Sunday, January 31, 2016

Going postal not

"And when some lonesome wind has hemmed you in, don't you believe that sound
You will surely rise above these tides, to higher ground."

I was going to start writing about important things for a change. Broader issues. Thought-provoking reminiscences. I was all teed up to write about my mom, who I've been thinking about lately.

But then the post office lost eight of my parcels and a small first-world issue became a nagging irritant that wouldn't go away.

This is on top of the three parcels that were lost in the burgary at the Old Sugar Land post office on January 3. Ironically, one of the eight missing parcels was a remake of a set lost in the burglary. So yes, I got to remake that set, pay postage again, and then give the customer a refund. Bugger.

The whole clusterfuck came to my attention when one of my parcels was returned. Ironically, again, it was a remake of one of the burgled sets plus additional beads the buyer had purchased. It was returned for insufficient postage in the handwritten amount of what looked like $10.35, but since that was too farfetched to contemplate, I jumped to a different conclusion. I'd printed the label on Saturday, January 16, the night before postal rates increased, but I hadn't mailed it until Tuesday, January 19 because Monday was MLK Day and the post office was closed until then.

After the burglary incident, I didn't want to drop anything in a drive-up box unless the post office was open and it was before the pickup time. So I took the parcel to the First Colony post office, where they have counter space designated for leaving packages with prepaid labels.

I'm reluctant to drop my bubble mailers in the lobby drop box because I always imagine someome coming behind me with 70 lbs. of lead in a large flat rate box that would crush my packages. Glass beads are surprisingly durable, and I pack mine in tissue paper inside a bubble bag inside a Kraft #2 bubble mailer, but you never know. My beads are, after all, made of glass.

Anyway, I made the assumption that the post office wanted the additional 40-some cents that the package would have cost to mail under the new rates. I stuck a Forever stamp on it and took it to the post office, along with three new parcels. It was a Friday and Neil was off and for some reason I asked him to take them into the post office. He returned with the parcels still in hand. A postal clerk had stopped him and told him that parcels with fragile stickers now incurred a $10.35 surcharge. I could pay it or I could remove the labels.

I've been using fragile stickers for years.

Bemused, we peeled off all the stickers: Fragile, Glass, Handle with Care, even Do not Fold. What can I say? I like stickers. I use them as extra security for the half-sheet self-sticking labels I slap on my packages and as extra security for the seal of my self-sticking bubble mailers. And also I suppose because my packages are somewhat fragile, not that I expected special treatment. I know people who think fragile labels are an invitation for postal workers to drop-kick those parcels. Rumor has it there is YouTube footage of just that scenario, but I give people, including postal workers, more credit than that. Videos can be staged.

So we went about our day, and after we got home Neil picked up our mail from our box at the end of our street. When he got back, his first words were, "you're not gonna like this." And yes, you guessed it, two more parcels had been returned, with a note saying that packages marked "fragile" cost an additional $10.35 to mail.

The next day, Saturday, I took those two parcels to the post office. I stood in line to speak to a "supervisor" who said he could not show me anything to substantiate the new charge, but he was adamant about the policy. I'd brought a box of stickers with me to find out just which ones I could use. He rejected all of them except Do not Fold, so I stuck those over the Fragile and Glass and Handle with Care labels and $10.35 postage due notations, and handed them to him. I was shaking mad, but I had no bullets. He held all the power.

When I was still working in Korporate Amerika I got dinged on an appraisal because I "did not get along with" a certain coworker. I was dumbfounded. This particular coworker and I had no issues, there was no tension between us, we even went to lunch together a few times a month. But no matter how much I protested, my boss just said that I was in denial. I even asked Kim privately if she thought we had a problem. I aked her to be honest and told her I'd hear whatever she had to say without defensiveness. She was as confounded as I was. And there was nothing I could do. My boss essentially said that if I refused to accept the criticism and "change" it would further damage my rating.

I hate hate hate being right and yet utterly powerless.

But back to the USPS. I have an online friend (hi Lauren) who works for the postal service in another state. She told me there is a "Special Handling" sticker you can purchase for $10.35, but that was not the same as using a commercial fragile sticker. She (and others) reminded me that the post office usually asks if you are shipping anything, perishable, hazardous, fragile, etc. and if you say it is fragile, they stamp the package "fragile" for you.

I found this on the USPS website. (Scroll down to Special Handling)
Special Handling & Fragile Items

The USPS® Special Handling service is required for unusual items that are not sent by normal mail such as live poultry and bees and can be only be arranged at a Post Office™ location. USPS Special Handling service takes extra care in shipping treatment, transportation, and delivery, but it is not the same as insurance.

Special Handling Details

Ordinary items that are breakable or fragile do not need special handling if they are packed with the right cushioning and marked clearly with the word, “FRAGILE.” You may add Registered Mail™ to your delivery to further protect valuable or irreplaceable items.

Clearly, there should be no $10.35 charge for using a commercially purchased "fragile" sticker.

Clearly the First Colony post office can't find its rear end with both hands.

I filed two claims with the USPS, one to find my missing parcels, one to resolve the situation with the fragile stickers.

The USPS was unable to locate my parcels. I did not get a response about the fragile sticker issue.

And really, it's not worth the candle to fight about the stickers. I ordered some blank "high-visibility" labels and made my own. I wanted to print "Fuck the USPS" on them, but Neil thought that would be a bad idea, so I printed them with "Thank You!" I may order some more, in a different color, and print them with "Elizabeth Beads."

I'm still using my Do not Fold labels on the back of the bubble mailer, over the seal.

Just to add insult to injury, I went another round with the First Colony clowns. I purchased a Click-and-Ship label for $9.50 online, for a parcel to Canada. The First Colony post office refused to accept it because they said I had not paid the postage. I showed them confirmation of purchase on my phone, but they still charged me an additional $9.50 to accept the parcel. Tossers.

I paid it because it was going to one of my customers with a missing parcel and I wanted to at least get her new beads on the way. I filed for a refund on the online label, which I should see around the second week of February.

Last night I contacted all the customers with missing parcels who hadn't yet contacted me. I've given two refunds so far. Two customers wanted to give it a little more time. Two customers chose replacment beads. I haven't heard back from one customer yet. And amazingly, one customer said she had received her bead! Even though the tracking info shows nothing but pre-shipment info - no acceptance, no movement, no delivery scan - I have to take her word for it.

And in the end I do believe that all the parcels (save the burgled ones) will rematerialize, either back here or at their destinations. I mean, they are somewhere. They were all mailed at various times between January 12 and January 18. It's too unlikely that they coincidentally were all stolen, destroyed, whatever. They all were mailed before I stopped using fragile stickers. My suspicion is that they were pulled for that reason and are all sitting in a USPS room somewhere, awaiting some unknown fate.

OK, that's it. I can't tell you the hours I've wasted on this, hours I could have spent writing something momentous and meaningful in this space, which I still intend to do.

I'll be mailing the two sets of replacement beads tomorrow. I'm so over it. Time to chuck it in the fuck-it bucket and move on.

And hey, at least you didn't have to listen to me wail about slow sales and stiffled creativity and bead fails. Not that all that isn't happening, it's just that for some reason I don't care. Maybe I'm ready to chuck all that too.

Some believe that nothing leaves our lives unless it is to make room for something better. I'm not sure about that, but it's worth considering.

"I won't let you fall
Hear me loud and clear
I will not let go
I will be right here
Holding on

And what's that someone said
Of a closed and open door?
Brighter days ahead
Look that way while you're
Holding on

And when some lonesome wind
Has hemmed you in
Don't you believe that sound
You will surely rise
Above these tides
To higher ground

With the past not far behind
And the future not in stone
I suppose from time to time
We'll be howling at the moon
And holding on

But I won't let you fall
Hear me loud and clear
I will not let go
I will be right here
Holding on

Holding on, holding on."

(Cheryl Wheeler)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

More - or less - momentous musings

"There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
'Cause he knows it's all worthwhile."

Let me do a quick recap of our trip to Florida before I move on to more momentous musings.

We spent a good part of our second day at the FUN show. That is the annual Florida United Numismatists coin show. You think they united becasue they wanted to have FUN?

Hey, mostly white men of a certain age just wanna have fun too.

The bourse, or show floor, is extensive at this show, and there are a fair number of things for sale (beyond coins, paper money, coin-related holders and displays, and exonumia - numismatic items such as tokens, medals, badges, counterstamped coins, elongated coins, encased coins, souvenir medallions, tags and wooden nickels. Seriously.)

Jewelry mostly. While Neil does business with PCGS and NGC and certain favored dealers, I walk the bourse and get into trouble. I'm not supposed to be in spending-money mode. I'm not supposed to be in accumulating-stuff mode. But with hours to kill and all sorts of things to look at, I find things I don't need but I like - and I want them. I bought a silver chain, a silver ring set with stones the color of Iolite and a couple of rolls of 2012 pennies.

The pennies are for my grandson's penny pig. My mom had a little glass "piggy" bank that she put pennies in. She used to say it was for her oldest grandchild. I've had it since she died and it was time to pass it on to Kandace. For fun, and in case there was a valuable cent hiding in there, Neil took out the pennies. I decided it would be fun to fill it with pennies from Ryland's birth year. I must have had a brain freeze though, because I bought 4 mint rolls of 2010 pennies on eBay. Except Ryland was born on the 10th day of June in 2012. I still need a couple more 2012 rolls to fill the bank but I didn't find any more at the show.

After I'd walked about 2 miles, sawing the bourse in half and back again, I went off to the Heritage Legacy Suite, a perk of Neil's patronage of Heritage Auctions. Snacks, drinks and a quiet place to sit and read made the next few hours pleasant enough. Neil was still talking to dealers and meeting up with an eBay seller who had brought (more) coins for Neil to buy. Finally Neil was done, or more accurately he ran out of time, and then the fun (as opposed to FUN) started.

We drove back from Tampa to Orlando where we scooped up Neil's kids and son-in-law from Orlando International and checked into the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Studios. We got park tickets and express passes, and, after a quick hot cloth, we were off again, to the Polynesian resort at Disney World. We had dinner at Kona Cafe, which never disappoints, and then watched the fireworks over Cinderella's castle at Magic Kingdom, from across the Seven Seas Lagoon. Photo by Laurie.

We wound up the fun with a Dole Whip - yummy pineapple soft-serve sold only at the Dole Plantation on Oahu and at Disney World.

Friday was the day we'd all really been looking forward to. It began with a very unlike Liz-and-Neil-on-vacation wakeup call at 6 am. I always need time to caffeinate myself properly for the day ahead. We met in the lobby at 7:30 to walk to Univeral Studios theme park wherein resides a recreation of Diagon Alley, right out of the Harry Potter series, including the thrill ride, Escape from Gringotts, and Olivander's wand shop.

For the record I was the only one of the five of us to resist a wand. OK, I got a Gryffindor hoodie instead.

Laurie and Luke got McGonagall and Dumbledore wands, Chris got a Sirius Black wand and Neil got an Arthur Weasley wand. I think I would have gotten a Cedric Diggory wand if someone forced me. Alas, no one did.

Diagon Alley was quite awesome, from the way you walk though an unmarked brick wall to get in, to the fire-breathing dragon atop the bank, to Knockturn Alley, complete with a dimly-lit Borgin and Burkes, to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, selling Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, Pygmy Puffs, Chocolate Frogs and all things Potter. More photos by Laurie.

From "King's Cross" station we boarded the Hogwart's Express to Hogsmeade, recreated in Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. We had lunch at the Three Broomsticks. Hot Butterbeer! I did not ride Dragon Challenge nor Flight of the Hippogriff. Rollercoasters, just no. I did ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - but I kept my eyes mostly closed. The visuals - near misses flying into castle walls, deep dives on the Quidditch pitch - were just a little too intense for me. The best part of the ride was standing in line, seeing some of the innards of the castles (the potion room, the greenhouse) and listening to the portaits talk to each other.

After that we fumphed around the park a bit before Hogswart Expressing it back to Univeral Studios park and fumphing around some more. We had dinner at Lombard's Seafood Grille and went back to see Diagon Alley at night, which was uber cool with all the shops lit up. Yet more photos by Laurie.

We watched a bit of the closing show - lights and fireworks - and headed back to the hotel. Neil and I had another early wake-up call to catch our flight home. The kids stayed on for another day of riding roller coasters and exploing other park attractions.

I wasn't sorry not to stay. I went for the Harry Potter experience, which exceeded expectations in some ways but disappointed in others. Universal would do well to take a leaf from Disney's book and add a few character dinners. The focus was on the locale rather than the characters. What it offered was scenery, thrill rides, shopping and food. What I missed were characters and shows, maybe even a couple of non-thrill rides. A nice jungle cruise or a moody haunted mansion to explore, that would be the ticket for me.

And now we are home and I'm slowly sliding back into routine. At the same time, I'm giving a lot of thought to what I want to change about my routine this year. A year ago I made some changes. I stopped taking classes, stopped writing for a bead magazine, stopped volunteering with animal services. I hoped to accomplish certain things. To devote time to find my voice in beadmaking (didn't happen, although I made a lot of beads), write more (didn't happen), read more (didn't happen), continue to work out consistently (the only one out of four that did happen).

Making a lot of beads last year made some sense because I was selling a lot of beads, and sales for me mean validation, and bottom line, for me, it's all about validation.

Then in December bead sales slowed to a trickle, not just for me, not for everyone, but for enough people that it didn't feel personal, although I still wanted to be one of those artists who continue to sell whatever they list, because in most cases, their work is so amazing. And it really began to hit me that I might never get there, no matter how much time and practice I dedicated to my art. As Neil said long ago, you can't practice genius.

He does think classes might be an answer, but I'm doubtful. I think my skills are what they are and what they ever will be. Not that they are so bad, but without vision, I can't take them any further. I'm not done trying yet. I still think in terms of studio space when I think about moving into a new house. I've made beads daily since we got back. But I had my Beads of Courage custom order to finish, I decided to remake a couple of the sets that were stolen from the post office, and I wanted to make some Valentine-themed beads for a BOC commissioned public exhibition with a short deadline.

Soon though I will have to decide on a direction. In December, everyone said bead sales would pick back up in January. I started listing beads when we got back and three or four days later I had my first bids. I know it's still pretty close to the holidays, and there still is time for momentum to rebuild. But that begs the real question, do I want to keep cranking out beads that will sell, assuming that becomes an option again, or do I want to take another tack? And if so, what would that look like?

I've been thinking a lot about writing lately. I know at least four bead makers who have taken up writing fiction. Mostly it is lightweight adult-oriented fiction (I won't say romance novels but close) or mysteries. I've never been interested in writing fiction, beyond some lame efforts at short stories in high school (when I also wrote bad poetry).

No, my interest has always been opinion writing - personal experience essays - editorials. Writing a blog can be that, although a blog can also be more of a journal or diary. Mine is mostly the latter with some of the former mixed in, along with a good dose of story-telling, the story being my own story. And I think "memoirist" best describes that sort of story telling.

I've been reading memoirs, often provoked by blogs I read or suggestions by the bloggers I follow. I just finished Jillian Lauren's Everything You Ever Wanted and I don't even remember how it got on my Amazon wish list. (I know, I put it there, but why?) It's the story of a family who adopted a child who suffered from challenges due to early childhood trauma. It's also the story of a mom with a checkered past, one that she has put firmly behind her, until she publishes an earlier book about that seamy past. Those truths alienate family members and even affect her chances of adopting a second child.

The risk of writing about your own life, especially those parts that are not so clean and tidy, are that you may change the way people know you and that you may hurt people you love.

I'm not sure I have a story to tell in my own life that is compelling. I've done the usual things, made a few of the usual mistakes, gotten my act mostly together, and now live in a present that is everything I ever wanted and possibly more than I ever deserved (but if so, I'm not telling).

Another memoirist, Cheryl Strayed, wrote in Wild about losing her mother and her moral compass, then hiking the Pacific Crest Trail as her way to redemption. Yesterday, on Facebook, Strayed asked an open question about whether others besides herself consider mortality - their own and their loved ones' - every single day - or if it was just her. It struck a chord, because within one hour she had 1,000 responses, mine among them.

I've been hyper-conscious of the risk of loss since I lost two grandparents, an aunt and a cousin in the space of three years, when I was 10-12 years old. Those losses and the feelings they engendered colored the next decade of my life.

Maybe I do have a story to tell. But it all happened so long ago. I'm honestly not sure I remember it well enough to communicate it adequately.

I find myself jealous of this generation of bloggers, those women in their 30s and 40s who write so beautifully and are not so far removed from their stories in years as I feel that I am.

And most of their stories are poignant. Children with special needs. Losing parents too young. Losing a child. Addiction and recovery. Mental illness and recovery. Chronic illness. Eating disorders.

By all accounts, I have led a charmed life. And yet, there is a story in there too. The question is, can I tell it? Is it worth telling? Do I have the words?

Or should I be writing more about the issues of the day. The deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Immigration. Politics. Religion. Other strange bedfellows.

I don't know. I'm pondering.

For today, I will close with my bead story du jour.

I'd been good about not buying beads this year, wasn't even really feeling the urge, but ultimately temptation prevailed and I bought one from a German beadmaker, an impulsive early morning buy-it-now. Sliding down that slippery slope, I asked him if he still had any of the colorful large hole beads he'd had listed the day before. I missed the end of that auction. He said, "They weren't sold - so I have all of them still here."

I asked if I might buy a couple of them. He sent photos, I picked out two.

And then he said, "Oh my - I can't sell you the "QuirlBead" it has a crack. [Sad emoticons] Just recognized!!!! SORRY."

I said, "It happens. I'm a bead maker too."

He said, "I wait always a week after kiln and cleaning ... I am so sorry!!!"

He sent a photo. It was an impressive crack.

I said, "Yikes. So sad, such a pretty bead. Will you be making more?"

He said, But I cannot promise to maje an nearly identic Quirl again - and if I have time the next days ..."

I said, "I know it won't be nearly identical. Any colorful one in that style would be good. And there is no hurry, even if it takes a month."

He said, "Okay I will contact you." [Happy emoticon]

I wonder.

So much for good intentions. I've bought two beads since then, and I have my eye on another.

That's what happens when my beads start selling again - I start feeling like buying beads again.

"Didn't know what time it was and the lights were low
I leaned back on my radio
Some cat was layin' down some rock 'n' roll, 'lotta soul, he said
Then the loud sound did seem to fade
Came back like a slow voice on a wave of phase
That weren't no D.J. that was hazy cosmic jive

There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
'Cause he knows it's all worthwhile
He told me
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie

I had to phone someone so I picked on you
Hey, that's far out so you heard him too
Switch on the TV we may pick him up on channel 2
Look out your window I can see his light
If we can sparkle he may land tonight
Don't tell your poppa or he'll get us locked up in fright

There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
'Cause he knows it's all worthwhile
He told me
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie."

(The immortal - but sadly also mortal - David Bowie)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pushing luck

"The moral of this story, it's simple but it's true,
Hey the stars might lie but the numbers never do."

New Years Day and Day Eight of my head cold or upper respiratory infection or just plain crud.

Sinc I woke up on Christmas Eve with a sharply sore throat, I've suffered the slings and arrows of nonstop coughing, bouts of sneezing, bouts of congestion, shortness of breath and the sinus headache from hell. I've slept an average of 12 hours a day, gone through a box and a half of Kleenex, and coughed up gallons of bilious green gunk.

I'm not a good patient. You've probably gotten that. I don't get sick often, so my immune system is doing something, but when I do get sick, I have a hell of a time getting better. Neil woke up with a sore throat the same day I did but he had a normal week, doing the things he usually does. I moved between bed and sofa and back.

I did put in about 6 hours of torching because after a year hiatus Beads of Courage asked me to make 100 pairs of carry beads. A custom order while sales have been slow was a needed boost. My head has been so brick-like that I struggled through even simple designs and had trouble with sizing my pairs to match. So I have a few for the orphan bowl, but I'm at least half done.

I might even be able to mail them before we leave for Florida, although I might wait until we get back since it's a short trip.

Other than a little torch time and a few Facebook auctions, I did very little. I wanted to try Neil's strategy for cold recovery. Let my white blood cells fight it out and conquer the invading aliens. I specifically avoided ibuprofen and acetaminophen to give my paltry 100.5 fever a change to roast those viral buggers. But I could not seem to feel any better.

I've done the reading, I know that colds are caused by viruses and that viruses are not responsive to antibiotics. I know that just because you are hacking up green glue does not mean there is a secondary bacterial infection.

And I also know that I've never yet recovered from a severe cold without antibiotics.

So finally, yesterday, I called my doctor and asked for a prescription. I'm so lucky. I may have the last of the old fashioned doctors who respects a patients ability to describe her own symptoms and doesn't make her drive 90 miles round trip to say "ahh". Last night I started a 5 day round of cipro and another scrip for cough suppression. Today is the first day I feel real improvement.

I might have continued the experiment of self-recovery, instead of adding my bit to the advance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I do see antibiotic overuse as a real problem with serious potential consequences. But I'm flying on Wednesday. That's just five days away.

I'm terrified about flying with a head cold. I've had a couple of very bad experiences, including a hemorrhage in my ear and an emergency room visit for a brain tumor that turned out to be an acute sinus infection.

The last time I had a cold that I couldn't shake was in 2012. I came down with it the day we got home from our great Amtrak adventure-disaster. I took that cold on a trip to the east coast about a week later and felt wretched the whole time. The day after I got back I drove the 90 mile round trip to get a scrip for antibiotics.

I figure, if I get a cold bad enough to need antibiotics every three to four years, I'm probably not contributing criminally to the growing army of antibiotic-resistant pestilence. But at some point I stop caring. I've been sick enough, long enough, and I'm over it. Give me drugs. Make me better.

Dum dum dum.

So here I will breach some probable unwritten code of blogger ettiquette, because it's now January 10. I'm over my cold. I'm even over our trip to Florida. And I failed to publish what I've written, but I kind of like it so I'm just going to keep going from here and finish this post.

Florida was a blur, mostly in a good way, just action packed. We left on Jan. 6, landed in Orlando and immediately drove to Tampa for the annual coin show that Neil loves to attend every year. The only objective that day was for Neil to view 5 boxes of coins that were going to be auctioned, so he could decide whether and what to bid.

On the way we stopped at Denny's. I don't dislike Denny's but I have a terrible track record of experiences there and this outing was no exception. I wanted something light so I ordered the club sandwich with "no bacon, please." I also ordered a rasberry lemonade and asked to have it in a to-go cup.

The waitress brought our drinks and mine was in a glass. I reminded her that I'd requested a to-go cup and she apologized in a laconic way, took it away and brought it back in a to-go cup. It actually crossed my mind to remind her about the "no bacon." I didn't and naturally she served my sandwich and it had bacon. I said, I asked for no bacon. She said, "oh, did they put bacon on it?" Well, um, yes, just look at it.

As she took the sandwich away, I commented that you really can't just take the bacon off a sandwich. As much as I dislike waste, I don't eat pork and bacon permeates. She said she'd have it remade and it seemed all was well. But then another employee, maybe the short-order cook, brought the sandwich - with bacon - and an attitude - back to the table.

In an angry way, she told me she was leaving the sandwich on the table so that I'd know they were making me a fresh one. I said, I didn't doubt it but she spewed more words, essentially repeating the message as though I were a slow second grader. Then she left. Our waitress came by to check on Neil's food and I asked her to remove the offending sandwich.

I'm not sure why I had become the bad guy, why I'd been made to feel somehow that I was the person who had screwed up. The replacement sandwich was delivered and delicious, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.

We got the bill and took it to the register to check out. The woman manning the register at that moment asked how everything was. I said fine, except for the bacon on my sandwich and the lecture I got for asking for the sandwich to be remade. She asked for details and was properly horrified. She immediately removed the sandwich from our bill, which was nice but not necessary. She asked me for details on exactly who spoke to me. I said I didn't want anyone to be in trouble and left it there.

And off we went to the Tampa Convention Center, where I read in the lobby while Neil looked at coins.

I'll recap the rest of the Florida trip in another post - I'm sure you're on tenterhooks - all will be revealed in time.

I do have one more story now, and it's a bead story. You knew I couldn't get through a post without one.

Last Sunday, before the trip, I dropped off 4 padded kraft envelopes of purchased beads in the drive-up mailbox in Old Sugarland. On Monday I went by to drop off two more and found the mailbox taped closed.

So I parked and went inside and stood in line and asked why the mailbox was taped up. The postal worker said, it was burglarized last night. I asked a lot of questions, mainly about the packages I'd dropped in the box the night before. The employee said he couldn't give me any information, that an investigation was underway, that they'd catch the culprits (right, sure) and that he wouldn't hold out much hope for anything I'd mailed the night before.

I went home and sure enough the tracking information said this.
The U.S. Postal Service was electronically notified by the shipper on January 3, 2016 to expect your package for mailing. This does not indicate receipt by the USPS or the actual mailing date. Delivery status information will be provided if/when available.
It said that on Tuesday too. $120 worth of beads (plus postage) gone poof.

I decided to wait until we got home from Florida to deal with it. Just in case.

This turned out to be a reasonably good decision. Because although three of the packages had no changes to the tracking information, one showed that it had been "Accepted at USPS Origin Sort Facility" on January 6 and "Delivered, In/At Mailbox" on January 9.

Better yet, it was the most valuable of the packages, with $48 worth of beads.

I did let the other three parties know the situation. Each of them agreed to give it a little more time.

I'm planning to remake one set of beads, maybe two. If the originals show up in the system by Monday, I can sell the duplicates. The other three beads would be harder to replicate, so I'll offer a refund or a credit toward a different bead.

But you know, I'm hopeful. Optimistic. Hell, I'm lucky. It's a fact. Denny's be damned.

These are the beads that disappeared in the night.

"Well I woke up this morning, stumbled out of my rack
I opened up the paper to the page in the back
It only took a minute for my finger to find
My daily dose of destiny under my sign
My eyes just about popped out of my head
It said "the stars are stacked against you girl, get back in bed"

I feel lucky, I feel lucky, yeah
No Professor Doom gonna stand in my way
Mmmmm, I feel lucky today

Well I strolled down to the corner, gave my numbers to the clerk
The pot's eleven million so I called in sick to work
I bought a pack of Camels, a burrito and a Barqs
Crossed against the light, made a beeline for the park
The sky began to thunder, wind began to moan
I heard a voice above me saying, "girl, you better get back home"

But I feel lucky, oh oh oh, I feel lucky, yeah
No tropical depression gonna steal my sun away
Mmmmm, I feel lucky today

Now eleven million later, I was sitting at the bar
I bought the house a double and the waitress a new car
Dwight Yoakam's in the corner trying to catch my eye
Lyle Lovett's right beside me with his hand upon my thigh
The moral of this story, it's simple but it's true
Hey the stars might lie but the numbers never do

I feel lucky, oh oh oh, I feel lucky, yeah
Hey Dwight, hey Lyle, boys, you don't have to fight
Hot dog, I'm feeling lucky tonight

I feel lucky, grrrrr, I feel lucky, yeah
Think I'll flip a coin, I'm a winner either way
Mmmmmm, I feel lucky today."

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)