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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 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 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"


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.


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.


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


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


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!