Thursday, August 29, 2013

Traveling Wyoming

"Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose, won't you let me go down in my dreams."

Yellowstone National Park was absolutely breathtaking.

I said to Neil, it's the most beautiful place I've been in my whole life.

For a park that gets something like 3.5 million visitors each year, it had none of the crowds or traffic you might expect and dread. I suppose 3,468.4 square miles give you some room to spread out. The park is bigger than Rhode Island. And Delaware.

We took something like 250 photos.

I'll do a quick recap of the trip.

We flew into Jackson Hole, Wyoming, about dinnertime. Yellowstone is remote and any way you slice it you are going to spend a day getting there from here. We had our traditional untraditional pizza at a restaurant called Calico and headed for the park.

We drove through Grand Teton National Park, from south to north en route, entering Yellowstone from the south (there are five entrances to the park). Much of the park is back country, there are 310 miles of paved road total, with the central portion configured in a Figure 8, and we covered all of it, some more than once and not by plan.

We headed for Canyon Lodge for our first two nights, but at the last 16 mile leg the road was closed due to fire. Lightning fires are a constant in the Park. We had to backtrack around the lower loop, an 80-mile course correction. The halfway point found us at the Old Faithful resort area, where we opted to stop for a bathroom break and cold beverage.

Which is why, on our first night in the park, we got to see the Old Faithful geyser erupt at about 11 p.m. It was not lighted up. as you might expect, but the desk clerk said "your eyes will adjust" and we even had a full moon. It was eerie and impressive and cheered Neil up a lot.

We got to our cabin close to midnight. Finding it in the dark was fun.

We'd come to the park without much of a plan. At the entrance gate to every national park, you get a map and a park newsletter that usually summarizes the best hikes. Yellowstone is so big though. So our first stop was the Canyon visitor center, where we got some recommendations for hikes and activities.

Ironically, the hike recommended as the best in the park, to the Washburn Hot Springs - and "not nearly as strenuous as the description" - was the one we never got to take. Reason to return, not that I need one.

We started by exploring the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, driving first to Artists Point and then taking a gentle hike from Lower Falls to Upper Falls and back. We got a glimpse of a female elk too.

After that we decided to do the north loop, so we headed west and then north to Mammoth Hot Springs. Highlights were climbing the terraces and our first double scoop of Huckleberry Ice Cream.

We then continued east and stopped to hike to Wraith Falls. Then on to Tower-Roosevelt, where we sat on the porch of the lodge while it rained a bit, and I made a mental note that on our next trip we'd return there for a trail ride.

Back at Canyon Lodge, the rain had driven more people inside than we'd yet seen in one place. Burgers for dinner, beef for Neil, salmon for me, then a ranger talk about owls at the visitor center before snugging back down in our cabin for the night.

We spend the next day at Upper and Lower Geyser Basin. We saw Old Faithful erupt in daylight and then took the boardwalks out along the Firehole River. There are about 300 geysers in Yellowstone. Old Faithful is the most regular but by no means the most spectacular.

It was our lucky day. We came up on Grand Geyser. The pool was full and the benches were lined with people, many who'd been waiting for more than 3 hours. We were there for maybe 15 minutes when Grand Geyser gushed.

The bison passing behind us was singularly unimpressed though.

Bison own the place really. Including the roads. If they feel like it.

From there we went on to Daisy Geyser. I'd seen a sign at the visitor center that Daisy was predicted to erupt at 4:15 but when we got there I thought maybe I had the day wrong. There were no people waiting.

We were right on time and decided to give it 15 minutes. We didn't have to wait that long. Here is a 2 minute recording. As a special bonus, you get to hear me talking.

We also got to see Castle Geyser erupting, complete with rainbows.

And then it was time to watch Old Faithful blow off steam (and water) one last time and head for the Lake Hotel for our last two nights. The hotel is one of the very few edifices along the 136 square mile lake, with its 110 miles of pristine shoreline.

There's more to this story and I'll have part two for you soon.

A dozen years ago, I had no idea how happy I would be today.

After Marty wrote to me in May 2001, we exchanged excited correspondence for a week. We arranged to meet and the inauspicious way our first date began could have been a portent for our whole relationship.

The city had just been hit hard by Tropical Storm Alicia. Land lines were down and cell circuits were jammed. But we had made a plan, and my hair and nails were done. I wore a black sundress and I had glitter on my cheeks.

Unfortunately, I'd suggested we meet at an Italian restaurant which, unbeknownst to me, had closed. A sushi place had taken over the building, so you might say it had disappeared without a trace.

With normal cell service, this would not have been a problem. As it was, I drove around the area, stopping in at the Starbucks where we'd first considered meeting, before deciding we had enough to talk about that dinner only made sense.

Then I peeked in at the Chipotle next door, where the manager graciously let me use the office computer to see if Marty had sent me an email. He had not.

So I drove in circles for a while longer, until I was finally able to check my cell phone voice mail. Marty had left a message. He was waiting at the other local Italian restaurant.

I drove there and parked. I walked toward the entrance and I saw him sitting on a bench outside. He saw me, and rose, to a dizzying height of six foot two, and smiled. I looked up, way up, and smiled back.

A happy ending once again appeared plausible if not destined.

It was my very first Internet dating service date.

The world was my oyster.

"There is a young cowboy, he lives on the range
His horse and his cattle are his only companions
He works in the saddle and he sleeps in the canyons
Waiting for summer, his pastures to change

Goodnight you moonlight ladies, rock-a-bye sweet baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose, won't you let me go down in my dreams
And rock-a-bye sweet baby James.

There's a song that they sing when they take to the highway
A song that they sing when they take to the sea
A song that they sing of their home in the sky
Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep
But singing works just fine for me

So, goodnight you moonlight ladies, rock-a-bye sweet baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose, won't you let me go down in my dreams
And rock-a-bye sweet baby James."

(James Taylor)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A week without Facebook

"Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

Another school of fish swam out of my kiln. I've made about 40 so far, no sign of stopping.

I haven't listed any for sale yet, but I've already sold the bottom center one to a "friend of a friend" on Facebook.

I shy away from doing a lot of selling on my Facebook personal page. I do post new Etsy listings and treasuries on my Facebook business page. If you lose the link to my business page, it's easy to remember: Yep, I got LampworkGlass.

Ironically, I just figured out that if you search Facebook for Elizabeth Beads you will find a bead artisan named Elizabeth who lives in Osogbo, Nigeria, and calls Arigidi, Ondo, Nigeria her hometown. A web search turned up no additional information about this ostensible meme, so I did the obvious, sent her a friend request.

In the meantime, I just changed my personal facebook page name to elizabethbeads.lampworkglass (because both elizabethbeads and elizabeth.beads were unavailable. At least it ties to my business page. I thought about just changing it to lampworkaholic. But, no. It's a one-time change, so there I am.

In case you are wondering (and why wouldn't you be), I missed the Summer Color Surprise blog hop reveal. For one thing, I've been without Internet access for almost a week. Yellowstone Park seriously has no hot spots. Well, in the wireless sense. I got email on my cell phone sporadically and that was it. Neil paid for 24 hours of service, in an attempt to download his work email, and even that proved impossible because the connection was so slow.

The other (real) reason I missed the blog hop reveal is that I simply could not get inspired to make anything from the kit I received. I could not come up with even one worthy idea from my green bead mix. I did use some of the small beads here and there in my rainbow necklaces, but I just could not make the beads I got work together. Here is a look.

OK, so I missed the deadline, but I still have the beads, and looking at the creative pieces the other blog hoppers made from their kits, I think I am going to give it a go and just. make. something. I'll post back here when I do.

In the meantime, back in May of 2001, Marty saw my profile on Match and wrote to me.
Hello ... lizbusa? Why do I think your name is Liz? :-) Well, mine is Marty, and I was very attracted by your profile - by lots about it, really, such as your lifestyle, philosophy, liberal inclinations and, especially, your wish for a range of experiences. It all resonates beautifully for me.
You might say he was a good writer. As he later reminded me.

His profile was enticing.
No, life isn't a Hollywood production, but if you're a romantic soul and love to laugh, dance, listen to music, cuddle around the house, take off for the occasional adventure and feel the love of a warm, caring and sensitive man ... it can be close to idyllic.
There was more.
I am a warm and caring man with a passionate and sensitive heart, given to rash acts of romance and weeping quietly during movies and moving musical performances - but I also have a killer sense of humor.
Lots more.
Gee - what kind of woman appeals to me? Let's see... Venus, with both arms, a new dress, a new 'do and a college education? That could work ...
Believe it or not, I've condensed this considerably.
There are so many qualities that are hard to objectify! I do believe there is chemistry and magic in a great relationship, beyond even the best writer's capability to describe.
It gets even better.
For now, though, I'm just interested in making friends in my new community - after all, real friendship is the best basis for love and relationships.
I was not proof against one single word of it.

I wrote back.
I'm not far off the mark of being "what you're looking for," having both arms, a college degree, hair and a new dress (at any given time).
And we were off to the races.

"Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin' high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
"We'll meet on edges, soon," said I
Proud 'neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now

A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now."

(Bob Dylan, My Back Pages)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A beautiful friendship

"Quicker than sand people change it's true."

A funny thing happened this week. A good funny thing. There is an online shop that carries reasonably priced nice quality gemstones. I've purchased from this shop in the past and added it to my favorites so I can find it again easily and see new listings.

The shop had a listing for a 1/10th oz. silver Standing Liberty coin. I'm not sure technically whether or not it really is a coin, as it it isn't struck by the U.S. Mint, bears no official stamp and can't be used as money. It's a dime-sized replica of an American Silver Eagle, which is an official U.S. silver bullion coin. The American Silver Eagle has a nominal face value of one dollar and contains one troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver.

I noticed that the picture of the reverse of the coin in the shop was an American Silver Eagle with the "W" West Point mint mark and the designation "1 oz. Fine Silver."

I know all this because Neil is a numismatist and I'm a quick study.

So I dashed off this ineloquent note to the shop owner.
This is a photo of a 1 oz. coin. The 1/10 oz. rounds say "1/10 oz."
The shop owner promptly (and graciously) replied.
Thanks for letting me know!
The shop owner also changed the picture. And there was an end of it.

So I was astonished to get this a day later.
Hello Elizabeth, I was wondering if there was any way that we might work together to offer some of your beads in my shop? They are gorgeous.
I was, I am super-flattered. This shop gets about 500% more traffic than mine. But I couldn't quite picture how the logistics would work, as we'd be selling, essentially competing, in the same venue. After pondering it all day, I wrote back.
Thanks for the compliment on my beads! How would you visualize working together to offer my beads in your shop? I'm open to ideas. Cross-promotion can be a good thing. Thanks again, Liz
As it turns out, the shop owner had a totally reasonable plan for how this would work. The shop would buy some volume of my beads at a wholesale price and sell them for the same price points as I sell them.

Better yet, the shop made this proposal.
I would give you a full write up in the individual descriptions and aim them to your shop for beads. The advantage to me would be very rapid stock turnaround, elite bead designs, and one-of-a-kind creations that will give my customers new work to look at that can't be found exactly the same elsewhere.
True that. Each of my focal beads is one of a kind.

Now all I have to do is come up with a wholesale pricing scheme and I'm in. And then hope to hell that the shop is right about "very rapid stock turnaround."

If so, then "Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

In the spring of 2001, my relationship with Robin became what perhaps it was always meant to have been, a beautiful friendship.

I was feeling very lonely in real life though. Not as lonely as when I was still living in a failed marriage. But I was tired and listless all the time. I'd been on and off mood medication for three years, hadn't found the magic pill and I seemed to the queen of side effects.

Just one week before Marty and I first made contact, I wrote this.
I feel like I'm not able to do life right. My kids are always angry at me (rightly or wrongly), friends turn out to be shits, men give me the wrong kind of attention. I go through the right motions. I diet, exercise, shower, stay involved in humane causes and volunteerism, participate in kids and social activities, and I still feel so utterly alone.

It's like a growth inside me, a non-malignant but aggressive tumor, toxic waste.

I'm listening as hard as I can. What lesson does God want me to learn in this life for the betterment of my soul? What terrible thing did I do in a past life to merit this torturous path?

By day, I'm a competent professional writer with manicured nails and a nice wardrobe. By night I am a soul tormented by irrepressible demons.

My therapist said I choose people who will hurt me. But I never feel like it is a choice. I feel that my defective brain and body chemistry transmit my inner sadness no matter what expression is glued on my face. I feel like I am a magnet for people who ultimately fail me. I don't choose them - they seek me out.
Yes, it sounds like a boatload of first world problems. You have to remember that neurotransmitter deficiency disorder is a physiological health problem, no less authentic (or debilitating) than allergies or diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. It's just trickier to control.

I signed up for an online dating site the way I got my tattoo. Impulsively. I woke up one morning wanting a tattoo and by that evening I had a butterfly on my ankle. I saw an ad for Match, and an hour later I had a free profile.

It had a headline something like "Attractive Divorced Mom, Unclaimed" and the gist of it was along the lines that I had a job I loved (true at the time), was interested in the arts, enjoyed a range of experiences from mountain hiking to an evening at home with a good book. I was spiritual, but not religious, declined to state my income (why would anyone?) and didn't smoke, drink or do drugs. Oh and anyone without a heart big enough to love my two kids need not apply.

I joked to my mom that if I was honest, my profile would read more like this. "Tired, depressed single mom, with crazed hormonal teenagers who keep the house in a state of chaos, seeks knight in shining armor to carry her away into the sunset on his white horse (or at least provide some distraction and empathy)."

Five weeks after Marty told me to "have a nice life" I wrote this.
Obviously, I wasn't standing on firm ground when I met Marty.

So is it any wonder that when Marty discarded me like so much useless baggage, I went into free fall?

When I peel away the pain from Marty's betrayal, I am left with the hollow emptiness of the place I was before he parted the clouds for me.

It also has left gaping trust issues. How will I ever know when I am truly loved? And what will it take for me to ever feel such love again?
But that was all yet to come.

I posted my profile and almost immediately had several interesting responses. Marty's was the one that moved me most.

After that, things happened at warp speed.

"Things are never quite what they seem
I've changed my perception
I have a brand new dream
Quicker than sand
People change it's true
I don't know why
I don't know why
I don't know why
I am not in love with you

And I never knew why this city moved me so
You're the only proof I've ever found

There were times I'd swear
He was almost all there
So I mark that moment, I pierce my ear
He said I made the room's atmosphere renew
I don't know why
I don't know why
I don't know why
I am so in love with you."

(Vicky Pratt Keating, NY 10/11/91, from Blue Apples)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A question of love

"Love isn't some place that we fall, it's something that we do."

I'm home alone again this week. Neil is in Chicago on vacation with his son, daughter, son-in-law and dad. I opted to stay home. We're going on vacation to Wyoming next week. I didn't want to take two trips so close together. The timing of the Chicago trip was inflexible, dictated by a coin show.

Also, traveling in a group like this is stressful for me. Let's say there are too many control freaks in the mix, myself being one. I don't need to be butting heads with anyone about where to eat. I don't want to be locked in to activities I have no interest in for durations of other people's choosing.

They've had a packed schedule so far, a Cubs game, Cloud Gate aka the Bean at Millenium Park, a deep-dish pizza dinner yesterday. Today, the coin show, a visit to a racetrack, dinner at White Castle, and a movie I would have hated. I'm getting most of my information from Laurie's Facebook updates and a few brief emails from Neil.

I think I made the right choice not to go, but I'm also feeling oddly left out. I'm happy for Neil to enjoy time with his family without having to worry about me. I'm high maintenance, I'm selfish, I like to get my way. I just wish I felt like I was missed just a little.

It's just one more day, tomorrow, and then they'll be home on Saturday. And next week I'll have Neil all to myself and we'll be someplace beautiful, the mountains of Yellowstone National Park.

In the meantime, I'm making beads, going to the fitness center, volunteering at the shelter, spending time with my own cats. Thinking about how much I appreciate Neil, how much I count on him, how unreservedly I love him.

In the summer of 1998, I was not yet unmarried. My husband and I were at a standoff about how to divide our property and our court date was still months in the future. I spent a lot of time grappling with the question, what is love.

Had I ever loved my husband? How and why does love end? Is there such a thing as unconditional love or are there always conditions? What did it mean to love? Was I capable of loving someone or was there some flaw in me that kept me from fully giving my heart?

After Robin visited in June, we continued to talk online. I cared about him and I may have been a little bit seduced by the idea of being in a loving relationship, in love with love so to speak. Truth be told, I probably wasn't ready for a serious commitment, and there were appealing elements of fantasy and safety in a long- distance relationship.

Robin and I talked about all these things and many more. I could talk to him about anything, and I was always honest with him. I explained that if I told him I loved him, I wasn't sure what that meant, and until I got some clarity about that, it didn't mean I was making promises about the future.

Almost from the start there were red flags. Robin had a history of depression, and he had once taken a bottle of pills, and years later, after his divorce, he had taken a razor to his wrists. This landed him in a psych hospital, where his depression was diagnosed and successfully treated with meds. He wasn't kidding when, after Marty left me and I descended into hell, he said he'd been to darker places and come back.

I'd been a caregiver in my marriage. With my eyes wide open I'd been willing to be a caregiver again with Nick. Now I didn't want that. I wanted to be cared for, not just emotionally, but in a more tangible sense. I didn't feel strong enough to take on what I perceived to be Robin's heavy baggage.

A couple of months after he visited me, we took a trip together. I flew to Raleigh and we drove to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We stayed in a cabin (with a hot tub) and hiked and went into Gatlinburg, and had maybe our nicest time together (but I missed my kids). We made a plan for Robin to visit me again at Christmas.

But in November, Robin checked himself back into the psych hospital. I felt confused and upset but he assured me he was going to be fine. I've never been in a psychiatric hospital. It wasn't until after Marty left me and the panic and desperation overwhelmed me that I finally understood feeling bad enough to think that you needed to be somewhere safe.

But Robin didn't have that sort of reason to feel so low. We were still chatting online daily. We even talked about the possibility of Robin moving to Texas, but I wasn't ready to live with him. I knew the statistical risks of rebound relationships. I felt like we needed to spend more time together, time when we weren't on vacation, time to date in real life, to find out if we truly were meant to be a couple. Of course that meant Robin would have to find a job first. I doubted he would ever do that.

I can't explain why I stayed in this relationship limbo for almost three years. I think the distance was a safety net. I had someone to talk to, I had a "boyfriend," and I got to live my own life and work through the emotions in the aftermath of my divorce, which was final in early 1999. In the months that followed I struggled with a relapse of sadness and ennui. I was grieving not for the marriage or the man, but for the loss of some American dream family fantasy. I was very low and Robin was constant and supportive while the storm passed.

A year passed. Then another. Robin visited again and I made another trip to Raleigh, during which I cried most of the time and missed my children horribly. There were more red flags. After a visit where I was unable to give Robin any reassurance about the future, he went home, then got in his car and drove back to Texas. Without telling anyone. He was missing for two days and then he turned up on my doorstep. I couldn't be angry. It would have been like being angry at a mockingbird.

When Robin and I had been together for two years he admitted something to me that changed everything. He had always given me nice presents, taken me to nice places. He confessed that he was $50,000 in debt, paying for everything on credit. Financial stress had played a part in the demise of my marriage, Robin knew that, so he chose to conceal the monetary hole he was in.

Call me shallow, I don't care, it changed the way I saw him. Yet I let another year go by before I broke things off. It was easier to do nothing, and I was worried about hurting him, but that entire last year I didn't feel like I was in a relationship. If my daughters' dance team hadn't competed in Myrtle Beach, I would not have gone back to the Carolinas. Robin visited less often. I no longer spent entire evenings on the computer, chatting with him.

And then it was over. And then I met Marty. And then Robin started seeing Sue, a woman from his church, and for a little while it looked like everything was going to be OK.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

"I remember well the day we wed
I can see that picture in my head
I still believe the words we said
Forever will ring true

Love is certain, love is kind
Love is yours and love is mine
But it isn't something that we find
It's something that we do

It's holding tight, it's letting go
It's flying high and laying low
It lets your strongest feelings show
And your weakness too

It's a little and a lot to ask
An endless and a welcome task
Love isn't something that we have
It's something that we do

It gives me heart remembering how
We started with a simple vow
There's so much to look back on now
And still it feels brand new

We're on a road that has no end
And each day we begin again
Love's not just something that we're in
It's something that we do

I remember well the day we wed
I can see that picture in my head
Love isn't just those words we said
It's something that we do

There's no request too big or small
We give ourselves we give our all
Love isn't some place that we fall
It's something that we do."

(Clint Black, Something That We Do)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Breathing in and out

"Maybe life is made of flickers from some brilliant burnished flame."

As part of my new practice of celebrating both success and failure, both being part of my life story, I'll start by sharing some new inspiration that influenced the beads I made today.

These painted rock fish are by the talented Alika Kalaida and the minute I saw them (on Facebook, where else) I said, I want to make these in glass.

So I did.

The usual caveats. This is just the first prototype group. They will get better.

I posted this photo on Facebook and was happy to get 17 likes and 6 comments. See, I'm celebrating where I am.

Apropos of this theme, this just happened to pop up on my Facebook page.

Sounds easy enough, doesn't it.

I remember a time when it wasn't though.

There was a day when I sat in a psychiatrist's office, having been asked the question, are you getting any exercise.

Those were days when getting off the sofa to get the mail was almost more than I could cope with.

The doctor asked me if I could muster the troops and just do it.

Doctor, I said, I am getting some exercise. I am breathing in and breathing out.

It was 2001. I'd met and fallen in love with the man I thought I'd spend the rest of my life with. The man who, 16 days after our first email, 8 days after we first met in person, told me he loved me and asked me to tell him I loved him too. The man who signed his letters, I love you so much, stay with me, please, I want you, forever yours, your lover, your Marty.

The whole affair started in May and ended in August, when he "realized" that he still had the woman before me in his heart. When he told me he couldn't see me any more because when he talked to her (on the phone, she lived in upstated New York, where he'd lived until he moved to Texas) he felt like he was cheating on me, and when he was with me he felt like he was cheating on her.

Except that it didn't really end in August for me, in fact, that was just the beginning of the profound loss and anguish I suffered for many more months, the trip to the bottom of the pool of tears. Because I did something very terrible, something bad enough to blight all hope that things would ever come round right.

I'm starting in the middle here. I'm not even sure where the beginning should be, because it's part of my whole life story. So I'll just try to put it into context.

When my marriage was ending in 1998, I became close to a man named Robin, who would be my best friend for the next 8 years. We met online about 3 weeks after my husband moved out, although my husband never believed that Robin and I weren't already involved before we separated.

It didn't even start as a romantic relationship. He was a lawyer in North Carolina, I lived in Texas, we each had kids with another parent nearby to consider. I met Robin just as instant relay chat took off big time on the world wide web. He was a bright, kind and well-read man and we had this new toy, ICQ, and we spent many hours on our computers, chatting. We were both lonely, he was easy to talk to, and I may have flirted with him a little, but I had no expectations that we'd ever have a real-life relationship.

So I was surprised when he suggested meeting me somewhere, Atlanta or New Orleans, and when I asked him why, he confessed that he had fallen in love with me. Hearing that was like balm for my spirit. The last years of my marriage were devoid of affection, and I was still confused and disappointed by my equivocal relationship with Nick.

But I was conflicted about the idea of meeting Robin, of a long-distance relationship with so many practical obstacles to a happy future.

Robin was a dreamer though, and his enthusiasm was contagious. We had started chatting online in March and at the end of June I agreed to meet him. I didn't want to travel anywhere though. I felt more secure on my home turf. After all, this was someone I'd met on the internet who I'd be meeting. So I arranged for my kids to stay with friends for a few days and Robin came to Houston.

This is hard to say, I've never told this to anyone, but from the moment I saw him in the terminal at the airport, when I went to meet his flight, I knew he was not the right man for me. We had talked on the phone, exchanged photos, chatted and emailed daily, but I learned at that moment that until you meet someone in person, you don't know them.

There was something about the way he carried himself that made my heart sink just a little, and when he embraced me, the chemistry was all wrong.

But he had come all that way to see me, and he was there for several days, and it had been a long time for both of us since we'd been intimate with anyone. And after we spent a little time together, his gentle nature and unmitigated worship of me worked its charms, and I talked myself into starting something that probably should never have been started.

I think it was a lucky thing that we lived more than 1,000 miles apart and that neither of us was free to pick up and move. It kept us from making a really big mistake, but it also sustained the wrong romantic relationship for the next three years. At least for me it was wrong. Robin never wavered in his love for me, but there were lies of omission and fatal flaws and in the end I had to make the heart-rending decision to end the romance and hurt him.

In April of 2001, I told him I thought we should see other people. He didn't want that. He said I'd never meet anyone else who loved me as much as he did. That hurt me. It was too close to what my ex-husband used to tell me, that if I left him, I'd be alone for a long time. I do know that Robin at least meant it without malice. It was just something an insecure man says to an insecure woman.

In May, impulsively, I joined an internet dating website. In May, Marty wrote to me.

Later, when it had all gone down in smoke and flame, Robin was my friend and my rock. As I spiraled into despair and he witnessed my grief, he made the observation that I'd never loved him as I had loved Marty. We never resumed a romance. We were what we should always have been, best friends.

I owe Robin my life. I'm not sure how I'd have made it through those dark months without him. Because he understood. He told me, I've been in it even deeper than you are and I came back.

It gave me hope. I never let go of that hope, that I'd get though it and I'd come back.

"Maybe you're the one waiting
For the ship to find your harbor
Maybe you're the one looking
Past the forest to the trees
Maybe you still think
The older that you get
Life just gets harder
Maybe you would trade everything
For just one moment's peace
Everybody strains to hear the sound
Of their heart's calling
Now you can write yours down
It's your life story

Maybe what we leave
Is nothing but a tangled little mystery
Maybe what we take
Is nothing that has ever had a name
Maybe love will fade
Like the parchment pages of our history
Maybe life is made of flickers
From some brilliant, burnished flame
Everbody's waiting for a sign
I won't worry, I think we'll be just fine
In your life story
It's your life story."

(Mary Chapin Carpenter, Your Life Story)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Celebrating both success and failure

"I know now, only one thing matters in these days, one thing, true love."

The concept needs work but holds promise, I think. I love the shape and I love the colors. The design is a work in progress. I did pull a bunch more silvered ivory and goldstone stringer. I have a game plan anyway.

One of our cats periodically has been making a horrible series of meow sounds and until today I suspected Zamboni. I was sitting here at my computer when I heard the meow-meow-meow-meowing downstaire and I thought, if I'm stealthy enough, I may catch whoever is making the abominable noise.

I didn't have to be stealthy at all, it turns out, because as I slowly rose from my chair, I looked out at the landing and there was Zamboni, looking at me, quiet as a lamb.

I have to wonder, what is going through Loki's mind, what message is he trying to communicate, what instinct is causing him to complain so vocally. He's not sick. He makes a different sound when he yaks, which he already did this morning. And it doesn't sound like he's sick or in pain. It sounds like he's upset, or sad, maybe a bit angry but mostly just unhappy.

Unfortunately, I'm feeling pretty much the way he sounds. Like something isn't right. Like I want to cry, but I have no reason. I don't know why, the things usually cheer me up are falling flat, the little shot of serotonin I usually get, for example, when I sell a bead, just isn't happening right now

Oh, I'm fighting it. I'm going about my days, doing the next sensible thing. And sometimes I'm even winning. It's a roller coaster ride, that's for sure. And I always bounce eventually. I've been so much deeper in it than I am now. This will pass.

This morning Art Bead Scene, a blog I follow posted a link to a free guide, 151 Ways To Boost Holiday Sales put together by the Flourish & Thrive Academy. Which I downloaded, because, did I mention it was free?

I've been thinking (and re-thinking) the social media aspect of promoting my bead sales. I just blew $10 to promote a Facebook post about my new frit blend, Heirloom Roses. Net result, post seen by 1882 people, 16 likes, 4 comments, and no sales (although I sold a few jars of other blends, by chance or not, I can't say). The kicker was that my page ended the week with 2 less likes than it started with.

It was an experiment and now that it's done. I'm considering keeping a lower profile on the social media circuit for a while. Back away, lay low, see if anyone notices. Or not. Either way, I've got to stop investing so much hope in it. Do what I do, have no expectations, que sera, sera.

Anyway, I've been reading the free guide. And I've already gotten my money's worth, before I got to tip number 30, with these two thoughts.
28. Celebrate every sale no matter how big or small.
29. Celebrate the NOs because they get you one step closer to YES.
And that is exactly what I am going to do. Practice celebrating both success and failure.

Also today, I followed a link to this article, The Boo-Boo Cry, by Kelle Hampton, who writes the blog Enjoying the Small Things. The gist of the article is that parents use many tactics to quiet a child crying about a boo-boo, from offering sympathy, making jokes, playing nurse, ignoring, distracting, threatening, and ultimately ordering the child to just stop crying.

Kelle had a wake-up call while venting at length to her husband, after her feelings were hurt by someone else. Her husband told her she'd feel better by not letting it bother her so much and moving on. I thought her response was brilliant.
"Don't you think if I knew where the off button was, I'd push it? I don't want to think about this any more than you want me to talk about it. I promise I'll be fine in a little bit, but I have to talk this out until I feel better."
So yes, I'd love to know where the off button is located. I'd like to know how to stop feeling hurt when I'm feeling hurt. But so far, the only sure cure I know feeling hurt is time. I can talk about it, or I can stuff it, and either way, in time all these petty hurts will lose their sting.

What I'd like to learn is how to embrace the hurt, how to sit with it and learn from it and yes, celebrate it. It's all part of my life story. And while time may heal, time is much too precious to wish away.

In 2001 I lost half a year of my life. It was an experience that I hope to never have again. One of the things I remember with crystal clarity is how my family and friends had grown weary of hearing about it long before I'd stopped needing to talk it out.

It doesn't hurt any more, hasn't hurt for a long time, but maybe I still need to talk it out.

Fortunately, I took notes.

"I've been in this world awhile and I've seen a lot of country
Many days and many miles, all various and sundry
I've had my way and I've had my fun and I've had my chance to run free
Burning hot beneath the sun, freezing cold and wintry

Jump up behind me, my love, jump up behind me
Old Danny can carry us both, jump up behind me
We follow this road till we reach the sea, jump up behind me
We'll catch the tide and set old Dan free, jump up behind me

I know now, only one thing matters in these days
One thing, true love, love and love alone, true love."

(James Taylor)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Restoring artistic credibility

"Clouds are rolling through these skies in fifty thousand shades of gray."

Well, it's official. I hosed up the photo specs on my bead submissions. I can even truly say it was inadvertent. I took the photos with my camera at a 3MP setting, but between cropping them and not completely understanding my photo editor software, I uploaded each if them at less than the minimum 1MP requirement. In fact, the call for entries requested photos between 1MP and 50MP! Mine were all in the 850KB range. Bollocks!

Neil gave me the high sign when I told him, as if my artistic credibility had been restored implicitly, but I still feel heart-heavy and stupid to boot. I could have tried a little harder. The last book like this, 1000 Glass Beads, was published in 2004. This will come out in 2014. You can do the math on when the next one is likely to happen.

It's been three days since the results of the Lark book jury results were posted and started leaking out. The book's working title is Showcase 1000 Beads. Not Showcase 1000 Glass Bead. You can even pre-order the new book now.

Here's the Amazon description.
Celebrate the innovation and creative inspiration of contemporary beadmakers from around the world! This gorgeous volume in the popular Showcase series presents 1,000 unique beads, all handcrafted from a dazzling array of materials—including glass, polymer clay, ceramics, metal, paper, fiber, plastic, wood, and stone. Each one is a magnificent piece of art, whether on its own or in a piece of jewelry or other ornamentation.
It's entirely possible that there will be only a couple of hundred glass beads, and since some artists have had fom two to four beads accepted, there could be as few as 100 glass beadmakers represented. Not to mention that all handmade glass beads are not lampwork beads. There are fused beads, kiln-cast p√Ęte de verre beads, cold-worked beads, seed-beaded beads, not to mention off mandrel boro pendants.

Controversy rages, on Facebook and on the Lampwork Etc. forum and probably every other glass bead forum on the web. Maybe rages is too strong a word for most of the commentary, but there are people ranting on both sides of the issue. Some are crying foul, throwing the favoritism flag, claiming that politics ruled the day. Others, mostly those who had beads accepted, are defending the jury process and dissing those who question it.

There's a lot of cross-talk about photography, some from others in the "I didn't understand the photo specs so my beads were dead in the water" camp (except that I'm holding my tongue for a change). Some insist that professional photos are the only way to go, although I've seen professionally photographed beads that were declined, as well as photos of accepted beads taken by the bead artist.

One thing is clear. Professional photos or not, the Lark book selection process was a photo contest as much if not more than a bead contest. (I still keep thinking of it as a contest.) I have a good eye for photo composition, but I'm an ignoramus about technical photo quality. I showed Neil a photo of some pretty beads that didn't make the cut, and he immediately said they were out of focus. I didn't see that.

Last night I went through the 2004 Lark book, 1000 Glass Beads. I tried looking at the photos, lighting, background, props, composition, although I kept getting distracted by the beads. On the whole, I was struck by how ordinary some of the beads are, albeit some are spectacular, as well as how unremarkable some of the photography was. Many photos had the standard boring gray gradient background. Some seemed very dark. Almost all had photo credits to someone other than the artist.

Obviously I'm clueless about what makes a great bead photo, which is why next time I'll invest in professional photography.

And now I think I am done talking about this. The issue is going to hang around for a while, but maybe I can stop worrying it like a grain of rice stuck between my teeth.

And in a wee bit of cosmic irony, the editor of the Soda Lime Times contacted me and asked for pix of my beads using foil or aventurine for the September issue. I sent her several, including two of my Lark entries. I may even be one of the featured artists, not just part of the eye candy section.

Something else nice happened. I'm an "artist on call" for Beads of Courage and for the first time I was called. Beads of Courage occasionally posts a list of "Dream Beads" which are special request beads for some of the cancer-fighting kids. This is what BOC says about the program.
Each child gets a postcard that says “If I could have my Dream Bead it would look like:___________________.” Beads of Courage collects the cards and then tries to match each request as closely as they can. Some of them get pretty detailed and it can be a real challenge.
By the time I checked the website, only two bead requests were left, and I was so happy that one was a bead I thought I could make a good job of.

Here is the request.
Robin sitting on a twig looking towards brightness out of cancer perched on one leg
And here is the bead I made. Front and back

I also made this bead. It's a little bit off kilter but I like the possibilities.

Plus this one I made as a Halloween themed-bead for today's Glass Beads Daily.

And this afternoon I have my volunteer orientation with Sugar Land Animal Services. I'm looking forward to signing up for cat grooming and playtime.

I've begun to wonder if stepping away from the torch more will help me find new perspective and jump-start my imagination.

Because something tells me, that muse is around here somewhere. If I slow down, be still and just sit with my creativity conflicts, maybe she'll slowly re-emerge. The way Zamboni comes out from under the sofa when he feels comfortable with whoever may be visiting the house.

One paw at a time.

"Rainy road into Atlanta, time is truly crawlin' by
Drops of rain on my side window, nothin', nothin' on my mind
Driving through the old horizon though it never seems that way
Clouds are rolling through these skies in fifty thousand shades of gray

Always on the move is a mesmerizing groove
It's a quiet call, it's a trance to fall into

I don't know where the winter went, but summertime is closing in
If bloom and shoot is what they meant, I'd say the south just rose again
How beautiful these roads I wonder, all these towns I'm passing through
Oh blessed is this weary traveler, finally coming home to you."

[Cheryl Wheeler]

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Success requires failure, i.e. failing to succeed

"How 'bout grieving it all one at a time?"

Fair warning. This post contains introspection, self-deprecation, narcissism and, OK, whining. With a bit of woe-is-me thrown in for good measure. Nothing new really. If you're just not in the mood, I understand.

Whenever I'm deeply disappointed or hurt by something in life, I find it hard not to extrapolate the disappointment or loss or rejection or slight to my entire existence.

I'm crying big fat tears again right now because my beads did not jury into a publication. Because I didn't just fail at this one thing, no, that would be too simple, it's because suddenly my whole life, at least my whole life as a glass bead artist, feels like one gigantic failure.

I know this could/should/would be considered destructive thinking. Except it's not thinking, it's feeling.

It's suddenly overwhelming. My online bead sales are limping. My frit blend sales are on life support. I just did a trunk show where I had three small sales for an entire day. I post beads on Facebook and get precious few comments or "likes".

Worse than that, I'm not happy myself with the beads coming out of my kiln of late. They lack something, originality, imagination, technical quality, perfection, magic.

When I was starting out, quite frequently I'd make "the prettiest bead I've ever made". And that was because I was getting better all the time. Perhaps also, because I had a less discriminating eye.

Now I cut myself no slack. I measure myself against where I think I should be, not where I came from. I look at what other artists are doing that takes my breath away, and I find myself falling short.

Here are my bead submissions that received the dreaded red "X".

It's the photography, isn't it? Please tell me it's the photography.

Even through my tears, I know there may be reasons why my beads were not selected for the publication that have nothing to do with my artistry. Not only did I not have professional photos taken, I basically ignored the photo specifications for the entries. I convinced myself that size and "ppi" and "tif" requirements were irrelevant, and that if they chose my beads we could always re-photograph them. Now I see that I might have bought myself immediate disqualification.

Why would I sabotage myself like that? Was it just to have a valid excuse if my beads were not accepted?

I'm in good company too. So far, at least four artists whose work I respect and admire have reported that their beads also were not selected. But other artists have been checking in with the news that up to four of their beads (the maximum number we could submit) were chosen.

I've seen pictures of some of the chosen beads, and I'm taking mental notes. For example, instead of a photo of just one of my silver glass beads, I could have done a group shot. Instead of agonizing about which one to pick, I could have shown a variety.

I've seen photos of some of the unchosen beads too, and I have to say, there are no fleas on those dogs. Artists much better known in the glass world had beads turned down, while some dark horses had beads selected. This is good in the bigger sense that it's not just the "lampwork luminaries", the inner circle of the glass bead community, who will be represented. It doesn't make me feel a lot better though, as I'm a dark horse myself.

Here's what mega-talented lampworker Wesley Fleming had to say to one of the beadmakers whose very nice (and professionally photographed) work was declined.
I'm sorry to hear your bad news. BUT, please keep in mind that success requires lots of failures, and so without failures there can be no success. This doesn't sound very good in times of failure, but put two notches in your belt, keep your head up, and keep going!
I like the words, they are salve to a bruised ego. Yet, I wonder, is it true that success requires failure, that without failure there can be no success?

Obviously some may have to fail for others to succeed, such as in the case of this book that evidently drew many more submissions than it had spaces to award. But at a personal level, does my own success require my own failure? Does everyone's?

The wildly talented bead and assemblage artist Sara Sally LaGrand followed up Wesley's comment with these balmy words.
Sorry to hear that. I didn't apply to this one but I can tell you that I get rejected from all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. And I second what Wesley says. Just keep going! The next one will be it.
If only.

And in a misery-loves-company way, I found these words, offered by glass bead and jewelry maker Lucie Kovarova-Weir (who had a bead in the original book), heartening.
Three of mine got rejected, one got in. If this helps to anyone, every single application of mine, for last four or so years to Lark Books got rejected. Show me a book, show or a grant application, I can show you rejection letter. It is been close to ten years of 90% rejections for me. It is not very encouraging, all I can say, please do not take any of the stuff personally, just keep going and apply to the next one.
OK, got it.

I've submitted to juried competitions thrice in so many years and thrice I've scraped my self-esteem off the floor and vowed to try harder, do better next time, even if I have miles to go before I sleep.

As usual, I'm sitting on the sidelines, my ego too fragile to come out and say I'm in the "not-chosen" camp. Better to be silent and let my fellow beadmakers assume I didn't enter, assuming they do any assuming about me at all, which I wouldn't assume.

I'm being a little silly here, making a joke, but I'm really hurting. Not so much because of this particular rejection, although it would have been cool to be in a book that bead makers will buy and own and read for years to come. No, it's because it underscores my sense of lifelong under-achievement.

I am so desperate to excel at just one thing in my life. Not just to excel, to succeed, and success to me means validation of that excellence. Just one thing. Please.

I'm willing to do the work. I am doing the work. Every day in that hot garage, bead after bead, practicing, experimenting, stretching, again and again. Hot and sweaty, I keep going, one more bead, one more bead, until I've used all the dipped mandrels and the kiln is full.

By chance, I saw these words posted on Facebook today, by Megan Alcorn, friend of a (beadmaker) friend.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Count your blessings.
The bottom line is, I know I'm very lucky. I practice gratitude every day. I have a good life, a happy marriage, healthy kids, adorable cats, a beautiful home. I have food to eat, clothes to wear, money in the bank. I have everything I need, everything that's important. If I'm never a renowned beadmaker, it's not the end of the world.

That doesn't mean I'm not gonna keep trying though. And that means there may be more rejection and disappointment ahead.

I'll just have to deal with it.

"how bout me not blaming you for everything
how bout me enjoying the moment for once
how bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
how bout grieving it all one at a time

thank you india
thank you terror
thank you disillusionment
thank you frailty
thank you consequence
thank you thank you silence

the moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle
the moment I jumped off of it
was the moment I touched down

how bout no longer being masochistic
how bout remembering your divinity
how bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
how bout not equating death with stopping

thank you india
thank you providence
thank you disillusionment
thank you nothingness
thank you clarity
thank you thank you silence"

(Alanis Morissette, thank u)