Monday, July 17, 2017

It's all about me

"Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake
I'll be watching you."

Since before he retired late last year, Neil has been growing his hair.

I like it, or at least I don't dislike it. He's cute with short hair too. He's having fun with having it longer and that encourages me to encourage him to keep it growing.

But the other night, after dusk, Neil wanted to get the mail. He loves mail. Our mail comes late mostly, which doesn't stop him checking the box earlier in the day if he's out and about, and sometimes when he isn't.

Our mailbox is at the end of our street, eight, maybe ten houses away. He said, I think I'll drive. I wondered why. He said, I wouldn't want our neighbors to get nervous seeing some long-haired hippie strolling down the street after twilight.

I said, you're too self conscious. You are way more self conscious than I am.

That got me thinking, is self consciousness a bad thing or a good thing?

I mean, I'd walk to the mailbox in my workout clothes and my crocs, no makeup or jewelry, and not give it any thought. I would go (and have gone) to the post office and the grocery story that way, just because I didn't think about it when I was walking out the door.

In some ways I'm vain and in other ways I rarely give my appearance a first thought, let alone a second.

Last week, I had a facial, primarily because I had some milia on my neck that I wanted removed. I had the whole shebang facial just for the aesthetician to extract a few comedones.

It was worth it. My skin is squeaky clean and glows. I may just make a habit of it again.

I have my hair done once a month to conceal the gray, but I'm thinking about letting it grow out once we move. It's time consuming and costly and I might just look good as a (is there a word for gray-haired like blonde or brunette?) gray headed person. I'll never know if I don't try.

In addition I have my nails done every three weeks or so. I have a gel nail french manicure - what the salon girls call "a pink and white" - and I love the look, but I get it for a more compelling reason. Without the coating, my nails split, chip and peel and I can't stop picking at them.

It's for similar reasons that I wear my hair long and pulled back in a ponytail always. If my hair is down, even if it is short, I play with it obsessively. I also pull it out. I have some version of trichotillomania, a hair-pulling presentation of OCD. I have lots of hair so there'd never be bald places, and I also pull it selectively, a hair here and a hair there, the oddball kinky ones among my generally soft wavy tresses. It makes me crazy, but pulling it back snuffs the urge totally, so that's my solution and it suits me.

Circling back to self-consciousness, I think over the course of my life I went from having too much of it to having very little and possibly not enough.

My mom, bless her critical heart, once commented that I never did anything unselfconsciously, and she didn't mean it as a compliment. It's true that as a kid and moreso as a teenager, I never really relaxed into myself, spoke my mind naturally and unguardedly, lived in the moment without preoccupation about living in the moment. I struggled with feelings of inadequacy, of not being a whole, fully-fledged human being but a deficient one who would say and do the wrong things if not carefully monitored and censored.

The roots of my lack of self confidence or more succinctly, my lack of a good self image, run deeply and mysteriously. I don't think it was innate, I think it was subtly conditioned into me, particularly by my mother, presumably an outgrowth of her own repressed self doubts.

I've talked about this before and all these years later, with my mom dead for more than three years, it doesn't really matter any more. Whatever shaped me, whatever work I did to understand and overcome my insecurities, I am where I am and who I am and it is what it is.

I do remember feeling that there were two of me, one living and interacting, the other observing and judging. I lived that way for a long time and I'm not sure when I stopped feeling that way, only that I did. For the most part I stopped caring what people thought of me, maybe because I made peace with myself and felt okay about myself. I won't say I didn't want to be liked, but not at the cost of trying to be someone I wasn't. If someone had a problem with that, well fox 'em if they can't take a joke.

That feeling of watching myself does come back every now and then, but usually only when I invite it. There are times when we are out with a group of friends or at some family event, when I will step outside of myself for a minute and think, look, there's that Elizabeth, welcome in a circle of friends and love and camaraderie, taking her place at the table, that scrawny, awkward, diffident girl, who would have thought it? And I bask for a moment before I return to my body, forget myself again and resume simply living.

That's not a bad thing, it's more about gratitude and affirmation, and not taking things for granted, and appreciating how far I've come. It's about being present.

There is another side of being unselfconscious that isn't so laudable. If you aren't conscious of yourself, you may find yourself saying things that you can't backspace over, even though you'd like to. While you don't want to have to weigh every word and you do want to be authentic (at least I do), it's not always good for your mouth to be faster than your brain.

I have a tendency to be blunt, to speak what's on my mind. I do try to be tactful, but it's not like writing a blog post where you stop and think, cut and paste, delete and rewrite. Things don't always come out sounding they way I intended. That can be true of print too, and at some point it's not worth writing if you overthink every word and put every opinion on a leash. My best writing I think comes from a place of unselfconsciousness, where words flow naturally rather than being carefully crafted.

So, it's a paradox. Too much self-consciousness is akin to self-aggrandizement. Face it, you aren't all that important, the world doesn't revolve around you. People really don't care that much what you think or say or do, so you might as well be yourself. Live your life, stop being the fly on the wall of your own existence, stop judging every move you make.

Too little self-consciousness is tantamount to too little inhibition, and while sex, drugs and rock 'n roll might sound like fun, it's not your soundest long-term life model.

Finding the balance might be your best bet for living a purposeful, intentional life. And by your, I mean my.

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I'll be watching you

Oh, can't you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I'll be watching you

Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace
I dream at night, I can only see your face
I look around, but it's you I can't replace
I feel so cold, and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby please

Oh, can't you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I'll be watching you

Every move you make
Every step you take
I'll be watching you

I'll be watching you.

(Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner aka Sting)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Being spendy to be trendy

"Yeah... can we call it a loan
Till I'm paid in full for the seeds I've sown
Yeah... can we say that I've grown
In some way that we may have yet to be shown."

So as I was saying, we have a closing date on our new house. August 31.

That gives us almost two months to finish packing. I may find time to use up that last tank of propane after all.

My glass is packed but no fear, I bought some new glass, just a couple of pounds, just enough to augment what's left on my table.

I will say my motivation has flagged a bit, more than it usually does in these hot months. Maybe the carrot of an air-conditioned studio in the new house makes me less determined to keep going in the garage despite sweltering weather.

I did clean my bench, something I hadn't done in longer than I can remember, probably longer than ever. I usually clean it up about once a week, but I'd let it go, thinking I was winding down, so why bother.

For me, a clean bench is more conducive to creativity, although I know that's not universally true. I know bead makers who, the last time they cleaned their work space was never.

Some people can work with an inch of shorts and bits and bobs burying their bench. I can too, but it's not my preference.

As usual, my latest new design did not fly off the cyber-shelves. But I'm selling just enough to make it worth continuing to list, with the occasional good day.

I reread that last sentence and I'm throwing the bullshit flag on myself. I'm really not selling enough to make it worthwhile. I'm selling not enough to avoid feeling a little sick and sad about it. I bounce between feeling demoralized because I lack talent and feeling angry that my beautiful work is being ignored.

There is evidence to support both theories. I see some seasoned bead makers struggling, not selling everything or much of anything, some still selling only after reducing their prices. Yet I see people buying, sometimes really pretty beads for high prices, sometimes more generic beads for astonishing prices. There are still bead makers who sell everything they list.

Which begs the question, why am I still looking at this since it only hurts? What about the bead makers who've stopped listing because they weren't selling? I guess it's because they aren't in my Facebooking face, they are simply absent for reasons unknown.

It's almost moot because before much longer I'll be packing my gear and that's not just the studio, it's also the shipping supplies and the inventory.

I've been rubbing salt in my wounds by selling on the bargain site again. While I do get some buy-it-nows, most beads sell for a fraction of my already discounted prices. It stings, especially when someone bids $1 to start. That feels like an insult. Come on, at least bid $2. It's more than worth that.

It's a conundrum because the hurt is balanced by the smidge of validation that selling any damn thing temporarily buys me.

A few examples of the new design. Priced at $18-$20. Not sold. Why ask why.

In the bigger picture, it doesn't amount to much whether I stop selling now or keep going, contenting myself with the occasional fair sale and the liberation of reducing inventory, albeit some at rock bottom prices. Pretty soon the break will be enforced. The more shipping supplies I use up, the lighter my packing load.

You see the hamster wheel that my brain is running on. Indecision is a decision too.

So, I'm making an affirmative decision. I'm swearing off selling on the bargain site. I'll keep listing at regular prices if I feel like it until I run out of time or bubble mailers, whichever happens first. If I sell anything fine, if not, I'll try not to take it to heart. I'll even try not to dissect the reasons.

When I set up again in North Carolina, it could be a whole new ballgame. I'm willing to give that endearing notion the benefit of the doubt.

Oh, on top of everything, I slipped off the wagon and bought beads. Just two sets, but I'd been doing so well, after packing my collection and deciding it was complete. Like a true junkie getting a fix after a clean spell, I felt an instant sense of relief when I hit the place-order button. Not regret or chagrin but relief. But having scratched that itch, I'm climbing back on the wagon.

I was also a little spendy in other areas. I keep getting sucked in when discounts and sales appear in my Facebook feed for items I've shopped for. I now have two more pairs of sandals, a Katwise sweater and a new torch. I've continued to resist tank tops and a dress from Target, more cute shirts from Life is Good and more Fluevogs.

Part of the spend is about some image I want to create of myself after we move. Yeah that's me, strutting about the neighborhood in Vogs and an overpriced trendy upcycled sweater coat, clearly only the best will do for me. I'm sure no one will care or notice, but that's the thought process behind the dirty deeds.

And the torch, well the price was right and I'd been thinking about getting a smaller torch to run on natural gas in the new studio. I'll see how that goes and have my workhorse torch serviced and then make a decision about keeping or selling it.

And I have a new reason to be thrifty. Long story short, Kandace and Chris bought a house. They had to stretch on their budget, and I'm partly to blame. I noticed that a little more money, i.e., 10 percent more, seemed to buy a lot more house, and I offered to help. Unfortunately I didn't put parameters on the offer, such as having to approve of the house they chose. So they chose a house with a pool and while it's a nice house, my intent was to help them buy a newer, more contemporary house, not an older house with a pool.

I worry about pools, the upkeep, the risk, the liability, although I see the appeal too. Yet something in me balks at contributing directly to the cost of the house because of the pool. So instead, because I don't want to renege on a promise that wasn't well articulated, I've offered to pay off Kandace's credit card debt That should at least help alleviate the pressure of paying a higher house note.

Now I just have to come up with the money. I've budgeted for some bigger ticket items this year, a stake in the new house, a new car after the move, furnishings for my new studio. It will be the first time since I retired six years ago that I will make a withdrawal from savings. I've paid my way all this time with a combination of stretching my separation pay and selling beads. Of late, with bead sales circling the drain, sales of glass and supplies have beefed up my liquidity.

Now for the first time I'm staring down the barrel of making a substantial withdrawal. I want to do this just once. I want to make it last until 2018 when I plan to start collecting Social Security.

Having an income again will be sweet and hopefully enough to pay my freight. If I have to do without designer shoes and trendy couture to make that happen, then that is my plan.

No time like the present to put it into practice.

A few more pretties, revisiting an older style that once was my best seller. Not sold. Yet.

In the morning when I closed my eyes
You were sleeping in paradise
And while the room was growing light
I was holding still with all my might

Oh... what if it's true
Mm... What my heart says
Oh... what'll I do
What if this feeling becomes hard to part with

You were meant to play your part
In the design of a desperate heart
And while you gave your love to me
I was betting I was getting it free

Oh... If I'd only known
Mm... What your heart cost
Oh... can we call it a loan
And a debt that I owe
On a bet that I lost

In the evening when you see my eyes
Looking back at you, no disguise
I'm not sure who you think you'll see
I'm just hoping you'll still know that it's me

Oh... what if it's true
Mm... Better ask the man inside
Oh, oh... there seem to be two
One steals the love and the other one hides

Yeah... can we call it a loan
Till I'm paid in full for the seeds I've sown
Yeah... can we say that I've grown
In some way that we may have yet to be shown

Oh... if I'd only known
Mm ... What your heart cost
Oh... can we call it a loan
And a debt that I owe
On a bet that I lost.

(Jackson Browne)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Moving heaven, earth and house

"The key to traveling light is to not need very much."

It's beginning to look a lot like a real house. With planter boxes.
The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is a faint glimmer.

I'm nearing the end of packing up my glass and selling what I'm ready to let go of.

There are still tools to sort, clean, pack or sell, plus pixie dust, leaf and foil, some dichro, random odds and ends.

And the big items, kiln, ventilation hood, maybe torch and oxycon (but probably not).

And believe it or not, I'm still working. I'm slowly using up all the short rods on my bench, the stringer, twisties, silvered ivory and murrini.

I've had to be a bit creative there. Beads of Courage has asked for five deep-sea-themed beads that will be carried on the USS Tucson submarine. Four will be sold in fund raisers, one will become part of a permanent exhibit.

All fine, except I had no blue rods left, nor ivory rods left. I scrounged through the detritus on my table and found enough pieces of blue stringer, some sparkly blue aventurine, a partial rod of a color called Supernova that is more purple than blue but close enough. I made five fun two-tone beads with lots of raised blue dots and some blue sparkle.

I'm calling them Deep Blue Sea Urchins. That's my story.

My goal now is to run down my tank of propane. I wish I hadn't bought another backup tank, but someone will take it off my hands. I think when this tank runs out, that will be my hard stop.

I've packed a lot of my beads, but I'm going to keep a couple of trays so I can keep selling beads, maybe for another month, at least through mid-July. Sales have been tepid with the occasional good day, so it's worth keeping on for now.

We ironed out the last details on the house, initialled the last change order, and with luck we'll be able to estimate progress soon and gauge the likelihood of an August closing.

Neil has ordered a pod to be delivered in mid-July. The pod company will take it to NC and store it there until we are ready for it. We have a second pod reserved in case we need it, which I suspect we will. We still have to organize the movers for the furniture and then there is the 1,100 mile drive with the three cats to look forward to. I may die.

No, it is what it is. I will blunder through it somehow.

My daughter put her house on the market and sold it the next day. Moving is contagious. Two of our four kids are in the throes of moving houses. Three if you count Chris moving out of Laurie's house into a place to live for his last six months of school. And Chelsea mentioned wanting to move into a new place even if she and her boyfriend stay in Austin for another year.

I'm so happy about Kandace getting what she wanted for her house, full asking price, cash buyers, a 45-day leaseback option. Now she and her Chris just have to find the right house for the right price to buy. The timing may be perfect for me to be able to give her some things for her new house that I've been saving for her.

Better yet, we may all be able to get together in Austin for a mini vacation in late July, if the house things fall into place as they should. My soul needs that.

It's all still somewhat dreamlike to me. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I still wonder if we really are doing this. That's partly because I'm not feeling all the feelings. I'm doing what needs to be done (for the most part) and waiting to see if another shoe will fall or not.

I suspect it will hit me (the feelings, not the hypothetical shoe) at some point, whether it be when we load the pod, when we sign the closing documents, when we peel out with the cats, when we finally lay down our heads in our new home, or sometime further down the line, when the new home stops feeling like a hotel or an airbnb.

I predict that if it doesn't hit me sooner, busyness will be a drug for a while as we unpack and settle in and get the stuff we need to replace the stuff we're ditching and to fill the extra square feet we're gaining.

To wit, new photos.

From the kitchen, looking through the living room with fireplace at left.
Our glorious utility room.Well, it will be a showcase when our wood cabinets, granite counter and sink are in.
Our dining room, with doors going out to our screened outdoor living area, and a view of our neighbors' pool.
According to our lender, our build is 68% complete. Almost 10 months from signing the paperwork, and two months until closing.

And just as if I'd planned it, we have reservations to be in North Carolina for the solar eclipse on August 21. That trip will nicely dovetail with our walk-through and pre-settlement orientation.

By September 1, we may actually live there.

Call the folks, leave a note, lock the doors and windows
Pack the truck, here's to luck, here's to how the wind blows
Got the cash, got the gas, now lose the map and compass
Now read the signs obey the lines, follow all your hunches
'Cause now it's just the open road
One small heart and a great big soul that's driving

Radio singing low just like a true companion
LA's lights wavy bright, they follow like a lantern
Then morning comes and desert sun rises like redemption
Another day to make your way from answer back to question
Out here on the open road
One small heart and a great big soul that's driving

No set of directions, no shortcuts
Just some empty soda cans, some cigarette butts
The key to traveling light is to not need very much

Late tonight you'll see the lights of a thousand stars above you
And at a roadside stop you'll call to talk to a voice
Back home that swears to love you
But at the sound of the tone you'll hang up the phone
And peel out of that joint
You might try again God knows when, at least they got the point
They lost you to the open road, one small heart
And a great big soul that's driving, driving
Out here on the open road
One small heart and a great big soul that's driving.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Low-biorhythmic cycling

"You do your best to keep your hand in play
And try to keep those lonesome blues at bay
You think you're winning but it's hard to say, sometimes."

In general, I am a lucky person.

I've had my struggles, sure. I've lost at love, but I've also broken hearts, not that I intended to, or that I'm proud of it.

My first marriage failed (or I failed or we failed), but I have two amazing daughters because of it.

My parents are gone, but they lived long lives, my dad's just three weeks shy of 90 year, my mom's 90 years and a few months.

I've done time on the ocean floor, thanks to a lover who left me, but I've been in a stable, happy relationship with my best friend since 2002, married to him since 2008.

So when I say that I've had some low-biorhythmic episodes lately, I assure you it's all small stuff.

I'll talk about it anyway. Because that's how I roll.

I've just about resigned myself to not selling any beads. I took 10 days off from listing after a trunk show where I had a total of five sales, after I spent $20 for a sponsored ad on Facebook. I should know better. All my sales were to regular customers, so I can safely say the ad did nothing.

Then one of the customers who won two sets asked me to etch them. I've done this before for her but I wasn't planning to do any tumbling any time soon. I said no and she backed out of the sale. So, I did it after all, because $36.

An Etsy shopper asked me for a custom set of four beads, similar to one on one of my beaded keys that she found in my sold items. I gave her a price, she said go ahead, I made the beads. Came back to a message, please cancel this request.

My original sold beaded key.

I pretended that I didn't see that note. I wrote, I made your beads this morning and they came out really nicely. I'll send you a photo. I did send a photo and set up a reserved listing and I was surprised that she bought the beads. But then of course she got them and said they looked darker in real life. She had made one up into a suncatcher and she sent a photo.
Suncatcher with new custom order bead.

She didn't match the bead well, but she specifically asked for medium transparent blue and that is what I made for her.

Again, I didn't respond to the criticism. I said, Wow! Your dragonfly looks awesome! If we weren't moving this summer, I'd want to buy one.

Then she sent me a photo of another artist's bead and asked if I could make her some like it. I should have said no on principle. But any sale is welcome at the moment and it was a dot pattern I have made before myself. So I priced it and she decided to wait. Just as well. Some customers are hinky and best avoided, sale or no sale.

I contacted Beads of Courage last week about payment for the beads I sent in April. The coordinator was apologetic and promised I was first in line for payment. Nothing yet. I will give it another day or two and then send photos of the new 100 pairs and ask again. I know I will get paid and I'm not taking money out of my mouth by sending these beads off to BOC instead of listing them. If they were selling steadily it might be different.

I'm almost though washing and bundling all my glass. Two more days and the shelves will be bare. I still have all the glass on my bench, tools murrini, dichro and assorted oddments to pack or queue up for sale.

More from the low biorhythm archives, I'd received a $25 gift card to Pei-Wei, a place I don't especially care for. Neil likes it though, so we ordered dinner online for pickup. Neil took the card to pay and the card was declined.

Neil and I debated what to do. Neil wanted to let the giver know. I suspected the card was a regift and that for $25 it wasn't worth making the giver feel badly and worse, obligated to give another gift. I wanted to let it go. I finally said, ask Laurie what she would do. Laurie felt the same way I did, so we let it go.

At least the sushi rolls were delicious.

In other news, we had a nice visit with Kandace, Ry and Chris this weekend. My boy is 5 years old. We had some nice dinners, a fun visit to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. And of course, birthday cake.

Lucky at love, well maybe so
There's still a lot of things you'll never know
Like why each time the sky begins to snow, you cry

You're faithful to her in your careless way
And so you miss her when she's far away
But every time you think you've got it straight, you fall

You face the future with a weary past
Those dreams you banked upon are fading fast
You know you love her, but it may not last, you fear

It's never easy and it's never clear
Who's to navigate and who's to steer
And so you flounder, drifting ever near the rocks

It's hard to say where love went wrong
It's hard to say just when (it's so hard to say)
It's hard to walk away from love
It may never come again

You do your best to keep your hand in play
And try to keep those lonesome blues at bay
You think you're winning but it's hard to say, sometimes

It's hard to say where love went wrong
It's hard to say just when (it's so hard to say)
It's hard to walk away from love
It may never come again

Lucky at love, well maybe so
There's still a lot of things you'll never know
Like why each time the sky begins to snow, you cry
Well, you cry
Oh, you still have to cry.

Dan Fogelberg

Monday, June 5, 2017

Packed not packed

"I am memory and stillness, I am lonely in old age
I am not your destination, I am clinging to my ways
I am a town."

As conflicted as I am about moving, packing has become an addiction.

Getting started has always been the hardest part for me.

My bead collection is packed, every bead tissue wrapped and tucked into plastic shoebox sized containers which were then placed in sturdy file boxes and stabilized with filler items.

It's a lot like doing a puzzle, finding things the right size and shape to fit in the boxes and provide insulation.

A lot of my glass is packed that way too, bubble wrapped, in stacking trays that just fit into the file boxes with room on the side for miscellaneous lightweight buffer items.

I'll be packing a lot of sweaters, pillows, towels and other soft stuff to keep my glass safe and whole.

I've worked through at least 75 percent of my glass stash to the extent that it's washed and bundled but not yet all boxed. Some is queued up to be sold.

I've already sold dozens of pounds of glass. I've gone through at least 20 cubic feet of packing peanuts and scores of boxes, rolls and rolls of bubble wrap and shrink wrap.

Beads sales have been slow but steady sales of glass have compensated in terms of cash flow and constant trips to the post office.

For the most part I'm not losing any money on the glass. I price it at a price that if it sells it sells and if not I get to keep it so I really don't care. Mostly it sells.

I'm probably not making much of a profit, when you take into account PayPal fees and all the costs of shipping, but I don't need all the glass I have, the cost is sunk, and I know I got some pretty good deals on some of it, so even selling production colors for the going rate is probably not a loss for me.

I need to push through the last 25 percent of my glass, but I've turned my attention to my frit stash for the time being. So far I'm just selling frit I've accumulated from vendors over the years.

I'm not yet sure what I'm doing with my frit business, especially the raw materials for my own blends. Part of me is tempted to shut down the frit business and sell off the colors I use to mix my blends. I've toyed with trying to sell the recipes or the business itself, but it's called Elizabeth Beads Frit and I wouldn't want anyone doing a rubbish job of keeping it keeping on.

The alternative is to put some time and attention into it. I need to make new sample beads and take better photos for all 24 blends. I need to reorder single colors for the blend I am out of stock on. I need to create a Facebook group to promote and sell my blends.

At the beginning I had so much enthusiasm for the business, experimenting and coming up with new blends, but somehow I lost my mojo for frit. I don't love making frit beads the way I love making dot beads, for instance. This summer, especially once I have to shut down the torch, would be a good time to put a little effort into marketing my brand. If I set myself the task of at least making test beads for the blends before I close down the hot shop, I can work on the rest, at least until I have to pack my camera and computer.

It's a good plan and I'm mulling it over.

Beads of Courage ordered another hundred pairs of beads from me and I've already got most of them done or pulled from inventory. I'm just waiting a bit longer to send them as I haven't yet been paid for the 130 bead pairs I mailed on April 28. BOC is always slow to pay and often I have to remind them. April 9 will be six weeks, I'll plan to ask then.

In the meantime, we're living in boxland here. Neil has been packing just about everything that isn't nailed down or clearly mine. If it's mine he asks first. Usually. I'm clinging to keeping a few things in place so it still feels like home or something like home.

We got some new photos of the house from the lender and not much has happened since we were there except that more bricks have been applied. Damn, I really do love the brick color.

It makes me happy that it looks less like the house will be done early and more like our mid-August closing date might slip.

I know at some point it's probably better to get the move behind us and put an end to the anxiety and trepidation. As I said, I'm torn. I love it here but I've committed to go, so I might as well make the best of it.

One thing that gives me pause is when Neil complains about some aspect of the new house. We are losing some things. We won't have out lovely built-ins, but we can buy furniture and shelving to fill the gap. We are losing closet space, including separate master bedroom closets, but we've customized a compromise with lots of shelving and a divider island. We'll have a nice dining area, but not both a breakfast room and dining room. And every time Neil grumbles about one of these things or another, I tell him that I need him to stay 100 percent positive to keep me buoyed up.

Really, I'm not feeling too disquieted. I'm not feeling, period. I'm going with the flow, letting it happen. Accentuating the positive even. Planning furniture placement, picking out lighting, changing my mind, picking out lighting again. Eating, sleeping, walking on the treadmill, binge watching crime drama. The usual.

I finished rewatching Lost. I enjoyed it, maybe even more this time. I'd forgotten enough to keep it interesting. I was still shocked when Michael shot Ana Lucia and Libby. I picked up nuances that escaped me the first time. I appreciated how the producers circled back to things in earlier episodes, and I wondered how far out they'd storyboarded the plot and how much was inspired back-planning.

I loved many of the same scenes I loved the first time, Bernard and Rose retired and living on the beach, Jin meeting Rousseau as a girl, Juliet drinking on the shore after the tanker blew up, Sawyer convincing her to give him two weeks to change her mind about staying, Hurley using the VW Van to take out the bad guys, Desmond, well just about everything about Desmond. I loved how when Juliet made the hydrogen bomb explode, the letters Lost came up in black on white, rather than the characteristic white on black.

The ending was still the ending, but at least this time I knew it was coming and I didn't get into a blue funk for days, like I did the first time. I did have a little bit of withdrawal, since I'd been watching two or three episodes most days for the last month or two. But I move on. Onto the most recent episodes of Jack Taylor at the moment.

Oh, I'm taking a little break from selling beads on Facebook. Today was the first day and it felt good. Hypothetically this will free up some of my time.

So you'll be hearing from me more. At least that's the plan.

I'm a town in Carolina, I'm a detour on a ride
For a phone call and a soda, I'm a blur from the driver's side
I'm the last gas for an hour if you're going 25
I am Texaco and tobacco, I am dust you leave behind

I am peaches in September, and corn from a roadside stall
I'm the language of the natives, I'm a cadence and a drawl
I'm the pines behind the graveyard, and the cool beneath their shade
Where the boys have left their beer cans, I am weeds between the graves

My porches sag and lean with old black men and children
My sleep is filled with dreams, I never can fulfill them
I am a town.

I'm a church beside the highway, where the ditches never drain
I'm a Baptist like my daddy, and Jesus knows my name
I am memory and stillness, I am lonely in old age
I am not your destination, I am clinging to my ways
I am a town

I'm a town in Carolina, I am billboards in the fields
I'm an old truck up on cinder blocks, missing all my wheels
I am Pabst Blue Ribbon, American, and Southern Serves the South
I am tucked behind the Jaycees' sign, on the rural route
I am a town
I am a town
I am a town

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bricked and mortified

"But I don't have a hold on what is real
Though we can only try
What is there to give or to believe."

We're between trips just now. Barely. We have Ryland's birthday weekend in Keller coming up and we just got back from Lake Charles.

Before that we spent five days in North Carolina.

What did we do? What didn't we do?

The house is framed and wired. Bricks were being applied all week. We met with the builder and made a few tweaks, added a couple more cans and data ports.

I really, really love the brick color. It reminds me of home.

We met with the landscape company and Neil sketched out his ideas about a kidney shaped island and raised garden beds.

We met with the closet designer and brainstormed how to create an illusion of separate closet space with a center island.

We tagged the granite slabs for our kitchen island and counters. Hmm, that's the second time I mentioned islands. Did I mention I was rewatching Lost?

We went back to the lighting company and chose a dining room chandelier. Only it turns out it may be too big for our space. I personally liked the smaller version of it just as much, one level of lamps versus two. So I think we are good there.

We met with two shutter companies. One uses all North American hardwoods. The other uses "Pollywood." I guess we'll see how the estimates compare.

We met some of our neighbors, three ladies with young kids, chatting in the park. I called them a hen party, which made Neil laugh.

We walked around the pond which is all wooded and nothing like walking around our pond here. At least the ducks are familiar.

We ate a lot of ice cream. Also soup, pizza, sushi, sandwiches and grilled chicken. We drank lots of lattes and mochas and strong coffee and ate scones and muffins.

We went to the bead store in Mooresville and I bought a few things.

We look a walk at Jetton Park on Lake Norman.

Always good to have a nuclear emergency plan in place.

We loved the airbnb we stayed at. We had an entire third floor suite. While it was not completely separated from the home, our hosts were friendly but respectful of our privacy.

In fact, it turned out we had a lot in common with them, a couple of about our age, with copathetic political views and a wealth of information about the area. I have leads on a housekeeper and cat sitter as well as an interior decorator.

We visited a furniture place about the size of three airline hangars. For jumbo jets. After that, I acquiesced to Neil's desire to use a decorator. I feel confident in my ability to arrange a room. What I don't have is the patience to scout out furniture pieces that suit my vision. I'd be thrilled to have a decorator just to help with sourcing.

Not that my vision is anything exceptional, nor do we need a massive amount of stuff. I want some simple, quality pieces at realistic prices. I'd like a round dining table, large enough to complement the space and to seat eight, maybe with a leaf. I want durable, cat-resistant sofas and armchairs. I want a couple of queen-sized guestroom beds and for the master bedroom, night stands (that could be small dressers) and twin larger dressers.

Those are the basics. I'm sure there will be more things that we'll find out we need. Neil thinks the stuff we are bringing will rattle around in the new house. I think we will fill it up pretty well. We'll see who'd right.

When we started out on the whole moving venture, I suspected - and warned Neil - that it would be stressful at times and that we might as well expect to be cross with each other at times. We had a couple of moments on this trip, although they weren't the sort I'd have predicted.

None of us sees ourselves as others see us. I see myself as kind and gracious and polite and respectful. Neil thinks I could be nicer to service people. I do try to be conscious of what I put out but sometimes what I think is appropriate makes Neil flinch.

I had a soft-serve ice cream in a sugar cone at Carolina Cones. Two days later I ordered the same thing and was told I couldn't have soft-serve in a sugar cone.

You're kidding right? I had one two days ago. Seriously? OK, what are my options? How about this. I'll have soft serve in a cup with a sugar cone on top.

I didn't think I was so bad, but I could tell Neil wasn't happy with me and that makes me doubt myself. I feel angry and confused because I'm not sure whether I'm truly a bad actor or if I'm being harshly judged.

And as sometimes happens, when you let down your defenses, all sorts of things spill over. Neil concedes that I have a special talent for having whatever I order in a restaurant come out wrong. For instance, bacon served on a sandwich when I asked for no bacon. Soup served room temperature. Cheese when I didn't want cheese. And no one seems to be able to get "eggs over medium" right.

However, while I might mention it to Neil, unless it is something like bacon (because I don't eat pork) I don't usually complain or send things back. But I'm going to have to stop mentioning it, in fact, from now on, unless something truly is inedible, it's going to be delicious, because I have to counteract the image Neil has of me as a complainer.

Relationships are so complicated, aren't they. I just want his good opinion so badly. I don't see myself as a complainer but if he does, then I might as well be one.

So this weekend we went to Cracker Barrel in Lake Charles and I ordered my eggs scrambled.

Extra points for me because I really don't like Cracker Barrel in the first place, but Laurie wanted to go and I didn't resist.

If it takes one "oh shit" to wipe out ten "attaboys" then I assume the reverse is true and I will have to be a martyr multiple times to reinvent my image in Neil's eyes.

And since his are the eyes that matter most, I will work at it.

By the shadows of the night I go
I move away from the crowded room
That sea of shallow faces masked in warm regret
They don't know how to feel
They don't know what is lost

Lost in the darkness of a land
Where all the hope that's offered is
Memories of being taken by the hand
And we are led into the sun
But I don't have a hold on what is real
Though we can only try
What is there to give or to believe

I want it all to go away
I want to be alone
Sympathy's wasted on my hollow shell
I feel there's nothing left to fight for
No reason for a cause
And I can't hear your voice
And I can't feel you near

I wanted a change
Knowing all I could do was try
I was looking for someone.

(Sarah McLachlan, Lost)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Renouncing attachment, thing by thing

"I'm a zephyr on the inside
And it's a hard ride when you feel your heart tied down
Hide-and-earth bound, but there's no tether
On a zephyr."

Selling glass is surprisingly addictive.

It could be the unconditional validation. Everything sells. Even things that don't sell, sell. Twice now I've posted "Sold to No-one" and within moments someone has messaged me and taken it off my hands.

It's a bit more complicated than selling beads, especially estimating the shipping and wrapping the glass securely. I've gotten pretty good at eyeballing what will mail for $10, what will need to go in a flat-rate box, what is too much for a flat-rate, etc.

My arms are getting a workout, bubble-wrapping and shrink-wrapping bundles of glass, taping up boxes and hauling them to the post office.

All-in-all, it's satisfying. The more I sell and ship out, the less I need to worry about packing. I've already started to sort out what I'm keeping and done some preliminary boxing, trying to come up with a system that protects the glass while not overloading the boxes.

I've stopped donating clothing and linens because I am planning to use them as box filler and donate them on the other side.

Every day I wash and rebundle a few lbs. of glass. The more I can do in May, the less I'll have to sweat through in June and July. I've gotten most of the low-hanging fruit at this point. It will get harder as I work my way up the shelving unit and get into more of the glass that I'm keeping.

Yet, like my collectibles. the more glass I let go of, the easier it gets to let go of more.

I'd like to say I'm feeling less anxiety about the move, but that would be a lie. I'm talking about the physical move now, not the more existential issue of living in North Carolina. I keep the anxiety about living there at bay with the anxiety about getting there.

I keep wondering if we are past the point of no return.

It's easy to rationalize that my glass needed to be cleaned up and thinned out anyway, so all this work is worthwhile independent of the move. The move is just a good motivator. I've known for a long time that I needed to do this, but I lacked motivation.

We got some new house pictures. Not much to say about these. Interesting perspective on the elevation. At least, I hope the house isn't actually listing.

Left windows are facades. Center windows are home office down and bonus room up.
Right windows are study down and guest bedroom up.

Great room with view of woods through scaffolding.

I imagine it will all seem more real after our upcoming trip. We'l be spending five days there, meeting with the builder, designer and landscaper.

I've been pulling out all sorts of oddments as I try to get a handle on drawer contents. Letters from an old (brief) flame. Scores on standardized tests taken 40 years ago. My college commencement program. My extremely erratic college transcript. Greeting cards from my kids and Neil. Yellowed newspaper clippings. College newspaper illustrations by my college boyfriend. Rejection slips from publications (and a couple of acceptance letters). Papers I wrote, going as far back as seventh grade.

If you don't want to squirm, don't re-read a paper you wrote when you were 12. In face, don't re-read a paper you wrote when you were 20.

Helpless, I asked Neil what to do with this stuff. He said, don't ask me. Then he said, I'd keep it. Then he said, we're not downsizing with this move, it's the next move where we'll be forced to make the hard decisions because it will be a smaller place.

I said, I'm not moving again. Then I put 90 percent of my old paperwork in the recycling bin.

If I didn't remember that I still had it, then I probably won't miss it. And I'm highly skeptical that my kids will have any interest in reading my analysis of Faukner's The Bear or my comparison of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises to Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsy, cleverly titled, The Sun Also Rises in West Egg.

Every closet, every drawer, every cabinet presents like challenges. I'm trying to be ruthless. I'm trying not to be sentimental. We're still going to be taking a shedload of stuff, impractical stuff, because it's simpler to stick it in a box than to figure out what else to do with it.

I hope there is a lesson here in this madness. I hope I will stop and think a tick longer before I buy another trinket, another decorative box, another basket, another statuette, another damn purse. I found 3 purses with the tags still on them that I'd long forgotten about in a box that I probably packed when I moved 10 years ago. They are nice enough purses but I have a purse I like now and another half dozen purses queued up for when I tire of this one.

What was I thinking? What am I ever thinking? Do I even think?

I may sell half my glass stash and that may keep me busy for the next few months, but I have no energy for selling purses. Or shoes, Or watches. Just some of the things I've compulsively collected over time. Does anyone still wear watches, now that we have smart phones always at hand?

Maybe Neil is right. Maybe I'll save some of these hard decisions. Maybe there will be a great consignment shop when and where we land. Maybe vintage purses with tags will fetch big money one day when my heirs go through my affairs.

Or maybe as the move draws closer and the gun descends, I will develop a Zen attitude and renounce attachment - at least to the things that are simply that. Things.

I don't know nothing, nothing today
Whether to leave or to stay
'Cause underneath sorrow, underneath fear
There's nothing that's keeping me here

'Cause I'm a zephyr on the inside
And it's a hard ride when you feel yourself tied down
Hide-and-earth bound, but there's no tether
On a zephyr

I tried to be constant just like a star
I tried to be steady and yar
But the storms keep breaking over my head
I'm aching for blue skies instead

'Cause I'm a zephyr on the inside
And it's a hard ride when you feel your heart tied down
Hide-and-earth bound. but there's no tether
I'm a zephyr

All of the wings I've ridden back home to you
All the things I've given I wanted to
All that you see has always belonged to you
Except for the wind

Forever and after, that's if we're charmed
You've got to hold on with more than these arms
Because love's all there is and time is just sand
And I might just slip through your hands

'Cause I'm a zephyr on the inside
And it's a hard ride when you feel your life tied down
Hide-and-earth bound, but there's no tether
On a zephyr.

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The light at the beginning of the tunnel

"I can't see the stars anymore living here
Let's go to the hills where the outlines are clear."

How many Scandinavian-Germans does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one. If it's Neil.

Neil may have figured out the best way to drive me out of this house, Sugar Land and Texas.

He's been replacing light bulbs throughout the house with LED bulbs.

We had a realtor over to talk about what we would need to do to get this house ready for sale. For the most part, she advised doing very little and leaving repairs as negotiating points.

She did think we needed to have the carpet stretched, repaired and cleaned, and the paint touched up. And she was very particular about the lighting, especially making sure the bulbs within a room matched.

Part of the service she would provide (if we choose her) is to make a video of the house and apparently an unmatched light bulb stands out like a glaring mistake.

She also recommended brighter lighting in some areas and Neil took it to the extreme, buying daylight white light bulbs. He went with the same wattage we had but apparently all wattage isn't the same and in fact it is lumens that matter most. In some places the light is now distractingly brilliant. Looking down the hall to the game room at midnight, you'd really think there was daylight streaming in. It's that sunlit bright.

I hate it. It makes me feel not at home in my home. Which may not be all bad. I get overly attached to comfort zones.

I did ask him to change the bathroom lights to soft white, which I concede might be an improvement over the yellowish light we had in place. Light that never had bothered me before. But I don't notice things like that. I have familiarity blindness.

LED light are pricey, and one weird thing is that the smaller ones cost more than the larger. Since we are leaving, it is tempting to get the less expensive larger ones, that are just a little bit more obnoxiously blinding. I'm not sure it will be a good selling point though.

The LED lights also put out less heat and naturally, now that we've a couple of feet out the door, we'll notice a new degree of comfort in both the temperature of the house and the electric bill.

The brighter lights and cooler temps already are making Neil like it more here, inside the house at least, just as they are making me feel less at home.

While Neil has been busy filling boxes and researching activities in our home-state-to-be, I've been splitting my time between business as usual and washing my glass, sorting it and selling some of it.

I just finished a project for Beads of Courage - 50 pairs of orange and black beads, with just a little white on some. I was 3/4 finished when I got approval to use some white, but once I found an orange that was saturated enough to pop on black I was OK with the two-color scheme. I made these in four torch sessions.

BOC also asked for more Carry-a-Bead pairs. I pulled most of these out of inventory, choosing the ones with colors I think kids would like.

I also agreed to make another Captain America shield but I had to order more star murrini. I wasn't happy with my first attempts using murrini I had on hand.

Beads have been selling, not as fast as I am still making them, but enough for me to stay out of the slough of despond. I've been playing with this new style, which so far hasn't been a hit, but I've sold more sets of pairs and some of my signature encased silver glass beads. Still, I'm having some fun with it and have some ideas to improve it.

Neil is headed out to visit family for a few days, so I will have some guilt-free torch time. Yesterday, I ran out of propane and hooked up the backup tank. I pondered whether this will be the last tank I use before I shut things down here or if I should get one more. Neil thought I should get one more. I probably will. Even if my current tank lasts through most of May, for $20 I'd rather leave a full tank behind (or give it to a friend) than to run out and have to stop sooner than I planned.

When Neil gets back, we'll be making a trip to NC, possibly the last trip before the house is finished. We'll be choosing our granite slabs, designing our master closet, making decisions about landscaping, and taking another look at dining room light fixtures. I'll be interested to see how my studio is shaping up.

Even if we follow our move plan and it all goes down without a hitch, I expect there will be at least a three-month hiatus from bead making for me. I'm going to try to look at it as an opportunity to recharge, a little creative respite for the muse. Maybe my muse will get bored with the lack of creative output and find true purpose in the new digs. Which would be, of course, dictating to me on a regular basis.

I'll be happy if she deigns to come along for the ride and show up there at least as often as she elects to come around now. As always, I stand at her mercy.

I can't see the stars anymore living here
Let's go to the hills where the outlines are clear
Bring on the wonder
Bring on the song
I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long

I fell through the cracks at the end of our street
Let's go to the beach get the sand through our feet
Bring on the wonder
Bring on the song
I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long
Bring on the wonder
We got it all wrong
We pushed you down deep in our souls for too long

I don't have the time for a drink from the cup
Let's rest for a while til our souls catch us up
Bring on the wonder
Bring on the song
I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long
Bring on the wonder
We got it all wrong
We pushed you down deep in our souls, so hang on
Bring on the wonder
Bring on the song
I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long.

(Sarah McLachlan)