Sunday, December 13, 2015

Virtual fisticuffs

"So just let me try and I will be good to you
Just let me try and I will be there for you
I'll show you why you're so much more than good enough."

I'll start with a Facebook story. Yes, there's always at least one. This one bugged me for days.

The long and short of it is, an artist I know posted an auction for one of her beads, which usually sell for north of $200. I bid a couple of times and near the end I bid $76. Another artist I know bid $77. I decided not to fight her for it. And the auction ended. I thought.

The auction end time was 11:45 am PDT. A couple of bids were placed after the end time and outside the anti-snipe window. At 12:30 pm PDT the seller called the highest bidder the winner. Not the high bidder at the original end time, the actual high bidder, with a bid of $85.

So, to stand up for my friend, the true high bidder, I asked what time the auction ended. The seller said, her ISP was having issues so she "called it" when she got back online at 12:30 pm.

I said, I think Heather was the high bidder before time ran out at 11:44:59.

The seller then changed the end time, no doubt not realizing that edits to posts can be viewed. But who doesn't realize that changing an auction end time after it is over is reprehensible?

Then the seller sent me this zinger.
You don't need to police my auctions Elizabeth... as for Heather... I already have a horse off to the side her husband bought as a surprise Christmas present. If you'd like to protest something you yourself bid on, fine... but policing my auctions isn't up to you.
I was stunned. Abashed. This is someone I like, who I had considered a nice person and a friend.
I probably should have let it drop right there, but I did say one thing.
I did bid on it [seller's name] and I might have bid again except that I thought it had ended.
This was not technically true, since I'd made a conscious decision not to get into a bidding war. The seller did not respond. I've heard nothing from her about the matter since - although she did "like" a comment I made in an unrelated thread.

She also deleted the auction almost immediately. It was still up on my screen. I saved the screen shots. I won't post them here though. I'm not looking for drama. On the remote chance that anyone who knows anyone is reading.

I did hear from Heather, who had this to say.
Hey Elizabeth. Thanks for saying something in that auction. Kinda dissapointed in how it was run
I said this.
Heather I am so upset. [The seller] sent me a messaget telling me not to police her auctions. She changed the end time after it was over.
Heather said this.
So, just to defend [the seller] a bit. Apparently she has been working with my husband to make something for my birthday. So it was kinda awkward when I bid on this item. She did give me the option of buying the palomino at my bid price.
You know, I really don't care about the back story. So what if Heather's husband had already bought her a similar bead from this seller. I already have a similar bead and that doesn't mean I don't want another.

The last thing I said to Heather was this.
If you opted out then mine was the high bid.
Heather did not respond.

To misquote Paul Harvery, the rest of the story is that there is no more to the story.

I kept expecting the seller to come to her senses and acknowledge that I was right. I could have imagined that she'd offer me a similar bead for $77. Hell, I could imagine her sending me a free bead with a note of apology.

Because that's what I would have done, under the circumstances.

I stewed for a long time, but Neil advised me that, right or wrong, anything I said would only make a bad situation worse, that I was unlikely to get satifaction or acknowledgment or validation of any sort that I was right. And even if the seller offered me the bead at that point, I honestly no longer wanted it. Bad juju.

So, knowing that I was right is all the consolation I have. It's not enough, but that's life and I'm over it. Mostly over it.

I wish I could say that all else on Facebook is sweetness and light, but it's not. No further virtual fisticuffs, but my beads aren't selling and it's starting to feel personal again. Last night I posted 12 listings, and this morning I had a few likes, no comments, no bids. I actually whined about it. On each listing I asked for feedback. I tried to be funny, saying things like, please comment and cheer me up. It did generate a few comments and as a result, one bid, but I'm flailing.

Every bead I posted last night was new. All of them were good work. I have a trunk show coming up next week and I'm wondering if anyone will show up to bid. I may run it like my artist friend in Ukraine. She listed about 20 items at the outset, mostly auctions, a few with buy-it-now options, and that was it. Done and dusted. She came back to thank people for comments and bids, and let it run its course. I'll probably do it as two rounds, but I don't think I'll be overworking it, the way I usually do, changing out listings every 12 hours.

I have to take a step back. I have to stop evaluating myself and my work by whether or not my beads sell. I have to stop comparing myself to other artisans whose beautiful or ugly beads sell for good money. I have to either get back to the joy of simply creating - art for art's sake - or alteratively, give up beadmaking and find something else to do with my life. I won't say that's off the table.

Ironically, I got more glass in the mail yesterday and I have another box on the way.

Luckily, I don't have to decide right now. I could take a break. I could scale back and make fewer beads and find another creative outlet. I could look for a class to take, I could start volunteering again, I could certainly write more - and it wouldn't all be this endless whine about Facebook and beads and my navel.

So let's end on a bright note. I've been a little better about controlling my buying urges. Right this minute I'm resisting two extremely appealing bead purchases. I keep telling myself, owning this thing or that thing will not make you (me) happy or happier.

Yesterday we went to Ikea. I bought nothing except a present for Neil, a desk lamp. In past years I would have come away with some impulse purchase or other. I stuck with the thought, this will be one more thing to worry about packing when we move. OK, I admit I'm still thinking about going back for that colander. Neil even said it would be easy to pack. But I haven't dont that, so far.

I also went through some of the stockpile in my closet and segragated things that I plan to give to my kids this holiday season. I've gotten them some things from their wish lists. I don't think I will dress these up as presents. I'll just be honest and offer them the things. I don't want them trying to return something to TJ Maxx only to find out that it was bought (cough) some time ago.

So all in all, I'm making progress.

"Hey your glass is empty
It's a hell of a long way home
Why don't you let me take you
It's no good to go alone

I never would have opened up
But you seemed so real to me
After all the bullshit I've heard
It's refreshing not to see
I don't have to pretend
She doesn't expect it from me

Don't tell me I haven't been good to you
Don't tell me I have never been there for you
Don't tell me why
Nothing is good enough

Hey little girl would you like some candy
Your momma said that it's OK
The door is open come on outside
No I can't come out today

It's not the wind that cracked your shoulder
And threw you to the ground
Who's there that makes you so afraid
You're shaken to the bone
And I don't understand
You deserve so much more than this

So don't tell me why
He's never been good to you
Don't tell me why
He's never been there for you
Don't you know that why
Is simply not good enough

So just let me try
And I will be good to you
Just let me try
And I will be there for you
I'll show you why
You're so much more than good enough."

(Sarah McLachlan)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Egg baskets needed

"Where is the sailor with bold red hair? And what is that volley on the bright air?
Oh where are the other girls and boys? And why have you brought me children’s toys?"

I'm spinning my wheels again. I'm on the hamster wheel of life. Making beads, trying to sell beads, trying not to buy beads, trying not to buy more glass.

I took a little more time off last week. Neil had a week of vacation, which meant that he only worked 3 days out of 9. I wouldn't say the fun factor was super high, but that's partly because we were getting ready for Thanksgiving with the kids and then having Thanksgiving with the kids.

Neil started preparations by buying 50 file boxes and pulling out all his books and boxing up many of them. He did weed some out for donation and we literally filled our giant recycling bin with years' worth of magazines that he decided to purge. He also went through his collection of hundreds of softball t-shirts and filled a bag for donation, packing up the rest.

He's really fired up about moving, even though the earliest we are likely to move is 18 months out.

I did my part by selecting about 10 geegaws and determining to part with them. I put them in a box in my closet. I've already fished one out.

I also pulled a dozen or so things of mine out of Chelsea's closet. These included the dress I wore to my brother's bar mitzvah - in 1969 - and the dress I wore to my cousin's wedding - in 1970. And no, they would not fit me now. I have no idea why I kept them so long, moving them from place to place.

I'm more sentimental than I like to admit. I also boxed up for donation all the dresses I ever sewed. I took a sewing class when I was in high school and made a few dresses that I wore in college, and one I made later, with the help of a friend who helped me make buttonholes, before I hung up my needle for good.

Chelsea actually volunteered to go through her closet and organize her things. I wasn't going to even bring it up again. She took some things back to Austin and designated some to donate, some to toss, and a few that the jury still is out on, like her high school letter jacket.

Parting with things is harder than it should be, Most of my things come with a memory, either of the person who gave it to me, or the place I got it, or who was with me when I bought it. It feels like bad luck to discard them. Some I really love, some were my mom's and those are keepers, some I wouldn't mind letting go but I don't have the motivation to sell them and I'm not sure they are suitable for donation.

I do know I don't want to pack them and take them when we move. But with a year and a half to figure it out, I have time to come up with a plan. At least I think I've finally resolved not to add any more stuff to my household. Every time I'm tempted, I just think about dealing with it when we move. Temptation dissipates posthaste.

We had fun with the kids. We made stuffed shells and Neil made bran muffins (shut up) and special pie - graham cracker crust, instant pudding, real whipped cream (shut up shut up shut up). We celebrated on Friday with Neil's kids and one of mine, and on Saturday we went to see The Martian and out for Pho with Chelsea and Rob. We also watched a three-part version of Sense and Sensibility.

A funny thing happened on Sunday, the day the kids left. Facebook temporarily locked my account. Apparently I clicked on something that a friend posted and a hostile app tried to attach itself to my account. Of course I didn't know this because Facebook simply said there was suspicious activity noted on my account offered to walk me through the steps to follow to change my password and regain control.

Except, it didn't work, I answered my security question, I identified photos of friends, I changed my password (multiple times) and returned in an endless loop to the notification that my account was temporarily locked. Maddening much?

So, it turns out there is no telephone customer support for Facebook. Nada. None. Zippo. Even their corporate site refers you to the Help Center website, which is a compilation of how-tos and discussion boards where you can ask a question and be answered by some clueless person like yourself.

There is a form to appeal if your site is disabled. You have to submit proof of your identity. I uploaded a copy of my drivers license and got an auto-response that my account was not disabled. Oh right. I forgot. Not disabled. Temporarily locked.

I aslo found a form to report "something that I couldn't see" on Facebook. So I reported this.
My account is locked. I've gone throught the security checks, changed my password, and still get the same message. My friends can't see anything suspicious or objectionabe on my page. How do I get my access back?
And predictably I got this answer from Facebook.
We’re sorry to hear you’re having trouble logging into Facebook. First, please try resetting your password.

If you know the email address, username, or phone number associated with your account, request a new password. If you can't identify your account, visit the Help Center for tips on how to find it.

If you don't have access to your login email address, you may be prompted to answer a security question or be asked to recover your account through your friends.

Still having trouble logging in? Find more information in the Help Center.
So, yeah, the robot at the other end told me to do the things I'd already done that didn't work. And the damn robot closed my case.

It's a sad feeling to realize how much you depend on Facebook. Sadder still when the Help Center discussion boards are chock full of frustrated people whose accounts have been locked for days, weeks, months, essentially forever.

I pondered my options, which included starting over with a new email address and profile. At least I'd be able to see my account - or would I? I certainly couldn't accept a new friend request, locked out as I was. But my profile is pretty much public, so maybe the new me could see the old me.

But but but. I have more than 850 friends. More than 1,000 likes on my business page, more than 100 hard won members in my fledgling group.

So on Monday, after 24 hours of being locked out of my account, I reported that my account had been hacked. You want to get Facebook's attention? Report that your account has been hacked. With much fanfare, including texting a special code to my cell phone and yet another password reset, I got back in. In the process, with my blessing, Facebook removed the offending app that I never realized I'd added.

Be warned. If you see an offer to view your top 11 most-liked photos, just say no, or rather, just do nothing.

In my absence, Facebook muddled on. My public did not seem to have missed me. The one auction I had posted before the lockdown had no bids. I had no private messages.

As the platform on which I sell my beads, Facebook has been my source of income for the past two years. Moreover, it has been a gateway to companionship and camaraderie in this solitary life I've chosen to live. It's the way I keep in touch with my real-life friends - not to mention my kids - and also the way I've made new friends around the globe.

The object lesson here is that it would be wise to find some additional baskets for my eggs.

Anyway, since unlocking my account, it's been business as usual, which is to say, not much business at all. Lots of people have been saying that sales are slow, so that "my-beads-aren't-good-enough" monkey can just stay off my back. I'm selling enough to keep bothering, and any slow day can be instantaneously redeemed, as today was, by a couple of customers buying one set of beads and then buying several more.

So I keep plugging away.

Some new beads. They really aren't so bad. Take that, monkey!

"I had a silver penny and an apricot tree
And I said to the sailor on the white quay

Sailor, oh sailor, will you bring me
If I give you a penny and an apricot tree

A fez from Algeria, an Arab drum to beat
And a little gilt sword and a parakeet?

Well he smiled and kissed me as strong as death
I saw his red tongue and I felt his sweet breath

You may keep your penny and your apricot tree
And I’ll bring you presents back from sea
From over the sea

The ship dipped down on the rim of the sky
And I waited while three long summers went by
Three long summers went by

Then one morning on the white quay
I saw a great ship come in from sea

Slowly, slowly she came across the bay
And her flashing rigging was shot away

And all round her wake the seabirds cried
They flew in and out of the hole in her side

Slowly she came into the path of the sun
I heard the sound of a distant gun
Of a distant gun

Then a stranger came running up to me
From the deck of the ship and said, said he

Oh are you the boy who would wait by the quay
With a little silver penny and an apricot tree?

I’ve a plum-coloured fez and a drum for thee
I've got a sword and a parakeet
From over the sea

Where is the sailor with bold red hair?
And what is that volley on the bright air?

Oh where are the other girls and boys?
Why have you brought me children’s toys?"

Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience (Charles Causley, set to music by Natalie Merchant)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Knocking opportunities

"So you say your home is Boston. What's New England got on all these Texas charms?
Have you ever seen a cactus Christmas tree? Come home to me."

We spent another weekend in Austin recently. It was a crime of opportunity. Neil had a work conference at the Omni Barton Springs on Monday and Tuesday, ending at noon Wednesday.

So it only made sense to drive up early on Sunday and look at retirement living options again.

Early for us just doesn't happen, unless there is a plane to catch, so with a stop at Buc-ee's, it was nearing 4 pm when we pulled into the Hill Country.

We went back and revisited Serene Hills - large lots with expensive homes, and Rim Rock - larger lots with less expensive homes.

We've been concentrating on the builder who built our home - which I love - but the none of the homes in the collections being built in Austin really impressed us. On the contrary, we were struck by things like the small size of the secondary bedrooms and a general sense that the model homes weren't particularly well designed or built.

So at Rim Rock we wandered across the street to another builder model. I'd seen one of their models here in Houston and really liked the design. Out visit coincided with that of a couple who had just purchased a lot and signed a contract to build a home. In fact, they'd decided to build the model design.

While the salesman was looking up the plan of the home I'd liked in Houston (which he said could be built in Rim Rock for a small additional fee), Neil had a chance to chat with the happy new homeowners.

The fellow was an engineer of some sort and he told Neil he'd looked closely at the way each builder's house was put together, opening cabinets and investigating crawl spaces. He said there were only two builders who he'd consider in the area. One obviously was the builder of the model we were standing in. The other was not the builder who built our home.

So, based on our impressions and this chance conversation, we've pretty much eliminated our current home builder as an Austin area option. I don't think we've landed on a certain replacement but we decided to look further at the two builders Neil's conversational companion had championed.

But first we decided to have dinner at the "world-renowned" Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas. I liked it. If you go, BYOB and cash. No credit cards are accepted. And they've been out of turkey long enough to have put stickers to that effect on every menu. We met my younger daughter and her boyfriend there, and that is always good fun.

On Monday, Chelsea had taken a vacation day to hang with me. Since our plans tentatively include a move to North Carolina and her plans include a move to LA, I told her I need to suck up as much Chelsea time as possible. She had the grace to agree. And she brought us breakfast pastries from Quacks. I love my girl.

We decided to drive out to Hamilton Pool Preserve and hike. The day was overcast but nice. When we arrived however, the gate was barred and there was a notice that the trails were closed due to recent heavy rainfall. We were bummed - but not as bummed as the party who drove up behind us. They'd driven all the way from Houston to hike there.

Astonishingly, out of nowhere a park ranger appeared. He said the trails might open later that day. I asked where else we might hike in the area and he suggested Milton Reimers Ranch, not far up the road. So we went there, paid our $10 entry fee, and got a map. It's a huge preserve, with several miles of frontage along the Pedernales River. Popular park activities, in addition to hiking and fishing, are mountain biking and equestrian trail riding.

We parked at the second parking lot and set off to hike a trail along the river. The river was low with a lot of sandy beach and I collected a few rocks for a project. The trail seemed to be fairly well marked, but it turns out that even with a map and an iPhone compass we got turned around and had to ask a random person which direction would take us back. It's quite a long trail and we could easily have gone miles out of our way.

When we'd had enough of the great outdoors, we headed into town and South Congress, a great little area of eateries and shops. Chelsea inherited my shopping gene and we spend some enjoyable hours browsing, with a stop for a little sustenance at Joe's Coffee. Chelsea had a healthy snack of hummus and veggies. I had a super-caffeineated Belgian Bomber, half Iced Turbo (super sweet) and half cold-brewed, unsweetened iced coffee. The sun even came out for a while and it was a nice respite.

Neil and Rob met us for dinner at 24 Diner. One thing is certain, there are a ton of nice non-chain dining options in Austin.

I had most of Tuesday to myself. I met Chelsea for an Indian buffet lunch at the Clay Pit on Guadalupe. See above comment about Austin eateries. We had a nice time but I made the mistake of bringing up a subject I knew better than to broach. Chelsea's closet in my house. It is filled with stuff that I don't know how to tackle and I asked it we could go through it when she comes for Thanksgiving and assess the contents as keep, donate, toss.

I'd already decided not to mention it, but she inadvertantly tempted me by telling me how her dad keeps giving her things as "gifts" that he really just wants out of his life. Things like boxes of old photographic slides. She tells him she doesn't have room for them, he insists, she takes them and tosses them out. Then he asks for something back and she's in a bind.

For a moment I thought of telling her to tell him that the item got destroyed by flood or pests, but I didn't want to suggest she lie. So instead, I raised the closet question. Predictably it hit a nerve and she said, why don't you just throw out all my baby pictures too.

So our lovely visit ended on an unfortunate tense note.

Afterwards I went back to South Congress for a little more browsing, then went to Sea of Beads. I don't need any more beads but since Houston doesn't have a respectable bead store, it's a tradition for me to visit one whenever I have a chance.

Neil and I dined at Kerby Lane Cafe, another Austin tradition. Neither of us was really hungry but it felt like we should get some dinner or we would be. Wednesday morning I stayed in and restrung some beads that I'd brought with me. Neil's conference finished at noon and we decided to visit a community in Dripping Springs where our new favored builder had a model.

Dripping Springs is even more remote than Driftwood but it has a claim to fame that trumps the Salt Lick. It's the adopted home of actor Kyle Chandler. I fell in love with him in Homefront, and continued to love him in Early Edition, but really haven't followed his career since. Anyway, Chandler and his wife and kids live on 33 acres in Dripping Springs. We stopped for coffee on the main drag in town before heading home, but there was no Chandler sighting. Sigh.

So home we've been, and for me that means back to my usual round robin of making beads, trying to sell beads and walking on the treadmill, which somehow swallows my days. Neil has been reading to me of course. We finished Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, about his stab at hiking the Appalachian Trail, interspersed with Nancy Drew and The Sign of the Twisted Candles. We've moved on to Bryson's earlier tome, Neither Here nor There, about his travels in Europe, because his earlier adventures with hiking buddy Stephen Katz are intriguingly referenced in the later book. We're mixing that up with The Chronicles of Narnia, which we are reading in story order, not the order in which they were written, so there.

Fantasy, mystery and non-fiction are keeping us well entertained.

On the Facebook front, sales have been painfully slow. Still, some artists sell everything they list. And for the first time I thought that maybe it's because they list sporadically, periodically, and not religiously, continuously like me. Of course I take time off when we are traveling but when we are home I treat it like a job. I always have from 12 to 20 listings that change every 24 hours. When I was selling on Etsy, I was happy with sales when they came but on Facebook I feel entitled to selling daily. And I do most days, but some days, like a couple of days ago, I had just two $20 sales. Both customers bought two $10 sets.

Then one of those customers asked, Any more bargains coming up?

And I said, Yes! Lots! I need to have a clear out!

And then I said, If you'd like, I can take a photo of some sets that would be $10 each.

And she said, That would be AWESOME! FANTASTIC!

So I did, and she bought six more sets. Then I thought, why not make the same offer to my other customer.

And she said, Yes please. And she too bought six more sets.

So yesterday, on a whim, I went through my trays and too some photos. I posted that I was having a pre-Black Friday sale of sets for $10 (regularly $18-$24).

Then the feeding frenzy began. It got a little hairy, with multiple people looking at the photos and calling dibs, but all told I sold 46 sets. Sets that had been listed and passed over and relisted and were still cluttering my trays. I didn't get what they were worth but you can't eat beads and $460 buys a lot of glass. Plus it gives me the best excuse to make more sets, especially dot beads, which I love to make.

So now I am planning a clear out of focal beads for $10. I have at least 50, probably more, that can go and won't be missed. I don't want to circulate group photos again, so I'm going to take individual pictures and create an album and it will be first come, first served. I'd really like to do it tomorrow, but I'd also like to get my nails done, and I have all the photos yet to take. And crop. And edit. No names, no descriptions, and I think no measurements. I'll take the pictures with a ruler or pen or something for scale. Quick and dirty. I hope it goes over as well as the set sale.

In the bigger picture, the time is coming for Neil and I to decide where we are going to move. Neil decided the best way to do this is to set the time he'd like to be in our new place, which is May 2017, says he. Backing up 9 months or so to build, that means a year from now we should have written a check and signed a contract.

Now that that's settled, we just have to decide whether it will be in Texas, North Carolina or somewhere else. If we are leaving, North Carolina is as good as the next place. I'm still very conflicted, but knowing that it's hanging over me, I just want to decide and then do it.

How we decide is the real tickler. Neil, unsuperstitious, scientific Neil, thinks there will be a sign. Me, I'm just clueless.

"I woke up to frost on the window
I'd been sleeping in a snow-globe town
Six inches on the ground
You said, I'd never see a white Christmas
Snow angels never make it to Texas
But you were wrong
They're singing Hank William's songs

If snow can fall in Austin
Why can't you fall into my arms?
So you say your home is Boston
What's New England got on all these Texas charms?

Dance on the ground
Upside down

Have you ever seen a cactus Christmas tree?
Come see

There's a snowman standing out on 6th street
With a hat, a scarf and a broom guitar
They're hanging mistletoe up in the bars
Do you remember that night at Las Monitas
Our heads were numb from frozen margaritas
Imagine how cold they would be now

Have you ever seen a cactus Christmas tree?
Come home to me
The snow's coming down
It's Christmas in this town."

(Ellis Paul)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Suspicious by nature

"Nothing's been long, nothing's been yes, nowhere's been home,
And I'm ready to be limbo no more."

It's been a bit slow for me selling beads on FB just lately. I may have mentioned that.

So, a couple of days ago I had someone buy 34 items from me. 30 or so were from my personal group.

I sent her all the descriptions and photos - and an invoice. That alone took more than an hour.

It would have been my largest single sale although over time I've had people buy that much and more from me.

And I'm so naturally suspicious, I kept wondering the whole time if she was just winding me up.

I've watched buyers on FB spend thousands of dollars in one day or one trunk show.

I've watched truly unremarkle beads sell for good money and amazing beads sell for stupid money.

So I know there are buyers for whom money is no object, or possibly who have maxxed out credit cards and addiction problems.

I just pretended that this was an everyday thing for me. I had to slap myself to stop from asking her, do you realize how much this is going to add up to, or, what are you planning to do with all these beads.

Then the waiting started. I was holding my breath until the invoice was paid. although I thought, maybe that's not such a good idea.

A day later, the customer paid me. Oh ye (me) of little faith.

A little back story on this particular customer. She did a buy-it-now on one of my bead sets a couple of weeks ago. Then she didn't pay for a few days. I asked, is everything OK? You haven't paid for your pretty beads.

That is my way of pretending to be all super nice and concerned while nudging the customer to make a payment.

She said, I spent the day in the hospital. I will pay but it might be a bit later tonight or in the morning - I don't need the migraine to be back.

I said, sorry you are ill. Tomorrow is fine. Hope you feel better!

Nothing that night or the next day.

I tried again. I said, if you can pay me today I can mail your beads before I leave for the weekend. With a little smiley face.

She said, I will check on that. What was the total so I can make sure you are paid correctly.

I guess it didn't occur to her to look at the invoice, so I told her.

The next day, I tried again. Again. I said, I still haven't received payment. ??

She said, Huh. I will get it figured out and done today, okay?

And then she said, I found it but need a regular computer so I will pay tomorrow when I can use my mom's computer. Talk to you tomorrow.

She did pay me the next day, but I was in Austin.

When I got home, I was ready to mail her beads. Only they were not there. In their place was a set of beads that another customer bought that I'd already mailed. Or so I thought.

So I messaged that customer and said, I'm so sorry. I sent you the wrong set of beads. I will send you the right set today. Would you mind forwarding the others to the person they should have gone to? I just discovered this because the other buyer was so late paying me. I'll refund any extra postage of course.

And she replied, No problem I would be happy to, just send me the address and when I get them I will send them on!

Long story short, she got the beads that day, said she'd forward them the next day and three days later she sent me a note saying that the beads had been forwarded. That was Oct. 22. The same day the original buyer went on her shopping spree.

I didn't tell the original customer about the snafu. I figured she'd been late paying, I'd told her I would be away, I'd explain if and only if she asked. But the timing was weird. She bought 34 more things from me before she'd received the first purchase.

So naturally I was skeptical. Dubious. Suspicious. But I played along and the game was definitely worth the candle.

I celebrated by ordering 12 jars of new frit blends. And two of the new Creation is Messy colors. And a bead. Because of course I did.

Neil and I made a short trip back to North Carolina. It was my idea. The North Carolina Renaissance Festival just happens to be held a few miles from one of the places we'd be most likely to move to, if we do. I thought it would be fun to go, and also to experience NC in a season other than summertime.

Plus, I wanted to exorcise the memory of our last visit, when I was so weepy and uncertain about moving somewhere that we knew no one, somewhere so much further away from my kids and grandchild.

Truthfully, I'm every bit as uncertain, but I was determined to be positive and cheerful. I mean, if we move there and it's not a good fit, we don't have to stay, although I can't imagine moving back to Texas.

And it is really nice there. The first day especially was sunny and mild. We visited two developments that we are considering. One is in Cornelius and is mostly built out. It has pretty walking trails and a little village with shops, eateries, a movie theater in walking distance. The other is in Huntersville, more rural, and still more or less 40 acres of partially graded clay soil. We tromped around and got lots of much in out treads.

I'm not sure either one will work with our timing. Whatever the hell our timing is. It depends on how much longer Neil is going to work. That could be decided for us by a severance package. It could be within the year. Or it might be as much as a couple more years without a package.

I don't like not knowing. I don't like being in limbo. I'd rather make a decision than have it hanging over me. Even making the wrong decision beats indecision.

How we make the final decision is anyone's guess. I told Neil he needs to make it, so if it doesn't work out it's all his fault. But seriously, deep down, I know I am going to be the one to drive the decision. I don't think Neil would decide that we will move to NC if he thinks that I will be unhappy and the only way I can convince him I'm happy to go is if I champion and encourage going.

I'd still rather move to the Austin, Texas area, but I don't want to regret not taking the chance, having the adventure. More than that, I don't want Neil to regret it, as he will every day for at least five months of every year when it is too freaking hot to enjoy the lovely outdoor living space that our new house is certain to include.

On Saturday, our second day in NC, we went to the RenFest. It was a gloomy gray day but it didn't rain so I'm claiming my weather luck record remains unbroken. The NC RenFest is quite a few years behind its Texas cousin, which has had flush toilets for years now, but nice enough, with a lampworker and a glassblower and lots of stages, similar refreshments, ample things to look at and buy, and even, incredibly, a Ded Bob show. Yes, Ded Bob is a franchise. Kills ya doesn't it? Yuck yuck.

On Sunday it rained. Of course it did. We went to Mint Hill to visit one more subdivision that we are considering. It's also more rural, in an area with less infrastructure - and less traffic too. I'm OK with that. We'd definitely get more land for our money and possible more house too.

When we built our house here in Sugar Land, we considered building several miles further west. We could have built the identical house that we live in now for 3/4 of the cost. But I balked. It was too far from town. I thought I wanted to be closer to things like shopping malls and moving theaters, to have easier access to downtown Houston with its cultural options, museums, the zoo.

But things change. Those things turned out to be less important to me. We rarely go downtown, or to the mall. I do most of my shopping online. We seldom go to the movies either, but a palatial multiplex opened out near where the other house would have been. Infrastructure materialized too. Grocery stores and shopping centers popped up.

If you come, they will build it. Or something like that.

Despite the rain, we had a nice day, looking at models and spec houses, ending with a pizza dinner.

Monday was a bit of a dud. It was still raining, our flight wasn't until 6 pm and most of the appealing activities were outdoor ones. We actually wound up going to the McGuire Nuclear Station and taking a self-guided simulated tour at the Energy Explorium. Because if you are considering moving to the immediate vicinity of a nuclear power plant, why not go see it up close and personally.

I'm sure it's quite safe and all that jazz, but if a big part of your (Neil's) moving criteria is to distance yourself from natural threats such as hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires, and floods, do you really want to invite a manmade threat practically into your new backyard?

No need to answer that one.

"My house, my role
My friends, my man
My devotion to god
All amorphous, indefinite

Nothing's been clear
Nothing's been in
Nothing's felt true
And I've never had both feet in

Nothing's been long
Nothing's been yes
Nowhere's been home
And I'm ready to be limbo no more

My taste, my peers
My identity, my affiliation
All amorphous, indefinite

I sit with filled frames
And my books and my dogs at my feet
My friends by my side
My past in a heap

Thrown out most of my things
Only kept what I need to carve
Something consistent and notably me

Tattoo on my skin
My teachers in heart
My house is a home
Something at last I can feel a part of

Sense of myself
My purpose is clear
My roots in the ground
Something at last I can feel a part of

Something aligned
To finally commit
Somewhere I belong
'Cause I'm ready to be limbo no more

My wisdom applied
A firm foundation
A vow to myself
'Cause I'm ready to be limbo no more."

(Alanis Morissette)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The highs of Texas

"The eyes of Texas, the hearts and the hands
Say, welcome stranger, you know Texas means friend."

I've been buying a lot of beads again and selling very few beads again.

That really needs to turn around and fast.

I can stop buying beads but how to sell more beads remains a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Furthermore that enigma resides within a paradox, shrouded in a conundrum, surrounded by a quandary. And therein lies the rub.

Some of the time I think my beads are phenomenal and I can't understand why they are being passed over. The rest of the time, I think that after 7 going on 8 years of practice, I'm as good as I'm going to get and that isn't good enough.

I try new things, I return to the tried and true, but I haven't had a creative breakthrough in ages and I'm doubtful that I will again.

My skills are what they are. I'm good at some things. But I'm not patient and my hand is not reliably steady. So my beads lack masterful precision. And I tell myself, that is OK. They are handmade. Machine-like precision while admirable isn't necessary. Little quirks are evidence that a bead is one-of-a-kind. I'm not talking about fatal flaws, just that one annoying dot in 12 that is slightly off-center.

Yet I'm relentlessly self-critical. I know that I see imperfections in my beads that no one else sees. The camera also magnifies every blemish, including those not visible with the naked eye. Yesterday I sold a set that I didn't think I'd sell. I probably shouldn't have listed it, but it had surface metals and so was unsuitable for Beads of Courage. I just wanted it gone.

What is the message though? Am I such a bad judge of my own work that the ugliest set I listed was one of my few recent sales?

I troll through the listings by other beadmakers. As usual it makes me angry. While I'm not alone by far in having bidless listings, buyers are buying beads. It's not the economy. It's not the time of year. But the anger comes from seeing beads with much higher prices than mine that are getting bids and buy-it-nows. Some are beautiful, yes, but some ... I have no words. It's not that they aren't pretty, it's just that I don't understand how a nice but unremarkable bead will sell for $60. Just like that.

Other facts I ponder. I've been selling steadily on Facebook for almost two years. Am I overexposed? Are people just tired of my beads, or complacent that if they pass on them today I'll be listing more tomorrow? There's some truth to that as far as my regular customers go, but new members join all the time and I don't recognize the names of many of the buyers.

Or is it the first rule of bead selling: there are no rules. What sells really well at one bead show tanks completely at the next bead show. So there is no explanation. I'm not hot today, doesn't mean I won't be hot again tomorrow.

Last weekend I took a few days off. Monday was the first time in three days that I had any beads listed for sale. And guess what. No bids. Some likes and one comment. And on Monday I also bought another bead set. I'm failing at both ends of the rope.

The beads I had listed were all relistings. I have new beads ready to photograph. Although nothing is radically different, just more variations on my repertoire of themes. I have more beads in the kiln right now but nothing extraordinary or unique for me. Going forward I'm going to try to stretch a bit more. How I will do that I don't know yet.

If I can stop putting dots on practically everything, that would be a start.

The main reason that I took off a couple of days is that Neil and I took a short trip to the hill country to look at houses. We're going back to North Carolina in a couple of weeks. I'm still very conflicted about moving so far away.

The Austin area would be a compromise. It's just as hot or hotter there, but dryer, further from the coast, about 450 feet higher in altitude. Neil is adamant about getting away from the threat of hurricanes. If we stay in Texas, Austin makes sense. I'd be 200 miles from my grandson and his mama instead of 300.

Neil's brother and sister-in-law live in Austin. So does my younger daughter, but she and her boyfriend plan to move to California within the year. I'm not sure if they'll strike it rich and stay there. I do know that if I'm in the Austin area and California doesn't work out, they'd be more likely to come back there.

So we looked at five different communities in two days. The first two were near Georgetown, which is a quaint, appealing little hamlet with a good bakery and local coffee joints. The first community was large and master-planned, but it was hard to get a good sense of it. It was typically devoid of trees and the green spaces were not yet cultivated in the areas where new construction was underway.

The second development was more built out but small and without amenities, by which I mean walking trails and a community center, for example. There was a pool so small that I thought, why bother. The subdivision backed against a fence and wooded land but there was no information about what the future plans were for that tract.

In both cases, the person manning the model home was a "greeter" and not the actual salesperson, who would perhaps been able to answer some of our many questions.

After that we were off to meet our family members for dinner. Neil wanted to stop at the hotel to check in and wash up. I was worried it would make us late. We argued about it a little. I said, one of us is going to be unhappy, it might as well be you. I also said, this whole house-hunting junket is stressful and we might as well face it up front that at some point we are going to come to blows.

I'm funny like that.

We visited three more subdivisions the following day. Two were in Lakeway and the first was mostly complete, while the second had barely broken ground. The second had promising wooded lots, but again no amenities and also the highest priced homes for the square footage by far.

The last location was in Driftwood and offered the best value, larger lots and houses in a more comfortable price range. It was more remote but that concerns me less than it once would have. As long as we have a good internet connection and Amazon Prime, I'm fine. I think the infrastructure will materialize as the community matures.

But of course, it was still Texas and the grasses and foliages are what you'd expect in a desert-like climb. No getting away from that. Unless you move to someplace like North Carolina.

So what do we gain by moving to North Carolina? Milder summers, colder winters. Real seasons. Here in Sugar Land we go from way-too-hot to way-too-cold with about one nice week in between. True we have a long leisurely spring, with nice days starting in January and continuing through April.

What do we lose? Simpler access to kids and grandkid and grandkids to come. Friends such as we have. I think Neil underestimates how isolated we will be in a place where we know no one but each other. A network of providers - doctors, dentists, hairdressers, our biweekly housekeeper. Familiarity.

Security versus freedom?

North Carolina has the trees and grasses that Neil loves. He relishes the idea of crisp days and the smell of snow in the air. For him, North Carolina is an adventure, a promise to himself kept that he'd leave Texas one day. The excitement of embracing a new place, but also a place more akin to the place he grew up. The houses we are looking at have screened-in porches and the climate to enjoy them. Screened porches evoke happy childhood memories for Neil.

I don't have the heart to stand in his way. It's not irrevocable. If we don't like it we can move again, but it's hard to imagine moving back to Texas. And if we don't do it, we'll always wonder if we should have. In life, for the most part, you regret the things you didn't do more than the things you did.

Last week I saw a beautiful set of beads for sale at a very good price. While I was mulling it over, someone else bought them. That made me feel really angry. I was talking about my feelings and a friend commented, non-buyers' remorse is so much worse than buyers' remorse. If you buy it and change your mind, you can always sell it or donate it or gift it. But if you don't buy it and change your mind, you are shit out of luck.

Unless you contact the beadmaker as I did, and she offers to make you a similar set.

"Travelin' Texas
Been ridin' for days
Travelin' Texas
Is an old cowboy’s dream

Headin' south to the valley
In that old Spanish rain
Travelin' Texas
There’s an old cowboy saying

In the heart of a mustang
That can never be tamed
Or an old blue Norther
Cross the panhandle plain

Travelin' Texas
'Neath the moon and the sun
Travelin' Texas
These highways roll on

The tale of a maverick
In an old hurricane
Southbound by Houston
Moving out into space

The eyes of Texas
The hearts and the hands
Say, welcome stranger
You know Texas means friend

Where cotton is king
Cattle is king
Oil is king
Land of blue water
Lakes of gold

Travelin' Texas."

(Shake Russell)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bovine cat-naps

"Tonight unless you take some kind of chances dear
Tomorrow morning you'll wake up with the white noise."

The sleeping cash cow opened its eyes, lifted its head, looked around, yawned, and went back to sleep.

I'm not complaining. Sales are sales, I had a flurry, and I'm OK taking a breather. As long as Bossie stays alive and wakes up semi-regularly, I've still got it going on.

I've spent this week on the torch playing with a limited range of colors, trying to get a certain reaction that I've accidentally gotten before. I've heard it called the angel effect because where two particular colors meet a halo forms. By which I mean you get a double lined outline on dots and lines are double lines.

It's supposed to work with two certain silver glass colors, Black Nebula and Black Pearl, when you use them on a color called Opal Yellow. Batches vary and I wasn't having any luck. I tried it with Silver Pink and Tongue Pink but I finally nailed it using an odd lot of Pale Ivory.

Then I experimented with Silver Brown and Ocean Green on various shades of light and dark ivory, opal yellow, silver pink and tongue pink, which have interesting reaction lines. I also played with Copper Green and Cocoa which have a cool reaction line too.

So now I have a dozen more sets of 3 pairs strung and ready for some shutter-buggery. In the meantime, I'm relisting some older sets, hopefully at attractive prices. I've decided that at the end of October I will do a big inventory clearout and send a box of beads to Beads of Courage.

The only reason not to do it sooner is that I'm still toying with the idea of doing the Houston Bead Society show, Bayou City Bead Works. It's been moved back to its original location at the Houston Heights Fire Station. That puts it a longer drive away for me, and I feel very ambivalent about making a three-day commitment. I was never a vendor at that location but I did go as a customer and I remember the room as being small and the street parking inconvenient. The director has been calling me, wheedling me to vend, even offereing me a discount of the fee, and that makes me think it must be a very small show.

I don't think a lot of street traffic is likely and if there is any, those customers are more likely to want to buy something ready to wear than loose beads. I wonder if bead shows are becoming a dinosaur. I stuck my head in at the Stafford Bead Market last weekend and found it dismally small and ill-attended. Granted it was one of the first nice-weather Saturdays we've had so far this fall. But I strongly felt that I made the right decision to pass on having a table. I might just go by the HBS show and if it's a-hopping, well, there's always next year.

My daughter and grandson were here for an overnight visit, on their way to a beach house weekend with her dad, stepmom, stepbrothers and my grandson's stepcousins. My younger daughter and her boyfriend will be there too, and when Kandace posted a photo of the shore, I felt jelly. Neil had a long day today and went straight to softball and won't be home until 10:45 tonight. He's working tomorrow and quite likely both days this weekend. Hopefully we can have nice evenings, walks around the pond if the weather holds, and maybe we will finish the last book in the Harry Potter series and start the movies. We've been watching each movie as we finish each book.

Next up to read will be A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. We've already seen that movie and I feel like we have to read the book to redeem the spirit of hiking the Appalachian trail that I feel sure the movie perverted. You can't have a 79 year old Robert Redford play a 40-something year old Bill Bryson without making a mockery of the subject. Not that I hesitated about seeing the moving. Any hiking movie beats no hiking movie.

We took Ryland to Build-a-Bear, something I was really excited about doing, but I think maybe he was a little too young. I'm not sure he even grasped the concept, although he was very decisive about making a monkey and naming it George. Kandace and I had fun dressing it. Camo boxers, a red t-shirt, overalls, black tennis shoes, and a banana. We gave it a giggle for a sound instead of a monkey sound. Ry was pretty indifferent about it when we got home, other than to keep wanting to untie its shoelaces. Maybe he'll grow to appreciate it more in time. Kandace took lots of photos and Ry loves looking at photos of himself.

And today they were gone, after we had a bite to eat at Panera. I came home and did 3 miles on the treadmill for the one and only time this week. Last Friday, for no obvious reason, I had some pretty severe sciatica. Each day since it's been a little better. Neil and I walked the lake loop 4 days straight, yesterday we skipped in favor of pizza at Grimaldi's, but today I was out of excuses. I watched the last episode of Season 4 of George Gently, thinking it was the last one, and discovered that there are two more seasons, eight more episodes, on Netflix (with another season in the wings). This is good. I'll probably watch something else in between. As good as they are, they are formulaic, much like the Morse and Lewis series.

I was amused to note that the actor who plays Inspector Gently is Martin Shaw. Inspector Morse was played by John Thaw. They actually killed Morse in the final episode of season eleven. Thaw lived a couple of years more, but it's my understanding that he knew he was terminally ill at the time the final season was filmed.

After enjoying The Fall, and especially Gillian Anderson's fine performance, I thought I'd watch the X-Files (a show I'd never seen before). I only made it five episodes in. It's seriously dated, considering that 1993-2002 really wasn't that long ago. But I couldn't connect American FBI Agent Dana Skully with British Metropolitan Police Superintendent Stella Gibson. Anderson is bidialectal (shifting between accents, i.e., American and British) but apparnetly my brain isn't. Plus the show is seriously stupid. I like the supernatural, I liked watching Grimm (which could be silly at times), but X-Files completely missed the mark for me. Not to mention, I was distracted by Anderson's lips. She must have been doing something like botox in her X-Files days, because perky, pouty Skully and edgy, tight-lipped Gibson have totally different mouths.

Anyway, now I'm sitting here, obsessively checking Facebook for Buy-it-nows, which is not a good place to be. So I'll probably get a bit of supper and watch some flatscreen. I'm also thinking about what to make tomorrow. Some Christmas colored pairs I think. I'm waiting for a nice cool day to use some gold leaf again and some pixie powder. Maybe I'll pull out some powders and enamels tomorrow. And another set with fine silver and frit. I love making reactive dot beads but I'd better be sure I can sell them before I make more.

Recent reactive dot beads.

"I've been watching you waltz all night Diane
Nobody's found a way behind your defenses
They never notice the zap gun in your hand
Until you're pointing it and stunning their senses

All night long, all night long
You'll shoot 'em down because you're waiting for somebody good to come on
All night long
But you'll be sleeping with the television on

You say you're looking for someone solid here
You can't be bothered with those just for-the-night boys
Tonight unless you take some kind of chances dear
Tomorrow morning you'll wake up with the white noise

All night long, all night long
You're only standing there 'cause somebody once did somebody wrong
All night long
But you'll be sleeping with the television on

Your eyes are saying talk to me
But your attitude is, don't waste my time
Your eyes are saying talk to me
But you won't hear a word 'cause it just might be the same old line

This isn't easy for me to say Diane
I know you don't need anybody's protection
I really wish I was less of a thinking man
And more a fool who's not afraid of rejection

All night long, all night long
I'll just be standing here 'cause I know I don't have the guts to come on
All night long
And I'll be sleeping with the television on

Your eyes are saying talk to me
But my attitude is, boy, don't waste your time
Your eyes are saying talk to me
But I won't say a word 'cause it just might be somebody else's same old line

All night long, all night long
We're only standing here 'cause somebody might do somebody wrong
All night long
And we'll be sleeping with the television on."

(Billy Joel - again)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The rules of consumption

"Yesterday you were an only child, now your ghosts have gone away.
Don't look for answers, you took your chances, don't ask me why."

On top of everything else, I have food issues!

Or maybe the rest of the world does, and I'm the normal one.

I admit that I have a lot of rules when it comes to comestibles.

My number one rule is, I don't like to eat if I'm not hungry.

The other rules pretty much are correlaries of Rule One in some respect.

I have a somewhat spare pattern of eating. In the morning I have coffee, black. My preference is to wait until I'm hungry to eat breakfast.

This rule is flexible. For example, if we are staying at a hotel with a free breakfast, I will eat breakfast. Obviously if we stay at a bed and breakfast I eat breakfast because that's kind of the point.

But I'm picky about what I'll eat for breakfast. At home it's often cereal with almond milk. Sometimes, if we have any, it's pie. Or cake. Coffee cake is especially nice, but chocolate cake has been known to happen. Other breakfasty things are granola bars, fig bars, oatmeal, pop tarts. Peanut butter and jam on a bagel is good too.

I don't eat pork period, but I seriously don't eat sausage or bacon. I don't eat donuts or kolaches or anything deep fried. Or chicken fried.

I like eggs. For dinner. Pancakes, waffles and French toast all are good for dinner, but too heavy for breakfast.

Lunch. Lunch is optional. Most days I don't eat lunch because I'm not hungry. Here's where my food issues start getting sticky. It's fine if I'm home, but if I'm anywhere else, with other people, lunch is mandatory. And for some reason people seem unable to gracefully accept that I'd rather not eat lunch.

This came up again last weekend when we visited my stepdaughter and her husband. I deliberately had only a granola bar for breakfast before we hit the road to Lake Charles. Because it's awkward and feels rude to go to lunch with three other adults and not order anything.

Which brings me to my next rule. If I'm going to eat lunch, I like lunch foods for lunch. Sandwiches, soup, salad. A bagel. I don't want a burger or a hot dog or even pizza. I definitely don't want tacos and chips and salsa. And that's exactly what happened last time my stepdaughter was in town and picked Chuys for lunch. For her birthday.

There is nothing on Chuys menu that qualifies as lunch. As a result I had tacos and chips and salsa and I didn't feel well for the rest of the day. There was nothing wrong with the food. I should mention that I've never had food poisoning from dining out. No, my body just isn't programmed to handle onions and spices in the middle of the day.

So just two weeks after this, I found myself in a cafe in Lake Charles searching a menu for something lunchy. I ordered a grilled tuna melt and only ate half the bun and not all of the sweet potato fries. I hate to waste food, but I knew I had to save room for the obligatory dinner.

At home, if I eat a big brunch or lunch, such as when we meet Neil's work mates for dim sum, I often have no appetite for dinner. When I'm home, this is fine. I have a yogurt or half sandwich or a bowl of soup. Or maybe I have some cookies. Or cake. I love cake.

After lunch in Lake Chuck, we had a fun afternoon doing a ceramic painting activity and then we took a short walk around a park to build up our appetites for Mediterranean food. Yes, within a few hours of lunch, I was studying a dinner menu, looking for the lightest thing I could order. Laurie wanted to split an order of hummus. I said I'd take a bite. Of course it came with warm pita bread and I lost count of how many bites I took.

I ordered an appetizer of 8 fried shrimp. Yes, I know what I said, I don't eat fried food, but even a salad felt like too much food and Neil said he'd help with the shrimp. He had one, because they were tasty and on the small side. I was relieved to have dodged the deadly dinner bullet, but food shouldn't make me feel that way, like it's some battle I'm fighting.

I may have mentioned that when I was teenager I invented anorexia. That is, I starved myself long before I'd even heard on an eating disorder. I think I did it mostly as a way to outwardly express the inner turmoil I felt, as a girl attending a school for gifted girls, surrrounded by girls with not only brains and talent but with innate self-esteem and without self-consciousness. I craved attention and the one way I got it from my mom was to be sick. And a good way to make yourself sick is to not eat.

All that of course is fodder for another post or maybe a novel. For this post I'll stick to the here and now. Before we left Lake Charles the next day we went out to a famous hot dog place for lunch.I got a Kobe dog with mozarella and avocado and my saving grace was that we'd be home by dinnertime and I could eat or not eat.

I don't know why I feel like I am an abberation. I generally like food. I'm picky when it comes to things like gristle but I like a wide variety of foods and cuisines. I like almost all fruits and vegetables, some more than others of course, but I'll eat lima beans and eggplant and brussel sprouts and really almost any vegetable that is well cooked. I don't care for raw onions but I love cooked onions. I don't like raddishes. I like peppers but they don't agree with me. I like every kind of fish and seafood, poultry, but it should be white meat. Calves liver makes me a little squeamish but I like pate and liverwurst. Beans may be my favorite food.

All in all, I'm a three year old in some respects when it comes to food. I will happily eat the same thing for dinner every day, as long as it is flour tortillas with melted cheese, deli turkey and/or hummus. An added bonus is that there is virtually no cleanup. I'd cook more but I hate the cleanup. Whenever we have a holiday meal with the kids I think about large families, moms (or dads) who have to put supper on the table for 5 or 6 or 8 every single night. I'd go mad.

After my divorce, when it was just me and the girls, we picked up dinner a lot, chicken teriyaki bowls from Jack-in-the-Box, Subway, 7-layer burritos from Taco Bell. We ate out a lot too, Cici's pizza or Sweet Mesquite barbeque. Kids meals saved me. Dominos delivered. We did eat at home too, simple things, boiled shrimp or boiled chicken, macaroni and cheese and pasta, a bit like Neil and I eat now. Frozen pizza, bagels and cream cheese, frozen pizza.

I'm just grateful that Neil gets it. He doesn't make me feel obligated to cook or eat. He's a three year old too in similar respects, he will happily eat peanut butter on crackers and a yogurt for dinner and wash it down with 10 glasses of chocolate milk. In front of the TV. He never minds that I don't cook. We both like to eat dinner early, me just to get it out of the way, he because it makes the evening seem longer.

We both say when he retires we will shop more often and buy more fresh food and buy a cookbook and learn to make soups and stews. My mom was a good cook. Not an adventurous one, dinner was meat and a vegetable and a starch, de rigueur. We always had an appetizer, half a grapefruit, a wedge of cantaloupe, gefilte fish, or just a small glass of tomato juice. We always had dessert. I remember with love so many of the meals she made, roast beef and baked potatoes, beef stew, pot roast, meat loaf, corned beef, tongue, stuffed cabbage, turkey with homemade stuffing. She baked too, apple and plum tarts, fruit cakes, pound cakes, brownies to die for. She made a chocolate pudding cake with cooked pudding, social tea bisquits and real whipped cream - and sprinkles. She made English trifle and homemade applesauce and noodle pudding. Special meals at passover, cakes made with ground nuts instead of flour, homemade matzoh balls.

I boil water. I microwave. Every now and then I try to stretch. I bake a cake - but I go upstairs and don't hear the timer and it gets charred. So I think, I'll frost it quickly so no one will notice and the frosting runs off the hot cake and separates into curds and whey. I make a sweet potato dish for Thanksgiving that's pretty good but I have a hard time timing it so that it's completely cooked but not overcooked and hot when the rest of the meal is ready to serve. It's stressful.

OK, I didn't mean to start a food blog. I'm more or less happy with my choices when I have a choice and just a little regretful that mom's homemade cooking isn't something my girls will look forward to when they visit or remember fondly when I'm gone.

Funny, last Christmas, inspired by our trip to Hawaii, we made Loco Moco for our family dinner. That is hamburger served on rice, topped with a fried egg and brown gravy. We had sliced pineapple as a side, but my younger daughter who is health conscious and semi-vegetarian and dating her dietary doppleganger, was horrified by the absence of vegetables and the overload of protein, carbs and fat. Everyone else, including the boyfried, who is 6 feet tall with a hollow leg, cleaned their plates, but I felt guilty all the same.

My own relationship with food has been an up-and-down one. My teen anorexia turned into the freshman 15, followed by a summer of relentless dieting (have you ever had a vodka and diet fruit punch? No? Don't.) followed by a long period of fear of food and then a long period where I just got over it. It is only of late that I've admitted my rigidity about mealtimes and what must be eaten when and all my other food rules are food issues.

Or are they? Maybe it's just easier to say, I have food issues, than to try to justify why I don't want lunch just because it's noon, or dinner just four hours after lunch because it's dinnertime, why I don't want Mexican food at 11 am and why I don't want to go to a specialty burger joint ever.

Unless they have salmon burgers. Then I am all over it. As long as it's dinnertime and I'm hungry.

All the waiters in your grand cafe
Leave their tables when you blink
Every dog must have his every day
Every drunk must have his drink
Don't wait for answers
Just take your chances
Don't ask me why

All your life you had to stand in line
Still you're standing on your feet
All your choices made you change your mind
Now your calender's complete
Don't wait for answers
Just take your chances
Don't ask me why

You can say the human heart
Is only make-believe
I am only fighting fire with fire
But you are still a victim
Of the accidents you leave
As sure as I'm a victim of desire

All the servants in your new hotel
Throw their roses at your feet
Fool them all but baby I can tell
You're no stranger to the street
Don't ask for favors
Don't talk to strangers
Don't ask me why

Yesterday you were an only child
Now your ghosts have gone away
You can kill them in the classic style
Now you parlez-vous francais
Don't look for answers
You took your chances
Don't ask me why."

(Billy Joel)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Enough isn't enough

"It's tough to be somebody, it's hard not to fall apart
Way up on Rehab Mountain we learn these things by heart."

In case you were wondering how my austerity program - no bead buying, no glass buying - is going, wonder no longer. Right up through the bead I bought today, it's been off to a dismal start. Within a couple of days of my last post I bought both a bead and glass.

First the excuses. I needed to restock a few of the frit colors I use in my blends. The vendor was having a sale. Part of the sale included overstock discounts on glass cane. I don't use cane in my blends but since I was paying for shipping anyway, another kilo of cane in appealing colors just made sense.

The bead. It was just one, at a reasonable price, and until today it was the only bead I slipped up on. The bead I bought today is by the same artist, a companion bead in a way. And now I'm done. Again.

The amazing beads are by Latvian artist Ivete Linde. Front and back views. I have two daughters. A blue eyed girl and a brown-eyed girl. And the fox. The mushrooms. The white cat. With brown eyes. I'm hopeless.

Continuing with the excuses, Double Helix Glassworks sent out an email that "garage sale boxes were back." The only other time they offered them was when they moved from the Pacific Northwest to Virginia. Double Helix makes and sells silver glass in the $80-$100/lb. price range. Garage sale boxes are 15 lbs. of test batches and seconds for $150.

They went on sale on a Saturday at 9 am eastern time and I was sitting at my computer, part of a global sisterhood of glass-crazed lunatics, persisting through multiple server errors until I scored a box. I still have some glass from the first round of garage sale boxes, but no matter. My box came on Monday and I'm thrilled with what I got. Even if 80 percent of the colors are duds - which they aren't, but for arguments sake - the glass still is a treasure and well worth it.

But putting it away - because the cleaning lady was coming - underscored how ridiculously excessive my glass stash is. I shifted things around and made room, but I also renewed my resolve to just stop it now.

At least I dodged the bullet of the listing for 80 lbs of glass - including silver glass, vintage colors and premium brands - for $515. I did inquire about shipping, I was first in line, but the reality of storing another 80 lbs. of glass, the majority of which was likely to be common colors, actually penetrated my hard head. So someone else got a great deal and I got to feel virtuous and regretful at the same time.

Bead sales have flagged again and once more I'm wondering if this time the cash cow is really dead and not just napping. I have an online trunk show next week. I didn't sign up for either of the two October shows I've done in the past. I might start listing on Etsy again or I might open a shop on Squareup. I didn't apply to Amazon's new handmade venue because the fees daunted me. My beads don't sell for big enough bucks to make it worthwhile.

I think I'll have a good clean out soon and send a box to Beads of Courage. I've been toying with some new designs but nothing has wowed the buying public. After tomorrow I have a couple of days off, and some time to think about where to go next with my bead work. A few days off sometimes jump starts sales too. I can dream, right?

Lately I find myself thinking about death. I'm not depressed, life is good, but there is this nagging seed in the back of my mind that I'm too lucky. I have everything I want. I have a happy marriage. Right now both my girls seem to be in a steady state, in good relationships, in good health. My grandson seems to be thriving.

If I had three wishes, one would be that I don't outlive Neil or my kids or grandkids. That encompasses the wish that no one of them gets sick with anything worse than a stomach bug or the common cold, and that no one gets their heart broken.

Objectively, I know that if anything bad happens, Neil and the kids are better off having me than having me gone, so wanting to predecease tragedy - to avoid pain and heartache - is a chickenshit strategy.

I watched a TED talk the other day, What really matters at the end of life, by BJ Miller, a palliative care and hospice physician. He's also a triple amputee, after an accident during his college years when he got too close to a shuttle train power line and high volatage arced to a metal watch he was wearing and through his body. This tragic event eventually led him to attend medical school and ultimately to find his calling - helping patients prepare for death. Most people are not afraid of death, he says, but they are afraid of dying. They are afraid of suffering, discomfort, indignity, being burdensome.

Miller thinks it doesn't have to be this way. Because in a sense parts of him died when he lost his arm and both legs, he learned in time to accept this fact and redesign his life around it. He affirms that you cans "always find a shock of beauty or meaning in what life you have left" and if we can "love such moments ferociously, then maybe we can learn to live well, not in spite of death, but because of it."

I realize that every minute I spend anticipating the terrible things that I fear are bound to happen is a minute when I am not present in the here and now, a minute I could be cherishing and celebrating. I need to work on seeing the beauty and meaning in life and loving it ferociously. Bad things will happen. Bad things do happen. Life goes on. Until it doesn't. Which will be soon enough.

A few new beads of mine that I love, and that haven't sold or even gotten a lot of Facebook comments.

"I'm gone to Detox Mansion
Way down on Last Breath Farm
I've been rakin' leaves with Liza
Me and Liz clean up the yard

Left my home in Music City
In the back of a limousine
Now I'm doing my own laundry
And I'm getting those clothes clean

Growing fond of Detox Mansion
And this quiet life I lead
But I'm dying to tell my story
For all my friends to read

It's tough to be somebody
It's hard to keep from fallin' apart
Here on Rehab Mountain
We all learn these things by heart

Well, I'm gone to Detox Mansion
Way down on Last Breath Farm
I've been rakin' leaves with Liza
Me and Liz clean up the yard

What goes on in Detox Mansion
Outside the rubber room
We get therapy and lectures
We play golf in the afternoon

Well, it's tough to be somebody
And it's hard not to fall apart
Way up on Rehab Mountain
We learn these things by heart."

(Warren Zevon, Jorge Calderon)