Saturday, September 22, 2018

A yarn of a different color

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first two yarn orders will all arrive this weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Judy Collins © Universal Music Publishing Group)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Storm track mania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think we'll be fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

If the shoe fits, buy it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did enjoy the memes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I rationalizing? Of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 3, 2018

Home and heart

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

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

I said it did.

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

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

No more perusing pages and pages of rugs online,

No more tears.

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

It's just my life now.

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

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

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

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

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

I'm not connected to any place really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I can usually refill my prescriptions a few days early.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time - and possibly tests - will tell.

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

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

Why do you fly bright feathered sometimes in my dreams?

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Judy Collins © Universal Music Publishing Group)