Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Being thankful for all the fish

"Let's sit in here, honey, this is your chair
No, kitty's afraid when you shout
Oh, it's okay, it was old anyway
And the other one washes right out."

Well, that went by fast.

Thanksgiving came and went.

My kids were here and now they're gone again. Gone home to their own homes and lives.

I've run the dishwasher more times in five days than I usually do in a month. Laundry is cycling. I've reclaimed my room, where Ryland slept on the pull-out sofa, in soft pink sheets and his mom's old dance team blanket.

The house is quiet. Neil is cheerful again.

This house really wasn't built for six adults and a toddler.

Neil was tense, as he always is when we have people at the house, and behaved a bit oddly, which I tried mostly to ignore.

Still, we had an amazing time. All the kids pitched in to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone was helpful with the cleanup, although obviously a lot fell to me because it's my house and I have my way that I want things done.

Later on I'll start to reclaim my refrigerator, although the kids made serious inroads on the leftovers, thank goodness.

I gave my housekeeper 3/4 of our chocolate cream pie from Goode Company. I'm the only one who liked it but I still didn't want to eat all the rest of it, especially since we still have pumpkin and pecan to finish.

My grandson was nothing but joy and light and laughter. We took him to the Houston Museum of Natural Science Sugar Land, which is in walking distance from our house, but we drove anyway. We took him on long walks, to the playground, to feed the ducks.

We took him to Bahama Bucks and the grocery store and the bagel place. We took him out to eat at Sweet Tomatoes and Guru and Goode Company Taqueria. We took him to The Chocolate Bar - and even timed it right for 50 percent off chocolate covered fruit after 8 pm.

There's a banana, orange and strawberry with my name on them in the fridge right now.

We could have done more, but coordinating seven people for any activity is like herding cats. We think we're ready but then someone has to go to the bathroom and by the time they are out we've lost two others. I didn't mind the down time. I was exhausted enough by bedtime every night.

We watched all eight episodes of Stranger Things even though four of us already had seen it. You do notice more details the second time you watch it.

I gave away seven pairs of brand new shoes that I'll never wear. My daughter said if they don't work for her she will sell them online. The handoff of possessions has begun.

I also handed off $200 to my other daughter who had last minute car trouble and had to rent a car to get here safely.

We bored everyone with the floorplan of our new house and photos of our lot and pictures of our cabinets and light fixtures and backsplashes.

And then whiz, bang, boom, it was over and now it's just Neil and me, with just a few days left until Neil retires.

Neil read a little to me in the book series we're slogging though now, The Once and Future King. We took another walk around the pond. Neil watched some football, I listed some beads on Facebook.

I imagine it will take me a day or two to get back into anything resembling a routine.

I loved having both my kids and partners here and of course my grandson, but there was a bittersweetness to it. It's so rare that our calendars align, and I don't have to share them with their dad, who was away visiting stepkids and step-grandkids for once. I tried very hard to soak it in and feel the gratitude, to be in the moment and appreciate the here and now. I tried not to think about what the future might lack.

This time next year I assume I will be living in North Carolina.

Notice that I still leave it indefinite. The final papers have been signed, yet I'm still in denial to a degree. Right now I'm not feeling much emotion about it one way or the other. I'm waiting for some feelings to hit me again, sadness, joy, excitement, anxiety. Apparently it's far enough in the future that I can postpone feeling anything for now.

Hello, come in, great to see you again
Been such a long drive, guess you're beat
Heavens what's that? It's a dwarf in a hat
Oh, no, you've brought the children, how sweet
I'm sure you mentioned it when we'd last spoken
Let me just move these so they don't get broken
He's such a delight and you're staying the night
You know I just love little kids

Little kids are sticky and cute
Little kids have mud on their boots
And they run through my house
And they torment my dogs
And I surely do love little kids

Let's sit in here, honey, this is your chair
No, kitty's afraid when you shout
Oh, it's okay, it was old anyway
And the other one washes right out
Don't touch the parrot, that's right, it's a mean one
How do they do it? I'd need a machine gun
She's patient and kind, I'd be out of my mind
You know I just love little kids

Little kids will cry anywhere
Little kids have food in their hair
And they run through my house
And they torment my dogs
And I surely do love little kids

No, don't pull their tails, no, they're not mean
Yes, if they bite you it hurts
It's just a Sears coffee machine
Nobody knows how it works

The company's gone and I'm sitting alone.
Away from the noise and the fuss
The pets have returned and this weekend I've learned
Little children are nothing like us
They put their food in ridiculous places
They leave their fingerprints on their own faces
Oh how could you say we all started this way
You know I just love little kids

Little kids get up way before me
Little kids leave a trail of debris
And they run through my house
And they torment my dogs
And I surely do love little kids

(Cheryl Wheeler)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Our new interim normal

"But I will raise up my voice into the void
You have left me nowhere to go
I'm riding shotgun down the avalanche."

Life shifts.

I feel like I am standing on the fault line just as the tectonic plates beneath begin to tremble and rumble and threaten to slip.

At the end of this month, Neil is going to retire from a 34-year career with RDS. On Thursday, December 1, he will wake up when he wakes up and start living some new and improved version of his life.

On Thursday, December 1, I also will begin living a new version of my life.

Somehow, life already has begun shaping this metamorphosis for me.

The things that have kept me so busy, making beads and selling beads, are falling by the wayside, more and more with every passing day.

I'm feeling mostly OK about that. What I'm not yet clear about is what is waiting around the riverbend, what my new normal day-to-day life will be like.

Of course, I'm begging the issue that the next nine months will be spent getting ready to move 1,100 miles across the country. So it won't really be our new normal. That won't happen until we are settled in our new digs, which realistically won't happen immediately on the day we move in. We could be talking about quite a while.

There are lots of things that are going to happen while we are embarking on this life shift that I shall perhaps call our new interim normal.

My children, their partners, and my grandson will all be here for Thanksgiving, a very bright spot on the near horizon.

We will welcome another grandson in December when Neil's daughter Laurie has her baby.

We have a trip to Austin on the books to see Chelsea in back-to-back shows, her weekly Loverboy improv troupe show and Doper than Dope 2, a comedy sketch ensemble show.

We'll go directly from Austin to Lake Charles for Laurie's husband Luke's graduation from McNeese State University.

The Christmas holiday is a big question mark right now. Kandace and Chris are going to Minnesota. Chelsea and Rob are going to Michigan. Baby Blake's due date is December 24. So we won't make a plan quite yet.

Sometime in there we might sandwich another trip to North Carolina. We're still waiting for some details and updates to the design documentation, which we may be able to finalize this week. After that, while the mortgage company has the appraisal done, we are supposed to have a preconstruction meeting with the builder and the design consultant. This could be done via Facetime, but we have the option to meet onsite to stake the lot and I want to be there.

I know. I surprise myself. I don't want to move. But I've somehow gotten invested in building this house. I'm the one poring over the 19-pages of design selections, pondering our paint decisions, rethinking drawer pulls versus knobs.

Once the appraisal is complete, we will close on the construction loan. And that's when construction would begin. Weather permitting of course.

I can't say that I'm sorry that the timing puts this around the first day of winter. I'm in no rush to get there. I wouldn't mind if it takes more than 9 months to complete the house.

Many things could happen in that much time. Neil might even fall in love with the new grandchild. Although honestly, his desire to leave Texas for a climb with four seasons seems to so far override all other considerations that the most I can hope for is delay.

And at some point, delay will become limbo, and we all know how little I love limbo. At some point I will want to just do it already. Start living there, start working toward our true new normal, so we can actually find out how much we really like it.

What will it be like, a day in our new house? Will Neil be in the basement, watching Star Trek re-runs while I am up on the second floor binge-watching something on Netflix? Or will Neil be out planting raddishes while I fire up my natural gas-fueled torch and crank out a few beads?

Will we take a walk into Birkdale Village, stop at Kilwin's for ice cream or Starbucks for lattes or Fat Daddy's for burgers? Will we take in a movie at the Regal Birkdale Stadium 16? Will we go grocery shopping at Harris Teeter and grill salmon steaks on our natural gas grill? Will we take a yoga class or visit the Cornelius branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library? Will I volunteer at the Cornelius Animal Shelter?

I don't know. At least I am thinking about it, when I'm not playing emu or Scarlet O'Hara.

First though we have to figure out what our days will be like when Neil isn't working 13 days out of 14. When he isn't so stressed and mentally exhausted that he falls asleep on the sofa watching Texas hold'em or women's softball or movies where most of the cast has long since shuffled off this mortal coil.

I hope we have fun. I hope it's a joy. I hope the freedom will give us permission to be creative and impulsive and unstructured and evolving and civic-minded and expansive.

Oh yes, this week I made dream beads for Beads of Courage.

For Nathaniel, age 4. "Red, yellow and black, with ears like Mickey Mouse. Nathanial is finally healthy enough to go on his Make-A-Wish trip to Disney world. He is absolutely beside himself. He had worked so hard and been through so much. This is a huge milestone!"

For Benjamin, age 7. "Captain America bead Like Captain America's shield, red, white and blue with a star in the middle."

For Bentley, age 6 "Bentley's bead would be Wonder Women or the Wonder Women "W" and would be sparkly and have lots of glitter! She has always been our Wonder Women and she loves all things glittery! She also loves princess crowns so it would be awesome to have a crown incorporated into her Wonder Women bead."

For Jocelyn, age 18. "I would like black boxing gloves with a cancer ribbon holding them together one so de of the ribbon purple and the other side of the ribbon green! Maybe some bumpy dots on the gloves. I would like a J on the one glove and a N on the other (those are my initials) if you could add maybe a music note dangling off the bottom! I would like it to be a decent size I hope you can make this and I get chosen for the dream bead!"

I have to say, I love doing them. I like the challenge. I like the idea that I am doing something philanthropic. I like using my skill for something that is more than one more bauble, however pretty.

I love the idea of my bead being a little light in the dark uncertainty of childhood cancer for a child and his or her family.

I'm riding shotgun down the avalanche
Tumbling and falling down the avalanche

So be quiet tonight the stars shine bright
On this mountain of new fallen snow
But I will raise up my voice into the void
You have left me nowhere to go

I love you so much and it's so bizarre
A mystery that goes on and on and on
This is the best thing and the very most hard
And we don't get along

After countless appeals we keep spinning our wheels
On this mountain of new fallen snow
So I let go the catch and we are over the edge
You have left me nowhere to go

Sometimes you make me lose my will to live
And just become a beacon for your soul
But the past is stronger than my will to forgive
Forgive you or myself, I don't know

I'm riding shotgun down the avalanche
Tumbling and falling down the avalanche

So be quiet tonight be sure to step lightly
On this mountain of new fallen snow
But I will raise up my voice into the void
You have left me nowhere to go

I'm riding shotgun down the avalanche.

(Shawn Colvin, John Leventhal)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Post-election blues and reds

'There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah."

So, I had my little flutter with the $1 starting bid auctions. In about 3 days, I moved a lot of older stock and racked up about one grand in sales. Not bad at all. Then we left for North Carolina so I had a forced week off from selling on Facebook.

When we got home, I picked up where I left off and had another flurry of buy-it-nows. I cut apart a lot of sets and sold the beads in pairs, pair duos and small sets. At first it was great but after a few days, the BINs slowly ground to a halt and I was getting more bids of $1, $2, $3, etc. Many listings eventually sold for what I wanted or close, but it took the full 24 hours and I lost my turnover leverage.

Then it got worse. A few acutions closed at $3, including 3 focals. Face palm. That was an experiment. I wouldn't say they were my best work, nor my worst, but they were worth more than $3. I could have donated them to Beads of Courage and taken a charitable tax deduction and felt better about that. Then some pair duos sold for only $4-$6 and I decided it was time to stop selling on the bargain site. At least for now.

Not that I'm selling much on the usual sites. One long-time customer, who won two of the $3 focals, did buy some of my beads at regular prices, out of guilt I think.

In the meantime I strung up and took pictures of a lot more pairs and small sets. Maybe I'll try again on the bargain site in a week or so, maybe I'll try them at low start bids - but not $1 - on the other selling sites.

Once again I am rethinking everything, from the reasons I make beads, to what I want to make, to where - if anywhere - I want to take my art.

I finished my article for Glass Line magazine and Neil took photos of the bead I made for my tutorial. I submitted all of it, received and looked over the first draft, made corrections, and sent some more photos as requested. It mostly feels like a relief to have it off my plate, and it also feels a bit dreamlike. This should feel like a big honor and an ego boost and I should really care about it, but honestly? I'm phoning it in. It's good enough and that's good enough.

Being featured in a print magazine, being sought out no less, should feel something like I've arrived, no? Like I'm a real, respected, legitimate artist. And it's coming at a time when I've lost or misplaced my joy in making beads.

In related irony, we are trying to finalize the design on our new house and one of the last outstanding issues are the studio specs. I still want to err on the safe side and have a suitable studio to make beads in. But I can imagine a future without beads too.

Neil wants to lock in the mortgage interest rate, but everything is contingent on signing off on the design, so the pressure is on to get this sorted out. I've been talking and emailing with the builder and have come up with a rough plan that he now has to take to the HVAC contractor and chief mechanical engineer.

More likely than not I'll still have to use propane because having both a ventilation hood and a natural gas hookup might be construed as a second cook space which triggers a lot of building code ramifications. I'm still hoping that if I can't have a gas connection in the studio, I can tap into the one we are putting in for a gas grill and pipe it in the same way I'd pipe in propane.

It's astonishing to me that Neil is going along with whatever modifications are necessary and whatever additional costs might be incurred. I know he is doing whatever is in his power to influence my happiness in our future home. I also think he likes it that I make beads, which is tenably an idiosyncratic and hip type of art to make.

Whatever happens, I'll do some sort of arts or crafts and it won't hurt to have a nice tile-floored studio space. Maybe I'll finally get a lapidary wheel. Maybe I'll explore electroplating. Maybe I'll try my hand at enameling again.

Or maybe I'll take up knitting and crocheting and work out of bedroom two instead. I won't be the first person to have wasted a boatload of money on an art or craft they failed to pursue. Hell, it won't be the first time I've done it myself. I have the camera and lenses to bear witness.

Would I be remiss if I didn't mention the presidential election that happened this week? What I deemed an unthinkable outcome happened. Now all Americas must live with the consequences of half of America's choice, but as the other candidate said, let's keep an open mind, give him a chance to lead and see what happens.

Watching the returns was like watching the final game of the world series that went into overtime tied. The visiting team was the one I was rooting for, but knowing the home team could end the game with a walkoff made it too stressful to watch. I left Neil to sweat it out and went to bed. My team did win in the 10th.

I also went to bed with the election hanging in the balance, but my team did not win.

It was all the more shocking because it contradicted all the early polls, all the reliable prognostications. My favored candidate started the day with an 85 percent chance of winning.

And yet, at one point on the news, some commentator stated that the chances of the other candidate winning were about the same as a professional football player missing a 37-yard field goal. That gave me an eerie feeling. I've seen that happen multiple times. And I don't watch much football.

So the other candidate missed the field goal but took home the ring.

Yesterday for the first time in a long time, I felt blue about something that wasn't myself. A dreary day matched my mood.

But the earth continuued to spin. The market bounced back from free-fall to a near-record high. Today dawned sunny and clear. People continued to buy beads.

I know we're in a little bubble now, a tepid zone between election and inauguration. A time when it's possible to think that the wheels of government move slowly and maybe not too many bad things will happen in the next four years. Maybe even some good things will happen.

I do realize that I'm in a privileged class, even though I am a woman. I'm white. I'm not poor. I'm not young, which in this context is a good thing. I'm an American already. I have health insurance that doesn't rely on the Affordable Care Act. I'm married - and straight. I can continue to be non-racist, non-sexist, pro-choice, anti-death penalty.

In fact I can continue to be what we it would behoove all of us who are demoralized by the results of this election to be. And that is the change we want to see in the world.

Or to more properly quote Mahatma Gandhi.
We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.

This week we also said goodbye to the brillian songwriter and musician Leonard Cohen, who went to stand before the Lord of Song on the night before the great election debacle of 2016.

It may have all gone wrong, but it's not over for us, not yet. It is what it is, and it's what we do with it that's important now. I for one will be doing my best. I hope you will too, whichever way you voted.

Well I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did well, really what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Now maybe there's a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
And it's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not someone who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

But baby I've been here before
I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew you
And I've seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Well there was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show that to me do you
But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I learned to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

(Leonard Cohen, 9/21/74-11/7/2016)