Monday, November 20, 2017

Reinventing routines and relationships

"And the clock on the wall's moving slower
Oh, my heart it sinks to the ground
And the storm that I thought would blow over
Clouds the light of the love that I found."

I've been corresponding with a couple of my oldest friends, the last of a larger group dating back to my college days, who still live in Texas.

One friend recently persuaded the man she's dated for the past few years to give up his condo and move in with her. Together they renovated her garage into a living area so he'd have his own space to work and smoke cigars. She put it this way.
It has been a huge change, but I think it will all work out. B and I have had our disagreements, of course; we are both so used to living alone, but I think we can work things out.
This prompted me to share this.
Moving is one of the hardest things to do, especially at our age with all our baggage, physical and emotional. It's also stressful for relationships. Neil has been cross with me more often than he ever was before, but I admit I haven't exactly been easy to be with. I'm struggling to adjust, whereas he loves everything about life here - except maybe me and my moods.
My other friend jumped in.
Liz, I’m sure moving to a new city is overwhelming, especially if you don’t already know people. But if it makes you feel any better, D has been very short with me lately and we didn’t even move. He has gotten very crotchety in his old age, and he keeps blaming me for his temper, that I’m driving him crazy. I know I’ve gotten a bit absent-minded recently, but I also have a ton of things on my mind. I’ve always been like that, and he just figured it came with the territory. I try to keep both of us busy so that we don’t have to spend too much time alone with just each other. Isn’t that awful to say?
This surprised me a little, as her husband has always seemed easy going and good natured, and I know he loves her very much.

It did crystallize something in my mind. Since we moved here, Neil has been as dependent on me as I am on him, maybe even more so. He'd characterize himself as an introvert, but he has a greater social need than I do. To wit, although neither of us ever really wants to go to parties, we do go because it's good for us and we generally have a good time. But once there, Neil doesn't want to leave. I'm usually ready to go long before he is, and not infrequently, we're one of the last to leave.

At times I've had to be quite assertive when it's time to go. This includes putting my coat on and waiting outside while he drags out the goodbyes.

Since I left the corporate life in mid-2011, my time has been my own. I've taken classes, done volunteer work, participated in local bead society meetings and events, had the odd lunch with friends. But there are weeks when, except for trips to the post office, I've been happily busy with my routines at home, running my bead business, walking on the treadmill, binge watching serial dramas, reading and writing. I've been accountable to no one but myself for how I spent my time.

At the end of this month it will be a year since Neil retired. But the year has been an anomaly. For one thing, I'd say that Neil had lunch plans with his former work team and other friends approximately three times a week. Much of the rest of the time was spent planning the move, packing and getting the house in shape to sell it. He also played a lot of softball, we saw a fair amount of his kids and mine, we made several trips related to the progress on this house, and we often had social plans with friends on weekends.

During most of that time, my life went on as before, until a couple of months before the move when I started the process of cleaning my glass, selling some, packing the rest, packing my bead collection and finally the rest of my things, or at least the ones Neil hadn't already packed. He packed all of our joint things, such as kitchen ware, all my books and DVDs and CDs and who knows what else. I'm still waiting for certain things to resurface.

Now we are here. Neil has joined a softball team, but they play only one game a week, with one optional practice. He has spent time unpacking. rebuilding storage shelves, shopping for furniture when I can coax him into it, but relative to the past year he has a lot more time to fill. Not that there isn't plenty to do, we've had a continual flow of trades in to fix typical new house glitches, and on a daily basis he bemoans how far behind he's gotten with email and tasks like reading the directions and warranty information on all the new house bells and whistles.

He has good intentions but runs out of steam and winds up falling asleep in front of the TV, coming to bed late and never being fully rested.

I've not gotten into a real routine here yet. My torch isn't quite ready to light up, although it's getting closer and I've actually begun unwrapping and sorting glass. I do try to walk on the treadmill four times a week. I do spend time writing and I have unboxed most of my boxes and spend time organizing and planning where things will ultimately go. With colder weather, my afternoons of sitting on the screened patio soaking up Vitamin D and taking catnaps have ended and I keep busy most of the daylight hours.

And therein lies the rub.

Neil constantly asks me to do things with him, go for walks, go to the grocery store, go out to lunch, go to the movies, go get ice cream. By habit I resist, I protect my routines such as they are, I protect my time.

I have to step back, I have to re-evaluate. I need to find a happy medium. I need to make Neil and my relationship a priority, at least a fair amount of the time.

My treadmill workouts are mostly for me, to stay fit and healthy, but aren't they also partly to stay trim and attractive to Neil? Isn't it contradictory to turn down a walk with him on a nice day so I can walk my three miles on the treadmill? I don't get the same aerobic benefit when I walk with Neil, but is that the whole point?

I'm such a creature of habit. But this move is an opportunity to reinvent my habits.

I'm still pondering what direction to go with my bead making, once my torch is set up. Do I want to sell online again, do I want to start doing shows again? I'm pretty resolved to let this year run out before I sell again, if I do. I plan to close my Texas business at the end of the year, and file a final state sales tax return. But do I want to get a North Carolina tax number? After this year, do I want to continue operating as a business and filing Schedule C returns?

Next year, I've opted to begin collecting Social Security benefits, before my full retirement age. In 2018 I can earn up to $17,040 before my benefits are reduced.

I have a little time to decide. Let me get my torch running and make a few beads and see how I feel about selling. Maybe in the New Year I will test the market and see how it goes. Lampworkers still talk about slow sales, prices continue to seem deflated online, but things might change and it might be worthwhile to stick my toe in the water and go from there.

At the rate time passes, it will be the New Year before I know what hit me. We've been here two months already, Thanksgiving is this week, our trip to Houston is less than two weeks away and after we get back it will be a mere three weeks until 2018. We'll have company for the first week of the year, a houseful, Neil's dad, Chris, Laurie, Luke and the baby.

After that, well, I'll work about this bead and business thing after that.

Probably right after I sort out my relationship priorities and reinvent my routines and habits.

Oh, baby
Well there's a light in your eye that keeps shining
Like a star that can't wait for night
I hate to think I been blinded baby
Why can't I see you tonight?

And the warmth of your smile starts a burning
And the thrill of your touch give me fright
And I'm shaking so much, really yearning
Why don't you show up and make it alright, yeah?
It's alright right

And if you promised you'd love so completely
And you said you would always be true
You swore that you never would leave me baby
Whatever happened to you?

And you thought it was only in movies
As you wish all your dreams would come true, hey
It ain't the first time believe me baby
I'm standing here feeling blue, blue, hah
Yes I'm blue

Oh, babe
Now I will stand in the rain on the corner
I watch the people go shuffling downtown
Another ten minutes no longer
And then I'm turning around, round

And the clock on the wall's moving slower
Oh, my heart it sinks to the ground
And the storm that I thought would blow over
Clouds the light of the love that I found, found
Light of the love that I found
Light of the love that I found
Oh, that I found

Hey, babe, ooh
Hand that ticks on the clock
Just don't seem to stop
When I'm thinking it over
Oh, tired of the light
I just don't seem to find
Have you wait, yeah played
Whoa, I see it in my dreams
But I just don't seem to be with you, you
I gotta get it all, gotta get it all, gotta get it all
I've got to get all

Ooh now my body is starting to quiver
And the palms of my hands getting wet, oh
I got no reason to doubt you baby
It's all a terrible mess

And I'll run in the rain till I'm breathless
When I'm breathless I'll run till I drop, hey
And the thoughts of a fool's gotta count
I'm just a fool waiting on the wrong block, oh, yeah
Hey, now, oh, oh, oh
Light of the love that I found
Light of the love that I found
Light of the love that I
Light of the love that I found."

(John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The language of loneliness

"He says: what do words ever reveal
He says: in speaking one can be so false
We're so close we have a silent language
We don't need words at all."

Grief, melancholy, sadness, dejection, mourning, bereavement, loss, loneliness dispossession, angst - these are words I've allowed myself to use to describe my feelings of late, some of the time, at their worst.

Misery, sorrow, anguish, pain, heartache, heartbreak, torment, affliction, suffering, woe, desolation, despair - these words are over the top for both how I feel and for that which I grieve, and I'd feel shame and guilt to use them.

Shame and guilt are words that describe how I feel anyway. That and narcissistic. Because right or wrong, reasonable or irrational, my feelings are my feelings and the sadness is real. Psychic pain goes hand-in-hand with self-absorption. When I hurt it's hard to feel sustained concern about anything or anyone else. It takes so much energy to simply weather each bout.

This past week we had day after day of gray, gloomy weather. The sun finally came out and I finally tapped some energy to tackle more boxes. I've got most of my boxes empty, even though that just means I have things stacked and staged on bedroom and closet floors, waiting for furniture to be ready for delivery, waiting to buy more furniture.

Getting the boxes mostly emptied finally motivated me to call the contact I had for house cleaning and pet sitting. She is coming to meet us and give us a price next week. That gives us a couple more days to clean and tidy. I don't want to discourage her. I think having some help with the house will pay generous dividends in lifting my spirits.

Telling our housekeeper of many years that we were moving was one of the only times I broke down in tears, of the times I told people. Most of the time when talking about the move I felt oddly dispassionate, matter-of-fact, reluctant but resigned, distant.

A trusted housekeeper is different somehow. She works in your home, she handles your personal belongings, she has a house key and the alarm code. She is a little like a mother, even if she is years younger than you. She makes things clean, she takes care of you.

My studio is closer to being set up. I ordered the hoses I needed and connected the oxygen to the torch. I called the HVAC company to schedule someone to hook up the gas. They have to call me back next week to let me know if they can do it.

Neil put together another shelving unit for my glass. The massive overwhelming task of un-bubble-wrapping and organizing my glass looms large. I wrapped it with great care but packed it unsystematically, so I suspect I'll moving it around a lot and it will be a long time until I am as intimately familiar with what I have and where to find it as I was before the move.

I don't have to have it all unwrapped before I can start making again, and I doubt I will. But at some point I hope it will be done.

I feel the same, to a lesser degree, about the beads I have collected. I know I run the risk of what happened the last time I moved, in 2007. I'm reminded regularly, because I am handling all the bins and tubs full of the tissue-wrapped collectibles that I never unwrapped in Sugar Land.

I feel ambivalent about them still. I always thought I'd unwrap them one day, that maybe I'd have a grandchild who they'd delight and amuse. I know as a child I'd have been enchanted by the hordes of miniature animals, the frog and cat collections, the little fine china dishes, the Halcyon days boxes.

If I had to bet money right now, I would take long odds that I'll never have a flesh-and-blood granddaughter. In the bigger picture I'm OK with that now. The world is a rough place. Life remains easier for males, I think. And we're not doing our planet many favors, we're playing a reckless endgame, and I fear humankind may be due for a comeuppance sooner than later. I sincerely hope it's not in my lifetime, or my kids' or my grandkids'. After that, well at least I won't be around to witness.

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking recently warned that the Earth may go up in flames as soon as the year 2600, thanks to population overgrowth and diminishing energy resources. I tend to think he's right, if polar ice cap melt, or a giant caldera eruption, or a massive meteor hit doesn't expedite a crisis sooner.

Hawking's proposed solution is to use laser-propelled nanocraft technology to explore habitable planets in nearby solar systems. Nearby in the sense of four light years away.

Pie in the celestial sky, say I. I'd rather see financial resources directed away from space travel and toward more practical ways to preserve our species, such as developing technology to slow down or reverse the effects of greenhouse gasses on the temperature of this planet. That doesn't mean another big one won't get us first, but if we can't keep living here on this planet that is so perfectly suited to us homo sapiens, why do we think we'd do any better anywhere else?

What gives anyone the chutzpah to believe that we should get a second chance to screw up a perfectly good planet?

But what do I know? I was an English major. I like reading fantasy, I just don't believe in it.

Neil says my pessimism about the future depresses him, but I don't see it as pessimism, I see it as realism. I don't think I can influence change - any more than I can influence gun control - so I accept it. If anything, it reminds me to carpe diem, to hug my loved ones more tightly, and to celebrate Thanksgiving every day.

All right, so I suck at that. But I do try. Even at times when I am consumed by what I don't have, I am ruefully conscious of all that I do have and I am damned grateful.

Or am I just hedging my bets? Am I practising gratitude because I am well aware that happiness is fragile at best and that I am amazingly lucky with the things that most matter in life?

I know that in my struggles with depression and anxiety in 2001 and 2002, I was desperately afraid that if I didn't get over it soon, God or the universe or some higher power would punish me by giving me something to really be sorry about. As if there was cause and effect at work, as if my selfish sorrow would somehow engender more egregious consequences.

I don't like to think that my gratitude is some sort of effort to bargain with fate. I'd much rather be stoic and stable and constant, feel nothing but praise and joy, experience nothing but beatitude and grace.

I'd rather not ricochet between tears and guilt, sadness and shame, grief and gratitude.

But enough about me. Or at least enough of the maudlin me.

I'm adjusting to my extra firm mattress. We put an even fluffier comforter under the fitted sheet, so crawling into bed is something not to fear.

We bought a folding camping chair so I have one more seating option when the asshole sofa and the hardass kitchen chairs wear out my derriere.

I found my purple hoodie, and my other missing hoodies and bathrobes, hiding in a forgotten box in the garage.

We started watching the series Prime Suspect on DVD, the second time for me, but I've been wanting to re-watch it and share it with Neil.

We're going to see Murder on the Orient Express, despite mixed reviews, because Kenneth Branagh. And Johnny Depp. And Judi Dench. And Derek Jacobi. Coincidentally, Neil and I recently watched the 2010 version with David Suchet as Poirot, the second to last episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot Season 12, which also is the second to last season of the series.

We're walking to the theater and, after the movie, we're trying the Kung Fu Noodle House. With a long season of cold-weather comfort food ahead, the more options the better.

I'm ordering a down jacket from Land's End because the warmer I dress, the happier I will be going out, and the more I get out, the happier I feel.

And Neil made a reservation at the North Harbor Club on Lake Norman for their Thanksgiving Day buffet.

So now when people ask, do you have plans for Thanksgiving, we don't have to stare blankly and say, not really.

Neil for the win-win.

I've lived in all of the houses he's built
The one in the air
The one underground
The one on the water
The one in the sand
He says: It doesn't matter how we live
He says: It doesn't matter where we live
We're so close we can dispense with houses
We don't need a home at all

It's come to be
A habit with me
To dine alone
You're never home
And the evenings end so early
He says: we can be close from afar
He says: the closest people always are
We're so close that in our separation,
There's no distance at all.

Sometimes I go out to the car
Turn on the headlights
Intending to leave
Sometimes I need to hear the words
My imagination's not as strong as you'd believe

Oh, but I've talked to you
You haven't listened at all
I've said I'm numb
I can't even cry
I'm stuck with acting out a part
He says: what do words ever reveal
He says: in speaking one can be so false
We're so close we have a silent language
We don't need words at all

There's a husky voice
That speaks to me in the dark
And on the phone from studios
And west side bars
Through tunnels of long distance
He says: we're beyond flowers
He says: We're beyond compliments
We're so close we can dispense with love
We don't need love at all.

(Carly Simon)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

On the firing line

"O beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king."

Time for a break from whinging and angst and first world problems.

On November 5, 26 people died in the worst mass shooting in Texas history, the fifth worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Of the 33 deadliest mass shootings (eight or more people) in the U.S. since 1949, four took place in Texas.

In fact, those four shootings ranked among the 16 most lethal U.S. shootings (13 or more people).

  • In 1966, in Austin, Charles Joseph Whitman killed 16 and wounded at least 30 people, shooting from the tower at the University of Texas.
  • In 1991, in Killeen, George Hennard crashed his pickup truck through the wall of a Luby's Cafeteria, exited the truck, and killed 23 people.
  • In 2009, at Fort Hood, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people and injured 32 people.
  • In 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 people and wounded 20 others in a small church.

Now, tell me how assault weapons in the hands of private citizens helped prevent or ameliorate these senseless, despicable massacres by the "bad guys."

Tell me how any second amendment protections safeguarded the eight members of the Holcombe family who died in the Sutherland Springs bloodbath.

Whitman was killed by police officers. Hasan, a United States Army Medical Corps psychiatrist, was convicted a United States Army Medical Corps psychiatrist, was convicted, sentenced to death and is awaiting execution. Hennard shot himself after a brief police shootout.

It appears that Kelley also committed suicide after a civilian confronted him with a rifle, although the facts are still being investigated

In 2012, Kelley was court-martialed, convicted of domestic violence, and sentenced to 12 months in the brig. In 2014 he was discharged from the military for bad-conduct. Later in 2014 Kelley was charged with animal cruelty.

Kelley also had been denied a license to carry a gun in Texas.

Yet in April 2016,he was able to walk into an Academy Sports and Outdoors store in San Antonio and purchase the Ruger AR-556 rifle used in the Sutherland Springs bombardment.

Tell me why Kelley deserved second amendment protection. Tell me how causal access to semi-automatic firearms played no part in Kelley's heinous actions at First Baptist Church on Sunday.

Oh wait, the president of the U.S. just did.
This isn't a guns situation. This is a mental health problem at the highest level.
That's what Trump had to say.

I'm speechless. Well, almost. I can still type.

I would say I have a history of public neutrality. I avoid outwardly taking sides. I walk or straddle battle lines. I shy away from controversy.

Guns are my hot button. Assault weapons are my trigger. Reasonless mass murders fire me up to break my silence.

Words are just words though. The topic of handguns is too incendiary for rational dialogue. Interpretations of second amendment rights are too irreconcilable, positions about gun ownership are too polarized to make conversation fruitful.

So I am either preaching to the choir or barking up a stone wall while exposing myself to a barrage of vitriolic contradiction.

Luckily for me, my readership is small. And mostly sympathetic.

I have to speak my piece anyway. I must refuse to hold my peace. Even at the cost of my peace.

Undeniably the gunmen responsible for mass shootings have mental health problems. At the highest level. I don't disagree with that.

I acknowledge that it takes both a deranged shooter and a weapon to perpetrate a massacre. I grant you that the weapon may not be a firearm. It might be explosives. It might be a motor vehicle. Hell, we can't rule out chemical warfare.

But unfortunately we aren't all that close to regulating sanity. We don't have good objective protocols to diagnose mental illness. I'm not sure we even have the empirical criteria to fully define it.

Over the 19 years that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System has been available, barely 1 percent of gun purchase applicants have been rejected based on psychiatric grounds. A judge must first declare the applicant mentally unfit.

If we can't screen for mental wellness satisfactorily enough to establish conditions - or prohibitions - for gun ownership, we should go with the benchmarks we do have.

Benchmarks like previous crime convictions, histories of domestic violence, military discharges that are anything other than honorable. Animal abuse charges for Christ’s sake. Don’t let those people own guns.

Oh yeah, right. Devin Kelley wasn’t legally allowed to own a gun. He got one anyway. He was one of the bad guys that the good guys need guns to defend against.

No doubt the NRA will make hay of the fact that a citizen with a rifle was pivotal in putting a stop to Kelley’s rampage.

Cold comfort for the 26 decesased at the Bexar County Medical Examiner's office and their bereft families.

Better to keep the guns out of the madman’s hand to start.

Is there a perfect answer? No. Guys like Kelley will always find a way to get a gun.

But why make it easy? Crack down on legal gun sales, with severe penalties for those companies who fail to adhere to stringent background checks. Close the gun show loophole, the one that exempts sales of guns by private sellers, i.e., on the secondary market.

And seriously, no civilian needs to own a semiautomatic weapon that can fire individual bullets as fast as the trigger can be squeezed.

Is there a point to these words? Will I convince anyone to change their position on the “guns situation”?

We know the answer is a robust no.

I’m going to keep speaking out anyway.

Because next time it might be you in the crosshairs.

It might be your child.

With whatever respect is due to responsible gun owners, the public right to safe passage overrides virtually unconstrained access to semi-automatic firearms.

That can’t be overstated. It can’t be said too many times.

Even if no one is listening.

Tell it. Think it. Speak it. Breathe it.

And if not now, when?

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by
When "happily ever after" fails
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly

But I know a place where we can go
That's still untouched by man
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass waves in the wind

You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

O beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king
Armchair warriors often fail
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie

But I know a place where we can go
And wash away this sin
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass waves in the wind

Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair spill all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

Who knows how long this will last
Now we've come so far, so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us
I need to remember this
So baby give me just one kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say good bye

Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence.

(Bruce Hornsby/Don Henley)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Toting the feels

"I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations
And in the middle of the celebrations
I break down."

"Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried." Megan Devine of Refuge in Grief.

Let me get right down to brass tacks. Life remains an emotional roller coaster for me.

I won't lie. I've been feeling pretty fucked up.

Staying busy helps to a degree. In fact, as long as I keep moving, I feel better.

That's been one of the most confounding things about this whole experience. The experience being my reaction to being here as opposed to the move itself.

Sometimes I feel almost fine. And I can almost always go through the motions. I can convince everyone I'm doing just fine, including myself.

And then the cloud descends and I feel just despondent. Homesick is the best way I can explain it.

Neil is exasperated. This is your home, he says, and I cry harder. I can tell he is losing patience with me. I don't blame him.

Unfortunately, I can't keep moving all the time.

This week I've spent time unboxing. Even though a lot of what I'm doing is taking things out of boxes and stacking them on the closet floor or the bedroom floor, it's a start.

I'm also struggling with my attachment to things. Part of the whole clusterfuck is just having too much stuff. Letting go of almost anything stymies me.

This morning I put three milk glass vases in the box designated giveaways. So far, since we've been here, I've yet to fill that one box.

The milk glass vases were an impulse buy a couple of years ago. I bought six or seven pieces for roughly one dollar each. They sat harmlessly on my kitchen soffit since.

Our kitchen here does not have a soffit. So the milk glass vases really need to go. I have nicer things to display in the limited amount of display space here.

Yet it was a struggle to wrap them in tissue paper and put them in the box. Even though every time I do put something in the box, I feel a hair lighter, it hasn't become a no-brainer.

I'll continue to whittle away at it. Or I won't, and we can just hire someone and have a giant estate sale in five or ten or twenty years, whenever we move again.

Or Neil and my kids can do it after I die.

I don't want to die. I'm nowhere near feeling that bad, and if I was, I'd remember that it would pass in time.

Time I think is the one and only thing that can really help me heal.

Neil asks me, what can I do to make you feel better, how can I fix this. I tell him, nothing. I tell him, I don't know. I tell him, if I knew what would make me feel better, don't you think I'd be doing it?

I tell him some things can not be fixed.

That's not to say they won't mend in their own time. And if they don't mend, in time we may find better ways to live with them, to carry them.

There are no short cuts though. You can't sidestep pain, you can only sit with it and wait it out. Even if that takes a long time.

Oh, people try. And believe me, I've considered it. From alcohol to opioids, from cannabis to cutting to counseling, I've pondered ways that I might accelerate revival, dull the melancholy feelings.

And I think I'd rather just feel them. Maybe some part of me is wise. Maybe some part of me just enjoys being sad.

I've wondered about that before. What is the payoff for feeling despondent? Is it because its a familiar space, one I've visited before, a comfort zone in some bizarre counterintuitive way? Do I go there because I know how much better it will feel when I finally stop hitting my figurative head on that metaphorical wall?

I don't know. I've never known.

One of the things I find myself procrastinating on is my studio. Getting back to melting glass would be getting back into my routine. Structure has always been a saving grace for me.

More than that, making beads was that rare thing, a true passion for me. In lampwork I'd found my calling, my niche.

It's true that we've made progress on setting up my studio. I bought two three-drawer cabinets from Ikea and Neil built them. We came up with the solution of using a laminate countertop for my work surface, we found one at Lowes, I bought it and we wrestled it into the car and got it home and put it in place.

Now I have to procure the right hoses with the right fittings and then schedule a mechanical plumber to hook up the gas line.

Day by day I've put off making those calls.

I've put off un-bubble-wrapping and organizing my glass.

I've postponed reopening my Etsy shop or listing anything on Facebook, even though I've unpacked my personal bead inventory.

I've dragged my feet about ordering shipping supplies, since I'd pretty much used up them all up before the move.

I've even broken it down into smaller steps. So, maybe I don't start selling again. Maybe I focus on one thing, the most important, most gratifying thing, being able to light my torch and dip a mandrel and wind on some glass.

If I analyze my motive, or more precisely, my dearth of motivation, it occurs to me that I'm unsure that making beads will captivate my heart and mind in the way it once did.

Neil spent some money having my studio space set up. We put in a tile floor and a gas line and ventilation. A few days ago I told him, I will finish getting my torch set up, I will make beads again, but I can't promise that I will embrace as unequivocally as I did before. I might, I hope I will, but I just can't predict how I'll feel.

Only time will tell that.

Once nothing could dampen my enthusiasm to master my craft.

Now I wish I could wave a wand and have everything be magically in place but when it comes to doing the work, I waver, I wobble.

But I'll do it. I'll do it because it's what I do, one day at a time, one foot in front of the other, the next right thing, the baby steps that still mean progress.

You might be surprised to hear it, but it's one of my hidden talents. I carry.

And I damned sure don't mean heat.

Once, there was a way to get back homeward
Once, there was a way to get back home
Sleep, pretty darling, do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep, pretty darling, do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Once, there was a way to get back homeward
Once, there was a way to get back home
Sleep, pretty darling, do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Boy, you're going to carry that weight,
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you're going to carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time

I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations
And in the middle of the celebrations
I break down

Boy, you're going to carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you're going to carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time

Oh yeah, all right
Are you going to be in my dreams

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love
You make.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

House of horrors

"If I travel all my life
And I never get to stop and settle down
Long as I have you by my side
There's a roof above and good walls all around."

If you want to fall out of love with your old home, sell it.

A couple of weeks ago, I cried after we signed the contract to sell our Sugar Land home.

It had been on the market for exactly two weeks by then, but we’d already been negotiating the price for several days by then.

We already had negative feelings about the buyers, starting with their first lowball offer. After we declined to counter, their realtor told our realtor that she’d warned them this might happen. Our realtor said something like, well, you can’t blame them for trying.

I did blame them for trying. It got us off on the wrong foot to start.

We also let ourselves be influenced to reduce the price more than I’d have liked. Our realtor implied that the buyers were on a short time agenda and had another house they were also looking at.

Maybe yes, maybe no. Who knows.

Still, it’s just money and I was resigned to the agreed price. The buyers had the house inspected the day after we DocuSigned the contract.

I honestly thought there’d be few surprises. We took good care of our home, I thought. The air conditioning had been serviced and was running well. Neil had put in new filters, new smoke detectors, and LED light bulbs everywhere. We’d had the carpet stretched and shampooed. We’d had our housekeeper deep clean on the last day before we left.

Nothing prepared us for the ugly 41-page property inspection report and the list of 18 items that the buyers wanted repaired, ranging from the exasperating to the mundane. From broken sprinkler heads and knocking water heaters to missing trip ties and sticky windows and compressed attic insulation.The report was accompanied by a repair estimate for the air conditioning system.

Neil was angry, ready to call the whole thing off. It was hard not to take it personally, and frustrating not to be there to handle the small stuff ourselves, things like tightening the attic ladder screws, removing oil stains from the garage floor and lubricating the garage doors.

Yet I had to admit, if I were buying the house, I’d want these things attended to too.

I got out a pencil and walked through the list with Neil, putting dollar values on each item, from zero for tightening the screws on the attic ladder to $500 to fix the whirlpool tub that was working just fine when we left. We erred on the generous side I think, then rounded up and offered cash in lieu of repairs.

The buyers responded by splitting their list into what they wanted done by us and what they’d accept cash for. Neil was ready to say no again, but our realtor claimed we should try to come to an agreement because we’d have to disclose the inspection report to future buyers. Buyers who would have their own inspection done and might find yet more issues.

I’m not sure this is right. My brother thought we’d only have to disclose what we agreed with in the report, but he’s not licensed in Texas.

In any event, for every month the house sits vacant we are paying for utilities, insurance, taxes, yard maintenance, homeowners fees, etc., while more things can go wrong, more dirt and dust can accumulate.

Our realtor stepped up a bit and found us a contractor who could do all the repairs except for the air conditioner and the hot water heaters which supposedly were knocking too badly to simply be flushed. So in the end we offered to cover the ac repair bill, make the other repairs and give a credit for replacing the water heaters.

Neil’s words to the realtor when we cooked up this counter-offer were, I’m getting pretty sick of this. The buyers did try for more, more money, more repairs, and our realtor stood ground and said, do you want this house or not.

They wanted the house it seems.

I suspect we could have taken a harder line sooner, but it’s just money as I said.

And somehow this bit of unpleasantness has helped me let go of the house and move on a little.

Another thing that helped was an accidental conversation Neil had with the buyer when he dialed their number which was on the hvac estimate. We think they are a young professional couple with children.

I’m not sure why that makes it more bearable.

The buyer - the man of the couple - was cordial on the phone with Neil. It makes me wonder whether the whole process could have been greatly improved if we’d been able to sit down at a table together, instead of communicating through two realtors and reports and lists.

I’m not proud to say, I looked at the buyers’ names on the contract and let a host of cultural biases color my reactions at every step along the way.

A voice on the telephone, children’s voices in the background, humanized them, made them individuals instead of the enemy.

I hope they flourish in our house, soon to be their house now barring further unpredicted impediments. I’ll be proud to turn it over shipshape for its ten-year age.

All that remains now is for me to grow to love this house I’m living in.

I’m still struggling with that. We still don't have a comfortable place to sit, I’m still going from achy mattress to hard kitchen chair to abominable sofa.

But the weather is nice, Chelsea and Robert visited, we had fun showing them around.

Rob, me, Chelsea. Photo by Neil.
We had a picnic at Ramsey Creek Park.
We finished building the corner desk, and it fits nicely in the home office/cat room.

I met a new friend for lunch, someone I’d met online, and I had a nice time. We’re planning another outing soon.

I love my new treadmill, well, as much as anyone can love a torture machine. I watched The Five and I’m working my way through Mindhunter. We just started the second season of Stranger Things.

We figured out how to stream music to the house speakers via Sonos.

We found a good sushi place. The North Carolina roll was delicious.

And we saw the deer again. That makes four times.

When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow

Well I never had a place
That I could call my very own
But that's all right my love
'Cause you're my home

When you touch my weary head
And you tell me everything will be all right
You say, use my body for your bed
And my love will keep you warm throughout the night

Well I'll never be a stranger
And I'll never be alone
Wherever we're together
That's my home

Home could be the Pennsylvania turnpike
Indiana's early morning dew
High up in the hills of California
Home is just another word for you

If I travel all my life
And I never get to stop and settle down
Long as I have you by my side
There's a roof above and good walls all around

You're my castle, you're my cabin
And my instant pleasure dome
I need you in my house
'Cause you're my home
You're my home.

(Billy Joel)

Friday, October 20, 2017

The magnitude of the problem

"I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me."

In the wake of a glut of sexual harassment and abuse stories in the media, the latest reprobate being Hollywood hotshot Harvey Weinstein, social media erupted with two simple words.

"Me too."

Reportedly it began on Twitter with a post by actress Alyssa Milano.
If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."
My immediate response was to think, with gratitude, that hasn't happened to me.

And then I thought a little more.

And it's funny, the more I thought, the more I read, the more I remembered, the more I connected.

This is what I eventually posted.

I have never by raped, at least not by brute force. There are other ways to be sexually raped. One is lies. I once was raped by lies. A very pretty liar lied me right into bed, not long after my divorce. Then he ghosted in a flash, quicker than you can say a New York minute.

But that's not the same thing. I won't compare that naive mistake, that stupid shame, to the anguish of women who were physically violated, by strangers, by dates, by fathers, grandfathers, brothers, cousins, husbands. Women who did not give consent or were unable to give consent.

Rape is one despicable, unforgivable kind of assault. There are others.

Initially I thought that, since I'd never been physically, forcibly, sexually violated, and I'd never been subjected to any ongoing threat or crude innuendo or embarrassing allusion or prurient insinuation, that I'd not been sexually assaulted, harassed or abused.

But on reflection it became clear to me that, in broader terms, sexual abuse encompasses any and all unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances and exposures.

I'm not here to debate that, although I have no doubt some would take issue with that definition.

All unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances and exposures are sexual abuse.

I have found myself in situations, not of my own volition, where I was afraid, shocked, disgusted, and shamed by the malapropos behavior of members of the male sex.

My first go round that I remember was when I was in elementary school. We lived one city block from P.S. 144. If I walked one short block, turned the corner and walked one long black, the school would be diagonally across the street. I could see the fourth floor of the school from my bedroom window.

It was on the long block. I used to go home for lunch and I think I was walking back to school after lunch. A man was loitering by a car. My memory is fuzzy right here, but somehow we got into a conversation. Let's say I was 9 or 10 or 11, and a friendly kid.

Then he asked me, do you have any hair yet?

It took me a few seconds to grasp his meaning. And then I felt shell-shocked. Tazed. I walked away, walked on to school. Fortunately it was broad daylight in a residential neighborhood. and probably if he'd pursued me or tried to grab me, someone would have heard me scream.

He didn't try to do anything. Nothing else happened. This was more than 50 years ago, and I feel dirty somehow typing these words on my nice clean blog.

I told my mother that night and I know the police were called and there were PTA meetings held to discuss this. My mom may have walked me to school for a day or two, but after that life went on as usual.

So why do I remember this one small thing today, why does it make me shudder?

When I was 12 years old, I started attending Hunter High School in Manhattan, which meant I rode the subway to school. During rush hour, when I traveled, the subway cars would fill up with a mass of humanity. I was in 7th grade the first time it happened. I had a seat on the local. My last stop took us from Queensboro Plaza to Grand Central Station, under the East River, so it was the longest stop on the ride.

At Queens Plaza, people crammed in and the doors closed. There was a man in front of me and I became aware that he was fondling his crotch. For that whole long stop I was terrified. Objectively I was safe enough, surrounded by people, and the man did not even appear to notice me. I'm not sure how many miles the stop traversed, the subways lines have since been rerouted, but I'd guess it took 5 to 10 minutes if the train didn't slow or stop between the stations.

I remember just shrinking inside myself, freezing and barely breathing until we reached 42nd street, the doors opened, the car emptied out, and I got out and transferred to the train that took me the last few stops to school.

I told no one. I didn't have the words or I was too embarrassed to speak them or I thought I was the only person that this had ever happened to.

During the six years that I rode the subway to school, I saw a fair number of disturbing sights, from mentally ill people dressed in ragged dirty clothing and stinking the air around them, to tottering drunks and people talking to themselves the way people talk into cell phones now, people being sick, people passed out on the platforms, people high as kites and feeling no pain.

I only remember one other specific incident. I was riding home with friends, mid-afternoon, when the trains were less crowded. Seated across from me was a man dressed in ordinary work clothing. He had a briefcase or some books on his lap and below that his fly was open and he was playing with himself. I was older then, in 10th grade maybe, and I looked away, disturbed and disgusted, but I don't remember feeling fear.

I do remember telling my friend what I'd seen after we got off the train and her response along the lines of, why didn't you say something then? She seemed disappointed at having missed the opportunity to see a man exposing himself indecently. Or maybe that's just how I remember it, through the filter of so many years.

There is one more story that I thought of before I needed to stop thinking. I was a freshman in college. I had a cold and I went to the infirmary. The college doctor examined me and as he listened to my lungs I felt him pressing his genitals against my leg. He was clothed of course, as I was, but I thought that I was imagining it or that it was accidental. I shifted position, he pressed against me again.

I didn't tell a soul. I avoided the infirmary for a long time after that. Much later I learned that the doctor had a reputation for this behavior. I remember girls laughing about it, one girl joked that she went in and said, I have a stomach bug, I don't need to take my shirt off. In retrospect, it boggles my mind. The doctor was widely known for this deviant, degenerate behaviour. But we let it go on. We accepted it. No one got angry, no one reported him, no one demanded that he be censured and dismissed. No, it was just a joke, he was just accepted as a pervert.

I suppose I'm lucky that no more egregious episodes of sexually unwanted and untoward attentions spring to my mind. I have intentionally not dug deeper into my memory, nor have I read many of the details that woman have volunteered to support their "me too" declarations.

But as much as I'd have liked to, I could not in good conscience say, "not me."

Me too, sisters. Me too.

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn't say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm all right song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I'm chasing sleep
Everybody's worried about me
In too deep
Say I'm in too deep
And it's been two years I miss my home
But there's a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm all right song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

I know I've still got a lot of fight left in me.

(Dave Bassett, Rachel Platten)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Some deer and a couple of dogs

“These are the clouds of Michelangelo
Muscular with gods and sungold
Shine on your witness in the refuge of the roads.”

I saw the deer again.

That makes three times.

We’d been here about a week when Neil spotted them one early morning, in the rain garden behind our property. There were five. Two bigger, two smaller. I thought, two does and their youngsters, plus one young buck with the cutest short velvet horns.

The does weren’t interested. They chased him off. I haven’t seen him again.

A few days later, at twilight we saw the mamma and child foursome again. Their eyes were huge and reflective, like a cat’s eyes in low light.

Most mornings I look for them when I wake up, but sometimes I forget. This was one of those times, but some movement caught my eye, some shape and color drew my attention. It was the same foursome, I believe, although for all I know about deer, there could be many family groups identical to this one. Two mammas and two kids.

One of the kids is a boy I think. He was play humping one of the others, or maybe he was serious but young and uncoordinated. He appeared to be playing, there was a lot of romping and frolicking.

Periodically, they’d freeze, listening to some unseen perceived threat. The stand of trees behind the rain garden isn’t very deep. There’s a walking path behind it that sees a lot of use. Beyond that there’s a clearing and then another wood. I’m not sure how far it goes before it hits more development or perhaps the highway.

Our backyard with the Rain Garden beyond.
The Rain Garden behind our fence, sans deer today.
We can hear the highway, a dull thrum in the distance. Usually it’s there, like a backdrop of white noise, but at times I don’t hear it at all. I’m not sure why. My best guess is atmospheric conditions, as I think traffic is pretty constant on the interstate.

We sold our house in Texas. We signed the contract on October 12, Neil’s birthday. Closing is scheduled for November 6.

It was on the market for exactly two weeks. Naturally, I have mixed feelings. Not by plan, we listed during a typically slow month, although the market hasn’t been truly typical since Hurricane Harvey rent its wrath upon the Texas housing market.

Still, we didn’t have three offers at or above asking price the first weekend, as I’d predicted. We did have a lot of showings, an average of one per day, and people continue to look at the house.

We had only the one offer, that started so low we declined to counter. They came up a good bit, we went down a little, they came up a good bit more, we went down a little more. They came up a little, we went down a little, they accepted.

I think we could have done better if we’d given it a bit more time. But then the realtor dragged out the story about the family who declined to negotiate enough on their first offer and then their house sat on the market for a year.

She actually said, sometimes your first offer is your best offer. I take these stories with a grain of salt. I say, that’s them, that's not us, and our house will sell. The market typically improves in November as people start thinking about a new house for the holidays, about moving the kids between fall and spring semesters.

But I’m also very much a bird in the hand person, and selling sooner means cutting off expenses such as utilities, insurance, and property taxes. It means no more of Neil stressing about the lack of communication by the realtor about feedback from the showings, no more of his anxiety that we priced too high or that the house is defective somehow. It is 10 years old and we’ve only done necessary repairs, which I think is fine, but he worries.

We’re still waiting for the inspection report, and we already know about some repairs we’ll have to do, a cracked window, a broken blind, a smoke detector that will require a massively long ladder to replace. I suspect there will be more. I don’t foresee any deal breakers, but you never know.

Neil is in Texas this week. He’s there to clear out the garage, where we shoved everything that was too shabby to take and too unwieldy to donate. He also wants his car, even though he says that he plans to buy a new car fairly soon and give his old car to Chris.

He’ll be loading it up with last minute things that we’d planned to take but couldn’t jam into my car. Then he’ll drive it here alone, over two days or three.

But he’s also staying with Laurie and having time to play with baby Blake. His trip also happily coincided with a send-off party for one of his former workmates, a family do, with almost all of his former work team.

Despite what seems like better judgment, he also scheduled doctor and dentist appointments while there, and a lunch date with his old work team, things that will add roughly another day’s delay to his return. And now he's talking about getting his hair cut by his old hairdresser while he's there.

For someone so gung ho to move, he's not being very proactive about getting his life set up here.

I’m not happy about being here without him so soon after the move. I could have gone but I’m not ready to leave the cats yet, and do I really want to make that long drive again? Not as much as you’d think, which probably isn’t all that much.

Biscotti, glad I stuck around this week. One of us is.
Things here are still at sixes and sevens. It’s hard to make progress on unpacking until we have furniture. I threaten Neil that he might return to a fully furnished house. An empty threat as it turns out. My back is still very stiff, between the unyielding bed and the lack of soft places to land. I did look at some furniture at Home Goods, neither inexpensive nor well made, and I didn’t feel up to hauling a nightstand in my car, should I have found one I liked enough, which I did not.

I’m still dreaming about getting at least two comfortable chairs by next weekend, when Chelsea and Rob come. I’m irritated that Neil might not even be back until Friday, the day before they arrive. He still has to arrange for the garage to be empty, even if that means paying someone to haul it away. I don’t think there’s much chance he’ll leave before Wednesday.

I think if Chelsea and Rob weren’t coming he’d stay longer. I think he’s enjoying being with Laurie and the baby and seeing friends. I haven’t been the most fun person to be with for a while now.

Face it, I’m grieving. It’s an up and down thing, some days are better than others, but no one, including me, knows when I’ll dissolve in tears. Knowing that it’s silly makes no difference. Sure it’s ridiculous that I’m weeping because I’m living in a beautiful new house, but it is what it is and sometimes all I feel is loss.

The black dog is not rational nor subject to reason. One can only hope that the beast will tire out and move on, erelong.

Until then, I’m another dog. I’m that cur who doggedly guarded the manger and wouldn’t allow other animals to have any hay to eat, even though it wanted none itself. Even though Neil is in Texas dealing with shit that I don’t want to deal with, I am jealous and hurt that he’s having fun that I’m not having.

This isn’t usual. Normally I don’t begrudge him any of the time he spends playing softball or going out to the bar with his buddies or traveling to see his mom and dad.

No, I hurt because he brought me here, to this place I agreed to go only because he wanted it so much, and now he’s left me alone here too soon, before I have my bearings, without the structure in my life that I depend on. I keep losing the plot, the point.

You don’t need to tell me I’m jacked up. I own it, I wear it, I fly the flag.

Some deer. Not ours, but like ours.

I met a friend of spirit
He drank and womanized
And I sat before his sanity
I was holding back from crying
He saw my complications
And he mirrored me back simplified
And we laughed how our perfection
Would always be denied
"Heart and humor and humility"
He said "Will lighten up your heavy load"
I left him for the refuge of the roads

I fell in with some drifters
Cast upon a beach town
Winn Dixie cold cuts and highway hand me downs
And I wound up fixing dinner
For them and Boston Jim
I well up with affection
Thinking back down the roads to then
The nets were overflowing
In the Gulf of Mexico
They were overflowing in the refuge of the roads

There was spring along the ditches
There were good times in the cities
Oh, radiant happiness
It was all so light and easy
Till I started analyzing
And I brought on my old ways
A thunderhead of judgment was
Gathering in my gaze
And it made most people nervous
They just didn't want to know
What I was seeing in the refuge of the roads

I pulled off into a forest
Crickets clicking in the ferns
Like a wheel of fortune
I heard my fate turn, turn, turn
And I went running down a white sand road
I was running like a white-assed deer
Running to lose the blues
To the innocence in here
These are the clouds of Michelangelo
Muscular with gods and sungold
Shine on your witness in the refuge of the roads

In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the earth
Taken coming back from the moon
And you couldn't see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all
You couldn't see these cold water restrooms
Or this baggage overload
Westbound and rolling taking refuge in the roads.

(Joni Mitchell)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Nest feathering

I built my house from barley rice
Green pepper walls and water ice
And everything emptying into white.”

We’re somewhere into week three of this crazy move adventure and the weather has turned an insistent muggy gray.

This is too bad because the thing I was enjoying the most about being here was sitting on the screened porch reading and soaking in Vitamin D.

In Texas I avoided the sun religiously. Here I put on sunblock and let the sun warm me and, apparently, boost my endorphins.

Time has been passing quickly. One minute we were watching the premiere of season three of Poldark and in what seemed like no time we were watching the next week’s episode.

Between shopping for things we need for the house and warranty visits from trades to tweak this and that, we’ve been busy. Today was like Halloween, the doorbell kept ringing.

We did have dinner with the first friends we made here, our Airbnb hosts from Davidson. They are super nice, we really clicked with them. So naturally, they just put their house on the market. They’re moving to Portugal for a few years.

On Saturday I went to the Charlotte Area Jewelry Artist’s (CAJA) meeting at the bead store in Mooresville, Ain’t Miss Bead Haven. We made bracelets. I spent more on the supplies for the bracelet than I’d have been willing to buy it for, assuming I’d even liked it, but it was a chance to meet people. People who could become customers, once I get my beads unpacked or my studio going. People who could become friends.

Neil joined a softball team as a mid season fill-in for a “non-competitive” senior team. He says they’re not very good and he hopes to try out for a more competitive team when this league ends.

He played last Wednesday night and was invited out to a tavern afterwards. He wasn’t sure he’d go, but told me he’d be home by 10 pm at the latest. Neil is usually very good about texting me with updates, especially if he’s running late. I was watching something on Netflix and didn’t really give it much thought until about 9:30 pm, when I texted him.

He didn’t respond and I didn’t think a lot about it until my show ended at 10 pm. Then I got insanely anxious. I texted him twice more, with no response. Then I began calling. He had my car and I had no idea what to do if he didn’t get home safely. I had wild visions of a softball accident or a car accident, with Neil’s phone somehow lost.

I looked for him in the Find Friends app we both use and it showed him at home. I called him, walking down to the basement listening for his phone in case he’d left it home. I turned off his iPad. I wondered if he were sitting in the car in the driveway talking on the phone, which he sometimes does. I walked out the front door and around to the driveway, but he wasn’t home.

I saw a car coming down the hill in our dark, quiet neighborhood, and momentarily felt relief, but the car kept going, around our cul-de-sac and up the hill on the other side.

By 10:20, my digestive system had turned to water. I had all three cats sitting in the bathroom with me. Finally, the fifth time I called, Neil answered. He was fine, still at the tavern, had put the phone on the table because he doesn’t have pockets in his softball pants. He hadn’t heard it buzz, had lost track of the time and was surprised that it was past 10 pm.

Relief erased any anger and, although I told him how upset I’d been, I knew his contrition was genuine. The fact that he’s always so good about making sure I don’t worry made me more upset in the instance that he wasn’t.

We’ve been going round and round about priorities. I feel like I can’t properly unpack until we get some furniture. We need dressers and nightstands, and we also need living room furniture. I did finally get all my cushions for the dining table and porch, but my life would be vastly improved by a comfortable sofa.

After a couple of frustrating forays into furniture shopping, an area where I know what I like when I see it, but I have no clear idea where to find it or how much it should cost, I made another pitch for working with a decorator. Furniture shopping with Neil has been frustrating for both of us. He disengages, checks his iphone obsessively, while I try to make sense of it all and point out things, trying to get a reaction from him. Waiting for him to make a suggestion. Waiting for him to pull out a credit card.

It’s no fun at all.

Neil still thinks we can do this ourselves. I drew a line in the sand. I said, I’d give it one more try, we’d spend one day going to one or more furniture places and if we didn’t find one thing we both liked enough to buy, we’d call in some backup.

And somehow we nailed it. We went to one store, based on a good Google review and the fact that the one I really wanted to go to was closed on Sunday. At the back of the store we found a bedroom set we both liked, except for the hardware, and thanks to a helpful salesperson we learned that we could order the furniture with different hardware, as well as with our choice of wood and stain, and with additional complementary pieces to choose from.

The furniture is made in the USA although not in North Carolina. We didn’t make a definitive decision but we finally felt we had a strong suitor. Buoyed by being on the verge of paying the price for quality, Neil spotted a dining room set he liked and we invested some time modeling options online with the help of our friendly salesperson.

Now, we already have a functional dining table with brand new chair pads, so a new dining set wasn’t at the front of my radar. But finding something that Neil really liked at a time he felt committed to making the investment in furniture, I wouldn’t discourage him.

The new set, if we get it, has some similarity to the set we have now, but is a lot more elegant. It also reminds me of the set my family had while I was growing up, which makes me nostalgic, in a good way.

As long as it doesn’t bump a comfortable sofa and some armchairs off the A-List.

Quick iphone shots of the chifferobe, dresser, and nightstands we’re getting, with simpler hardware and in maple with a washed gray-toned finish called sand.

I built my house from barley rice
Green pepper walls and water ice
Tables of paper wood, windows of light
And everything emptying into white.

A simple garden, with acres of sky
A Brown-haired dogmouse
If one dropped by
Yellow Delanie would sleep well at night
With everything emptying into white.

A sad blue eyed drummer rehearses outside
A Black spider dancing on top of his eye
Red legged chicken stands ready to strike
And everything emptying into white.

I built my house from barley rice
Green pepper walls and water ice
And everything emptying into white.

(Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Some things wicked

“I'm gonna free fall out into nothin'
Gonna leave this world for awhile
And I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah I'm free, free fallin’“

Crises in the world of late, large and less large, impinge on and overshadow my own little existential disquietude.

The largest mass murder in U.S. history just happened in Las Vegas, on October 1. As usual, social media couldn't wait 15 minutes out of respect for the bereaved before exploding into the guns vs. evil diatribe. Gun stocks went up, as people rushed out to buy weapons, fearing that this is the big one that just might engender stricter gun laws. It won't. Nothing ever has, nor likely ever will.

Before the body count was complete, President Trump was quick to reassure that he would do nothing to restrict any constitutional rights. God bless the Supreme Court's fucked up interpretation of the second amendment.

If there is one issue that I can imagine becoming an activist for it is gun control. It's indisputable fact that a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a suicide, homicide, or accident than in self defense. That states and countries with more guns in the hands of the public have more gun deaths.

I don't hunt, I would not kill animals for sport, I'd give up meat before I'd slaughter my own. But I do eat meat, not a lot but some, and as long as someone hunts responsibly and consumes the spoils of the hunt, I have no quarrel. But I can find no justification for semi automatic weapons in the hands of private citizenry.

It's futile, I know. Every argument has been made and quashed by the gun lobby and the apparently inane silent majority, the same faction that elected a president so clueless, tactless and compassion-less.

I'd love to add spineless but I'm afraid that doesn't quite jibe with Trump's posturing and poking and prodding of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. Not that it's courageous or heroic to goad a country with a nuclear weapon and an equally immature, defiant and combative head of state. No, it's dangerous and imprudent, reckless and foolhardy.

Yet lest we become too appalled or paralyzed or, worse, mobilized, by the threat of global atomic annihilation, the media turns our attention to these alternate, albeit valid, distractions.

What started as quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to remain seated during the national anthem at a pre-season game last year, to draw attention to racism in America, particularly against black men, has evolved into a battle about another constitutional right. But more so, it has become a protest of the president's harsh condemnation of Kaepernick and other NFL players who showed solidarity with Kaepernick by "taking a knee" during the anthem.

Initially Kaepernick explained that "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." Eventually, out of respect for the military, he opted to go down on one knee rather than sit during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.

On September 23, 2017, Trump slammed players for taking a knee with this tweet.
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!
I struggle with this a bit. Freedom of speech isn't limitless. There's the classic example that you aren't protected if you shout "fire" in a crowded theater (unless of course the theater is indeed burning). America may be far from perfect but you are not required to live here if you think some other place is superior.

Peaceful protest should be protected but is it appropriate to use a venue where you are representing a franchise that employs you and pays you generously? Sure, use your fame, your position and clout to make noise about disparity and inequality, but do it on your own time. Go on the talk show circuit, give an exclusive interview, hold a public rally, or better yet, a fundraiser.

I realize this is a contradictory perspective coming from a libertarian like myself. And certainly, I disapprove of Trump's little hissy-fit tantrum about it. His choice of venue, Twitter, is just as inappropriate for the dialogue that really should be happening. "I stand for the flag" has become synonymous with "I stand with Trump" and at this point I have to take a knee. I'm not going to stand up to show pride in a man (or in the individuals who elected him and continue to support him) who oppresses black people, people of color, women, people of other nationalities and beliefs, and everyone who doesn't think like he does or isn't just like him.

A man who balked at sending aid to hurricane-afflicted Puerto Rico because he didn't seem to comprehend that the victims of Hurricane Maria were not only human beings but Americans, members of this Great Country that we are allegedly making great again or greater.

It's a bit late to say, don't get me started, so instead I'll say, stop me now.

Oh, wait, Tom Petty died. So much to mourn this month already.

After all that, does it matter if I'm having a rough day. I've been doing OK on the whole, but sometimes it crashes back. Today we took a walk, even though I had no energy and was dragging the whole way. Then we passed a fountain, one that reminded me of the one at the intersection that is the entrance to our subdivision. Was the entrance to our subdivision, I mean.

I'm homesick. There is no home to be sick about really, but I am. I miss my life.

I'm in limbo again. There is no new normal yet. Hell, there isn't a place in this house yet where I'm truly comfortable.

The new bed that I loved so much at first has turned on me. The mattress is too firm. One night my back hurt so much I slept on top of the comforter. I know the mattress is supposed to soften up. Right now I've made my own pillow top with a spare quilt.

I ordered pillows for the deck chairs - or so I thought. What Amazon delivered was pillow covers. My error. So now I'm waiting for the inserts to be delivered.

I also ordered chair pads for the kitchen chairs. We took the first six back to Ikea because they didn't fit. The new set was a better fit but not comfortable to sit on and not well made. So they are going back to Amazon and I'm desperately looking for another replacement. I've given up hopes of economy but I can't find anything suitable at any price. If I'm going to pay through the nose, I should like the pillows if not love them.

A treadmill is on the way from Amazon. Neil will be leaving for a week soon, to tie up loose ends in Texas and get his car. I thought that would be a good time to get back into a walking routine, a good time to have some structure to keep me stable.

It’s not looking like my studio will be up and running soon. The end of October is optimistic.

On the bright side, I’m enjoying the nice weather and our screened porch which gets sun almost all day. I’m looking forward to a visit from my daughter and her boyfriend later in the month. My stepdaughter will also be here for a day on her way home from a business trip.

After that, who knows. For now, you’ll find me here.

She's a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She's a good girl, crazy 'bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend too

It's a long day livin' in Reseda
There's a freeway runnin' through the yard
And I'm a bad boy, 'cause I don't even miss her
I'm a bad boy for breakin' her heart

And I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah I'm free, free fallin'

All the vampires walkin' through the valley
Move west down Ventura Blvd.
And all the bad boys are standing in the shadows
All the good girls are home with broken hearts

And I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah I'm free, free fallin'

Free fallin', now I'm free fallin'
Now I'm free fallin'
Now I'm free fallin'

I wanna glide down over Mulholland
I wanna write her name in the sky
I'm gonna free fall out into nothin'
Gonna leave this world for awhile

And I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah I'm free, free fallin'

Yeah I'm free, free fallin'
Oh! Free fallin'
Now I'm free, oh, free fallin'

(Thomas Earl Petty)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Seeking serenity, box by box

One day I'm gonna make it up to you
One day we're gonna laugh instead of cry
One day I'm coming home to stay, it's true
And baby, that's the last ticket I'm ever gonna buy.

Sorry about the radio silence.

We are in North Carolina.

We left Sugar Land last Tuesday and arrived here on Thursday.

The cats did amazingly well. Very little meowing. The little litter boxes I put in their crates were a waste of effort. Loki had one minor "accident" on the first day, and that was all, despite many hours of being crated.

I think it helped that they rode in the way-back of my SUV, below window level. We stopped only for gas and offered treats but only Loki was interested.

They did well in the hotel rooms too. Zamboni spent a lot of time under a chair or behind a bed, starting at every sound in the corridor. After lights out, all the cats spent at least part of the night sleeping with Neil or me.

Road warriors Loki and Biscotti.
Once I woke up to the sound of a cat chowing down, and it was Zamboni. The disposable litter box also was used during the night.

The first day was hard because we got a late start. We had to put the last furniture in the garage and wait for the recycling to be picked up.

The second day was harder. We were going to have progressively shorter drives, but decided to press on after making good time. That would have been a better decision if we hadn't hit Atlanta during rush hour and spent much time in stop and go traffic. The cats made barely a peep but we both felt guilty for prolonging the ordeal.

On the bright side, we had a very short drive left on Thursday, only about 130 miles, so we didn't get in late and exhausted.

We set up a cat room right away, with litter boxes, food, water, cat tree, cat bed, scratching posts.

Two cats have adjusted fairly well. It was good that there was familiar furniture already set up in the house. Zamboni is struggling a bit, freaked out by every sound, such as the new house alarm beeping, a phone ringing and especially and unfortunately when there was a pool party next door on the day we arrived.

Zamboni the homesick.
Seven kids screaming, shrieking and jumping around in the pool on what should have been a school day. I still haven't figured that out, but it's been mostly blessedly quiet since. Still, Zammy chooses to spend his days in a traveling crate. He does come out in the evenings and seems OK, but I did google depression in cats after moving, which led me to the reading about relocation depression, which is a thing and happens to people too,

Not surprisingly, I have all the symptoms.

You might say I've gotten off to an emotional start.

I won't give you a blow-by-blow. Sometimes I'm fine, sometimes I cry a lot. I have no energy. I sleep at night and I sleep in the afternoons. I do a little unpacking and I have to sit down and rest. I have no appetite, nothing sounds good, but I do get hungry and eat, so no worries there.

We still haven't grocery shopped. We've bought a few things for the house, a patio table and four chairs, a fig tree, some ceramic pots. Furniture is problematic. We only brought two sofas, and only one is in a living area. The other is in a guest room that will eventually be my workroom and cats aren't allowed because carpet. I go back and forth from our bed to our kitchen chairs to the one sofa.

Neil isn't enthusiastic about furniture shopping right now. He wants to get 300-some boxes moved out of our garage and unpacked. I feel paralyzed about unpacking because I don't have furniture to put things away in or on. We lost our lovely built-ins and a lot of cabinet space to boot.

About 100 of the boxes are totally mine and at least half of them have a layer of glass on the bottom, so until I outfit my studio I can't quite envision unboxing. But Neil suggested that if I unpack three boxes a day I'll be finished in a month. So that's my goal and it seems reasonable enough.

Another complexity is that we're sharing a car for now and I'm not ready to go out on my own yet. So I spend a lot of time waiting for Neil while he industriously hammers shelving together or unboxes books into stacks on the floor. I feel better going out and getting things we need, such as bath rugs, but that's probably just my shopping gene kicking in.

Still, if I felt able to go to Ikea for instance, I could pick up furnishings for my studio at least, which might help with my unpacking paralysis. I'll get there, I'm sure, but I'm not there now and I'm not forcing myself.

It's easier to weep about all the things I've lost for the present, like having a working studio and a treadmill, than to take some action to remedy the situation. I mock myself but I'm serious. This isn't easy and I'm being gentle with myself and not pressuring myself to do anything until I'm ready. Not yet anyway.

In the meantime, I popped box lids until I found my coloring books and gel pens and a novel I haven't read yet. Score three for me.

Face it, I don't like change. I say I do, I say variety is good, innovation is good, growth is good, even when it's hard. But I'm so very attached to my routines, my comforts. My coffee in the morning with a cat. Familiar places. The structure of my days.

I know, get over it, stretch, adapt, relax, be flexible, be tolerant, be patient. New routines will become accustomed routines, new places will become familiar, new daily structure will become habitual. It just needs time.

Or so I hope.

Three boxes a day.

Every article I put away makes being here more inevitable, as if we aren't already here, as if it weren't already past the point of no return.

And it's not that I want to go back, not to Sugar Land, not to Texas, not really. Even though I look at our front door and I cry because, although it's pretty, it's not our beautiful leaded front door with sidelights, opening into our beautiful foyer. So many beautiful things that will soon belong to someone else. Our house will be listed on Thursday. I predict it will sell quickly, even in a soft market, but maybe that's only because I love it so much that I'm sure every prospective buyer will love it too.

No, you, by which I mean I, can't go home again. That's always been the problem, no really good solutions, no workable compromises, certainly no geographical place with access to my children that also has the soft green grass that thrills Neil so much.

I talked to my kids and my grandson this weekend. That helped. I feel so unanchored, so drifting, so ungrounded.

I told Chelsea, it's nice here, I don't want to like it but it's hard to dislike it. People are friendlier, without a doubt. Wherever we go, people seem happy, oddly, crazily, inexplicably happy. From the helpful employees and fellow patrons at Lowes to the owner of the restaurant that was closed when we got there but who not only agreed when I asked if we could buy some scones to go, but wouldn't take any money for them. All cheerful, good humored, helpful. Happy.

Happy. It's a goal.

Like three boxes a day.

First picture from the new house.

I drive a three county highway
And every one of them town's got a firework show
It's 4th of July and I'm just now getting home
On the horizon I can see them all unfold

It's been a warm winter and a cold spring
Everywhere I've been's felt wrong to me
Everything I kept
What I never should have thrown away
I wanted you for all those yesterdays

I was wishing for you one Sunday morning
Walkin' down the road in some debtor's town
From every church a hymn came blendin' in
And everyone of them wantin' to be found

Did you say it took a long time to find
A lot less man and less harm done
Did you say it took a long time to find
A handsome one to keep you young

One day I'm gonna make it up to you
One day we're gonna laugh instead of cry
One day I'm coming home to stay, it's true
And baby, that's the last ticket I'm ever gonna buy

It's been a warm winter and a cold spring
Everywhere I've been has felt wrong to me
So put your head on my heart and lay down in the crook of my arm
Everything's okay, I've been found again
I've been found again.

(Amy Elizabeth Ray, Emily Ann Saliers)

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)