Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ticking Off

"Ever unfolding, ever expanding, ever adventurous and torturous, but never done."

As I said, I've come up for air.

One by one, I'm crossing things off my imaginary list. I call it imaginary because it resides in my head. I know, that's not the most fail-safe, effective place for a list. What can I say? That is just how I do it, how I've always done it. Mostly well, occasionally badly.

Which reminds me, my inspection sticker expires this month and I need to have my tires rotated and balanced. Oy.

But on the ticked-off side, I arranged for my RMD for my inherited IRA, which will be automatic every year now, unless I decide to change it. I had my annual well-woman physical, but I still have to schedule a mammogram and a bone density scan. I need to make an appointment with my eye doctor too. New glasses! Oh boy!

I've sorted out some issues with my 401K and now I just have to pay the custodian's bill. And transfer some money that I collected as Houston Society of Glass Beadmakers Treasurer (just elected to a new term), and send the President the list of people who've paid their dues for 2015.

I've maxxed out the number of auctions I can run simultaneously on Facebook, and I'm momentarily caught up on invoicing and shipping, although that won't last long. After my two-week hiatus, I've been buried with Buy-it-Nows since I started listing again.

The Glassell Student Sale is over. As usual I sold some things but not nearly everything, so I did a fair amount of work for nothing, but that's life. Better yet, my 2D Design class is over and I completed the last three assignments.

Project 10 was called "Color Temperature Season Collage" and essentially was representing two consecutive seasons by painting 100 different shades of color for each. I almost enjoyed the painting part. I chose Winter (cool colors) and Spring (a mix of cool and warm colors) and did it assembly-line style. I used ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, and lemon yellow, plus black and white (and gray).

I started with a squirt of a color, and added it first to white, little by little, painting a swatch. When I reached the deepest shade, I started over with the same color, adding black, a toothpick-sized amount, and when things got very dark, I started adding white in again (i.e. gray). It was shockingly easy to come up with 200 shades.

Then because it was easier than cutting squares, I used a heart-shaped punch. I pretty much randomly glued the hearts in place and I'm not displeased with the outcome.

Project 11, called "Texture" was a piece of cake. We had to select 10 different types of texture and cut out 5 pairs of "actual" textured material and 5 pairs of "simulated" texture examples. I took photos for my simulated texture - clouds, flowers, greenery - and used craft box items for my real texture. It was down and dirty and I think I did OK, but I missed the class when that project was critiqued.

And our final assignment, Project 12, aka "Matisse Paper Cutouts" was making a construction paper collage based on a piece of music. Our instructions were to "create different shapes and select colors that depict the mood of the piece of music you have chosen." I chose "Incomplete" by Alanis Morissette, because it was the first song that popped into my mind, and I admit I just cut out shapes at random and went to town with glue.

The result arguably represents the song or it doesn't. Art of this sort being completely subjective, and my goal being simply to have something (anything) done by the day after we got home from Hawaii, I didn't try to knock my own socks off. In fact, after the fact, I considered choosing a different song that better matched the result. "La Bamba" spontaneously occurred to me, but I'm sure I could have thought of something better if I'd wanted to spare the brain cells.

So that is that. I'm looking forward to a break from art school after 8 semesters. I wouldn't mind taking Beginning Digital Photography II, maybe down the road a piece. Oh, that reminds me, I have a few things I bought for my class, and didn't use, to return to Texas Art Supply. (This virtual list thing can be pretty random.)

As far as my online Living Writers class, I'm barely a dozen or so pages into the fourth (last) book The Zone of Interest. After finishing Freedom, I went back and looked at the discussion board and was disappointed in the (lack of) depth and breadth of the postings. I'm not even sure how to tackle a discussion of the book, except to say, I wouldn't call it a "Great American Novel" (sorry Time Mag). I found the characters caricatured and the plot a fairy tale and the sex and other bodily functional stuff both unrealistic and gratuitous. So there. Take that.

Hmm, on reflection, all three books that I finished (including The Orchard of Lost Souls and Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood) had fairy tale (read improbable) endings, although the latter is more likely to be factual, since it is an autobiography.

I'm looking forward to re-prioritizing my life. I'd like to stick to making beads and walking on the treadmill for a while. And writing. I wrote 76 posts in 2013, and this is only my 34th post in 2014 and it's past mid-December. I'm not sure whether it's a threat or a promise to say I'm planning to post more often next year, or moot, because I'm pretty sure my audience is primarily me (which is truly fine - I write mostly for myself).

Last night, Neil sat down on the sofa and his hand encountered a hairball. He recoiled, got up, washed his hands and returned to the sofa.

I said, are you kidding? You went and washed your hands but you didn't bring a paper towel to clean it up?

Neil looked at me and said, I worked today.

He redeemed himself somewhat by getting a paper towel and cleaning up the hairball.

I thought about his comment today. Just because I enjoy what I do doesn't mean I don't work. I'm pretty disciplined actually. I spend about 3 hours most days making beads. I estimate I spend a good 5 more hours daily, dipping mandrels, cleaning beads, stringing sets, taking photos, editing photos, writing auction listings, monitoring auction listings, sending invoices, printing invoices, packaging beads for shipping, and making trips to the Post Office. Sometimes I'm still wrapping beads and printing shipping labels well after Neil's gone to bed.

True, I don't get a bimonthly paycheck, nor do I get paid vacation or discounts on health and life insurance, or matching contributions to a pension plan, or stock options, or bonuses, or other perks that come with a salaried job. I don't earn six figures, as I did before I "retired."

I am still working though. I'm paying my share of the household bills. I'm picking up milk for Neil. I cook, in a manner of speaking, maybe 4 nights a week, even if it is just eggs, or soup and sandwiches, or pasta, or frozen pizza. I do all the dishes too. I'm the one who takes out the trash and the recycling, I'm the one and only one who cleans the litter boxes. I make sure we have cat food in the house and I feed the cats their daily canned food meal. I clean up 99 percent of the hairballs - and until last night that would have been 100 percent.

So yes, I work.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not going to say that Neil doesn't make it possible for me to do what I love. He pays the mortgage and taxes on this beautiful house. We have health and life insurance through his company. He pays the lions share of our vacation costs and he almost always pays when we go out to eat.

I pay for homeowner's insurance, flood insurance, car insurance, business insurance and an umbrella policy that would cover any coins that are in the house and not in the safe deposit box. I pay for utilities - electricity, gas, water, home phone, cable, internet access, home security. I pay the every-other-week housekeeper.

Of course I pay for all my own clothes and shoes and indulgences, hair and nails, massages, any medical co-pays for myself, groceries at least half the time, some of our travel expenses. Naturally my business pays for all the glass and tools and supplies and equipment I use for bead making, and any beadmaking classes and conferences I attend.

I'm not a kept woman. I don't consider Neil's money to be "our" money (or mine to be "ours" either). It just makes sense, when we each have our own children, not to throw it all into one pot. All that may change after Neil retires. And it would be nice in many ways to consolidate it all, but you don't get a second chance to do it right the first time. Not to mention we both have control issues.

For now, the status quo is working well. For us. And it's all about us.

OK. Off to check the kiln. And clean some beads. And dip some mandrels. The circle of bead life goes on.

Some recent sets.

"One day, I'll find relief
I'll be arrived
And I'll be a friend to my friends who know how to be friends

One day, I'll be at peace
I'll be enlightened
And I'll be married with children and maybe adopt

One day, I will be healed
I will gather my wounds, forge the end of tragic comedy

One day, my mind will retreat
And I'll know God
And I'll be constantly one with her night, dusk and day

One day, I'll be secure
Like the women I see on their thirtieth anniversaries

Ever unfolding, ever expanding
Ever adventurous and torturous
But never done

One day, I will speak freely
I'll be less afraid
And measured outside of my poems and lyrics and art

One day, I will be faith filled
I'll be trusting and spacious, authentic and grounded and whole

I have been running so sweaty my whole life
Urgent for a finish line
And I have been missing the rapture this whole time
Of being forever incomplete."

(The brilliant Alanis Morissette)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Going native

"If you try, you'll find me where the sky meets the sea. Here am I, your special island, come to me, come to me."

I'm pretty close to being able to come up for air.

It's been that busy.

Monday and Tuesday mornings I made beads for the first time in more than two weeks and it felt really good to be melting glass again.

Of course, I can't expect much sympathy for having spent the prior 10 days cruising between Oahu and Maui and Kauai and the Big Island. Or the five days before that when our kids and grandson celebrated an early Thanksgiving with us

Thanksgiving morning found us in an airplane for 8 hours, flying west.

I'm funny when it comes to travel. I dread it until I'm on my way and then I enjoy it.

The dread comes for several reasons. I love being home. I love sleeping in my own bed. I love getting up in the morning and having my coffee with my cats.

Packing is a drag. Men have it relatively easy. Women have to think about earrings and hair accessories and cosmetics and shoes. I have to think about medication and my night guard and my arm brace. Then there are electronics and chargers.

I have anxiety when I think about laundry accumulating in my suitcase. I have an inability to pack realistically and I often wear only one-third of the clothes I bring on any given trip.

At least I gave up the idea of bringing beads and stringing materials and wire and tools for making jewelry along the route. It was a good decision. I brought three books and finished one. I might have read more if I didn't get sucked in to United Airlines' in-flight wifi. I watched movies on both out outbound and return flights.

But mostly it's about the cats. I have separation anxiety about my cats, and since two cats didn't tug on my heartstrings sufficiently, I had to get a third cat.

I won't become a crazy cat lady. Shoveling two litter boxes is plenty. Vet bills have been astronomical this year (in a relative sense) because of what Neil calls the "Sugar Land factor." We live in an upscale community, services automatically cost more. And who wants to drive 180 miles with a cat to save $600 in neutering fees (because I could have taken Biscotti back to the rescue group for the surgery that was included in his adoption fee).

Not me.

Anyway. The night before we had to wake up in the wee hours (5 is a small number right?) to catch our flight to Honolulu, I went to bed at 9. I'm grateful that I don't easily rattle Neil, because tears rolled down my cheeks when he came in.

As soon as we get on our way, I'm all right again. Something about being past the point of no return. Heck, I'm in Hawaii, so I might as well make the best of it. Or maybe it's just that leaving starts the countdown to coming home.

By the last night or two of our trips, I may or may not even wish we had an extra day or two.

Hawaii really was grand. On arrival we explored Waikiki Beach. Our hotel was much like a Disneyland Park minus the rides, with multiple eateries and shops and water features and fireworks. For dinner we had the Hawaiian specialty, Loco Moco. Burger served over scoops of rice, with brown gravy and topped with an egg.

We rented a car on Oahu on Black Friday and went to the Dole plantation, which is no longer owned or operated by Dole, but they still have amazing Pineapple Whip. We hiked in Waimea Valley and enjoyed Shave Ice at Matsumoto. Well, Neil enjoyed his and most of mine, they looked better than they tasted.

On Saturday we boarded the Pride of America and chowed down on a big buffet lunch. One thing I really loved about our itinerary is that we sailed almost exclusively at night and were in port during the day.

Kahului, Maui, was our first stop. On our first day we took a waterfall and rainforest excursion. We trudged through mud and waded through streams and clambered down slippery slopes holding onto ropes. I swam in two waterfall pools.

Seriously. I stripped to my swimsuit and took the plunge. I'm practically Hawaiian now.

The water was icy and exhilarating. Neil took photos and worried about me breaking something. Like a leg or my iPhone.

It was great.

Tuesday we didn't have a formal plan, so we took a shuttle to Hilo Hattie's in Kihei to buy some "Aloha wear" as the ship's cruise consultant promoted it. Neil got a shirt with a pink plumeria pattern, I got a blue Hawaiian print sundress and we got Ry the most darling little pair of shorts and matching shirt. A 2T Hawaiian shirt. I want to frame it.

Wednesday we woke up in Hilo, on the Big Island. When we ranked our excursions - because that's how we roll - Neil and I agreed that our 4-mile hike in Volcanoes National Park, home to the world's most active volcano, Kilauea, was the highlight. We din't see lava - for that you have to take a helicopter tour - but we felt steam rising from vents, which was very cool, or rather very warm, speaking literally.

Our guide talked us into an unplanned stop for ice cream at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory. Yeah, he really had to twist our arms for that. We wound up the party at Akaka Falls with another mile-long hike.

Another good day. Cats? What cats?

(We did see four domestic cats at Akaka falls. One even let me pet him.)

Thursday (could a week possibly already have passed?) landed us in Kailua Kona, the sunny side of the Big Island (Hilo is the rainy side). Ironically our excursion in Kona took us north back into the rainforest, and you can't have a rainforest without some rain. Right. This was our second waterfall hike and Neil swore he would swim on this one, but between steady precipitation and the resulting churn in the waterfall basins, we didn't have a second chance to strip down, and Neil's new swim trunks had to settle for only hot tub action back on board.

Friday's excursion was one I had pushed for and most anticipated - horseback riding. We awoke in Nawiliwili (I love saying that) on the Island of Kauai, and spent the morning riding in the Mahaulepu area. My noble steed was Cash, while Neil rode Nick, and it was worth bypassing the zip-lining, tubing, kayaking, whale watching and choppering over Waimea Canyon, although I wish we could have done all of them. OK, maybe not the zip-line.

We also passed on the Luau. It's a cruise, folks. All you can eat. And I've been to the Polynesian resort at Disneyland twice. Not to mention that I don't eat pork. It was nice that the ship was noticeably less crowded that afternoon. We even had the hot tub to ourselves for a short time.

The beach at Nawiliwili was nice too.

Friday morning we took a "behind-the-scenes" tour in the belly of the beast, visiting the backstage area of the theater, the kitchen area, the laundry area and - this was really cool - the bridge.

We left Kauai early on Friday afternoon, so we could sail by the Nā Pali Coast in daylight. The rugged coastline is reachable only by air or sea, and it was beautiful.

On Saturday, back in Honolulu, we took one last excursion, to Pearl Harbor. We rode a boat out to the site where the USS Arizona lies sunk. It was quite surprisingly emotional and I added my tears to the salty Pacific water.

And then we spent our last afternoon in Hawaii in Honolulu International, waiting for the seven-hour red-eye flight home. God bless Apple for personal hotspots and God bless HIA for having a Starbucks and a sushi restaurant.

Other highlights of our week were being selected by lottery to have a dinner with Chief Engineer, Lindsay, and Chief IT Officer, David, (and another lucky couple, Edie and Frank) in the ship's specialty Italian restaurant, La Cuchina.

And somehow, this also qualified us for a private "setting-sail" party as we left Kauai, complete with mimosas and the Pride's second officer. And the couple who were our dinner companions.

Oh yes, and getting home, somewhat bleary-eyed, and taking a snooze on the sofa, covered in cats. Nothing like a little absence to make the feline heart grow fonder. Even the aloof Biscotti napped on my knees.

I woke up in time to do two weeks worth of homework for my final Monday 2D Design class.

And oh what a relief it is to have that one in the can.

So now I'm back in the groove, which is to say, life on Facebook.

And by the way, despite limited Internet access for the 10 days of our travels, I still managed to buy both beads and glass online.

Mahalo Pele. Thank you Goddess of goddess of Volcanoes. And a hui hou. Until we meet again.

"Most people live on a lonely island,
Lost in the middle of a foggy sea
Most people long for another island,
One where they know they will like to be

Bali Ha'i may call you,
Any night, any day,
In your heart, you'll hear it call you,
Come away, come away

Bali Ha'i will whisper
On the wind of the sea,
Here am I, your special island,
Come to me, come to me

Your own special hopes,
Your own special dreams,
Bloom on the hillside
And shine in the streams.

If you try, you'll find me
Where the sky meets the sea
Here am I your special island,
Come to me, come to me

Bali Ha'i
Bali Ha'i
Bali Ha'i"

(Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein)