Friday, August 18, 2017

The crux of my ambivalence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, they are staged for recycling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rose: Why not?.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, goodbye feet.

How bad can things be? We still have popsicles.

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

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

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

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


(Grace Slick)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Just goodbyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huge kidney bean bed designed by Neil.

The rest of the kidney bean bed story.

A few more random house photos.

Kitchen backsplash.
Backsplash closeup.
Shutter painted Slate Tile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I feel fine.


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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A month of lasts

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

I think I'm done making beads in Texas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I packed it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A month from now, we'll be living in North Carolina, I fret.

At this point, I'm ready to be there and done.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Still breathing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about meeting yourself coming and going.

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

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

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

And the inside. First floor.

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

And now, come downstairs.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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