Thursday, September 14, 2017

A murder of time

"Your love for me a-got to be real
For you to know just how I feel
A love for real not fade away."

I've been on a shopping spree.

The reasons are manifold.

Being here all week with three cats and only the internet for amusement is one. Finally shaking loose some of my investments to bolster my dwindling cash flow is another. Having a last chance to shop at stores that won't be as accessible after we move is one more.

The most valid reason Is that when we returned from our last trip to NC, I expected to be here only two nights, so I had very little in the way of things to wear.

And of course I do love to shop.

I don't do it often and mostly I shop online now. I'm a very slow shopper, I take a long time to make up my mind.

Shopping online let's me put things in a shopping cart and then mull them over, sometimes for weeks or months.

Shopping brick and mortar is a time thief, but this week for a change I'm happy to kill some time.

I hit Ross first and scored a cute skirt and three pairs of socks that I didn't really need. After that I went to Target, chiefly for underwear, but I bought a couple of tank tops and a sundress too.

I tried the sundress on at home and it just did not work.

My first stop the next day was Famous Footwear. I walked in and the clerk said, welcome, blah blah, and it's the last day of our buy-one-get-one-half price sale.

An hour, a pair of Asics, and a pair of New Balance later, I moved on to T.J.Maxx. That was mostly a bust except for a lightweight sweater and the perfect dish towels for our new kitchen.

Lastly, I went back to Target to return the sundress. But I found another one. Came home, tried it on, and again it wasn't all that. I'm still debating whether to keep it or return it. For the price it's fine for relaxing around the house or running errands, but I was hoping to love it.

Day three, today, I went to a different Ross and after a lot of looking, I found an inexpensive bra and, guess what, a sundress. I had to pass Old Navy on the way to the car and thought I'd take a look. Usually I find nothing there but once in a while I find a good deal

Today I found, wait for it, a dress. It's a little dressier than a sundress but it's my favorite of the three new ones I currently own.

My last stop was Petsmart where I paid too much for three large flat sturdy rubber dog dishes that I think will be perfect as travel litter boxes for each cat's crate. My vet highly recommended against just using towels and hoping for the best. She suggested shoe box lids but these have the advantage of being waterproof and hopefully heavy enough to stay put.

I have one more shopping day to go, but nothing else I particularly need. And of course anything I buy has to travel with us. So I think I'm done, unless I decide to return the second Target sundress.

Funny, I used to spends days at a time at home, quite contentedly, leaving the house only to go to the post office. But I had beads to make then. Now I have a bad case of cabin fever instead.

I finished the book I was reading, but I have books on my iPad, although I've never read one that way.

I'm watching the third series on the Danish crime drama, Dicte. I'm mixing that up with PBS shows. Today I watched Death Dive to Saturn, a NOVA show about the deliberate demise of the spacecraft Cassini. That event actually happens tomorrow morning although by the time the final radio signals reach Earth, Cassini will have been defunct for an hour and 20 minutes.

Does all this sound impossibly mundane? Have I surmounted my grief and doubt about this move? This week has certainly been a contrast to the week of Hurricane Harvey when, despite our flooding fears, I savored my extra time here. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, I'm ready, if not eager, to put the road trip with the cats behind me and get on with it.

It being my life.

Until then, my biggest decision is which Frontline special to watch. I'm leaning toward The Man Who Knew. Because, especially at this time of year, I'm endlessly interested in the events of 9-11. Perhaps because I was in such a fragile frame of mind at the time, the universal pain became inextricable from my personal pain. Nonetheless, although many people dread to be reminded of that horrible day, as time passes I feel more moved to bear witness to the memory.

Speaking of memory, I've been reading and rereading the novels of Rumer Godden. They are terrifically well written and were influential reading for me many years ago. It troubles me that the books are out of print. It's not hard to find them second hand, but I wonder who reads them now, besides people like me who read them then. How many important things fade away?

But wait. I'm wrong. You can buy them in Kindle editions.

I may have just a little more shopping to do.

I'm a-gonna tell you how it's gonna be
You're gonna give your love to me
I wanna love you night and day
You know my love a-not fade away
A-well, you know my love a-not fade away

My love a-bigger than a cadillac
I try to show it and you drive a-me back
Your love for me a-got to be real
For you to know just how I feel
A love for real not fade away

I'm a-gonna tell you how it's gonna be
You're gonna give your love to me
A love to last a-more than one day
A love that's love - not fade away
A well, a-love that's love - not fade away.

(Charles Hardin, aka Buddy Holly, Norman Petty)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

There and here

"Now the old boy may be barely breathing
But the heart of rock and roll, heart of rock and roll is still beating."

You can take the girl out of Texas.

But apparently it's a lot harder to keep the girl out of Texas.

This time it's Hurricane Irma running the circus.

Saturday was the day we were supposed to get back from North Carolina. Monday was the day we were supposed to peel out of here with three cats.

We actually came home a day early again, for many reasons, the primary reason being that there was more we needed to accomplish here than there.

There, we were camping in the house with a bed, two folding chairs and a coffeemaker.

Our new coffeemaker. Color: Oasis.
Here, we have cars to load and cleaning to do and odds and ends to donate and dispose of.

Plans keep changing.

You may remember that originally our furniture was supposed to leave Texas on August 28 and arrive in NC on or about Sept. 1. Hurricane Harvey hosed up that plan.

Next plan, our furniture was scheduled to leave on Sept. 11 and arrive on or about Sept. 15.

Our pods, which already are in storage there, are scheduled to be delivered on Sept. 13 and 14 and emptied by Sept. 15 and 16 Otherwise we incur another month of storage charges.

So, we were planning to leave with the cats as soon as the furniture pulled out on Monday and drive like the wind to be there in time to meet the pods and furniture.

Except our drive takes us right through Irma, no matter what route she takes. Dealing with flooded roads and detours with three cats is a no go, especially since we have to be there when the pods arrive on Wednesday, with no flexibility.

Time for another new plan. It looks like this. Neil flies to NC on Tuesday to receive the pods, unload them, and wait for the furniture- which is still supposed to leave on Sept. 11 but also has to make its way through Irma. Neil didn't bother booking a return flight yet.

In the meantime I stay here with three cats and minimal furniture, just the few last things that we are donating or dumping. No TV, no treadmill, obviously no torch, no glass, no beads, no books, no mail. I can't even have anything delivered because our change of address kicks in as of Monday.

All this is nothing compared to those facing storm threats and damage. Or to those still cleaning up the mess that Harvey left behind.

I've been conflicted about moving, OK, a big baby at times, but now I'm ready to have this move behind me. Not to mention getting this house listed and sold.

I have to say, it was nice in the new house. Even though the first night there I soaked my brand new pillow with tears because it wasn't home. I felt very far away from my kids and all the familiar things I have known and loved.

Even sleeping north-south in our new bed, rather than east-west felt disorienting. But I absolutely love our new mattress. I am in love with my bed.

Some things don't change.

But the weather was perfect and we sat in our folding chairs on our screened patio and watched the birds and butterflies. It was hard not to like it there.

I'm obviously obsessed with this color family.
In fact, on this last trip there, I almost got my head around the fact that home isn't here any more, home is there. I'm sure it will be a two-step forward one-step back process, but progress is progress even when measured in small increments.

My new bathtub was disappointing. It is deeper but much shorter than my bathtub here. The hot water came up right away at least, which is one of the nice things here.

The shower is beautiful and huge. I may start taking more showers again.

I'd still have put in the bathtub, even if I'd known how small it would be. Nothing to do about it now except to accept and adjust.

I'm working on that, in a larger sense. Striving to not worry about what I can't control. Counteracting anxiety with mindful gratitude. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but at least I'm trying.

Point. I miss glass. I think it will be a while before my studio is set up again. The end of September was wildly optimistic wishful thinking, hurricanes or no hurricanes.

Counterpoint. Maybe the break will be good for my creativity. Maybe beads will be selling better when and if I resume selling them.

For the present, it's one day at a time. Seven or eight of those days from now, with luck and no more storms, we'll try again to rock and roll out of Texas.

Goddess willing that Lee, Maria, and Nate don't raise any troublesome swirling bands and turn their ominous eyes in our direction.

New York, New York, is everything they say
And no place that I'd rather be
Where else can you do a half a million things
All at a quarter to three

When they play their music, oh that modern music
They like it with a lot of style
But it's still that same old back beat rhythm
That really, really drives 'em wild

They say the heart of rock and roll is still beating
And from what I've seen I believe 'em
Now the old boy may be barely breathing
But the heart of rock and roll, heart of rock and roll is still beating

LA, Hollywood, and the Sunset Strip
Is something everyone should see
Neon lights and the pretty pretty girls
All dressed so scantily

When they play their music
That hard rock music
They like it with a lot of flash
But it's still that same old back beat rhythm
That really, really kicks 'em in the ...

DC, San Antone, and the Liberty Town, Boston, and Baton Rouge
Tulsa, Austin, Oklahoma City, Seattle, San Francisco too
Everywhere there's music, real live music, bands with a million styles
But it's still that some old rock and roll music
That really, really drives 'em wild

They say the heart of rock and roll is still beating
And from what I've seen I believe 'em
Now the old boy may be barely breathing
But the heart of rock and roll, heart of rock and roll is still beating

In Cleveland
Oh, heart of rock and roll.

(Huey Lewis, John Victor Colla)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The golden afternoon

"Well, they tried so hard to hold him
Heaven knows how hard they tried
But he's made up his mind
He's the restless kind."

The governor called.

His name was Harvey.

I got a reprieve.

While the surrounding areas were pummelled by hurricane force winds and relentless rain, while rising rivers and overburdened levees terrorized residents along the Texas coast, I got a little more time at home.

Hurricane Harvey crashed into Rockport as a Category 4 storm and swept slowly over southeast Texas, hovering over Houston for days, deluging it with record rainfall, flooding homes, closing roads and businesses, filling hundreds of ad hoc shelters, doing billions of dollars of damage, and leaving thousands homeless.

We were so, so lucky. Except for one evening when the onslaught of rain caused our street to stop draining and water to come up over the curb, we never felt very much at risk.

We were in a voluntary evacuation zone. This meant:
There is a chance that surrounding flood waters may hinder your ability to get out of your neighborhood. You may be stuck in your neighborhood for several days
OK, I could deal with that.

Eventually, as roads flooded, we lost the option to leave. We were told this:
Citizens should now stay home and be prepared to ride the storm out until flood waters recede.
And that's what we did.

We didn't lose power, except briefly, so we had all the comforts of cable, internet, Netflix and even the treadmill.

Food was a bit of a bummer. We were leaving so we'd already been trying to eat what we had in the house and hadn't bought many groceries recently, nor did we think to stock up while it was still possible, on the day we landed or the next day. We thought to get the AC in my car fixed, but not about bread, crackers and cookies, let alone water, flashlights or candles.

We didn't need the latter, but we sure missed the former. We had a couple of reasonable dinners, frozen ravioli and mixed vegetables with butter, leftover ravioli in chicken noodle soup. Then we made do with boiled eggs, carrots and rice, filling but not really tasty or satisfying. The worst was macaroni and cheese with tuna, generally a staple here, but not very good when made with vanilla yogurt instead of milk.

And now the sun has come out. We picked up some groceries, but no milk, the dairy shelves were bare. We have bread, crackers, deli turkey, plenty of snacks and sweets and some backup coffee, just in case it takes longer than we hope for the roads to drain.

Everything hinges on the roads. Our movers have to be able to pick up our furniture. Once we know when that will be, we can rebook our cancelled flights and make a new plan.

I'm guessing that won't be until next week, although we may hear something sooner.

Right now we're in this queer sort of limbo. I don't really mind. As you know, I usually hate limbo land, but with people facing waterlogged homes, loss of possessions, and potential displacement for extended time frames, a little delay and uncertainty is nothing.

See, it's not always all about me.

Although to be honest, sleeping in my own bed, chilling with Neil, being well fed and reasonably entertained, well, it's less a hardship and more a gift. A gift in more ways than one. After this, I think I may be ready to go. Almost.

Certainly, I don't care to weather any more storm threats. Yes, I know, that's a pun, but not as bad as the one by the newscaster who described the situation as fluid.

While the link between this particular hurricane and climate change will undoubtedly be hotly debated by more knowledgeable minds than mine, there's a convincing school of thought propounding that warmer ocean water contributed to Harvey's atypical rapid acceleration and dismal watery consequences.

Whatever the reasons, it will take a very long time for this city that I have lived in for most of my adult life to recover. The horror of Harvey will be branded on Houston indefinitely, the way Katrina will always brand New Orleans. And that's assuming there won't be more storms, more extreme storms, to follow as the sea heats up.

So, soon we'll close the door on this chapter of my life. The furniture will leave. We'll fly to North Carolina and sign off on the new house, have our new bed delivered, buy a new coffeemaker, and start the settling-in process. We'll fly back, pack up the cats and the very last few bags and boxes. We'll back out of the driveway on our 1,100 mile pilgrimage.

And about 2.5 hours in, we'll see Texas in our rearview mirror.

I'm still anxious and sad, but the time has come. The sea is boiling hot. Almost. Almost.

You've seen him leaning on the streetlight
Listening to some song inside
You've seen him standing by the highway
Trying to hitch a ride

Well, they tried so hard to hold him
Heaven knows how hard they tried
But he's made up his mind
He's the restless kind

He's the wild age
He's the wild age
He's the wild age

Wild age
It's the wild age
And the law can't stop 'em
No one can stop 'em
At the wild age

Mostly when the reckless years end
Something's left to save
Some of them keep running
Till they run straight in their graves

To stay the wild age
Stay the wild age
Stay the wild age
Wild age

(Warren Zevon)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Stormy weather

"I guess it comes apart so little by little 
You don't know you're there till you're stuck in the middle."

The other shoe dropped.

I'm actively grieving about this move.

I hardly understand my own emotions, so I won't try to explain them to you.

All I know is, I'm sad, and at times it's hard to bear, although I won't use the word unbearable.

We do what we have to do, we bear what we have to bear.

We left for our last NC trip on August 20. The night before, I dissolved in tears. But that's not unusual for me. Travel provokes anxiety. Leaving home is the worst of it. I cried the night before we left for our vacation trip to Hawaii too.

Then I had a great time once we got there.

It frustrates Neil, I know. He wants to fix it. He wants to fix me, but he can't. The best thing he can do, really, is to leave me alone, let me grieve. Be supportive sure, but mostly stay out of the way.

On the first day of our trip, we landed in Charlotte and went by our house. It's not quite as far along as we expected. The builder still seems confident that they'll get it done by August 31, our closing date.

There was a problem with the hickory wood flooring we'd chosen, so due to the time crunch, the vendor let us choose a beautiful maple upgrade. We saw it installed the day we flew home and I will admit it looks great.

Truly, there's a lot to admire about the new house.

I do have regrets that we built such a big house. At the time I wanted lots of space for our kids to visit and feel comfortable. I wanted an indoor heated and air-conditioned studio and this floor plan had the perfect space, the basement hobby room.

But more space, more rooms, means more furniture to buy and I'm already worried about the cost and more worried about what we would do with the furniture if we don't love living in NC and decide not to stay.

After seeing the house on the day we landed, we drove to Bryson City to stay at a little inn that we'd stayed at once before. The inn was perfectly situated in the path of totality for the solar eclipse. We had trouble finding a place to eat dinner on the way, based on Google maps recommendations. One place was out of business, another closed early on Sunday, the last place we tried had a long wait for a table. So we wound up in an Italian place with lasagne, meat for Neil, spinach for me.

Lately, I may or may not have mentioned, I've been suffering from dyspepsia. Regardless of how little I eat or how bland the cuisine, I feel overly full and as though I have a tight hot band across my midriff.

The lasagne was good, but I went from feeling bad from being too hungry to a different kind of not feeling good. It was after 9 pm by the time we checked in to our room at the bed and breakfast. I had another meltdown from homesickness and feeling overwhelmed.

Luckily, in the morning, drinking coffee on our private balcony, breathing mountain air and watching free range chickens do chicken things, I regained some equilibrium. We had a lovely breakfast with nice people and a relaxing day strolling the grounds and watching the moon slip slowly across the sun.

Totality was a mystical thing. It didn't arrive gradually in the end, not like dusk or twilight coming on, as I'd expected. No, one minute it was essentially a sunny afternoon and then it was as if some mysterious force suddenly turned down a giant heavenly dimmer switch for two minutes, then just as suddenly turned it back up as the sun reemerged from the moon's shadow. Then it was a sunny afternoon again.

It was also like an ordinary vacation trip again, or it felt that way, and I was calm for the rest of the trip. As it turned out, the storm in the gulf, Harvey, caused us to come home a day early. In the time we had, we bought five of the seven mirrors we'd hoped to buy, and a new bed that we'll have delivered on the day we close, so we'll at least have a place to sleep.

I had another crisis at bedtime after we got home. I love this house so much. As monstrous as the new house is, we are giving up many things. We'll be sharing one master closet instead of each having our own. There's no master linen closet. The kitchen is smaller in most ways, fewer cabinets, smaller appliances. We'll have two fireplaces but no hearth.

I'll miss our two-story front entry, our leaded glass door with sidelight windows, our spacious foyer, our two story living room. I'll miss the arched doorways, the built-in cabinets, the tile and granite we choose so lovingly just 10 years ago. Perhaps most of all I'll miss our breakfast area with its picture window looking across at the park.

Things change. I know this. It's people that matter, not things. Right now, no one close to me is sick, no one has died, no one has been harshly bruised by love or loss. As I said, I don't understand and can't explain my grief. Yet I grieve. I am in grief.

And as I also know, the only way out is through. I can't run or hide, I can only sit with it and wait it out.

To some degree I can anesthetize it for periods of time. We watched the season premier of Endeavor and for 90 minutes I didn't think. It felt good not to think. But then it came crashing back and I dissolved in sorrow again.

One thing I said to Neil, as he tried to cope with yet another of my bouts of misery by alternately reasoning, trying to make me laugh and getting irritated, was telling. I said, I feel really, really bad, and I don't know how to stop being sad, and I'm scared that I'll drive you away, that you'll get tired of me and leave me.

He said, not likely.

So there's that.

He does love me.

There's cosmic irony in the fact that a Category 4 hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, just as we are preparing for the last of our furniture to leave, followed post haste by ourselves. Hurricanes are among the top reasons that Neil wants to move away from here, right up there with the abominable summer heat and the lack of seasons. Even Austin, an original contender destination for our move, is predicted to have heavy rain and flash flooding. Not that Charlotte is completely immune, but at 750-some feet of altitude, severe hurricane damage from flooding or storm surge is far less of a threat.

Neil has a history of leaving towns under hurricane watches. He left New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Elena in 1985, while he was living there, and another one in the 1990s (Opal, Josephine, Danny, Frances, Georges) after he'd moved to Sugar Land but was in NOLA for a business meeting. He also left Holland in 2005, when Rita was threatening Sugar Land, to rescue valuables an d evacuate all the way to my house in Jersey Village. That was the storm right after the Katrina disaster, when everyone was in panic mode and 100 people died even through the storm made landfall elsewhere.

We stayed here in Sugar Land during Hurricane Ike in 2008. We did lose power for 3 days which was a lot less time and discomfort than multitudes of others in the greater Houston area endured. I fared better than Neil who was hot and tense and antsy.

If you're looking for signs that the time to go is now, Hurricane Harvey is as heaven sent as these things go.

"All of my days have been misspent
Stuffing out the sofa and the antenna's bent
Inside my heart's bustin' out at the seams
I work for the impossible American dream

I got a job at the grocery store
A few bucks an hour and not much more
The world comes in just to take things away
They eat it all up and then they sleep into day

I try not to care, I would lose my mind
Running 'round the same thing time after time
Only two things bound to soothe my soul
Cold beer and remote control

Once upon a time I was nobody's fool
Two jobs and showing up for school
I guess it comes apart so little by little
You don't know you're there till you're stuck in the middle

Sit down
The room is dark
The blurry graffiti on the benches
Across at the public park
The plastic's black and buttoned
The haze is blue
And all I want
Is nothing to do

'Cause it's a long walk to the bus stop
It's a long wait for the turning clock
A two-tired car sitting up on the blocks
And things I put aside like a pile of rocks

I try not to care I would lose my mind
Running 'round the same thing time after time
Only two things bound to soothe my soul
Cold beer and remote control."

(Amy Ray, Emily Saliers)

Friday, August 18, 2017

The crux of my ambivalence

"When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards, and the Red Queen's off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head."

Call me Alice.
Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end!

'What a curious feeling!' said Alice; 'I must be shutting up like a telescope.'

'Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); 'now I'm opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!'
That about sums up my mood. Falling. Shutting up. Opening out. Losing my feet.

I've now shuttered both my Etsy shops and my personal group on Facebook. I've shipped the last orders.

The last of my beads are packed. I've sold my ventilation hood and failed to sell my kiln, so I'm keeping it for now.

We're eating on a card table and I'm resting my coffee cup on a couple of stacked crates. Likewise, stacked crates make up my nightstand.

Whenever I think the end is in sight, I open a cupboard and find more boxes and bins hiding.

I spent some time making a last pass at boxes of letters that date back to my high school years. This is something our kids will never know about. Letters, written in longhand and sent by post. Stamps cost 8 cents in those years.

There was a shoebox full of letters that I'd written home from college, back when long-distance calls cost real money. My mom had saved them. There were letters from a high school boy friend (emphasis on friend) and many letters from my college boyfriend. There were letters from friends no longer living. Letters from my best friend in college, the only person I've ever really thought of as my best friend.

I read some. I realized how long I've had them, carted them around. I realize I'm never going to read them all, nor is there content for a novel in them, nor, should I ever become a famous author, are any letters of mine sufficiently erudite to preserve for future scholars.

In fact, on the whole, they are embarrassing. Poignant occasionally, but mostly superficial, pretentious or downright silly.

My kids are never going to read them. I wouldn't want them to.

So, they are staged for recycling.

It's hard not to feel like I'm tossing out part of my life, but it's harder to justify holding on to them any longer.

My life will still have happened, even if the record of it is incomplete.

Recently I asked Neil, if he could relive his life, would he? Not with any benefit of hindsight or foresight or any ability to change any thing. Just for the heck of it. He said he would.

I wouldn't. For all the beauty and the good and the joy, I would not want to live through any of the trials or sadness again.

Oh, I'd love to relive selective moments, days, memories, the births of my children for example, the day Miss Bittner called and said K.C. was her "Post Pirate" for the last six weeks of first grade, the day Mrs. Frewin called and asked if they could cluster Chelsea with the "gifted and talented" kids in fourth grade. The week Ryland spent with us when he was two, the day Neil asked me to marry him and I answered, you bet.

Sure I'd live through the highlights film, maybe even a year or two composed of all the best days. I'd hug my mom and dad again, hang out with friends who I'll never hang out with again, hike in the mountains and canyons, wake up on the first day of retirement, stroke my cats Pookey and Buckwheat and Gris and Puck one more time.

But live through it all again? No, thank you.

I saw an interview with William Buckley by Charlie Rose, taped in about 2010, when Buckley was 85.
Rose: Do you wish you were 20?

Buckley: No, absolutely not. No, if I had a pill that would reduce my age by 25 years, I wouldn't take it.

Rose: Why not?.

Buckley: Because I'm tired of life, I really am. I'm utterly prepared to stop living on. There are no enticements to me that justify the weariness, the repetition ... my hour's exercise.
I'm not there. I'm not tired of life. I'm not prepared to stop living. There are mountains yet to climb. And I still don't hate my hour's exercise.

I would lay down my life rather than survive my children or Neil, if I could, if I had a choice. But I know I don't have a choice.

This year there have been deaths among my peers, high school and college friends, some I knew well, some who only sounded familiar. It caused me to wonder, what providence determines who gets just 60 some years (or less) and who gets more.

Shockingly, at least two of the deaths were suicides. As low as I've been in my life, having come this far, it's hard to imagine not being able to cross the finish line, even if I have to crawl. And I may have to crawl, but I hope I don't.

Yet here I am at another crossroad. I seem to travel from crossroad to crossroad in life, maybe everyone does.

Saying goodbye to this house is hard. Someone asked Neil what he'd miss most about Texas, not including people. No immediate answer came to him. Without hesitation, I said, this house.

I've been happier here than in any other time and place.

It's much emptier now, the second pod has gone. All that remains are some of our personal effects and the larger pieces of furniture, some that we're having moved by a mover, some that we are leaving behind and donating.

I just re-read The Battle of the Villa Fiorita by Rumer Godden. It's the story of an English woman in her 40s, mother of three children, wife to a decent man. She falls in love with a movie director, who is filming on location in her town and, after much internal turmoil, she leaves her family to be with him. Fanny and Rob are staying at a villa in Italy, where he is writing his next picture. Rob is completely in love with Fanny and she with him. But her two younger children travel to Italy on their own, to fetch her home. Battle lines are drawn.

Events conspire to keep the children from being sent home straightaway. Rob's daughter arrives to join the fray. Further events, including a hunger strike by the children, and a near-drowning of two of the children in a storm, drive Rob and Fanny apart. In the end, they give in. Fanny returns to England with her children.

This affected me particularly just now, and on reflection, it's not hard to see why. I have made the choice to follow Neil to North Carolina because I love him. We're not technically breaking up a family to do this, but we are breaking up a home, a house that has been home base for the past ten years.

Our kids all are grown and living their lives. To varying degrees they understand and accept the reasons why we are moving, maybe better even than I do. Unlike the story children, they are free and welcome to visit and we will be welcome to visit them in turn.

Yet I know the crux of my ambivalence about this move is that I feel like I am leaving my children.

We're well past the point of no return for this move. We leave in two days for a trip that includes Bryson City for the solar eclipse in totality and our pre-closing meeting at the Cornelious house. We'll spend some time shopping for furniture to be delivered as soon as we close. We'll be home for four days before our next trip, which will be for closing. Then furniture delivery, we hope, and a quick return to pick up my car and the cats.

You'd think at this point it would all be going by too quickly, but it's not. Suddenly the days are dragging. With no beads to make or sell, and much less structure to my days, I feel listless. Facebook has become mostly repetitious and uninteresting. World news, both real and fake, is hard to swallow, as first Charlottesville and then Barcelona push North Korea out of the headlines.

I've thought this in the past, I may have said this here before. I think the structure of my life is what keeps me moving forward. My stability wavers when that structure is held together only by spit and bubblegum.

Yesterday Neil and I went out to have sushi for lunch and then to get popsicles. We came home and I fell asleep on the sofa for 2 hours. Afterwards I walked on the treadmill, finished series three of Hinterland, and made boiled pasta for dinner because we are trying not to buy groceries. Then we watched a PBS nature show, an episode of Forbrydelsen and an episode of Dr. Blake. I read for a while and then went to bed exhausted.

Today we each have last lunches with friends. I have to buy socks because I packed all my socks except for two pairs, I thought, except it's one pair and a single sock, and the one pair is an anklet, not what I'd want to wear on the plane or if we have any chance to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. With the crowds expected for the eclipse, we may be spending most of our time at our lodgings, which has some lovely property and is planning an eclipse party.

For now, life tics steadily if slowly forward. Soon, this too shall pass.

Until then, goodbye feet.

How bad can things be? We still have popsicles.

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head
Feed your head.

(Grace Slick)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Just goodbyes

"Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline."

By now, I'm sure you are as ready for me to move as I am. Then we can get on to the discussion of more important matters, like the threat of nuclear war with North Korea.

Or maybe just on to decorating the new house and setting up my studio and eventually back to the making and selling of lampwork beads again. And the foibles of Facebook of course.

But there are still almost 20 days until closing, days full of packing and loading another pod and having our furniture picked up. Almost 20 days, including our trip to see the solar eclipse and buy mirrors and mattresses and a myriad of other things for the house.

In the meantime we have landscaping. And a driveway. And a ski slope.

The landscaping arrives.
Back yard sod, with ski hill drop-off from driveway.
Neil's veggie garden plot left rear.
Be proud of your driveway.
Front sod and beds.
Right side of house, no sod yet.

Huge kidney bean bed designed by Neil.

The rest of the kidney bean bed story.

A few more random house photos.

Kitchen backsplash.
Backsplash closeup.
Shutter painted Slate Tile.

So things are moving along. Me, I have good days and bad days, numb days and weepy days.

The torch is dismantled. The tools and glass all packed. My frit shop is in vacation mode and my frit supplies boxed up. I'm still selling beads, but every day I think, this is the last day, and then someone buys something and I think, a few more days. No real reason to stop yet. It won't take long to pack the rest of my inventory. And I have to do something with my time, besides binge watch telly and go out to eat with friends, our main activities lately.

This is funny, we went out to dinner with some of Neil's oldest friends and afterwards, in the parking lot, Neil commented that all these last meals were destroying him. His friends just stared, but I understood. You mean, destroying you because of all the food you've been consuming, not destroying you emotionally, I said. Because that's the Neil we know and love.

Nothing feels real to me. Goodbyes are just goodbyes, nothing more. We say, come visit us, we have lots of guest rooms and bathrooms. And we believe it could happen, but then again, we've been in this house for ten years and other than relatives we have hardly had a soul over. The friends we ate dinner with came by for a drink before dinner when we first moved in. One of my friends came down once when Neil was away. I've had customers over to look at beads, bead friends over a few times to torch, one meeting of the bead makers group here. Once some kids of an overseas work mate of Neil's stayed a couple of nights.

My parents saw the house the year we moved in. My mom kept saying, why do you need such a big house? What would she say about the new house that is 50 percent bigger? It's an easy guess she would have disapproved. My dad's comment was that we needed a shower bar so that he could wash his ankles. Neil offered to install one, but my parents stopped traveling much soon after and didn't visit again. Their visit was in 2008, my dad died in 2010, my mom in 2013. Sometimes I miss them terribly.

And it all gets rolled up in my sadness about moving. I'm not sentimental, so I don't think, oh, my mom and dad slept in this room, the one that I am typing this in right now. Soon this room, this house will belong to someone else. No, it's just that thing I do whenever I grieve a loss. Every other loss in my life somehow gets rolled up in that grief.

Our friends asked us who would be the first to visit us in our new house and Neil and I looked at each other and drew a blank. It might be his dad, who is 88 and has been feeling his age lately. None of our kids jumped out as a likely candidate. I want to budget to send each of my kids, their partners and my grandson a round trip ticket at a time that works for them. It will have to be something that works around school schedules and visitation schedules and holidays with other sets of parents to consider. It may be at the same time or at different times.

I have another dream goal, to take everyone on a cruise to Alaska next summer. I have to come up with some money for the house, I want a new car next year, and I want to outfit my new studio and buy a new treadmill and buy new bedding for the new beds we'll be getting. I've discarded many things as we packed, things that have seen a lot of use and while still functional, I want new things for my new life. Not everything or even most things of course, we'll keep our dishes, flatware, and cookware, much of our clothing and towels, all the bric-à-brac we'll ever need, though I suspect that won't indefinitely stop me from adding more.

I am going to curb my stockpiling tendencies, I am, I am. It's pointless really, or counterproductive. I have four unopened face powder foundation compacts that I bought years ago when they were discontinued, but I no longer use that brand of foundation. I packed them anyway. I have shoes that I bought before I retired from my day job in 2011, shoes that came apart on one wearing after sitting in a shoebox in a dark closet for at least six years. My taste in lingerie styles has changed so all those undergarment bargains turned out to be less than economical since I'm old enough now to insist on age-appropriate underwear, even if I have to buy more.

Packing house, if nothing else, is good for one thing - a reality check on how much more stuff you have than you really need, and how much stuff you have that you don't even especially like. Perhaps from now on I'll truly weigh how much I want to undertake the care and maintenance of each and every non-comestible new purchase.

But it's as Mr. Bennet says to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice (discussing the fact of having accepted money to pay Wickham - "one of the most worthless young men in Britain" - to marry Lydia and thereby save her reputation).
I am heartily ashamed of myself, Lizzy. But don't despair, it'll pass; and no doubt more quickly than it should.

That's great, it starts with an earthquake
Birds and snakes, and aeroplanes
And Lenny Bruce is not afraid

Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn
World serves its own needs,
Don't mis-serve your own needs
Speed it up a notch, speed, grunt, no, strength,
The ladder starts to clatter
With a fear of height, down, height
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
And a government for hire and a combat site
Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry
With the Furies breathing down your neck

Team by team, reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then
Uh oh, overflow, population, common group
But it'll do, save yourself, serve yourself
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed
Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the right, right
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light
Feeling pretty psyched

It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

Six o'clock, T.V. hour, don't get caught in foreign tower
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn
Lock him in uniform, book burning, bloodletting
Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a motive, step down, step down
Watch your heel crush, crush, uh oh
This means no fear, cavalier, renegade and steering clear
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline

The other night I drifted nice continental drift divide
Mountains sit in a line, Leonard Bernstein
Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs
Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, boom
You symbiotic, patriotic, slam but neck, right, right

It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone)
And I feel fine

I feel fine.

(Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A month of lasts

"A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together."

I think I'm done making beads in Texas.

It's not inevitable yet. I haven't unhooked the torch or unplugged the kiln yet.

But the glass is 99 percent packed. The tools are 90 percent packed.

The mandrels, however, are 100 percent packed, so I might as well face the music.

I haven't put my Etsy shops in vacation mode yet, although I've drafted the announcement. I'm still listing beads on Facebook, and selling a few too. I have almost 20 bubble mailers left plus some small shipping boxes.

Every day, I'm making some progress packing, probably not enough, but at least some, so the last-minute push will be slightly less frenetic. That's my hope anyway.

I'm trying to have a good attitude. What's the worst that could happen? I don't get it all done and we have to pay someone to finish it up?

More likely, Neil will jump in at some point and start tossing things in boxes.

He's already done that.
Neil, where's my grapefruit knife?

I packed it.

So what am I supposed to do with the three grapefruit we bought?
And so on and so forth.

It's a month of lasts. My dentist asked what I'd been up to this summer. Packing I said. She had me address a six-month reminder postcard anyway. I used our North Carolina address.

My hairdresser puddled up when I said goodbye. She's known for a while that August was going to be my last appointment. For ten years I've had a standing appointment on the first Thursday of every month. She said she still had my September appointment booked, just in case.

Last weekend I said goodbye to two of my oldest friends. We've been leaving for so long now, it's almost anti-climactic. I told them we were moving at a party last Labor Day. And now we are moving on Labor Day weekend.

My bead friends had a little potluck for me, also last weekend.

I've been oddly unemotional at these goodbyes. I expected to break down, but the only time I really cried was when I told my housekeeper many months ago, when Neil started boxing things. It was during my spell of blue monsoons. It's hard to believe, but I started feeling better just after that and have stayed OK despite fully expecting to sink again.

I'm not sad now. It all feels a little unreal. I feel detached. Once in a while it's scary how detached I feel.

Another one of my college classmates died. I'd lost touch with her, but I was very fond of her in college. It seems so arbitrary, how some people get just 60 years of life while others like my mom and dad get/got 90. It's a regular thing now, thanks to Facebook, that I hear about my high school and college classmates passing away. Many I barely knew or I don't remember, but it makes me conscious of my mortality and aware of how lucky I've been. I am.

It's not just deaths. The other big one is cancer diagnoses. I know so many who are survivors, who are fighting now, or who have a partner who is in the heat of battle.

It puts things into perspective. I won't grieve this move if I can help it. I know I don't get to choose.

Now that I'm not torching, I'm making respectable daily strides with packing. I'm so over it though.
Why does it take so long, I wail.

If we move again, let's hire someone to pack, I complain.

A month from now, we'll be living in North Carolina, I fret.
At this point, I'm ready to be there and done.

In the meantime, I pack and I watch crime drama and nature shows and investigative reports, anything that keeps my interest and numbs my anxious brain

Right now we are finishing the last season of Ashes to Ashes, I'm walking on the treadmill to a dark Icelandic drama, Case, and I've started series two of the original Danish version of The Killing, Forbrydelsen.

I loved The Killing so much, as you may (or may not) remember. Ever since I watched it, two years ago, I've wanted to see the Danish version that inspired it.

I'm enjoying Forbrydelsen, (literally, The Crime), although not as much as the American remake. The first season closely tracked the general story line, with a few significant changes (insert spoiler alert).

One big change was the identity of the person who committed the crime. The Danish version is simpler and I have to admit, the complexities of the American plot made the story line more gripping. The Danish version stops with one of the more obvious perpetrators. In the American version, the guilty party came as a truly chilling surprise. The character exists in the Danish version but her roles is never pivotal.

The bigger disappointment to me was how the Danish version handled the second banana. In the American version, it is the dynamic between the two detectives that works so well to make the show special. I liked the supporting Danish detective very much, even though he was a solid citizen, a married man with children instead of a recovering meth addict with relationship issues. The growing trust between the duo rings beautifully authentic in both shows, but then the Danish sidekick is shot and pronounced dead in the penultimate episode of the first series of Forbrydelsen.

As a result I expect the plot line to deviate completely in the last two series of the Danish drama, which is probably a good thing as I can enjoy them for whatever they are and not in contrast to the bolder, more complex and compelling American series.

And as much as I love the characters of Sara Lund/Sarah Linden, and will miss the character of Jan Meyer, I'm quite happy to be finished with the politicians who were fairly faithfully mirrored in each version, and almost equally annoying.

Next up in the queue, new episodes of Hinterland on Netflix, a new season of Endeavor on PBS, and the complete original series of Prime Suspect on DVD.

Who needs drugs when you can have Richard Harrington, Sean Evans and Helen Mirren, all in the comfort of your own home or hotel room.

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven.

(Words From the Book of Ecclesiastes, adaptation by Pete Seeger)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Still breathing

"Feed the babies who don't have enough to eat
Shoe the children with no shoes on their feet
House the people livin' in the street
Oh, there's a solution."

We're getting short of time and I'm getting short of breath.

We close on our new house on August 31. But we actually leave for North Carolina on August 20.

We're going first to watch the solar eclipse in Bryson City, at the foot of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I made the reservation ages ago, when we thought we might already be living in NC or more likely that we'd be making a house-related visit about that time anyway.

As it turns out, our pre-closing meeting is scheduled for August 24.

We fly back to Houston on August 25, then back to Charlotte on August 30. Hopefully some furniture is delivered on September 1. We fly back to Houston on September 4, give or take, collect the cats and set out by car for NC on or about September 8.

Talk about meeting yourself coming and going.

We were going to spend two nights on the road, but now I think one night would be better. That would be about 550 miles per day. I'd just rather be really sick of driving and only have to spend one night in a hotel with kitties. Face it, we'll be really sick of driving any way we slice it, and recreation options en route are limited by the feline contingent.

Our house is getting done.
Front left view,.
Full frontal. Dozer not included.
Front right view, sort of.
Backyard from driveway. Master bedroom windows, master bath window.

Backyard from edge of to-be-screened porch. Landscaping happens last.

And the inside. First floor.

Front hallway. Door to basement at left.
Powder room.
Study, facing the front.
Utility room, facing entrance to/from garage.
Kitchen. I love the cabinets. Worker bee not included.
Yes, we put cabinets all around the island.
Master bedroom. I'm really happy about the Hinting Blue paint.
Master bath. Big tub. Tradeoff short vanities. Worth it.
And the master shower.
Come upstairs.
Bonus room. This is where I'll have my treadmill and TV.
Looking downstairs from the bonus room.
Bedroom four bath with shower.
Bedroom four, facing the front, above study.
Bathroom three will have a tub.
Bedroom three with view of neighbor's pool. Shutters ordered.
Bedroom two, facing back. Maybe my study.
Bedroom two, another view. Morning light.

And now, come downstairs.

Basement family room. Morning Sun paint.
Basement media room.
Basement fireplace.
Bedroom six with box bay. There is no bedroom five.
Bed six, another view. Maybe Neil's study.
Best for last. My studio. There are sliding doors to the deck at left.
Studio doors from back yard. I'll never be too hot or cold again.

So there you have it. 19 more sleeps until our pre-closing trip. My anxiety builds by the hour.

I still haven't shut down the torch. I made beads yesterday. I may make beads one more time, while Neil is gone for a couple of days. It calms me.

Making beads for me is a meditation. Honestly, beads have kept me sane, beads may be what saves me again.

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I'm free
Oh, through the revolution

Feed the babies
Who don't have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin' in the street
Oh, there's a solution

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I'm free
Fly through the revolution

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future.

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)