Monday, December 31, 2018

Practically perfect in every way

And memory plays tricks on us
The more we cling, the less we trust
And the less we trust, the more we hurt
And as time goes on, it just gets worse

It's a well known fact - if you know anything about me - that the holiday season brings out the worst in me when it comes to gift giving.

While I admit that it's fun to open a gift-wrapped package, I truly mean what I say, when I say, I don't want any gifts. I don't want to receive them, and I don't want the obligation to give them, just because there is a certain date on the calendar.

I would't describe myself as a generous person on the whole, but I can be sporadically generous when the stars align just so.

For example, when I went to my ceramics teacher's open house, which she holds to sell her work, I immediately picked up a large mug. I walked around with it, picking up other things, putting them down, but I never set down that mug. Eventually I set it on a shelf designated for the things you wanted to buy, to free your hands while you still were shopping.

One of my classmates was there and after a bit she came up to me and asked if I was going to buy that mug. I said, oh yes, I love it, definitely. She was disappointed and said she collected mugs but they had to hold at least 16 oz. and that was the only mug that fit the bill. I hesitated, then said, it's OK, you can have it. She expressed how grateful she was, and I magnanimously said, it's Christmastime.

Just like I was this really nice, unselfish person. Which I can be, but only when and if the spirit moves me.

When if comes to gifts, I do like giving them, but also only when and if. When and if I see something that I'm sure will delight the recipient, and that may happen whatever the day of the year. Or when and if I suddenly feel the urge to do something nice for my kids, out of the blue, such as send them some shoes (after checking with them on their size of course).

On a related note, I find that I am always buying things for myself, and that plays into why I don't want gifts. I have so much already. I hoard, I stockpile. This year I was particularly ridiculous about buying shoes. And sandals. And boots. And every time I say, enough already, no more, I'm done, something else pops up on social media and tempts me. The social media marketers have totally got my number.

It seems there is always one more thing to buy. If I just get that last thing, I will be done with shopping for a while. Oh wait, there is that other thing I need. And yes, that thing too. But if I get it, I should be set for a bit. Except, I do need those. And if nothing else comes to mind, I will always shop for socks. Because you can't have too many dozen pairs of socks stashed away for a cold rainy day.

So, today I am sitting here on the last day of 2018, with a couple of hundred dollars worth of yarn in my shopping carts. And I'm magical-thinking that if I check out and submit my orders, I will be able to use what yarn I have for a long time and not obsessively keep shopping.

I started crocheting early this fall and immediately fell down the rabbit hole of end-of-summer sales, back-to-school sales, early Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday sales, and naturally Christmas sales and after-Christmas sales.

I've added to my stashes of Bath & Body Works lotions and potions, Life is Good Crusher Ts (long-, short-, and sleeveless), Lush bath bombs and soaps. I'm still eyeballing one more pair of Fluevogs. I'm just 127 points away from Gold Level rewards from Origins (and I can't even swear I love their products, but how can I leave money on the table?).

I'll probably wind up with the yarn and a firm-ish New Year's resolution to resist impulse buying for at least a month. Wait, is it impulse buying if I've had the yarn in my cart for a week or more?

Right now I'm finishing a scarf for Chelsea's boyfriend, in lovely merino wool shades of black and grays. Even though I already knew the answer, I asked Neil why I was making scarves and blankets for everyone in the family. He agreed with me that it's not because I am being nice, it's because I like the making part and I need an excuse to keep doing it. Unlike beads, there is no way I could sell my yarn-wares for anything like a fair price, given the cost and time involved, not to mention that for every lampworker there are probably thousands of knitters and crocheters.

There are probably also dozens of fiber artists for every glass bead maker. It did briefly cross my mind that I could learn to weave or spin or whatever one does to make yarn. But I'd need a spinning wheel and who knows what else, and I already have a studio full of bead-making equipment, tools, and supplies. And I'm not done with that by any means. I might have slowed down just a bit, but I still enjoy the process of melting glass into things with holes.

What I have stopped is buying other artists' beads. I still look and appreciate, but any temptation is short-lived. I can pretty safely say, my art bead collection is complete. I didn't go to the local bead store's annual blow-out sale. I have a few jewelry projects that I want to complete, but I have all the components I need or close-enough substitutes. I still want to complete some sort of larger art project with my own stash of beads.

You'd think I had nothing but time on my hands to get everything done, but the first truth you learn about retirement is that there is never enough time. My mom used to say, you think when you retire you'll have time to get to all those things you thought you'd do, such as straighten out your junk drawer, but five years later your junk drawer is as messy as ever. I used to think that would be because you knew there was no rush, there was always tomorrow. And as my dad used to say, why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

Now, having been retired for seven and a half years, I know that your junk drawer still isn't sorted because of the other 15 million things on your proverbial to-do list. Things like scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, reading, binge-watching something on Netflix or Amazon, going to see Mary Popping Returns, taking walks, having a third or fourth cuppa, getting your $5 Smoothie King treat every Friday, going to Trader Joe's just because. Things like making beads, walking on the treadmill, yarn-spotting, writing email or another blog post, cooking the veggies you grew and froze, baking a fruitcake from your mom's recipe. Like texting with your brother or kids, Face-timing with your grandson, playing Jeopardy with Alexa, daydreaming by the gas fire.

I have to say it.

It's a wonderful life.

Baby, where's that place where time stands still?
I remember like a lover can
But I forget it like a leaver will

It's no place you can get to by yourself
You've got to love someone and they love you
Time will stop for nothing else

And memory plays tricks on us
The more we cling, the less we trust
And the less we trust, the more we hurt
And as time goes on, it just gets worse

So, baby, where's that place where time stood still?
Is it under glass inside a frame?
Was it over when you had your fill?

And here we are with nothing
But this emptiness inside of us
Your smile a fitting, final gesture
Wish I could have loved you better

Baby, where's that place where time stands still?
I remember like a lover can
But I forget it like a leaver will

It's the first time that you held my hand
It's the smell and the taste and the fear and the thrill
It's everything I understand
And all the things I never will

(Mary Carpenter © Mary Chapin Carpenter Dba Why Walk Music)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Introvert exertions

Freedom reaps the flowers of France
Fair-haired boys
String the harps to Victory's voice
Joyous noise.

Random thoughts today.

Blog writing seems to be (or is becoming) passé. Many of the bloggers I followed in the past have turned to other social media platforms such as Instagram.

Some still write but less often and with less engaging content.

For myself, I’ve not lost interest but finding the time has become harder, especially since yarn happened and I will happily spend hours single, half-double, and double crochet stitching.

Which sort of leads me to my next thought.

I think I should complain more often. Because all too often, no sooner have I whined to Neil that bead sales are stalled, I get a big order.

Recently I complained about my friend-making challenges. Since then, I’ve gotten together three times with the woman in my subdivision who I mentioned was interested in beads, glass, and yarn.

I like her. She’s a couple of years older than I am, her husband is a couple of years older than Neil. She’s from Long Island, is Jewish but not observant, is an extrovert, and has no hesitation about texting me day and night.

It’s as if I’d invented her, cut her from whole cloth. The only red flag so far, is that she’s not aligned with us politically, which is shocking, insofar as she’s both female and a New Yorker. I just have to shake my head.

But I refer to my mom’s maxim that if you want your friends to be perfect, you won’t have any friends. So we’ll just shy away from politics and focus on what’s important. Beads. Glass. Yarn.

She - Robin - has already been over to make a few beads. I’ve to hers twice now. And she taught me how to cast on yarn for knitting. It’s not coming back to me the way crocheting has. I’m going to need to practice, since I signed up for a January class to knit mittens. I’m supposed to have some comfort level with double pointed needles and have knitted the first cuff, so good luck with that to me.

I wanted to order some regular needles to practice with, but we’ve been traveling again and I had to time it so they’d arrive after we got home.

My calendar is pretty clear for the rest of the year. My ceramics class ended and I’m happy about having a break. I did sign up for the next session, which starts in January. Before we left town, I picked up my finished pieces. I’m chalking them up to a learning experience. I told Neil I might display them in the basement on a “shelf of shame.”

I’ll admit, I don’t seem to have any particular talent for hand building so far, but also, I wasn’t trying that hard. If a piece wasn’t coming together well, I called it done and moved on to the next thing. I was hoping that glazing the pieces would redeem them to some degree.

I was in it more for the social aspects, to get out of the house a bit. I was very happy to go out for lunch on the last class day with a group of classmates and my teacher.

My teacher and I also did a trade, my glass beads for some of her ceramic work, which made me happy too. I'm hoping to try a bit harder to make some nicer things when class resumes.

Good intentions.

I tried to write more of this post while we were traveling, but Blogger is a bitch on my iPad. I seldom can place the cursor where I want it, cut and copy are well nigh impossible, and the words run off either the side or bottom of the screen, so I can't read what I have typed.

That said, let me do a quickie recap of the trip.

  • Wednesday. Traveled to Houston, Steel City Pops and then BBQ with Neil's kids and grandson Blake.
  • Thursday. Lunch with Neil's workmates at Ginger Thai, visit to my friend Pam's, drinks at Hops House with Shell gang, performance at Blake's preschool, dinner with the kids.
  • Friday. Lunch (separately) with friends, me at Khyber, Neil at Pico's. Dinner with the kids.
  • Saturday. Blake's birthday party. Monkeys were involved. Visit from Chelsea.
  • Sunday. Dim Sum at Fung's with Neil's friends, kids, plus Chelsea. Dinner with the kids and Xmas presents.
  • Monday. Lunch at Escalante's with Neil's friends, walk with different friends, dinner at Black Bear Diner with the kids.
  • Tuesday. Traveled home.
So, a lot of eating and seeing friends and kids. A whirlwind in fact. Highlights for me were lunch with my girlfriends and time with Chelsea. All in all, exhausting for this introvert to be so intensively social.

I did work on the scarf I was making for Robert, but when I showed it to Chelsea she didn't think the browns and golds were his colors. So I ordered more yarn, shades of black and gray, and I'll make another.

Being home has felt great. I started a scarf for Chris and this time I'm not making the mistake of showing it to anyone, I'll just finish it and send it.

We just finished reading A Presumption of Death, the second book in Jill Paton Walsh's continuation of the Peter Wimsey series by Harriet Vane. We just started Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. I'm still working my way through the Margaret Maron mysteries.

We started watching Westworld, me very reluctantly. Three episodes in and I'm not sold on it, but trying to be a good sport, since Neil is really gung ho. I plead too much violence, but another series that we're watching, Wire in the Blood, is at least equally gruesome. Before the trip I finished watching The Last Post, which I thought was really good (so naturally it wasn't renewed for a second season). And I started The Bodyguard, which so far is keeping my interest.

We're set for a quiet Christmas week and that's AOK with me. The week after looks to be quiet too, before we return to the usual madness of classes, appointments, and a few social events.

A good time for reflection and maybe a little more writing before we close out 2018.

All quiet on the Western Front,
Nobody saw
A youth asleep in the foreign soil
Planted by the war
Feel the pulse of human blood
Pouring forth
See the stems of Europe bend
Under force

All quiet
All quiet
All quiet on the Western Front

So tired of this garden's grief
Nobody cares
Old kin kiss the small white cross
Their only souvenir
See the Prussian offense fly
Weren't we grand
To place the feel of cold sharp steel
In their hands

All quiet on the Western Front
Male angels sigh
Ghosts float in a flooded trench
As Germany dies
Freedom reaps the flowers of France
Fair-haired boys
String the harps to Victory's voice
Joyous noise.

All quiet
All quiet
All quiet on the Western Front.

(Bernie Taupin, Elton John © Universal Music Publishing Group)