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Thursday, December 31

not looking back

I dislike New Years Eve, mostly because of the dripping nostalgia, the list of celebrities who died, the montage of the best, the worst, the funniest. I hate resolutions because I never keep the one I've been making for 10 years now. To make it a really lost night for me, I don't really drink and the forced gaiety irritates me.

Really, can you imagine trying to party with me tonight?

I choose to look forward and envision the changes I plan for this coming season. Because I learned a lot of things and I'm going to use them.

I'm working on new jury slides because what booby traps an artist is not fear, it is smugness.

Rain in the forecast can't worry me anymore because I have lived through 4 terrible storms in my little white tent and not only survived them but had great sales.

The most valuable asset in an art show business is the support and friendship of your fellow carnies. I can't wait to see them all again.

The idea of a new season makes me happy because I am astonishingly grateful to be able to make a living this way. I know how many people would love to be able to drop the job shackles and do what we do. I intend to loudly bitch and moan when warranted, but I feel blessed all the same.

While planning for the future I am totally aware that you never know what might make you change those plans and sometimes those changes are for the best after all.

I am so looking forward.

Tuesday, December 29

paradise is overrated

The glow started to tarnish when I realized they don't salt or sand the roads here. Granted, it doesn't snow a whole lot, but there is this charming thing that happens when "the fog mist freezes". Call it what you will, black ice is black ice, no matter how scenic the hilly, winding roads are.

You can't really get a pizza here, although there is a guy in one of the little shopping arcades that advertises "New York Pizza", but he's only open during the day to sell slices.

The Chinese takeout place is so expensive, it would be cheaper to actually go to China to get some.

Food is at least 30% higher than at home.

To get the stuff we need for the trip..a trailer hitch, a trailer, new tires...you have to go "off Island" which means a pricey and long ferry trip, turning a job that would be 2 hours at home into a full day wasted.

It is beautiful here, but after a week, the view from our kitchen window no longer startles me. It is just there, like the sun is just there. No less majestic, but sadly commonplace.

I miss my city neighborhood. The 4 page pizza menu at the local takeout, the 16 screen local theater, my cherished neighbors, the salt truck and the snow plows that careen down the city streets at high speed, sparks flying from the steel plow blade.

I miss the diversity of my neighborhood. The colors and sounds of so many cultures, cobbled together into its own demographic.

Is this a beautiful place to spend a Summer? Sure. As long as real life is waiting.

As long as you don't need pizza.

Wednesday, December 23

pondering the view

Here in my son's house, perched on a hill overlooking the bay, watching ships sail silently by, the lights of Victoria BC just starting to come on, I find myself looking past all the beauty and pondering instead how the hell this happened.





I was here 2 months ago. He seemed rooted and looking toward a future that contained all he had established in his life and in this place. Now I am back helping him pack up. All of that is gone. And though some delightful things have come to replace them, there is still this humble acceptance of how powerless we are after all.

Watching him gather up the past and pack it away, looking forward, tackling each challenge as it comes, setting off on a brand new course in a brand new place with new strangers and old friends is inspirational and it fills me with pride. He wallowed in pain and anger and fear for a few weeks and then he brushed away the fog and set his course.

I don't know where he will be in 6 months, neither does he. But, now I'm thinking..so what? Life is a daring adventure or nothing. I think Helen Keller said that. And he has no obligations. He is free, tethered only by love and hope and vision.

So, I do what I have always done. Wait for him to let me know how I can help, only helping if he needs me. Try really hard not to butt in.

We will be driving home together. The 2 of us and a Golden Retriever. In the dead of Winter. Cross country. This will be quite the test.

But we can go home together. We already grew up together. What's a little ride?

Friday, December 18

island navigation



It is beautiful here. OK? You think you're getting used to it, then you are doing something mundane like cleaning up the kitchen and you turn and the view startles you into inaction.



But the place is familiar to me now. Or I thought it was until I had to navigate solo. Usually Russell would be driving us around, but he isn't with me this time. And as much as I love my son, the idea of spending from 4 am to 5 pm in his coffee shop was not exactly a spine tingler. So, after stocking up on groceries ( Island prices: loaf of wheat bread $5.50, small peanut butter $3.99, can of kidney beans $1.39 ) I ventured out to find my way back to the house from "downtown". Billy set the GPS for me, I was feeling secure.

Hopped into his SUV, figured out the gears, told the GPS to take me home, pulled out to the street and the lady said "Please refer to the map"

What???

The "map" was a blue line with a blue arrow and a red bigger arrow. I took a deep breath and went in the direction I remembered, expecting the lady to break in any minute and tell me in that soothing slightly foreign voice where to go. Nothing. The blue arrow worked its way off the screen and I wound up in a dead end with a bunch of off-duty snow plows.

I called Billy. Distracted and busy with customers, he told me to just follow the map. It wasn't so hard. And to call him when I got home. No, I thought, this isn't working. I'll go back to town and start over.

The lady remained silent.

Since I was heading for the ferry landing, getting back was pretty easy. Keep the water in view, look for buildings, I got to the intersection near the shop and the lady awoke, told me to turn left and then immediately right. She was bringing me back to the shop. The shop is not one of the memory points. How did she know? Weird.

So, I parked in front of the shop, played around with the controls, re-set the thing and she promptly told me to proceed. It was like a lover's voice, warm and reassuring. I smiled, relaxed the tight grip on the steering wheel.

So, crisis averted. Until we got up the hill and she gave up. Told me she couldn't help me anymore, the info wasn't there. I should watch the map and be careful. And the arrow dropped away.

Nice.

Let me explain that it is one thing to navigate a city, where you have touch points, landmarks, guideposts. A convenience store, a bar with a mural of jazz trombonists, a cupcake shop with striped awnings, the used guitar place. Here, unless you can tell one fir tree from another you are pretty much out of luck. The road twists and curves beautifully, every so often the lush green parts for a glimpse of blue sparkle and then closes up again. The houses are set back behind the trees, most of them hugging the water or straining for a view of it. None of them care to be by the road, it seems.

And suddenly, the lady tells me to make a legal U-turn. Huh? I don't think so lady. I look at the road sign and it is Smuggler's Cove Road. This is not a name you forget. I turned on it, chanting "spyglass hill, spyglass hill" because I knew that one took me home. The blue arrow trembled, fidgeted and then pointed strong to the red house icon. I was going the right way.

I am sitting in Billy's big man chair, looking out over the water. Below me the road curves down and away with no guideposts. In 3 hours, I will leave here. A pot of chili on the stove, a loaf of bread being kept warm in the oven. And I will find my way back to town. I will. GPS lady or not.

I can do this. But next time I'm leaving a trail of bread crumbs.

Monday, December 14

the widget

In all the chaos lately, I forgot to share my new widget. I love it because it utilizes a lot of my scrap which is good for the environment and my wallet. I enjoy making them. They sell like crazy, so even though they are only 5 bucks, people are buying multiples and that really adds up.

A simple magnet of wrapped book board, a collage of torn scraps, a skeleton leaf, a quote on parchment vellum and a touch of paint. Backed with heavy blackboard, a strip magnet and there ya go.



But what I really love about them is how they came about. I was sitting at a really bad show this Summer. Potential customers were being pulled to either side by samples of frozen wine and hot fudge sauce. (not together, 2 different sellers, but I do see the possibilities). I had a lot of time to ponder.

I was staring at the photo frames and it occurred to me that the raised embellishment could stand alone as a mini collage. But how? Ponder, ponder, ideas tossed about and tossed aside and then the obvious. Of course!

Scale it down and make it a magnet. Come up with some nice packaging. Look for quotes that work well on a small space and print them up in interesting fonts. Well, there ya go. (the pictures are of the few I have left. I'll have a more interesting group on the web site in a few weeks.)

It just goes to show that even the worst show can turn into something good. It's what you do with the down time that counts, I guess. Oh, I did my share of grumbling, but I also used the time to think creatively. Free time is a precious commodity in this business. Of course, you prefer it not happen at a time you were expecting to be busy selling, but precious it is anyway.

class

I vaguely remembered from my last long-ago train ride that there was a first class lounge for folks who sprang for a sleeper. And sure, enough, still here. Behind frosted glass doors with subtle markings, a carpeted, softly lit, wood paneled, hushed sanctuary with WiFi and free coffee and muffins and drinks. A place to check your bags. People who call you "Ma'am" and smile.

I was going to stroll around Chicago, but you're not gonna get me outta here until the train comes.

Oooh...what's that? Chips?...

Sunday, December 13

done!

Another season over. From a small book arts show in March, through a stormy Summer, into the Fall holiday shows and the December gift shows. All done now. Deep breath. Feet up. Relax. Wait. What's that? An application? Due in 3 weeks?

The art show gods have an odd sense of humor.

I will go up to the cold studio one more time, to try for a special book for jurying. I was pretty laid back about that stuff last year, using old photos, got smug. And it cost me at least one show, maybe 2.

And then I will get ready for my trip. A long relaxing train ride to the West coast. In my own little room. I do love the train. Yes, I hate to fly. It's not fear of crashing, it's a control issue. Sort of like "If God wanted me to fly he would have made me a pilot". Trains make me happy. I believe if we all took trains, the country would be kinder. Seriously. No crazy security rules, no long lines for hours. And then the gentle sway on the rails. The train whistle at intersections. Scenery in an endless loop. Time to breathe, nap, read. Love it.

I need the transition time. It's been a while since I've been alone with me, nothing to accomplish, no schedule, no deadlines.

OK, back to the attic one more time.

I'll be blogging from the train, if you care to share the journey. :)

Wednesday, December 9

kaleidoscope

That's what this past week has been like. The different parts of my life swirling in contrast, images blurring into each other.

The warm, rich walls of Gilda's Club and the stark white hospital room. Gentle strains of classical music and sharp beeps echoing off tile. Hugs and hellos from old friends, cell phone calls that twist the gut.The shallow joy of good sales, the deep sadness of a Mother's confusion and fear.

Today, all is calm, appropriate to the season, but I don't know how long it can last. Sunday, I leave on my mission to help my son sort out the mess he was left and, in the process, leave my brother a mess I should be sharing.

One of the quotes I use on my cards and magnets is "normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are." I think just that line is a wonderful reminder to cherish the moment, but the rest of the quote is so very moving:

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return. ~Mary Jean Iron

I have had several occasions lately to remember the full sentiment and I have lived long enough now to have experienced the longing for normal days.


Today is a close to a normal day. Mom is home and complaining. I have a show Saturday and I am scrambling to make enough things. I'll be at work in an hour, then I'll do laundry...

So the swirling stops for a moment, the colors settle, the images take their rightful places in my world and stay there.

And I am aware of and grateful for this normal day.

Tuesday, December 1

a true Buffalonian

Finally...snow. It has never taken so long, waiting until December to whiten the lawn. And so, I celebrated the first snowfall in typical Buffalo fashion:

Needing to run to the store, I pulled the bottoms of my jammy pants over my feet, stuffed my feet into clogs, tiptoed through the slush, used a piece of junk mail to swipe an opening through the snow on the windshield and then did the Buffalo Conga to clear the rest of the car.

The Buffalo Conga only works in early Winter when the underside of the snow is soft and wet. You just sort of inch the car out, stop really fast, do it again. Before you know it, the stuff slides to the ground in a sheet. Love the Buffalo Conga.

Then, of course, you have wipers that are trying to wipe the wetness off and they can't because they have a crust of snow on them. Then you do the grab and snap. Put the wipers on slow, open your driver side window. As the wiper approaches you reach for it, pull it back and snap it against the windshield. Might take a few snaps, but it works.

Yes I have boots, mittens, snow brush, ice scraper, shovel, socks. But I am a Buffalonian. We don't need no stinkin' equipment!

Saturday, November 28

perspective

This was not a barn-burner, but it will buy groceries for the month and then some. Not complaining. Organizers are top notch. I saw lots of friends. Not enough for the new laptop yet, but much closer now. Next week for sure. Saving to buy things instead of charging everything and paying twice for it later is at times a little frustrating, but it is mostly a wonderful thing. Save the charge cards for the emergencies. Own your toys free and clear. How freeing that is.

And I got my hot dog! (Thanks, Deb) It's been a year since I had a hot dog. Those things taste amazing to a lapsed vegetarian. Back on course tomorrow, though.

Next weekend is Open Studios which should be a good one for us, some books and cards for a shop and then a break. I may actually visit the basement. I hear there are machines there that actually wash and dry your clothes. I vaguely remember....

I'm glad I did this show. I'll probably do it again. Why not? It all adds in, makes a bottom line, pays for the tomatoes. And I get to have a Sunday off on a show weekend. That may be the biggest reason of all to keep it on the list.

day 2-get your hot dog early

That was my biggest lesson yesterday. They run out of food early. I also learned that people will spend 7 bucks on popcorn or chocolate that will be gone in moments, but 15 bucks for a handbound journal is too expensive.

My friend, Deb, convinced me to bring in mirrors today and, since the louvre upon which they will be hung can double as a screen to hide my neighbors boxes, seems like a no-brainer. Of course, I cannot imagine this crowd will bite on a 50 buck mirror when there are 5 dollar cute Christmas things around, but you never know.

I was going to get up earlier, but we all snuggled in this morning, hitting the snooze button, watching "Singing in the Rain". I've been watching this movie most of my adult life and every single time Gene Kelly finally drops the umbrella and spins joyfully through the puddles, I smile. Can't help it. And besides, how can you not chuckle at a song that proclaims, solemnly, "you opened heaven's portal here on earth for this poor mortal"? Gotta love how Debbie Reynolds smiles adoringly at him while he spins that bit of sugar. Total escape from real life, that film. Thanks, Gene, Thanks, Debbie. Thanks, Donald.

OK, I have mirrors to shine, a shower to take, a louvre to pick up, a show to do.

As Gene proclaimed a few moments ago: "Gotta dance!!"

Friday, November 27

the good, the bad, the ugly

There is a reason I don't do school "craft shows". It's the jewelry made from craft store beads and the pot holders (although I did buy some) and the dog scrunchies and the containers stuffed with twinkle lights and the plastic snowflake ornaments. Nothing over 3 bucks or so. You cannot compete with that. People are not there for my sort of thing. They are there for Christmas wreaths and dog scrunchies. I understand that. But I caved and signed on. We'll see how tomorrow goes.

The folks that run the thing are great. Professional, courteous, and really dressed nice. You could do worse. :)

So, I'm sitting there, peering between the slats of my shelves ...poor design philosophy today...wondering why I was there and a sweet woman comes by and is really studying my new little collage magnets. She was there so long I sort of forgot about her and since I was squinting between shelves anything was possible. But she came around the side with a couple in her hand and asked if she could buy them. (No, I'm here on an anthropological stake out. Put those back! You'll blow my cover!") I said, of course, with a smile and then she asked if I was the one who made them. Why yes, I told her, sliding them into a bag. And then she said the nicest thing I ever heard.

With a sweet, honest smile, she said it must be wonderful to know me.

I think I babbled something moronic in response, but I recovered and we got into a lovely conversation prompted by the quotes on my magnets. We talked about treasuring normal days, looking deeper than the obvious. She told me of taking a walk after Thanksgiving dinner to feel the world around her and reconnect and she spotted a forsythia in bloom. She smiled, lifted her eyes to whomever she personally believes put this sign of promise in her path and nodded a thank you.

It was a wonderful conversation. It filled my heart, a heart that has been bruised by much sad news lately. It was as if she had actually presented me with a twig bearing small, fragile yellow blossoms. It took self control not to hug her.

It was a day of highs and lows.

The folks next to me filled the back space with their boxes, making me grumpy as I squeezed further into a corner. Then they gave me chocolate popcorn as an apology. On the proper hormonic cycle, chocolate and salty together is soul food.

When I first got to the venue I learned a last minute switch had been made and my spot in the bright, airy foyer had been switched with one deep in the corner of the gymacafetorium or whatever it is. This dizzied my claustrophobic soul until I saw i was directly across from a friend I see too infrequently. Hugs, reassurances, comfort.

Russell schlepped in my art show chair so I could sit high and next to the display instead of low and behind it and I started to breathe normally again. Cave dwelling is not for me. Plus, I could interact with the shoppers.

Tomorrow I am going to try very hard to resist the temptation of doggie winter scarves. Q would look so cute with one tied around his neck just before he pulled it off and ate it. I will not embarrass my dog. I will not.

So, the take was not phenomenal but still more than working a week at the theater. Part time. When there is no show. And I come in late and leave early. But still..

Tomorrow I will venture into the other building. Yes, there are two. One can only imagine what will be found there.

Tuesday, November 24

helpless heart

My son keeps me up to date on his struggle to adjust to the betrayal he has recently suffered. Today I am just confused, he will say or he will admit to having rushes of grief or anger or resentment. Some days the overwhelming prospect of packing up a life overcomes it all. Some nights he lies awake, imagining...

I listen to him vent, earphones in, while I paste and cut and arrange and glue. His pain moving through me to be woven into the patterns. I make pretty collages of paper, botanicals, paint and pain. And I can't make it better. The words no Mother ever wants to say. We are programmed to make it better.

Friday is the 1st day of a new show. I like old shows. I like knowing where to park and what kind of space to expect. Where the bathrooms are, if there are plugs for our lights. I like knowing the people who run it. New shows are filled with questions. Everything goes slower, feels awkward.

My work is going slow, too. My mind wanders, I am preoccupied by sadness and impotence.

It will be good to be done, to be on my way, to be of help.

I fill my boxes with product, counting out how many of each, is it enough, will they sell, will he get through this, how can I help.

The route to the venue is stored on the GPS. The load in instructions are in my folder. If only life was like that. Printed directions and a woman with a slightly British accent telling you "turn left, turn right. Recalculating".

I'm going to tell my son that one. He is recalculating. Maybe he will chuckle. That would be a good step, maybe make it a little better...

Friday, November 20

where's the porta-potty?

So, last night we did a little benefit show at a country club in Clarence. Clarence NY is either the richest or 2nd richest suburb of Buffalo. We drove our dented work van through the fancy gates and up a curving drive to the clubhouse, schlepped our battered boxes and totes across the marble floor to our assigned table (dressed and skirted in white) in front of a picture window that looked out over the sprawling grounds.



I wished I had dressed up more, although Russell did wear his good jeans.

There were appetizers passed on silver trays, even to us carnies. And a buffet that we were encouraged to enjoy and then a desert table of teeny, beautiful treats. Like one perfect raspberry atop a dollop of cream within a teeny tart. The next time a show promoter tells us that free coffee at setup is an "amenity" I'm gonna crack up.

Anyway, the show was pretty good considering it was just 3 hours long. We donated back 25% of the sales and I was happy that I could make a decent contribution to this group that raises money for pediatric hospice. Having experienced the mind-numbing, heart-stopping experience of a much loved nephew fighting cancer at the age of 6, this cause touched my heart.

So, another one down, now to get ready for the big school show that everyone swears is not your usual gym bazaar. OK, then. I'll give it all I got.

Oh, and my nephew? Lets see, I think on his last birthday he was 22. Sometimes you get a happy ending. :)

Monday, November 16

mothering, daughtering

The first Christmas show of the year is over and it was pretty OK, actually. Looks like I will be able to replace my laptop soon. :) I love Women's Gifts for it's large, spending crowds, but also for the women. Sisterhood, people, I tell you, cannot be overestimated.

There is a small benefit show Thursday and then Kenan Christmas, the show that said maybe. Boy, how I hate to be missing that one. I am very fond of the Kenan shows and when I can start and end the season there I am the happiest. But this year it looks like I will be ending elsewhere. I emailed the woman in charge, how's that alternate list looking? No cancellations yet, she wrote back. I responded that I will be sad to miss the show, but wished them a successful weekend. And I really do. She wrote back that they would miss me, also, wished they had more room. (The fact that they've had room for me several years in a row now is the unspoken "huh?") But perhaps this will make me the first alternate they think of if someone cancels. I will be ready.

But first, Mom and I to the Doctor for some plain talk next week. I have no idea what to expect. Do you operate on the gall bladder of an 87 yr old woman with a funky heart valve? She is very tired of the pain. There are so many layers to this situation, most of which I am reluctant to peel back just yet.

And then my much loved son calls with sad and startling news from way West. He has been deserted in life and business by someone he trusted. His legs are folded beneath him, his head reeling with the implications. Good-bye, see ya, you are on your own, nothing you did I am just not happy here, you'll be fine, bye.

The cafe he is so proud of, already in survival mode to deal with the off season, now in jeopardy. The beautiful house on the water likely doomed without financial help. But worst of all, the pain of being hurt this way. As if he deserved punishment. He calls me to vent and writes me emails with tear inducing comments like he wished he could put his heart in a coma for 6 months and wake up when the worst was over. He talks about a friend coming into the cafe, saying nothing, just coming behind the counter and holding him in a long, tight hug. He can't finish the story without losing his composure.

I want to hunt her down and tear her hair out. There, that felt better.

Of course, I won't do that, really don't want to. I'm sure there is pain there, too. But he needs help to work through this and so I am going out there to hang with him for a while, help out, comfort, encourage, work through all the minutia. He says just knowing I'm coming makes him feel happier, he is looking forward to it. We will have Christmas together for the first time in many years.

We have a tight bond, my boy and I, forged over years of struggle as a single Mom and her kid toughing it out and crossing the finish line happier and healthier than when they started. A bond forged in honesty and acceptance and forgiveness and challenge. And love. So much love.

If a few weeks of companionship during a trying time will help him through it, will soothe some pain, ease a burden or two, I am there. Like I am there when Mom needs help understanding her medical stuff. Like Russell is here for me when I need comfort or help or encouragement. Like Mom was here for me when I almost flunked out of college and she took the prof to task before I could stop her. Like my son was there for me when he started bringing money home at the age of 10 with a paper route and never stopped working... as a dishwasher and a lifeguard and a stock boy and a store clerk.

The wheel spins and it is my turn again. It is, in many ways, a blessing to be loved enough to be needed.

Saturday, November 7

what gets in the way

I will admit to being a creative person, always have been. Not necessarily good at anything, but always trying. Trying to draw, to paint, to play the guitar, to play the piano, to write poetry, to write fiction, to write non-fiction, to sew my own clothes, to sew a duvet cover, curtains, french shades. I have tried to knit, to crochet, to make rugs with a hooky thing and loops of yarn. I tried crewel and needlepoint and counted cross stitch. I have made bracelets, earrings and necklaces. I have failed at calligraphy, sum-i and stenciling. I made Christmas trees and ornaments of calico that I stuffed with fiberfill. Not to mention the reindeer made of candy canes and pipe cleaners or the pine cones with straw flowers glued to each petal.

Basically, there is not an aisle at Joanns or MIchaels that has not felt my desperate need.

But, even with that weird sort of energy running through my veins, sometimes the well needs to be primed or something. I sputter and stall, just when I should be accelerating.

This time it has been too many hours at work, and too many hours with my Mom.

My Mom. Gonna be 87 soon, not the end these days, but the beginning of things ending. The list of what she doesn't do anymore gets longer every day. She has been well except for arthritis and a creeping dementia that makes her so hard to be with. Then her gall bladder got all wacky and we started an odyssey of Dr visits. Turns out she has a wonky heart valve that may or may not be a problem. But that's not what gets in my way.

What gets in my way is the awkward part in her hair at the back of her head, that reminds me she doesn't comb her hair much anymore. The gray pants she wears all the time, even though she has drawers full of elastic waist pants that we dutifully buy her every Christmas and birthday as requested. The odd, quilted coat she has worn for decades. The way she needs her cane and a pull from me to get out of my Beetle. The way she waits dutifully for the Doctor, her knees tight together, hands folded in her lap like a school girl.

I find my mind wandering when I try to focus on artful things. I see her and Dad dancing to the big band music they loved, Dad spinning her out and back, pulling her back to him with his hand around her waist before he spins her out again. People would stop to watch them. I see her bargaining at garage sales, wily and shrewd, winking at me as she sashays back to the car with a bargain. I see her rolling out dough to make pasta, the pin making a rhythmic slapping sound as she somehow makes the sheet of dough flip back around the pin. I'm laboring to give birth to my son, concentrating on the minutes and the effort when she pokes her head into the room and announces "I knew you'd be brave!" before she is whisked away. I see her as a young widow, weeping into the gray pinstripes of the suit she has had to choose for her husband. I see her and Dad and my Aunt and Uncle sitting around our dining room table, a pot of coffee and a plate of pastry in the center, Dad teasing his brother with a spoon hot from stirring coffee, laughter, old jokes, secrets told with the key phrases in Italian. I would watch them and long to be an adult.

And now I am an adult and my Mother has become the child in many ways. Such a cliche, but there is truth there. My brother and I, mostly my brother, watching over her, making choices for her, protecting.

I go upstairs and start to cut and paste and in the quiet of my little studio I hear Tommy Dorsey and the sound of secret laughter and it gets in the way.

Tuesday, November 3

stuck

I have so much to do and I am stuck. I have been working at the theater a lot and now I have some issues with my Mom perhaps needing more than a gall bladder operation. So, add Dr appointments to the list of things that keep me out of the studio. Still, no excuse.

I will be so unhappy when the shows start in 10 days and I'm not ready.

OK, tomorrow..well, today, actually since I've been up and wishing for sleep for hours.

I will visualize aisles of happy shoppers, boxes full of inventory, the new laptop I need...

Tomorrow.

I know once I start, it will flow. It's just getting up there. Aaargh!

Tomorrow.

Really.

Sunday, October 25

art/business

You would think those 2 words don't relate, but they do. I have some friends who are really good at the business of art. They are able to do both without neglecting either. I have trouble with both.

Now, here's the thing. If you wander off into the art/craft world with stars in your eyes and visions of sunny festivals and gallery openings with champagne and nights spent counting pots of money you will be sorely disappointed. It rains at festivals. Galleries probably don't want you and if they do, there will be beer. Some days you may make pots of money but often you will make little.

I will admit to often hoping for the best while preparing for less. I'm working on that. But, in the interim, I need to be a business person. I get tired thinking about it. But I made a step that way recently. I'm so proud.

I sell my miniature book pins at the Historical Society Gift Shop. The lovely woman who manages the shop saw one and asked where it came from and she found me and placed an order. It has been a small, steady revenue stream for a couple of years. They were even mentioned last year in an article about Christmas shopping in unexpected places. I was tickled when the reporter quoted the cutesy narrative on the packaging (..perfect for short stories, haiku...)

So, anyway, just before we left on vacation, the manager called me and asked for more pins. I had some made but I whipped up a few more so she would have a selection and went to see her a few days later. On a whim. I grabbed the new miniature book earrings and brought them with me. She selected the pins she wanted and I took a deep breath and asked if she wanted to see the earrings. She did. (this is not easy for me for all sorts of reasons that only my imaginary therapist knows). She looked at them and looked at them and turned them this way and that and said that she wasn't sure they were right for the shop. Ouch. But, OK.

On the way out I was chatting with the woman at the reception area who adores the little books. I showed her the earrings. (Hey, why not, the blow had landed, the damage done. ) She adored them. Hmmm.

Now, in my past life, the one I was living moments before, I would have gathered my little pile of earrings and left, but something shifted and I turned back and told the woman to give 2 pairs of the earrings to Mary. "Tell her to put them out, see if they sell. No charge unless they do. If they don't, I'll pick them up next time."

This is not like me.

She took 2 pair and I started to leave, turned around and gave her one more. Then I went on vacation.

A week ago, an email from the shop. Was I home yet? They needed a dozen book pins.

And 6 pairs of earrings.

Heh.

Now, granted, anyone with a modicum of business sense is wondering what the big deal is. I'll tell you. Some of us are not blessed with the confidence and guts it takes to be a business person. Some of us like to hide in the attic with piles of paper scraps and pots of glue and glittery bits of ephemera and make stuff. Then we climb down and meekly wait for someone to like what we created. Like it enough to buy it. That was me. Deep inside, I knew what I was supposed to do.I knew I had to climb out of the pajama pants and flannel shirt and into pressed pants and a sweater or something and go out into the world. Marketing. The palms sweat.

Somehow, in the dim, ornate lobby of a museum, that business part of me woke and shifted, yawned and stretched, looked around and said "What the hell are you doing?!?". Then she settled into my psyche and started to infiltrate.

Work smarter, not harder. Sell smarter. Expand horizons. Market.

I could be on to something here.

Sunday, October 18

and then it was Christmas

I'm just adjusting to Fall, to cool weather and bright colors. We left home in the Summer. I packed cropped pants and t-shirts. Came home to frost. There was no easing into the change. And now my first Christmas sale is this week. The head spins.

This week is a small gift show at Fisher Price Headquarters for their employees. Last year the show happened days after a big downsizing. Nobody felt much like buying things. All the talk was about this or that person and how they were escorted out of the building with their sad boxes of accumulated personal things. I hope this one is better. I get to hang out with one of my favorite artists, a woman who works there and runs the gift show. That, alone, makes for a nice day.

Then we start to gear up for the big ones. every 2 weeks or so until mid-December.

I'm trying not to be bummed about not getting my best show this year. I'm choosing to prepare for being called off the wait list. But, just in case, I did add a couple I normally don't do.

There is an up side to having my last show fail so miserably. I don't have to hustle around building inventory for the 1st show. It's all packed up and ready to go. Always look on the bright side, right?

I'm already thinking about next year. Some new ideas and a renewed energy around the application process. I was sloppy last year and it cost me a couple of shows I normally do.

But first, Christmas.

Ho ho ho ...

Wednesday, October 14

why and if and counting blessings

We art carnies have invigorating discussions about the business at every opportunity. Behind our canopies at art shows, at lunch, on email lists, in forums. Blahblahblah, we go on and on, spouting wisdoms, conjecturing, cheering each other on or, on our less honorable days, sniping at someone's work or aesthetic or work ethic.

Basically, the art show circuit is like any workplace. You got your over-achievers, your slackers, your newbies, your holier-than thous, the always tardy, the always early. You have levels of achievement and tiers of accomplishment. And labels. Many labels. Crafter. Artist. Artisan. Master. Hack. Granny crafter. Arteeest.

We get to know each other. We tell tales. We gossip. We admire. We support. We whisper. We cheer. We deride. We help or hinder as it suits our purpose. Mostly we care about each other and circle the canopies against rotten promoters, bad juries, "civilians", thieves and those who would show disrespect to any of us. One of the things that warm me the most about this way of life, in all seriousness now, is how tight the community is, how special the friendships.

Which leads me to what my musing is all about today. A friend of ours who is a fine craftsman and very very successful had the audacity to share with a forum just how much money he made at a show and that amount was pretty much more than most of us make. Someone suggested he didn't make everything he sold, but he does. And a discussion ensued about what a person had to do to make that much.

Now, this fella has been in the business for 30 years. He makes a functional craft and he does it really really well, a real craftsman, and he prices things fairly and he is accomplished at his art and at his business. Kudos.

Now, I have been fiddling around with crafty things as long as I can remember. I did my first craft show in a fire hall when I was a young mother in need of Christmas cash. I made some stuffed Christmas trees and little ornaments and made like eighty dollars and I was sooo excited. (of course back then in the stone age you could buy a house for that) I was the person at work schlepping around crafts to buy every holiday. I made things to sell at the corner store. Over the years I learned most of the basic craft techniques and sold them all. What I wanted to learn was silversmithing but never had the time or money. Then I took a break from that and did some writing for money. Entertainment pieces for meetings and conventions. I had a cast and tech and we would perform skits I had written after meeting with the different businesses to ferret out the inside jokes. They loved us. I called my company "Funny Business".

About 15 years ago I realized that if I didn't take an early retirement from my job my soul would die. Truly. I had to finance it because getting out early meant a teeny stipend. I remembered craft shows. I was working with a man who did a lot of them and was pretty successful and he steered me along.

Now this is where I finally get to where I was going.

In deciding what I wanted to craft, I wound up learning to make paper and books. I had no idea if anyone would buy them, but I was in love. I have stopped making paper, but I am still in love with books.

Let us all now ponder just where on the craft show profit chain handmade books fall. Right.

But I love books. I love their heft. I love the way the pages stack so cleanly and then ruffle. I love that people will record their days in them, take them on trips, paste in pictures and ticket stubs. A stack of them in all their colors and styles makes me smile. I have added other things made of paper. I'm not blinded by my affection. But I have made a choice.

My choice is to create a life and a product that fills me up. Why give up a pretty good, benefit-heavy government job if not to move higher, happier? Could I make more money honing a different craft? Undoubtedly. But would I be happy? Maybe. Creative work always soothes me on some level. I just know that I found my little niche. It speaks to me.

Now this may sound very corny, but I'm telling you, you have to seek this. If you do not love what you do it will matter not how much money you make in the long run. I know this now. Yes, I do have to make a certain amount of money to survive. I'm not sitting on a hilltop chanting here. I'm working. A lot.

There are realistic benefits to having a rather obscure craft. You can get better shows sometimes. You are usually the only one there with what you make. People remember you.

That's not why I chose it. Or why it chose me. I'm just glad we found each other.

Tuesday, October 13

contemplating...

Thud.

That is the sound of being dropped back, rudely, into real life. I have tons of laundry, a house full of dust, an order to finish by tomorrow , 3 or 4 show contracts/apps to return and I've already worked 2 days at the theater. I feel like getting back in the car!

Christmas shows are coming. I'm wait listed on my best one, but the others are all in place and a new one is there to try. A couple of small gift "events" that may or may not turn out to be worth it. And then the silence of Winter. Time for decisions.

Part of me wants to pursue other sales options like more shops and the web. Another part wants to concentrate on bringing my work to a higher level and trying for better and better shows. My experience with a couple of the "cadillac" shows has been a revelation. I want more of those. That circles me back to the quality of my work.

Most of my cohorts are at Letchworth this weekend. I wish we did well there. It is a glorious place. But every time we do it the same thing happens. I sit in my booth and watch thousands of people walk by with decorative items covered in raffia. Or, worst case scenario, black plastic garbage bags. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas decor is big. I don't do that. Last year we had the chain saw guys cranking out hundreds of tacky lawn doodads that sold as fast as they could make them. My stuff just doesn't fit. But every once n a while I sign up anyway.

So many art carnies are bemoaning the economy, but we didn't see that this year. We had horrific storms at almost all our shows and still did a little better than last year. With the tiniest break in the weather, it would have been a banner year. Unless we did Letchworth, of course. :)

I have to figure this all out.

But first, have to get those forms in the mail. And crank up the washer. Vacuum some more. Mom got some more government mail she doesn't understand so it's off to Orchard Park to help her decipher it. This is not to put Mom down. I wouldn't understand it, either, if I hadn't worked there for 23 years. I mean, really, would it kill them to send understandable forms?

Was I really away for a month? Doesn't feel like it. I need a vacation.

Saturday, October 10

Home again, home again

The cats keep yelling at me. Demanding to be held, expecting an apology. Other than that, all is as it was.

Since I wasn't able to blog from the road, I'll have to do a montage of sorts. Moments, images.

The puppy was restless for the first day, didn't understand why we never got anywhere, but he settled down. Handled the mountains well, but I think the winding roads in Oregon made him a little fidgety.

The trip West is an unfolding. Lakes to fields to hills to mountains. Cities to towns to hamlets to open fields. Leafy trees to corn fields to sage to rock to evergreens that seem to touch the sky. Coming back East is like coasting down a hill and coming to rest in a cozy bank of color and life. I am tired of it now, but I will be itching to do it all again very soon. The "road" either calls to you or it doesn't. It calls to me.

Our vacation house was perfect. welcoming, cozy, felt like home immediately. We were able to put up various kids and friends for the weekend, have laughing breakfasts together and dinners with wine and pasta and more laughter. I wish I hadn't decided to do the show. It was not a good one for me and it sort of tied everyone we wanted to be with to the back of my booth. We could have had a lot more fun. The first night I was so exhausted, I hobbled upstairs and left a room full of people I wanted to be with. Never again.

My son's coffee shop in Friday Harbor is a delight. He and Cassie are doing such a great job with it. I pray the slow WInter months will not hurt their success. I was really proud of them. I wish we lived in the same place.

Coming home, the road seemed longer. We tried to drive through the night a couple of times, but breaks became whole nights spent curled under a quilt in the soft light of rest area parking lots. Note to self: resist the temptation to drive it straight through. You are too old for Spring Break marathons.

Other than that, I guess it just flashes of memory already. I'll post pictures soon and there will be stories attached. But for now, there is laundry to do, lots of vacuuming, apps due for some Christmas shows. Life slows and idles then revs up.

Vacation is over.

Sunday, October 4

saying goodbye

Well, hell I hate this part. Short on time and money, projects waiting at home, product to create for the coming Christmas shows, a puppy who misses his dog park. It's time to leave for home.

But with all our kids hugging the left coast, where is home, really? It is something to ponder over the long Winter to come.

But this morning, home is a couple thousand miles away and we need to head in that direction. Friday Harbor is treating me to an incredible moonset. I have never seen this before. An enormous full moon lit the house all night and now, with the sun edging its way in, the moon is gently sliding into the sea as I watch. Still full, still bright as day, slowly slowly inching down over the water. It has kept me enthralled all morning.

So, we will hang out at Billy's cafe for a while, having his famous oatmeal for breakfast, our car and dog waiting in the ferry line, the minutes I have with my boy ticking away. I haven't been able to be with him much this time, he is so busy with his new venture. But how wonderful to watch him at work. I am so proud of what he and CAssie have accomplished.

Time to pack the car. The moon is still sliding slowly down. I wonder if there will be a sunrise competing with the sunset on different sides of the house? Anything is possible on a magical morning like this. Well, anything except for a rewind, more time.

Off to the cafe. My throat tightens thinking of it. Leaving them all behind again.

And on we go.

Friday, October 2

finally...

A computer to use. Yes, this is an addiction. If I didn't have an iPhone, I'd be in rehab.

The sad thing is that the past 2 weeks of travel and family and funny stuff and touching moments are lost to me, at least in the kind of detail the blog would have provided. Even now, looking back at the past few entries, I have already forgotten about some things-even the aspiring writer desk clerk that made such an impression on me at the time.

I blog for me, as it turns out. Could I write it in a journal? Sure, but for me, this type of free flowing musing moves too quickly to be slowed by a pen. Odd for a book artist, eh? Then again, there is that carefully worded, artful sort of writing that suits the heft and touch of a real book. The kind that sighs for an old fashioned fountain pen.

Anyway, for now, I am sharing quiet time with my son. Watching CNN, typing on the laptops. Russell is the smart one. He is on the deck, soaking in the amazing view over the water, the lights of Victoria, BC just starting to twinkle in the fading light, dark clouds with gold tips floating slow and high.

At some point next week, when I am home and rested I will try to recreate the past few weeks. But I know the way these clouds reflect the sun will be remembered mostly because I wrote it in the blog. It saddens me to think what else I will lose.

I guess I'll just be here now. What a concept. :)

Friday, September 25

Unplugged

So much to report but the
laptop died. Next week from Friday Harbor. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 16

horizons

Eastern Wyoming is infinite. The horizon is unbroken by trees or hills or civilization. You feel that if you walked to the edge you would fall off. Makes you understand why it was once thought the Earth was flat. You can watch rain storms form and fall miles away, as if it was right in front of you.



But you will drive for a hundred miles before a drop falls on your windshield. Yesterday we had a constantly changing reel of rain, clouds, lightning and rainbows. Beautiful and humbling. When we began to see the mountains that gathered around the edges, I felt a sort of relief, a loosening of muscle, as if I had been on guard. I told Russell that this part of the drive would be a nightmare for an agoraphobic.

The rains slowed us down a little bit and so we stopped just short of the Utah border, choosing a cheap, clean HoJo with a ceiling so low I could paint it on tiptoe.

We should get very close to our destination by tonight, Lord willing. Through the edges of Utah and Idaho and finally into Oregon.

So much is waiting for us there.

Tuesday, September 15

husker harvest days

This, apparently, is why the hotels were all booked up on a Monday night. It's all over the local news this morning. I assume it is some sort of farming convention. Russell says if we had known, I could have applied for a booth. Funny guy, huh?

Anyway, what can I say about Nebraska? They have the best rest stops in the country.



Of course, the fact that I was taking potty pictures, sort of says a lot about what there is to see along the Interstate here. I decide to try for artful potty shots :)






The people here are very nice, the sweeping farm vistas are inspiring, the number of radio preachers on the AM dial is a revelation. Pun intended.

This morning we head for Wyoming. I love this part of the trip. The roads suddenly start to rise and fall, the corn gives way to tumbleweeds, mountains appear in the distance, the locals change from John Deere caps to cowboy hats, tractors replaced by horses.

Hmm..John Deere has a jumbotron in their booth this year. The local news guy is pretty excited about it.

The front desk clerk is an aspiring writer. She has been submitting her book of "adult humor" but no takers. The rejection letters have referenced specific passages, so at least she has the comfort of knowing she was read. I wished her luck and encouraged her to persevere. Her eyes filled up. She said it is so important to her.

I want to remember her, the too blond woman in a slightly stained Holiday Inn blazer, a manuscript and her future on a card table somewhere waiting for the interview with Matt Lauer. ("Tell me, Cynthia, why adult humor?") I want to believe her courage and desire will be rewarded and she will never have to work the night shift again.

She says this hotel has the best breakfast in the country. I'm ready. Wyoming waits.

Monday, September 14

new motto

"A journey of 3000 miles begins with 12 rest stops"

Or so it seemed yesterday. We worked until late Saturday...Russell on the house, me in the studio. Sunday morning we finished loading the van, taking care of last minute details, finally hitting the road about 8.

But we were tired. Worn to the bone by the culmination of a busy Summer's work. We stopped at the first rest area...just 25 minutes down the Thruway. Coffee, tea, walk the dog. This was going to be tough.

Quincy was perplexed. We drove and drove and never got anywhere...like the dog park. He was restless and anxious. When he had to pee, he would throw himself on the driver and make odd, almost human groany sounds. He doesn't understand waiting for rest stops. And so we stopped at almost every one. Letting Q zoom, changing drivers, limping along.

Around Cleveland, I said to Russell that this might be an even longer trip than we thought.

But we are almost to Iowa today. All 3 of us rested now. Quincy was entertained most of the morning by a large mirror that came down to his level. He is very intrigued by the puppy with the same squeak toy he has in his mouth. Every so often he puts his nose to the glass and whimpers. At least he has stopped barking at it.

And so we approach the endless part of the journey. Iowa and Nebraska. Pretty places, but the scenery seldom changes. Flat. Farms. Corncorncorn. This is where I usually read aloud to Russell. The iPod transmitter seldom works here, cell phones get better every year but it's iffy.

Onward. The sun is out and it is a beautiful day for corn.

Friday, September 11

what I remember

I remember that all of a sudden the phones all started ringing on every desk. Family members, spouses. Did you hear? Turn on a radio. Sign on to CNN. Planes into skyscrapers in New York.

People wandering cubicle to cubicle, numb expressions, quizzical and edging to panic. The Pentagon. The Pentagon?? Dear God, this is real.

My phone rang again. My son in Colorado. His voice sleepy and vulnerable. Confused. He was 20-ish, grown. Accomplished, Independent. 2 time zones away. It was probably just becoming dawn over the Rockies. "Mom? What's happening? What's happening?" Mothers can feel their childrens' fear over mountains and time zones. My man child awoke to crashing planes and bewildering violence and he called me. He called Mom.

My heart squeezed with love for him, with desire to be with him, to weather this as family. comforting and reassuring each other.

Later, we talked to the rest of the families, learned that one sister was unaccounted for. A sister who sometimes worked in Building 7. All night, as we watched the buildings fall, and fall and fall again, the strange plumes of debris, oddly graceful, cascading, I saw Dorie tumbling in the smoke and ash. Head over heels, like an acrobat. Riding the wave to the ground. We finally got the call late that night that she had spent the day with a friend and had no idea the family was frantic, was actually unaware of the tragedy until a few hours before.

And finally, there were tears. Relief morphed into grief into fear into a sadness too heavy to carry.

There are so many memories of that day, those weeks. But what I will never forget, ever ...

"Mom? What's happening?"

And I had no answer.

Monday, September 7

too many deadlines, so little time

We leave Saturday night/Sunday morning, off to see the children. 2700 miles or so by car. I'm doing a show in Oregon, so we will have a loaded van. Ask me if I'm ready.

Russell is rebuilding the porch, almost by himself. A friend is helping, on and off. It is about half done. We have a painter working on the trim. It needs to be done in the next few days.

I am replenishing my "stock" so I don't have to spend precious vacation time locked in a room with glue and scissors.

I have an order for 120 beaded bookmarks to finish in 2 weeks. I'll work in the car, but the stuff needs to be organized and prepped in order for the car thing to work.

I have not yet planned anything. Usually, by now, I have lists and half-packed bags and a menu for car food. Nothing yet.

I have to pick up Quincy's medical records and a dose of flea/tick goo.

Kinkos cut the paper wrong for my pages, so I have to go buy more and have it re-cut. That means I can't bind any books until wednesday.

Did I mention I'm working this week? All day Tuesday and a few hours for Curtain Up.

Oh, and in a flurry or optimism, I bought 3 tickets for a film at Burchfield Penney on Saturday afternoon.That wouldn't be such a big deal, except that I have decided to have a small yard sale Saturday morning. I've been going to have it all Summer. There are a couple of big things I would like to get rid of because when we get home, we plan to start on the inside of the house and October is an iffy time for a yard sale so it is sort of now or never. I figure I'll schlepp the stuff outside and whatever doesn't get purchased will be moved to the curb.

Maybe I'll just move it to the curb, period.

So, why am I spending precious time blogging? Beats me.

Anyone want 3 tickets to "The Guest of CIndy Sherman"?

Tuesday, September 1

season ends, reflection begins

The Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts is a show I love to do. A few blocks from home, throngs of people, good sales, family friendly and a festive air that puts everyone in a good mood.

This year I asked to be moved because the merchant behind our usual spot has difficulty accepting we are there, blocking her driveway, affecting her business even though she makes a fortune selling goodies on the sidewalk. And she lets you know at every possible moment that you are not welcome. I chose to move out of a shady, protected spot and take my chances away from that kind of negative energy.

So, we got a wind tunnel, no shade and the scenery across from us was the food court.

Loved it.

The merchants behind us were friendly, my chair wasn't tilting on a curb cut. It was good. Was the odd wind pattern a problem? Yeah. But, you know, after the weather we've had this year, I think I could deal with almost anything.

I was a little tense because this show pays for our pilgrimage to see the kids. At noon I was working on accepting the fact that we might have to wait until Spring. But the skies cleared and the people came. At the end of the weekend, my last customer put our sales one dollar over last year, our best year at Elmwood. Phew!

And that brings me to the reflection part. When the season started this Spring, many art carnies were wondering just how bad things would be with the economy and all. My very first show was disappointing and I was concerned. But as the season went on it became apparent to me that the economy wasn't going to be a problem for me. Even with the horrific weather we had all Summer, sales were good. I believe that had we enjoyed sunny skies this year, my sales would have been the best yet.

Why? How is that possible?

I've got a theory. I believe that our upstate NY community has been living with a recession mentality for a long time. Our houses sell at reasonable prices, I don't see a lot of conspicuous consumption. Somehow this area always pegged as one of the poorest, acts like one of the richest when it comes to art and music and festivals and sports.

People come out in droves for Allentown and Elmwood, the hockey and football teams sell out, as do the concerts and the theaters. Come early for Shakespeare in the Park or you'll be watching from the hood of your car. Last week we went to an art museum to see the premeier of a small documentary. They sold out the first show, added another. Then another. And a fourth. And on it goes.

I watched two woman walking behind my booth yesterday. Each carried a metal branch with enameled bells that jingled as they walked. They were laughing and waving the branches, being silly in the cool Summer air. Friends, I thought, out for a day at the fair. I smiled, too.

One of the poorest cities in the nation? Feels like one of the richest to me.

Friday, August 28

liquid sunshine

As I said on facebook (yeah, they got me. It's a cult, I swear), in the past I would get bummed if showers were predicted for a show weekend. Now I'm grateful if they don't tell you which corner of the basement to hide in.

Elmwood is tomorrow, one of my favorites. A few blocks from home in a neighborhood I love. It's gonna rain. Oh well.

This show is not terribly affected by bad weather. People come out anyway, and it's supposed to be "passing" showers. Yeah, like Lewiston with its passing monsoon. But, that weekend, as soon as the storm passed the folks came out from wherever they were hiding and filled the streets. Crazy. Good crazy.

I have half a day to finish up all the stuff that's almost done and then my last Summer show. Seems impossible. I swear it just started. Wasn't I whining about applications just a few days ago?

So, the goal is to earn enough to pay for our coming pilgrimage to the land of the children. I'm sure that will happen. Then I need to get stuff ready for the show in Oregon. No sweat. I promise not to whine that the roads through Nebraska and Iowa are boring. I swear I will enjoy the hours of inactivity. Corm fields are good for reflection and inner peace.

But first...yep. The attic.

Monday, August 24

loss


Someone called out that they heard screaming, so Firefighter "Chip" McCarthy ran into a burning building to search for someone in trouble. When his oxygen tank was used up, he came out, got a new one and went back in.

The floor beneath him burned away, throwing him to the basement. He radioed that he was down. Jonathan Croom ran in to save him.

We toss around the "hero" word so casually these days. But this is what a hero does. He runs into danger for the sake of others when every instinct he has is telling him to run far away.

Chip and Jonathan ran in. And a few hours later, their fellow firefighters brought them out on gurneys, an American flag over each body, a line of men and women in uniform saluting their passage.

In a few days there will be a funeral with representatives from all over the East and Canada. We've seen this before. The ceremony, the coming together, the praise and gratitude. The sheer numbers will be awe-inspiring, the long processions, the fire trucks.

But the real tribute was this morning. when firefighters converged on the scene, hundreds of them, to escort and protect the men they lost. To bring them out with honor, hands raised in salute, some still covered in soot from fighting the fire that claimed their comrades. A human chain of respect and grief.

The men each ran into the building alone, but they came out in the arms of their brothers.

Rest in peace, our heroes.


Saturday, August 22

the power of positive thinking

Some friends of mine in the business keep trying to help me believe in the law of attraction. If you see it, believe it, practice it, you will be rewarded. I get it.

But see, here's the dilemma. I always believe I will have a great show. I always picture being able to actually, oh, save a bunch of the proceeds because I was so successful. I always picture lines of people waiting to pay me, waving paper money and plastic cards. I always picture sunny skies, temps in the 70's and a gentle breeze.

Always.

Maybe that's wrong thinking after all. If I wasn't so believing, I would have booked a few extra shows. Remembered the rain curtains. Held off on a couple of extravagances.

If I didn't believe so much, I would have worked more hours at my part time job.

So, I'm thinking there is a fine line to walk between magic and reality. I'm thinking you need to believe in both.

Picture sunny skies but bring the rain curtains. Imagine lines of customers, but save before you spend. Envision streets crowded with people, but book enough shows to make empty streets less of a problem.

I'm also thinking maybe I need to believe AND prepare more. That seems to be the key difference between us. My friends always have tons of things with which to keep restocking their displays. They prepare for the success they imagine. I create enough "stuff" for my realistic expectations.

Sometimes the cartoon light bulb over my head blinds me.

My last Summer show is next weekend and it's one of my favorites. It is also the show that needs to be a good one so we can have our vacation.

I will believe and, because I believe, I'm gonna be ready. What a concept.

I'm picturing the scenic roads through the Rockies. the ferry to my son's house, the vacation house we rented.

I'm picturing the attic and the work that awaits.

First things first.

Wednesday, August 19

Hammondsport Festival of Craft

I enjoy doing this show, even though it really isn't terribly profitable for us. It is a very traditional show with stuff like hair bows and doll clothes and baby bibs and stuffed pumpkins being the "meat" of the show. Nothing wrong with that. I've been known to own a stuffed pumpkin or 2 in my time. But it doesn't bode well for my rather obscure craft. There are some more "artsy" things there, too, but this basically is not an event at which a lot of people will spend 20 bucks or more on a blank book. You can get 5 stuffed pumpkins for that.

I know this about Hammondsport, but the show is run by a couple of really high energy, savvy people, there are worker bees in yellow T's swarming the grounds to help you set up and take down.




Some good friends do the show and we spend the night at one of their homes. The rambling chatter in their sunny kitchen is worth the booth fee. Saturday night is a traditional get together for this group at a Mexican Restaurant. I have my annual alcoholic drink there, a margarita. Or 2.

So, what I'm saying is that I booked this show mostly to pad the gas money fund for our upcoming vacation and to feed my soul. I had realistic expectations.

The trip there is just under 3 hours so we hit the road at 5 and we were rewarded with a Disney sunrise for several miles.



Set up was smooth and when we first saw our spot I thought it would be a good one. Next to the gazebo, in the shade. But as they say in the NFL: upon further review....

The booth was set 8 feet off the path, between 2 food vendors. On my left, frozen wine slushies. On my right, hot fudge and jam. Both were offering samples. As you can imagine, the wine was the more popular attraction. And what that created was a mini wine garden with people slurping slush and chatting amiably in the shade. In front of our booth.



It was hard enough to get people off the path, but when a gaggle of wine slushers obscured us, it was impossible. I rearranged my booth, bringing more product and color to the front. We chatted up anyone who wandered by. I sampled a slushie or 2 myself.

Did I mention it was over 90 and sunny? Upstaters don't do heat well. We are snow people. By 1, crowds in front of the booth were no longer a problem.




I began to look forward to our Mexican dinner.

That was fun. Best Mexican food in New York is found in Bath of all places. San Carlos on Rte 54. Go there. I'll wait.

Sadly, the owner was still waiting for a liquor license for the new location, meaning no annual margarita for me. No matter. We laughed and told stories and there was even a table-hopping magician. My spirits were lifted.

That night we settled in at Leah and Ken's house. Living in the city as I do, the silence of the country is a novelty to be savored. I was lulled by the silence, by the way the moonlight broke through their stained glass panels. It would have been a perfect night had I not made a 3AM trip to the bathroom. Tiptoeing back to bed in the dark, I felt a softness against my ankle, thought it was one of the cats, realized too late it was a footstool, and proceeded to swan dive, grazing my head on an end table, landing on parts of me that should not be landed upon, ending up crumpled between said end table and a chair. I swear, there was exactly enough space for me to fit and that's where I landed. 6 inches either way and I would have really been hurt. That guardian angel of mine is working OT.

Russell sat with me until we were sure nothing odd was going to happen, that I was just bruised and feeling stupid. In retrospect, the best thing would have been for me to jump up, raise my hands over my head, bend one knee forward and declare "Superstar!" like that old SNL skit. I'm too old and bruised for that. The best I could come up with was "The Russian judge gave me a 9"

The next day, hot and sunny again, began with more laughter in Leah's kitchen, bagels and fruit at a sweet cafe in the Village, high hopes. We sold 3 things.

Three things.

Lots of wine slushie mix was sold, though. At exorbitant prices.

People: all you need to do is mix wine, water and OJ. Freeze, scrape or blend. Free.

Anyway, I made enough for gas to Chicago, but we had a nice weekend and it wasn't a show I was counting on or anything. That's next week.

You have to look on the bright side, and the company of friends is very bright indeed.

Tuesday, August 11

Lewiston Art Council Show

I took this little iPhone video Sunday, thinking it would serve to show the worst of it. Oh, silly me.





But let's start at the beginning. And remember the man in the white cap watching the rain.

Lewiston, NY sits near a couple of Great Lakes, the Canadian border and Niagara Falls. It is a vibrant area, to say the least. The town makes much of its historic roots and the main street, Center, is lined with charming shops and Victorian homes. So far, so good. I have wanted to try this show for a while. It had a good reputation and it fell on a weekend that is normally available for me. Well, the 2nd Chautauqua show is that weekend, but what are the odds of being called off the wait list for that show?

So, of course, Chautauqua calls me Thursday night. There's been a last minute cancellation. Can I do the show? I told them they were breaking my heart, but, no, I could never be ready by morning and, besides, I was committed to Lewiston. I hoped I was making the right choice.

Set up went smoothly. We had a nice spot, good neighbors. Rain was predicted and it came but it was light and didn't seem to affect the show much. I was content.

Sunday I was going to be doing the show solo. Russell was expecting a guy to work on our house, so he dropped me off and, after settling me in with coffee and a muffin, headed home. My photographer neighbor was watching the weather radar on his cell phone.

"There's a big one coming", he announced, showing me the alarming red blob on the radar heading in from Toronto. As if on cue, big drops of rain started and I pulled all my things behind the tent under cover and settled in to wait it out. The fat drops turned into a heavy rain (see video). My spirits fell. The rain slowed. I got happier.

The couple that had taken refuge with us ventured out, but the man stayed. And stayed. It was OK with me. He was chillin'. My neighbor waved his cell phone at me. "That wasn't it", he said, "the big one is coming now!"

OK, I thought I'd humor him and went to pull my front panels closed. And walked into ..I dunno..Hell? The Wizard of Oz? Sudden pounding rain and hail , blowing into the tent horizontally, the winds so strong I couldn't open my eyes to see what I was doing, the flaps of the tent blowing in and, before I could grab them, straight back out into the street. I was soaked through, my clothes clinging to me (not a pretty sight), my hair plastered to my head (equally unpretty). I couldn't quite reach the top of the panels to pull them closed and then a hand reached over my head and pulled one panel to the center and called "hold this!" and then the man in the white cap pulled the other panel to meet it, trying to zip it, but the wind and the rain made it impossible.

"Your stuff is getting ruined, get it, I'll hold this!" he yelled and so I did, piling everything on the middle shelves to keep the rain away while he tried to hold the panels together. When I was done, I reached up and was finally able to zip the front of the booth closed.

Now we were out of the storm but we could hear it raging. A river ran through the back of booth. Thunder pounded. For the first time ever at a show I felt fear. What if this was a tornado? But the man in the white cap was calmly peeking over the top of the curtains, watching the spectacle and that was reassuring. He didn't look scared.

Then I saw my books. Soaked and already started to curl. Looked like a total loss to me. I was dejected.



From inside our little safe haven, I could hear traffic on the street. That was odd, the man said. I wondered if it was emergency vehicles. He peeked over the top again, but couldn't see. When the rain and wind finally slowed, we opened the front and saw vans lined up, packing up to go home. I looked up and saw blue sky coming. My neighbor came over, cell phone in hand, showing me that behind that scary blob, coming at us now was...nothing.

"I'm staying!" he said, and I said I was, too.

Oh, there was a rumor going around that there was more coming and we were supposed to pack up, but it was just that. A rumor. Some people had no choice. There were canopies destroyed, art work ruined. But many of us took a deep breath, looked at the promising blue sky and regrouped.

My guardian angel took his leave after making sure all was OK, waving off my effusive thanks. I would have hugged him, but that would have only served to make him wetter.

I put my small journals in the rack meant for my ruined, large ones. I spread the rest of the stuff out, trying to fill the gaps.

The minute we opened the flaps, customers came and they continued to come, even as more artists brought their vans to the street and packed up.They were happy to see we were still there. And I was happy to see Russell coming with dry clothes for me.

In the end, we had pretty good sales, all things considered.

But, I swear, if this had been our first year doing outdoor shows, Monday morning there would have been a new posting on Craigs list:

For Sale, used art canopy and display racks. Cheap. Slightly damp.
No offer refused.

But, it's not our first year, it's maybe our 10th or 12th. I know that, as Annie said, the sun will come out tomorrow.

Now if I can just make it come out on a weekend.

Monday, August 3

bob and me

I am tending my friend's cat. Well, "tending" is not quite the right word. I am on duty should he need me. Cats seldom need anything, but Bob is an 'indoor/outdoor cat and although he has 6 toes on each paw, he still can't open the screen door. So, like it or not, he needs me.

I was his doorman a few weeks ago and it didn't go well. The first morning of my watch, I saw him in the early, dewy morning light, preening on the picnic table in the back yard. I called his name softly, opened the door and stepped aside. He sauntered in and headed to his food bowl, stopped, stood still and slowly turned his head to see who had let him in. I was not who he was expecting.

After that, it was a battle of wills.

If he saw me coming, he scooted away. If I held the door open for him, he refused to come. I tried many things. I am a long time cat person. I propped open the back door and tossed food bits onto the steps and hid out of sight. He approached from an angle, the better to see if some stoopid human was trying to hide. He would see me and freeze. We stared each other down until I got tired and put food on the step for him.

Then I tried the open door/food thing but I would hide in the bathroom across the room, peeking through a teeny opening between the door and jamb. My plan was to watch him walk in the house then dash out of the bathroom, across the room and hip check the door closed.

But he only came in as far as the threshold and froze, staring at the bathroom. My legs got tired and I got a stiff neck from crouching over the knob, hand in position. I stood, pulled the door open and said to him that he won, I was going home. He retreated to the picnic table and I put food on the step.

It was July 4th and the fireworks were loud and constant and I was worried that he was frightened. I called to him, searched the yard, looked to see if he was hiding in bushes. Nothing.
I thought about him all night.

In the morning, I saw him in the driveway. I casually walked up the steps to the porch, opened the door and left it open, sat on the couch and picked up the paper and waited.

It took many minutes for him to enter the house in slow motion, but he did come in. I stayed motionless on the couch until he was far enough away from the door that I could push it closed before he could scat. But he wasn't interested in escape. This time he wanted to be where he was and he allowed me to pretend it was my idea.

So, this time around, I decided that since it was Summer and good weather and he had many porches to sleep on and food already on the step, that I would not worry so much, that I would not resort to absurd machinations to get a 9 pound animal to bend to my will.

I spotted him sitting on the porch railing, observing the neighborhood with hooded eyes. I nonchalantly walked up on the porch, opened the door and said "Bob?"

He looked at me, hopped down, brushed against my legs and went in. Each day it was the same, I would call his name, and in he'd come. He let me pet him. He even purred.

I don't know how he knew that he had trained me. I'm not sure what test was passed.

I'm just glad I didn't have to hide in the bathroom again.

Monday, July 27

Sunday in the park with chaos-part 2 of the Canandaigua mini drama

Sunday morning, early, back to the park we go. We have to set up the rig from scratch again, so we needed time. Beautiful morning, sunshine, light breeze, not too hot, the lake sparkled, a sailboat was already out, enjoying the peacefulness. I was filled with good vibes.

What could go wrong?

The man who had secured his tent with boulders from the shore, brought boxes of coffee and dozens of doughnuts to thank his neighbors for saving his butt the night before. It doesn't take much to energize a crew of art carnies. A box of doughnuts is usually enough. Add fresh coffee and this guy was a hero.

There was a lot of swapping of stories about the night before and stories of other shows and other storms and soon there was a lot of laughter and somehow a cheer broke out, a rah-rah moment extolling the art show gods for people and sales. We were having fun again and I thought that this day would save the weekend.

Sometimes I crack myself up.

The first indicator that this might not be the great day we hoped for was the quiet. The quiet brought on by no people. At one point I checked my packet again to see if I got the start time wrong. Nope. 10 AM.

Once the people did start to come it was an exercise in patience. I've seen this behavior before but not so many times in one day. I call it fantasy shopping. A customer comes in and asks about, say, the mirrors. I explain the technique. Then she starts to debate colors. She asks her companion if that one would fit in the den. Or maybe she should get 2 since she can't decide between them. They measure the width. Yes, that would fit. Maybe combine a large and small, for effect. Do I have any other colors? No? That's OK, this should work. We engage in chatter about decorating with organic items. They decide on a color. On and on and on and then...they walk out. Huh? I had a couple examine each and every collage frame, make a pile of them (one for Grammy, that is perfect for Sissy, this for Henry) then leave the pile and walk out. Another woman read every quote in every journal, picking and choosing, walking the booth over and over with a pile of books in her arms, only to put them down and go. This happened so often that when someone actually did buy something it startled me.

But that was nothing compared to the gathering storm. Russell was on the second leg of his trip to bring the correct vehicle back. I was sitting behind the booth eating lunch. And a wind gust hit. I waited. Sometimes these are little dustups that rattle your shelves and move on. But it just got stronger. My chicken went flying. My tent was rattling and dancing. I grabbed a leg of it but that was going to do nothing. I jumped up and grabbed the center of the workings and held on. I figured if the wind could pick up the tent, the displays that are tethered to it, the weights on the legs and a pudgy old woman, it could have it all. Even the expensive tents were rattling. Everyone was hanging on. I turned my back to the show because the wind kept lifting my shirt and nobody should have to see that. Minutes went by, minutes that seemed like hours, but finally it seemed the wind was slowing. I turned around and saw people pointing, hands over their mouths. I checked to see if my shirt was down. I followed the crowd out into the opening and saw this



That tent used to be sheltering this artist and her work



The wind picked it up and carried it over 3 rows of booths before it got snagged. But not before it did some serious damage.





I couldn't imagine what else could go wrong. Silly me. There are many circles of hell.

Shortly after the "event", people actually started to come out. And shop. Well, what do ya know? Maybe we could salvage this weekend after all. I tidied the shelves and was having fun with the customers and then Lynne, the director, hustled into the booth and said that a storm was coming. It was in Rochester. It would be here in 27 minutes. I could button down or pack it up. My choice. I started to strip my shelves before she was gone. I called Russell. He was 10 minutes away. I told him to hurry.

By the time he got to me, I had everything down and packed except the booth itself. The skies were getting dark. We got stuff to the van, broke down the tent and displays. We asked our neighbors if they needed help, but most were doing OK. (We all tend to have a carefully choreographed routine and a well-meaning helper often just disrupts the rhythm.)

As we closed the doors of the van, the first fat drops fell. By the time we were on the road it was a blinding rainstorm.

I had made enough to cover expenses and pay for Quincy's Vet appointment on Monday.

But I learned a lot. If you have doubts about the organizers of a show, listen to your instincts. If the show's website is still not updated from the year before, that's a clue. If they come out and tell you the show still isn't full, but they're working on it. That's a clue. If you tell show buddies that you're doing the show and they roll their eyes...big clue. If the organizer says she's not putting a link to your website on the show website so you don't get spammed? Run.

I'm not blaming the organizers for the weather, obviously. I sincerely appreciated the effort they made to alert us all to the coming storm and get us safe. The Security Guards were on task and helpful both days.

But you have to advertise a show. You have to keep the quality of work up. If you can't "fill a show", just make it a little smaller. You need to have a website that is up to date and full of information about the show and the artists that will be there.

I remember when I was eighteen and I tried Peppermint Schnapps with a beer chaser. Never gonna do that again. I always wanted to try this show. I've tried it. Sometimes you try new things and they bring you joy. Sometimes you throw up into your shoes.




meanwhile, in Buffalo

There was a photo walk last week. A bunch of folks walking the city with cameras. There were similar walks all over the world. The winner here was taken in my very own neighborhood, just a few blocks up the road.



You might want to click on this one.

It occurs to me that the people who make fun of Buffalo have probably never been here.

Thanks to photographer Terry Cervi for capturing this vision of my hometown.

cue the locusts-part 1

I mean, seriously, it's the only thing we have not had to endure this season. I feel like Helen Hunt in that movie about storm chasers. A storm coming? Cool! put me in a little nylon tent with a metal frame and send in lightning. I can handle it.

This weekend we set up in the charming town of Canandaigua on a Finger Lake of the same name, right along the shoreline. Ah, feel those lake breezes. Remember them.

I have been considering this show for a decade but it was always a conflict or I forgot the deadline or something. This year I remembered, but the ensuing dance with the organizer of the show over apps not confirmed and a phone number that only gave you a message that the voice mail was full and emails that went unanswered for weeks resulting in decisions made that caused more problems when the email was finally answered and on and on. The Universe was speaking to me and I kept saying shush.

So, our assigned set up was Friday afternoon. This meant an extra 90 mile commute each way for us since the show started on Saturday, but we didn't mind. Oh, if only we could have seen the future.

We picked up our sign in packet and we were able to pull the van up right behind our spot. That was great. Some spots have long "dolly-in" spots. I was feeling lucky. The setting was beautiful, the sun was out, but uh-oh. As I took a video of the idyllic setting, I noticed the sky.

But we soldiered on, got the rig up and secured, then headed back home where I could finish up some last minute details, get a good sleep, and be ready for the show weekend. We decided to take the Beetle to the show Saturday morning instead of the van because we had already transported all the big stuff. Great. That would save gas.

We were halfway there when Russell turns to me and says "How will we get the show home?" I was perplexed. What did he mean? We'll just pack it up as always and stow it in the van. The van that was in Buffalo. And we were spending the night in Canandaigua. There was a moment of stunned silence as the reality sank in, followed by several miles of laughter. It was too late to turn back, he would have to go fetch it on Sunday. So much for saved gas.

But, ya know, the fact that we could laugh about it...it's a great thing.

If a storm had formed overnight there was no evidence of it Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day. We had high hopes. There were customers early. The show wasn't packed with people, but the ones that were there seemed to be buying. I was encouraged. Sadly, by noon, the crowd was very thin. (Note: beware of a show that advertises "no crowds". Seriously. That was one of the attributes this show proudly announces)

We were blessed with great neighbors and that lake view and good weather. And then, right as we were getting ready to button up for the night, the wind hit.

This was no "gust", this was sustained wind that knocked shelves of pottery to the ground with a sickening crash, that lifted a 10X20 tent off it's moorings, that had people chasing their product across the lawn. The sky darkened again and the problem was what to do.

The man with the 10X20 that lifted, went to the edge of the lake and transported a half dozen huge boulders to his spot and tied them to the frame. We were all impressed that he could carry them. As his neighbors helped keep the canopy from flying, he secured the sides and center with his makeshift weight system. It worked.

I was too worried to just button up and go. We dismantled the display and stowed it in the "good" canopy of our neighbors and left just the frame up. We would come early Sunday to set up yet again. And then Russell would have to drive to Buffalo to get the van and come back. Are we having fun yet?

...to be continued....