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)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Food for thought but not for comment

"I've been turning it over and over again
Like a stone I'm waiting to wish on
I've been holding my breath just wondering when
You'll make some sort of decision."

In my last post, I was struggling with the problem of what individuals can do, what difference individuals can make, in the face of widespread systemic corruption.

Then a friend sent me a link to a post by Jake Fuentes in which which I thought he summed up my sense of irresolution pretty well.
First, stop believing that protests alone do much good. Protests galvanize groups and display strong opposition, but they're not sufficient. Not only are they relatively ineffective at changing policy, they're also falsely cathartic to those protesting. Protestors get all kinds of feel-good that they're among fellow believers and standing up for what's right, and they go home feeling like they've done their part. Even if protestors gain mild, symbolic concessions, the fact that their anger has an outlet is useful to the other side. Do protest, but be very wary of going home feeling like you've done your job. You haven't.
Unfortunately, Mr. Fuentes didn't wax as eloquent on what it is that we can actually do to get the job done.

I read this quote to Neil, who disagreed with it entirely. He cited the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s. He said there were protests and marches. People had TV by then. They saw what was happening, black people being beaten for peaceful demonstrations. They saw segregation and discrimination. And they said, oh no, that's wrong, we're not having that any more.

So where are those people now?

And why did the civil rights movement last 15 years? We only have to survive 8 years or, with luck or justice, some fraction thereof.

Not to mention the goals of the civil rights movement have still not fully been met. Integration simply didn't happen just because it was the law of the land. We still have segregation. We still see (and/or experience) discrimination all the time. White privilege is real.

Only I don't feel so privileged right at the moment. Could it be because I'm a woman of Jewish descent, the mother of daughters?

Neil keeps trying to get me to watch Saturday Night Live and I keep refusing after trying a few times. Maybe it's funny but I don't find it funny, I find it sad. And I find it makes a joke of deadly serious matters. And I fear it risks making people feel good, because they are laughing, and if they are laughing, how bad can it be?

Neil tells me I am wrong. He doesn't beat about the bush. He doesn't say, we can agree to disagree. He says it's funny and it brings important matters into the light by mocking them and making fun of them.

So how is that helping?

I'm still lost and uncertain and appalled and feeling helpless.

So I keep living my life day by day.

We spend a few days in Keller with K.C. and Ry and Chris, to celebrate our birthdays. Chelsea joined us and we stayed at an Airbnb home which was really nice. The home that is.

It was nice being together and especially nice getting good tight hugs from my grandson and seeing him do adorable 4-year-old things. It was nice going to the movies with my girls and my boy, even if I fell asleep during Sing. It was a cute movie, but the theater was cold and I get sleepy when I'm cold.

Chelsea had told us in advance that she was at the tail end of a month of the Whole30 diet. No dairy, no soy, no legumes, no grains, no sugar, no peanut butter. It's basically a meat/chicken/fish and certain vegetables diet, using only certain oils or clarified butter. But since Chelsea is primarily a vegetatian with a recent sensitivity to eggs, it made things difficult.

The night before the trip I called her. She and Rob were having dinner. I asked what they were having and it was something with black beans. I pointed out that beans are not on the diet. She said she added them back for protein after eggs began to give her an allergic reaction. She seemed pleased that I had read up on the diet.

That may have been the last time she was pleased with me. I've felt for a long time that Chelsea carries a lot of anger toward me. I don't know why and I'm not sure she really knows either. On this trip, no matter what I said, it tripped her anger trigger.

In one conversation I asked her why she didn't eat meat. I was curious whether her reasons were ethics or health related or something else. She made a speech about how the beef-farming industry is the number one contributor to global warming. I was pretty sure that wasn't true, but I've learned with Chelsea that it's never worth arguing. So I gave my typical Chelsea response. I said, I didn't know that. I say that a lot with Chelsea, along with, I don't remember saying that or doing that or even thinking that. You might be right, I just don't know, I just don't remember.

I talked to Neil about it, and he said if it were him, he'd push back, question, challenge, reason with her. I told him I didn't have his mad people skills. I never can find the right words to say that don't just make things worse.

Nonetheless, influenced I suppose by what he had said, I did push back and it went down badly. I caught the end of a conversation about diets. I talked about what we eat. She asked me why I was talking about it. I said I was making conversation. She asked me why I was being so defensive. I said, it's because you make me feel defensive, no matter what I say, it's always the wrong thing, I'm better off not talking at all.

I flew off the handle a bit when I said all this. I could hear the edge of hysteria in my voice. I apologized. I apologized again the next day, before she left.

She said she forgave. She said she knew I loved her and was proud of her.

After we got home, I sent her this note:
Thanks Chelsea for my flower, socks and chocolate. Thanks for coming to spend time with us for my birthday and K.C.'s.

Just for the record, I don't feel like you are judging me by your diet choices. If I talk about my diet, my intent isn't to defend it. I'm just making conversation.

Also for the record I'm not judging you for your diet. If I ask why you don't eat meat, it's because I'm interested, not because I'm challenging you to defend your choice.

And If it's something you'd rather not talk about, that's ok, just say so. What we each choose to eat is a personal decision, as is how much we opt to share about it.

Mother-daughter relationships are fraught. I know mine was with my mother. I tried really hard not to make the same mistakes (what I saw as her mistakes). In the process I'm sure I made plenty of my own.

All I can do is reiterate that I mean no harm, I love you and admire you and wish I knew the right things to say and the right words to communicate them.

Thanks again for coming and for the thoughtful gifts.


She hasn't replied.

I'm not surprised.

I'm surprised she hasn't unfriended me on Facebook.

I wonder why I get no credit for all the good things I do and have done. All the times we've gone to Austin to see one of her shows. All the small ways I try to help her, financially and otherwise. All the love I feel for her in spite of everything, no matter how she interacts with me.

I consider dropping her cell phone from our phone plan. But that would be declaring war.

I don't want to be at war with my child.

So I'll give it some time and wait for her to be in touch.

And also for the record (although I wouldn't dare to point it out to her because she's made up her mind and the facts are a personal afront to her), the leading causes of global warming are as follows, according to the EPA.
The primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are:

  • Electricity production (30 percent of 2014 greenhouse gas emissions) – Electricity production generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately 67 percent of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas.2
  • Transportation (26 percent of 2014 greenhouse gas emissions) – Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation primarily come from burning fossil fuel for our cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes. Over 90 percent of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum based, which includes gasoline and diesel.3
  • Industry (21 percent of 2014 greenhouse gas emissions) – Greenhouse gas emissions from industry primarily come from burning fossil fuels for energy, as well as greenhouse gas emissions from certain chemical reactions necessary to produce goods from raw materials.
  • Commercial and Residential (12 percent of 2014 greenhouse gas emissions) – Greenhouse gas emissions from businesses and homes arise primarily from fossil fuels burned for heat, the use of certain products that contain greenhouse gases, and the handling of waste.
  • Agriculture (9 percent of 2014 greenhouse gas emissions) – Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils, and rice production.
Not to put too fine a point on it, methane gas from bovine intestinal tracts makes up only a portion of the 9 percent of agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions.

So this didn't turn out to be that post about Chelsea's birth story.

I'll get on that soon. I promise.

I'm standing here freezing at a phone booth baby
In the middle of God knows where
I got one quarter left your machine picks up
But baby I know you're there
And I just start crying 'cause it makes no sense
To waste these words and twenty-five cents
On a losing game
Baby you win again

I've been turning it over and over again
Like a stone I'm waiting to wish on
I've been holding my breath just wondering when
You'll make some sort of decision
To let me in or to let me go
I'll always lose if I never know
Where I fit in
Baby you win again

I can't be right if I'm always wrong
I can't stand up if I'm always kneeling
At your altar or at your throne
You could show just a little feeling
For who I am
Baby you win again

Last night I dreamed we were standing here
On the corner of love and heartache
You jumped into your car you found first gear
And baby I felt the earth shake
And I woke up trembling with my heart in my throat
'Cause there's never a look a word or a note
At the bitter end
Baby you win again

I can't be right if I'm always wrong
I can't stand up if I'm always kneeling
At your altar or at your throne
You could show just a little feeling
For who I am
Baby you win again

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)