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)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz