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)