Monday, December 31, 2018

Practically perfect in every way

And memory plays tricks on us
The more we cling, the less we trust
And the less we trust, the more we hurt
And as time goes on, it just gets worse

It's a well known fact - if you know anything about me - that the holiday season brings out the worst in me when it comes to gift giving.

While I admit that it's fun to open a gift-wrapped package, I truly mean what I say, when I say, I don't want any gifts. I don't want to receive them, and I don't want the obligation to give them, just because there is a certain date on the calendar.

I would't describe myself as a generous person on the whole, but I can be sporadically generous when the stars align just so.

For example, when I went to my ceramics teacher's open house, which she holds to sell her work, I immediately picked up a large mug. I walked around with it, picking up other things, putting them down, but I never set down that mug. Eventually I set it on a shelf designated for the things you wanted to buy, to free your hands while you still were shopping.

One of my classmates was there and after a bit she came up to me and asked if I was going to buy that mug. I said, oh yes, I love it, definitely. She was disappointed and said she collected mugs but they had to hold at least 16 oz. and that was the only mug that fit the bill. I hesitated, then said, it's OK, you can have it. She expressed how grateful she was, and I magnanimously said, it's Christmastime.

Just like I was this really nice, unselfish person. Which I can be, but only when and if the spirit moves me.

When if comes to gifts, I do like giving them, but also only when and if. When and if I see something that I'm sure will delight the recipient, and that may happen whatever the day of the year. Or when and if I suddenly feel the urge to do something nice for my kids, out of the blue, such as send them some shoes (after checking with them on their size of course).

On a related note, I find that I am always buying things for myself, and that plays into why I don't want gifts. I have so much already. I hoard, I stockpile. This year I was particularly ridiculous about buying shoes. And sandals. And boots. And every time I say, enough already, no more, I'm done, something else pops up on social media and tempts me. The social media marketers have totally got my number.

It seems there is always one more thing to buy. If I just get that last thing, I will be done with shopping for a while. Oh wait, there is that other thing I need. And yes, that thing too. But if I get it, I should be set for a bit. Except, I do need those. And if nothing else comes to mind, I will always shop for socks. Because you can't have too many dozen pairs of socks stashed away for a cold rainy day.

So, today I am sitting here on the last day of 2018, with a couple of hundred dollars worth of yarn in my shopping carts. And I'm magical-thinking that if I check out and submit my orders, I will be able to use what yarn I have for a long time and not obsessively keep shopping.

I started crocheting early this fall and immediately fell down the rabbit hole of end-of-summer sales, back-to-school sales, early Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday sales, and naturally Christmas sales and after-Christmas sales.

I've added to my stashes of Bath & Body Works lotions and potions, Life is Good Crusher Ts (long-, short-, and sleeveless), Lush bath bombs and soaps. I'm still eyeballing one more pair of Fluevogs. I'm just 127 points away from Gold Level rewards from Origins (and I can't even swear I love their products, but how can I leave money on the table?).

I'll probably wind up with the yarn and a firm-ish New Year's resolution to resist impulse buying for at least a month. Wait, is it impulse buying if I've had the yarn in my cart for a week or more?

Right now I'm finishing a scarf for Chelsea's boyfriend, in lovely merino wool shades of black and grays. Even though I already knew the answer, I asked Neil why I was making scarves and blankets for everyone in the family. He agreed with me that it's not because I am being nice, it's because I like the making part and I need an excuse to keep doing it. Unlike beads, there is no way I could sell my yarn-wares for anything like a fair price, given the cost and time involved, not to mention that for every lampworker there are probably thousands of knitters and crocheters.

There are probably also dozens of fiber artists for every glass bead maker. It did briefly cross my mind that I could learn to weave or spin or whatever one does to make yarn. But I'd need a spinning wheel and who knows what else, and I already have a studio full of bead-making equipment, tools, and supplies. And I'm not done with that by any means. I might have slowed down just a bit, but I still enjoy the process of melting glass into things with holes.

What I have stopped is buying other artists' beads. I still look and appreciate, but any temptation is short-lived. I can pretty safely say, my art bead collection is complete. I didn't go to the local bead store's annual blow-out sale. I have a few jewelry projects that I want to complete, but I have all the components I need or close-enough substitutes. I still want to complete some sort of larger art project with my own stash of beads.

You'd think I had nothing but time on my hands to get everything done, but the first truth you learn about retirement is that there is never enough time. My mom used to say, you think when you retire you'll have time to get to all those things you thought you'd do, such as straighten out your junk drawer, but five years later your junk drawer is as messy as ever. I used to think that would be because you knew there was no rush, there was always tomorrow. And as my dad used to say, why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

Now, having been retired for seven and a half years, I know that your junk drawer still isn't sorted because of the other 15 million things on your proverbial to-do list. Things like scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, reading, binge-watching something on Netflix or Amazon, going to see Mary Popping Returns, taking walks, having a third or fourth cuppa, getting your $5 Smoothie King treat every Friday, going to Trader Joe's just because. Things like making beads, walking on the treadmill, yarn-spotting, writing email or another blog post, cooking the veggies you grew and froze, baking a fruitcake from your mom's recipe. Like texting with your brother or kids, Face-timing with your grandson, playing Jeopardy with Alexa, daydreaming by the gas fire.

I have to say it.

It's a wonderful life.

Baby, where's that place where time stands still?
I remember like a lover can
But I forget it like a leaver will

It's no place you can get to by yourself
You've got to love someone and they love you
Time will stop for nothing else

And memory plays tricks on us
The more we cling, the less we trust
And the less we trust, the more we hurt
And as time goes on, it just gets worse

So, baby, where's that place where time stood still?
Is it under glass inside a frame?
Was it over when you had your fill?

And here we are with nothing
But this emptiness inside of us
Your smile a fitting, final gesture
Wish I could have loved you better

Baby, where's that place where time stands still?
I remember like a lover can
But I forget it like a leaver will

It's the first time that you held my hand
It's the smell and the taste and the fear and the thrill
It's everything I understand
And all the things I never will

(Mary Carpenter © Mary Chapin Carpenter Dba Why Walk Music)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Introvert exertions

Freedom reaps the flowers of France
Fair-haired boys
String the harps to Victory's voice
Joyous noise.

Random thoughts today.

Blog writing seems to be (or is becoming) passé. Many of the bloggers I followed in the past have turned to other social media platforms such as Instagram.

Some still write but less often and with less engaging content.

For myself, I’ve not lost interest but finding the time has become harder, especially since yarn happened and I will happily spend hours single, half-double, and double crochet stitching.

Which sort of leads me to my next thought.

I think I should complain more often. Because all too often, no sooner have I whined to Neil that bead sales are stalled, I get a big order.

Recently I complained about my friend-making challenges. Since then, I’ve gotten together three times with the woman in my subdivision who I mentioned was interested in beads, glass, and yarn.

I like her. She’s a couple of years older than I am, her husband is a couple of years older than Neil. She’s from Long Island, is Jewish but not observant, is an extrovert, and has no hesitation about texting me day and night.

It’s as if I’d invented her, cut her from whole cloth. The only red flag so far, is that she’s not aligned with us politically, which is shocking, insofar as she’s both female and a New Yorker. I just have to shake my head.

But I refer to my mom’s maxim that if you want your friends to be perfect, you won’t have any friends. So we’ll just shy away from politics and focus on what’s important. Beads. Glass. Yarn.

She - Robin - has already been over to make a few beads. I’ve to hers twice now. And she taught me how to cast on yarn for knitting. It’s not coming back to me the way crocheting has. I’m going to need to practice, since I signed up for a January class to knit mittens. I’m supposed to have some comfort level with double pointed needles and have knitted the first cuff, so good luck with that to me.

I wanted to order some regular needles to practice with, but we’ve been traveling again and I had to time it so they’d arrive after we got home.

My calendar is pretty clear for the rest of the year. My ceramics class ended and I’m happy about having a break. I did sign up for the next session, which starts in January. Before we left town, I picked up my finished pieces. I’m chalking them up to a learning experience. I told Neil I might display them in the basement on a “shelf of shame.”

I’ll admit, I don’t seem to have any particular talent for hand building so far, but also, I wasn’t trying that hard. If a piece wasn’t coming together well, I called it done and moved on to the next thing. I was hoping that glazing the pieces would redeem them to some degree.

I was in it more for the social aspects, to get out of the house a bit. I was very happy to go out for lunch on the last class day with a group of classmates and my teacher.

My teacher and I also did a trade, my glass beads for some of her ceramic work, which made me happy too. I'm hoping to try a bit harder to make some nicer things when class resumes.

Good intentions.

I tried to write more of this post while we were traveling, but Blogger is a bitch on my iPad. I seldom can place the cursor where I want it, cut and copy are well nigh impossible, and the words run off either the side or bottom of the screen, so I can't read what I have typed.

That said, let me do a quickie recap of the trip.

  • Wednesday. Traveled to Houston, Steel City Pops and then BBQ with Neil's kids and grandson Blake.
  • Thursday. Lunch with Neil's workmates at Ginger Thai, visit to my friend Pam's, drinks at Hops House with Shell gang, performance at Blake's preschool, dinner with the kids.
  • Friday. Lunch (separately) with friends, me at Khyber, Neil at Pico's. Dinner with the kids.
  • Saturday. Blake's birthday party. Monkeys were involved. Visit from Chelsea.
  • Sunday. Dim Sum at Fung's with Neil's friends, kids, plus Chelsea. Dinner with the kids and Xmas presents.
  • Monday. Lunch at Escalante's with Neil's friends, walk with different friends, dinner at Black Bear Diner with the kids.
  • Tuesday. Traveled home.
So, a lot of eating and seeing friends and kids. A whirlwind in fact. Highlights for me were lunch with my girlfriends and time with Chelsea. All in all, exhausting for this introvert to be so intensively social.

I did work on the scarf I was making for Robert, but when I showed it to Chelsea she didn't think the browns and golds were his colors. So I ordered more yarn, shades of black and gray, and I'll make another.

Being home has felt great. I started a scarf for Chris and this time I'm not making the mistake of showing it to anyone, I'll just finish it and send it.

We just finished reading A Presumption of Death, the second book in Jill Paton Walsh's continuation of the Peter Wimsey series by Harriet Vane. We just started Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. I'm still working my way through the Margaret Maron mysteries.

We started watching Westworld, me very reluctantly. Three episodes in and I'm not sold on it, but trying to be a good sport, since Neil is really gung ho. I plead too much violence, but another series that we're watching, Wire in the Blood, is at least equally gruesome. Before the trip I finished watching The Last Post, which I thought was really good (so naturally it wasn't renewed for a second season). And I started The Bodyguard, which so far is keeping my interest.

We're set for a quiet Christmas week and that's AOK with me. The week after looks to be quiet too, before we return to the usual madness of classes, appointments, and a few social events.

A good time for reflection and maybe a little more writing before we close out 2018.

All quiet on the Western Front,
Nobody saw
A youth asleep in the foreign soil
Planted by the war
Feel the pulse of human blood
Pouring forth
See the stems of Europe bend
Under force

All quiet
All quiet
All quiet on the Western Front

So tired of this garden's grief
Nobody cares
Old kin kiss the small white cross
Their only souvenir
See the Prussian offense fly
Weren't we grand
To place the feel of cold sharp steel
In their hands

All quiet on the Western Front
Male angels sigh
Ghosts float in a flooded trench
As Germany dies
Freedom reaps the flowers of France
Fair-haired boys
String the harps to Victory's voice
Joyous noise.

All quiet
All quiet
All quiet on the Western Front.

(Bernie Taupin, Elton John © Universal Music Publishing Group)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Missing momentum managed

Maybe my sense of adventure receded from focus
To dwindle and then disappear
Or maybe it's just getting hard not to notice
There's plenty to do around here.

Have you, by any chance, seen my momentum anywhere?

I seem to have misplaced it.

It's probably hanging somewhere with my missing motivation and mojo.

I hope they all found a nice sunny place for their vacay.

And I sure hope they plan on coming home soon.

I miss them.

It's true that in their absence, I'm not especially getting a whole lot done.

In fact, mostly what I feel like doing is sitting on my sofa in soft pants and crocheting. I'm making another crazy rippled, striped blanket. This one is for my grandson.

I asked him what colors he wanted. His favorite color these days is red. I said, what other colors should I use. He said blue, make it red and blue.

I said, how about if I also use some green. And yellow. And purple and orange. He got really excited and said, make a rainbow blanket.

He is almost six and a half years old.

I'm doing my best to oblige.

My sweet little boyfriend in his cool new glasses.
The other thing I feel like doing is looking at yarn online. I think I spend as much time looking at yarn (and sometimes ordering yarn) as I do working with yarn.

But I am making progress and I'm already thinking about my next project and feeling a little sad that this blanket is already almost half done.

I've made beads just once or twice since we got back from Florida. I have to say it was fun. But there are a lot more steps to bead making than there are to blanket making.

I have to mess with bead release, dip mandrels, let them dry, ramp up the kiln. I make the beads, let the kiln ramp down, and then I have to take them off the mandrels and ream out the bead release.

Then if I want to sell them, I have to sort them, string them, photograph them, edit the photos, write the listings, send invoices when they sell, package them for shipping.

I don't think I will be selling any blankets.

For one thing, yarn is expensive, there is easily more than $100 of materials in my blankets. I like nice quality yarn, wool, merino, alpaca, silk. And if I'm going to invest the hours and hours of handwork, I'm going to use the good stuff.

You never know, but for now I'm just working on family projects.

My beautiful daughters modeling the scarves I made. I love stripes as much as I love dots.

Anyway, we spent four days in Orlando. We met Laurie, Luke, & Blake there, and stayed at a Hilton Grand Destinations resort. Laurie and Luke had a beautiful suite at no charge, except for a two-hour time-share presentation they had to attend. Neil and I babysat for Blake and that was the high point of the trip. Blake was totally happy the whole time he spent with us, two on one.

The rest of the trip was a blur of dining at Disney resorts, working around the schedule of an almost two-year-old toddler. We had the seafood buffet at the Beach Club, dinner at Dole Whips at the Polynesian, and the African-themed buffet at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We rode the monorail for Blake's sake.

Laurie lost a day to being suddenly violently ill. Neil, Luke, and I took Blake to Sea World. I personally loved the dolphin show and the sea lion show. Blake was just as interested in a pole as he was with the sea turtles and other aquatic life.

Neil and I stayed on a day after the kids went home. We had High Tea at the Grand Floridian and rode the boat over the Seven Seas Lagoon to Magic Kingdom and back.

We flew home on Thanksgiving Day, and since apparently we hadn't had enough to eat, we went to the North Harbor Club for the buffet dinner, marking a tradition, since we had done the same the year before.

It's still hard for me to believe that we're well into our second year here.

I have two more ceramics classes and have to decide if I am going to sign up for another session. I'll probably try to do at least one more class.

As I said, I've lost my momentum.

And still the days go by in a flash and there is never enough time.

Neil and I went to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which was better than the first film in the Harry Potter prequel series, but slow starting and more than a bit confusing. Still, it had some moments and I'd probably see any movie that stars both Eddie Redmayne and Johnny Depp.

The weather has been less than fantastic, too damp, not enough sunshine, and my allergies have been playing up. I'm popping Benadryl like Tic-tacs and trying to hold out until next year, after my annual checkup, to see an allergist.

We'll be traveling again in mid-December, for Blake's second birthday party and for Neil (mostly) to see some of his friends. I'm hoping to hook up with some of mine, but it's hard since we'll be sharing a car.

We have no firm travel plans after that until May, when we'll be in Colorado, and June, which will see us in Utah. Why ask why we planned two trips so close together. That's what happens when you roll the dice and book a lodge a year out since you can never get last-minute reservations when you want them.

I'd been toying with the idea of a spring-break trip back to Texas, some sort of open-jaw to Dallas-Austin-Houston. I know Neil wants to visit Texas at least twice a year and the summer months are a no go.

But then my daughter Kandace and her boyfriend got engaged to her boyfriend Chris the weekend before Thanksgiving. I'm really happy for her, and waiting with bated breath for them to set a date, so that we can plan around that.

All in all, I have nothing to complain about and everything to be grateful for.

And despite being momentarily momentum challenged, I'm really a lot happier than I was a year ago, when I wrote this post about grief and gratitude.

I used to hope the aliens would please pick me
Now if I saw a spaceship
I would u-turn and floor it
Ta-ta ET

Maybe my sense of adventure receded from focus
To dwindle and then disappear
Or maybe it's just getting hard not to notice
There's plenty to do around here

I used to run fast just to dive to the ground
In our Cheyenne and Sugarfoot game
Now it's true I get stiff just from sitting around
But I do like to sit just the same

And I don't mind the old, I don't mind the gray
It's not like I was Miss Clairol anyway
And it's okay with me that I will not be
The first to find out if the swing works okay

'cause I don't have to remember Laissez-Faire taught us
I don't even own any good shoes
And if you're having apples with mayonnaise and walnuts
I can just say, no thank you.

(Cheryl Wheeler - Penrod And Higgins Music/Amachrist Music/ACF Music Group)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Comfort zone mania

One day you got the glory and then you got none
One day you're a diamond and then you're a stone.

I haven't written here for a while. There are a number of reasons for that.

The predominant reason may be that I've been going through a spate of feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, and floundering self-esteem. And who wants to read about that?

If not you, and I don't blame you, then wait until I write again. I'll engage to not let so much time pass betwixt posts.

Because my muse has apparently decided that I'm going to write about it after all.

Its' nothing new. It age-old, life-long feelings of underachievement, unworthiness, of being unlovable. Sure, I could say that it's all in my head, that it's all untruths based on faulty neurotransmitter synapses, that I'm just as good as anyone else, and possibly better than some.

But there is this deep-rooted nagging sense that I'm broken in some fundamental way. And it's hard to argue in the face of the evidence. To wit, I've been here for a year and I still have not made one real friend.

I've had chances. There have been at least four women who might have become friends, but haven't. There was our Airbnb hostess who (I thought) I hit it off with. There was an artist who lives on the other side of Lake Norman who I met up with a couple of times. There was a lady who I knew from an online lampwork forum and who I got together with once or twice. And there's a woman in my subdivision who found me on Facebook, who does glass fusing, used to do lampwork, and wanted to meet. But so far that hasn't happened.

Obviously I'm not being very assertive about any of these relationships. I put out feelers and if I don't get positive reinforcement I let it go. And it circles back to my lack of self-confidence and all that other crap. I need someone like my old friend Shawn who would call me and call me and suggest doing things and talk me into them and pick me up and drive me. Shawn never worried about who called whom last. She just picked up the phone and made plans. Then she moved to Austin, got pregnant, got married and moved to California, and we lost touch until I found her on Facebook. We talked on the phone, got caught up on each other's lives, but that's as far as it went. And that was OK, I had other friends then, and Shawn did too. And people change.

Truthfully, there's another element to all this, maybe even the paramount one, and it's that I self sabotage. I'm lazy. I don't really want to get dressed up and go out most of the time. And I'm busy. I've added crocheting to my daily routine of bead making and my treadmill-crime-drama binging regime. I spend time with Neil, we grocery shop and do errands, get things for the house, work on house projects, and then there are our weekly rituals of $5 smoothies on Fridays and frozen custard pretty much anytime. I also read, I'm still working my way through the Margaret Maron mysteries, and the Jill Paton Walsh mysteries, with some Rumer Godden and a little Celeste Ng interspersed. And Neil reads to me every day, right now it's the Peter Wimsey novels.

So I fiercely guard my time and there never seems to be enough of it. I'm ambivalent about leaving my comfort zone. But I know I need friends, a support network of some kind, and I feel clueless about how to create one. Yet I know that the time to build that network is now, before I need it, not after.

Doing nothing about it adds to my feelings of low worth and guilt. Its not the best substrate for compelling writing. Not writing weighs on me, adds to to my self-defeatism. You see how this snowballs.

At the same time, every single day, I am aware of and deeply grateful for this life that I have with so much good in it. I promise that I take not a whit of it for granted.

I'll just do a quick catch-up of the highlights of the last (gasp) month or so. Because life does go on while I'm flagellating myself.
  • Neil was away for two more softball tournaments, the last two of the season. I used the time well by binge watching The Killing for the second time. I l first/last watched it about three years ago and wanted to re-watch it before it got too dated. I loved rewatching it, knowing who the perpetrators were. It has some incredible acting, especially in the third season. And of course the ending slays me, always.
  • I signed up for and started a weekly ceramics class at the Cornelius Art Center. I've been to three classes (of five) and I like it a lot, although its 9:30 am start time means I never want to go. But once I'm there it's lovely, and I'm hoping to take the next session. I like the teacher and I like that the class is mostly retired ladies like me. New friends? Maybe.
  • I've made a lot of beads for Beads of Courage, the October bead of the month, and a couple of hundred Carry-a-Bead pairs. Bead sales aren't exactly booming but on the whole I'm still selling enough beads to make it worth listing them.
  • I've already spent more than $1,000 on yarn. I finished my first blanket (love love love it), four scarves, and now I'm making Ryland a blanket in a rainbow of colors. But just like with glass, when I started out I made mistakes, paid too much for things, bought things I wound up not loving, so it is with yarn. It's much better to have an idea what I want to make and then buy the yarn to make it, but I get sucked in by the colors and textures and sales. So I have yarn I love but won't let myself use because I'm not good enough yet, and yarn that I don't exactly love but it's mine and I feel committed to making something with it.
  • I went to see/hear Glennon Doyle - writer, activist, truth-teller - speak at a Baptist church in Charlotte. I went alone, because I couldn't think of anyone to ask. I'm glad I went, although there was a clusterflub getting there, due to a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society fund raising walk, which had streets closed and traffic stalled or diverted. And Siri just would not understand the command, find an alternate route. Then I realized that I'm not in Texas any more, churches don't have parking lots, and older neighborhoods don't have streetlights. I parked in a space that wasn't marked as a space but was the only bit of real estate I could find, and walked, trying to make a mental map of the route. Then of course afterward I wandered around for half an hour looking for my car, trusting that it hadn't been towed. It took me a bit longer to find it because when I parked it was in a lot full of cars, and when I got back it was the only car at the back of an empty space - and a dark blue car doesn't stand out in a dark place. All in all, it was worth it, not least because I got out and took myself somewhere and found my way home safely.
  • We're getting ready to head to Orlando for a few days, where we'll meet Laurie, Luke, & Blake and do Disney on some dollars a day. Neil has made dining reservations for each night at a Disney property. We've heard there is no more free parking, not even for hotel guests. I'm just hoping the monorail is still free.
  • We've had a lot of gray days and rain here, the rain garden pond stays full most of the time, but the weather in Florida promises to be balmy, so I'm looking forward to that.
I'm probably forgetting some things, but there's always another day, another post.

I'll try not to let that be almost 30 days again.

And I'll try to look down less, and look up more.

Well it's a strange old game you learn it slow
One step forward and it's back you go
You're standing on the throttle, you're standing on the brake
In the groove 'til you make a mistake

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all

You gotta know happy, you gotta know glad
Because you're gonna know lonely, and you're gonna know sad
When you're rippin' and you're ridin' and you're coming on strong
You start slippin' and slidin' and it all goes wrong

One day you got the glory and then you got none
One day you're a diamond and then you're a stone
Everything can change in the blink of an eye
So let the good times roll before we say goodbye

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all.

(Mark Knopfler © Universal Music Publishing Group)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Wool gathering

You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel, may you find some comfort here.

You know how there is that person who you google every now and then? (Or maybe it's just me?)

Well, even though I've googled this person at least once or twice a year for the last 10 years or so, last week I found his death notice. He died in July 2013.

That's right. He's been dead for more than five years and I didn't know it.

I wrote about him here and here.

He was my best friend for eight years. I met him online when I was getting divorced in 1998. This was in the earliest days of instant messaging (ICQ, MiRC, etc.) We became good friends and he came to visit me several times and I visited him and we took some trips together.

He was in love with me, but I was rebounding from the divorce and not ready for another long-term commitment. And he was not a well person. He was in treatment for depression and had been suicidal in the past. But he was also very bright, well read, kind, sweet, generous. He was there for me during the roughest period of my life.

For a couple of years we had a long-distance relationship, but if I was being honest with myself, I knew I loved him only as a friend. Eventually I told him we needed to see other people. We stayed good friends and still chatted almost every day. He dated someone else for a while, I had a disastrous love affair which ended badly, crashed, recovered, and eventually met the love of my life and married him.

My friend had a couple of relapses of depression. Then he had a benign brain tumor. He had major surgery to remove it. It didn't affect his intellect but it played hell with his vision and his balance. He had to give up driving. He had been a lawyer but he couldn't work any more.

Then one day he wrote me a note basically saying goodbye, that he needed to be left to himself, that people were better off without him. That would have been early 2006. I thought it was a phase and he'd be in touch when he was ready, but he ghosted out of my life.

He called me once a few months later when his cat, Clicker, died. He'd had her for at least 10 years and loved her dearly.

Then nothing. I tried calling him, but the line had been disconnected.

In 2010, I found his sister on Facebook and I messaged her and asked about him. She said he had basically withdrawn from the world, and cut off contact with everyone, including his family, his kids. He lived in a group home and she sent him a little money and bus passes every week that he used to ride the bus to the library, where he read all day. He ran into her husband once, and claimed to be happy. She said, I miss him, I tried so hard to save him, I don't think he's coming back.

How could I not know that he died? There was no obituary, just the briefest death notice. I never found it all the other times I searched for him.

It's the weirdest feeling. I'm sad that he died (he was 66 in 2013) but how do I grieve for someone who died five years ago?

I'm still Facebook friends with his sister, but she's not active and we haven't interacted since 2010. I'm a little surprised she didn't let me know when he died, but it's a bit late for me to ask about it now.

It's just an odd sadness - I'll shake it off soon I hope. I do wonder how he died. I hope it was of natural causes. I hope he didn't do anything to expedite his death.

I'll probably never know.

A quick recap of my month, since I haven't been writing.

We went to Carrollton, Texas, for a long weekend, to visit my daughter, her partner, and my grandson. My younger daughter came up from Austin to hang out with us. The plan had been to go to the State Fair on Saturday, but my usual weather luck didn't hold up. I think I used it all just getting there on Thursday, when storms spawned by Hurricane Michael caused the cancellation of many flights throughout the Southeast, and threatened to ground yet more. Our departure was delayed on the runway for about half an hour, as I obsessively checked the weather radar and watched the thunderstorm pass just to the north.

We arrived about dinnertime and went out for some Texas BBQ. I gave up on trying to be a vegetarian and indulged in smoked turkey breast. I shared a fruit salad with Ryland and was so happy to watch him enjoy fresh grapes, pineapple and strawberries.

On Friday, Neil went off to do coin things, Chris went to work, K.C. dropped Ryland off at school, and we had a girls day. Manicures and pedicures, lunch with Ryland at his school (Subway heroes) a little shopping at Ross, and cupcakes picked up from Sprinkles for Neil's birthday. Neil was chuffed to have Torchie's Tacos for dinner. Chelsea arrived in time for the candles and singing.

With a 100 percent chance of rain on Saturday, we stayed home, had bagels for breakfast, and played Monopoly. Have I ever mentioned that I'm a very good Monopoly player? Before everyone else woke up, Ryland and I watched a couple of movies, Power Rangers and Next Gen. The kids picked up a late lunch, salad stuffed subs from Bread Zeppelin. I was too stuffed to eat again, so Ryland and I stayed home while the others went out for a late Mexican food dinner.

As usual, my food issues surfaced. I just can't keep up with everyone else in the eating marathon. Two meals and a snack works for me, but everyone else has to have three squares. I know they feel judged by me when I abstain, and I feel judged for sitting out, but it is what it is. I gave Ryland a snack, we watch a little TV, and I put him to bed. There was some trouble with the dogs, but we got it sorted. Ryland finally settled down, and I read my book.

Os Sunday, Ry and I were the first ones up again. We watched a movie, Bolt, which was actually pretty good. We had another bagel breakfast, and then we all piled into the car to go to old town Carrolton. There were some cute shops, unfortunately only half were open because it was Sunday. The main reason I wanted to go was to have ice cream at the Cow Tipping Creamery, but of course, everyone else wanted lunch first. So I watched them have pizza and salad.

All weekend I'd been fighting what I thought were allergies. I'm always sensitive to the dogs that live with my daughter. I'd been downing her Benedryl, which usually doesn't wipe me out, but I'd started feeling a bit zonked. I was having antihistamine malaise, but still sneezing. Ry had a mild cold, sniffles, a slightly junky cough, but no fever. K.C. said the incubation period could be as short as 48 hours, which was about the time I was certain I had a cold.

We followed lunch with ice cream and I finished my small chocolate cone, Ryland's cotton candy with sprinkles, and Chelsea's lemon curd sundae. Hell, I was already good and germed up, might as well eat all the ice cream. We went back to the house for a bit, Chelsea left for Austin, and Neil and I headed for the airport.

I had a fairly miserable wait at the airport and flight home, thanks to my runny nose. I went through all my Kleenex and a bunch of airline napkins. I couldn't wait to get home, get into bed, lie on my back and try to let my sinuses drain.

Monday and Tuesday I felt worse. I spent both days on the sofa. The one bright side was that the cold stayed in my head and didn't settle into my throat or chest. I was listless but lucky, and I was thrilled to wake up Wednesday on the uptick. I continued to rest through Thursday. I blew off my treadmill routine for the week, and didn't feel the least inclined to make beads, or try to sell beads. I did a lot of nothing.

We did take a walk to Birkdale Village on Thursday afternoon. I was still feeling weak, but I know that the cure for lethargy is to ease back into activity. My mom always said, inertia breeds inertia. It did feel good to start moving again.

And by Friday, I felt almost 100 percent well. Neil is off to Myrtle Beach for a softball tournament until sometime on Sunday. I'll probably have a quiet weeknd, do the wash, list some beads, maybe dip some mandrels, maybe make some beads, maybe even venture out and do some things. I need a couple of things from the craft store in Mooresville, and there is a yarn store in Huntersville that I want to check out.

And that's the last thing I have to talk about right now.

In the space of a month or so, I've become a crocheting lunatic, obsessed with yarn. I guess that's not surprising, given my history with glass and collecting and stockpiling.

I'm finishing up my third project, a throw blanket. I've learned a little from it, just as I did from my first two projects, two scarfs. I'm still wholly unable to gauge how much yarn I need for any particular thing, and how various fibers and weights of yarn will play together.

So, my blanket is a little wonky. I don't mind, It's still beautiful and I am going to enjoy the heck out of using it. And at least it's wonky in a somewhat symmetrical way. The ends and the middle are slightly wider and plusher. Picture a subtle double hourglass.

In the time it has taken me to make it, I've ordered enough yarn to make several more.

Who knew how expensive yarn is? At a rough calculation, my blanket has more than $100 invested in yarn, not counting some bits and bobs that I had on hand and used when I realized that I didn't buy enough new yarn to make it as long as I wanted to.

I have an even more ambitious project in mind, a blanket wall hanging, but I'll have to figure out a way to hang it so that its own weight doesn't cause it to sag. I might construct a giant frame from drapery rods, or something like that.

But first I have to avoid the pitfall of the yarn rabbit hole. Already I've placed half a dozen yarn orders. I'm like a kid in an online candy store. looking at yarn colors and fibers and weights, and ordering a little of this and a little of that without having an exact plan for what I'll use it for. I'm starting to see more blankets and scarves ahead, as I learn about gauges and stitches and blending and blocking.

Already I feel the hoarding mentality kicking in. Would I rather have the yarn or use it? Should I save it until I know more, am a better crocheter or knitter? Do I just jump in and use the good stuff or practice more first on the less costly stuff? Will I wind up with a yarn stash like my glass stash and my bead stash, more than I can use in a lifetime?

Or will I be able to give myself permission to just jump in and use some of the really gorgeous skeins and cakes and balls of yarn that I've been gathering?

Time will tell.

And I've just added another errand to my list. I need more plastic bins from Target to store the most recent couple of yarn orders.

For now though, I'm breaking out some sweet wool-mohair-silk blend Araucania Tepa and finishing that blanket.

Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay
There's always some reason
To feel not good enough
And it's hard, at the end of the day

I need some distraction
Oh, beautiful release
Memories seep from my veins
Let me be empty
Oh, and weightless, and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight

In the arms of the angel
Fly away from here
From this dark, cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here

So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There's vultures and thieves at your back
The storm keeps on twisting
Keep on building the lies
That you make up for all that you lack

It don't make no difference
Escape one last time
It's easier to believe
In this sweet madness
Oh, this glorious sadness
That brings me to my knees

In the arms of the angel
Fly away from here
From this dark, cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here.

(Sarah Mclachlan © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

Friday, October 5, 2018

Not all is forgiven

"Never again, not in this life will I be taken twice
Never again, not on your life will I make that same mistake, I can’t make it twice."

In light of the hearings on the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, Neil asked me if I thought someone should be held responsible for his or her actions as a teenager that took place thirty some years earlier.

It's not a no-brainer.

On the whole, I don't think the elapse of time makes criminal actions any less criminal.

While I do think people deserve forgiveness for many stupid things that they did when they were 17 years old, I don't think assault falls under that umbrella.

If I drank too much and had inappropriate but consensual sex, that is forgivable. The person I harmed was myself. Of course, I am female. I don't think there is a true equivalent for taking advantage of a man who was so intoxicated that he wasn't fit to consent. I don't think a woman can rape a man who has passed out. There are simply anatomical dissimilarities that make a valid comparison impossible.

So let's go with another analogy. If I drank too much and got in my car and caused a fatality accident, is that forgivable? Here we start down a slippery slope. Was it the first and only time I drove while intoxicated? Did I ever do it again? Should the rest of my life be forfeit or should I be able to chalk it up to the bad judgment of youth and move on past it to live my life?

What if I drank too much and got in my car and somehow by the grace of the universe, I got home safely? What if I did this many, many times, and just was lucky enough to avoid tragic consequences? Is that any more or less forgivable?

If you think I have the answers, you've come to the wrong blog.

The Kavanaugh confirmation waters are further muddied by his denial of the the claim by Christine Ford that, at a party in the early '80s, when he was 17 and she was 15, he tried to force himself on her sexually. Did it happen or did it not? It's a classic "he said, she said," but as a woman, I'm more inclined to believe her story. That's because it's a familiar story.

I'm fortunate that it didn't happen to me, but too many women I know were raped or otherwise sexually compromised during that time frame, in similar situations, where alcohol impaired judgment and unfair advantage was taken. And these women kept these atrocities secret for decades, from guilt and shame, or because they knew they wouldn't be believed, or worse, they'd be blamed. Why were they at that party, why did they dress that way, why did they drink too much, how could they put themselves in that situation?

It's only after the years pass, when we are mature, when we've grown into confidence or just don't give a damn any more, that we finally empower ourselves to speak of these evils, to name those names, and to feel only righteous anger, without shame.

I have a friend who in her youth posed nude for pictures. She has lived in fear throughout her corporate career that these pictures will materialize to humiliate her. She has now broken her silence about it and so taken away some of the threat to being outed.

Yes, I'm sure we've all made mistakes, we've done things that we regret, we've wished for do-overs, and hopefully we've learned some lessons along the way. And certainly we are entitled to forgiveness for those regrettable mistakes.

Maybe we've even raised our hands and lashed out in anger. Maybe we've pushed and shoved and thrown things. Perhaps we've let our tempers get out of control. I myself have two deliberately broken windows to my credit.

I also once smacked my daughter. For this I will always feel deeply remorseful and repentant. There are better ways to deal with anger, however justified.

But assault? Sexual assault?

I'm not here to say that it's unforgivable. That power is not mine. Let she who has not sinned be the judge.

But I'll go out on a limb here. What may be forgivable in the ordinary course of things, especially if done by a minor, especially if many years have passed, especially if the person has lived an exemplary life in the intervening years and would condemn such behavior in retrospect, may be held up to a higher standard if the person responsible is under consideration for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

It's a big country with a lot of people in it. There are numerous qualified individuals with no stain on their character. It's my considered opinion that any such person must have an untarnished lifelong slate.

So even if Kavanaugh has no recollection of the event, if he so much as remembers being in a situation where the alleged assault could have happened (i.e., intoxicated, with raging hormones, and the slightest attitude of male entitlement, or disrespect of woman) then he should acknowledge he is not the ideal candidate and disqualify himself.

If he truly values his reputation and his family's privacy and well-being, as he claims, well then step out of the fucking limelight, because there are more ways to do good and redeem yourself than by serving as a Supreme Court justice.

Let someone else have that honor.

Especially if you don't have the temperament to maintain your composure, if you choose to play the victim card, and if you generally fail to comport yourself with the dignity, objectivity, respectfulness, and grace under pressure that are essential elements of sitting on the bench of the court of last appeal.

Case dismissed.

I wish.

Lately I’ve been walking all alone through the wind and through the rain
I’ve been walking through the streets and finding sweet relief in knowing that it won’t be long

Lately it’s occurred to me that I’ve had enough of all that
Lately I’ve been satisfied by simple things like breathing in and breathing out

Never again, not in this life will I be taken twice
Never again, not on your life will I make that same mistake, I can’t make it twice

Lately it’s occurred to me exactly what went wrong
I realized I compromised, I sacrificed far too much for far too long

Starting out from here today swear I’m gonna change my ways
Once mistaken in this life but never twice

Never again, not in this life will I be taken twice
Never again, not on your life will I make that same mistake, I can’t make it twice.

(Natalie Merchant, Indian Love Bride ©2001)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A yarn of a different color

She is a weaver
Through her hand the bright thread travels
Blue green water, willows weeping, silver stars.

The sun is shining again. As I predicted, we had no ill effects from the storm, Florence. Hardly any wind or rain to speak of, just days of gray skies and a bit of cabin fever.

Still, I’ve yet to leave the house much beyond a frozen custard, a sushi dinner, and to give Neil a ride to the airport. It’s unseasonably hot, at least compared to our only frame of reference for this season in North Carolina, one year ago. I’m ready for cooler temperatures, crisp mornings, spending time outdoors. Dare I say it? I’m ready for fall.

I’ve always been about spring. Rebirth and all that. The one redeeming thing about the Texas climate was the long spring. We’d have balmy days as early as January, and while we might have a cold snap or freeze for a few days, we’d have mostly perfect weather through April.

We paid for it with bastard, blistering summer heat that lasted from May until October. Then we’d have a short transition to bleak damp chilly weather through November and December, with maybe a few scattered pleasant days.

I’d forgotten how stunning fall could be, with the leaves changing colors and “October’s bright blue weather.” (H.H. Jackson)

With my bead sales on the demise, I’ve taken up a new creative outlet. I’ve been teaching myself to crochet. And I’ve discovered a new passion for yarn. If you think about it, the colors of yarn speak to that same deep longing that my glass colors do. I’m in love with color, always have been, as long as I can remember, dating back to my first box of 64 Crayolas.

I once knew the bare basics of crochet and knitting, but I never paid much attention to patterns or yarn fiber content. I bought cheap yarn at the craft store and made very simple scarves and throws. Knit one, purl one, single crochet, double crochet.

A year or two ago, one of my bead customers posted on Facebook about her local yarn store going out of business, and how she’d bought a lot of yarn at about 90 percent off. I teased her about buying some for me, and she took it seriously, said she was going back for more, and offered to buy some to send me. We eventually came up with a budget for as much as would fit in a large flat rate box.

It was a silly impulse and when the box arrived, it had an assortment of yarn, one skein or cake per color, some prettier than others, a few winners, a few losers. I put it away and packed it up when we moved. I did nothing with it. Until now.

Fast forward to last month. On the way home from a doctor’s appointment, while Neil was away playing softball, I stopped at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. I bought two small glass bottles and a bundle of beautiful New Zealand wool yarn. Then I went by the local yarn store and bought a crochet hook.

A YouTube video later and I was crocheting a scarf. I think it's finished. It's a bit narrow, so I'm letting it sit, trying to decide if I want to go long enough to double loop it around my neck.

I have a lot of learn about yarn weight, fiber content, hook size, gauge, and I don't even know yet what I don't yet know.

The yarn my customer sent me turns out to be some pretty nice stuff. Lots of wool content and some very pretty color gradations. A few on the bulky side and I'll have to figure out how to use those.

The next thing I did was start a scarf for Neil with one of the skeins from my customer, but I completely underestimated how much yarn I'd need. I was able to find the same yarn online. It has no dye lot number, so I'm hoping it will match closely enough. I'm not going to be a perfectionist on my first attempts. It's soft and will mostly go under a coat and no one is going to be studying it for subtle color deviation.

I also started a blanket. I already knew I wanted to do varied stripes. I used up the first cake of yarn to give me an idea how much more I'd need. A lot, as it turns out. I couldn't find that yarn online at a price I was willing to pay. Who knew how expensive yarn could be? So I figured I'd go with a similar weight and fiber blend. I bought 14 more cakes of yarn, seven different color mixes - I already have one more of the original one in a different color to finish the blanket with. Hopefully I bought enough.

In case I don't, I also have 11 more skeins coming, possibly for a second blanket if I don't need them for the first. And I have another 40 items in a shopping cart for the next series of scarves or blankets. Everyone in the family will be getting a scarf or throw or both this upcoming holiday season.

I've also been shopping for crochet hooks and having my eyes opened to the broad spectrum of type and cost. When I first fooled around with yarn, you had a choice of aluminum or plastic. They still make those, but now there are fancier ones with ergonomic handles and a range of quality, based on their Amazon reviews. I'm going middle of the road. I might buy one upscale one, just to see if there really is a difference.

All this is making a good job of keeping my mind off the above-mentioned demise in my bead sales. I've finished my hundred fish project for Beads of Courage, and now they want 100 Carry-a-Bead pairs, which is all good, since I have 100 suitable pairs in inventory right now. I'll ship the fish this week and the pairs in a couple of weeks.

I think I will sell some glass to downsize my stash a tad, and take some time to figure out where to go next with my glass art. I still believe in my product, I still enjoy the process of making beads. I see that sales are slow for others, I see a lot of destashing going on, people downsizing their hoards of artisan beads. But of course I see certain artists sell all their wares.

Honestly, I think I've over-saturated the Facebook market with my beads. I've noticed that the artists who sell out all the time sell sporadically, whereas for more than four years I've sold steadily, almost non-stop. Some artists only do trunk shows and never sell in the daily groups. I wrestle with my head monkeys, I think, maybe I need to take a break, then I think, if you don't list it, it sure as hell won't sell. I need to find a happy medium.

Yeah, same story, different day. I need to write a different story. I need to play more with new things at the torch. Or revisit old things. Or something.

I'm still planning a prototype for a larger scale bead project. I have the materials and maybe I'll work on it this weekend while Neil is away.

My first two yarn orders will all arrive this weekend.

And I had a brainstorm. After I finish the throw blanket that I started, which I want to use as a throw, I am going to make a sort of mixed yarn media blanket for a wall hanging. I've going to do rows of solids and heathers and variegated colors and specialty fibers. It won't need to be perfectly symmetrical, if the yarn weights vary a bit and it won't need to be washed so I don't have to worry about differing care instructions.

I'm really excited about this - so much so that I took the plunge and placed that third yarn order.

I'm done buying yarn now, until I get a few more things made. I really do want to use what I'm buying and not hoard it the way I've hoarded glass.

I also need to curtail my spending for a while. I went absolutely nuts this year with shoes and sandals and boots. I did exchange the one pair of shoes I kept for a smaller size and returned one pair of hikers for a smaller size, which will come in the mail.

So the total damage is one pair of boots, one pair of shoes,, two pairs of hikers and one new pair of sandals, plus the half dozen pairs of sandals I bought earlier in the year.

It sounds pretty bad I know. But I think I really am ready to resist even looking at any more shoes. And glass. And beads. And jewelry and clothes and all the other things I have over-indulged in.

Yesterday, I was looking for a particular small clutch pin because the neckline of the dress I had on was gaping just a bit too much. I didn't find it, but the looking process forced me once again to feel overwhelmed by how much jewelry I have accumulated. Some things were gifts, some things I bought still have the tags on them, some things I loved at the time, now not so much, some things I just never think about. I wound up choosing a small cameo pin that worked with my dress. I don't think I've ever worn it before.

In the larger scheme, this is made all so much more ridiculous by how infrequently I dress up to go anywhere. I mostly live in comfort clothes, skirts, tank tops, t-shirts, yoga pants, shorts, capris, and in cooler weather, leggings mostly, with skirts, or jeans, long sleeved t-shirts, cardigans, athletic shoes. I try to dress nicely every day, for Neil or even if he's away or I'm just going to the doctor or store or park. I almost never leave home without earrings and a necklace and rings.

I suppose it's OK to just dress for me and not for anyone else. For months before the cruise I made so many buying decisions based on wanting to look good while out with my girls and their beaus. Not dressed to the nines or anything, just cute but understated simple outfits. To go with my red purse and sandals, naturally.

Maybe I'll spend some time weeding my possessions over the next few months. I know I'd feel better if my closet shelves were somewhat lighter. And I know I've made similar resolutions in the past to stop buying more than I need, more of what I already have plenty of, too much of. But today I feel like something has shifted and I'm ready to follow through and to sustain the intent.

There are other things on my mind I want to write about, so maybe I'll tie this up with a woolly ribbon now and begin afresh next time.

She is a weaver
Through her hands the bright thread travels
Blue green water, willows weeping, silver stars
She sings and sighs as the shuttle flies
Through the yarn like a Kerry dancer
Pink and purple, velvet red for a lover's bed

Living north of San Francisco
With a man who built his house alone
Living peaceful in the country
The lights of the golden gate will lead her home

She is a spinner
In her hands the wooden wheel turns the wool around
Then around again
A gypsy from Bolinas
Sits and plays the mandolin
Faces smile in the firelight of a foggy night

Living north of San Francisco
Sometimes it's nice to be alone
She says, it's peaceful where she is living
The lights of the golden gate will lead her home

You can see the bridges of the city
Hanging in the air by steel and stone
She says it's peaceful where she's living
The lights of the golden gate will lead her home

She is a weaver
Through her hand the bright thread travels
Blue green water, willows weeping, silver stars
She is my sister
The baby born when I was older
Her hands are light, her hair is bright as the summer sun

Living north of San Francisco
Sometimes it's nice to be alone
She says, it's peaceful in the country
The lights of the golden gate will lead her home.

(Judy Collins © Universal Music Publishing Group)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Storm track mania

"And when the sand was gone and the time arrived
In the naked dawn only a few survived
And in attempts to understand a thing so simple and so huge
Believed that they were meant to live after the deluge."

Waiting for a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle.

I didn't make that up. I read it on Facebook.

It's so true though. For days, more than a week, Neil has been relentlessly watching the news and graphing the position of Hurricane Florence.

It is ironic that we left Houston on the heels of Hurricane Harvey and here it is, one year later, and we have Florence on our doorstep.

Did I say our doorstep? You'd think she was, with the number of people checking in with me. But we're 200 miles from the coast and 800 feet above sea level. We may see some wind and rain, but flooding is unlikely and the threat of power loss seems remote.

Anything could happen, and something surely will happen, but first we have to hurry up and wait. And while we're waiting, we might as well enjoy the sunshine, the breeze, the calm before the you know what.

I'm OK with waiting, really I am. What I find harder is everyone's obsession with the storm. We went to the grocery store, which was well stocked with everything except bread, and replenished our pantry. We didn't buy a lot of perishables, just in case we lose power, so no ice cream for me.

We have three bathtubs that we could fill with water, but probably won't. We have some candles, not a lot, since we mostly switched to Scentsy warmers when my daughter was selling them. We have some batteries and flashlights, gasoline in our gas tanks, and the ability to charge phones and tablets in our cars.

I think we'll be fine.

Keeping occupied, I returned three pairs of shoes and exchanged one pair for another size. But I can't stop playing the shoe game, I have more shoes in my shopping carts. I may need another size in the pair I kept. I have one pair of hiking shoes on the way and two more that I'm looking at, even though I only need one. But it may as well be the right one, and how would I know that if I don't try on at least two or three?

At least if I order enough to get the maximum discounts and free shipping, there are free in-store returns and they prorate the discount. Plus returning shoes gets me out of the house.

And takes my mind off, not the storm, but Neil’s brooding obsession with it. I wish it would just get here or pass by. It’s a strain to live with his palpable anxiety, fixation, and negativity. Probably because it’s unlike him to be other that level-headed and relatively upbeat.

I’ve had so many people checking up on me that I’ve come up with a form letter response. “Hi Xxxx - Yes, we’re fine, 200 miles inland and at 800 feet elevation. We may get some wind and rain, but I think the risk of flooding or power loss is low. We did pick up supplies, just in case we are stuck at home for a bit. Thanks for checking! Love, Liz” ...

It’s very sweet that so many care. It does make me miss my mom, who always checked in, usually daily.

I’m not such a great mom. I probably don’t call my kids enough. My mom used to call me every Sunday, without fail. During some of the dark years of my life, that phone call was one of my lifelines. We’d often talk for an hour, back in the days before email and text messages and Facebook and Instagram.

Nowadays, if I don’t call, at least I usually have a clue what my kids are up to, since both post semi-regularly on social media.

In later years, my mom’s calls became shorter and didn’t always happen on Sunday. Then, if she couldn’t reach me, my mom would call Monday, because, she liked to say, the week isn’t complete until I’ve talked to my daughter. After she got email, she’d sometimes leave a phone message if she couldn’t reach me, telling me to send her an email to let her know things were OK.

I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I felt a bit stalked.

In the last few years, the Sunday calls continued to happen but the became short and devoid of content. I said at the time, it was as if, once she’d reached me and heard my voice, she wanted to get off the phone as quickly as possible. Knowing now what I didn’t know then about her dementia, it makes sense. My dad probably prompted her to call, but once she’d called, she didn’t have much to say.

I’m grateful that in the years when I really needed an ear and a long-distance shoulder, she was there to listen and care. Not that at times she didn’t tire of the topic before I stopped needing to talk about it, but at least there was always something to say. By the time she stopped wanting to engage in conversation, my life had reached a stable place and I had other support systems in place.

Once my dad died and my mom moved to assisted living and a three-year semi-fugue state, phone calls were a challenge, short, awkward, superficial. My mom’s aide would dial my number, and mom and I would exchange simple words, but the days of dialogue were over. We did our best, and just touching base was something.

At the end of next month, my mom will have been gone for five years.

And a month after that, it will have been eight years since my dad passed.

I know I was lucky to have had them as long as I did. Both lived for 90 years, give or take three weeks or five months.

Even though I’m not worried about the storm, I keep the NOAA National Hurricane Center site open in a tab on my iPad. I check it periodically, mostly to keep perspective and for a reality check to counterbalance Neil’s worst case scenarios. More and more it looks like it will be circling around us. At most we’re on the very outer edge of the cone.

Ironically, the storm will be hooking a u-turn and heading up toward the east coast, where Neil will be in a week or so from now.

We saw his mom and dad recently, but Neil’s dad especially struck me as frail and something of a shadow of his usual self. Neil is the executor of his dad’s will, and Bob wanted him to plan a trip in January to go through all the finances. We both thought that maybe sooner would be better than later, so Neil booked a trip. And as long as he’s there he’ll pop down to his mom’s for a couple of nights.

At least both his parents are still quite sharp mentally. But they’re not getting any younger.

And it strikes me that we are also waiting for what happens next. The handwriting on the wall is even less conclusive that the meteorologists storm track predictions. Neil’s dad is 89, his mom is 88. They could have years left to live, and we hope they do, but the alternatives are there at the back of my mind nonetheless.

Mortality. You can’t run or hide. Neither should you focus on it overmuch. Because how does that help anyone?

Like waiting for Florence. Do what you have to do. Evacuate if you’re in a coastal flood-prone area. Keep an eye on the news, stock up on supplies, fill your gas tanks, bring in your patio furniture. Then find something else to do.

Ideally something other than watching the trees sway in the wind, listening for raindrops, or watching for water to boil.

Some of them were dreamers
And some of them were fools
Who were making plans and thinking of the future
With the energy of the innocent
They were gathering the tools
They would need to make their journey back to nature

While the sand slipped through the opening
And their hands reached for the golden ring
With their hearts they turned to each other's hearts for refuge
In the troubled years that came before the deluge

Some of them knew pleasure
And some of them knew pain
And for some of them it was only the moment that mattered
And on the brave and crazy wings of youth
They went flying around in the rain
And their feathers, once so fine, grew torn and tattered

And in the end they traded their tired wings
For the resignation that living brings
And exchanged love's bright and fragile glow
For the glitter and the rouge
And in a moment they were swept before the deluge

Let the music keep our spirits high
Let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal its secrets by and by, by and by
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky

Some of them were angry
At the way the earth was abused
By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power
And they struggled to protect her from them
Only to be confused
By the magnitude of her fury in the final hour

And when the sand was gone and the time arrived
In the naked dawn only a few survived
And in attempts to understand a thing so simple and so huge
Believed that they were meant to live after the deluge

Let the music keep our spirits high
Let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal it's secrets by and by, by and by
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky.

(Jackson Browne © Jackson Browne/Swallow Turn Music/Night Kitchen Music/Open Window Music)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

If the shoe fits, buy it

We're all confused, what's to lose?
You can call this all the United States Blues."

As the earth completes this particular circle around the sun, the one that began last September 21, the day we arrived with the cats and started living here, I find myself pensive and introspective.

In other words, much as usual, only more so.

I’ve had some moments of late when the heart heaviness of those first months has again loomed, threatening.

I tell myself, anniversaries are hard, which is only partly the truth for me. Some anniversary seasons are hard. I remember the summer after my love affair with Marty. All those summer months, the same ones as those when our passion flared, followed by those ones after it ended in misery, I ached all over again. I’d made so much progress in my healing, and then the feelings surged back, not the happiness, just the heartache.

It was just that first summer. By the second summer I was well into my relationship with Neil. I wasn’t looking back, not ever again.

I won’t compare the grief of moving with the grief of the broken love affair. That was full out desolation, coupled with remorse and anger and weariness, complicated by hope against hope. Moving was just a small disruption in the continuum, some tripping the light fantastic with the black dog while I passed the time it took to regain equilibrium.

But now, a year later, some of the feelings have resurfaced and I sense that the black dog is waiting in the wings, watching for a chance to get back on my dance card.

I’m doing my best to fend it off. I’m keeping myself busy. I bought some yarn and a crochet hook, watched a YouTube video and started a scarf. I’m working out some necklace designs, and have one almost finished.

I’ve been cooking a bit too. I made a potato and egg salad with some of our garden potatoes. I made a pasta sauce with our homegrown tomatoes and eggplant and a little okra, plus onions and celery. I’m baked a scrumptious carrot cake with carrots that we grew, in my new bundt cake pan, with my new spices from Penzeys. (I finally pitched out my beaten-up 40-year-old bundt cake pan - after the lemon cake I baked last, I tossed it in the recycling bin without bothering to wash it.)

I’ve also pretty much decided to be a vegetarian, except that I’ll continue to eat seafood. Meat just doesn’t taste good to me any more. We had some turkey breast that was dry and chewy. Neil thought it was delicious. We grilled hamburgers on Labor Day and I ate one but honestly, it was tasteless. A veggie burger tastes better to me.

Neil constantly wants to pick up chicken from Tenders and I keep telling him he should, but I don’t want anything, not a grilled chicken sandwich, not a salad, not fries, nothing. I’m totally happy to heat up soup or have tortillas with cheese or a bagel. It's easier to just be a vegetarian than to negotiate what I'll eat meal by meal.

Of course, immediately after my decision, we went out for a Thai food, and the lunch specials came with a cup of tasty chicken soup. I decided I won't be ridiculous about the little things, since I'm doing this based not on principle but on personal preference.

Cutting now to national news for a moment, I’m trying to decide where I stand (or kneel) on Nike’s ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. I wrote about my mixed feelings about Kaepernick’s choice of sitting, later taking a knee, during the national anthem at NFL games, to protest racism in America. I’m all for the sentiment but not so much the venue.

And now people are burning their Nike’s to protest the company’s choice of Kaepernick as spokesperson.

I haven’t followed the story but Neil brought it to my attention that Kaepernick has essentially been blacklisted by the NFL, and that he’s suing the league for collusion. Just days ago, the NFL’s summary judgement request for dismissal of the case was denied.

And while, as I’ve said, I believe it’s fair for private enterprise to make rules for employees - such as standing for the national anthem - and expect them to follow them, I don’t believe a conspiratorial career-ending value judgment, goaded by a lunatic president inciting reprisal, is a just solution. Find a compromise. Racism exists. The point has been made. Let the men kneel, let them stay in the locker room. Move on.

One could argue that Kaepernick made his bed. As he pointedly says in the Nike commercial, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Beyond that the commercial baffles me. I’m not exactly sure what having crazy dreams has to do with the price of athletic shoes in New York City. Will it really sell more trainers if you’re told, ‘Don't try to be the fastest runner in your school or the fastest runner in the world. Be the fastest ever.“ Is it really not enough to be the fastest runner in the world? Who decided that? Who writes this stuff anyway?

I did enjoy the memes.

In the end, I conclude that Kaeprnick himself is the message. People are talking about Nike. Nike is in the news. Is bad publicity a thing or not? Will Nike sell less shoes, will people choose their athletic footwear based on principle? Or will people drink the Kool-Aid about dreaming crazy big dreams, somehow connect the dots with buying Nike products, and just do it? Just buy the shoes?

I for one will continue to select my running shoes based on price, style, and comfort.

And speak of shoes, I've sinned again there. Someone on Facebook showed off their pretty new L'Artiste sandals and of course I had to have some. DSW had a discount deal for $60 off a $200 purchase, so I bought a pair of boots and clogs. Then I used the discount again a few days later to buy a pair of shoes and two pairs of sandals. I wasn't planning to keep all of them. But now I might. The boots are a little big and had little arch support, so I ordered some inserts to see if they will work. If not, the boots go back, possibly to be exchanged for another pair.

I'm incorrigible. Don't I know it. Don't we all know it. But how cute are they?

And while we're having true confessions, I also ordered these hiking shoes for me and Neil, after our hike last Sunday, when another couple about our age were clad in cool looking hiking shoes.

Just think how easy these will be to pack, vs. our clunky ankle height serious hiking booots, for those trips where we intend to do easy hikes on well-manicured trails.

Am I rationalizing? Of course.

Don't say it. I've already thought it.

Red and white, blue suede shoes
I'm Uncle Sam, how do you do?
Gimme five, I'm still alive
Ain't no luck, I learned to duck

Check my pulse, it don't change
Stay seventy-two come shine or rain
Wave the flag, pop the bag
Rock the boat, skin the goat

Wave that flag, wave it wide and high
Summertime done, come and gone, my oh my

I'm Uncle Sam, that's who I am
Been hidin' out in a rock and roll band
Shake the hand that shook the hand
Of P.T. Barnum and Charlie Chan

Shine your shoes, light your fuse
Can you use them ol' U.S. Blues?
I'll drink your health, share your wealth
Run your life, steal your wife

Back to back chicken shack
Son of a gun, better change your act
We're all confused, what's to lose?
You can call this all the United States Blues

Wave that flag, wave it wide and high
Summertime done, come and gone, my oh my.

(Jerome J. Garcia, Robert C. Hunter © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc)

Monday, September 3, 2018

Home and heart

I see myself a child running through the trees
Looking everywhere crawling on my knees
Searching for myself, looking for my life
I cannot see the leaves, I cannot see the light.

On our way home from the airport after our recent trip, as we reached our freeway exit, Neil asked me if it felt like coming home.

I said it did.

In about three weeks we will have lived here for a year.

And in most ways it has become home. I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent unpacked or that we've hung many pictures on the walls. But we are pretty settled now. The days of furniture shopping are behind us. No more regular runs to IKEA, no more stops at the consignment shops, no more trips to Pineville or Hickory.

No more perusing pages and pages of rugs online,

No more tears.

It's hard to believe now how many, many tears I shed, those last months before we moved, those first months in North Carolina.

It's just my life now.

And yet, there are aspects to it that feel more like we're on vacation. Sitting on our screened patio, looking out over the back yard and the rain garden and little wooded area beyond it, I feel like it's some sort of idyll.

The deer have come back. We've seen them quite often again, a little group of three usually, maybe the same ones, maybe new ones.

The house still has that new house smell, and it's even more noticeable after a few days away.

The year has gone by so quickly. The days fly as well. I drift through them, dreamlike.

Yet at times I feel adrift. It's as though I'm not anchored in the world. I'm happy, I like being where I am. But I'm not really connected to this place.

I'm not connected to any place really.

I'm connected to Neil, and to my children, and to my grandchild. They are more home for me than any geographic location.

Although I lived in Texas for the longest time that I'm likely to live in any one place, I was never "from" Texas. When people asked, I always said I was from New York. I was just living in Texas.

Having just come back from New York, I have to admit I'm not sure I'm really from New York any more.

There is a TED talk that I watched for one of my online Colgate classes that made an impression on me. It is called "Where is Home" and it's given by Pico Iyer, a travel writer of Indian descent, born in England and living in the USA.

The gist of the talk is that most people have many homes. There is "one home associated with their parents, but another associated with their partners, a third connected maybe with the place where they happen to be, a fourth connected with the place they dream of being, and many more beside."

Iyer also says that "Where you come from now is much less important than where you're going." And that "home, in the end, is of course not just the place where you sleep. It's the place where you stand."

So probably what I need to do is to stop wondering where my home is, or worrying that no place is home, and start thinking more about where I'm going and where I want to go. Where I want to stand, what I want to stand for.

Then again, it's so much easier to just drift.

I'm not complaining. I feel very privileged to be able to do just that. Drift.

I worked hard enough for long enough, didn't I? God knows, I spent enough time fighting a war with my own neurotransmitters, years of therapy and drug reactions and side effects and white knuckles and dysfunctional relationships and self-doubt.

Nothing is permanent. Life can go from bad to good, great even, but you must take nothing for granted. Anything can be taken away away in a heartbeat.

I tried to explain this to my new doctor recently. She had me make an appointment before she would renew my anxiety medication, the same medication at the same dose that I've been taking for the last 15 years, give or take.

We spent something like half an hour debating the question of why I should keep taking the medication (me) or why I should taper off it (she).

She said in older people, the medication could make them unsteady on their feet, which might result in a fall, a broken hip. She also said that in older people, it could reduce cognitive ability.

I said that I am steady on my feet, strong, supple, and relatively flexible. I said my mental clarity was fine, thank you very much. I said, can we just cross that bridge when we come to it?

She looked at me like I was an alien. She said, you don't want to take more medicine than you need. She asked me when I visualized myself getting off this medication.

I said, I think it will be when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

She didn't laugh, but she may have smiled.

In the end, she wrote me another 3 months supply. She wrote it for 5 pills less per month, 55 tablets instead of 60, so that at least 10 days of the month I'd take a half dose for my second dose.


I can usually refill my prescriptions a few days early.

And I'm taking a half dose already at bedtime. I didn't tell her that though.

If she won't keep refilling this med, I will probably have to go see a med management specialist. One who I predict will laugh and write me 90-day mail order refills and say, see you in six months. And not try to give me an object lesson about it.

The kicker is that, after this overlong, awkward conversation, my doctor decided to listen to my heart. And then said she heard a heart murmur.

It's the first I've heard of that.

I think it's more likely that I was agitated by the medication discussion. I doubt there's anything wrong with my heart. I have no symptoms, no shortness of breath, no cough, no swelling or sudden weight gain, nor loss of appetite, no sweating, chest pain, dizziness, or faintness.

I think I am healthy as a horse - a healthy horse.

But I get to go back in a month so my doctor can have another listen. If she hears a murmur then, I will have to schedule an echocardiogram, an electrocardiogram, or both.

I think there is better than a 50/50 chance that my heart will sound fine next time. And if it still murmurs, then I predict it will be an innocent murmur, i.e., harmless, and require no treatment.

Time - and possibly tests - will tell.

You have many houses, one for every season
Mountains in your windows, violets in your hands
Through your English meadows your blue-eyed horses wander
You're in Colorado for the spring

When the winter finds you, you fly to where it's summer
Rooms that face the ocean, moonlight on your bed
Mermaids swift as dolphins paint the air with diamonds
You are like a seagull as you said

Why do you fly bright feathered sometimes in my dreams?

The shadows of your wings fall over my face
I can feel no air, I can find no peace
Brides in black ribbons, witches in white
Fly in through windows, fly out through the night

Why do I think I'm dying sometimes in my dreams?

I see myself a child running through the trees
Looking everywhere crawling on my knees
Searching for myself, looking for my life
I cannot see the leaves, I cannot see the light

Then I see you walking just beyond the forest
Walking very quickly, walking by yourself
Your shoes are silver, your coat is made of velvet
Your eyes are shining, your voice is sweet and clear

Come on, you say, come with me, I'm going to the castle
All the bells are ringing, the weddings have begun
But I can only stand here, I cannot move to follow
I'm burning in the shadows and freezing in the sun

There are people with you, living in your houses
People from your childhood who remember how you were
You were always flying, nightingale of sorrow
Singing bird with rainbows on your wings.

(Judy Collins © Universal Music Publishing Group)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Have cats, won’t travel

"I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record."

Finally, we’re home for a while.

This last trip felt longer and more tedious than its six-night length.

A quick recap. We flew into Newark on Wednesday, met Neil’s dad and sister at the Bagel Buffet, then drove to the outskirts of Philadelphia. We had dinner at a diner because there’s nothing like a northeast diner. Thursday we went to the ANA World’s Fair of Money. I did my usual course of the bourse. I bought some earrings, a sterling silver teaspoon, and for $5 I scored a couple of partially filled coin booklets for Ryland when he gets a bit older.

Nickels. Yes, I know, some are in the wrong holes. We'll fix that.
Neil and I will fill most of the holes before we give him this,
When I was a kid I’d have been enthralled with these sets of coins, including a couple of shiny 1943 steel cents.

From the coin show we went to Citizens Bank Park to watch the Phillies play the Mets. We watched a crazy game where the Mets won 24 to 4. Neil had gotten second row seats, but I never sat in mine because they were in full sun and it was hot. I had a good shaded spot to watch and eventually we were allowed to sit in the last row, because the staff was sympathetic to fans who didn’t want to get heatstroke. We had dinner at Panera because after the crab fries at the ballpark, I just wanted some soup.

Friday morning we drove to Neil’s mom’s house. Eleanor fed us lunch, tuna salad, hard boiled eggs, lettuce and tomatoes, lunch meat and cheese, bread and crackers. We sat around the kitchen table and talked, which is mostly what we do when we visit her. I took a nap from 3npm to 6 om. None of us had worked up an appetite for dinner, so we just had leftovers from lunch. Neil and I took a walk in the neighborhood, we talked some more around the kitchen table, I read my book.

Saturday was busy. We went out in the River Lady, a reproduction paddle wheel riverboat, for a lunch cruise.

We hadn’t been back long when Neil and I left again to meet my brother for dinner. I met his girlfriend of the last 10 months, which is some kind of record, and my second cousin Ruth and her husband Paul, who were visiting, came to dinner too. It all felt a bit rushed, and it was bad planning on my part to build in so little time to spend with Philip. But honestly, Neil engineers these trips, and I feel bad for stealing time from his parents, who are elderly and have health challenges, and won’t be with us forever.

Still, it’s Neil who carved out the time for the coin show and ballgame, but there really is a limit to how long you can sit and talk at a kitchen table. So on Sunday, after breakfast and more talk, we left for the Catskills where we were meeting Neil’s dad, his sister, and her two sons. We all checked in, then headed to Phoenicia for dinner. We were all tired and called it an early night. Monday we had a continental breakfast at the inn, then went for a drive to the bungalow that Neil’s grandfather once owned, where both Bob and Neil spent time as kids.

After that we went back to Phoenicia, where we had lunch at the same place that we’d had dinner the night before, then ice cream a few shops down the short drag.

Then we went back to the inn, where Neil and I took a walk and the others napped. No one was really hungry enough for dinner to trek back to the restaurant in Phoenicia, the only game in town on weeknights, so we raided the cereal and bagels laid out for the next morning. Everyone else played cards, I read some more. We spent most of Tuesday traveling home, driving from the Catskills to Newark, returning the rental car, jumping through the security hoops, waiting to board, flying home.

I was very glad to get home. I’m very glad to be home. The cats seem happy that we’re home. The cats are probably the main reason I don’t want to take longer trips. I feel guilty about them being without us so much. I know they’re looked after but they’re used to having someone home. They’re needy that way, at least in my mind. Other reasons I don’t love to travel are sleeping in unfamiliar beds with strange pillows, living out of a suitcase, laundry accumulating, no coffee first thing when I wake up. Small bathrooms, small rooms, no bedside table. My weird germ phobia, walking on carpet that who knows what has been on. The same for blankets and bedspreads.

Really, why would I ever want to leave my spacious, comfortable, familiar surroundings, my creature comforts?

There’s also the money aspect, hotels and meals cost money and even if Neil pays, I’m aware that it stresses him. That’s one way the cruise was so great. No worrying about what people ordered or ate or wasted. Plus, I’m always spending money on trips, shopping for souvenirs, shopping online while waiting to board planes or while sitting around kitchen tables talking, talking, talking.

I read three books on the trip. I finished The Wyndham Case, Slow Dollar, and Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy. The last, another by Rumer Godden that I’d not read before, was moving and thought-provoking. It’s a fictional story about the Sisters of Bethany, a real religious order established in France in the 1860s, that allows former women prisoners to become members of the order, undistinguished from their sisters. Like everything written by Godden, it’s lyrical and beautiful and I already want to re-read it.

So now we’re home for a while, and our routines begin again. I bought more glass, so I guess I will keep wrestling with my muse and trying to make better art. I’m working in a custom order of 100 small fish beads for Beads of Courage. I’m planning to work on my larger project to use some of the beads I’ve had for a while, the ones that I haven’t been able to sell. I’ve worked out in my mind how I want to do it, and I’m going to try a smaller prototype first. if that works I’ll attempt the larger installation. I won’t try to explain. I will post progress pictures.

And despite my less-than-enthusiastic attitude about travel, I’m hoping Neil and I can get away for a weekend in September, maybe to the Outer Banks, maybe the mountains. We have other trips pencilled in, Dallas, Orlando, Houston, in October, November, and December.

In the short term though, I’m looking forward to our weekly Whit’s frozen custard, our Friday $5 Smoothie King smoothies, cooking more soups from our garden bounty of potatoes and tomatoes, enjoying more fresh cantaloupe, hoping our eggplant will ripen, and figuring out what to do with an army of okra.

It's four in the morning, the end of December
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better
New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening

I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You'd been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without Lili Marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody's wife

Well I see you there with the rose in your teeth
One more thin gypsy thief
Well, I see Jane's awake
She sends her regards

And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I'm glad you stood in my way

If you ever come by here, for Jane or for me
Well, your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Sincerely, L Cohen.

(Leonard Cohen © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)