Thursday, January 25, 2018

Exit not laughing

"What I resist, persists, and speaks louder than I know
What I resist, you love, no matter how low or high I go."

Let me start by saying that I’m not a fan of Saturday Night Live.

Yes, I know, in many circle, to admit that is almost sacrilegious. And regrettably, those same circles are ones that I’m likely to be politically aligned with.

And as long as we’re being honest here and, some would say, politically incorrect, I’m a tough room when it comes to comedy.

Humor is wonderful. I love a good laugh as much as anyone does. I’m actually fairly easily amused. I laugh often. I dissolve in giggles. I laugh until I weep. I've recently spewed cereal because something tickled my funny bone.

But comedy. So often comedy relies on mocking things that are real and serious. It is often offensive, derogatory, insulting, pandering and abusive of stereotypes.

In other words, it makes fun of someone, something, some culture, some ethnic group, some gender.

And before you tell me to get a life or grow up or lighten up, I’ll remind you that this is my blog and whatever I say is gospel. Here in this space anyway.

So, I’m not amused by the roasting Saturday Night has been giving Donald Trump.

Trump may richly deserve to be roasted, grilled, broiled, or deep-fried, but it’s not a laughing matter.

It’s deadly serious.

Turning Trump and his latest antics into a joke-of-the-week in my opinion defuses the egregiousness of the embarassing and not-funny situation America finds itself it.

If you turn it into a joke, it normalizes what it not normal. Hey look everyone, we’re laughing about it, how bad could it be?

We can’t afford to laugh about something so evil and dark and pathetic and worrisome and wrong.

It’s like laughing at child abuse, or rape, or sexual predation, or assault weapons in the hands of the citizenry.

Of course I know we do laugh about all that too. Nothing is too sacred to be joked about.

This diatribe is brought to you, not out of the blue, but because of something that happened.

First, Neil knows my feeling about this.

Second, he came and sat next to me on the sofa, in the middle of a discussion we were having about a trip we’re planning in May.

I had just tried to ask him if he thought a particular hotel was too far from our destination, when he started playing a clip from the previous night’s Saturday Night on his iPad.

Third, he flew off the handle when I didn’t enjoy the clip.

I wanted to ask him to stop playing it - but I didn’t. I sat there on the sofa, in my spot, the spot where I drink my coffee every morning, the spot where I’m tying these words, a captive audience.

I did scroll through my Facebook feed while the clip was playing, but I followed the whole unfunny episode, even though ordinarily I wouldn’t win any prizes for my multitasking skills.

It wasn’t hard to follow the sophomoric gist of the game show-themed sketch.

Afterwards, Neil said he was angry at himself, not at me, for “being stupid” about expecting me to find it at all funny. He said, I'm stupid, but I'm learning, I'm getting smarter.

But he didn’t act like he was mad at himself. He behaved like I was in the wrong for not liking the things he likes, the things he thinks I should like too. Because he does. Because lots of other people do.

It was not a happy episode. Neil and me, I mean. Pun unintended. No one was laughing.

I don’t really understand why he tries to force me to watch or like things he knows I don’t and won’t like. This isn’t virgin territory.

I don’t think I try to force him to like everything I like, and I’m totally OK if he doesn’t.

Sometimes I tell him bead stories or show him pictures of beads, knowing he isn’t deeply interested in beads, as I am.

On the flip side, I listen to his coin stories and softball stories and the dream he had the night before (because other people's dreams are so interesting - not). I play along, mostly, when he wants me to assess a coin, or guess how many calories are in a jar of something or listen to some random trivia that he found interesting.

And all that is fine. All that is part of the give and take of a marriage.

It’s just that lately we seem to be in a rut, one that goes something like this. Neil thinks I get my way all the time, that he gives in to me all the time.

That we always watch what I want to watch. We always eat what I want to eat.

And it’s just not so.

I defer to him often, I just don’t make a big deal about it. He doesn’t even know he’s getting his way because I don’t point out that whatever it is isn’t my first choice. I just go along to get along.

Until it’s something like this. I don’t want to watch Saturday Night. Or Star Trek reruns. Or Matlock reruns, or Hawaii Five-0 reruns, or Blazing Saddles, or Planet of the Apes, or The Godfather - again. I don’t want to watch football. Or basketball, or hockey, or soccer, or golf, or god forbid, poker.

I don’t freaking care if he does. He can. I’ll just go somewhere else, do something else. Read. Make jewelry. Surf. Shop.

I don’t take it as a personal rejection if he doesn’t want to watch, for example, Call the Midwife. Or Doc Martin.

I do mind if he wants to sit in the room and criticize what I’m watching, so I wait to watch the things he isn’t interested in until he’s otherwise occupied.

I think there’s enough overlap in what we both like to find a happy medium.

And just when I was thinking it had all blown over, Neil said this. We should take a long rainy afternoon and watch all of The Godfather movies.

I said, I thought you were getting smarter.

He said, but these movies are acclaimed,, they've won lots of awards. A lot of people love them.

I said, look, I don't ask you to spend an afternoon watching a season of thirtysomething. That show was critically praised. It won awards. A lot of people loved it.

But I know you'd hate it, so I don't ask you to.

I don't care if everyone else loved something, if I don't like it, I'm going to resist watching it.

I think he got my point. Maybe.

I wonder, is all this really about Neil being retired, and the way we've isolated ourselves with this move? I know he misses his buddies, lunches with his workmates. Maybe he shared his love of Saturday Night - and all the other many things that I don't share his love for - with more sympathetic compadres.

There's truth to that, I suspect. Nothing to be done about it however.

I have to say it, this place is growing on me. I'm shocked, suddenly, by how little I miss Texas. I miss my friends, but less and less my former life.

All those wasted tears.

I can be an asshole of the grandest kind
I can withhold like it's going out of style
I can be the moodiest baby and you've never met anyone
Who is as negative as I am sometimes

I am the wisest woman you've ever met
I am the kindest soul with whom you've connected
I have the bravest heart that you've ever seen
And you've never met anyone
Who is as positive as I am sometimes

You see everything, you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I'm ashamed
There's not anything to which you can't relate
And you're still here

I blame everyone else not my own partaking
My passive-aggressiveness can be devastating
I'm terrified and mistrusting
And you've never met anyone as
As closed down as I am sometimes

What I resist, persists, and speaks louder than I know
What I resist, you love, no matter how low or high I go

I'm the funniest woman that you've ever known
I'm the dullest woman that you've ever known
I'm the most gorgeous woman that you've ever known
And you've never met anyone
Who is as everything as I am sometimes

You see everything, you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I'm ashamed
There's not anything to which you can't relate
And you're still here.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Not think about it

"The price tag of being just a little bit different
The first rule to learn is to keep your own distance."

I allowed myself to say it to myself. I think I am settling in to our new home and new home state.

The house doesn't feel so much like a hotel anymore, but it's more than that. One by one, I'm ticking off all the obstacles and inconveniences that are part and parcel of moving states.

We took two of the cats to a new vet and I liked her very much. They did everything in the room with us instead of taking the cats back behind the scenes. I felt good about it because I basically picked the vet because it was close to the house, I saw the place driving past and it looked nice, the online reviews were good, and I took a chance.

I hope I'm as lucky with the doctor and dentist I picked because I have those appointments set up too.

I'm not grieving any more for the house we left, maybe because I just don't let myself think about it. Still that's something I couldn't do a month ago - not think about it.

I've embraced things about the new house too. Furniture has made a huge difference. I love love love my new desk. I love my office. I love my studio. I love my new dining table and chairs.

My bed is growing on me.

Neil and I took a one night cooking class in which we made three different kinds of chicken soup and that was fun.

And yet ... and yet ... I find myself feeling upset and angry and irritable. It's nothing new. It's because I'm selling beads on Facebook again, or more precisely, not selling many of them again.

And it's the same old conundrum. It's threefold.

I think I make some pretty enough beads. I see beads that have less to recommend them selling.

But I also see beads that are much more beautiful than mine and I chafe because after almost 10 years I'm not the beadmaker I want to be, the super-mega-talented one.

And also, because I am on the bead selling sites again regularly, I have started buying beads again. Just a few here and there, but I thought I had stopped for good.

I told Neil how I was feeling, about the three elements, the not selling, the feeling not as good as I want to be, and the buying.

He said, you have control over one of those things.

True that.

I even succumbed to selling on the bargain site again, something I'd sworn off previously. I did unload some beads that had been hanging around too long and that I didn't love. I did have a couple of customers buy multiple items that added up nicely. But I also had a couple of sales under $10 and that is time to stop because at some point I'd rather toss the beads (the ones I wouldn't donate to Beads of Courage) into the lake.

I can't donate beads to Beads of Courage that have any exposed silver glass, and I won't donate any beads that I don't think could possible delight a child. That takes out some of the dark, organic experiments.

Since I don't need to sell beads to make ends meet, I must once again do a mind reset and either stop trying to sell or try to sell and be grateful when I do and not personalize it when I don't.

It sounds so simple when I put it that way.

Yes, just continue to work on my art and my skills, continue to list, but don't get too invested in results, don't get attached to particular outcomes.

As far as buying beads, I'd like to say that talking about it here is akin to making myself accountable. If I say that I won't buy more beads, I won't buy more beads.

But I'm weak. Sometimes I have no willpower, no power to resist at all. Luckily that's not all the time or even most of the time. Sometimes the urge comes and goes. Sometimes while I think about it, someone else beats me to the punch.

I think what I'll do is to try to stay offline more. List beads in the morning, bump them once in the evening and once the following morning. Stop compulsively checking to see if I have bids. Stop looking at who is selling, what is selling. Stop looking at my feed all the time because my feed is beads, beads, beads.

If my beads sell, they sell. If they don't sell, oh well.

One thing is sure, if I don't list them, none of them will sell.

And just so you all don't feel sorry for me (sniff), I'm finishing up a 100-bead custom order.

My customer likes shiny beads. She doesn't care if they are pairs or singles, which makes it easier, sort of. I don't have to worry about matching sizes or picking up the wrong stringer shade of purple. Which I have done a bit lately.

So I made the first 20 or so as singles. But I'm still learning the new flame chemistry of my Apha torch, using natural gas instead of propane, and some weren't as shiny as I'd hoped. So I decided to make the rest in pairs, that way any that might not suit my customer can be sold more easily. Most buyers like pairs for earrings.

At this point I've probably made closer to 200 beads trying to nail the shiny look. I've been working with mostly a dark color palette, lots of silvery blacks and red copper greens and denim blues. After I clean this last batch, I'm picking out the best 100 and calling the order done.

I'm going to work with some bright cheerful colors next week, oranges, yellows and greens, maybe pinks and purples and reds.

And maybe this weekend I'll unpack my artist bead collection. Packing it to move helped me remember how much beauty I already own and dampened my desire to own more.

I suspect unpacking it will have much the same effect.

"Remember Belgium and the Brussels Museum
Where we piled on the front steps like stray cavaliers
Our code of living meant little to others
The few francs we saved bought some cheap souvenirs

But the red lights where the catfights make it just like Belgium
See us face down on the floor of another cheap barroom
Streetwalkers sweet talk you out of your spare change
And your sweet madame makes it seem just like Belgium

Just like a hustler when they look attractive
It's nothing more than a slap on the back
The price tag of being just a little bit different
The first rule to learn is to keep your own distance."

(Bernie Taupin, Elton John)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Window shopping online

"And taken or just lost to me, it’s better now to say
I dwell in possibility on New Year’s Day."

I was hoping to end the year with a philosophical post, full of wit and wisdom about the old and the new, the past and the present and the future.

So, that didn’t happen.

I did have some sobering things to reflect upon. Time just tesseracted or bent or worm-holed, and I looked up and it’s 2018.

Two of my friends - glass community friends, but in this case both real-life ones too - lost their husbands in December.

In mid-December Diane’s husband died suddenly after a brief illness. Despite being a non-drinker or smoker, a bad case of bronchitis somehow morphed into acute liver failure, and medical science was unable to halt the damage.

A week or so later, Lisa’s husband lost a lengthy and bitterly fought battle with lymphoma. Most of the last year was spent in and out of the ICU, trying to find the right chemotherapy, ultimately hoping to get strong enough for an experimental drug trial.

It caused me to ponder which scenario would be worse, losing someone suddenly or watching them suffer and slowly lose the battle.

In the first instance, the shock would be overwhelming and pummeling, whereas in the latter you’d have time to prepare and maybe to say all the things you wanted to say.

Hypothetically at least.

I’m not sure you can ever really prepare. I think you’d always be holding on to hope. I would not want to watch someone I loved be sick for a prolonged time.

If it was me who died, I’d rather it be over quickly than spend a long time terminally ill.

Not that we get a choice, so I suppose all the pondering in the world is at most theoretical.

And you never know how you’ll feel until you are sporting those particular shoes.

For me these deaths can only serve as a reminder to treasure whatever time I do have with the ones I love, to be kinder and more forgiving and more giving.

I especially needed to remember this right now, as the house spun out of control with our visitors. I had to remind myself that Neil is tense but not necessarily angry at me. Rooms can be tidied, laundry done, floors cleaned, dishes washed and put away. I can endure a little chaos, just for a few days.

We knew that icy conditions and the age range of our guests would make activities a challenge. Cabin fever is always a big risk, but for me it’s the onslaught of people and loud voices and nonstop interaction that really takes me out.

It was a little like my recent outing with Neil to see The Last Jedi.

I’m not a Star Wars fan. I’ve seen the original but none of the others. I’ve balked at going in the past, but as part of the new and improved, kinder, gentler me, I agreed to accompany Neil. I don’t mind going to a movie alone, but many people do, and there’s also wanting to have someone to talk about it with afterwards.

So I went, with no expectations of anything beyond tolerating the show and trying to find something positive to say about it. The story more or less kept my attention, despite knowing none of the nuances behind the plot and character development. It was very long, which I knew going in, but I stuck with the narrative and only got really restless near the end.

There’s not much I can say about it. It was probably an advantage that I knew so little of the legend history, so I didn’t have much investment in the story line. Naturally it was overproduced, with lots of special effects, although possibly less than the previous move, The Force Awakens, based on my watching of the trailer.

I walked out feeling a little shell-shocked just by virtue of the assault on my senses, the lights, the noise, the movement, the whole big-screen action-adventure experience.

Entertaining an 88-year-old, a one-year-old, and three 30-year-olds is somewhat similar.

Everyone is loud, everyone is always talking, except the baby, who isn't talking yet and mostly makes cute sounds but can wail at impressive decibels when his baby brain so dictates.

In some ways it was fun. We laughed a lot playing the box game, Pick Your Poison. Belly-laughing feels good.

We ate well, but too much, and too often. Chicken tenders and salad. Bagels and bran muffins. Sushi and more sushi. Pizza and gelato. North Carolina barbecue and pecan cobbler with ice cream.

Arctic temperatures made any sort of outdoor activities impossible. Even bundling up and taking a walk was uninviting. Going to and from the cars was all the exposure to the elements we could tolerate.

I did not walk on the treadmill. I did not light my torch. I did sell some beads. I did spend way too much time window shopping online.

Window shopping online. Shopping in browser windows. I didn't buy a lot. I mostly drooled over things I don't really need, like boiled wool slippers to the tune of $100 and up. I discovered Earth Origins sandals and I want red ones. And black ones and brown ones. I got some blue ones. I have half a dozen pairs in my Amazon shopping cart.

My Fluevog boots came, the ones I exchanged for the last pair I got that pinched my baby toes. The new ones fit me so well that I want to order them in the other colorway but I'm trying to resist.

After finally finishing Forbrydelsen, the Danish original series of The Killing (literally, the crime), I want a Fair Isle sweater. Who knew how hard they are to find and how expensive for the nice quality ones.

Having survived the family onslaught, I feel I am ready to begin my year. For a hot minute, due to the frigid temperatures and winter storm warnings, there was some thought of extending the visit by a day. But happily everyone went home as planned and the quiet at home is blissful.

Our cleaning lady came and the house is clean.

We've eaten light simple meals and gone back to our evening TV watching rituals. The cats have resumed their positions by the fireplace, although they did pretty well on the whole with the company.

I worked on beads for a custom order. I filed my last Texas sales tax return. I made vet appointments for the cats. I set up a consultation with a financial advisor to rebalance my assets.

And I started the ball rolling for a cruise to Alaska this summer, for Neil and me, my kids and their crew. The price tag gives me anxiety, it's not something I can afford to do often, in fact, it may be a once-in-a-lifetime splurge. But I've thought about it and talked about it for a long time and I'm really excited about the idea of seeing Alaska with my family.

I have to remind myself, for the most part, it's the things not done that we regret.

So once the financial advisor helps me figure out how to tap some of my liquid investments, I'm going car shopping.

Not to worry, I'm not manic. My car is 10 years and 100,000 miles old. I plan to keep the next one just as long. And don't I deserve heated seats, a sound system to play the 40,000 songs I have on iTunes and a backup camera?

I've been clutching my nest egg like grim death for a long while. But there are no guarantees about the future.

And while I do want to have a little something to leave behind for my kids, I don't doubt that they'll be taking that cruise and buying that car after I'm gone.

Might as well live a little. Because I can. While I can.

We are sitting at a table
In a bar in Baltimore
It’s the last night of December
And the room is nearly full
And the front door pulls a draft in
Every time it opens wide
And you are telling me a story
From another time and life

And the waitress brings our order
And we’re tucked in mighty close
And I feel like we belong among
The living and these ghosts
And I know that I am dreaming
As I memorize each part
In the telling lies a reverie
In the details lie the heart

Like the folds of summer dresses
Like the scent upon my wrist
Like the way you play guitar
Like a boxer punches with his fist
And taken or just lost to me
It’s better now to say
I dwell in possibility
On New Year’s Day

There’s a jukebox or a bandstand
And we’re on another round
And the night’s just getting started
Or the night’s just winding down
And your stories are not clouded yet
By the ale or by the gin
They just make me feel as if I’ve known you
All my life again

And this is what it looked like
When we started walking home
The night sky bleached to silver
Against the city’s bones
In dreams or in our waking
It’s just enough to say
Love and grace and endless flowers
Be ours on New Year’s Day

And the folds of summer dresses
And the bangles on my wrist
And the way you play guitar
Like a boxer punches with his fist
And taken or just lost to us
It’s better now to say
We dwell in possibility
On New Year’s Day.

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)