Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Step by step, word by word

"Men will suffer, men will fight, even die for what is right
Even though they know they're only passing through."

I can't seem to stop writing lately. I have a lot to say and nothing really to say.

Sometimes I just start typing and see where the keyboard takes me.

Where the muse takes me.

Hello. Last weekend she took us to Mooresville.
More about that below.
I've been feeling a little queasy watching the stock market tank. It couldn't have come at a worse time for me.

I overextended myself a bit. New house, new car, family cruise. I flew five people here for Spring Break. Plane tickets are not cheap these days. Add to that all the meals we went out for, the movie tickets, extra groceries, frozen custard, the aquarium visit.

So, I'm officially in hunker-down mode. No shopping. No spending. Looking around at what I can sell to raise a few bucks.

Which is silly. I can't counteract the massive blow to my investments if the market crashes by making a few dollars here and there.

I'm not usually like this. I take the long view. Usually. But that's easier to do when you have a paycheck and time to contribute to the nest egg and accrue more earnings.

As of this year, I do have a paycheck, sort of. Once a month, Uncle Sam makes a direct deposit into my checking account.

It's enough to cover "my share" of our living expenses. I pay for power, gas, water, cell phones, all of our home and car insurance, our bi-weekly house cleaner, the vet bills. I pick up the grocery tab sometimes and I'm usually the one who buys housewares.

Of course I pay my personal expenses, clothing, shoes (shut up), jewelry, hair, nails, monthly massage, occasional facial, copay for doctors, eyeglasses, and anything for my bead-making business, including glass, tools, shipping supplies, various and sundry.

Neil of course pays the lion's share, the mortgage, property taxes, homeowners association fees, lawn service, home phone, internet, cable and security. He paid for the move too, but he was the one who drove the move, I merely went along. He paid for most of the new furniture, including the beautiful desk this computer sits upon, which I truly love.

Not shopping and not spending is good in more ways than one. I save money and I don't accumulate more stuff.

I've cut some other corners too. I'm letting my hair color grow out. I haven't been to a salon since August. When I got my NC drivers license, the clerk asked me what color my hair is. I said, well, it's mostly light brown but I'm not sure what it will be next year. She looked at me and said, I'll put down "sandy". I guess "salt and pepper" was too long. At this point I'm curious to see what color my hair really will be. It's a pretty silver at the hairline but looks like it's darker at the crown.

I've also given up the gel french manicure that I've loved for the last 10 years. The salons here use a different process, a powder dip, and instead of a refill, they take the nail coating off every time, with acetone. I tried three different salons and my cuticles were so dry and the nails kept popping off. So I decided to take a break. My nails are still very thin and brittle and I'm hoping they will get stronger as they grow out. I may just be done with fancy nails. I'll still get an occasional manicure and pedicure, but no polish.

I'm thinking about how to save money in other ways. I was debating whether to end my massage contract. But pretty soon I'll have no reason to leave the house.

Besides, you can't save your way to prosperity. Not that I want to get a job ever again. I'd rather give up a lot of luxuries and maybe even some necessities.

Anyway, it's just a hump to get over, hopefully. I'll pay for the cruise, I'll make a few more car payments. If the market rebounds, I'll take out enough more money to pay off my car. If it doesn't, I'll try to stretch my modest government stipend enough to save up the balance.

I'll sell some glass if I have to. I'd love to sell more beads but I sell as many as I can and I'm not sure how much harder I can try to sell them than I already do.

I took out a pretty large lump sum from my savings so that Neil and I could split the initial equity on this house. I don't know why I feel like I robbed Peter to pay Paul, because really, if the market circles the drain, having some of my money banked in real estate is probably smart. I just have to remember the money isn't gone, it's just invested differently.

I asked Neil if he thinks I should get out of the market and let my money sit for a while in a money market account. That's essentially what he's done since Trump was elected, and the market kept going up, up, up. He thinks that I should stay in, that between us we've hedged enough bets, and that the experts predict that while volatility may continue, we're not headed for a repeat of 1929 nor even 2008. Let's hope.

On Saturday we participated in the March for Our Lives event that took place in some 800 locations globally. In Washington, D.C., students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of the February 14 shooting that left 17 dead and a like number injured, marched to draw attention to the need for our elected officials to take steps to end gun violence. There were huge crowds and emotional speeches.

Our event was a bit more modest but all the same heartfelt. We met at Mooresville Senior High School and marched to the Mooresville town hall, I'd estimate about 200-strong. The demographics were a mix of students, parents, and people like us. The weather was not nice. It was gray and cold, about 38 degrees and it had rained earlier so it was a damp cold. I thought about not going.

Then I thought that what we should do was to bundle up warmly, drive to the school starting point, keep our options open, but at least cheer the marchers off. I had on a lot of layers, including a warm shirt, vest, sweater, and scarf under my down coat. I forgot gloves and while we waited my fingers and toes (despite two pairs of socks) were cold. I knew my feet would warm once we started walking.

Neil initially was reluctant about going. He imagined it would be a much bigger and more congested event than it was. I predicted there'd be 40 or 50 people and pointed out that there were probably more gun owners and NRA sympathizers in Mooresville than anti-assault weapon activists. We got there about 15 minutes early but the march started 30 minutes late, and I was very impatient and might have considered abandoning the cause. But by then I could tell Neil had become enthusiastic and nothing would tear him away. Remember how he always has to be the last one to leave a party?

So we stayed, we marched, and I'm glad we did, although why I schlepped a heavy purse and a folding umbrella beats me. We had a police escort, the street was closed to traffic, cross streets were cordoned off, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were 50 or more officers of the law on hand.

We gathered at the town hall, and listened to the first speech, by State Representative John Fraley, N.C. General Assembly. After that I dragged Neil away because I was just too chilled. We zig-zagged back to the school where we'd left my car, which was mostly uphill, and by the time we got there I was peeling off layers so that I didn't get overheated.

There I am, very far right, all bundled up in green down. Media photo.
There's Neil, toward the front, in gray fleece, looking to his left. Media photo.
Does it matter that we marched? Can the dots be connected between peaceful protests and political action? I have my doubts. I'm not sure anything can get through to the lawmakers, get past the power of the NRA lobbyists and the one-two punch of NRA campaign contributions. But sitting at home on the sofa sure as hell won't help. I think going was more about showing solidarity with the students who organized this particular march, and in spirit with the greater community of gun-control advocates.

Neil & company listening to Fraley. My photo.
I'd do more if I could think of any more I could do.

Just like with selling my beads, as I said above.

I didn't plan that little analogy. It's just where the muse took me.

She may be flighty, but there's method to her madness. She knows her hawks from her handsaws.

I want to be her when I grow up.

I saw Jesus on the cross on a hill called Calvary
Do you hate mankind for what they done to you?
He said, talk of love not hate, things to do, it's getting late
I've so little time and I'm only passing through

Passing through, passing through
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue
Glad that I ran into you
Tell the people that you saw me passing through

I saw Adam leave the garden with an apple in his hand
I said, now you're out, what are you going to do?
Plant some crops and pray for rain, maybe raise a little Cain
I'm an orphan now, and I'm only passing through

Passing through, passing through

I was with Washington at Valley Ford, shivering in the snow
I said, how come the men here suffer like they do?
Men will suffer, men will fight, even die for what is right
Even though they know they're only passing through

Passing through, passing through

I was at Franklin Roosevelt's side on the night before he died
He said, one world must come out of world war two
Yankee, Russian, white or tan, a man is still a man
We're all on one road, and we're only passing through

Passing through, passing through
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue
Glad that I ran into you
Tell the people that you saw me passing through.

(Richard Blakeslee, lyrics © H/B Webman & Co.)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The whole enchilada

"I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
But I choose to let the mystery be."

I'm out of sorts and I'm not sure why.

Neil is back from his three-day softball trip and trying to catch up.

His family is a hot mess at the moment. His mom is getting chemo and radiation for a small tumor and that has been a comedy of errors.

First, it took forever and a day for treatment to start, between insurance snafus and being sent from oncologist to surgeon to specialist and back multiple times.

Then because of a series of miscommunications, she has missed some treatments, although the schedule of five days a week and weekends off seems a little arbitrary and contrived to me. No one seems to be too bothered about it, no one in the medical realm anyway. The family has been jumping through a lot of hoops to make sure she has rides and stays on top of all the tests and consultations and follow-ups. Mom El has a good attitude most of the time, with bouts of chemo brain and some understandable snarliness.

Then there is his dad, who has been feeling mighty weary for months and, after a lot of tests and trials and errors, been diagnosed with a chronic myeloproliferative disorder. Essentially it is a cancer or cancer-like condition that impairs the blood from producing normal cells. Although there is no cure, there are treatments to alleviate the discomfort, which is primarily extreme fatigue.

Naturally the most effective treatment is controversial, with potential side effects, and costly, and there's been a lot of confusion about what insurance will cover and exactly whose court the ball is in vis-à-vis getting the medication started. In the meantime, Dad Bob is limping along with hormone patches and vitamin shots that aren't doing very much to make him feel better.

Sister Ellen bears the brunt of the load of ferrying the parents to doctors, since she lives closest, albeit her mom is 80-some miles distant. Ellen also juggles two jobs, has an adult son with serious psychiatric issues living with her, plus two younger kids in college coming and going and always needing money. On top of all that, Ellen has no health insurance and has not been able to take proper care of herself, and now she is losing weight for some undetermined and potentially ominous reason.

Neil's daughter is under stress at work, but that goes without saying, it just is and always will be so. Her husband pretty much hates the high school teaching job he spent years and years getting a degree to do. Baby Blake has been sick more than his fair share but that is day care kids for you. Neil's son Chris is studying for a second try at passing his credentialing exam and in the meantime, working with a woman manager who is making improper sexual advances.

Naturally all this requires lots and lots of texts and emails and phone calls and research and coaching and questioning and sympathizing. For Neil I mean, not for me. I stay on the edges of it all and get daily updates and make generally helpful comments for whatever free advice is worth.

Which leaves me with time on my hands, time that I usually have no trouble filling, what with beading and writing and reading and walking and going through the motions of selling beads.

I just finished a painfully slow trunk show. I did make a few sales but I continue to question the direction to go in with my art. Blah blah. Blah.

If it seems like I just spin my wheels, it is because that is exactly what I do.

A customer asked why I sell my bead pairs in sets of three. I said it was because of all the work involved in stringing and photographing beads, editing photos, invoicing, shipping. It hardly seems worthwhile for a single pair that I sell for $6-$8. But I offered to mix and match when the show was over, and she bought six pairs from five sets that I cut apart.

I cut apart sets all the time and restring them in different combinations, so no big deal. But I did notice that I sold more sets of two pairs than sets of three pairs, so I'm going to experiment with selling pairs in twos, with a small premium beyond my standard base pricing. We'll see how that goes.

It might help if I packaged a decorated pair with a pair of spacers, but I find I really dislike making spacers. Yesterday I sat down to torch thinking I'd make spacers, but I wound up making mostly more dot beads. I tried to make some simpler ones with the thought that I could pair a more complex pair with a more simple pair and I just said pair thrice. The significance of that escapes me but I thought I'd point it out anyway.

In other news, I spent some time texting with Kandace, who is taking the lead, bless her, on nailing down the details for our Alaska trip. After much grinding of teeth and tearing of hair, we booked a hotel for the night we arrive in Seattle. That sounds easy enough, but in cruise season, hotels near the port triple their prices. And plenty of them were sold out or had only one room left. We finally landed on two rooms with two queen-size beds in an inn that didn't have dicey reviews on Yelp and stayed within budget, barely. We're hoping Chelsea will want to share one of the rooms and Neil and I can have Ryland in our room.

We still have to sort flights, and transportation, and excursions in port. I never dreamed it would be so complicated or expensive. It's deceptive because the cruises are advertised with prices starting as low as something affordable. But then you find you have to upgrade to get three cabins together, and that the peak season for Alaska is short and the most desirable dates are not only more pricey but also sell out, which makes the lowest-price guarantee moot. There are other hidden charges for taxes and port fees and gratuities and I don't know what else.

Then there are the free offers that you get to choose from, such as the unlimited open bar, which the kids chose, which includes a hidden surcharge for tips and taxes. If the kids each drink a couple of $15 drinks a day, we'll just about break even. Neil and I had a hard time choosing our free offer, since we don't drink bar drinks. The three free specialty dining meals didn't appeal because having dinner with the kids is important and one of the reasons for cruising as a family. The discount on shore excursions booked through the cruise can't compete with prices for booking the excursions locally. So we chose free wifi, a whopping 250 minutes or 1 GB for the duration of the trip.

Payment for the trip is due this week and I get to either roll the dice or pay even more for trip insurance.

All I can say is, I hope this is the experience of a lifetime, that it is wondrous and tension-free and eye-opening and horizon-broadening, because I'm pretty damn sure I will never do it again. Not because of the money alone, although that is turning out to be shocking, but because of all the coordination and decisions and likelihood of hurt feelings. Just having everyone here last week and trying to do an activity felt akin to herding cats. And now I'm trying to organize everyone in a cross-country international week-long hullabaloo.


Let's talk about something lighter. Like mortality. I think about it all the time and I don't know why because I'm healthy and not that old.

But some of my classmates from high school and college have already gone off to that big post-graduate party in the sky. Although I'm pretty sure this is all there is, that life's not a paragraph (in the immortal words of e e cummings), and that when we're done here, we're done.

Yet it comes up in all my thoughts. I worry about all the stuff I'd be leaving for others to deal with. I don't really worry about running out of money, but I do worry about spending very much of it and not having that security cushion and something left over for my kids. And to some degree I worry about the mortality of others and how much I don't want to lose anyone I love.

I'm by no means tired of living yet, but I'm also well aware that I'm in the end game of my life, the final quarter. I remember my mom saying, when my dad was still alive, that she wouldn't mind falling asleep and not waking up. And of course after my dad died, that was all she ever wanted. But I think I understand the feeling because there is a certain apprehension in not knowing how it is going to happen. I think of my mother-in-law, living alone, having chemotherapy, and I don't want that to be me.

On the other hand, my mom was also a fatalist. She never much believed in preventative health care, because her philosophy was, if it's your time, it's your time. I don't feel that way myself, I'm religious about wellness care, and I also strive to not ruin the present by worrying about the future. Because (as my mom also used to say) why borrow tomorrow's trouble, why worry twice?

How'm I doing?

Everybody's wonderin' what and where they they all came from
Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go
When the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain
And so it's all the same to me
I think I'll just let the mystery be

Some say once you're gone, you're gone forever
And some say you're gonna come back
Some say you rest in the arms of the Saviour
If in sinful ways you lack
Some say that they're comin' back in a garden
Bunch of carrots and little sweet peas
I think I'll just let the mystery be

Everybody's wonderin' what and where they they all came from
Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go
When the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain
And so it's all the same to me
I think I'll just let the mystery be

Some say they're goin' to a place called Glory
And I ain't saying it ain't a fact
But I've heard that I'm on the road to purgatory
And I don't like the sound of that
I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
But I choose to let the mystery be

Everybody is wondering what and where they they all came from
Everybody is worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go
When the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain
And so it's all the same to me
I think I'll just let the mystery be.

(Iris Dement)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A wrinkle in life

"Don't want to wake up with no one beside me
Don't want to take up with nobody new
Don't want nobody coming by without calling first."

The kids have come and the kids have gone.

Today the house is quiet which is a little sad and a little blissful.

All in all, objectively, the visit was a success.

Everyone landed pretty much on time on Sunday. The weather could have been better. It was rainy and a bit chilly.

Neil and I picked up bagels on the way to the airport. We came home and had lunch. We did the house tour and relaxed and talked for a while. We went to Alino's for dinner. Pizza and gelato.

The bad weather continued on Monday. We had muffins and coffee cake for breakfast, sandwiched and bagels for lunch. We decided to go to the movies mid-afternoon. We split up. Neil, Chelsea and Robert saw Black Panther. Kandace, Chris, Ryland and I saw A Wrinkle in Time.

I knew I'd see it despite mediocre reviews, despite the fact that the coming attractions made me wary. Meg Murry is described in a very specific way in the books, as is Charles Wallace Murry, so it was hard to accept them as biracial characters, but the story still deserves to be seen. I didn't love it, I did think it could have been a lot better. It was ambitious and it could have been great but somehow it just missed.

I think it worked best where it stayed closest to the book. In the book, IT is an evil disembodied brain, not "The It"- some sort of tentacled fiery tree creature. In the book, the gift that Mrs. Which gives Meg is that she has one thing that IT does not have. The most pivotal part of the story is when Meg realizes that the one thing she has that IT does not is love. She saves Charles Wallace by standing there are loving him.

There are other departures and omissions. I would have kept Aunt Beast as more than a passing mention. But so it goes. The best part of the movie was how Ryland watched it, rapt. He paid total attention to the story and followed it and never got squirmy and was able to talk sensibly about it afterwards. His favorite part (and mine) was when Mrs. Whatsit turns into a creature that I can only describe as a cross between a cabbage and a stingray.

OK, you'll just have to go see it.

Our movie got out first, so we stopped into the Spice Shop then we all met at Bad Daddy's for dinner. I had a delicious salad.

Tuesday dawned sunny, but cold. We headed over to Sea Life, an aquarium at Concord Mills. I bought our tickets online. WHen we got there, there was a sign saying that on Tuesdays, kids are free with the purchase of an adult ticket. A helpful manager did a refund of all our online tickets so I could get Ryland a free ticket, but the tickets were $4 more each. The manager sold me one adult ticket with the free child ticket and suggested I rebuy the others online. Seriously? It was a pain because the website wanted a lot of information, name, address, credit card, etc. The manager took pity on me - maybe because it was his mistake for not just refunding one adult and one child's ticket. So he let the rest of us in free. We had a lot of fun.

The Shape of Water returns
The Shape of Water - the sequel

Afterwards I turned everyone loose in the food court to but their own lunches. Side note, Neil and I rarely eat three square meals We have a light breakfast, a snack, and a simple dinner at home most days. But all our kids - mine and his - clearly think three meals a day are essential. I've resigned myself, even though it feels like meals are our main activity and whatever we do in between is just filler to pass the time.

After lunch we came home. Kandace, Chelsea, and I spent some time talking about our cruise to Alaska this summer, and picking our possible excursions. It felt productive but later when we looked at flights, I started feeling that I've created a monster. There are so many expenses and logistics to figure out. For some reason there are no nonstops at convenient times, and Seattle is a long flight to begin with. I don't mind a onestop, but even then there are few afternoon flight options and the those are costly, especially when you have to add checked bags.

Then there are the questions of where to stay the night before the cruise (at least one night is a must) and how to get there and how to get from there to the port. And even if I don't mind a red-eye flight home, the last thing I want to do is get off the ship and go spend 10 to 12 hours at the Seattle airport, because we'll have our bags and that will make any activities impossible. The next best option, staying another night and catching an early flight home isn't a lot better. Who wants to book a hotel room and then have a 3 am wake-up call? Not this chick.

I guess if we figured out how to move from Texas to North Carolina with three cats, we can figure out how to catch a boat to Alaska.

Tuesday afternoon we walked up to the park with Ryland, who had fun on the big slide. Tuesday night we took everyone to Carrburritos for dinner and to Whit's for frozen custard. I should mention that it's always a challenge to find places that please everyone. Kandace is picky and doesn't like any sort of asian food, Chelsea and Robert require healthy and vegetarian options. And Ryland has a typical 5-year old palate. So it was a small miracle that we found three restaurants that everyone seemed to really like.

On Tuesday night, after Ryland went to bed, the kids decided to go out and do some bonding over drinks. They ubered to a bar in Birkdale village and they ubered home. Kids. It sounded like they had fun. Neil and I went to bed.

Wednesday, another sunny but brisk day, we stayed close to home. The girls and I went to Home Goods and Marshall's for a little mom-daughter shopping, and picked up more bagels. Chelsea and Rob had an evening flight but we fit in a hike on the neighborhood trails before Neil ferried them to the airport. I heated quiche for dinner, with hot olive bread from Fresh Market. I had planned that for an earlier night, but Chelsea has developed an intolerance to eggs, unbeknownst to me. It all worked out.

Thursday was the sunniest, nicest day. Neil and I threw a ball around at the park with Ryland. I boiled hot dogs for lunch and then it was time for me to take Kandace and crew to the airport. I got home as Neil was loading up to leave for his three day softball tournament.

Since then I've done several loads of laundry, remade the guest room beds, and tidied the house for Kristin, our housekeeper, to clean. So now I have a clean house and a couple of days to myself. For once I don't mind.

I love my kids, I would give my life for them, but having houseguests is always challenging. It makes Neil tense. He wants to have a plan for every minute, and that puts pressure on me. His kids may demand entertainment, but I've always told my kids, I'm not their entertainment director. Yes, I want to show them around, yes I want them to have a good time. But I'm not opposed to a certain amount of unstructured down time, and that kills Neil. What are we doing, what are we doing, he wants to know, all the time.

Then there are the things about my kids that make being with them complicated. Chelsea is hypersensitive and I never know when something I say may set her off. Robert is quiet and reserved, which seems to drive Kandace nuts. She thinks Chelsea is too much under his influence. I encourage her to look for the good. They seem happy together. I remind her of my mom's words, my mantra, I don't try to live anyone else's life, I have enough trouble living my own.

Unable to take my own advice apparently, I worry about Kandace's diet, health, weight, attitude. She can have a sharp tongue. I have no control over it, so I try not to own it. But then Neil wants to slice and dice and analyze and dissect. He thinks my kids should be doing more with their lives, should be more confident and assertive in their jobs and relationships. It's hard not to take that as a criticism of me. He dishes out tons of advice to his kids. I try to give my kids advice only when asked and only with the caveat that it's just my thoughts, I don't have all the answers.

He's also convinced that he knows them better than I do, or at least he gives that impression. He's sure that Kandace wants more kids and that Chris is holding her back. He's sure both girls want to be married and both boys, for lack of a better term, are avoiding commitment. He may be right or wrong, but whatever the case, there's not one thing I can do about it, and I really don't want to talk about it. He really must, because he won't stop talking about it, until I want to slit my throat or throw myself off a tall building.

What I mean is, I want to be Georgia O'keefe, I want to be Greta Garbo, I want to be alone.

I. just. can't. carry. the. weight. of. the. world. single. handedly.

I can only muddle through, one day at a time. I can only divorce myself from problems I can't solve, situations I can't manage, emotions that aren't mine.

Today, right now, this minute, things may not be perfect, but they are OK. Everyone is healthy and employed and in a partnership, the three things that have always been the linchpins when I think about happiness. Everything else is just static, white noise, elevator music.

He flew home too

I want to live alone in the desert
I want to be like Georgia O'Keefe
I want to live on the Upper East Side
And never go down in the street

Splendid isolation
I don't need no one
Splendid isolation

Michael Jackson in Disneyland
Don't have to share it with nobody else
Lock the gates, Goofy, take my hand
And lead me through the World of Self

Splendid isolation
I don't need no one
Splendid isolation

Don't want to wake up with no one beside me
Don't want to take up with nobody new
Don't want nobody coming by without calling first
Don't want nothing to do with you

I'm putting tinfoil up on the windows
Lying down in the dark to dream
I don't want to see their faces
I don't want to hear them scream

Splendid isolation
I don't need no one
Splendid isolation.

(Warren Zevon)

Monday, March 12, 2018

It is what it is

"I can't promise that I'll grow those wings
Or keep this tarnished halo shined
But I'll never betray your trust
Angel mine."

I’ve been good.

No more impulse buying. Resisting temptation, one bead, one dress, one pair of shoes at a time.

I resisted a good deal on some glass, which I regretted when someone else didn’t resist it. But realistically, I have plenty of glass to play with. Just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean I should buy it.

We’ve had a nice, busy week. We went to a Cowboy Junkies concert on Sunday in downtown Charlotte, the first time we’ve done anything downtown since we scoped out the city so many moons ago.

I’ve long loved the music of Margo Timmmins and her band of brothers. Literally, two of her brothers, guitarist Michael and drummer Peter, formed the group in 1986, along with Margo, and bassist Alan Anton. Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bird, has toured and recorded with the band since their second album, recorded in 1987.

I’d never seen them in concert before, and I haven’t completely kept up with their music. So even though they only played two "new" (not yet released) songs, I didn't know some of the playlist. The concert was still wonderful.

I asked Neil if he enjoyed it, because it's not really his kind of music. He said, he always likes seeing live performances. I'll take that as a yes. (No pun intended, but Yes is Neil's all-time favorite group.)

I've always been drawn by Margo's haunting, melodic voice, and despite less than stellar acoustics, she did not disappoint. She was also charming, talking a little bit between numbers. It's astonishing to think that for more than half my life, for most of my working career and the whole time that I was raising kids to adulthood, the band has been doing what they do, writing music, recording albums, and traveling the world to step out on stages and make their magic.

The set before the show.
There are always flowers and tea for Margo.
A quick, blurry shot at the beginning of the second set.
Non-flash photos were allowed, but my plus-size phone is objet non grata
I've been a little obsessed with the Cowboy Junkies since the show. shuffling the albums I own on iTunes, downloading some new ones, and listening to all the other songs I missed on YouTube.

This past week, I've done the usual, made beads, walked on the treadmill, binged on Acorn TV shows. We've also been getting ready for a visit from my kids and their crew. They arrive on Sunday and depart Thursday.

Getting ready mostly entailed shopping for a massive amount of groceries and sketching out a rough plan for meals and activities.

It will be nice to have a break from the torch and from Facebook to a degree, although I'll probably check in and post pictures.

I have a trunk show that starts a couple of days after they leave and I've ordered a new light box, so I'm hoping to both have new beads to show and better photos.

I'll have dedicated time to do it, as Neil leaves the day that the kids leave, for a softball tournament in Myrtle Beach.

Neil has joined a traveling team, and I have mixed feelings about it. They play one or two weekend tournaments per month, from now until I don't know when.

He'd like to have me join him on these jaunts, but I'm reluctant to commit. I don't have a lot of interest in hanging out at the fields for hours while they play or wait between games. Nor do I especially want to chill at wherever we stay, unless it's a nice resort and not a Best Western or La Quinta. And I can't say I have much enthusiasm for exploring a city on my own. I'm just happier to be at home.

But I'm still thinking about it, maybe going just once to see how I do. Neil reminds me that he'll have some time off, evenings probably. The tournament after Myrtle Beach is Virginia Beach in April, and I'm more likely to go then because the weekend after, Neil is going to Houston for five days.

Again, I could have gone with, and I think he wants me to go, or at least feels guilty going without me. But again, it would be mostly about him. He wants to see his friends, his former work buddies. I usually go along, but they usually spend a lot of time talking about people who I don't know and office politics that I don't care about. I didn't have a very good time on the last trip, except for the one brunch I planned with my own friends. But I just don't have as many friends that I want to see as Neil does. And I don't feel the need to see them again this soon.

And I don't feel especially welcome or wanted at Laurie's house, where we'd stay. Laurie puts on a good act for me, but I'm still chapped about how she whined to her dad about me behind my back after the last time we were there. No matter what I say or do, it's never the right thing, and I can't be bothered to weigh every word and gesture. I have no bad intent, I come in peace, but she will always find something to misinterpret or find fault with. I just don't need that.

OK, I admit that maybe I am being hypersensitive. Age-old hurt from another time. Neil says she is almost as hard on her own mother. Still, I'd rather meet on neutral ground somewhere, and I can't avoid having her visit here, but I don't have to go there. It's too bad, but it is what it is.

Right now I'm not sure if I'm ever going back to Houston. I know I had a bad reaction once, when Neil suggested that I could go to Dallas or Austin to see my kids while he visited his kids. I said I didn't want to split up that way. And anyway, if we're going to different places, why go at the same time? It makes more sense for one of us to stay here with the cats.

We also once talked about making the circuit when we went back to Texas, but we didn't consider that everyone works during the week, so it doesn't make sense to go from place to place when the weekends are really the only time to spend with the kids. Plus I have a hard time with long trips. Four or five nights is ideal. A week or ten days is a stretch, worthwhile for something like our trip to Hawaii, but for most trips, shorter is better for me.

Face it, I'm a stick in the mud with separation issues. I like my own bed.

I'm not perfect. I never said I was.

He searched for those wings that he knew
That this angel should have at her back
And although he can't find them
He really don't mind
Because he knows they'll grow back

And he reached for that halo that he knows
That she had when she first caught his eye
Although his hand came back empty
He's really not worried
'cause he knows it still shines

I can't promise that I'll grow those wings
Or keep this tarnished halo shined
But I'll never betray your trust
Angel mine

I search all the time on the ground
For our shadows cast side by side
Just to remind me that I haven't gone crazy
That you exist and are mine

And I know that your skin is as warm and as real
As that smile in your eyes
But I have to keep touching and smelling
And tasting for fear it's all lies

I can't promise that I'll grow those wings
Or keep this tarnished halo shined
But I'll never betray your trust
Angel mine

Last night I awoke from the deepest of sleeps
With your voice in my head
And I could tell by your breathing
That you were still sleeping
I repeated those words that you had said

I can't promise that I'll grow those wings
Or keep this tarnished halo shined
But I'll never betray your trust
Angel mine.

(Michael Edward Timmins)

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Déjà vu redux

"In my short life we've passed this way ten times or more
And never did this city rise up on that far shore."

Sometimes I like to go back and read my old posts.

The reasons I write this blog - besides hoping to go viral and be a force for good in the blogosphere - are to have a record of my life. At least my life since I started writing it down here.

Writing is therapeutic for me. I like words. I like playing with them, moving them around on the page or screen. I especially like the sense of satisfaction I get when a sentence or paragraph comes out nicely crafted. Or when I make myself laugh. WHich happens more often than you'd imagine.

Hypothetically, my kids could come here and read my thoughts and feelings and learn a little bit more about me. Theoretically, maybe they already do. Realistically, no one is likely to wade through the hundreds of posts I expect I’ll have published in toto, when all is said and done.

For one thing, it’s not all that interesting. Oh, now and then I cobble together a post worth reading. But mostly I cover a lot of the same ground. I’ve thought of changing the tag line for this blog to something like this. Part beadmaking reflections, part travelogue, part navel gazing.

Oh, but I do love my tag line about the muse, too much to really change it. Plus it’s been a constant since day one. (By day one, I mean May 1, 2012, when I posted my first post here.)

Recently, Neil and I thought we might have an excuse to go back to Yellowstone National Park this summer. I pulled up my posts from that trip, and I read them out loud to Neil. Neil, by the way, has stoutly declined to read my blog, although I’ve invited him to. He’s a strange one. He’ll stalk people online, looking for all sorts of public information about them, but he considers reading my blog akin to reading a private diary, an invasion of privacy so to speak.

Alas, the trip to Yellowstone is on hold and probably won't happen, at least this year. I do want to go back someday soon.

Tonight I picked a post at random to read, a post from August 2015. And by gosh, it was the same post I published last week. The same fretting over my conspicuous consumerism, my lack of will power, my inability to resist temptation. I drilled down to my intentions to do better, my resolution to rein in my buying and accumulating and stockpiling.

I suggested that I have an addiction. I contemplated the possibility that I need professional help. I talking about drawing a line under my collecting, about putting it out to the universe so as to make myself accountable.

Have I really made no progress at all?

It seems that way.

Not only that, but I’m still droning on about it like a broken record.

I guess that’s the navel gazing part.

In my defense, I got rid of a huge amount of stuff when we moved. I sold maybe a third of my glass. During the last phases of the move, I actually stopped shopping for a short while.

But then we had all this space to furnish. And decorate. We’re almost there though. I can stop shopping.

Facebook is my nemesis these days. It's my social lifeline at the moment. And it's my livelihood, which at the minute isn't all that lively, but that another post that I've posted too often. Let's just say, my reasons for being on Facebook are valid, or at least, rationalizable. I get most of my world news there too. (Snopes is my friend.)

It's also the source of great temptation. As we all know, Facebook knows what we've shopped for, if not what we've actually bought. I get very targeted ads, all the things I like, pretty clothes and shoes, bath and body goodies, home decor, and of course, beads galore. I mean how can I pass on six foaming soaps for $18 and $10 off $30? Or deluxe samples of upscale skincare with a $45 purchase and free shipping?

For some reason, it's taken me a while to recognize this particular rabbit hole. There will always be another sale, another gift with purchase, another discount code. I have enough. I have to stop falling down, down, down.

A couple of days ago, an online friend in the glass community, posted about the topic of too much stuff. I liked the way she expressed herself so much, I save her words. It's almost poetic. I thought I'd share it. It's called, I am sooooo over having “stuff.”
Please indulge my rant.
I am engaging in a little hardcore self-observation this morning.

I am sooooo over owning and storing a bunch of “stuff.”

My realization happened very suddenly.
You see, I have been seriously considering downsizing my housing.
Moving is tough enough.
But, moving a ton of stuff is a totally MISERABLE proposition.

My cabinets and closets are very neat, but totally full.
How, exactly, did that happen?
Geez. When was the last time I used that heart-shaped waffle iron?
Why in the hell have I been keeping multiple sets of plates, napkins, placemats, flatware, stemware, glassware, and tablecloths?
I quit “needing” those items LONG AGO.
(Actually, I’m not sure I EVER needed them. But, I always enjoyed setting a beautiful table for guests.)

Here’s the dichotomy.
I absolutely HATE visual clutter and I deliberately feature a minimal number of items on my countertops, end tables, and bookshelves.
Behind the scenes though, it’s like I am curating a huge collection of stuff for the Smithsonian.
I keep it neatly stacked in the closets and cabinets, holding it until the day, I MIGHT use it again.
That’s total and utter bullshit.

I have hit a wall.
A turning point, if you will.
There’s no comfort derived from having stuff.

Last night, I made a feeble start.
I cleaned out my linen closet.
I winnowed HEAVILY.
It took two hours for me to unstack, sort, decide what to keep, sell, or donate, and reshelve the keepers.
It was a personal victory.

(BTW, I don’t have this issue with my clothing.
Clothes and shoes come and go with no problem.)

It’s the other stuff.

Yes, I’ve read the self-help de-cluttering books.
I acknowledge their usefulness and practicality.

This morning, I am grinding my teeth.
I am shaking my head.
I am poking a titanium pick in my personality.
There’s no doubt I am uncomfortable with my collection of stuff.
Most of it needs to go.

The sooner it happens, the better.

Whoa. I can see I need a plan.

(D. Harrison)
I wish I had saved my response. It was along the lines of, I struggle with this constantly, for me it's the clothes and shoes, the jewelry, the beads by other artists, the bead store beads and findings for all the jewelry I'm never going to make. I’m going to have to figure out something because the psychic weight is starting to wear on me.

Since then I've made a reasonable start on unpacking my collection of artist beads. Seeing them again is my strategy for diffusing any desire to buy more. It worked for a while after I packed them up for the move. What helped more was not being on Facebook to sell my beads. I bought no beads until I started selling again. It's hard to list beads in the lampwork groups without seeing other people's beads.

Sales have been so slow of late, with a sporadic uptick here and there, and one steady customer who seems to have a limitless desire for my dot pairs. It occurs to me that if I stopped selling then I wouldn't be subjected to temptation all the time. But the drawback there is that if I don't at least try to sell some beads, why would I keep making them? I know, not everyone makes things to sell them. I could donate them, and I'm putting a donation box together right now, as a matter of fact.

But as I've said before, it's less about the money and more about the validation. Which is ironic, because I'm really not getting all that much validation, certainly not in sales, not even in many comments, although I do get a fair number of likes.

I guess I'll just keep trying to up my game, to improve my skills, to stretch my vision, to build upon whatever talents I may have. I really don't want to stop. It's still fun. I still like the exercise of melting glass and decorating it and playing with color combinations and reactions. I might have to get out of my comfort zone and experiment with new designs. Then again, it's good to make what you love.

Not to mention that time spent at the torch keeps me out of trouble. You can't torch and shop simultaneously.

Here are some of the little dot bead sets that I have been obsessed with making lately.

And a couple of patriotic cats.

Oh father, come to the window
Look over yonder lake
At the wondrous golden city
Beyond the icy wake
In my short life we've passed this way
Ten times or more
And never did this city
Rise up on that far shore

That's the sun, son, shining on the water
It's not Cairo, New York or Rome
And just a matter of hours before you see your mama
Waiting for you back at home

Big buildings at it's centre
Stand ablaze with light
While lesser spires around these
Entrap the beams in flight
Oh look now I see people
With faces small and fine
And in their midst just staring
A boy's face like mine

That's the sun, son, shining on the water
It's not Cairo, New York or Rome
And just a matter of hours before you see your mama
Waiting for you back at home

The sun was sinking 'cause night was falling
And the boy went off to sleep
His wondrous city vanished
Into the icy deep
The moon was rising 'cause night was falling
And all was as before
As we made our way past the countless pines
On the cold lake's northern shore

That's the sun, son, shining on the water
It's not Cairo, New York or Rome
And just a matter of hours
Before you see your mama
Waiting for you back at home.

(Kate & Anna McGarrigle)