We hugged when we said goodbye. He sent me a note after.
Thanks for joining me for lunch today. I really enjoyed it.
And I said this.
Thanks for lunch. That was very sweet of you. I had a good time too.

Nick, despite what you've been through, you look better than you did a year ago - it is something from the inside that I see.
That lunch was the last time I saw him.

His girlfriend had come back while he was in treatment.

I didn't know it yet, but our story was coming to an end.

"Lost friends and loved ones much too young
So much promises and work left undone
When all that guards us is a single center line
And the brutal crossing over when it's time

Well I don't know where it all begins
And I don't know where it all will end
We're better off for all that we let in

We're in an evolution I have heard it said
Everyone's so busy now, but do we move ahead
Planets hurling, atoms splitting
And a sweater for your love you sit there knitting

Well I don't know where it all begins
And I don't know where it all will end
We're better off for all that we let in

You see those crosses on the side of the road
Or tied with ribbons in the median
They make me grateful I can go this mile
Lay me down at night and wake me up again

I pass the cemetery, walk my dog down there
I read the names in stone and I say a silent prayer
When I get home you're cooking supper on the stove
And the greatest gift of life is to know love

Well I don't know where it all begins
And I don't know where it all will end
We're better off for all that we let in"

(Emily Saliers)