Thursday, July 19, 2018

Desperately seeking something

"Oh that boy of mine by my side, the silver moon and the evening tide
Oh some sweet day gonna take away this hurting inside
Well I'll never be blue, my dreams come true, on Blue Bayou."

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

I forgot to mention that we saw the film, Won’t you be my Neighbor.

As a movie, it seemed more like a PBS documentary that a feature film, but since I enjoy PBS documentaries, I enjoyed the movie. I didn’t know very much about Fred Rogers. As a rule, we never watched much TV at home when I was a kid, but I was in high school when the schow began to air nationally. it was aimed at preschoolers and it had a morning time slot in the era before VCR, DvR, and TIVO.

Like every American, I caught clips of the show here and there, but I had only the most vague awareness of the content, format, etc. I didn’t even know that Daniel Tiger, who my grandson loves, was a spin-off, albeit a much more sophisticated high tech one.

So the movie was educational and I love to learn. Afterwards, Neil kept commenting about what an odd sort of man Rogers was. I came away with a different impression. I think he was a perfectly normal man, in the best possible way, as well as a privileged man who had the family resources to pursue his very valid dreams.

I’m a little more mystified about why the show wasn’t part of my children’s television repertoire, now that I read that it reached peak popularity in 1985 and ran until 2000. Maybe they watched it when I was at work and they were home with babysitters. I’ll have to ask them.

I was likewise unaware of Rogers’ activism in support of public television, video recording technology, and the LGBTQ community. I didn’t even know that he’d died in 2003, just shy of his 75th birthday, and only months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer.

Easily the most touching moment in the film was Rogers’ appearance with 10-year-old quadriplegic Jeffrey Erlanger. Together they sang, It’s you I like, really quite beautifully. Eighteen years later, Erlanger was a guest at Rogers’ induction into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999. When he appeared on stage, Rogers jumped out of his seat to embrace him.

Let’s just say that tears were shed. in 2018, I mean.

I've been thinking a bit lately about how my life has become mostly about pleasure-seeking. This is something my mom used to talk about, which is ironic considering that she did a lot of volunteer work for the National Council of Jewish Women, and was always busy doing things for others. Whether it was lending a sympathetic ear and really listening and caring and remembering, or baking something, or writing letters, my mom was very generous and giving.

Me, I wake up in the morning, and the day stretches before me and all I have to think about is how I want to spend the time. I have my routine, as you know, if you've read any of my past ramblings, and I stick to it because structure has always been one of the ways I stave off gaping into the unknown and unknowable, from where it is a straight line to anxiety and melancholia.

Maybe most of us use busyness as a drug of sorts. I'm trying to lean in to the quiet spaces, instead of filling every moment with activity, even if that activity is watching TV or reading. I'm trying to just breathe and to deeply appreciate the peace and serenity that life is offering me just now. I'm trying to teach myself that it is OK to sit on the sofa petting my cat and doing nothing else because that is enough.

For now, it is enough. For the long run I want to do more. Just today I decided to look up the Charlotte Humane Society. I want to start working with adoptable cats again. I loved the work so much and I miss it. Cornelius has a tiny animal shelter. We visited it once before we moved here. There were about 6 adult cat residents. It's too small to have a formal volunteer program. Recently we drove by it again. It's in an older area with a lot of run-down homes.

OK, I admit it, I'm intimidated by the idea of volunteering there. The web page says, "There is a constant need for active kennel attendants and administrative volunteers." I definitely want to work with the cats but kennel attendant sounds more like cleaning cages. While that is important work, what I found most rewarding when I volunteered at the Houston SPCA and Sugar Land Animal Services was getting to know the cats, interacting with prospective adopters, and helping them find the right cat for them.

The Humane Society seems to have an organized volunteer program and I suspect I'd fit in better there. One of the shelter assignments is "Basic Feline Socialization," which sounds perfect for me. There's an online volunteer questionnaire and bi-monthly volunteer orientation sessions. The downside is the 17 mile drive, but I commented to Neil just a day or so ago that I'll get the oil changed in my car before the year is over, whether I need it or not. I bought my car in January, and I've yet to put 2,000 miles on it. I might as well have a reason to drive it somewhere, sometimes.

So I'm thinking about that.

Maybe after we get back from our Alaska trip and our New Jersey trip I'll give it a whirl.

In the meantime, I cooked. That is a noteworthy event. I accidentally made Shrimp Creole. It was accidental because I was trying to make Shrimp Gumbo. I actually blanched and peeled tomatoes. Neil helped a lot by dicing onion, celery, and okra. I made a roux but I probably didn't brown it enough. Also, the gumbo filé powder that I ordered online hadn't come yet and I couldn't find it at Publix. So I improvised with the seasonings, including a Creole spice mix, turmeric, and mild yellow curry powder.

It turned out all right but there's room for improvement, and since the garden keeps pumping out tomatoes and okra (and did I mention cantaloupe?), I plan to try again, maybe in between our trips.

I feel so bad I got a worried mind
I'm so lonesome all the time
Since I left my baby behind
On Blue Bayou

Saving nickles, saving dimes
Working til the sun don't shine
Looking forward to happier times
On Blue Bayou

I'm going back someday
Come what may
To Blue Bayou
Where the folks are fun
And the world is mine
On Blue Bayou
Where those fishing boats
With their sails afloat
If I could only see
That familiar sunrise
Through sleepy eyes
How happy I'd be

Gonna see my baby again
Gonna be with some of my friends
Maybe I'll feel better again
On Blue Bayou

Saving nickles saving dimes
Working til the sun don't shine
Looking forward to happier times
On Blue Bayou

Oh that boy of mine
By my side
The silver moon
And the evening tide
Oh some sweet day
Gonna take away
This hurting inside
Well I'll never be blue
My dreams come true
On Blue Bayou

(Joe Melson, Roy Orbison, © Barbara Orbison Music Company, Orbi-Lee Music, R-Key Darkus, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Days of summer passed

"Gazing on the gift we're given
A mystery from a magic storm
Turning to a secret rhythm
Nestled in the spiral arm."



No excuse really. I'd say, I've been busy, but if you asked me what I've been busy with, I'd be hard pressed to tell you.

I'm doing the usual things. Making beads about 5 times a week. Cleaning beads, stringing beads, photographing beads, editing photos of beads, listing beads for sale, sending invoices if beads sell, shipping beads. Chatting with customers on Facebook.

What else? Walking on the treadmill 4 times a week. Going out for custard and smoothies. Cooking a little. Neil has had bumper crops of tomatoes, potatoes, and okra in his garden. We've made tomato soup twice. I made chicken stock from a roaster (when I read the label at Publix, I first misread it as rooster). I've cooked up okra and tomatoes, okra with other veggies, made a potato & egg salad, and Neil made a huge pot of potato & mushroom soup.

We have a lot of tomatoes in the freezer, and a lot of potatoes and okra still to use. I ordered some filé and plan to try making a seafood gumbo. Neil is fussy about veggies. He won't eat tomatoes with skin and seeds, but he will eat tomato soup that has been put through a food mill. For the gumbo, I will have to blanch, skin and seed the tomatoes. I'll also have to cook the okra down a lot. He doesn't like vegetables with texture. We all have our things. There are many vegetables I won't eat unless they are cooked until all the crunch has gone out of them.

Our neighbors had a Fourth of July party, and we went over for an hour or so. I really didn't want to, for many reasons, the main one being that they are a generation younger, as are all their friends. But it was reasonably pleasant and I feel like it was the right thing to do, especially in retrospect. We don't want to be those weird old people who rarely have guests and don't socialize, even if there is some truth to that these days. We don't want to be Mr. and Mrs. Boo Radley.

On the media scene, I finished season two of 13 Reasons Why. I did get pulled into the story and will now have to wait a year for season three. I started season two of Marcella, which I liked last year but have since forgotten the details. Neil and I tried and aborted watching 800 Words. There are some well-rated shows that are just too caricatured for my taste. We're on to Fortitude, which is creepy and disturbing, and I don't recommend it, despite its cast of stellar actors, but I want to find out how it ends. Which will no doubt be a cliffhanger leading on to season two.

We're also watching season 5 of Endeavor and season 3 of The Tunnel on PBS. Happy that season 6 of Endeavor is confirmed, sad that this is the final season of The Tunnel. The story lines are confusing but I do so love the relationship between Elise and Karl.

So many shows, so little time. I'd really like to re-watch some, such as Rectify and the American version of The Killing, before they become too dated, but there are so many new and new/old shows on my watch lists that I'm not sure when they will bubble up to the top. I could watch them with Neil - it's much harder picking shows for the two of us than picking shows for me. But Neil has a habit of critiquing while we watch, pointing out continuity errors, judging characters, predicting plot lines, so much so that I tease him that I didn't realize we were watching the director's cut. But when it's a show that I really loved, I can't bear for it to be picked apart. I know Neil means no harm, he just can't help himself.

I'm also starting to feel excited and a bit anxious about our upcoming cruise to Alaska. I bought a new spinner roll-aboard that is between the sizes of the one I usually carry on and the really giant huge one that I used for Hawaii and also for our train trip to Glacier National Park. It's a bit too unwieldy for me to manage and takes up a lot of cruise cabin space. Typically, I pack two to three times as much as I actually wear. I'm going to try packing lighter this time.

This will be a challenge, with variable weather to contend with. It might be hot, it might be cold. I'm taking layers. I'm also taking hiking boots, athletic shoes, at least two pairs of sandals. Tank tops, short and long sleeved t-shirts, a hoodie, a hooded windbreaker, a couple of skirts and dresses, maybe one pair of dress shoes and tights or leggings. Jeans and shorts. Toiletries and jewelry. Swimsuit. Foundation wear (how's that for a euphemism?). Gloves, scarf, hat. I think I'm good, if I can cram it all in.

Oh, let's not forget books. I'm reading the Deborah Knott series by Margaret Maron, a mystery series set in North Carolina with a district court judge as the protagonist. I'm also re-reading all of the Rumer Godden novels that I loved as a child and appreciate so much more as an adult. Neil and I are reading together the Harriet Vane stories from the Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy Sayers. I finished all the Jill Paton Walsh novels that continue the Wimsey-Vane story, hoping there will be more, and getting ready to start the Imogen Quy mystery series by Paton Walsh. So many books, so little time.

Back to packing, not to forget all my devices, chargers, and headphones. I don't expect there will be much time for movie watching on board the Pearl, but I'll download some just in case.

In bead news, I've had a mini bull market in sales, including 100 pairs for Beads of Courage, and a few older customers who re-materialized and each made some multiple purchases. My regular customer has been buying steadily. Another customer asked if she could send me a check because her husband cut off her bead-buying credit card privileges. I've wrestled with the ethics of encouraging bead-buying addictions, but as has been pointed out to me, if they don't buy from me, they'll go buy from someone else. I had to wait a couple of weeks for the check due to some varied health drama on the part of my customer, but I did get it and she even put an extra Jackson in the envelope, so I was finally able to mail those beads that I'd been holding aside.

It's nice having my inventory be low for a change.

I also put together some sets of orphans, mismatched pairs, experiments, and leftovers from sets, and jumped back on eBay. Week one, no sales, week two, two sales, week three, nothing, week four, two sales to one of the first two buyers. I have another set listed now and a couple more in the wings. The prices are deflated but these are beads that aren't suitable for Beads of Courage, they have silver glass which is verboten, or are just too dark and organic.

I'm just happy to see them go, happy to have a little money for them, happy that someone is going to like them and use them, or at least become responsible for their care and maintenance. I see them as loss leaders too, as a way to begin rebuilding an eBay customer base, a way to get noticed for my orphans and have someone look for my other items. I'm trying to list some of my regular sets along with the orphans. No bites yet, but it's early days.

Overall, I'm feeling more relaxed about things, but as we know, that can change in a New York minute. A day or two of no sales and I'm stressing again. But I'll try not to bring that here.

We've had some lovely weather, cool for July. We went to tour Latta Plantation and hiked a bit on the grounds. (From the website: Historic Latta Plantation is a circa-1800 cotton plantation and 52-acre living history farm located within the 1,343 acre Latta Plantation Nature Preserve in Huntersville, NC.) We're slowly exploring the area although we really haven't ventured too far afield, so far. I'm just happy to feel like I'm learning some of the shortcuts around the town, and by town I mean Cornelius, not Charlotte.

Cooler weather means open windows.
Nothing says togetherness like the bird channel.
Yes, that is Biscotti and Zamboni.

Orbiting Jupiter
With telescopic eyes
Floating in the wonder of the weightless world
Watching all the planets rise

Gazing through the asteroid belt
Out beyond night and day
Seeing with my own eyes
The cosmic ballet

Ganymede and Io rising
Talk about a haloed moon
I am drifting wide-eyed listening
To the static in the solar tune

There's comfort in starlight
In moonlight guiding my way home
I'm falling for midnight
For lovely worlds of ice and stone
And I am alone tonight

Orbiting Jupiter
Sailing on my own
Headed for the heavens of the blue green world
I'm dreaming of home

Witness to the miracle
I could testify all night
Rolling in the blue tide
Howling in the moonlight

Gazing on the gift we're given
A mystery from a magic storm
Turning to a secret rhythm
Nestled in the spiral arm

There's comfort in starlight
In moonlight guiding my way home
I'm falling for midnight
For lovely worlds of ice and stone
And I am alone tonight

I want to see the world through other eyes
Some electron in the Milky Way.
I want to meet a man Orion's size
I want to hear the giant lyre play
And Canis bay

There's comfort in starlight
In moonlight guiding my way home
I'm falling for midnight
For lovely worlds of ice and stone
And I am alone tonight.

(Cheryl Wheeler and Janis Ian)