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)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Letting go and rolling with it

"I've walked upon the moors on many misguided tours
Where Emily, Anne and Charlotte poured their hearts out
And what did they know, what could they know about love?"

It's not without mixed feelings that I have started work on dismantling my glass studio.

I hope to be able to make beads through the month of May, but I'm starting to slowly sort through my glass, wash it, wash some of the bins, and sort out what to keep and what to sell.

So far I'm scratching the surface but getting started may have been the hardest part and I've done that.

For starters, I washed more than 17 lbs. of Bullseye glass rods. Neil took notes as I weighed it and noted the number of rods of each color.

That's about 1/3 of my stash of Bullseye. It didn't take as long as I would have predicted and better yet, it made me feel motivated to keep going.

House painters are working on the exterior paint so I can't make beads for a couple of days. I'm hoping to finish cleaning and inventorying the Bullseye and start putting most of it up for sale.

Right now I am selling some of my Lauscha. I plan to keep most of it, but the more I sell the more I feel like I can let go. It's a slow process. I have 12 lots listed and I can't overwhelm myself by listing more than that at once.

Luckily so far, most buyers have bought multiple lots so I haven't had to ship too many separate boxes. I did order more free boxes from the USPS. They'll come in the mail - haha.

It's funny, as I start letting go of things, it gets easier to let go of more things. Maybe it's the feeling of relief as I make the decision and my load gets a fragment lighter.

There is still an impressive way to go, but knowing I can give things up and the world keeps turning makes me optimistic that it all will eventually get done. Of course it will.

That doesn't mean I don't cry myself to sleep some nights. That doesn't mean I don't keep rebuffing Neil's offers to pack up my books or  collectibles with a "not yet."

We did make a timeline and some decisions about the hows. We think this is how it might work. All this assumes a mid-August closing.

In early August. pack a pod with boxes and small furniture items. I think my glass will travel this way. Have it picked up and stored.

A few days before closing, have the movers come for the furniture. Leave the furniture we aren't taking including a bed, sofa beds, some cookware, etc.

Fly to NC for the closing. Arrange for pod and furniture to arrive. Unload.

Fly home, load up my SUV with sundries and drive the cats to NC. Settle in.

Have some work completed on the house here. Put it on the market.

When the house sells, fly back for closing and to donate or dispose of any items still in the house.

Fly back to NC. Neil may drive his car back. Or he may give it to Chris and fly back.

I may not even need to be part of the last trip, but depending on timing - i.e, how long it takes for our house to sell - it might be a good time to visit our kids.

And since I started this post we've washed and inventoried more of the Bullseye. Maybe 3/4 of it.

It's a lot. And selling it will be a bugger bear. The way to get the most for it is to auction it in small lots of colors, a mix of the great and the good - because it's at least all good. If I price it and offer the inventory, I risk people cherry-picking the best colors and being stuck with the rest.

In my dreams, I'd love to sell it as one lot and have someone pick it up. Someone who has about $2,000 to spend. And it would be a bargain at that price.

It might be worth a try before I break it all up.

I've been really worried about packing the glass I'm keeping, but Neil put it into perspective. I could probably replace all of it for what it would cost if we paid a mover to pack it and move it. So except for the out-of-production colors, I'm just going to do a reasonable packing job and pod it and take my chances.

I'll take more care with the special colors that can't easily be replaced.

Then there is my collection of other artists' beads. It's more precious to me than the glass but easier to pack safely. They may go in the car with us.

As for my own beads, I will pack and pod them and plan to donate many of them in 2018. They won't be too hard to pack, just time consuming. Still I'll have all of June and July to do it, especially since I am on a roll with the glass and my goal is to finish washing it and sorting it by the end of May.

All right, a goal is just a goal. It's flexible.

But somehow it's taken me so long to finish this post that we finished the Bullseye gig. 53 lbs. 900 rods.

First down and ten. Rinse and repeat.

I could say, I could say
Say it again Kate
Love, love, love

I could say love over and over and over
I could say baby baby baby
Til my tongue spirals out of my head
When there's no one looking over my shoulder
I like to write rock and roll
But it doesn't always hang together
So what do I know
Or anyone know about love

You ask me how I feel
I said my heart was like a wheel
Why don't you listen to it sometime
I've walked upon the moors
On many misguided tours
Where Emily, Anne and Charlotte
Poured their hearts out
And what did they know
What could they know about love
And what did they know
Or anyone know about love

I could say love over and over and over
I could say baby baby baby
And make you think I mean it maybe
I'm going up a hill rolling a boulder
Trying to write rock and roll
But it doesn't keep body and soul together
So what do I know
Or anyone know about love

You ask me how I feel
I said my heart was like a wheel
Why don't you listen to it sometime
I've walked upon the moors
On many misguided tours
Where Emily, Anne and Charlotte
Poured their hearts out
And what did they know
What could they know about love
And what did they know
Or anyone know about love.

(Kate McGarrigle, Anna McGarrigle)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

From sticks and bones, a house begins to emerge

"Tell me how does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala."

Our house in North Carolina was 24 percent complete as of March 31, according to an inspection report provided by our lender.

This is a view from the back of the house of the basement and beginning of the first floor. My studio is to the left. There will be sliding glass doors in the opening. To the right, the room with 8 window openings is the basement great room. There will be a similar living room above, and the dining room will be above the studio.

This is shot from the front toward the left side of the house. You can see two of the master bedroom windows and the master bathroom window. The open area in the foreground on the right is the beginning of our garage.

And a few more random photos. You guess is almost as good as mine.

It is getting really real.

I've been continuing to deal with it mostly by playing ostrich, but that time is coming to an end. Neil and I have gone through about 90 percent of the kitchen cabinets and culled a boatload of stuff to haul to goodwill, including at least 30 coffee mugs. We've also tackled the linen closet upstairs and gotten it down to a sensible number of sheets and towels.

I've gone as far as mentally assessing how much glass and beads I have and possible ways to safely pack them.

On a recent walk, these words came out of Neil's mouth. I think I'll stop playing softball when the next league ends in June until after we move. I said, who are you and what did you do with my husband?

After some reflection though, these words came out of my mouth. I have a trunk show the first weekend in June and after that I think I'll stop making beads until after we move.

My plan is to dismantle my studio and sell off some of the larger pieces of equipment, definitely the ventilation hood, maybe the kiln and oxygen concentrator and torch. Most of my equipment is almost 9 years old. It makes more sense to buy new equipment than to pay to move the old. Writing off the cost of new equipment in 2017 makes sense, since it is likely to be our highest tax year ever.

I love my torch but I don't use it to its full capacity. I rarely run the outer ring and the inner ring is a Cricket, which is the new torch I'd buy. I might as well sell off my boro. I always think I may want to play with it again but on any given day I never really feel like doing it. Boro is great for sculptural work, less so for beads, and beads are where my passion lies. People do make beads with boro but a different style which is more about heat chemistry and less about design. The colors can be magical but I love the versatility of soft glass.

I really don't need the heat of the four-stud Scorpion for the kind of lampwork I do.

I've been selling off some of my glass, although I have so much I'm barely making a dent, especially since at the same time I am still buying a little glass. New colors tempt me, as well as reasonable prices on older stock of some colors that are nicer than the current stock. It's just such a headache to ship glass. Beads are so easy to ship by comparison.

All of which begs the question of whether, if I made beads nonstop for the next ten years, I could turn the glass I currently own into beads.

I like having it though. I like knowing it is there. I like looking at it. I like pulling a rod of a go-to premium color such as opal yellow and knowing that I won't run out. I like owning a stash of colors that you can't buy today except at high prices on the secondary market if you happen to come across someone selling some.

Yeah, I know, my kids one day will donate it to a glass school or charity or give it away. But I can't worry about everything and I'm not dead yet.

And this just in - more house photos. Progress is running rampant now.

This is the front view, taken from the little park across the street, early in the morning. I love having morning light at the back of the house where the master bedroom, living areas and my studio will be.

This is taken from the front, to the left facing the house and our three car garage, with our master bathroom and bedroom windows toward the back.

View facting the house from the front and to the right.. The two windows on the right are the study, the windows above are a guest bedroom and the bonus room, where I will have my treadmill and a TV of my own.

And the back of the house again, with outdoor living (screened-in porch), living room and master box bay window on the main floor, more guest bedooms upstairs. I might make the back bedroom a sitting room, with a sleep sofa for guests. It's too nice a space to languish largely unused. The basement living room windows and box bay windows are not visible yet - but soon will be.

And with that, I'll leave you to contemplate (or not) my future digs and whether (or not) a house makes a home.

Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
With the rain in Shambala

Ah, ooh, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Ah, ooh, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind
On the road to Shambala
Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind
On the road to Shambala

How does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala
How does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala

I can tell my sister by the flowers in her eyes
On the road to Shambala
I can tell my brother by the flowers in his eyes
On the road to Shambala

How does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala
Tell me how does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala

Ah, ooh, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Ah, ooh, yeah
On the road to Shambala.

(Daniel Moore. Covered by Three Dog Night.)

Friday, March 31, 2017

The weight of justice

"And Indian chiefs with their old beliefs know
The balance is undone - crazy ions
You can feel it out in traffic
Everyone hates everyone!"

Last week I served as a juror in a criminal trial in Fort Bend County.

This is the third time I've sat on a jury. The first time was a breach of contract civil court case in Harris County. The second time was a municipal court case for a misdemeanor traffic violation in Sugar Land.

This case involved a traffic violation too, but it was for a felony, evading arrest using a motor vehicle. The defendant plead guilty, which was wise, since there was police video in which he was clearly identifiable. So the trial was to be about the penalty.

First, let me say that I think the jury system is seriously flawed. I don't have any suggestions for how to fix it though. I'll get into that in a bit. But let me start from the top.

Oddly enough, Neil and I each received a jury summons for the same court on the same date. But as Eko said to Locke in Season 2 of Lost (which I am re-watching), don't mistake coincidence for fate. Locke later repeats this to Desmond in Season 3 - but I digress.

I suggested we take two cars to the courthouse but Neil thought we should carpool, so we took my car. If one of us got picked and one was released, either of us could leave and pick the other up later.

So we went through the rigamarole of metal detectors and standing in line and signing in and sitting. And sitting. We were sworn in, a judge addressed us, telling us that next to military service, juror service was the best way to serve our country. Uh huh. Based on the gratitude expressed to us for just showing up, I'd speculate that a lot of people must toss the summons.

Since we are moving out of state inside of six months, I considered not going, but with both of us being called on the same date and Neil wanting to color within the lines, I decided to go. And naturally I was number 10 on the second panel called, and naturally Neil was thanked, dismissed and free to go. He came and found me and got the car key.

After some more sitting around, we were called into the courtroom and introduced to the prosecution and defense. During the voir dire, we were asked a lot of questions about whether we could keep an open mind until we heard all the evidence and whether we'd be willing to consider a range of penalties. There were a few stupid answers, such as those from people who insisted that the answer to those questions depended on the facts, despite being pressed to consider the hypothetical. They were not selected. Hmm, maybe those answers weren't as stupid as they seemed.

We were also reminded that a defendant has the right to plead the fifth and if that right was invoked we should not consider it one way or the other as evidence of guilt or innocense.

I was the fifth juror seated. Twelve jurors plus an alternate were chosen. We were told that the trial was expected to last one day and that we would start at 9:30 the next day.

So Neil picked me up and we got a late breakfast at The Egg and I. I told Neil only about the bare bones of the case, that it was criminal and penalty only. He asked and I told him the defendant was not old and was dressed in a cheap suit or possibly slacks and a sports jacket, because I am unobservant like that.

Before I left the following morning, I almost wrote down a prediction of how the trial would go, since I couldn't say anything. But I decided to keep that open mind and hear the evidence before reaching the verdict.

We thirteen jurors convened in the jury room, where we had a coffee maker and coffee, a small fridge and a broken TV. Shortly after 9:30 the bailiff walked us to the courtroom. Did you know that whenever the jury enters and exits the courtroom, all rise? I didn't. I kept forgetting to remain standing until the judge said, be seated.

We didn't have assigned seats but I usually sat in the front row near the left side.

The defendant plead guilty, as expected, to the felony charge. The prosecution presented its case first. The plaintiff's burden of proof in a criminal trial is to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt - which we were told does not mean beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Two Sugar Land police officers testified. I'll try to keep the recap quick. The crime had been committed more than two years earlier, in the wee hours of an October morning in 2014. There was a routine traffic stop for speeding. The defendant exited the freeway, apparently to pull over, then apparently changed his mind and made a U-turn under the freeway and started picking up speed. Before reaching the entrance ramp, he climbed the curb and hit a road sign taking out his left rear tire.

He proceeded to get on the freeway and pick up speed, riding on three tires and a rim, in a storm of sparks. The officer followed, while calling in backup. Three exits later, the defendant exited the freeway. At the intersection he lost control of his car and spun around, coming to a stop. This is where his face was clearly illuminated in the police car headlights.

The chase wasn't over though. The defendant started driving again, turning the wrong way down the feeder road, cutting through a shopping center and the heading back to and onto the freeway. For eight more miles at speeds above the limit, sparks flying from the tireless wheel, he continued driving, followed by four or five police cars, finally taking an interchange onto another highway. At this point the car slowed and came to a stop.

Officers approached, guns drawn, yelling commands. We saw the defendant pulled from the vehicle, ostensibly unconscious. The film ended when he was pulled off camera. You could hear one officer say that he didn't smell alcohol.

The prosection rested. We broke for lunch.

In the afternoon, the defense called its first witness. The defendant took the stand.

I will mention here that the defendant had what I would call a hardened face. I might have said he looked like a thug. His demeanor was penitant and sorrowful, He apologized profusely and repeatedly to anyone and everyone. He testified that he did not have any memory of the chase, that he woke up in the hospital, that he called his ex-girlfriend who came and picked him up. The details are blurry, hard to make sense of from any angle. More than once, I wanted to take the floor and cross-examine the witness myself. Many questions that I had were never addressed.

We heard his life story. It was long and sad, naturally. He was born in 1985, making him the same age as my eldest daughter. His mother was never in the picture, although somehow he had several brothers and sisters. His father was disabled with brain damage in an alcohol-involved vehicle accident when he (the defendant, James) was three. James lived in an orphanage for the next ten years, then with siblings.

He had been married, had two children, was divorced and had a third child from a more recent relationship. The events of the case happened shortly after that relationship was ended by the child's mother. Along the way, James had gotten both an associate's degree and a bachelor's degree. Along the way he had also gotten several misdemeanor convictions, one for petty theft and several for driving while intoxicated and driving without a valid license. Each time he was sentenced to probabtion or time served.

Two other witnesses testified for James. The first was his current girlfriend, who was lovely, bright, articulate, a physical therapist with a PhD, working with patients with brain injuries. She said that they'd met just over a year earlier, that he was open and honest from the first about all the blemishes on his record, that she did all the driving now because she didn't drink and that he only drank on family occasions or when he was stressed. Hmm.

The second witness was her father, a career firefighter, who also was well spoken, credible and spoke strongly in support of James. He said that he felt really good about his daugher, Lauren, marrying James, that James had been living in their home, and that he was honest and helpful and penitent and a reformed man.

Wow. I could never feel happy about my daughter marrying this man. For one thing, he already had three kids, strained relationships with their mothers, and child support that he was struggling to pay or repay. That alone would knock him out of contention, let alone the prior convictions and probations and evidence of impaired judgment. But that is me and this man clearly was not me.

After a recess, we heard closing arguments, then adjorned to the jury room to deliberate. Our poor alternate, who'd sat through all the testimony, had to sit alone in a separate room and wait. We were charged with determining the penalty and the range was two to ten years in prison, wth an option for community supervision, essentially probabation, and a fine of up to $10,000.

I was chosen to be principle juror. You'd think the introvert in me would rigorously avoid that role, but the control freak in me always wins out at times like this. It was no coincidence that I'd chosen the seat at the head of the table. We were six men and six women, with a good deal of racial and demographic diversity.

When I'd been a juror previously, I had walked into deliberations with a fair amount of certainty about what the right outcome would be. In this case I was feeling pretty much at sea. So I suggested we each take a piece of paper and write down which way we were leaning, prison or probation. I said I didn't want us to go around the table and speak because we might influence each other and I wanted a genuine read on how people felt.

We had six people for probation and six for prison. I had written down probabtion.

Now here is where my disillusionment with the jury process kicks in. Some people take jury duty very seriously. Some people just want to get it over with and go home. Some people have conviction about their feelings, some people (most people) don't like to speak in public, mnay people fear and avoid controversy. Some people are articulate about why they feel how they feel and some people can't explain why they feel how they feel.

One by one, jurors get tired, get worried about family obligations or missed work or whatever, and after a while they will go whichever way the wind blows just to blow this popsicle stand.

We deliberated for at least four hours. We started around 4 pm. For once I felt swayable in my position. But as I told Neil later, I had one woman on the jury who was me. That is, she knew the right answer and she would not be moved. Have you seen the movie, 12 Angry Men? Then you know what happens.

So I had one woman who had decided that James needed to pay for his crime and do time. That was her story and she was sticking to it. I had two women who felt like James deserved another chance or that prison never did anyone any good. Most of the rest of the room either felt like me, that they could go either way, and the rest just didn't care and would have been happy to roll the dice or go with the majority rule. Except the jury charge was explicit that we could not use any means other than reaching an authentic unanimous agreement to come to a decision.

After a short time people started making noises about telling the judge we could not agree. I told them it would be futile, that the parties and judge would not want to try the case again and would tell us to keep talking. At about 7:40 pm the bailiff came in and took our pizza order. I felt certain we'd be there until late-thirty, with the possibility of a return the next day and a long shot chance of sequestration.

I was starting to feel a bit shaky from not eating, another factor that I can see playing into people's resilience and willingness to abandon principle. I started tossing scenarios out. What if we gave James probabtion along with the longest sentence, ten years, as the biggest stick for him to keep his record clean? Our crime and punishment woman wasn't having it. What if we gave him probabtion and the largest fine, $10,000 dollars as punishment? That also didn't fly. Time for the crime washer demand.

So I asked my two anti-prison ladies if they could live with the shortest prison sentence, two years, of which he'd probably serve only part if his behavior was good. Since neither one was as tough or hard-line as prison-woman, tears were shed but agreement to the shortest prison sentence was reached. I honestly think I have a knack for this. We called for the bailiff but the pizza was on its way and we had to wait to see what the judge wanted to do.

My job was write in the number of years and to sign the verdict, which I found a bit difficult since I had leaned toward probation. The judge called for us. I warned the two probation women that the defendant would weep. All rose as we filed in, the judge asked if we'd reached a decision, I said tht we had. I hand the paperwork to the bailiff who handed it to the judge. The judge read it aloud.

I was very aware of the attorneys' eyes on me, but I didn't make eye contact. Instead I studied the defendant, who buried his head in his hands and shook with silent tears. Out of the corner of my eyes I watched pretty Lauren flush, turn to her father and start crying, and I watched her father try to comfort her.

We were thanked and asked to return to the jury room so the judge could come in and talk to us. I was still shaky and ate a slice of pizza. My fellow jurors were kind to me and poured me a large plastic cup of Dr. Pepper. I really needed that sugar. The judge came in and I asked him a lot of questions, such as whether the defendant would go straight to jail. The judge said he thought they were booking him as we spoke. I asked other questions, such as why it had taken so long to get to trial and he spoke of overloaded dockets and a shortage of judiciary personnel and the like.

And then, I'd had enough. I got up, thanked my fellow jurors, all of whom had stuck around, and walked out. I was done.

Only I wasn't. The case held a grip on my mind for days. It's hard not having a crystal ball. Had the defendant finally gotten himself sorted out, hooked up with a good woman and a decent family, and started really getting his life together? Would Lauren stand by him while he served time? Would he come out of prison more hardened and angry and embittered? Had we just thrown away the best chance of redemption he'd ever have?

On the flip side, had we maybe done Lauren a huge favor? Had we perhpas gifted this girl some additional time to reflect on whether to hitch herself to a guy who already had three kids he could barely support, no driver's license, a propensity to drink when he was stressed, and jail or no jail, a felony conviction on his record?

Playing with people's lives is a heavy burden.

Two things happened since the trial that have made me feel a lot better about the outcome.

The first was that I did an internet search, looking for a photo to show Neil what the defendant looked like. I found this police blotter item in the Wharton Journal Spectator dated November 2, 2013.

What did it mean? Had the prosecution failed to find this, despite presenting evidence of a string of arrests and convictions? Could the date in the court case have been wrong?

All became clear when I finally sat down to write this story. Because I googled the text of the Texas law about evading arrest.

Under the Texas Penal Code, a person commits the offense of evading arrest if he or she intentionally flees from a person he knows is a peace officer attempting lawfully to arrest or detain him.

If the accused uses a vehicle while in flight, the offense is a state jail felony, punishable by between 180 days and two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

However, a second conviction for evading arrest in a motor vehicle is a third-degree felony, punishable by between two and 10 years in jail along with a fine of up to $10,000.

Obviously James was a repeat offender. For whatever reason, this was not given in evidence. If it had been, I know the decision would have been a lot easier for us, the jury.

I only wish I had asked my fellow jurors for their names and phone numbers to stay in touch. I'd have loved to let my two sad ladies know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Because I feel like we heard just a little too much bullshit.

I pulled up behind a Cadillac
We were waiting for the light
And I took a look at his license plate
It said "Just Ice"
Is justice just ice?
Governed by greed and lust?
Just the strong doing what they can
And the weak suffering what they must?
And the gas leaks
And the oil spills
And sex sells everything
And sex kills
Sex kills

Doctors' pills give you brand new ills
And the bills bury you like an avalanche
And lawyers haven't been this popular
Since Robespierre slaughtered half of France!
And Indian chiefs with their old beliefs know
The balance is undone - crazy ions
You can feel it out in traffic
Everyone hates everyone!
And the gas leaks
And the oil spills
And sex sells everything
And sex kills
Sex kills

All these jackoffs at the office
The rapist in the pool
Oh and the tragedies in the nurseries
Little kids packin' guns to school
The ulcerated ozone
These tumors of the skin
This hostile sun beating down on
This massive mess we're in!
And the gas leaks
And the oil spills
And sex sells everything
And sex kills
Sex kills.

(Joni Mitchell)