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)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

All (or at least some) is revealed

"And then I open up and see
The person falling here is me
A different way to be."

Today (March 25 for those in different time zones) is reveal day for the Bead Soup Blog Party - Bead Hoarders Edition. The Blog Party is the brainchild of Lori Anderson of Bead Soup Cafe and the blog Pretty Things, where you will find a linked list of all the participants. Should you be interested in seeing lots of eye candy, please visit the linked blogs and Pinterest boards.

This time I finished two pieces, using a mix of beads from the two soups my partner, Andra Weber, sent me, plus some from my own stash. Andra sent me two soups - see them here and here - and I loved both of them, especially the focals. The theme of the swap was to send a focal bead that you'd personally loved and hoarded. Sending additional beads was optional but always adds to the fun

I still have a lot of beads left to play with, enough for several more pieces, and a lot of good intentions to go with them. I'd say that two days of jury service this week put me behind but, face it, I would have found other excuses, I mean reasons, to run out of time. The best reason is the truest one. Jewelry design takes both time and inspiration. Time is never unlimited and inspiration, well, as I may have mentioned, that muse of mine is a flibbertigibbet.

Actually putting a piece together takes the smallest amount of time, compared to thinking about it, planning it, laying it out, deciding you hate it, starting over, thinking, planning, hunting through your own stash for those perfect beads you think you remember having, maybe finding them, maybe not, maybe finding something else you'd forgotten that suddenly demands attention. At some point you just have to bite the bullet and make the piece and hope you stick the landing.

I have pieces I've taken apart and remade as many as five times over a period of time. Since I make my own lampwork beads, I've been known to wear a piece for a while, then take it apart and sell the lampwork. I have other pieces that date back to the beginning of time, by which I mean time since I first learned to make jewelry with beads.

My first piece to show was made with the focal bead from my first soup, the bronze daggers and cranberry crystals from my second soup, some round pink Czech glass beads that came from my own stash, plus a clasp I liberated from another necklace. The piece almost made itself. I knew right away how I wanted to use the focal. It's simple, easy to wear and pretty I think.

My second piece uses the focal and matching pair from my second soup, as well as the green crystals and pink opalite from my second soup. I already had the peachy agate rounds, AB cubes and wine seed bead spacers. And the clasp came from my first bead soup exchange. Yes, I took apart one of the pieces from that swap. My skills have evolved since that time and I wanted to use the pretty clasp in something more worthy.

This piece was harder for me becasue I could visualize so many different ways to play the focal. I'm happy with the way it all came together.

And at the eleventh hour, I decided to make one more quick piece, a bracelet using the carnelian nuggets from Andra and some random beads from my stash.

Every now and then that muse steps up to the plate and pulls a long ball.

Oh, my life
Is changing every day
In every possible way

And oh, my dreams
It's never quite as it seems
Never quite as it seems

I know I've felt like this before
But now I'm feeling it even more
Because it came from you

And then I open up and see
The person falling here is me
A different way to be

I want more
Impossible to ignore
Impossible to ignore

And they'll come true
Impossible not to do
Impossible not to do

And now I tell you openly
You have my heart so don't hurt me
You're what I couldn't find

A totally amazing mind
So understanding and so kind
You're everything to me

Oh, my life
Is changing every day
In every possible way

And oh, my dreams
It's never quite as it seems
'Cause you're a dream to me
Dream to me.

(Dolores O'Riordan and Noel Hogan)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Exposure leads to more exposure

"And why do you sing Hallelujah
If it means nothing to you
Why do you sing with me at all?"

No surprises here. The nodule above my nostril turned out to be a big nothing. Big being the operative word, albeit I concede somewhat subjective.

Since I was less than one percent worried that it was something, I was happy only to be able to name it. A benign fibrous papule, or angiofibroma. I could tell immediately from the cheerful telephone voice of the newsbearer that it wasn't anything concerning.

You don't have to do anything further, she said. I of course said, but what if I want it gone? She said, we can remove it. That was good news.

I asked if it would be problematic to remove it, considering my shave biopsy hasn't healed yet. She said, that's no problem, we can't get you in until the end of the month anyway, you should be healed by then.

I asked if I'd be trading in my scar for a bigger scar. She said, the new scar would be linear, which as far as I'm concerned is better than a pancake shaped scar. I asked if Dr. E. would be doing the removal and she said, no, we have specialists that do these surgeries.

So it's booked. My nose goes under the knife, again, on March 31, with Dr. P. doing the honors.

And naturally part of me wonders if we couldn't have skipped this interim misery and gone straight to an excision, if a more experienced doctor would have been able to diagnose it with reasonable certainty, instead of it/me having to be sliced first.

I'm still dealing with ointment and bandaids on my nose, and I get to do it all again right about the time I get shut of all this aftercare.

Since it's a case of cosmetics, not cancer, I shall officially stop complaining about it now. At least between now and March 31 you won't hear one more nose peep from me. After that, all bets are off. If they weren't, you'd be pretty safe betting that I'll be whining again after the knob job.

It's been a quiet interlude here, so I only had to go out socially once with a bandaided nose, to a dinner with a former colleague of Neil and his wife. Concealer and powder worked more recently when we met friends for Dim Sum, but now I'm back to the ointment-bandaid rigamarole. Nothing much is on the calendar between now and month-end, except an eye doctor appointment and a baby shower.

April is wide open right now as well. It's looking like our next North Carolina trip won't be until mid-May at the soonest. We'll be picking out the granite slabs for our counters, making landscaping plans and designing closet upgrades.

I've been jonesing to plan one hiking trip between now and moving time.

Bead sales have picked up a bit, at least compared to the last slow spell. I did another round on the bargain bead site, and once again I did really well for a week or so and then things tapered off.

So I guess that's how I'll play it. Stay off it for a while and if things get impossibly slow, give it another go.

I had a few buyers leverage the heck out of their $3.50 shipping, causing me to pay for priority shipping because their boxes weighed more than one pound, and paying for insurance to boot. But I'm not complaining about that.

Because on the flip side, there are always a few people who sit tight with a $6 purchase and I wind up having to print an invoice and a shipping label and use tissue paper and a bubble envelope. Hypothetically that cost is built into my shipping fees but just barely. It's more of a psychological thing though, to have someone win what should have been a $12 pair of beads for $6 and then they are done.

I know, think of it as a loss leader. Hopefully they will get it and love it so much that they will come back for many more, at full price. Except, no, it doesn't work that way. Someone said it well the other day, in the context of being asked for a bead donation to a good cause, in return for which you get "exposure." She said, exposure just leads to more exposure.

I'm pretty sure I've never made a sale on the basis of any beads I donated to a good cause. Yes, it's nice to know that fish bead that I would have happily sold for $25 raised $200 for the cause, but it won't pay the power bill or buy me any new glass.

I've been playing with silver leaf and frit and feeling chuffed with the results, but, as has been my chronic recent history, focal beads don't sell for me. Not even pretty ones like these.

Today, both Neil and I had jury duty. What are the odds of that? We drove together which naturally meant that I was called for a panel and he was dismissed. And, why yes, I was seated. Hello Juror number 5.

It's a criminal case and that's all I am allowed to say right now, except that the trial is only expected to last for one day. I go back tomorrow and with luck we'll get 'er done. The judge did tell us to make arrangements in case we need to stay late.

I'll be back with a full report. And don't forget, Saturday is the Bead Soup Blog Party reveal day. I've got one piece made and one more in progress in my mind.

Am I procrastinating? Guilty as charged.

We might kiss when we are alone
When nobody's watching
We might take it home
We might make out when nobody's there
It's not that we're scared
It's just that it's delicate

So why do you fill my sorrow
With the words you've borrowed
From the only place you've known
And why do you sing Hallelujah
If it means nothing to you
Why do you sing with me at all?

We might live like never before
When there's nothing to give
Well how can we ask for more
We might make love in some sacred place
The look on your face is delicate

So why do you fill my sorrow
With the words you've borrowed
From the only place you've known
And why do you sing Hallelujah
If it means nothing to you
Why do you sing with me at all?

(Damien Rice)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Souped up

"You can't bargain with the truth
'Cause for those who were deceived
There'll be no reprieve
There'll be no time to believe in the end."

That's the first picture of work on our new house. The basement walls - which had just been poured - to be precise. Shit is getting real. You know that's true when they bring in the porta potty.

A few days ago, I got a second bead soup from my partner, Andra Weber, in the Bead Soup Blog Party. Andra felt like she'd second-guessed herself and, after looking at my Facebook page, had sent me beads that weren't her original intent for the exchange. In the long run, she decided to go with her first instincts and send me the soup she'd originally planned to send.

If this sounds inarticulate, it's because I sincerely appreciated the first soup, but rather than look a gift horse in the mouth, I'll just say thank you and shoulder the challenge of making at least two creations for the March 25 reveal.

Here is the second soup Andra sent me.

There's a beautiful lampwork focal and matching pair, along with Czech beads and crystals and some sweet pink opalite. There's also a strand of gemstone beads and a strand of large pink crystals.

Here's another look at the focal set, the rest of the beads and a tube of seed beads that were in the package.

I have my work cut out for me. You know what I'll be doing on March 24.

So, as I mentioned about 5 or 6 posts ago, it was 102 degrees the day Chelsea was born. After we found out, at 37 weeks, that she was transverse breech, we were resigned to having a C-section. I asked my OB about trying to turn her and she was adamantly opposed.

My original due date was August 16, 1988. A friend pointed out that if I had my C-Section on the eighth, her birthday would be 8-8-88. The idea appealed to me. I asked my doctor about it and she was agreeable. But there was a hitch. She was taking a week of vacation, returning on August 7, and she wouldn't schedule the surgery without doing an amnio to test lung maturity. I'm clueless why this would have been an issue at 39 weeks. But it was what it was.

The hospital would only schedule C-Sections in the morning, so my doc came up with a plan. I'd go in for the amnio that morning, and when she got the results, we'd get me in by saying that my water broke. Oh, I talked the doctor into signing me off work for the week she was away so that I could put up my feet and sip wine to ward off labor. With a face-down, transverse lie, you definitly don't want to go into labor. Nothing good happens when the cord is born first.

So on the morning of August 8, Jon and I went to the hospital in the small hours to have the amnio. We went home and I let my pediatrician know that I'd be having the baby that day. Mid-afternnon we got the amnio results and the game was afoot. The doctor sent me to the hospital, saying my water had broken.

The hosital staff was suspicious. Apparently my pediatrician had called to ask if the baby had arrived. They asked me a lot of questions, I made up answers on the fly. No I hadn't brought along any soaked garments. Yes, I'd felt a trickle of liquid but I'd taken a shower. They did some sort of test but got an equivocal result. My doctor showed up after office hours and took charge, She said, I'm not taking any chances. She said, prep her.

There was a lot of rigmarole, being hooked up to monitors, meeting the anesthesiologist, getting an IV, a catheter, an epidural. They wheeled my into surgery, My arms were strapped to some sort of boards, presumably so that I didn't try to assist the doctor. The put up a little curtain at my midriff. The lights were very bright, there were a lot of people in the room, including neonatal specialists for higher risk deliveries. It was loud, people were talking about pre-season football, I was pretty much that patient etherized upon that table.

Then my doctor breezed in, all suited up and gloved, and this is what she said to me. I told you I'd have to do a vertical incision, right? Well, no, you didn't. I thought I'd have a bikini-line incision like everyone else. She eyed me. She said, well, I can do that, I can just make a really wide cut, but if you get a bad baby, it isn't my fault.

I am not making that up. Those were her words. You don't forget words like those.

And what are you gonna do? Take risks with your babie's health before she's even breathed one breath. No, I didn't think so. I said, do the verticle incision.

I remember I did a lot of screaming. I didn't feel any surgical pain, but I felt my organs being rearranged. I felt lots of unpleasant pulling and tugging. The circus roiled on around me, and eventually I had a baby. No one said, it's a girl. They showed her to me, but I was too agitated to appreciate the moment. They took her away to clean her up, they stapled me up and took me to a recovery room. And finally it was quiet.

Jon came in and I wept. I was so angry. I was angry that my doctor didn't tell me about the verticle incision until I had needles and tubes in multiple places and my hands were bound to boards. I felt mutiilated. I wanted to sit up. Jon, who had actually seen my incision, encouraged me to keep lying down. He had seen Chelsea, cleaned up, weighed in at 7.4 oz. and responding to his voice. I was eager to get her back.

And once I had her back, I refused to let them take her away again. I spent four nights, from Monday to Friday, in the hospital, and she never left my room. They wanted to take her and give her a bath. I insisted they bring in a warmer and bathe her in the room. I would not let her go to the nursery so I could sleep. I just slept when she did and held her the rest of the time.

Our sitter brought K.C. to the hospital to see her baby sister. K.C. held her on a pillow and said, I'm already the big sister. I have this all on VHS tapes, but since VCRs are almost obsolete, I should have them converted to DVD or accept that I am the only one interested in watching them and I still have two working VCRs, we're probably good.

Most of what I remember about that week was how hungry I was. I'd had only a banana on the birth date, knowing that I'd be having surgery. The hospital kept me on a liquid diet until I passed gas. I would have killed for a cheeseburger. Finally, around Thursday, when nature was still refusing to take its course, they gave me something to let it all go. After that I got to eat food again.

We went home on Friday morning, but before we left Chelsea's bilirubin levels spiked up. I had a choice of leaving her in the hospital or taking her home and having home health set us up with light therapy at home. Of course I took her home. My pediatrician wanted me to bring her in for a recheck. After lunch I told K.C. we were taking the baby back to the doctor. She burst into tears.

She said, you told me we were never taking her back.

We spent a pretty miserable weekend. I was terrified that the little felt goggles the nurse put over her eyes to protect them from the lights would slip. Jon slept in a rocking chair with her so I could get some sleep. I held her whenever I wasn't sleeping. The nurse came daily to take blood from Chelsea's little foot. By Monday her bilirubin levels had come down. The lights were packed up and sent away.

And we started on the brilliant adventure of raising two daughters, two little girls. Sisters.

"You can't bargain with the truth
Whether you're right or you're wrong
We're gonna know what you've done
We're gonna see where you belong in the end

You can't bargain with the truth
Whether you are black or you're white
We're gonna know who's right
We're gonna see you in the light in the end

Every little thing you do
You better know it's coming back to you

You can't bargain with the truth
Cause one day you're gonna die
And good's going high
And evil's going down in the end

You can't bargain with the truth
Whether you're old or young
We're gonna see what you've done
There'll be nowhere else to run in the end

You can't bargain with the truth
Whether you're rich or you're poor
You're gonna meet at the same door
You're gonna know the real score in the end

And if you want to help your fellow man
You better start with what is in your hand

You can't bargain with the truth
Whether you're right or you're wrong
We're gonna know what you've done
We're gonna see where you belong in the end

You can't bargain with the truth
'Cause if the world you chose
No further than your nose
Will be where the doors will close in the end

You can't bargain with the truth
'Cause for those who were deceived
There'll be no reprieve
There'll be no time to believe in the end

Oh every little thing you do
You better know it's coming back to you

You can't bargain with the truth
'Cause one day you're gonna die
And good's going high
And evil's going down in the end."

(Yusuf Islam)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

From molehill to mountain

"And it gets darker every night
Spread-eagled out among the stars, she says
Somewhere in this tunnel lives a light."

About a month ago, I noticed a small bump under the skin on the tip of my nose, right side.

I'd guesstimate the nodule was about 1 mm. I work with beads. I've learned my mms. 1 mm may sound quite small but it's enough to make an earring pair unmatched.

Anyway, this thing felt sort of rubbery and there was no tenderness or redness. Googling was useless to help me figure out what it was, but did lead me to some pretty gross photos and videos. Whatever you do, don't google bump in the tip of the nose and then watch any Youtube videos.

Neil said that skin cancer grows on the skin, not under it, but there's a history of cancer in my family and when I was a kid, my father's sister died of skin cancer in her mid-40s.

Even though I was pretty sure this little lump was nothing serious, it began to grow like kudzu on my mind. I couldn't stop checking it, to see if it was still there, had gotten smaller or bigger, had moved or done anything interesting.

It was pretty boring, always the same, always there. So I made an appointment with a dermatologist.

Last year I had a xanthelasma biopsied (i.e., removed) from my left lower eyelid. Before the biopsy, my dermatologist told me that it was benign and that I didn't have to do anything. I said, you don't understand. I want it gone.

He did a fantastic job. I can't even detect a scar.

Since then Dr. F moved his practice uptown, so I made an appointment with a new dermatologist, Dr. E. I saw her a couple of weeks ago. I was relieved when she diagnosed it as an inflamed hair follicle and elated when she suggested that injection of a steroid would take care of it. She gave me the shots in the schnoz.

For an hour or so I thought I'd had a complete recovery, but as soon as the swelling from the injection subsided, I could tell it hadn't worked. That rubbery little bugger was unabated. I gave it a week. If anything, the steroid shrunk the surrounding tissue and made the nodule more evident.

So I went back last week, and Dr. E. performed a shave biopsy. She didn't do it to remove the Thing. She said that would leave a serious scar. She did it to send a specimen off to a lab to see what we are dealing with and determine whether to refer me to an ENT or a plastic surgeon.

I wish I had done some homework on a shave biopsy before I had it done. For one thing, it hurts. For a wound smaller than a pencil eraser and fairly shallow, it has been splitting my head apart in a shockingly large way. If I put a bandaid over it (have you ever tried putting a bandaid on the tip of your nose?) the pressure is distractingly painful. If I leave the bandaid off, any air circulation rampages my nerve endings. Who would have thought there were so many nerve endings in your nose?

For another thing, it looks terrible. It's angry and red and despite my best wound care efforts - washing with gentle soap and water, annointment with ointment, keeping it moist and covered - I'm sure I will have an impressive scar. I don't mind that so much. I do mind having a scar and still having the fucking lesion. If I have to have a scar, I'd just as soon have gone straight to a plastic surgeon and had the bump excised.

Neil tries to talk me down. He says a plastic surgeon would most likely have done a biopsy first anyway. I'm not so sure. He says, it's done, it's not the end of the world, move on and forget about it.

Easy to say when you don't have continuous throbbing reminding you continuously.

Maybe I'm naive, but I really wasn't expecting this disfigurement, this much discomfort, this much making a mountain out of a molehole.

There's a small part of me that thought, maybe Dr. E. did get it. Maybe making the area so angry would make it go away. Maybe the healing process for the biopsy would heal that mother right out of town. I knew that was a stretch. Exploring the area gingerly leads me to conclude that the mass persists. Now I'm just hoping that Dr. E. got into the meat of it enough to determine what I'm dealing with.

Oh well. Just another first world problem. I'm waiting for the biopsy results and to see where we go from here. I'm optimistic that it's nothing malignant and pessimistic that my choice will be to live with a lump and a scar or to go under the scalpel again for the sake of vanity and sanity.

Sorry, no photos this time.

Good news, photos next time, including a snap of our house in progress and a second scoop of bead soup.

Her new name was tattooed to her wrist
It was longer than the old one
Sealed in the silence with a fist
This night will be a cold one
Centuries live in her eyes
Destiny laughs over jack-booted thighs
Work makes us free, says the sign
Nothing leaves here alive

She steps out of line to the left
And her father to the right
One side's a cold, clean death
The other is an endless night
Gold from a grandmother’s tooth
Mountains of jewelry and toys
Piled in the corners, mailed across the borders
Presents for the girls and boys

And it gets darker every night
Spread-eagled out among the stars, she says
Somewhere in this tunnel lives a light
Still my beating heart
I have never known a man
What man will want me now?
Am I still alive, somehow?
If I can survive, somehow

Soldiers from the other side
Liberated them at dawn
Gave her water, gave her life
She still had all her clothes on
She lived until she died
Empty as the autumn leaves that fly
Surgeons took the mark
But they could not take it far
It was written on her heart
Written on her empty heart

(Janis Ian)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Digging bead swaps

"And then the snow came, we were always out shovelling 
And we'd drop to sleep exhausted 
And we'd wake up and it's snowing."

Let's dig right in!

Into the bead soup, I mean, not the snow. Because there is no snow in Texas. Hell, we had the air conditioning on today. Good thing we are leaving. (There has to be one good thing about leaving, right?)

Here is the lovely bowl of beads sent to me by my Bead Soup Blog Party partner, Andra Weber.

The agate chunk bead was hoarded by Andra for nine years! And since this is the Bead Hoarders Edition of the blog hop, she decided to part with it and give it to me. The one rule of this bead exchange was to give one bead that was special. As Lori McDaniel Anderson, blog party coordinator extraordinaire said:
I would like to start 2017 by opening our hearts to hope and beauty and true gift-giving. I don't want people to send just anything, but something they love and would imagine brightening the day of someone.
In addition to the agate, Andra sent me the fossilized pendant, mahogany obsidian rounds, zebra jasper nuggets and a mix of carnelian beads. Giving extra beads was optional but I think it's part of the fun and it seems so did Andra.

And as if that wasn't enough, she sent a lovely card, a packet of pretty post-its, some Burt's Bees goodies and a generous sampler of metal dangles. Andra explained that the dangles were given to her by a friend whose late husband made dream catchers with them.

It's funny, Lori has shared that every year she fields a slew of complaints from people who aren't happy with what they got, people who were miffed because they felt that the beads they sent were more worthy than the beads they received. And then there are people who sign up and then never send beads to their partners, even after getting beads frm them.

I wonder how many people feel the opposite, i.e., they get their beads and wish they'd sent more beads or better beads than they did. I've been lucky to have had some great, very generous partners. And I've always tried to send a really good mix of beads because God knows, I have a few lying around, not paying rent.

That said, it's still always a little hard to part with things I love, but that is exactly the point. If it doesn't hurt just a little bit to let the beads I give go, then I'm probably not digging deeply enough. So I dig a little deeper. And luckily, once I pack them up and send them off, I've had nary a regret.

Come back on March 25 for the "big reveal." You'll see what I make with the beads Andra gave me. As usual, I'll ponder it until the eleventh hour and stay up late the night before putting it together and writing my reveal post. And if you are interested, you can browse the reveals of Andra and another 150 or so dedicated beaders and blog-partiers.

If you are wondering what I sent Andra, wonder no more. I took photos.

My lampwork beads of course, some coordinating Czech crystals, some stone beads that matched perfectly, and some complementary seed beads just for fun. I didn't take pictures of the chocolate bon-bons I put in the package - maybe Andra will.

I'm looking forward to seeing what magic she makes with them.

This may be the shortest post I've ever written, but I gave myself a February deadline and you know, here we are, there.

You can read my past Bead Soup Blog Party reveal posts here and here and here.

I threw your keys in the water, I looked back
They'd frozen halfway down in the ice
They froze up so quickly, the keys and their owners
Even after the anger, it all turned silent and
Every day turned solitary
So we came to February

First we forgot where we planted those bulbs last year
And then we forgot that we'd planted at all
Then we forgot what plants are altogether
And I blamed you for my freezing and forgetting and
The nights were long and cold and scary
Can we live through February?

You know I think Christmas was a long red glare
Shot up like a warning, we gave presents without cards
And then the snow
And then the snow came, we were always out shovelling
And we'd drop to sleep exhausted
And we'd wake up and it's snowing

And February was so long that it lasted into March
And found us walking a path alone together
You stopped and pointed and you said, that's a crocus
And I said, what's a crocus, and you said, it's a flower
I tried to remember but I said, what's a flower
You said, I still love you

The leaves were turning as we drove to the hardware store
My new lover made me keys to the house
And when we got home, well we just started chopping wood
Because you never know how next year will be
And we'll gather all our arms can carry
I have lost to February.

(Dar Williams)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Junk in the trunk show

"As its tail stretched out like a stardust streak
The papers wrote about it every day for a week
They wondered where it's going and where it's been
When Halley came to Jackson in 1910."

Have you ever thought, what if I hosted an online trunk show for handmade glass beads and nobody came?

Well, no, probably not, unless you are a beadmaker like me, a smallish fish in a pond of beadmakers hosting trunk shows day and night on Facebook.

It hasn't quite happened to me yet, but it's not such a leap from reality that I couldn't envision it.

The show I just finished wasn't a totally unmitigated disaster but it was close enough to deter me from wanting to do another one any time soon.

I had six purchases from five buyers over the 48 course of the show, which is slighter better than average for me lately during any given 48 hour period.

Still, it's a far cry from my first online trunk show, almost three years ago, when I sold hundreds of beads and sent out dozens of invoices and tens of packages.

Packages of sold beads from my first trunk show. May 2014

That's typical, par for the course these days, as I continue to struggle with what sells and why and specifically why my perfectly nice, reasonably priced beads generate so little interest.

I have a new theory. Of course I do.

People desire what's desirable. Bidding generates more bidding. If a lampwork artist is perceived to be in demand, madly talented or merely competent, her (or his) beads will consistantly sell.

Now, if someone is paying attention, they might notice that my beads aren't flying off the virtual shelves. They might be less inclined to want to own them. Even if they liked them, they wouldn't feel much pressure to get in a good bid or to buy-it-now.

They might in fact wait until the next time I list them, or until the time after that, when history might indicate that the start price could be lower.

I've resisted lowering prices too often. That's not the message I want to send. But sometimes I'm just a little desperate for the validation of a sale. And a little money coming in doesn't hurt my feelings either.

I wouldn't say I sweated this trunk show overly. I put up 20 or 30 listings. I didn't bump them, as bumping doesn't make sense to me when you are the exclusive seller. It makes sense in the selling groups, where your wares may quickly be buried by other artists' listings.

My system makes the workload lighter. I keep a word document of listings that didn't sell, so it's a quick copy and paste job to relist (or to list in a trunk show). For new beads, it's a copy and paste and a change to my one-line descriptions and the ending date. Of course I have to make the beads, clean them, string them, photograph them, edit the photos and keep them in some semblace of order.

But I've done this long enough now that it's all pretty mindless, excluding the making of the beads, which remains a venture into creativity or frustration or glee and sometimes all of the above. Yes, I'm still drawn to making, still mesmerized by manipulating the liquid state glass in the flame.

As for the rest of it, my skin has gotten thicker and I am better able to have a good attitude and not take a slow show to heart.

Sometimes I do think it would be in my best interest to take a break. A real break like a few months, not just a week or two. Clear the boards, let people forget me, and come back (preferably after having had a major talent breakthrough) and dazzle the masses.

But then I go back to my standard thinking, i.e., it won't sell if you don't list it, keep plugging away at it, every sale is better than no sale, and eventually, spontaneously my quiet brilliance will be recognized and the bidding wars will begin.

OK, so that's magical thinking. But until I can break the cycle, it's what I do.

Today, it's 83 degrees in Sugar Land, which is a ridiculous temperature for February in central Texas. I've long enjoyed our mild winters but we took a walk around the pond and it wasn't a pleasant experience. I'm still resisting, in theory, our move to North Carolina, but on days like today it's a lot easier to understand why Neil wants it so badly.

Not to mention that, when you see this on your afternoon stroll around the pond at the end of your block, as we did yesterday, you might seriously begin to think that moving north isn't such a bad idea after all.

The pond in Telfair. Sugar Land, Texas. February 2017.

It was 102 degrees in the shade on the day Chelsea was born, August 8, 1988. About a year after K.C. was born we stopped being careful and assumed a pregnancy would soon follow. I was late a couple of times and sure I was pregant, but then my period came. Once I went 40 days instead of the usual 28, but a pregancy test confirmed that I did not miscarry, I just was really late.

During the first year after Jon and I got married, I wouldn't say we were trying to conceive and I wouldn't say we were trying not to. After our first wedding anniversary we decided to get serious. The first month we did it all wrong, had sex way too often, and were surprised when I wasn't pregnant. I was a little mad too, for all those years that the fear of pregnancy colored my feelings about having sex. I grew up indoctrinated that one imprudent move and wham, pregnancy. I believed what I was taught, that you didn't even actually need to have intercourse to get pregnant, that nakendness and proximity were all it took.

After that month, I read a book and learned that it takes time for men's bodies to make sperm and that to get pregnant we should have sex every other day from day 10 to day 14 of my cycle. At the end of the month I felt some cramping that usually meant my period was imminent. We went to a party and I drank a little more than I would have if I didn't think I hadn't conceived.

Days passed and I didn't start and I joked that I was going to either buy an ovulation prediction kit or a pregnancy test kit. In the end I bought a pregnancy test kit, but it was too soon, the results were negative. In those days tests were not necessarily reliable until you were two weeks late. I tested again after waiting another week and the test was positive. I was expecting.

So, in my mind, once we'd gamed the system, everything went down just as it should have and the next time around would be no different. But months of having sex on a schedule went by and my period kept right on coming.

You are considered to have infertility issues after a year of having regular sex without getting pregnant. A year passed. I had what is known as secondary infertility. Infertility after having had a child.

We consulted my doctor who ordered a battery of tests. Jon was tested and found to have a low sperm count due to a varicocele, which is a varicose vein in the scrotum. I was tested, including a horrible test called a hysterosalpingogram to see whether my fallopian tubes were clear. I thought this was odd, as we had conceived previously, but my doctor said it was possible that my tubes were partially blocked and we'd just been lucky and gotten the camel through the needle.

The test showed my tubes were wide open and I got quite sick as the dye spilled out of my tubes into wherever dye would wind up in the space between tubes and ovaries.

I hope this isn't too much information. I haven't even gotten close to the birth story. I'll try to speed ahead. My doctor prescribed Clomid. My period was late. When it was two weeks late I did a home test. It appeared negative. I left it on the bathroom counter and when I went back there was a wavery ring in the tube. A ring meant pregnant. A few days later I went to the doctor, peed in a cup, and the doctor said, congratulations.

All was well, but something wasn't. I'd had immediate and chronic morning sickness throughout my first pregnancy. This time, I felt fine. I felt nothing. My belly was flat. My boobs weren't tender. Twelve weeks in, I started spotting. It was a Friday. I spotted through the weekend and on Monday my doctor sent me for an ultrasound that confirmed there was no heartbeat.

The next day I had a D&C ad we were back to square one. I was supposed to wait three months to try again so I didn't resume the Clomid. In December I was late again. This time I felt all the feelings. A home test showed a robust positive. At twelve weeks we heard Chelsea's heart beating.

We didn't know it was Chelsea then. Ultrasounds were not routine. I'd had one at 28 weeks with K.C. at which time the technician said that if he said it was a boy there was a 99 percent chance he was right and if he said a girl, an 80 percent chance. He said, a girl. He was right.

I had a different doctor with Chelsea and she did not recommend any routine untrasounds. So we thought that this time we wouldn't find out the gender before the birth. Everyone had a theory though. I was carrying low, which meant a boy. An office mate did a test involving dangling my wedding ring over my belly. The "results" indicated a boy. I tried to stay neutral but I was leaning toward believing I was having a boy. My mom had a girl (me) and a boy. Her mom had a boy and a girl (my mom). My dad had a sister as well as a brother. His sister had a girl and a boy. Never mind that my mom's brother had three girls, that clearly was a fluke.

It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I wanted a boy, both times, and more so the second time. Somewhere along the way I'd adopted a perception that boys were better, that the best birth order was a boy, then a girl, and the second best was a girl, then a boy. I'd already blown the best, but I had a fair chance at the second best.

Jon didn't care. In fact, I think he was thrilled to have girls. His relationship with his own father was dysfunctional and I don't know how he would have interacted with a son.

As my August 16 due date neared, I kept feeling a hard round something on the left side of my belly. Man, I thought, this baby has a hard butt.

At my first internal exam at eight months, my doctor thought the baby's head was down. In your last month you see the doctor weekly. Three weeks out, she couldn't feel the head. She sent me off for an ultrasound that showed the baby in a transverse, back up lie. In other words, Chelsea was sideways, looking down.

Oh, do you want to know what you're having, the technician asked brightly. Jon wasn't with me. I said, we were going to be surprised. Oh, OK, the technician said.

I lasted about another minute. As long as no one else knew the gender, I was OK with not knowing, but now that someone knew, I had to know. What are we having, I asked.

It's a little girl she said, and I was shocked by my first reaction. Another girl. I went through all this for another girl.

In retrospect, I'm very glad I found out the gender when I did. I would have hated to have those feelings at the birth. I had two weeks to adjust to the idea and by then the exitement of having a new baby trumped any disappointment I felt about the son I wasn't having.

And once again, I didn't quite get to Chelsea's birth story. We're nearly there though, and I'll be posting again soon, because I got my package from my Bead Hoarders' Blog Party partner and I want to share that as soon as I take photos.

Bear with me. (Pun unintended - but noted.)

Or great-grandkid, since ours will be 49 and 45 in '61.

Late one night when the wind was still
Daddy brought the baby to the window sill
To see a bit of heaven shoot across the sky
The one and only time Daddy saw it fly

It came from the east just as bright as a torch
The neighbors had a party on their porch
Daddy rocked the baby, Mother said, Amen
When Halley came to visit in 1910

Now back then Jackson was a real small town
And it's not every night a comet comes around
It was almost eighty years since its last time through
So I bet your mother would've said Amen too

As its tail stretched out like a stardust streak
The papers wrote about it every day for a week
They wondered where it's going and where it's been
When Halley came to Jackson in 1910

Now Daddy told the baby sleeping in his arms
To dream a little dream of a comet's charms
And he made a little wish as she slept so sound
In 1986 that wish came 'round

It came from the east just as bright as a torch
She saw it in the sky from her daddy's porch
As heavenly sent as it was back then
When Halley came to Jackson in 1910

Late one night when the wind was still.

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)