Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rejecting rejection

"But always at evening time she cried."

This is a sandwich post. It starts with something happy. Then I whinge for a bit. Then it ends with something like happy.

The first happy. I made more Dragon Scale beads and I made a necklace with some of them.

I don't make a lot of jewelry and even less that I'm happy with, but I thought this one turned out nicely.

A little more happy. Pam has been busy. Or the bead totems have been breeding. Hey it could happen. You can see our awesome collaboration up close at Glass Art and Beads.

Next up, fair warning, is some ranting I did last night because my beads were not selected for an exhibit I had hoped to be part of. It hurt. But I'm over it (she lied). Shrug.

Written on May 29:

I have to admit it. I feel like a balloon that someone just let the air out of. Fsssssssssst.

I want to talk about and I don't want to talk about it. Talking about it is an admission of failure, of defeat.

It's just not what I needed right now, not when my faith in my talent already is so shaky.

I feel angry too. Like there is this club of bead makers whose talent is widely recognized, but it's a very exclusive club and so hard for a newcomer to get in. Even a newcomer who has been making beads for five years.

Or maybe this newcomer doesn't deserve to be in it. I'm not objective. I love my beads, maybe not every single one, but certainly some. The benchmark, however, is whether or not other people love them.

What disturbs me most is how ashamed I feel. Not just disappointed, but mortified and embarrassed to have been rejected.

So why am I blogging about it? Maybe because I don't believe anyone I know reads my blog. The 50 to 60 people who read my average post are mysterious to me. The occasional random comment I get is spam. But that's OK. I write for myself. Plus Neil is at softball and I wanted to talk to someone.

I so admire what another bead maker posted on Facebook.

Didn't make it into one of the exhibits I entered into. Disappointing. I hope I make it into the other one.

So matter of fact. While I'm so fucking emotional. I want to comment, Me either, but I don't want to go public with having submitted my work for an exhibition and not having it selected. If no one knows I entered, no one will know I didn't make it in.

I hate rejection so much. All my life I have held myself back from trying, because if you don't try you can't fail.

Here is the rejection letter I received.

I regret to inform you that your work was not selected for this exhibit. We received some truly wonderful submissions and unfortunately we could not take them all!

So is that exclamation point meant to make me feel better? Is the implication that my entry was truly wonderful too, just not quite wonderful enough to be chosen.

OK. I know it's a form letter, meant to break the bad news in a way that is as tactful and gracious as possible. Of course they can't say, your work was truly horrible, definitely not up to our standards, and we can't believe you had the gall to enter it in the first place. But thanks for the $25 entry fee anyway.

No, they can't say that.

I didn't enter the other exhibition. So I don't have to worry about being rejected a second time in a short span of time. The entry fee was higher and it sounded like the competition would be stiffer. Maybe that was a mistake. I entered the one that sounded easier, cost less, as probably everyone else did.

Water under the bridge now. Or a lesson learned.

It didn't help that today, bead artists were announcing that they been picked for the ISGB President's Collection at the Corning Museum of Glass, juried by the retiring president of ISGB. I don't even know if it was an actual competition with entry criteria, or if she just chose random artists whose work she admired. I think the latter.

A Google search shed no light.

And it also didn't help that my ebay auction of orphan beads ended tonight with the opening bid. That is such an undervaluing of my work. I've been keeping the opening bids low, hoping to stimulate some bidding competition. My strategy obviously isn't working.

I increased the opening bid by 50% on the next auction, but it's still a ridiculous bargain if it sells for that amount. If it does, I am going to double the new opening bid, and just keep relisting them if they don't sell. Better to have the beads not sell at all than to accept a humiliatingly low price. Better to donate them to Beads of Courage.

Well, time to move on, suck it up, get over it. I get knocked down, but I get up again. Thanks Chumbawamba.

Except for one little thing. The last sentence of the rejection letter.

I will be in touch over the next few days to pass on jury feedback. Thank you for your participation.

Jury feedback. Great. Something to look forward to. I hope it's brutally honest because honestly I am sick of platitudes and if they say stupid nice things I will know they are lying liars.

Anything nice they say, good use of color, nice shapes, interesting concepts, will just be fucking ingenuous, because if it was true, then my beads would be in the exhibit.

All right, maybe I should wait and see what they do say.

I still want to cry though. I have a lump in my throat. And I know how pathetic that is, people have real sorrow in their lives. Hell, I've lived through my own hell of loneliness and depression, and now I live an enchanted fairy tale life with a wonderful man who loves me, in a beautiful house, with good health and beautiful children and nothing to complain about.

So why are the tears rolling?

Do I just enjoy crying? Last night at dinner I burst into tears because we were talking about my cat Puck who died in October.

And fuckitall, another bead maker has announced on Facebook that she's been accepted into this exhibition, along with a photo of the beads she entered. And the beads just aren't all that. They're fine. But not exceptional.

I want to end this with something happy. Upbeat.

I know, how about the beads I entered in the competition?

First, the guidelines, abridged.

Awakening the Vision - Creative Discoveries

For this juried pendant show, artists are asked to challenge themselves to rediscover their vision, play with new techniques, and explore unique ideas outside of their normal creative circle.

All beads must be made into singular pendants and need to be strung on something for display. Up to six pieces may be submitted if you are accepted into the show.

And the beads.

OK. I see it now. They are flawed, they are pedestrian, they are unworthy. I can do better, I have done better, I should have chosen better examples. Why can I see that now, but I couldn't see it then?

And how am I going to get better? I work at it, hard, have been working at it hard for five years.

Or maybe the better question is, can I learn to be content with not being great?

Can I learn to be content with just doing my best?

Time will tell.

"Sweet Sir Galahad
came in through the window
in the night when
the moon was in the yard.
He took her hand in his
and shook the long hair
from his neck and he told her
she'd been working much too hard.

It was true that ever since the day
her crazy man had passed away
to the land of poet's pride,
she laughed and talked a lot
with new people on the block
but always at evening time she cried.

And here's to the dawn of their days.

She moved her head
a little down on the bed
until it rested softly on his knee.
And there she dropped her smile
and there she sighed awhile,
and told him all the sadness
of those years that numbered three.

Well you know I think my fate's belated
because of all the hours I waited
for the day when I'd no longer cry.
I get myself to work by eight
but oh, was I born too late,
and do you think I'll fail
at every single thing I try?

And here's to the dawn of their days.

He just put his arm around her
and that's the way I found her
eight months later to the day.
The lines of a smile erased
the tear tracks upon her face,
a smile could linger, even stay.

Sweet Sir Galahad went down
with his gay bride of flowers,
the prince of the hours
of her lifetime.

And here's to the dawn
of their days,
of their days."

(Joan Baez)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Mother's Day dichotomy

"I will sit and watch the river, make sure it don't get away."

Lately I've had some trouble doing the things I know I should do. Not all of them. I've been good about walking and have started going to the community fitness center and walking on the treadmill, now that the summer heat and mugginess has set in. I've made beads but even though I'm limiting my torch time, if I'm honest, that is just an excuse not to do some of the other things I should do.

I wrote the post below two weeks ago, the day after Mother's Day, but I didn't post it because I was waiting to get the photos off the camera and that was one of the things I was having trouble doing. And of course when I finally ran out of excuses, the battery in the camera was dead. Not that that prevented me from uploading the pictures on the memory card, but I had beads to shoot and wanted to do the upload all at once. OK, it was just another excuse to put it off again.

Since I wrote the post below a lot has happened. My brother and I met up in Florida for my mom's 90th birthday. I submitted my first article for Glass Bead Evolution, with some trepidation because my writing style is very different from the analogous feature article in the inaugural issue. The editor loved it. The hardest part was going through the photos sent by the artist I interviewed, more photo procrastination.

Come to think of it, I also procrastinated about sending on the photos I took at Blue Moon in Austin on May 4 for a future issue in the magazine that someone else is writing. I didn't have to edit them or even weed through them, I just had to flipping send them on. And of course when I finally did it took almost no time.

Other things I've been dragging my feet on include making a vet appointment for my cats. Zamboni will be a year old on June 6 and Loki has been yakking almost daily. This morning I swear he yakked up another entire cat. But just when I set my mind to do it, he goes a few days without hurling and I think, what's the rush. He had a checkup in October, including blood work and all his shots. So I figure I'll just take him when Zamboni goes for his one-year.

I have lots more to talk about, including these phenomenal bead totems made with my beads by my friend Pam who owns the shop, Glass Art and Beads, that carries my beads.

I love the way the cat is checking them out too.

And I've been experimenting with organic Dragon Scale beads inspired by Amber Van Meter of Naos Glass, which seem to be a people pleaser.

These sold right away. I have more in the kiln.

What I think I am going to do right now is to post my post-Mother's Day post, just as soon as I upload the pictures. And then we'll get back to our regularly scheduling rambling very soon.

Written on May 13:

I have my sad on today. My daughter and grandson spent the weekend here, from Friday until this morning, and I've got a bad case of missing those flirtatious baby smiles.

I'm not saying this because he's mine. OK, yes, I am, because if he wasn't this post would be about something completely different. Ry is an A number one bambino. Happy, good all the time, and in case you've forgotten, he's done a 180 from the inconsolable infant fussbudget that he was.

He's not quite walking, he's a champion crawler, he pulls up and cruises the furniture, he babbles without vocabulary, he knows his name and he understands no. And his mommy hung the sun and the moon, although he's happy to come to grandma, grandpa, and actually just about anyone who offers their arms.

I's new at this granny thing, eleven months in, and I don't know if this happens with all babies, but wherever we go, people get silly over him. Maybe it's the white blond hair and the enormous blue eyes, and of course he plays it, shining that heart-melting baby smile easily at perfect strangers. Grinning his killer grin behind that pacifier that he sucks on like a hard-core nicotine addict.

He loves his bath, he eats finger foods, he loves grilled cheese sandwiches, and bananas are his best friend.

And he's totally exhausting. I can't remember being as wiped out after a day at the zoo and a stop at Trader Joes. Just like his mama did, Ry takes a couple of 30 minute naps a day and he's good to go. And go. And go.

It's a tribute to my daughter that Ry is such a secure, trusting baby who expects nothing but love and kindness. His dad decided he didn't want to be married sometime during the very much planned pregnancy, and moved out the weekend Ry turned 5 months old. My daughter was so broken by it, but she did what she had to do, she bounced. She doesn't open up to me and I don't really know what she feels, except for the raw immediate aftermath when I told her over and over that she wasn't alone, she had me, that other people had done it, been single parents, and she would too.

I give her great credit for keeping it civil with her ex, and I completely agree that it's important for Ry to have both parents in his life. Even with his obvious shortcomings as a man and as a husband, her ex loves Ry and I think tries to be a good father. Although I did choke a bit on the bib Ry wore, saying "Like Father Like Son." God, I hope not. I hope Ryland always has good values and respect for women and the integrity to stand by any vows he makes. Or if he can't, that he at least works at it before tossing in the towel, and acts honestly and honorably and doesn't look for the easy way out.

I'm just glad my daughter was home with us yesterday. Being single on your first Mothers Day would have to suck when it was the last thing you ever wanted or expected. I slapped myself silly so I wouldn't say anything about the things that worry me and stuck to the many things that make me so proud of her. I did ask her if she's given any thought to dating again, and she said flatly, "I'm not ready." End of subject.

The thing that worries me most is her diet. I don't think she makes sensible food choices. We've been around the block on this one. I'm concerned that she is using food to make up for something missing in her life, and that's been true since long before her marriage broke down. I don't think she knows when she is hungry and I do know it can't be good to start your day with gummy bears or to forswear most fruits and vegetables. I'm over, or pretty much over, how her weight affects her appearance (and how it reflects on me, because it's all about me, not). I'm not over my anxiety about how it will affect her long-term health.

I'm not proud of my bias against weight excesses. In general I think our society is overly obsessed with an unrealistic ideal of slenderness, with our anorexic models and our teenage girls with eating disorders. I think a few extra pounds is a lot more appealing than skin and bones and under-eye shadows. But more than just a little extra weight makes me wonder about a person's self respect. Your body is a gift, a machine to keep well lubed and tuned up. Yeah, anyone can forget an inspection or miss an oil change now and then, but you don't want to amass a pile of non-moving violations either.

My daughter was petite as a little one, always one of the shortest in her class, and a gymnast and a dancer and a drill team member. Genetics were not on her side with hips and thighs, but dancing kept her fit and muscular. She played a lot of sand volleyball in college, and I don't remember weight being an issue until recent years. As her mom, it is hard for me to say nothing, but it really is her life, her business and she's a bright young woman. Saying anything won't change anything, I won't be telling her anything she doesn't know. And she is such a good person, isn't that what really matters? It is. Enough said.

Ry has always been on the small side, tiny like his mom was at his age, and I was curious about what he weighed. My big cat Loki weighs something like 12 lbs., and I would have sworn Ry was twice as heavy. I never get on a scale as a general rule. When I have my yearly checkup I close my eyes and ask the nurse not to say the number out loud. I can see how I look in the mirror and I know what size jeans I wear, and that's enough to know that I'd like to lose a little more weight. Walking has helped, I'm starting to feel more comfortable in my own skin, and I've controlled my sweet tooth to some degree.

But the only way to weigh Ry was to get on the scale, with him and without him, and do the math. The little acrobat only weighs 16.2 lbs. And that drives home just how much extra baggage you are carrying around when you have 16.2 lbs. you'd like to lose, which is about where I am now. I'm pretty sure I've knocked off the first few lbs. of my goal of 20. When my size 10 jeans fit again I'll know that I've dominated. It is so on.

So our little butter bean already is home and I'm rattling around my house, waiting for Neil to come home and go for walk. We're planning to go visit next month for Ry's first birthday. Where I'll get to see my daughter's ex and her ex in-laws and ex-grandparent in-laws. Oh goody.

No worries. I will behave. I will put my good on.

Because Ry is so worth it.

"Out on the porch, we listen to the lovely sound
Of the dogs and the children swimming and running around

I will sit and watch the river, make sure it don't get away
Since you cannot be too careful, I will sit and sit all day

Float around out on the water, walk down to the point I guess
Great blue heron in the marshes, baby osprey in the nest

Out on the porch all the little children said
They were not even tired and didn't want to go to bed

When the moon shines on the water with the twinkling distant suns
You would need a calculator just to count the lucky ones."

(Cheryl Wheeler, Sandgates)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Contemplating mortality

"And this is a lonely life, though I think it suits me well."

It was windy on the water when I walked today.

I'm not complaining. A breeze and low humidity in Texas in May are delightful, especially knowing we are just days away from relentless summer heat.

Already there are signs. The wildflowers are going to seed and the egrets and herons have vamoosed, going wherever it is that freshwater coastal birds go when their chickadees have fully fledged.

This is the last time I'll have flowers for you this Spring, although truthfully those roses bloom year round here in Stepford.

I usually wait for Neil to come home and walk with me, but he has softball playoffs tonight. Last night we walked at dusk because it was just too damn hot when he got home. Walking at twilight sounds pleasant but because the few point is rising, the humidity is heavy and it can be a sticky pleasure.

When I walk alone I think about everything and nothing at all. Today I though about how I shoved 70 beads in the kiln today and how ridiculous that is, even if only 4 were serious beads and the rest were frit beads and spacers and 3 pairs of stacked dot beads, just to use up all my dipped mandrels. I'm trying to work smaller in my set size beads and bigger in my focals. I'm trying to understand how I can take my artistry to the next level, the one where people see your bead on Facebook and have enough of a visceral reaction to just buy it. Or share it. Or comment. Or "Like" it.

Facebook gave me a $50 advertising credit, so I ran an ad for 10 days with a budget of $5 a day and according to Facebook 9,000-some people saw my ad. About 80 new people Liked my business page and I made no sales. So I'm just not nailing the type or quality of bead that sells. It's ironic that I've lately begun to think my beads are beautiful. I'm my own biggest fan these days, which I suppose is better than not being my own fan. I'm usually my own worst critic, so that's something.

I've been spending a lot of time alone and with my last enamel class this coming Monday, there will be more time alone since I'm taking the summer off. Most of the time I don't mind. I have my routines and the days never drag. I used to be so bored when I was working in corporate America. Even when I was busy I was bored. Now I can read or watch a movie or play with the cats or go shopping or take a walk. This summer I plan to start working out at the community center, once it's too hot to walk, which as I said is a week or 10 days out. I work on my websites, I write. I make beads. And I'm happy.

But of course that's because Neil comes home, if he's not playing ball. And he's home when he's not working which is about one day every fortnight. Even so, he's home most evenings, unless he is traveling, or once in a while having dinner with work friends.

One of the things I think about when I'm walking alone is what my life would be like without Neil. We love each other, our bond is strong, we both learned a lot from our first marriages, and we're in this one for the long haul. But he works so hard and is under so much pressure, and, well, his blood pressure and LDLs are too high. Men do sometimes keel over. There's cancer. There are accidents. He's out quite late on softball nights. He doesn't drink. But other people do.

I think about this but I wouldn't say I worry about it. I used to be a champion worrier, to an insane, neurotic degree, especially when my kids were small. I had terrible separation anxiety, and while I was able to work, I never wanted to let them out of my sight the rest of the time. I did of course, there were play dates and birthday parties and sleepovers and even Space Camp and Girl Scout camp. I let them go but I was chronically uneasy. I dreaded it when their dad took them fishing because I knew he didn't watch them like I did.

I don't even know what I was so afraid of. It wasn't rational. Abduction mostly, although realistically the odds of an accident were probably much higher. I was literally afraid that they would disappear off the face of the earth. We had many talks about stranger danger, how they were never to get in a car with someone they didn't know, not even if that person said I was in an accident and they needed to take them to me. Not even if a stranger asked them to help find a lost puppy. Especially not that.

If it weren't for cell phones I'm not sure I'd ever have let them leave home. I got them phones and I said, your phone will be charged, with you, and on, and you will answer it if I call, or I'll take it away. That's a dire fate if you are a teen, so they pretty much kept the phones on and charged and answered when I called, which I tried not to do unreasonably often. Just knowing I could helped though.

I'm not sure how I stopped worrying. If I knew I'd write a book and make a mint. Somewhere along the line I internalized a couple of things. One, that worrying about tomorrow was sucking the joy out of today. Two, that whatever happened happened and knowing about it any sooner wouldn't change it. What will be will be. So I stopped imagining dark scenarios. Every now and then, when a ghost threatens to walk across my grave, I push the scary thoughts away with the mantra, "nothing bad, nothing bad, nothing bad."

Mary Scmich wrote it, Baz Luhrmann recited it. I believe it.

Don't worry about the future, or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

So I wouldn't say I worry. I embrace the present and all that is good in it and make gratitude a deliberate practice. All this said, while I don't worry, I do, willy-nilly, think about how I would do if something happened to Neil.

I don't think I'd do very well.

Of course no one in such a situation ever does very well. And I know that somehow I'd go on, because of my children. I would never do what my mom tried to do. But I have had a long history of serial relationships, and I'm not sure I know how to be alone. But I love Neil so very much, and I'm not sure that I'd have the stuffing to start over. And that much loneliness terrifies me.

And I remember just how far I fell down the rabbit hole when Marty left.

Which is another story waiting to be told.

But not tonight. "Nothing bad, nothing bad, nothing bad."

"This is a lonely life
As I know you know too well
I'm thinking of you tonight
Here in the Sylvia Hotel

You must be safe in bed
Down in your cowboy home
I don't wonder why you left
I wonder why you stayed so long

I found some matches from Durango in my pocket
But if I let my heart get sad then I can't stop it

And this is a lonely life
Though I think it suits me well
And everything's fine tonight
Here in the Sylvia Hotel."

Cheryl Wheeler