Sunday, February 25, 2018

Mustn't love stuff

"Sitting there watching time fly past you
Why do tomorrow
What you could never do."

Nature Walk on Saturday morn.
Neil has been gone for a week now, and on the whole the time passed about as fast as time typically does.

I did find myself taking my mood temperature more often. Am I depressed, I’d ask myself, on waking up or in between activities.

So far the answer has been no. But I do feel a bit like I’m treading water, waiting for the days to go by, waiting for Neil to be home and for life to resume.

I know a fair number of women who live alone, by circumstance or choice, and who claim to like it that way.

Me, I feel a little more like a fish out of water than a fish without a bicycle.

I do the things. I’ve shopped a lot because that’s what I do when I have time on my hands. I’ve bought things, exchanged things, returned things.

If you were to ask me what I need, I’d have to say nothing or just one thing or two. The funny part is, as soon as I get that one thing or two, I think of something else that would be nice to have.

It never ends.

I’ve sold some beads, worked on some custom orders, and I’m sad to report, I’ve also bought a few more beads.

Today I set up a little jewelry cabinet I bought specifically so I can unpack my art bead collection. I’m hoping once I see them again, handle and admire them again, I’ll lose this itch I have to acquire yet more beads.

I shudder to think of what my children will think, some day, when they’re confronted with the extent of my excesses.

I’ve always told Neil that my own beads can be donated to Beads of Courage, and my bead store beads to any charity, but I don’t want my artist beads to be just given away.

Yet it’s not right to require my heirs and assigns to keep them, or to find a way to sell them or some other appropriate way to dispose of them. Not that I’d have control over it anyway, but I won’t burden them with commands or expectations.

In a world where gunmen armed with assault rifles are shooting at school kids, what happens to my beads and other trinkets when I’m dead and gone is not even a storm in a teacup. Not even a squall or a hard rain. Maybe not even a drizzle.

My heirs can bury them at sea or pave their driveways with them if they choose.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, when I bought at least some of these beads, I had in mind a design idea for a necklace or earrings to make for myself, or to sell.

Truth be told, I’ve already made myself a slew of jewelry, necklaces mostly, that I seldom wear. My lifestyle presently doesn’t call for much embellishment. Nothing goes with soft pants and old shirts to torch in like no jewelry at all. If I run out to the shops, I’m more likely to put on some simple earrings and a pendant on a chain than a more elaborate beaded necklace and earrings. I do try to wear some of them, sometimes, if Neil and I go out, or if I’m seeing anyone I know.

Of course there’s the cruise to Alaska to think about. I could make something special for every special outfit I take alone. Then again, when I travel, I don’t like to pack a lot of jewelry, so usually I’ll go with some basics, at most maybe three days worth of earrings and necklaces to rotate.

I really don’t need to make myself one more thing. I really don’t need to make things to try to sell, because already there are even more people doing that than there are making and selling beads. People with crazy mad wire wrapping skills, doing it so much better than I can. And they’re all struggling to sell their beautiful creations too.

I really don’t understand myself. I don’t understand why I’m incessantly drawn to pretty things, and to owning them. And if one is good, two is better, and three would be the cat's meow. So even, let’s say, if I already have two pairs of abalone earrings and I see another pair that I like at an appealing price, it’s hard to walk away. And if I do walk away, I might keep thinking about them, I might even go back the next day to buy them.

I’m not saying whether or not that actually happened this week. I’m just saying.

These things are happening too.
So, if it makes me happy to own a tiny little piece of beauty, and it’s not straining the budget, or hurting anyone, what’s the harm, you might ask.

It comes back down to the magnitude of the problem I will one day leave behind for someone else to deal with.

I’m sure I’m not alone here. Artisans, craftspersons of all kinds joke about it all the time. Some of these multitalented people don’t just work in glass or make jewelry, they also quilt. Or weave, or knit, or scrapbook, or tool leather, or make candles, or metalsmith, or even all of the above. I hear tell of rooms full of fabric or yarn or specialty papers, and all the tools of those trades.

But I want to slow down, I want to scale back, I want to de-stash and declutter and reorganize and downsize and simplify.

And I don’t seem to be able to put a leash on it.

Maybe I do need my head examined. By a professional.

It's overwhelming. I hardly know where to begin. Artist beads can be hard to resell. It's odd, people like to buy from the artists and will pay the ticket price for those really amazing works of art. The same works of art that will languish at half the price on the resale sites. I've picked up a bargain or two that way myself. But I've also been unable to get anything close to what I paid for the odd bead I've tried to resell.

There's also the problem of photos. Really good photos sell beads. I think my beads would sell better with better photos. I'm just too lazy to do the work to learn to take better pictures. I use a point and shoot and I take my photos quickly, assembly line style, two shots per listing. I edit them quickly with an obsolete Office 2010 photo editor, and do a quick color adjustment to brighten them. I never try to make them look better than they are in person. I'd rather err on the side of having the buyer be happily surprised if they are prettier in the hand, and I've gotten feedback to that effect.

So where to begin streamlining? I guess the same way I began accumulating. A day at a time. Small steps. A little bit here and a little bit there.

But in order for the endgame to be a lighter load I must. stop. buying. stuff.

The beads I bought (by Kateřina Sojková)
The earrings I may or may not have bought.

When you think you've found something worth holding on to
Were you reaching for attention, hoping she would notice you
Collecting bottles and thrown-away cans
Like she was returnable
One day would refill your hands
How she loved you, all you imagined
Fit so well into your plans

Maybe one day soon
It will all come out
How you dream about each other sometimes
With the memory of
How you once gave up
But you made it through the troubled times

Pining away every hour in your room
Rolling with the motion, waiting til it's opportune
Sitting there watching time fly past you
Why do tomorrow
What you could never do
How she loved you
All you imagined
Everything you put her through

Maybe one day soon
It will all come out
How you dream about each other sometimes
With the memory of
How you once gave up
But you made it through the troubled times

And it takes a lot of nerve to ask how she is doing
Start with a weak foundation, you will end in ruins
The ways the days and hours pass you'll never understand
Falling like rain through your hands

Maybe one day soon
It will all come out
How you dream about each other sometimes
With the memory of
How you once gave up
But you made it through the troubled times.

(Chris Collingwood, Adam Schlesinger)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

But wait, there's more

"Sorry that you feel that way, the only thing there is to say
Every silver lining's got a touch of grey."

Neil left for his 12-day trip to see his mom and his dad. He drove because he is carrying some coins that he is going to take for special certification, and they are too heavy and expensive to mail. Plus he will have his car at his disposal to go back and forth between his parent's homes, which are about 80 miles apart.

I'm feeling a bit glum about it, which is better than feeling anxious and depressed about it. We have some very gloomy skies right now to match my mood.

I'll get through it and I imagine each day will be a little easier as we count down to his return. The first days are the worst I remind myself, unless it is the day before he leaves, knowing what is looming. He has to actually leave before I can start the countdown ticker.

I wouldn't say Neil ever traveled extensively, but he usually had at least one international business trip a year that lasted from eight days to two weeks. I think I know why this feels so different. I don't have a support network here, whereas in Texas I had at least a hypothetical one. In truth, I didn't often access it, or make a lot of social plans with people in Neil's absence. The difference is mostly that I knew it was there if I needed it.

I'm determined to do at least one thing per day in additional to my usual routines, to make the time go by. At the moment I lack motivation to begin. I know I should start by dipping mandrels since I have a 45 bead custom order to work on. But I think I want to get out of the house first. It's just a little too dark and cold and quiet. Yes, I know, turn on some lights, turn up the heat, play some music.

But I wonder if being out in the world, in sight of other people, even if they are strangers, would be of more help to dispel this sense of loneliness I'm feeling.

It can't hurt to try. The main deterrent is trading my sweat pants for jeans.

I'm going to have to fight the urge to spend the week in soft pants.

There is some irony in the timing of this trip insofar as it immediately follows my first appointment with a new family practice doctor, after almost 30 years seeing the same medical practitioners.

You wouldn't think there'd be a nexxus, but there is, and I'll explain it.

I may have mentioned once or twice or twenty times that I went through a rough emotional patch a year or so before I met Neil. I call it a year-long dark night of the soul, but it was more than that. The underlying pathology dates back to my teens, maybe even earlier, but sometime in late 1997, as my marriage withered on the vine, I first contemplated medication to treat my neurotransmitter deficiency.

For the next few years I tried and erred at various psychopharmaceuticals. If the side effects weren't intolerable, I became manic. Or sleepless. Or somnambulant. Or I had night terrors. Headaches. Fatigue. Malaise. Or they just flat didn't work.

In between meds, I became serially determined to treat my ailment naturally. Sleep. Diet. Exercise. Rest. Meditation. Baths. Tea. Sympathy. Talk therapy.

In 2001, I went over the edge of rationale when my relationship with Marty ended. I've chronicled that whole theatrical debacle here some years ago, so I'll stick to the elevator speech here. Suffice it to say that when you are emotionally fragile you aren't standing on solid ground. Should you hit a roadblock, you have nothing to fall back on but quicksand.

It really was the first time that I fully understood how crippling an illness depression can be. Depression. I avoid using that label, I don't like typing the word. Because everyone gets the blues now and then. Being depressed is not the same thing as experiencing clinical depression.

Yet somehow I muscled through it. I was one standard deviation from hospitalizing myself, but so much of my anxiety was about the enormous responsibility of life that I was shouldering alone. As long as I could keep going, keep working, keep my job, the worst wouldn't happen. I would have been in no shape to look for work, to sell myself to a new employer. I could barely make myself eat anything but yogurt and oatmeal.

So I fought it with every weapon at my command, and I knew that seeking a biochemical solution was part of the arsenal. I had to let go of the stigma and shame. I had to quit thinking that taking medication for a psychiatric condition was a moral weakness. I was ill. I needed to find an antidote.

It took time to connect the dots but a combination of drugs finally provided relief. I had a wonderful med-management physician who never gave up on me, who always had another trick up his sleeve, who always gave me hope that the next prescription might be the magic bullet.

Of course, the fatal flaw for most of us who suffer is that when we start to feel better, we believe we are cured and no longer need the treatment. It was never my intention to stay medicated indefinitely. So when my mental health and well being were restored, I was eager to ditch the pills.

Because I was still ashamed to have needed them.

So I tapered off everything and struggled with the consequences.

By then I was dating Neil, I was in love, and I was over the moon grateful that Marty had left me because if he hadn't I'd never have met Neil. And to think there was a time when I thought, I'd rather be unhappy with Marty than happy without him.

Marty was an intoxicant for me, a double Margarita, a Zombie, a Jungle Juice, a Long Island Iced Tea. Neil was a fruit smoothie, packed with vitamins and protein powder, good and good for you.

But wait. There's more.

The course of true love and all that. Add in my mood swings, my cyclothymia, my gossamer self-esteem, the scar tissue on my heart, and the ups and downs of any relationship. I was slipping and I knew that if I didn't address it, I risked going down in a blaze of self-sabotage.

So I went back on the medicine and this time I made my peace with the fact that life was better when I wasn't chronically anxious and sporadically sad.

Flash forward fifteen years or so, give or take. I had the therapeutic cocktail sorted. I no longer needed to see a med-management specialist. My doctor was happy to write my anti-anxiety prescriptions as long as I kept up with my annual checkups.

And now we've moved.

Last week I had my first appointment, my annual well-woman checkup, with a new doctor.

One of the medications I take is a controlled substance.

For at least fifteen years, I've been on the lowest maintenance dosage. I haven't needed to increase it, but I do notice when I miss a dose. I feel a tightness in my chest and rising anxiety in the daytime, or I sleep fitfully at night.

My new doctor has qualms about my continued long-term use of this drug.

The psychiatrist who initially prescribed it for me said I could take it for the rest of my life. I remember the precise conversation. He mentioned an elderly patient of his who felt just that much better with a little of the drug on board. His words.

My new doctor said that later in life it could affect my balance or my memory.

I figure, I'll worry about that then. When and if.

My balance is dandy, my legs are strong, I'm fit as a fiddle. My memory is spot on. As Neil would say, I still have my eight ball.

But my new doctor thinks I need my head reexamined. She gave me a list of counselors and psychiatrists.

Damn. Just when I thought I was adapting to our new normal.

Just as the tears have dried up and I'm feeling mostly upbeat.

I made a couple of mistakes during the office visit.

We naturally talked about the reason for my being a new patient. She asked if our move was job related. I said, yes, sort of. My husband retired and really wanted a change.

I said I liked it here but I missed my friends.

The doctor asked if I'd had a flu shot. I said I've never had a flue shot and I've never had the flu. She said, this flu season has been a bad one.

I said, there is some upside to not having any friends.

It was an ill-advised joke.

She said, you still have to go to the grocery store and other places.

I assured her that I was totally germ-phobic and never touch public door handles. Truth. I said, I also wash my hands constantly. Joke.

In the end, she wrote me a one-month supply of my controlled substance. I think we'll go month-to-month with this. I'm hoping she'll authorize refills and over time will come to feel assured that I'm not a drug abuser or an overdose risk.

I don't think she's likely to allow me my usual 90 day mail-order refills. She said something about 180 pills being an overdose amount.

I didn't mention the number of bottles that I have stockpiled.

Not that I am an overdose risk, I've only stockpiled because the idea of ever running out makes me anxious. Really anxious.

I've not been suicidal, bar one moment when I was 23, but that passed. I don't self harm. I've only ever wanted to get better. To feel well.

If I have to see a shrink again, I will. Right now I'd rather not.

I might even consider a trial of cutting my dosage down, maybe halve it gradually. But if I do, I don't think I will tell her.

It would certainly make the stockpile last longer.

It must be getting early, clocks are running late
Paint-by-number morning sky looks so phony
Dawn is breaking everywhere, light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains, I don't care, 'cause it's alright

I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

I see you've got your list out, say your piece and get out
Guess I get the gist of it, but it's alright
Sorry that you feel that way, the only thing there is to say
Every silver lining's got a touch of grey

It's a lesson to me
The Ables and the Bakers and the Cs
The ABCs we all must face
Try to keep a little grace

It's a lesson to me
The Deltas and the Easts and the Frees
The ABCs we all think of
And try to wean a little love

I know the rent is in arrears, the dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears, but it's alright
Cow is giving kerosene, kid can't read at seventeen
The words he knows are all obscene, but it's alright

The shoe is on the hand it fits, there's really nothing much to it
Whistle through your teeth and spit, 'cause it's alright
Oh well, a touch of grey kinda suits you anyway
And that was all I had to say, and it's alright

We will get by
We will get by
We will get by
We will survive

(Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Spasmodic steady state

"Steady rain falls all night and day
And the vapors ride the wind away
Shiny tears keep falling."

We've reached something of a steady state here.

Most of the house furnishing is done and dusted. Well, at least dusted biweekly, when our cleaning lady comes.

We still need a few things, notably some bookcases or etageres for spaces to the sides of the first floor fireplace. Those aren't pressing, as I've managed to stash somewhere all the collectibles and artwork that once bedecked our living room built-ins. In this case, out of sight, out of mind, fits the bill.

I asked Neil for a TV for the basement for my birthday present. This is a strangely selfish gift, as I'm more or less unlikely to spend time watching TV in the basement. I want the TV for him, for several reasons. I want him to have a place to watch his sort of things where his shouting and laughing won't distract me. I want to have the bonus room TV silenced if I want to use the treadmill, without having to ask him when he is going to be finished watching some show. I want a more comfortable place for guests to watch TV, and I want the option for different TV choices at the same time.

My birthday has come and gone, the TV is still in the future. I still want one and we still have to shop for it.

For the most part though, we now have to settle in and start living life here. And to a degree, it's easy for days to roll by without ever leaving the house. I'll do internet things in the morning, beads and the treadmill in the afternoon, dinner and telly in the evening, and before I know it, I'm drawing a bath and brushing my teeth and getting into bed with a book.

I told Neil recently, we need to make some effort to have a plan to get out and about, maybe not every day, but a few times a week, at least. He agreed, but also pointed out that we did just that the day before. We went out for Thai food for lunch, then to a movie, The Post. We also picked up bagels and muffins for the week.

I engineered the plan, which had the small flaw that a warm, filling lunch followed by a slow-starting movie in a darkened theater cause me to sporadically dose through the first third of the movie. I hated that heavy, sleepy feeling. I'm grateful I was able to wake up enough to absorb the lion's share of the film, which I'd rate as good, not great.

We're having another long spell of gray weather, with some rain, and some colder temperatures. Neil absolutely loves it, but I'm eager for signs of spring.

My mood on the whole is good. I have moments. For example, every night, when I'm taking my night meds and laying out my morning meds, I have the fleeting sense that another day has passed by in a flash. An aspect of that feeling is a slight sense of all the days of the rest of my life lined up ahead of me to get through. I shake it off. It passes. I have a great life. It's a little lonely, but I have Neil and even though they aren't near, I have my kids, and I have things to look forward to, and I have a sort of a life with online friends to talk to.

And I still have the intent to get out and do some things here, volunteer at the animal shelter, take an art class. Neil is getting ready to leave for 12 days, to spend with his mom, who is having chemotherapy and radiation for a lung tumor recurrence, and also to see his dad, who has a bone marrow disorder, a myeloproliferative blood cancer that is a type of chronic leukemia.

The prognosis for both is reasonably optimistic. Mom Eleanor's cancer may be drugged into remission, Dad Bob's cancer is treatable if not curable. All of which begs the point that they will be 88 and 89, respectively, this year, and at some point they are going to slow down and stop. Maybe, with luck, not soon, but inevitably sooner or later. Nothings stays the same forever.

So it's good that Neil is going to see them and spend a little time with them. And maybe the next time he goes, I'll go with him, once his mom rebounds from the effects of the chemo and his dad gets on this new medicine that is supposed to be a wonder drug but is costly and involves a lot of insurance hoops to jump through to be approved.

While Neil is gone, I'm determined to get out and do something every day, even if it is just a trip to the bead store or to get a frozen custard, but also to check out the animal shelter again and maybe start a volunteer gig.

I'm still plugging away, trying to make better beads, take better photos, and to sell beads online. I've tried some different presentations than my usual, which is three pairs strung on twine with ceramic disks. I've tried two pair combos, even one pair with a pair of coordinating spacers, but it's more work that way, more photos to edit, lower prices per item if not per bead, more invoicing and shipping. Three pairs for $18 to $24 dollars is more worth bothering about. Maybe I need to get away from the twine and disks and use silk cord or maybe even bead wire with some crystals or pewter spacers.

I even listed a slew of focals to change things up, and sold a few, although at somewhat depressed prices. Twelve dollars seems to attract a bid here and there. I raised my shipping prices when postage went up last month so I'm not just giving away beads once I factor in shipping supplies and a few bonus crystals as thank you gifts.

There were a couple of slow days and one final turn of humiliation in the bargain bead group, where I had a focal sell for one dollar and a pair duo for $2. I saw someone post goddess beads and get good prices for them. I posted one of mine and it sold for six dollars. It's a conundrum. I'm not putting my best work there, just sound beads that aren't my favorites, but I'm too scared to put up anything really nice since I'm obviously not a good judge of what people will pay for, if indeed there is a rhyme or reason.

So, I'm done with the bargain site again, for good this time, I am saying it here so you (and I) can take it to the bank. That last day was so bad that I told one of my buyers I was going to take a complete break from selling for a while. But then, overnight, I had a buy-it-now on one of the last few listings I had up. So I've decided to keep selling but only in four groups and only 8 to 9 items per day. That makes the time burden manageable and, as long as I sell one or two things per day, worthwhile.

I'm also putting together a donation box for Beads of Courage. If I send off some of my beads for a good cause, it will relieve some of the pressure I feel from amassing so much inventory. It's odd, because I want to do this good thing for the children in the program, but I also find myself attached to many of my beads, including some that have been around here for a long time. I still toy with the idea of doing a craft show. I still dream that my designs will find a clamoring public. But I'm determined to fill a box for BOC, even if my motivation is some sort of reverse karma, i.e., I do a good thing and good things happen to me in return.

I'm not sure karma can be engineered that way, but there's no down side to trying, nor merit in denying what's at the back of my mind.

Silvery teardrops trickling down my windshield
Silvery teardrops trickling down my windowpane
Steady rain falls all night and day
And the vapors ride the wind away

I remember when the thunder hit the rainbow like a fist
And you kissed me with your face all duly wet
Once upon a time I thought it would be easy to forget
But these misty memories of you are driving me insane love
Steady rain falls all night and day
And the vapors ride the wind away

Shiny tears keep falling
Falling, falling, falling, falling

Silvery teardrops trickling down my windshield
Silvery teardrops.

Friday, February 9, 2018

He said, she said, I said

"You and me can make it anywhere
For now, we can stay here for a while
'Cause you know, I just wanna see you smile."

A lot has been going on.

For one thing, this happened.

It's a 2017 Rogue SL with all the cool things. Bluetooth stereo to play my music. Heated leather seats. A backup camera. Hands-free liftgate. Lots of safety bells and whistles, literally, almost.

I bought it on the last day of January, a snowy month that somehow possessed the dealer to knock about 30 percent off MSRP on last year's models and give me above Blue Book retail on my trade-in (without even driving it).

Now of course I still have to pay for it, so the stock market better get in gear and end this untimely correction.

It's been an expensive season, and it's only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I paid the deposit for seven of us to cruise to Alaska in July. We'll be sipping "free" beverages with umbrellas as we cruise Glacier Bay, and stopping in four ports.

I also paid the way for my kids and their crew to visit here in March. Spring break is hell on airfare. It will be worth it to be together I think.

I may not be able to do this every year. I'm tapping my savings a bit, something I hadn't intended to do. I'd hope to slide by with some bead income and a monthly direct deposit from Uncle Sam that I started this year. I planned to die with every penny I had in the bank and whatever that money could earn for me.

As my dad liked to say, I'm spending my children's inheritance. I don't know why I feel guilty about it. I'm sure they will spend it if I won't.

I guess I am more worried about not having done the things I want to do than I am about running out of moola in my lifetime. Neil's annual pension is more than I ever earned in a year, although it's not my money to spend at will. And as Neil reminds me often, there's always the risk of runaway inflation. A loaf of bread might someday cost $10.

I can't worry about it. I can't worry about everything.

One of the things I can't worry about it the security of my kids' jobs and future prospects. Both of them seem to be somewhat following in my footsteps, the footsteps of someone who had a hard time figuring out a career path, and was lucky enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other and hanging on like grim death long enough to amass a reasonable nest egg.

If I felt like my kids were on any kind of path to amass their own nest eggs, I'd worry less about spending some of mine. But beyond hoping to preserve enough assets to leave them something for a rainy day - or a monsoon season - I have to refuse to make it my problem.

As my mom liked to say, I won't try to live anyone else's lives, I have enough trouble living my own.

Living my own life has been trickier than usual lately. I've made things harder on myself than I need to. I've done things like going to get my driver's license but leaving the four different proofs of identity that NC requires on my desk at home, and realizing it as I pulled into the parking lot of the DMV.

That was only as far as Huntersville - and back and forth again - but just days later, as Neil and I were heading out to buy my daughter a birthday gift and try a New York style deli for lunch, I forgot my phone. We'd barely left the subdivision when I realized I didn't have it and I needed it because my daughter's gift suggestions were in an email. Neil fussed about going back for it, but he did.

It would have been better if we hadn't. I could have used Neil's phone to check my email, if I'd thought about it. Because what happened next was that I left my phone on the table at the deli where we had lunch (the worst mushroom barley soup ever too) and didn't miss it until we walked in the door back home. Luckily, I called and they had it.

Neil didn't want to go back. He said we could go the next day. But I wanted my phone. So I spent almost two hours going to get it, because rush hour traffic. Actually, it wasn't the traffic that slowed me so much, it was the fact that the deli was 10 miles from the freeway, so there was a lot of city driving and stoplights.

I'm not sure why Neil was so bothered. I didn't ask him to come with me, even though I think I would have gone with him if the tables were turned that way. Maybe he felt guilty for not coming with me and resented feeling guilty.

And don't you know that a day or two later, I forgot my wallet when we were going to run an errand. We were only at the end of the street when I had to ask Neil to turn back.

As if that wasn't bad enough (and it wasn't really all that bad anyway, was it?) I continued to get on Neil's nerves. First we went to pick up my free birthday bundtlet from Nothing Bundt Cakes. I picked the flavor of the month, as I always do. Neil wanted to buy three more bundtlets and he picked two flavors and asked me to pick one. Nothing appealed to me. I said, I just wanted the one. He pushed, I resisted, he finally picked a third flavor. I hope he enjoys all three, because one really is all I wanted.

From bad to worse, our next stop was Starbucks for my free birthday beverage. I ordered a non-fat venti latte with two pumps of toffee flavor. But then I had trouble pulling up the app on my phone. It wouldn't take my password. I did a password reset request but didn't get the email. I tried again. As luck had it, no one was waiting in line, which is rare for this busy Starbucks, but while I struggled with the app, Neil paid for my drink.

So I got agitated. I would never order a venti anything, except when it's free on my birthday. I'm sure I embarrassed Neil by asking the barista to give him a refund (which the barista readily did). I finally got the app working - it didn't like me using my email as my username - and got my drink, but the damage was done.

Later Neil said, we have different styles of doing things. He''d have had the app pulled up in advance. I just didn't think about it until we were at the counter.

It's more than that though. It seems like every little thing I do irritates Neil, from the way I put the groceries in the shopping cart, to the way I walked too close to him when we were wheeling the cart to the car, or something like that. So part of me is walking on eggshells, trying not to annoy him, and part of me is refusing to own it.

That's the part of me that responds, I'm a fuckup, I can't do anything right, when he objects to how I put the groceries in the cart.

I'm not happy about it, but I understand how it is when someone gets on your last nerve. Suddenly, every little thing they do annoys you. I've been on the other side of this coin too. The catch here is we're married. And I love him. And he loves me, I think. And he does things that annoy me too, all the time, and I have to suppress the urge to criticize or sigh dramatically or roll my eyes or make some snarky comment.

I'm not perfect. Sometimes I'm sarcastic or impatient or critical or mocking even. But I do at least try to keep it on a leash. Right now I feel like Neil isn't trying.

This too shall pass, I think. He's going to spend a week or ten days with his mother, who is having chemo and radiation for a lung cancer recurrence, and with his dad, who is combating the effects of primary myelofibrosis. That alone has to be stressing him. He's partly stressed too because we have things on the calendar that make being away for an extended time inconvenient and because, like me, he just doesn't like being away that much.

And as much as I don't like the idea of him being away, a little separation might do us some good. We're just too totally together and dependent on each other right now.

Some might say, out of sight, out of mind, but I like to say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I'm only one call away
I'll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I'm only one call away

Call me, baby, if you need a friend
I just wanna give you love
Come on, come on, come on
Reaching out to you, so take a chance
No matter where you go
You know you're not alone

Come along with me and don't be scared
I just wanna set you free
Come on, come on, come on
You and me can make it anywhere
For now, we can stay here for a while
'Cause you know, I just wanna see you smile
No matter where you go
You know you're not alone

And when you're weak I'll be strong
I'm gonna keep holding on
Now don't you worry, it won't be long, darling
And when you feel like hope is gone
Just run into my arms

I'm only one call away
I'll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I'm only one, I'm only one call away
I'll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I'm only one call away
I'm only one call away.

(Maureen Mcdonald, Shy Carter, Justin Franks,Breyon Prescott, Matt Prime, Charlie Puth)