Saturday, March 30, 2013

Stolen beads and an unrelated proposition

"The sky's been gray every day since I lost you, but I know the sun is shinin' somewhere, beyond the blue."

I saw the gray heron yesterday. The day before yesterday too. The two days I didn't bring a camera. Naturally.

I'm getting that picture today. At least I hope I am.

Friday was a bit disconcerting. I woke up to this message from my patron saint, I mean my best bead customer.
Elizabeth,

I need your help. this order was delivered on 3-27-13, when my mailbox was stolen. i confirmed this today with my mailman, that the box was full yesterday and when i got home the box was open, and empty. he also confirmed that another theft had occurred on our street the same way. can you track form your end, and let me know how to proceed with a claim. thank you,
I felt terrible. And a bit uncertain what to do. Here is my response.
I am so sorry. The tracking information shows the box was delivered. Even with insurance I doubt that we could can file a successful claim with the USPS, but since you paid with a credit card you may have buyer protection there. After you check into that, please let me know what you find out. We can decide how to proceed from there. Sincerely, Liz
Followed by this.
Another thought. Mail theft is a federal crime. If you haven't already done so, you may want to file a police report and also file a claim with your homeowners insurance.

Please keep me posted. I want to make sure we can get this worked out.

If all else fails I can replace the beads with comparable ones.
And then she said this.
I filed a police report this morning. I have also contacted my homeowners insurance, but it does not meet up to the deductible. Should I make them file the claim anyways?

Thank you for all your help!!
I'm not sure what she was asking, so I begged the question.
Have you checked with your credit card company? Many of them include purchase protection that cover damage or loss.

Let me know what they say.

If you aren't covered I will replace the beads with comparable ones.

Have you considered a post office box that is more secure than a typical mailbox?
And then her last note of the day.
I will let you know. Hubby is installing video surveillance this weekend. He is pissed. I am just violated. I know in the larger scheme of things, this is small. but it is not small to me. Next calling CC company to see what they have. I will let you know, thank you for all your help!!
And the thing is, I know that feeling of violation. Years ago, my house was burglarized. I lost a lot of things with sentimental value, my grandmother's cameo that I loved, jewelry gifts from old boyfriends, my college ring. Stereo Equipment. But what bothered me most was that they took the pillowcases off my bed to carry things. They couldn't even bring their own fucking pillowcases. The idea that they'd touched something as personal as my bed linens creeped me out.

I gave the sheets that were on the bed to Goodwill. I could've bought new pillowcases to match the sheets, but I never wanted to sleep in them. Ever.

So although I know I have no obligation to do so, I also know I am going to replace the beads, even if my customer is compensated for the financial loss. Because I don't want her to be left with that violated feeling and I don't want her to stop buying beads. Mine or anyone else's.

On the Lampwork Etc. forum, there is a topic called the Bathroom.
The place for venting. Attacks not permitted. No politics. All threads are "flushed" at midnight (MST).
I posted the story and asked for thoughts. The most interesting thing was that two other people had gotten the same note. (I'm not really surprised, i never thought she was my exclusive patron saint bead customer.) Both had paid for insurance on their packages. Both filed claims. I'm curious but doubtful whether the USPS will pay a claim for a package that was stolen after delivery.

Anyway, the consensus was that it that was my customer's misfortune and all I should offer was my empathy.

But I have a history with this long-term and very valued customer. And that changes the stakes. Plus what are 7 or 10 beads to me, compared to helping restore someone's faith in humanity.

Initially I thought I'd replace the beads with beads from my inventory. But because I'm an obsessive compulsive perfectionist lunatic, by the end of the day I had (more or less) duplicate beads to the stolen ones in my kiln. I still have to make a few more accent beads, but by Monday they will be ready for mailing. With signature confirmation this time.

Here are some of the stolen beads. If spotted, please report to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.



I did have to laugh when I thought about the thief, who probably wouldn't know artist-made beads from Walmart costume junk, opening the packages.

I got another interesting email on Friday, a much more delightful one, from a New York City firm that runs an international marketplace that promotes the work of emerging artists. It's not so much a design firm as a company that interfaces between between the design community and independent artists.

I'm a little unclear how or where the marketing executive who contacted me came across my beads. He said he'd seen my work on several blogs. Since I have maybe 50 readers (or maybe 5), I can't imagine it's this one. And I'm equivocal about whether anyone else is blogging about my beads.

But regardless, I'm totally flattered.

The firm is working on two projects using glass beads for a hotel lobby. For one project they are looking for 9 inch beads with rainbow colors in different shapes and sizesto be suspended on 9 foot long metal chain. Way out of my scope but certainly feasible for a skilled glass artisan working with blow borosilicate tubing.

The second project is intriguing. They are looking for a glass bead curtain wall that would interpret an abstract art design in my favorite shades of sky blue and pink. The specs for the beads are 1/8 inch to 3/8 inch in size each. The curtain would be 11 feet tall and 10 feet wide.

I did some calculations and, based on a conservative two beads per vertical inch and one strand per horizontal inch, the project would require more than 30,000 beads.

If I were to make 50 simple 3/8 inch beads per day, five days a week (an ambitious goal), putting all other work aside, and assuming no interruptions in production, it would take me almost two and a half years.

I was initially half tempted to submit a bid based on a figure of $3 per bead, plus the cost of hardware, installation, etc. Something in the range of $150,000 to $200,000.

But I'd be setting myself up for epic failure. I think my arm would probably fall off and I know it wouldn't be long before I never wanted to make another bead. Ever.

Just. Not. Doable. No way. No how.

I wrote a response with my regrets and Neil read it and said it was a good letter. Neil has a gift for stating things like this really well, so I was surprised and pleased that he like my note. (He said, you mean you're surprised that I'm not critical of it.)

I haven't sent it though.

Because the market rep didn't say the bead curtain has to be all lampwork beads.

Would I want to propose a project with, for example, 1,000 lampwork beads plus 30,000 nice purchased beads plus another 30,000 spacers?

Deliverable to be 120 strands of beads 11 feet long in the colors and approximate layout of the design shown?

I'd have to source all the beads and make sure they had holes large enough to string on some sort of flexible steel cable.

It would be a boatload of work, especially the layout, so I'm still thinking the bid would have to be $50,000 to $100,000. Closer to $100,000.

In the end though, I think I may just offer to sell the firm simple, pretty 3/8 inch beads for $3 per, in the colors of their design. I might even mock up a few tomorrow. If I do, I'll post pix.

I'm pretty sure they won't bite, but I'm excited about the idea of leaving a door open for the possibility of future opportunities.

Then again, that market rep could be reading this right now, in which case I've probably hosed my chances of being taken seriously (by him) as an artist again.

Ah well, I'm already writing down the bones of my life story here, episode by episode, anyway. Present and past. Taking no prisoners, keeping no secrets.

As I once told Nick, what you see is what you get. I'm an open book.

In the end there's not all that much to say about the end of my (cyber-fantasy) affair with Nick. It ended without bang or whimper on a sunny April Saturday in 1998.

This is from one of my very last notes to my sister-in-law, that improbable pivotal winter of 1998.
I talked to Nick several times, the last was Saturday afternoon. I asked him how he feels about me.

He said he has blocked his feelings about me. He has to put first things first (whatever that means).

Tears were running silently down my face and falling on the carpet. I didn't say anything for a few minutes. He asked me what I was thinking.

I said nothing, just trying not to cry, funny, you were the one who was so afraid that I would reject you.

He said, I'm not rejecting you, I'm still here.

I said I know, but I need more now.

He said, I know you do, and you deserve more.
Overnight I made a deliberate paradigm shift in my mind to think of him as a friend. No more extreme erotic fantasies and no more cyber-flirtation. But I still wanted to play Scrabble with him.
And the funny thing is, I woke up feeling very good. I felt ... released. It's as if he'd released me from some of the commitments I'd made. I had told him I could love him forever.
And of course he was still there. And suddenly writing to me again. Nonsensical stuff.
You R
be
au
ti
fu
l
i
z
b
e
t
h
.

Thought you might like to hear it.
And.
How are you?
I m
is
s
hearing
fro
my
ou.
Me.
There was a time, Nick, when I would have loved to hear it, and when a message from you would just about stop my heart (let alone two messages!).
He.
As long as you simply appreciate my message, I am pleased. And the last thing I would ever want to do is stop your heart. I just want to VALiDATE.
I hope you're smiling.
But that Scrabble game was not to be.

Me.
It's nice to know our love story will live on forever in cyberspace, deep in the archives of sg.com and usa.net.

Do you ever think how stupid it is for us to e-mail each other when we live 15 minutes apart and phone calls don't cost anything
He.
Ohh, you're so sentimental (while I'm simply mental). "Forever in cyberspace" te da, te da, te da.
And you are hilarious. You're so right about the stupidity of using this medium to communicate. But, after laughing about your comment I thought, hmmmm, I wonder why?
((((((((((I-N-S-E-C-U-R-I-T-Y-))))))))))!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! that's why.

Or, who knows, might be that it is awfully romantic.
And in that silly vein our email interaction continued.

I truly was no longer hung up on him, but I still had all those healer-rescuer feelings for him.

And much of our correspondence over the next year was heartfelt and beautiful.

He.
I am so fortunate to have met you.
Me.
The entire first half of this year has been like a dream in a lot of ways. I still think you are majorly talented and insightful and funny and bright and gifted and adorable.

I still marvel at the connection and how much you helped me. In case you don't know, you made me feel all those things about myself too.
He.
You made the very same impression upon me. It is true. You are those things. You are bright and insightful and witty and talented and majorly and adorable and not necessarily in that order. And funny.

But I don't think I made you feel those things about yourself. I don't have that power. But, instead, I think I was (am?) the mirror of those qualities in you. I reflect back the things that you love about yourself. And versa vice-ah.
Sometimes we bickered. Always we held each other up.

And one year later, when he tripped back into the black hole of addiction, I was there to give him a hand up.

"The sky's been gray every day since I lost you
But I know the sun is shinin' somewhere ... beyond the blue
My eyes were red when you said that we were through
But now I can see better days for me ... just beyond the blue

Beyond the blue ... on the other side of lonely
And it's only a matter of time ... until I'm
Lookin' back and feelin' like I'm over you
And these tears are gone and I'm beyond the blue

Beyond the blue ... on the other side of lonely
And it's only a matter of time ... until I'm
On my feet and I meet somebody new
And I fall in love again beyond the blue
When these tears are gone and I'm beyond the blue"

(D. Kent, W. Underwood)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Heady feedback

"Now I know the business of the heart, and it'll get you anyway it can."

As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, the Human Rights Campaign modified its logo, from blue with a yellow equal symbol, to red with a pink equal symbol (to represent love). The new red logo went viral as Facebook users changed their profile pictures to the logo to show support for marriage equality. And of course before long, scores of humorous variations on the logo popped up, from strips of bacon or band-aids representing the pink stripes to Bert and Ernie or Grumpy Cat superimposed on the logo.


I'm totally in favor of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples but instead of one of the logos I changed my picture to a red bead that I made yesterday. I thought it was apropos.



Meanwhile, while my beads are, for the most part, languishing on Etsy, I've been selling orphans on eBay. I did have two Etsy sales this weekend, one from my patron, who has been making regular purchases for a year now, and one from a new customer. I also had some nice Facebook comments on my beads. I have a tutorial that will be published in the Soda Lime Times, a "lampwork bead makers magazine" in April, and the editor has been plugging the upcoming issue with teasers about my tutorial.

Here is the style of bead that my tutorial is about.



My orphans sell on eBay, mostly for embarrassingly low values, but I keep putting them up there. Let's face it, I make a lot of beads and some of them really need new homes. Some are extra beads left over from sets. I usually make two more than I need, just to be sure I have enough of the right sizes. Then there are all the dot beads I keep making because they are fun to make but which are hard to sell, color experiments, and quite a lot of test beads for my frit blends. Sometimes I take apart sets that have been hanging around here too long, break them up and restring them into my orphan lots.

Every 3 days or so I list a sampler of 30 beads. Most of them are in pairs or what I call mini-sets, three to five more or less matched beads. I have a generic template set up so that all I have to do is change the photos. I only tweak the description slightly, if at all. I generally take 5 pictures, just like I do for Etsy, and I start the bidding at $9.99. I've tried listing regular sets and starting them at fair prices but they usually don't get bids.

Here is an example of my orphan samplers.



I keep hoping that eventually I will build a customer base and they will start to bid against each other. Right now I have several regular customers, but they seem to be politely taking turns at bidding.

After eBay fees and PayPal fees and shipping materials and postage, I'm not even just giving these beads away, I am probably paying someone to take them off my hands. But at least I have an illusion of a little money trickling in. Right this minute eBay shows my total sales in the last 60 days to be $301.61. That doesn't sound too disrespectable.

What made me smile tonight was my feedback. I hardly ever look at it. At this moment my total feedback number feedback as a seller is 571. Not everyone leaves feedback, my total sales are higher. One reason I don't look at it is that it goes to my head. I wonder why it is so hard to read good things about myself.

Here are some examples. I just selected the most recent ones, I didn't pick and choose the best ones.
lovely colors and patterns
Gorgeous boro beads. Liz, these are really, really pretty beads!!!!
Nice, thank you!
stunning
These are more beautiful than the photo and I love them.
truly unique
Nice, thank you! Love the extra focal bead!!
Absolutely fantastic pieces instant heirloom, packing excellent A+++ artist
even prettier than expected
Gorgeous beads!
Buy with confidence from this talented reputable artist. Always A+++
Beads were flawless, service was 10*** even came w/ extras beads
It makes me happy and at the same time it makes me figuratively blush. I question whether it is truly deserved. I have a crazy ego, a love-hate relationship with myself. I always think I am better or worse than I really am. I think my work is beautiful and under-appreciated. I think my work is mundane and overrated. I never see myself objectively and there is no middle ground.

These feelings spill over into my life as a whole, not just my work. As an example, my enamel class is like a one room schoolhouse. My awesome teacher Jan Harrell teaches the first four semesters simultaneously and does it with grace. I'm in third semester. There are three women in second semester who are very nice and who have gotten to be good friends with each other. This week they invited me to go to lunch with them after class.

I didn't go. I said I had to go to the library, which is what I had planned to do, and what I did. I could have gone to lunch, I should have gone to lunch, it would have been fun. I can't tell you why I didn't go. I don't know.

My comfort zone seems to be all about keeping people at a distance.

I expend a lot of energy denying it, especially to myself, but I'm shy. And I have no patience for that shyness, Because isn't shyness just another form of egotism anyway? It's as though you think that other people are constantly noticing you and judging you, like you are the most important person in the room, like you need special handling or something. Hey look at me people, I'm hypersensitive and if you don't validate me again and again I think I'll just go eat worms.

Validation. It was the missing link in my first marriage. It was the reason I fell so hard for someone who noticed me and appreciated me, who thought I was smart and funny and creative and fragile and complex and sexy, who brought out all those qualities in me and made me feel that I was all those things. And more.

Except that we were star-crossed.

Because in spite of the doubts he'd been expressing to me, Nick was "back together" with his former ex-girlfriend.

And still he wouldn't write to me.

In the end I had to take it to the bulletin board.
Nick.

Life is difficult.

Do you read your e-mail? Do you answer it? Don't answer that.

OK, this is how you want to do it, this is how we'll do it.

But I still remember how much trouble it got us in last time.

Did you think about those questions I asked in my e-mail? About accepting love that is kind (if not very patient). I swear I think you try to make me angry at you to intensify the attraction. But I can't muster the steam.

You know you don't have to feel empty. You may choose to. But you know I am here. So if that makes absolutely no difference to you, just tell me to fuck off and I promise you I will. Or tell me you will meet me at the zoo. April 1. 12:30. Main entrance. Which?

OK, this is the most outrageously indiscreet post I may ever post, but right now, frankly my dear, I just don't give a damn.
He didn't answer my questions. But he did answer.
It sounds like you are angry as hell at me. I am so sorry. I know how much it hurts to be in anger.

You should know by now how genuinely fond of you I am. And you know I am in a relationship. An unstable one, but a relationship. I have some moral obligations with that and I take them seriously.
I kept trying.
I refuse to be angry with you. But I have other feelings I am trying to deal with and understand. Maybe you could help me there. You understand me, as I understand you (I think).

I hope you will talk to me. Talking is not a betrayal of any moral obligations, is it?
Nick began to email me again.
Sweet Elizabeth. Ahhh! You are doing just fine. Are you not?
Love has no pride. I emailed him back.
I want to see you. Do you want to see me?

How's the Relationship?

I want to talk to you some more. I want ...

To play Scrabble?

Mmm. Maybe not."
He continued to write but kept me at an emotional arm's length.
My relationship is weird. We are constantly at each other's throat. I don't get it. And so the battle continues until we can somehow resolve the issue and let it go and get on with the business of living with or without each other.
But then he wrote this.
You are so charming. You are such a bright star. But,why me? Okay, I know, you like the poetry. Oh, Liz, what am I to do?
And then this.
I do adore you.

Has anyone told you they (I) love you today? You are so worthwhile. I'm so happy to have you near.
I was flummoxed. We'd been writing to each other for three months. I couldn't keep my balance any longer. I needed to know where I stood, where we stood.

It was time to get things clear.

"Baby let me set you down
You look so troubled and I think I know
Just when you think you've come around
There you go

Now I know the business of the heart
And it'll get you anyway it can
You need someone to walk with in the dark, well
I'm your man

I go to the trouble like a magnet
That's where I'll be
Trouble is just a place to sing
It's what you need

I swear you look like you're in jail
And all at once you're halfway out the door
One foot dancing, one foot nailed
To the floor

Chasing those circles in the ground
The same old shit is still the same old lie
Just when you think you've got it down
Watch it fly

I go to the trouble like a light
Or like a dare
Trouble is just a friend to me, I know
It'll always be there

It's really hard to make your peace
So give me some credit for the hell I've paid
This world's a blessing and a beast
Every day

So come on baby let me show you how
The less you know the more I comprehend
You don't have to drag me down
I descend

I go to the trouble and I like it
That's where I'll be
Trouble is just like love, if it's half the way
It's all I can see
And it's just what you need."

(S. Colvin, J. Leventhal, & T. Littlefield)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dreaming of LeConte

"I'm fooling myself by thinking that a cure will be found, 'cause I can't stop thinking 'bout you."

Here is the pendant I made in my class on Saturday. I probably won't wear it but I do sort of like it.



By the time it was time to go, I didn't want to go to the class, just like I never want to go to my Monday enamel class, and when I do, I always enjoy it and am glad I went. That still doesn't make me want to go any more the next week.

It was a gray, dreary day and a 30 mile drive but it was fun, and when I got home, the weather had cleared a bit and I went for my walk around the pond. There were few people out, but then it was 7 p.m. on a Saturday night.

Here are some of the fauna and flora I saw.



Yesterday I made some beads and when Neil got home we went for an extra long walk. We went into a house that was half built and there was a perfect room behind the kitchen for a studio, complete with windows and a door and cross-ventilation and plumbing for a sink. Fortuitously it was already sold. Some day.

One of the things Neil and I have talked about doing is a hiking trip to Smoky Mountain National Park. I wondered if there was a lodge in the park to stay in, and that's how we learned about LeConte Lodge.

This is from the website.
High atop Mt. LeConte is the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States, at an elevation of about 6400 feet. It is accessible only by hiking. There are no roads that lead to the Lodge. There are five hiking trails that lead to the Lodge ranging in length from 5.5 miles up to 8 miles.
I'm game.

I think Neil was surprised that I wasn't the least bit discouraged. I think it is totally doable. I've even picked out our trail, the Trillium Gap trail (6 1/2 miles), which is the one the llamas use to portage supplies to the lodge thrice weekly. It is also the least steep, with a net climb of 3,300 feet.

Lodge amenities include hot meals, kerosene lighting, wash buckets for sponge baths and rocking chairs. And for an extra $10, all the wine you can drink between 6 and 7 p.m. I don't drink but I'd probably make a one night exception, or two if we stay two nights.

All this luxury starts at a base price of $126 per night. Per person. The 2013 season started today, March 25, and runs through November 26. The lodge started taking reservations last October 1. It is completely booked. There are waiting lists and some of those are full as well.

On the waiting list form you may submit 3 individual dates or one window of up to seven consecutive nights. Just for grins I submitted a request form for a week in July. Cancellations with less than 10 days notice are not filled from the wait list but are offered to the next person who inquires about those dates. Hypothetically, if you had enough flexibility in your schedule to organize a vacation with 10 days notice (or less), you could start calling daily and maybe you'd get lucky.

Then again, we can defer the adventure until 2014 and book it next October.

The lodge has a blog where they post daily weather conditions and hiking information. This is from today's post.
Nothing like a few inches of snow to start off the 2013 season. The wind and snow are whipping between the cabins. We currently have about 4 inches of snow and it is coming down hard. The high yesterday was 42 with the low of 10. It is currently 10ยบ on the mountain.

Hwy 441 is closed. That makes Alum Cave trail closed. The only trails you will have access to are Rainbow Falls trail and Bullhead. Bullhead is still in bad shape at the moment. I would only recommend Rainbow. Now, with this being said, I only recommend Rainbow if you are extremely well prepared. That means warm layers with a water proof shell on the outside.

You will probably not need yak traks for most of the trail, the snow is good traction. You will need them for the hike down. Once the snow has been traveled on several times, it will become very slick. If you decide to attempt the hike, please be safe. Make sure someone knows you are on the trail.
And here is the first comment.
I really would hone in on the fact to not do Bullhead. Especially in snow. You have to crawl under downed trees, and it's nightmarish to all but the most masochistic.
Sounds like a nightmare all the way around to me.

Here's a photo from up on top of Old Smoky, I mean Mt. LeConte, today.



I think another walk around our lake will suit me just fine instead. The sun is out and the temperature is perfect. I had the moon roof open when I went to the post office and the library today.

Just like those resplendent days in the spring of 1998 when I was in love with a dream.

During the time period between when Nick wasn't officially back together with his girlfriend and when he was again, he stopped emailing me. He was still posting on the forum and we continued to interact there.

I missed his letters. I wanted the fairy tale. I wanted it to be real.
Oh Nick, if I were in Maine or Michigan or Seattle (instead of 15 minutes away on the tollway) do you think it would be different?

But I'm here. And I still want you. God help me.
And his cryptic response.
You are such a temptation.

I hear you.
I'm pondering.
You see what I'm doing.
Don't you?
I had no clue what he was doing.

I only knew one thing. I wanted to see him.

My husband had moved out at the end of February, and for the first time ever, I had put my kids on an airplane without me, to spend spring break with my mom and dad.

It was now or never.

One more time, I put it all out there.
I think the longer we (you) wait, the more we (you) build it up, the harder it becomes (maybe) (stop laughing - you know that's not what I meant).

Nick, you don't really have to make love to me. Just come over and talk to me. I'll make you tea or lemonade.

If you ever meant anything you ever said to me (ever), please give me an answer on this.

If you can't/won't/don't want to, and you don't think you ever will see me, I'll back off and leave you in peace.

Oh Nick . . . say yes.
And he said yes, sort of.
What a position I am in. The lemonade sounds like a good start though.

Things are more complicated for me. I would like to meet you. And soon is okay. But, please, lower expectations. I'm not so special. That is a terrible burden.
I called him. I didn't give him a chance to change his mind. He came over and talked to me. I made him lemonade. He never took off his baseball cap. I sent him home with some Girl Scout cookies.

Later I wrote this to my sister-in-law.
He is beautiful. I adore him. But it is still complicated.

He is still troubled/confused about the "(ex)"(?). I don't really understand where it is at with her. He has said he is seeing her but they are not "back together". He has said there are still feelings between them, "but something is missing". So he still has that to work out.

And I love him all the more because he wouldn't make love to me until he resolves the other relationship. I know that if he is ever mine, I will be able to trust him totally.
I only saw him again twice.

Once a week or two later and once more than a year later.

I was relentless. And shameless.
I'll call you tomorrow (unless you tell me not to).

But you have to see me. I can't stand it not to be with you. I promise to behave cerebrally. Unless you let me ... never mind.
He let me come over and bring him lunch one random Wednesday. Or rather I steamrolled him into letting me bring him those bagels. He was too thin and I was in rescue mode.

The Girl Scout cookies were on his kitchen table, unopened.

He had a poster of Pamela Sue Anderson on the wall above his computer.

I looked around, but if there were any photos of the girlfriend, he must have put them out of sight.

Despite that, she was firmly back in the picture.

"Lovin' you was like lovin' a house on fire
Burning and learning when the damage was done

Now I'm tired and I'm scared and wide open
To the rest of my life
And I almost, almost had it all
I'm sick and tired but I'm hoping
That a cure will be found
'Cause I can't stop thinking 'bout you
I can't stop thinking 'bout you

Here face to face with what I've been running from all these years
Hangs a dark cloud over the moon
Pull off to this roadside dive and maybe test my sobriety
Order a tall cool ginger ale

Lovin' you was sort of like lovin' a fifth of the finest bourbon
Was it your quality or high quantity that's put me in the shape I'm in

Now I'm tired and I'm scared and wide open
To the rest of my life
And I almost, almost had it all
I'm fooling myself by thinking
That a cure will be found
'Cause I can't stop thinking 'bout you
I can't stop thinking 'bout you"

(Martin Sexton, Black Sheep)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Staying distracted

"I only want to hold you, I don't want to drag you down, or fence you in the lines I might have drawn."

Yesterday, Friday, Neil and I went to the Bayou City Art Festival. We had not gone since early in our dating days. We used to do all sorts of activities when we were dating. The zoo, the Arboretum, the Fine arts museum, theater, concerts, movies. We took blankets and picnics to the park and spent sweet hours just watching the clouds.

And then we stopped. I think it was for a combination of reasons. I was burned out. I'd spent years running around, exposing my kids to cultural activities, running around because of my own restlessness, keeping moving, staying distracted, so I wouldn't have to think about loneliness or the meaning of life.

And then the kids went off to college, and Neil and I got engaged, and we started building our house, and I moved to Sugar Land. Neil was working both Saturday and Sunday most weekends, and on his rare days off, about one in every 14, we ran errands or worked around the house. After I started making beads, while I was still employed by corporate America, all I wanted to do in my free time was melt glass.

Now, after more than 18 months of being a full-time beadmaker, some of my obsession with lampworking has waned, or at least fallen into a more reasonable perspective. I never torch while Neil is home now. And I'm trying to rekindle the romance of our dating days by doing some of the things we did then, or doing new things, like our recent first visit to Trader Joe's, which we both enjoyed way more than I anticipated.

The Art Festival was much less of a success.

I bought our tickets online, which saved a whopping $2 total, and then splurged on VIP parking. I've observed lately that for the most part we live below our socioeconomic status. We both worked hard, and Neil still works very hard, to achieve a certain level of financial comfort. Yet dinner out is usually Denny's or Panera or Sweet Tomatoes or $5 pizza night at Bombay Pizza. We have almost no nice furniture, we still use the hand-me-down sofas Neil was given by friends when he divorced. We have no artwork on the walls, our rugs are a disgrace, but as much as our cats yak, there's no point in upgrading them.

And anyway, we almost never have guests that aren't related to us. Neil feels stressed when we have all the kids home at once, and I'm an indifferent cook, so parties are off the priority list chart.

We have no landscaping in our back yard and we have the builder landscaping in front and once a year or so we replace any dead shrubbery and that's it. Neil says he'd like to garden if he had time. I long ago made peace with my brown thumb and my disinclination to get dirt under my fingernails. We have no house plants either.

We're happy this way.

But I've decided to stop worrying about the small stuff, such as paying almost $10 for four Honeycrisp apples at Kroger. I'm going to enjoy every bite of them.

We got off to a bad start with the art festival though. The website had no information about where to find the VIP parking, but I was confident there'd be a sign. You'd think there would be, right? There was no sign and we drove past the entire festival site. Neil hung a U and we went right back past the entire site. I was trying to tell him to stop and ask one of the security people but there was no place to pull over and Neil didn't want to hold up traffic, and he got frustrated with my backseat driving and told me to stop talking.

That clammed me up.

The third time we drove by the festival, Neil pulled into the lane for the shuttle bus and let me asp directions to VIP parking. Two more U-turns and one more stop to ask directions and we finally got parked.

The day was humid and overcast, a good thing because we would have been unpleasantly hot in full sun. The festival was set up as a huge circle of tents. I can't imagine doing art festivals, dealing with setting up those big tents and displays and hauling my art in and out. Being at the mercy of weather, heat, rain, wind, all the things that threaten to affect your wares, make you feel miserable, and keep the crowds at home.

Neil and I set off on the circle counter-clockwise. I had no shopping agenda, I wasn't looking for anything particular, but I was open to being enticed to buy something beautiful. No fear of that, I saw no painting or sculpture I wanted to own, and even if i had, I saw a lot of prices I'd have been unwilling to pay. There was some pretty jewelry, but it would have been expensive at half the price and I mostly wear my own beads anyway.

After our first circuit of the festival, Neil and I sat at a lovely little table with fresh flowers in the mostly empty concession tent and shared a $3 bottle of icy cold sweet organic green tea. I said I felt like we had to buy something to justify the $50 we spent on admission and parking. Neil said he'd had the same thought, so we made a second circuit, clockwise this time, and in the end I bought a cute $5 T-shirt from the 2012 festival. Green. A nice shade of sage. On St. Patrick's Day I noticed I had not one green shirt in my wardrobe. Two birds.

Then we went home, stopping for lattes, and later we went out for $5 pizza and watched an episode of New Tricks.

Today, on an impulse, I signed up for a framed-pendant class at a bead shop in Pearland. Neil is working and then going to a hockey game with his daughter.

And I wonder if I am running again, keeping moving, staying distracted, so I don't have to think about loneliness or the meaning of life.

At the time that Nick posted about reconnecting with his (ex)girlfriend, which just happened to coincide with the time I decided to end my failed marriage, Nick and I had not yet met in person.

I took the news with something approaching equanimity. At least at first.

Maybe I was in denial, maybe I was hopped up on neurotransmitter reuptake inhibitors and benzodiazepines, maybe I was just plain crazy, but I didn't see it as the swan song of our relationship. Nothing is over until it's over.

Or maybe I knew at a subliminal level that the whole affair with Nick and me wasn't about any one person. It was about hope. It was about the possibility of feeling passion and connection with another adult human being again.

I wrote this to my future former sister-in-law, who had been my one confidante during this time. Everyone needs one confidante.

I finally resolved it. I have to be free to have a chance at happiness.

Nick is seeing his ex again and I don't know where that stands. So whatever, it may never happen.

Fantasy world stuff anyway (probably) (maybe).

He is more conflicted right now than I am. All I want to do is meet him some day and let whatever happens happen. I am willing to take the risk that it might be anything. I don't think he is at that point yet. He is afraid.

He and I talked about it. That is, we emailed about it.

N.
I believe you care and sincerely hope for health for me. I also think that you and I have been exchanging some heartfelt, romantic correspondence. I don't know how you are feeling about my situation. In spite of expected biases, I believe you wish the best for me. (Are you that magnanimous?)

I'm not making any decisions at this point. I am not "back together" with her.
E.
I am "that magnanimous". What happened with your ex doesn't have anything to do with you and me.

It's just that everything in my whole being thinks getting "back together" with her is not what you need. But I know I don't get a vote.

I know you are scared. Of me I think. I wish you wouldn't be.
N.
You get a vote.

Yes I'm scared of you. No, not you. Me. I'm scared of the image you might have of me and me letting you down.

Okay, I'm scared shitless.
E.
I don't know what's supposed to happen with us. We just have to find out. It is a scary thing.
N.
Writing back and forth to you has been the single most encouraging and hopeful events in recent memory. I lit up whenever you would post or mail me. I felt honored. I write this to validate you. It is true.

Liz, several times I wrote to you that our correspondence was fantasy and fun. It was like a fairy tale. But I reminded you that we hadn't even met, AND, that you were married.

I don't know if I'm capable of having a relationship with anyone right now. With you it was so easy and pretty. But it was so safe and protected.

I care for you. What I know of you I have loved and cherish the moments and the feelings. What is the right thing to do?
E.
You asked:

What is the right thing to do?

As usual, I don't know.

Would you consider staying in touch?
N.
Yes, we can stay in touch. I think you are so special. You have added to my life. You have validated me. I am deeply grateful.
It wasn't enough though. I desperately wanted to meet him.

Even if we were only to be friends, I was ready to push through the fear. I was ready to see his face, to touch his hand, to look into his eyes.

But first I had to persuade him.

"I only want to hold you
I don't want to drag you down
Or fence you in the lines I might have drawn
It's just that I've gotten used to having you around
My landscape would be empty if you were gone

It's all right, I love you
That's not gonna change
Run me round, make me hurt, again and again
But I'll still sing you love songs
Written in the letters of your name
And brave the storm to come
For it surely looks like rain."

(Bob Weir)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Walking and thinking

"Who am I to say I know the way you feel, I've felt your pain and I know your sorrow?"

I didn't walk today. I've walked every day since, well, since the last time I said I missed a day. It was gray and dreary and I was tired. I gave myself the night off.

Last night I enjoyed a solo walk. It was a lovely night, lots of people out walking and biking, and a pretty sunset on the way home.

Here's a picture of our friend, the egret. I'm pretty sure it is the same one. There's a blue heron too. I'll try to get a picture next time.



I love my walks and talks with Neil but walking alone frees my mind in a way that other solitary activities fall short of. I don't even know what I think about during my hours and hours at the torch. Probably the next step in the design, the next color, the next bead.

I tried listening to a couple of books on tape while I worked, but I missed so much that I bought the books afterwards and read them. I love to read. To listen, not so much.

So what did I think about as I walked last night?

This blog mostly, and the story I am telling, in installments, from the past. The events in the story happened almost exactly 15 years ago. I've had no contact with the main characters for a very very long time. That is not to say I don't know what they are doing today, more or less. We do have Google, after all. And Facebook.

And I'm an excellent researcher.

But I give myself a barely passing grade for sustaining relationships. I have a few friends that I go a long way back with, back to high school even, but there have been many others along the way who have come and gone. And that makes me a little sad.

I thought about why I am telling the old story, and whether I have a right to tell it. I saved the letters all this time, transferred them to new computers, backed them up on disks.

There is one set of letters that I didn't save, and I regret that. It was a few months long relationship in 2002 with a man who I was never going to marry. Just one on the continuum that ended when I met Neil, when my heart thumped again, when it dawned on me that finally, finally, here was a man who didn't need rescuing.

Health can be contagious. I'd gotten healthier and then I met a man who was healthy too.

When I ended that brief relationship in 2002, I deleted the email messages, some of which were very beautiful and I wish I still had them.

There are many gaps in the words I saved in 1998. Most are copied and pasted into word documents and some are out of sequence and I don't look at them very often. I've thought about letting them go too.

But that time, those events, in 1998 changed the course of my life. Dramatic, yes I know. But true. And as magical as that time was, I would not go back and relive it, not for one freaking minute. It was raw and it was bewitching and it was profound and it was confusing and it was exhilarating and it was demolishing.

So why write about it?

I don't know.

I just know that I want to.

And really right now, the only reason I can think of not to, is imagining the person who I am writing about reading the story. Would he be angry? Hurt? Would he think I've been obsessing about him all this time? (That's a no, for the record.) Am I violating his privacy? It is his story as much as mine.

But that would mean he still ever thought about me or looked for me in cyberspace.

And what are the odds of that? After thirteen years.

You tell me.

Anyway, there's not much point in writing a memoir, which is what this story is, really, and not telling the truth. Including the seamy underbelly, the blemishes along with the beauty. Unvarnished. The undisputed truth.

And it is my story as much as his.

Right from the start, Nick made no secret of the fact that he was seven years into sobriety, with the obvious implication that he had a history of insobriety.

Seven years is a long time. The past is whatever it is. The present and future is what matters.

I had stopped drinking three years earlier. I initially stopped because, desperate for any kind of support as my marriage floundered, I attended some Al-Anon meetings with a friend, who was both a recovering alcoholic and the adult child of alcoholics. Out of respect for my friend, I decided to stop drinking for as long as I attended the meetings with her.

I have nothing but respect for 12-step programs that work for so many people where nothing else had ever helped. I got stuck on the second step myself, and the first step didn't apply to me anyway.

1.We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

My life might have been considered unmanageable, but alcohol held no power over me. Being able to give it up with ease was proof of that fact.

I didn't stick with the meetings very long. I never really understood what we were supposed to share or not share. I kept breaking the rules by talking about the specific personal chaos in my life, my husband's anger issues, verbal abuse and rough treatment of the children.

I didn't go back to drinking either. At worst I was a habitual problem drinker, but after I stopped drinking I realized how much pouring a depressant into my depressed self had been sapping my energy.

Nick's story was different.
I was a full blown drug addict. I chose drugs and alcohol to lubricate the friction of life. I fell deeply in the pit. I lost everything.
A full blown drug addict.

He wasn't talking pot or coke or acid or speed or barbs or quaaludes or crystal.

Although some of those were his gateway drugs.

He was talking smack.

Could I still love this man?

Seven years is a long time. The past is whatever it is. The present and future is what matters.

Isn't it?

I love stories of redemption.
I am a better man today because of it. I work with recovering alcoholics and drug addicts by the score. I do it for gratitude for my own sobriety. I have told my story in a series on the radio. I am not ashamed of it, yet I know some people stigmatize it. That's OK.

Those are my experiences. Sometimes the metal must stay in the fire longer to burn off the dross. When it is removed from the fire the metal is purer.
All this I knew then. All this, and more that I intuited or imagined. Maybe worse things than I could possibly imagine. But in the end it really was OK.

Many months later he told me the rest of the story. Which I've condensed. Substantially.
I just returned from a speaking engagement. I told the story of a ten year old who felt different and didn't like the way he felt. The ten year old began a 26 year run at changing the way he felt. It took him to spooky places. He was shot with bullets. He blew out lungs.

He continued on this self-destructive path for many more years. He experienced six treatment centers. He had gone from alcohol to pot to LSD and speed to downers to cocaine to cocaine and quaaludes and valium and booze to heroin to heroin and cocaine injected into his body. He spent time in prison. Untold numbers of hospitals and jails.

He is still alive today. He's doing OK. He really isn't supposed to be alive. He's a big exception to a rigid rule.
I would have bet money on the rock solidarity of Nick's continuing sobriety. I would have lost. There was one more treatment center, one more recovery still in his future.

"You've come so far
The days are dark
You feel like turning back
But the way is black
The way is black

You can't find him
The way is dim
You feel like giving up
You ache for her
Rest assured
It's never too late for love

You say you're tired
How I hate to hear you use that word
Every time it hurts
You say you're tired
How I hate to hear you use that word
Everybody hurts

Who am I to say
I know the way you feel
I've felt your pain
And I know your sorrow
You could try to let the past slip away
Live for today
Don't stop believing in tomorrow."

(Warren Zevon)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Marketing art

"Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden when my back is sturdy and strong? Trouble me."

I'm super excited this morning because a fellow lampworker, Lisa Anderson, has agreed to make demo beads with my frit blends. She makes beautiful frit beads and takes great photos, and I'm hoping we can cross-promote each other's work.

The proposal I sent Lisa a few days ago was that I'd send her a collection of all my blends, she would make the beads and send me the pictures, and the beads would be hers to sell. I didn't hear right back and I though that might mean she wasn't interested, and this morning I got a message saying the she was very interested.

Frit blend sales have been even slower than bead sales. I have 18 blends now and I'm committed to this venture because I really believe in my blends. Most went through numerous phases of trial and testing and retesting. With just a few I nailed the combination right away.

I'd been paying on a monthly basis to advertise them on Lampwork Etc. but it was a losing proposition, even though I ran a lot of promotions, such as a free jar with a purchase or a percent discount or free shipping. Considering the cost of the raw materials (single colors of frit), jars, labels, shipping materials, postage, fees, etc. I don't think I was even recovering my ad costs. Never mind the large order that never arrived at its destination (in Germany) and which I had to replace.

Yes, I know, it doesn't make sense that when business is slow, ad budgets are the first to be cut. I even rationalized that since I've gotten so much from the Lampwork Etc. forum since I joined on April 22, 2008 (4,401 posts ago as I write this), my ad payment was as much a way of supporting LE as a way to plug my frit blends.

I was a day late with my March payment though and the late fee pushed me over the decision to take a break at least. I wonder if my ad had just become part of the scenery and if coming back with a redesigned ad later would be a better strategy anyway. And I'll have Lisa's photos to use in my next ad. A win-win-win - for LE, Lisa and me - I hope.

In case you are curious, I used some of my frit blends on these bell flowers.



I'm almost finished with my bead soup project, but I won't be able to show what I did until April 13. I'm still surprised at myself for finishing (or even starting) any sooner than April 12. I made a suite of four necklaces that can be worn in combination or individually. The only thing left is to patina the shiny copper chain, and to make a pair of earrings. I should include some of my own beads in the earrings because I actually thought about it but didn't in the neck pieces.

Stringing beads hurts my right hand and arm about as much as making beads. Holding the beading wire steady to thread the beads uses the very muscle that my chiropractor described as feeling like a rope. It will be a long time, if ever, before I string most of the beads in my collection, but that is fine. I enjoy having them, maybe even more than making them into things. I have, oh, maybe 20 necklaces I've made where I've used my beads, plus half a dozen more made with my beads by other artists. The latter were mostly bartered for my beads, or more accurately, I used my beads to barter for the necklaces.

Most of the time I just wear one of my big focal beads on a chain.

A year ago I had a booth at a Ukrainian church bazaar, which came about because we have friends who are active in that church and who recruited me. I made a lot of jewelry, necklaces mostly, for that show. Most of the shows I do are beads shows and the customer base are bead buyers, but I assumed at a craft show people would not know what to do with loose beads and would be more likely to buy ready-to-wear jewelry. I was mistaken.

The event had a feeling of surrealism from the time I arrived. First, although I'd paid for an inside booth, there was no space allotted for me. The first place offered with under the stage, just below large speakers and I'm very grateful that I didn't wind up there. Instead I was sandwiched between two booths selling traditional Ukrainian knick knacks and inexpensive mass produced jewelry. The Ukrainian both owners would not make eye contact with me or look at my wares.

My booth was across the hall from the extensive and popular food area. Unfamiliar strong smells of cooking permeated the church hall atmosphere. The breads and desserts looked appealing from my distance, but that was as close as I got to tasting anything. Stranded in my booth, with aloof neighbors, I couldn't leave my post. A bathroom run was stressful enough.

But the alien ambiance wasn't the worst of it. The worst of it was the flood of people passing by who didn't so much as glance at my work. No, they were there for the food and the music and the dancing, and to socialize with their church brethren. It's possible that I was the only non-church affiliate with a booth. I sat there with the necklaces and bracelets I'd worked furiously on for a month. Hours went by.

Sometime after noon I made a sale, and it wasn't a piece of jewelry. It was a strand of loose beads from one of the trays I had placed toward the back of my display. A man bought it for his wife, who, he said, liked bead crafts. My next few sales were also loose beads. One woman purchased the pendant I was wearing. I sold a few beaded keys. At some point I rearranged my display so the loose beads were in front and the jewelry was toward the back.

The day was a moderate success overall, but half my sales came from the friend who had recruited me. She had a booth selling rubber stamps and cards she'd made with stamp crafts. We did a little trading and then she bought several necklaces on top of that.

Later I remembered one of the axioms of vending, that school and church festivals are the worst venues for craft artisans. People are there to watch the kids jump in the moonwalk and eat sausage on a stick. Live and learn, and when you forget, learn again. I was invited to return to the Ukrainian festival this April and I'm so not going to be there.

Live and learn. I learned something about myself back then in 1998. I learned that I was not a person who would have an affair while married, who would start one thing before finishing another. This was at the core of the panic waves that started after I asked to meet Nick, this and the enormity of the sea change that faced me.

There were other things I learned about myself then too. For one, I'd been a caretaker pretty much my whole life and certainly most of my marriage. I was the stable bread winner with insurance benefits, while my first husband moved from job to job to unemployment to self-employment. I was grateful for the steadiness of my own work but my passion was for other things and I knew my married life was never going to be easier.

I wanted to be the freelance artist and have my husband be the wage slave. That wish wasn't the contract I'd made when I married though, it was a yearning that emerged after I had children. I'd been inoculated with the dogma that women should have it all, work and kids. It was only after I had those kids that I discovered that I didn't want to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.

I longed for more balance in my life, more time and freedom and flexibility, more security that wasn't completely dependent on me keeping my nose grimly to the grindstone.

Fifteen years into my marriage I'd mined so much salt that I'd turned to stone.

Almost.

And then I started talking to Nick and I started to feel like maybe my heart wasn't cryogenically frozen. But even as I opened my heart, I knew that I would be care-taking again. I knew it and I accepted it, I felt strong enough, I thought my feelings for him were strong enough.

It didn't play out exactly that way.

Me.
I really like you, Nick, you are smart, and funny, and creative, and fragile, and complex, and sexy. A lot like me, in fact.

Everything that you have said you felt - lost, exiled, stuck - I understand. My heart goes out to you. I wish I could heal you (it's the rescuer in me).

But are we kidding ourselves? Two depressives? What good would we be to each other? Who would cook?

You are so sweet to say all those loving things to me. I love you too. Or my fantasy of you. Not sure which
He.
I'm a great cook and love doing it. We can switch off. Yes this is about fantasy - to a degree.
Me.
Maybe I will see you next week. Do you want to see me next week?
After I sent him that last note, asking him to meet me, he wrote me the most beautiful note I'd ever received from a man.

He didn't agree to meet me though.

I've condensed his letter. Substantially.

He.
I received your letter. I'm experiencing arrhythmia - my heart is skipping beats. Your post, beautiful as it is, (and I printed it for hard copy filing) added to my coronary unrest.

Often I feel like our hearts are choreographed in beautiful synchronicity. It's as if I feel yours beating in my chest.

To physically hold you is something I cannot yet imagine without fear. Though I desire to. We correspond in such a way as lovers do. But in the safety and anonymity of this technology we use, the reality is somewhat nebulous.

I could not bear up under the blow of rejection from you. Especially you.

So much for a macho facade.This is the state, or the point, I find myself in at this time in the universe.

And then there is you. Liz, Lizbeth, Elizabeth, and I love your euphonic name. And I'm frightened. I'm frightened because of my own investment.

Can we just be friends? But, how could I think of you differently than I do. It's your soul I'm connecting with. I love your soul. You are your soul. I love you.

But, I don't know if anything needs to be done with that.

What else would you like to become for me? What would you like me to become for you?
And me.
You asked me what else would I like to become for you? What would I like you to become for me?

I'll tell you.

I don't know.

For you and me I think, maybe, it has to be everything or nothing. What do you think? I hope it's everything. But we both have far to go.
He.
And of course, you are married. Would you just want me for a hot affair, for romance and high passion (Mmm that sounds good)? I don't want to be a fantasy buster but, I am so attracted to your style, I gotta be more honest with you than if I were just flirtin' around.
And just like that, I knew what I had to do.

Me again.
I am changing. I've made a decision that I needed to make. It is such a relief. I feel like I'm being reborn.

The decision? I told my husband to try to love me less because I am pretty sure I am never going to get well unless we separate.
And just like that, Nick invited his ex-girlfriend back into his home and his bed.


"Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and your worries
Trouble me on the days when you feel spent
Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden when my back is sturdy and strong?
Trouble me

Let me have a look inside these eyes while I'm learning
Please don't hide them just because of tears

Spare me? Don't spare me anything troubling

There's more, honestly, than my sweet friend, you can see
Trust is what I'm offering if you trouble me."

(Dennis Drew, Natalie Merchant)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Immersion in the blogosphere

"This is my tune for the taking, take it, don't turn away, I've been waiting all my life."

Of late, I've been absorbed by the Blogosphere. I'm late to the party, as usual.

Unless it's on PBS, I never know anything about popular TV shows. We started watching Lost 3 years in, after Neil's daughter loaned us the DVD of the first three seasons. By the time we finished them, we had to catch up on season 4. We watched all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars on DVD.

I've never watched The Bachelor or American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. I'm no fan of Hell's Kitchen or Iron Chef or Chopped. As I write this I realize that I don't even know what shows I might have watched but didn't. Bunheads? American Horror Story? Faceoff? Sons of Anarchy? The Neighbors?

Man, I'm still debating whether to buy and watch the series Six Feet Under. Or The Sopranos. And how about Jersey Shore?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Who has time?!

I can't get enough of British crime dramas though. DCI Banks. Wallender. New Tricks. Ashes to Ashes. Sherlock. Zen. Endeavor. Morse. Lewis. Foyle. Prime Suspect.

Poirot. Marple. Wimsey and Vane and Bunter.

I draw the line at Midsomer Murders. Too silly and soapy. An unintended spoof of the genre, if you ask me.

I know, you didn't ask me. The show has been running continuously since 1997. Someone is watching it.

I'm not sure why it took me so long to immerse myself in blogs. Long before blogging was even a blip in cyberspace. I adored op-ed journalists like Anna Quindlen, who wrote the columns Public and Private, About New York, and Life in the 30s for the New York Times, winning a Pulitzer for Commentary in 1992.

Ellen Goodman, another Pulitzer-winning columnist 9Distinguished Commentary in 1980), whose body of opinion writing spans the years from 1974 to 2010 and six books.

Linda Ellerbee, whose syndicated newspaper column has been reduced to a footnote on her CV, overshadowed no doubt by her numerous other accomplishments. I can't find when or where it ran, or what it was called. What's up with that? I do have the memory of one of my favorite quotes, from her swan song column.
"If you don't want to grow old don't mellow. ... Love and memory will last until the game is called on account of darkness."
Jacquelyn Mitchard, who wrote the lifestyle column, The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship.

And because I lived in Texas, Lynn Ashby, Leon Hale, Jeff Millar, who died in December, and Lewis Grizzard, who was actually from Georgia and who died, much too young, in 1994.

For about the past year, as I've discovered interesting blogs, my practice has been to go back to the earliest available posts and work my way to the present. And because many bloggers follow fellow bloggers, one blog leads to another.

It's odd, the way you get to know these bloggers, or feel as though you do, and it's refreshing how accessible they are, compared to the days when you commented on a column by writing a letter to the newspaper. Now there is the possibility of virtually instantaneous interactivity. You can comment, you can email.

I just got a brief but very sweet email response from Claire Bidwell Smith, to an overlong message I sent to her on Feb. 20, after reading her memoir, The Rules of Inheritance.

In my note I said this.
This letter grew long and I forgive you should you not read it through to the end. ... I almost decided not to send this letter and then I read your post today and it just hit another note of consanguinity. It felt like an omen, so I am going to hit send in a minute.

Thank you for sharing your story Claire. Namaste. I salute you.
Here is what Claire said in her post that day, almost a year after her book hit the shelves.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve received more messages from readers than ever before. All of them about loss, about grief, many of them about being motherless, and also about being mothers. The messages have pulled me open in this hard, beautiful way. Each story, each life in words sitting there in my inbox, is something so unique and painful and perfect. And it’s not that I don’t think about loss all the time, or parental loss all the time, because I do, I do, but with every story shared I see a new depth to it all.
Here is the message she sent to me.
Elizabeth!

I kept waiting for some magical time that would allow me to respond at length, but I am just so overwhelmed with my plate that that time still hasn't arrived. Please know that I read this and appreciated every word, especially your story.

With love,
Claire
Claire had just returned home from attending the annual Books for a Better Life event in New York City. The Rules of Inheritance was a finalist for Inspirational Memoir.

I'm truly touched by her note and at the same time it was nothing less than I expected.

Sometimes people will surprise you though.

I didn't even have a personal email address in January of '98 when all hell broke loose on the bulletin board.

I had a work email address and internet access at work or if I wanted to go through about 52 steps to log on from home.

We were still using dial-up then. Everyone was.

I was still all kinds of concerned about those people you meet on the 'net, as though terrible things might happen if they knew my last name or had any indication of my location.

So I signed up for my first free web email address on USA.net. I was b.liz at USA.net. When I switched to Yahoo later, I kept the USA and became Liz B USA. If people thought my last name was Busa that was AOK with me.

Nick and I exchanged some email. I went first.

Me.
Well, Nick,

Friends?

Warren Beatty to Diane Keaton: "What as?"

Keaton to Beatty: "Comrads?"

(You did see Reds?)
Nick. He was so funny, so eloquent.
There was a riot on the depression psych-ward bb yesterday. It seems that most of it centers around me. The charge: Corrupting the youth of Athens. Penalty: Hemlock on pumpernickel. I'm sorry to say that your name is mentioned in at least one of the plaintive wails.

Look into all of the posts yesterday if you haven't already, and if you even care to. Particularly there is a guy (I assume) who goes by bb poster boy who has just returned to the bb after a sabbatical. And he doesn't like what he's found. Namely, me. We dueled. It's hilarious. But its sad too.
Me.
Yeah, I read some of yesterday's posts.

First of all, please, allow me my share in whatever culpability there may be. I can take it. Maybe I did get a little crazy. Emily D. and lack of sleep will do that to me. I plead temporary insanity. I have apologized. I forgive me.

So at this point I'd say forget about it, they'll get over it. It was fun while it lasted.
Nick.
What a great perspective on it all. I share in your thoughts re: the riot in the nut ward. I must confess, however, my feelings are bruised. I'm just not in the sturdy place I would like to believe and have others believe I am in. But some good from this event has become visible to me. I expect more will follow. It has kicked up my abandonment issues.
Me.
If you would like to talk to me some more (please, I hope), maybe we can hang in here on e-mail for a while.

And maybe, someday, I will meet you somewhere, like the zoo. I can bring my bodyguards. They are only about 4 feet tall, but they would protect me well. From myself I mean, not from you

Maybe. No pressure. Ever. I promise.
Nick.
Yes, that's a pleasant thought. The possible future rendezvous. With bodyguards. Because I somehow believe, or, at least, something tells me it's all happening at the zoo. Call me silly if you wish, but I do believe it, I do believe it's true.
It was at this point that I began suffering massive waves of anxiety.


"Here is my song for the asking
Ask me and I will play
So sweetly, I'll make you smile

This is my tune for the taking
Take it, don't turn away
I've been waiting all my life

Thinking it over, I've been sad
Thinking it over, I'd be more than glad
To change my ways for the asking

Ask me and I will play
All the love that I hold inside."

(Paul Simon)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Explaining beadmaking

"And I feel like I'm just being born, like a shiny light breaking in a storm."

I was driving around earlier this week, running some errands. I stopped at Michael's, Tuesday Morning and T.J. Maxx, looking for something to use as a pot for the mini mushrooms I've been making. We picked up a few potting plants at Cornelius' over the previous weekend and at the checkout counter they had these low dishes full of small ceramic mushrooms, like the bigger ones we have in our front flower bed. They were for individual sale, but the overall effect was what I liked. I picked one up and said to Neil, I can make these out of glass.

The cashier picked up on that and asked my if I was a glassblower. I said I was a beadmaker and my hand went to the focal bead I was wearing on a chain, as it always does when I answer the question, what do I do. It's as if without a visual I don't expect anyone to know what a beadmaker is, and probably they don't, or maybe they think of someone painting beads, making them out of clay, polymer clay if they are at all into crafts. No one, except another lampworker, is likely to understand what I mean when I say I am a glass beadmaker.

The cashier said something like, cool, and swiped Neil's credit card. I went home and made 9 glass mini mushrooms. Zamboni stole one during the night and it may or may not reappear.

I picked up some imitation sphagnum moss at Michael's and went looking for a deep saucer, but the closest thing I found was a cat food bowl and I have plenty of those. They are so useful for holding beads. But I still went to T.J. Maxx to pick up a couple of new ones. When I headed home, I was shocked to see on the car clock that it was already 2 p.m.

Shocked but not really. That's how my days go. Everything takes me forever to do. I have to look at everything and waste a lot of time with indecision. Neil says I vacillate more over a $20 purchase than he does over buying an expensive coin. But he's the one making money now and I'm the one mostly spending it.

At least I have been walking. Every day.

Still I have been questioning what I am accomplishing, if anything. I'm never bored and I'm always behind in the things I think I need to do, but what am I getting done really? As Neil put it, I do stuff and the day is over, or something like that. Oh yes, I make beads, almost every day. Some I think are even beautiful. But they haven't been selling. So what is the point? Art for art's sake?

I've been doing as much as I can think of to promote my work. More Etsy listings, more Facebook postings. I look at other bead artists and I see their beads selling. They post a picture on Facebook and the next thing they post is "sold!"

As with everything else in my life, I'm desperately seeking validation. I'm experimenting with new techniques and styles, making bigger beads, channeling Ali Vandegrift who makes bicones that weigh 6 oz. and measure 5 inches in length. Stunning beads with amazing stringer work that take her 3 hours and use 1/4 lb. of glass.

I need to channel her attitude too. She's enormously proud of her work and fearless about singing her own praises.

Here are some of my new beads.




Insecurity. It was something I thought about a lot in 1998.

That January there was a riot on the bulletin board.

After the e e cummings episode. I logged on from home late one night, which I rarely did, and Nick had been posting Emily Dickinson poems. For me.

It was so beautiful. I was speechless. But I could still type.
I am speechless.

Thank you so much.

The people who said there isn't a lot of support on this board were sooo wrong.

Emily was so awesome. Simple and brilliant. She didn't name her poems, you know.

Nick, on or off, *I'll be right here* (E.T. in E.T.)
We talked about the meaning of one of the poems.
That's what it means to me. And that's the beauty of poetry. It means what it means to you.

Poetry 101 dismissed.

Good night stars. Goodnight air. Good night noises everywhere.
I was floating. And then I put it out there.
Nick, I am real.

And I am here.

And I am scared. What is happening here? Is it that magnetism thing?

Go back and read my post of 12/31. Think about the timing.

Think about if you want to call it quits (with me I mean).
I was terrified. I had just made a declaration to the universe. Even if it was just one tiny corner of the W3, it was out there for anyone to read.

My life, which had been stuck on dead center, moved a fraction, toward hope and joy.

Not everyone saw the beauty though.

For months we'd been peaceful and empathetic but now some people were feeling marginalized and unsupported.

One person in particular thought that there should be no poetry, no laughter, no flirting on a depression support board.

It got ugly. In retrospect I'm surprised it hadn't happened sooner. But that's the way of the web. Flame wars.

But I'd gone to bed and didn't see the carnage until morning.

I was sure Nick was gone forever.

"But you know its hard to tell when you're in the spell
If its wrong or if its real
But you're bound to lose if you let the blues
Get you scared to feel
And I feel like I'm just being born
Like a shiny light breaking in a storm
There are so many reasons why I love him."

(Joni Mitchell)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writing for my life

"I asked myself when you said you loved me, do you think this can be real?"

I started this blog because I wanted to participate in the Bead Soup Blog Party, an event where you exchange beads with another artist you are partnered with, make something with the beads and on the designated "reveal" date, post the things you made on your blog. You also are encouraged to visit all the other participants blogs and comment on their creations should the spirit move you. Obviously, a requirement of the Bead Soup exchange is that you have a blog.

And now that I have a blog (again), I have found myself reflecting on my life, present and past. I blogged for a while on the Houston Chronicle website. I went back to look just now to see if it still was there. I didn't find it. I guess when you don't post for five years or so, your blog gets deleted. Although I didn't see where I could sign up for a new one, so maybe reader blogs aren't open to the general public now.

I did keep copies of my posts, so maybe I'll put them up on my website in case anyone wants to see what I was musing about back then.

I've always written. Before blogs, before forums and chat rooms and bulletin boards, I just wrote stories, essays, the essential equivalent of a blog post. I'll probably go through those too, clean them up a bit, organize them and publish them. Just in case, you know, anyone is interested in what I was thinking about in the '90s.

And long before I had my current website, long before personal websites were ubiquitous, if not de rigueur, I had a little fledgling site on Angelfire called Three Graces. I'm a little embarrassed that it's still out there, but not embarrassed enough to log in and delete it. I warn you, it is slow to load, because it has music. And ads. Including (shudder) pop-up ads. When I set it up the ads were only directed at webmasters, not visible to the public. Things change.

I created that little website in 1998 on a whim and without a clue what I would put on it. No one I knew had their own website and people were impressed that I did, even though it lacked anything resembling a design. I built the first pages strictly with a generic template, but I did learn some html along the way, and how to (blush) embed music files. If you don't want to wade through the poetry, art, stories, and lists, some of the pages in photo ops are kind of cool, like my visit to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge with Jane Goodall. And this one of my first out-of-state trip with Neil to the Grand Canyon. (Neil loves this one.)

Well, now that that quirky little secret has been dealt with, I'll continue to ponder my life and times. Because it has been a crazy and interesting ride.

Three Graces was born during the winter that my marriage was unraveling. I spent a lot of time on the computer then (some things don't change). It was that winter that I started to have feelings for someone I met online. Let me back up for a minute. While researching depression I'd stumbled into a support forum called brilliantly, Support Group dot com. There were message boards for many varieties of illness, disorder, condition, syndrome, what have you.

The depression forum was very active, even if the idea of a depression support group sounds like an oxymoron. When a member was feeling unsafe or at risk of self harm, there were always other members to talk them off the ledge. I think it helped people feel less alone, it was validating to have someone say, I understand exactly how you feel. Or, I've been where you are, please hang on, it can get better. I lurked for a while because posting something on the internet seemed huge, even in a tiny obscure corner of the world wide web. Some people used real names, some used names like Justme or Sadmom, some simply used a different christian name and some used their own.

When I finally posted I was Liz. And before you go looking, that website has long been decommissioned. Which is a shame because there was a searchable archive and I would love to re-read some of the posts from that era. I saved some of them. I even had a file of printed copies of posts but I deep-sixed it long ago. An amazing thing is that I've stayed in touch with a few of the people I met on that forum, mostly via Facebook now. It's going on fourteen years since I've heard directly from Nick. Which is why I think I can write about it now.

When Nick first posted, he had just asked his girlfriend of six years to leave his house. He was a couple of years older than me, but what made it seem almost providential was that he lived in my area code. He was funny, flirtatious and quintessentially bright. A night owl who worked from home, he posted mostly in the evenings, while I had only my work laptop and a very complicated protocol for logging in remotely. So I often read his posts the following morning at work. I joked that we had an "on and off" relationship. He was online while I was off, and vice versa.

Despite the humor and the philosophy, he was in a crisis. He talked openly about his seven years of sobriety but at this time depression was the demon he fought. One night he sounded seriously hopeless. In the morning I posted this.
*Laughing is medicine*

How's the head today?

I think you had a brainstorm.

A storm in the brain. That's what Bill Styron called it.

He got better.

You creative geniuses are like that. You know, brilliant, but tortured.

I haven't been there. Just the blues.

Since I was a kid. 30 years. More or less. Give or take. Comes and goes. On and off.

Not a genius I guess.
And the next day this.
Keep fighting it. A nanosecond at a time. We have a discussion to finish. Etymology. Etiology. Theology. Love.

When you're ready.

I'll keep checking in.
And then, the morning after Nick's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad night, this.
My best friend in college told me that if I killed myself she would never forgive me.

She was right.

And now I say it to you.

Don't!

If you can't hold on, go to the emergency room.

Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

You have kids. They won't forgive you.

Death is bad. Death is final (probably).

I'm praying anyway.
And then, the one that blew it wide open, the one that, for me at least, sowed the seeds of our cyber-fiber-optic love affair.
You made me smile. You must be better. Good.

You posted earlier (and I quote):

*Death may NOT be an evil.
But because i'm not privy,
i'd rather err on the safe side.*

Good.

It made me think of a poem by e e cummings. I looked it up:

*since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis*

I think I think like cummings. In this case anyway.
How could I have known that Nick worshiped cummings?

How could I have known it was possible to love someone who you'd never met? To love someone when you didn't know what they looked like, whether they were thin or fat, tall or short, white or black, and it didn't matter because you felt like you were connecting with their soul?

Then again, it was all really only a fantasy. Wasn't it?

"Still I sent up my prayer
Wondering where it had to go
With heaven full of astronauts
And the Lord on death row
While the millions of his lost and lonely ones
Call out and clamor to be found
Caught in their struggle for higher positions
And their search for love that sticks around."

(Joni Mitchell, Same Situation, from Court and Spark)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The comprehension clusterfork

"The more I know, the less I understand, all the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again."

[Written March 7 in Florida but published today.]

I didn't walk on Tuesday. I got a massage instead. I didn't walk on Wednesday. I went to the library and then a hair appointment. I didn't make beads on Wednesday either. Today and tomorrow I'm in Florida with my mom. I'll get back to walking when I get home.

My mom was awake and alert all afternoon, a great departure from the relentless fatigue she's suffered since my dad died. Her memory is worse than imaginable. She does know me and she speaks about my brother but she no longer asks about my dad and of course I don't bring that up, nor do I tell her that her cousin Helen, who was more like a sister, is gone now too, at the age of almost 95. Mom's brother John is living in Chicago and in much the same state of dementia. He is 92. We could have a long way to go yet.

My mom's situation is truly tragic. She has macular degeneration so her eyesight is not good. I show her photos on my iPhone of her granddaughters and great grandson, but she can't really see them. I'm not sure if her hearing has seriously deteriorated, or if her difficulty hearing me and others is more a loss of comprehension. I ask her if she remembers Forest Hills, her home for 32 years, and she says, did you ask me about a sugar mill? She doesn't remember.

Between the vision and the hearing and the comprehension clusterfuck, she has little distraction. She can't read. She can't watch TV. So she lies in bed and stares into space and I imagine her gray matter literally is 50 shades of gray. She doesn't complain. She looks amazingly good all things considered, not at all like a woman who will be 90 in May. But then I look 39 myself. Or something like that. Her color is good and now that she isn't sleeping all day, she looks more like my mom again. I don't even know if that is a good or a bad thing.

Here is a picture of my mom and me. (It was a balmy 75 degrees but she was cold.)



When I parked at the airport this morning, a man was parking two spaces away and we both headed for the elevator with our rollaboards in tandem. He asked me if I was going somewhere fun and I said Florida. He said, you're on the Fort Lauderdale flight and I nodded and he said, I am too. We got separated going through the security checkpoint and it only occurred to me later that he was flirting with me. Or maybe just being friendly. Except for one time in my life, I've not been very good at the flirting game. Not that I'm in the game now anyway. But an ego boost now and then is good for the soul I think.

There have been times in my life when I thought my ego was out to kill me. I ricocheted between insecurity, compromised self-esteem, rejection-sensitivity and self-doubt, and a sort of narcissism, self-absorption, hubris, conceit and vanity. Bipolarity of the ego, that was me.

I'm not particularly proud of the fact that when I was getting unmarried I had an emotional affair. Although some people know bits and pieces of the story, I've never told anyone the truth, the whole truth, about Nick.

When I think about the end of my marriage, it is a very long stretch of growing unhappiness, punctured by some significant storms. Something changed for me in the final four months. I've written about how I can't remember the happiness, but in some ways I also can't remember the pain. I do know that for a long time there was no communication, respect or affection. We slept in the same bed in the last years, but not together.

There were times I sought to bridge the ever-broadening rift. Times I wished he'd just put his arms around me, even if it was just a gesture of camaraderie and not love or lust. It is very hard to live as an adult without any physical adult contact. I don't know how he felt about it, we never talked about it. It just sort of happened. We hit a rough patch and didn't connect for a while, and then months turned to years. He didn't ever seek a reconcilliation but I know it had to play into the anger and bitterness and resentment he demonstrated toward me.

Well into the fifteenth year of our failed union, I began to withdraw and isolate more and more. I could tolerate his company, barely, when at home, but found it insufferable when around others. So I stopped trying to be around others as a couple and then it spilled over into my own ability to connect socially, and I felt hopeless and alienated. Our family doctor who I'd been seeing since Chelsea was a year old, and who had heard all my complaints of tiredness and listlessness, suggested that I might benefit from a biochemical neurotransmitter boost.

I was rather shocked. I had one close long-time friend who suffered from severe OCD compounded by postpartum depression. I worried about the fact that she'd been an early and avid Prozac adopter, stemming from the time when there were all sorts of misconceptions and controversies about this class of drug. I was a little ignorant about and horrified by the idea of treating moods with medications. So when my doctor brought it up I had an immediate negative reaction. I stocked up on St. John's Wort and took it religiously (and worthlessly) for the next couple of months.

We reached the rock bottom of our marriage over Thanksgiving weekend that year. My parents visited and for some reason, whenever my parents were around, Jon treated me more rudely than usual. Or perhaps that was how he always treated me, and when my parents were there I was forced to look at it through their eyes. Jon was always gracious and hospitable to my mom and dad, and I used to wonder if he resented me for having kind and loving parents while his own were gone, leaving nothing but memories of dysfunctional violence, infidelity, alcoholism and racism.

One of the reasons I stayed with Jon was that my heart broke for the little boy who'd grown up in that atmosphere, for the boy whose aunt gave him money for bus fare from Texas to Indiana when she saw the way things were at home, for the tenth grader who packed a bag and got on a bus and didn't come home for 10 years. For the young man whose mother died, impoverished, falling down a flight of stairs, intoxicated and living on the charity of her sisters. For the man whose father remarried and was raising his new wife's granddaughter and doting on her with all the tenderness he never showed to his own children.

Nonetheless, that Thanksgiving our lows reached a new low. The following week I called my doctor and got a prescription. I told no one and suffered through 9 days of side effects including wooziness, headache, sleeplessness and depression that was 20 times worse. I bagged the experiment. I'd joined a depression support group on the Internet and while still in denial that I had an actual illness, my eyes had been opened to a whole subculture of people who took antidepressants and mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics and anxiety meds, suicide survivors and self-harmers, people living in their own personal levels of hell.

On New Year's Eve I wrote the following in a letter to my online support group.
I know I am lucky. I have my kids and my husband, even if our 15 year marriage is war weary. I changed, he stayed the same (I don't drink with him anymore). ... I am just so needy, I require constant reassurance, or I obsess and doubt myself.

But I must have some optimist deep inside me. I am willing to hope that 1998 is going to be better. I will hit my stride, develop charisma, find a best friend, fall in love, write something worthwhile, feel better. Off with the damn bell jar.
And two days later Nick joined the forum.

"There are people in your life who've come and gone
They let you down and hurt your pride
Better put it all behind you, life goes on
You keep carring that anger, it'll eat you inside

I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore."

(Don Henley)