Monday, October 31, 2016

Designing Carolina

"Sometimes the stakes are bogus, sometimes the fast lane hits a fork
Sometimes Southern California wants to be Western New York."

Sometimes Sugar Land, Texas wants to be Cornelius, North Carolina. Or have I got that backwards? Sometimes Cornelius, North Carolina wants to be Sugar Land, Texas.

We just got back from our six-day trip to design our new house. We built this house we live in too, but we probably only had to make one-tenth of the decisions. We literally picked not only every cabinet, but every cabinet knob, every faucet, every light fixture including where we wanted to place the 50 recessed cans. Neil LOVES cans. We picked the type and location of electric switches, outlets, cable and data lines, speakers, glass break detectors, fire communications. We picked out brick, roof shingles, garage doors, trim paint, door paint, door glass, room colors, hardwoods, carpet, tile, grout. We selected front door hardware, entire household door hardware.

My philosophy, contrary to what we did here, was to keep it simple, find something we liked and stay with a uniform theme. No need for 15 kinds of knobs and tile and grout. We did go with brushed nickle on the main floor ,,and chrome in the basement and upstairs to keep costs down. We picked the same cool penny-round tile for four bathrooms but in different colors. I got push-back on using the same grout color everywhere (Delorean Gray) but I only made a few exceptions where it didn't complement the tile and on the two fireplace tile surrounds where it didn't matter.

Yes, you heard that right, two fireplaces. Two greatrooms. A bonus room, a card room, a game room, a media room, a hobby room, study, kitchen, dining room, screened outdoor living area, master bedroom, master bath, four secondary bedrooms with in-suite baths, powder room, home management area, laundry room, covered patio. I'm glad I don't have to pay the bills. Oh, wait, I do.

We spent the better part of five of the six days on this design chimera, with a break on Sunday to go to the Carolina Renaissance Festival. I think I am just over Renfests. See my post on Disney.

Another break was the Dar Williams concert on Friday night at The Evening Muse. I picked the dates for this trip so we could catch her Mortal City tour. She did not disappoint. She performed the entire album in song order, and she talked between songs about her inspiration for each one, which was pretty cool. I already knew she was someone I'd love to hang out with, no surprises there. A highlight was the encore, I won't be your Yoko Ono, one of my favorites of her songs, but not one of her more mainstream hits, if she can be said to have mainstream hits. What do you hear in these sounds?

Better yet, she made eye contact with me and smiled at the beginning of the song Iowa. Neil said maybe she recognized me from the music video. It's a theory. One I like very much.

Anyway, back to the design gig. We had some predictable frustrations. We couldn't have the color Moody Blue that we picked for our front door and shutters because it was too bright (wait, what?). Well, we could have had it if we'd picked a duller brick. I don't want a dull brick. I love the brick we have now, of course I picked the closest brick color to it, which wasn't all that close, but still a pretty peachy one. At least we got our next paint color choice, Slate Tile. And out of about one thousand light fixtures I couldn't find one that I loved for the dining room. We put in a placeholder, but I'll be looking for something else. When you are spending hundreds on a light fixture you really should love it.

The funny thing is, we sweated decisions that seemed important, like the hardware on the kitchen cabinets, but honestly, I couldn't have told you what hardware we have on the cabinets we had at home, the ones I've lived with for more than nine years. And after we got home, I changed all the cabinet hardware to something close to what we have now, because I love it, even if I had distraction blindness to it for so long.

We opted for miles of hardwoods instead of carpet because cats. We choose a rustic distressed charcoal hickory, althought I'd have loved a whitewashed gray, if not for feline hairball considerations. Carpet will only go in bedrooms where the doors can be kept closed. And closets. And Neil's study. But not the hobby room. Or the home management center, where I'll probably have my computer and set up my shipping area.

My studio still is an outstanding issue. We've asked for help from the builder on a possible natural gas hookup, ventilation, return air and electric load requirements, ideally in the basement bedroom where I'd love to have it. The room has a box bay window that overlooks the rain garden and tree stand behind our property. It has access to a bathroom which is helpful since I use water for diluting bead release and for cleaning beads. I might turn my old-fashioned oak teacher's desk into a workstation for dipping mandrels and cleaning beads. Or I might use it to set up my torch and kiln. So many possibilities. So little time.

Well, actually there's a lot of time. They won't close on the construction loan until we finalize the design, and they won't start building until we close on the loan, and no one is pressuring us and we still need to sort the studio specs. I have some concern that they'll tell me I can't have it in the house. If they do, I'm inclined to acquiesce and then do it anyway. We can figure out ventilation somehow and I can have my propane outside and use quick connects to torch. To be on the safe side, we will tile the room and I've already picked out some awesome tile.

Once we close, I can't imagine the house will take less than nine months to build and probably closer to a year, considering my good weather luck, which works both ways, i.e. bad weather can be part of my good weather luck when needs be. And we need all the time we can get to figure out all the logistics, such as how to move three cats, incuding two neurotic ones.

It's fortunate that Neil will be retired on December 1 and can put his mind to the task. Because this is his party (and I'll cry if I want to, which I admit that I often do).

Besides I'm much too busy, selling beads at $6 a pair. People who won't pay $15 for three pairs will snap up $6 pairs. Go figure.

So, funny story, we went by our lot on the last day, before we flew home, and there was all this earth-moving equipment out there, moving earth and gravel. They were working on the rain garden, which is a fancy name for drainage catch basin, behind our house. It will be landscaped with sod and natural grasses, so I expect it to be pretty.

On our first day we visited the lot and there was some water in the depression and a blue heron at the edge. If I believed in signs, I'd take that as a good one.

There's a part of the country could drop off tomorrow in an earthquake
Yeah, it's out there on the cutting edge, the people move, the sidewalks shake
And there's another part of the country with a land that gently creaks and thuds
Where the heavy snows make faucets leak in bathrooms with free-standing tubs
They're in houses that are haunted, with the kids who lie awake and think
About all the generations past who used to use that dripping sink

Sometimes one place wants to slip into the other just to see
What it's like to trade its demons for the restless ghost of Mrs. Ogilvey
She used to pick the mint from her front yard to dress the Sunday pork
Sometimes Southern California wants to be Western New York

It wants to have a family business in sheet metal or power tools
And it wants to have a diner where the coffee tastes like diesel fuel
And it wants to find the glory of a town they say has hit the skids
And it wants to have a snow day that will turn its parents into kids
And it's embarrassed, but it's lusting after a SUNY student with mousy brown hair
Who is taking out the compost, making coffee in long underwear

And Southern California says to save a place, I'll meet you there
And it tried to pack up its Miata, all it could fit was a prayer
Sometimes the stakes are bogus, sometimes the fast lane hits a fork
Sometimes Southern California wants to be Western New York

Tempe, Arizona thinks the Everglades are greener and wetter
And Washington, D.C. thinks that Atlanta integrated better
But I think that Southern California has more pain that we can say
'Cause it wants to travel back in time but it just can't leave LA

But now I hear they've got a theme park planned, designed to make you gasp and say
Oh, I bet that crumbling mill town was a booming mill town in its day
And the old investors scoff at this, but the young ones hope they'll take a chance
And they promise it will make more dough than Mickey Mouse in Northern France
And the planners got an opening day, a town historian will host
And the waitresses look like waitresses who want to leave for the West Coast

And they'll have puttering on rainy weekends, autumn days that make you feel sad
They'll have hundred year old plumbing and the family you never had
And a Hudson River clean-up concert and a bundle-bearing stork
And I hear they've got a menu planned, it's trés Western New York.

(Dar Williams)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Flogging the sunk-cost pony

"In a heart there are windows and doors
You can let the light in, you can feel the wind blow
When there's nothing to lose and nothing to gain, grab a hold of that fistful of rain."

I did something new this week and it was fun.

I posted some of my beads for sale in a Facebook group called Bargain Box Beads. I've avoided it until now because all auctions have to start at one dollar. Not one dollar per bead in a set. One dollar is the start bid for any listing.

You can also have a buy-it-now option which can be any amount.

It was a learning experience. I started with auctions without buy-it-now prices. I got bids I was satisfied with because I'm considering this a clear-out, but I had to wait the 24 hour time period until the auction was over.

After than I included buy-it-now options and went for leveraging turnover. I have to say it was fun, hearing people bid, well, hearing the chiming sound Facebook makes when people comment or bid on my posts of any kind.

A lot of listings went like this. Person One would bid one dollar. Person Two would bid two or three or four dollars. Person One would then call buy it now.

I'd send them the listing info and photos and list another item.

I sold a lot of beads.

What else did I learn. People seem a bit reluctant to bid $12 for an 8 bead set. But they won't think too hard before bidding $8 on a 4 bead set. I wound up cutting apart a lot of my 8 bead sets. People will think even less hard about bidding $4 for a pair. Or $5 for a pair. I actually made a mistake and listed a pair for $8 and it sold. It was a nice pair. Haha. Mental note, next time more nice pairs with higher buy-it-now prices

It's more work for me of course. More stringing, more photography. More photo editing. More invoice updates to make, more beads to keep track of. Or should I say more piles of beads to keep track of.

I really sold a lot of beads.

Better yet, I sold a lot of beads that I'd had for a long time. I sold quite a few mismatched pairs (with full disclosure, naturally). I sold a few orphan strands of one-offs.

I also learned that focals don't do as well as sets and pairs. I want to push that envelope more. I have a lot of focals that I'd be happy to get $5 for, so if I get $7 to $10, I'll be even happier to see the back of them.

You don't have to tell me. I know. It's a slippery slope. The more of my beads that people stock up on at bargain prices, the fewer they are likely to want to buy later at my regular prices. One the other hand, I had a few purchases by former customers but most of these buyers were new to me. For the most part, I think a different crowd trolls the bargain basement group.

I have to be practical. For weeks now, I've sold very few beads at my regular prices.

People keep telling me it's slow for everyone right now.

I see that things are slow, but I also see people buying. Some people may be looking for bargains, but many people are looking for beads that they love. Mine obviously aren't tripping their switches. Maybe they will again. Maybe I'll find a style, a stride, a design that is mine and that sells. I'm a terrible judge and I have a lounge of lizards to prove that.

People keep telling me my beads are beautiful, my quality is first rate and my work is lovely. People keep telling me not to second guess myself, not to doubt myself.

And yet, I have all these beads just sitting here, and I keep thinking about sunk costs.

I took a class at work once about risk analysis or something like that, and this example was given. Let's say you spend $100,000 on drilling a well (I know they cost a lot more than that but set that thought aside for this example). You don't produce any oil. Your expert tells you that if you invest another $50,000 you are guaranteed a return of $100,000. Should you do it?

Most people said no. Their impulse was to think, it's not a good deal to spend $150,000 to make $100,000. I got it right away though. You start where you are. That first 100,000 is spent, gone goodbye. It's a sunk cost. By spending another $50,000 to gain $100,000, you are cutting your total loss from $100,000 down to $50,000.

So in bead terms, if I was now setting out to make these beads I want to sell today, I know it would not be profitable to make and sell them for the prices I'm letting them go for. But since they are already made, the cost of making them is sunk. Anything I get for them cuts my losses.

It also gets them out of my care and feeding, it gives me the ephemeral sense of earning some bucks and, the cherry on the sundae, it makes others happy to get my beautiful beads at a steal of a deal.

Yes, it's a little embarrassing to be a beadmaker with more than eight years of experience reduced to selling in the bargain basement, but I did notice that I'm not the only one. I see several familiar sellers who have been making beads for as long as I have. So it is what it is. And one purchase morphed into a nice custom order for more beads in Christmas colors.

I have to admit, it was a little addictive to post and sell, post and sell. Clearly I am a buy-it-now junkie.

Because we're leaving on another trip on Thursday, I had to put a hard stop on my listings last night. The last few end tonight if no one calls BIN. That gives me tomorrow to coax everyone to pay their tab and get the beads wrapped up for shipping and dropped off at the post office.

I've already restrung a lot more of my bead sets into single pairs, double pairs, and sets of four. I've picked out a bunch of focals that I will experiment with to see what buy-it-now prices the market will bear. I'm feeling pretty pumped about this. As many beads as I sold, I have three times more in inventory.

If I have to restring everything into pairs to move them, I will, with a smile on my face.

Who knows what will happen. Doubtlessy this new market isn't infinite. Maybe I'll saturate it with a few weeks of bargain buy it nows.

But until I do, I'm riding that pony as far as its little legs will carry me.

Just some of the beads I sold in three days.

You can dream the American Dream
But you sleep with the lights on
And wake up with a scream
You can hope against hope
That nothing will change
Grab a hold of that fistful of rain

When your grasp has exceeded your reach
And you put all your faith
In a figure of speech
You've heard all the answers
But the questions remain
Grab a hold of that fistful of rain

And when diamonds turn back into coal
Grab a hold, children, grab a hold
When the mountains crumble
And you're ready to rumble
And roll like a runaway train

In a heart there are windows and doors
You can let the light in
You can feel the wind blow
When there's nothing to lose
And nothing to gain
Grab a hold of that fistful of rain

Grab a hold, grab a hold, grab a hold
Grab a hold, grab a hold, grab a hold of that fistful of rain."

(Warren Zevon & Jorge Calderón)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Doing what you need to do

"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."

Saturday night was the memorial gathering for my friend Tom. It was held in his home, the house where we gathered so many times for Halloween parties in our crazy younger years and for Christmas parties in our more sedate adult years.

It may have been the best attended party there ever. All five of his younger siblings, with some of their spouses and kids, came from the east coast and midwest. Work colleagues young and old were there, a few neighbors and random friends stopped in and a fair contingent of our Colgate classmates, significant others and children filled the space.

There were digital slide shows with photos of Tom over the years, as well as posterboards and albums of printed photos. I kept thinking that Tom would have enjoyed the party. I kept thinking, why do wait until someone is dead to celebrate their life.

It's just the way of things, I suppose. All that unconditional love, all those accolades, might be a bit abashing or awkward if you were alive and in the building.

I talked quite a bit to one of Tom's sisters, who was there for his last days, those few days between the time he thought he was going to have another procedure and recouperate and get on with living, but instead had the plug pulled and was sent home with hospice care because his organs were failing. His sister asked him what it felt like to know you were at the end of life, and Tom said that he had no regrets.

I wonder if that is something you might say on you deathbed to comfort your soon-to be-bereaved loved ones.

Tom was a friend and a good person, very bright, clearly respected as a mentor by his coworkers, clearly loved by his siblings, but his life was not the ice cream sundae that his obituary described. I think his marriage was in grave trouble before his diagnosis. Fences may have been mended with a death sentence on menu, and I have no doubt that his wife is grieving, but we all have a lot of questions about what will happen next. Will she stay in the house? Will she be able to cope with it on her own? Will she want to?

I have a theory or philosophy that for the most part people do what they need to do. I remember when my women friends who stayed home with their kids while I worked full time would say to me, I don't know how you do it, or, I couldn't do it. And I would say, you do what you have to do. I had no choice so I worked and tried to be as good a parent as I could anyway. Later, as a single mom, battling severe depression, I still got dressed every day and went to work and paid the bills and kept our lives going.

So I think Tom's wife will figure it out somehow. She may tread water for a while. With the party guests gone and the leftovers put away and the trash taken out, she will have to learn how to live her life, one day at a time. She has some special challenges. English is not her native language. She has an older daughter with serious mental problems and a younger daughter with juvenile diabetes. And I don't think her finances are in the best state, although there should be a pension and life insurance coming.

What have I learned? That Tom was in denial about dying, that he didn't get his affairs in order as he should have, probably believing he had more time. It always shocks me when I hear that people don't make contingeny plans, don't talk about things like money and death. I'm cut from different cloth. Neil and I talk quite dispassionately about various mortality scenarios, and neither one of us has been diagnosed with anything worse that high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Especially now that Neil is retiring and we are buliding a new house and moving, we have decisions to make about his pension and our life insurance. We do a lot of scenario modeling. What happens financially if I die in a year? If he dies in a year? We're not expecting either of those things to happen, they are just worst case scenarios. Talking about them doesn't make them any more likely to happen. It's just important to both of us ensure that our figurative fortunes are not left to fate.

I think we'll be talking a lot about it over this next year, as we take on a new mortgage and go through all the expenses of moving. I've decided that, other than to toss and donate some of the most obvious things, I'm not going to think about packing until after New Year's. Neil's last day of work is November 30, a Wednesday. With a graduation and a grandbaby due in December it will be a busy month. In between the busyness, Neil deserves some down time to rest after almost 34 years of work. And I'll need some time to adjust to having him home all day.

But at some point we will have to decide how much packing and moving we are going to do ourselves and how much it is worth to pay someone to do it for us and make the pain go away. We'll probably do some combination of both. There will be decisions to make about what furniture is worth paying to move, since we do have some very sad hand-me-down sofas, furniture that was inexpensive when I bought it 25 years ago, and some garden variety junk, like this Ikea desk I'm typing at. Even our bed mattress, which I love, is more than 20 years old and I think seven to ten years is the typical life of a mattress.

Of course, whatever we don't pay to move it, we will have replace at the other end. Since I have yet to bring myself to believe this move is going to be permanent (by which I mean more than five years or so), I'm not sure how much good furniture I want to invest in for the new house.

Neil is funny. He suggested we each put some money into an account which we can then use to deck out our new digs. He suggested $50,000. I said, if by that you mean that you put in $40,000 and I put in $10,000, I can be with that. Naturallt that wasn't what he had in mind. We haven't resolved this yet. I can see us living out of boxes and having lots of empty rooms for a while.

Like I said, lots to think about, lots to talk about, lots to decide, lots of money to say bye-bye to.

Speaking of which, I almost forgot, I did it - I got a new iPad! I took myself over to the Apple Store, where I backed up my old iPad to my MacBook Pro (which finally was useful for something) and I bought a Space Gray 12.9 inch iPad Pro. The Apple people talked me into getting a Logitech case with a keyboard, but I took it back the next day because I love my new on-screen keyboard. It is a virtual real keyboard, with numbers and characters, so you don't have to toggle. I ordered a case from Amazon and it was delivered on Monday, because Amazon Prime doesn't recognize postal holidays.

I'm pretty pleased with myself. The tipping point was that Apple stopped supporting the iPad 2. No IOS 10 made my decision easier. I don't regret waiting this long though.

Here's a look at my new beauties.

Now I think I will sell my MacBook Pro. I'm watching some auctions on eBay to see what they are selling for. While I'm at it I should sell the macro lens and adapter I bought for my Nikon 1. You know, the camera I never use. I use my point and shoot for bead photos and my iPhone camera for everything else. I don't mind keeping the camera. It's red and it was a good deal. The adapter and macro lens cost more than the camera, which came with two lenses and a nice red leather case.

But that opens the door to all the collectibles I should think about selling on eBay before we move. And that's a door I'm not ready to open.

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

Holding on, 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

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)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Trending on the side of happiness

"She's always been real good at listening
Her sense of humor never lets her down
Except sometimes there's something missing."

I'm feeling a little better - for absolutely no reason whatsoever - which serves to underscore what a pernicious and baffling thing depression is.

Years ago a therapist told me that, treated or untreated, depression cycles. Which reminds me that I was once unofficially diagnosed as cyclothymic - or as my doctor put it, "bipolar in lower case letters."

It's true, my highs are not as high as Mount Chimborazo and my lows are not as low as the Challenger Deep. I fluctuate closer to middle ground.

Still, for the last five years I've been persistently trending on the side of happiness. And don't think I have come to take that for granted. In fact, I've taken it with a generous dose of mindful gratitude. I've been consciusly happy to be happy.

Recently I wondered aloud, where did my happiness go?

Neil said he was worried about me, more so every day. I said you should be. I said I'm trying to be fine, but I'm not fine.

And today I woke up and some of the weight just wasn't there. I don't know why.

I had a rocking good torch session, playing with a new idea. Not a wholly original idea, but a riff off something I saw and liked that I feel I can make my own with the colors I choose.

Facebook reminded me of this quote I posted five years ago, on the day that Steve Jobs died.

Five years ago, it was just two months and five days since I'd left my job with ConocoPhillips by mutual agreement. I wanted to go and they helped me make the break. Finally, I was living the life I dreamed. I was making art my life. I was living in this beautiful house that I love, with a man that I love, and I felt like a princess in a fairy tale.

I woke up every morning looking forward to my day. I was busy all the time, I was taking art classes and online classes, writing articles for a glass magazine, working out, volunteering with animal services, serving as an officer of the local glass beadmakers society, selling at bead shows, waiting for my first grandchild to be born.

Then over time more and more things fell away. Some of it was by choice - I wanted to be more focussed and less distracted. Some of it just happened. I fell out with the shelter over the cat bite incident. The glass magazine went online only, I felt undervalued for my writing contributions, and I resigned as contributing editor. I ran out of classes that interested me at the art school, once I accepted that I had no real affinity for metalsmithing and enameling. Bead shows became fewer, further between and less lucrative.

Then two things happened. Someone gave me a treadmill - so I no longer had a reason to go to the community fitness center. And selling beads on Facebook took off. My world got a lot smaller, and many days I only left the house to take packages to the post office.

Yet I've been happy. I had plenty of social interaction on Facebook, at least plenty for an introvert who thrives on unstructured clothing and her own company. For a long time it's been great. I'm always busy, the days fly by, I've watched a zillion hours of crime drama on Amazon Video and Netflix, donated boatloads of beads to Beads of Courage, walked hundreds (OK dozens) of miles on my free treadmill.

When I was working I was always so afraid that something would happen to me before I had a chance to live my life in a way that made me happy. I'm so appreciative that I have that chance now and have done these last five years.

I never take life, or anything about it really, for granted. Last week I took my car in for routine maintenance. The service associate who checked me out went over what my car would need next, spark plugs at 100,000 miles, timing belt at 105,0000 miles. I asked about cost, mainly thinking about the timing belt, and he said it would depend on whether I wanted generic spark plugs or upgraded ones that would last me another 100,000 miles.

While I like my car well enough, I can't assume I'll drive it for another 100,000 miles. Even if someone doesn't rear-end me and total it, with the amount of driving I do, it might take me 30 years to drive it that far.

Thirty years from now would find me older than my father and my mother were when they died. I'm not counting on that.

Not that I only fill my gas tank halfway in case I die before I can use it up, and yes, I once knew someone who reasoned that way.

I figure I'll be dead, I won't be worried about wasted gas.

Neil actually looked up our life expectacies tonight. We have a lot of financial decisions to make, such as whether or not he should take a 50 or 100 percent joint and survivor annuity. The payment reduction isn't that much for 100 percent, less than 4.5 percent, but Neil thinks it makes more sense to take the 50 percent annuity and rely on life insurance to make up the difference. That way, if he retires and I die, he isn't penalized for the rest of his life by a slightly reduced pension payment. On the other hand, if he retires and dies, I'd get only half the amount for the rest of my life.

Neil reasons that we'll both live a long time anyway and thus we'll both enjoy the advantages of a few thousand extra dollars a year, but reasonable or not, I feel anxious about the whole thing. I do hope to die first and in that case the upshot will be moot for me, but we all know the statistics about women living longer than men.

If Neil dies anytime soon, I'm sure my emotional issues will far exceed my financial ones. So I'm not sure why I am fretting so much over how we slice and dice the financial arrangements. I just know I feel troubled by the thought of being left alone in a giant house in North Carolina. Even if a life insurance payout bridges the gap of losing half of Neil's pension, the idea of a monthly income feels more reassuring somehow.

As I've mentioned before (or have I?) I have a lot of trouble spending money that is in savings. I haven't been able to drop the dime and replace my pitiful iPad 2. I don't have as much trouble spending income or even the dwindling balance in my checking account that I've been living on since I retired from ConocoPhillips, supplemented by my bead business income. I have the glass and the clothes and the shoes to prove it.

Truthfully, the lion's share of the money I have in savings is tax deferred, and if I have my druthers (which I believe I saw around here recently) I'll wait until I have to take an RMD when I turn 70.5. I certainly don't want to take any this year or next while I'm in Neil's highfalutin tax bracket. The year after next, I will probably start my Social Security - it will be nice to get even a nebish monthly check again.

All the money in my savings that isn't tax-deferred - about 1/8 of the total - comes with tax consequences that confuse me, such as capital gains or losses. I have no clue what I'm doing, which funds I should sell and which funds I should keep. So I do nothing and limp along on bead sales, which I've been supplementing with glass sales to tide me over this dry spell.

I did get a little boost today, when I got this message on Facebook.
Hi Elizabeth,
Would you be interested in doing an article about your glasswork for Glass Line ?
Of course, it is one of those unpaid deals, I do the writing, I get Neil to take the photos, I write whatever I want to about myself, and I do a bead tutorial.

I'm thinking it over, but I already know I'll do it. A lot of very respectable artists have had articles in this magazine.

I won't kid myself that it's free advertising. It's closer to vanity publishing. It would look good on a CV - except that I'm unlikely to ever need one of those again.

Some blessings can't be overrated.

For years she's lived on her own
In a corner of the city
Twice a year she gets back home
Playing catch-up with the family

She tells her folks what they need to know
Her mother says she's much too thin
Her sisters ask about her beau
Her dad inquires, how's business been

She's thirty-three this time around
She's always been real good at listening
Her sense of humor never lets her down
Except sometimes there's something missing

Hey, middle ground
A place between up and down
She could be safe and sound
Oh, to know middle ground

For years she's been on her guard
She's kind of tense around the shoulders
She wonders why she works so hard
She counts the days 'til they promote her

She'll take a weekend now and then
To stay in bed and watch the reruns
She'll turn the phone off when guilt sets in
But Sunday always kinda leaves her let down

She gave her heart away one time
And says that she hasn't seen it since
Love's a puzzle in her mind
The pieces match, but don't quite fit

And these days run thick or thin
It never rains, or else it's pouring
All her single friends are men
She thinks married girls are so damn boring

Hey, middle ground
A place between up and down
She could be safe and sound
Oh, to know middle ground.

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)