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Tuesday, December 21

buying time

What would an extra day cost? I just need one. Really. One more day to bake, to wrap, to shop. It's not a lot to ask, is it? One day?

Can you work Wednesday, Thursday and Friday? my boss asked. Sure.

What was I thinking?

At least the tree is up. A perfect little 4 ft frasier fir. It sits on a table by the french doors and it makes me smile. We found it at Home Depot of all places. It was tied up and leaning on a crate far from the other trees. It called to me. We rescued it, brought it home, and it warmed up and fell into a perfectly symmetrical miniature of a big tree. We put big lights on it, just to be sassy, and favorite ornaments and a string of silver mardi gras beads. She's a beauty.



Stress is part of the holidays, I think. If you're not feeling it, you're forgetting to do something. No other explanation. For years I would have CHristmas Eve at my house, but as the family moved on and out, that fell by the wayside. Now we gather on Christmas Day, my tiny family. It has been just us and my brother's family for years, but now my son lives closer and we will have yet another holiday with him and his fiance. It is such a gift.

And just like that, priorities shift and click into place and it dawns on me that even if I don't bake one cookie, it will not matter to anyone but me. We will still come together and eat and drink and open presents and tell bad jokes and tease. There will be snow. Sounds perfect.

OK, I'm off to bake now. Suddenly it feels like the best way to spend a Winter morning.

Thursday, December 16

gathering

I am gathering little gifts for my little family. My ancestors, paternal and maternal both, were not prolific reproducers. My brother and I each produced one perfect kidlet. We have lost family members, some way too soon. And so our immediate group can fit into a minivan and have room left over for a hitchhiker.

As my brother and I grew older, it became almost silly to gift each other. There were no things that we wanted that we did not already own. So, we present token gifts to the kids and try relentlessly to find something for Mom that she won't wrinkle her nose at.

Now that my son is expanding our group with the addition of a wife, there is a renewed sense of family. We have gathered with her family and enjoyed them. I love the woman my son has chosen. When they speak of having kids, my heart swells.

They mentioned over Thanksgiving that they wanted to upgrade their iPhones and it was the perfect time to take them to the phone store to get them and scratch that item off the to-do list.



So, no shopping for their gifts. But what I love to do every year is stuff stockings. For my son and his fiance and their dogs and my nephew. It is my fun time. I love searching odd places for fun stuffers. Gathering smiles, I think. Finding the perfect silliness for one of them tickles me, fills me with Christmas spirit.

And I find that while I'm doing this fun shopping, I am really thinking about these loved ones. Sensing them. This will make him smile, I think. This will turn into a family joke. She will love this little trinket. I might not have such a fun time if the family was larger. When the kids were small, shopping was basically checking off requested items from a list while walking the aisle of Toys r Us.

Now it takes imagination.Now, I draw them closer as I turn a tiny trinket in my hand and picture the laughter. It makes me think of what makes each of them tick. It is somehow more intimate, affectionate than schlepping through a mall looking for the perfect "wow" gift.

My brother says that in the midst of all the largess of Christmas, my nephew looks forward most to my annual stocking. He wonders how old he will have to get before I stop making one for him. Silly boy. Never. I will just add one for your wife some day, and then your kids.

Gathering you all close, keeping your smiles in my heart.

Sunday, December 12

sit. stay.

We had fun at our last show of the year. A small, church show with really fine work for sale and a organization that fed and pampered us and even toasted at the end with a selection of fine wines. By that time I knew I would not be cooking that night. My still-broken foot was throbbing and my back hurt from sitting in a folding chair all day. Plus, the cast that was in place to immobilize the foot, gave new reason for my bad knee to act up.

I am not telling you this to get sympathy. I am setting the stage for what followed.

Russell dropped me off at the door of one of the neighborhood's most popular restaurants and I hobbled in to give our name to the keeper of the gate. There were people waiting, but it looked like a whole lot of people in 2 or 3 groups. Maybe the wait would not be horrible. Or so I hoped, because there was no place to sit. The bench was packed end to end with what appeared to be one family. Mom at one end, Dad at the other, a flock of children between them. The kids ranged from about 10 to 17 and all were engrossed in one form of electronic amusement or another. Except for one boy who was actually reading a book! Wonder of wonders.




I took this picture with my phone. Look at what it shows. All those feet, none of them in a cast. Most of them belonging to young kids, the rest to their parental units. I looked in the bar for an empty stool. No luck. I leaned against the end of the bench, but there was really no relief there. Finally, I perched on the edge of a windowsill directly across from the sitters. SInce the windowsill was maybe 3 inches wide and my butt is at least 2 inches bigger than that, it wasn't much help. But it allowed me the opportunity to lean back a bit and extend my casted leg out towards the sitters.

You see, it was incredible to me that not one of them was going to offer me a seat on that bench.

I stared down the Dad who was mesmerized by my "boot" because he kept staring at it. The Mom ignored me, apparently invested emotionally in the video game the middle child was playing.

Now, I don't know about you, but if I was 40 years old, healthy, uninjured, sitting on a bench, and a person hobbling about in a walking cast was standing across from me looking pained, it would be impossible for me to keep sitting there. Wouldn't you hop up and say, oh, golly,what did you do to your leg? Here, take this seat.

Of course you would.

Not this crew. And the lesson to the kids? I guess it was that if you're lucky enough to be sitting down, don't let anyone guilt you into making you stand? They will most likely grow up to be the people who never let anyone into a line of traffic, who bring 47 items into the 10 or less line, who never hold the door open for anyone.

The wait turned out to be shorter than I feared, the food was excellent and I even treated myself to a glass of wine. The sitters didn't ruin my night, they made me grateful for the cushy booth, the perfect salmon and the knowledge that our kids would never sit while an injured person stood before them.

Right, kids?

Wednesday, December 8

elizabeth

I did not know Elizabeth Edwards. I don't move in those circles. Her life could not be more different from mine. She was accomplished and privileged and celebrated. I am capable, lucky and anonymous.

But I know her. She became real to me when she steadfastly refused to believe her husband was the dog he was later proven to be. That blind trust thing is powerful. Been there.

Her refusal to be defined by an illness or a smarmy husband made me really respect this stranger. Her fight for Universal Health Care was inspiring and welcomed. She seemed like a very cool lady.

I will admit to reading Andrew Young's book about John Edwards and the scandal with that woman. (Elizabeth always asked in interviews that the woman's name not be mentioned and I will respect that here in my little blog, too) He said Elizabeth was not the saint the public perceives. She lost her temper! She got mad at him for pretending to be the baby daddy!

Of all the nerve.

They say John was at her side when she passed. I wonder why. I'll never know.

There was so much more to her than a deceived wife who outclassed the deceiver. But it was that crushing reality that made her one of us. Just an ordinary woman, fighting to save her life. And her love.

I wish her family peace. I wish her children the comfort of memories. If it is true that our souls reunite with loved ones who passed before us, she is with her son. I wish that to be true.




Monday, December 6

Gilda Weekend

I think everyone has heard the story about how Gilda Radner, after battling cancer for some time, said to her husband, Gene Wilder, that it was like being in a club nobody wanted to belong to. Gilda's Club was established as a support facility for those living with cancer and, in Buffalo, it is a beautiful facility bringing comfort and support and beauty to everyone who comes through the door of the renovated mansion.

Every Christmas for some years now, there has been "Gingerbread, Glitz and Gifts", an event in which I have honored to participate for most of those years. My dear friend, Annie Bliss, is instrumental in making this a genius shopping weekend with a beautifully choreographed selection of artisans selling everything from designer jewelry to spices. You absolutely cannot go there without buying a gift for somebody. 20% of everything sold is donated back to Gilda's Club.

I love this show for the good sales and the good friends that are part of the mix. I said to someone over the weekend that one of the best things about being in this business is the people you get to be with "on the job". And so it was this weekend. It was hard to spend just a moment away saying "Hi" to a fellow exhibitor because you either got into a long conversation or ran into someone else and then someone else and there was laughing and gossip and commiseration.

Anyway, I was happy to be on the first floor, what with the walking cast and all, and I think I worked up a decent display for my "mini-mall"



Sales were good, but would have been better had I been able to make up more product. As my friend, Anne, said, I need to cut myself some slack I guess. I feel great, but I'm finding it hard to make up for lost time. So be it.

Some random shots of the event. Still learning the new camera. No I have not read the manual yet. Oh shush.







The season is rapidly coming to a close. One more show and then the "off season" begins. It has been quite a year. Ending the year at this bneautiful place, surrounded by some of my favorite people, leaves me (as one of my show buddies put it) all verklempt.

So let's have a chuckle, shall we?



Oh, how you are missed, Gilda. Hope we did you proud this weekend.

Monday, November 29

Thanks a lot-really

This Thanksgiving was going to be special. We were invited to share the day with the family of my son's fiance. After all, come August we would be a family and it was time for us to come together, toast the engagement of our kids, celebrate our blessings.

OK, I was a little nervous about it. I wanted them to like us. I wanted to like them. I love their daughter and I am over the moon that she and Billy are getting married.

So, off we went to Rochester, my brother driving us in his behemoth SUV, the GPS lady chirping instructions. We came bearing pies and ratatouille and wine.

What was it like? Well, it was everybody's dog waiting for something to drop



It was tons of food from everyone's kitchen



It was chilling after dinner with football and new toys



It was desert and coffee



It was the joy of watching the love between the children we shared



There was laughter and teasing and conversation.

It was family.

Tuesday, November 23

picture this

My camera died. A few years ago I was looking to buy a decent camera and a friend offered to sell me hers since she had recently purchased a better one. Hers was considerably better than the one I was using, so I went for it and it has been a loyal companion ever since.

But it stopped charging its battery and I missed a gazillion shots on vacations waiting for the thing to turn on. I put "new camera" on my list of things to consider buying when I had a good show.

I had a good show last weekend and I bought this one:




I am not an accomplished photographer by any stretch, but people say I have "a good eye". I started a companion blog "morning lens" as an incentive to practice the art. I had an encyclopedic manual for the old camera, but my eyes would blur after 2 pages of technical stuff I could not decipher to save my life. I just wanted to take pictures, I wanted the experience of seeing life in a new way, which is what happens when you tote a camera around. You develop a different perception. You start to really SEE. I loved what happened to my brain when I was actively taking photos.

I can't imagine what I would have done if I had actually learned to use the thing.

So, this time, I decided to Read. The. Manual. And not go further into the book or use the camera until each page had been read, understood and practiced. I was encouraged by the first chapter which was entitled "Take the camera out of the box"

I got the camera yesterday morning. So far I have learned to take the camera out of the box, attach the strap and set the language.

But I am determined. Determined to be able to take pictures of the first robin. Because I'm thinking the coming holidays may remain undocumented while I plod through the endless chapters of the manual. And I'm missing the elegant simplicity of my first camera, a Christmas gift from my parents. The Polaroid Swinger.



Boy, did I think that thing was amazing. I still have the tiny pictures of my friends that I took endlessly that year. I have them in a special Polaroid album and if you lift the pockets up a bit you can still get a whiff of eau de polaroid which sends you on an immediate trip back in time.

The instructions, if I remember, were just printed on the box.

Good times.

Monday, November 22

The old and the new

The "old" is the Kenan Center Holiday Gift Show which I do whenever they let me and is usually one of my better shows of the year. I've blogged about it before, but I'll risk boring the 4 people who read this blog with some pertinent details.

The event is held on an arts campus which is anchored by a beautiful Victorian mansion. They decorate the beshootsis out of the place so it all looks like something out of Dickens. Christmas Carols fill the air. The mansion has artists in all the rooms, from the front parlor to the ladies parlor to the kitchen. Upstairs, the bedrooms host more. It is very festive. I've been in that location a couple of times, but I prefer the Education Building which is just down the path and has lots more breathing room. Across from our building was yet another, the Theater and Greenhouse. It is all just too precious for words.

This was the 30th anniversary of the show. Any event with that kind of tradition is sure to bring in a nice crowd of shoppers. And it did. Of course, getting those shoppers to actually pull out money and buy stuff can be a challenge these days, but enough of them did to make my weekend a good one. Phew!

Now, the "new" is very cool. I had heard of a device for taking credit card payments that was too great to believe. A little "doggle" the size of a quarter that plugs into your iPhone's earbud jack. You swipe the card through it. It authorizes the sale, the customer signs on the face of the phone using a fingertip. Done.

I mean. Come. On!

So, of course, I ordered one. It was free, the discount rate per sale is less than what I was paying. I read everything I could about it and it seemed to be legit and the company was solving problems quickly if they appeared. It is supported through Apple and I bet Steve Jobs doesn't let anything pop up on iTunes or work on his phones without vetting it to the max first. I couldn't wait to try it. I wondered how the customers would react to it. What would I do if they sniffed at the idea of transmitting this data over a phone line. (Never mind that it's done every day. Usually we don't see how these things are done. You hand over your credit card and the server walks off with it. You expect that they are charging your soup/ salad/breadstick lunch but they just as easily be booking passage on a cruise ship to the Aleutians.)

Well, the gizmo worked great. The customers loved it. Signing with a fingertip seemed to be the cherry on top for many of them. More than one person chirped "There's an app for that!" Each time I pretended that was the first time I heard it.

So, I went to an old familiar place where I proceeded to leap headfirst into the future, technologically speaking.

Cutting edge, that's me.

(You can see the doggle at http://www.squareup.com)

Tuesday, November 16

breaking with tradition

Christkindle Market, Canandaigua, NY

You have to keep trying new shows every year because you never know if the next one will be the great one. I usually try for one that I think might be "over my head" and often I am surprised to get in. Other times, you go for a show that a lot of your peers do which means it can't be too bad.

This weekend I did the latter. A pretty Christmas show that a lot of people I know do and they speak in glowing terms about the organizers and the venue. The rest is up to us.

A Christkindle Market is a German tradition which explains all the German Food in the food tent. That took me a while. Sad, eh? The show was held in Camelot tents that promised to be heated and cozy. Well, they were cozy. And pretty.



The volunteers were awesome, dashing about with their Santa caps and offering help. There wasn't much more they could have done. The event was promoted well and run beautifully, but people just didn't spend enough to make it good for us. So be it. I had fun. A good friend across the aisle, another close by. Many art buddies in the house. DInner at a cozy Italian place with friends on Saturday. It was really OK. And then Sunday happened.

We tried to find a nice place for breakfast in town but it was getting late and I suggested we just go to the venue and get food there. The Strudel place had a breakfast sandwich.

And that's what I was looking for when it happened. Staring at the booth as we walked along the sidewalk, I neglected to see the drop off from path to gravel to sunken grass and, before I knew it, the ground was coming up to meet me. People came running, brushing off my black cords which caused serious discomfort to my bruised leg until I yelled "stop it!" I've fallen before
so I knew I'd be sore tomorrow but when I took a step, I knew there was going to be more. That foot felt broken, baby. $%^&*#

I hobbled to my spot with help from Russell (the show must go on) and proceeded to get tended to by so many artists and volunteers I felt like a queen. Or a pathetic broken person. Pick it. I sort of went back and forth about that all day. They brought me ice and an ace bandage and a blanket and more ice and juice and aspirin. They hugged me and cooed over me. All. Day.

I was too tired to stop to have it looked at at the end of the show and I had chemo the next day so I wanted to be rested. We were chatting with Karen, my PA, before my appointment and she said we should look at the foot which she did and we all saw the same thing. A fat, blue, swollen ham hanging off the end of my ankle. Oops. OK, she says, we are gonna xray that thing, which they did.

The xray tech said that nothing "jumped out at" her as broken, so I was surprised when Karen popped her head in my chemo room, announcing gayly "You broke your tootsie, Tootsie" But, she assured me, it didn't look bad enough for a cast or anything, but she wanted me to see an Orthopedic person to have it evaluated and followed up on to make sure it healed.

So off we went this afternoon to yet another doctor ( I have been healthy and doctor free for decades. Now I'm a groupie) and just to prove the point that only the experts can really tell you what the scoop is, I walked out of there wearing this charming baby:



So, I came, I saw, I stumbled. Had I stayed in the neighborhood, done my usual show (Women's Gifts) I would have made more money and my foot would be whole.

Of course I would be without the charming "ski boot" that seems to make people in crowded places more polite than usual. I love being an object of pity.

This weekend is Kenan Christmas. Always a good one for me. No hotels. No huge gas expense. No broken sidewalks.

Of course, if I've learned anything lately, it is to not take anything for granted. I haven't checked the weather report for this weekend yet. Do they predict locusts?

Wednesday, November 10

measuring loss

It was a bad time to take a few days off to drive down to Long Island and visit with the family. Two big shows in 2 weeks and not nearly enough stuff to make it worthwhile. I needed to be chained to my work table. But we needed to connect, see for ourselves, how things had changed since we were there last.

In July, everyone was well. (Or we thought we were). It was a festive time and it was a real kick for me, coming from a family you could count on your fingers, to see this virtual army of relatives descend. But now it was Fall and things had changed.

At first, all seemed well. We got in at night and everyone was heading for bed. Saturday morning seemed normal and the day was filled with visits from the sibs, lots of conversation and laughter. Political talk, medical talk, family talk. It may have been too much.

In the morning we had to go for breakfast quickly. No time to shower. Now. Now. She's afraid to stay here. Afraid to stay in a house you've lived in for 60 years? Off we went. And then we started to see it.

"Who is that sitting on your lap?" "Why is the waitress carrying all those flowers?" "Who is that man behind you?"

Well, I thought, she really is legally blind. Macular degeneration. The bad kind. That must be it.

But then, at home, she leaned over the table and whispered to me that people were coming into the house at night, taking it over and she didn't know why the landlord allowed it. They banged pots around and kept her awake. Then, in the morning, they left.

I said, no, that was Russell and me. We spent the night. We made tea after you went to bed. That was us you heard.

She narrowed her eyes and leaned closer. "I'm not stupid", she hissed, "I know you were here. THEY come every night. You didn't hear them?"

No, I didn't hear them, I thought. And I didn't see the little girl sitting on the couch and I know that nobody stole your tool shed and I know with certainty that a woman I loved like a mother is leaving my life. I can touch her. I gave her kisses when we left. Tight hugs. But she isn't there.

I wish I knew how to get her back. I miss talking to her, sharing good books to read, working crossword puzzles, debating politics and religion, gossiping benignly about people I never met.

We learn to accept the fact that we will lose people we love. But this loss breaks your heart in advance.

Meanwhile, theories are tossed about. Maybe it was the fall she took, maybe the green tea, maybe the cough medicine.

But, one voice, clear and strong says it is the cycle of life and we need to work on accepting that.

He's probably right, but few of us are ready to begin that work.

On the ride home, we talked about it some and pondered it a lot. There is so little anyone can do. So we will wait and see what happens next. It is an uneasy time.

Along Rte 17, signs were everywhere that the iconic roadside antique and flea market shop that has distracted drivers on their way to NYC for decades was closing. Big sale! Let's stop, I said, it may be gone the next time we pass by.

So we did. And bought a heavy iron coat hook thingy to hang by the back door. I wandered through the rooms, looking for the big sales, but most of their things were still too expensive for me. But interesting. Always interesting. I hope the new shop is on an interstate, too. A little piece of whimsy on the long, endless highway.

As we left I asked Russell to wait while I took a picture. To remember the place. I think the first time I stopped there was just before I started college. Could that be possible? Well, whenever it was, I certainly would never have been able then to imagine the shiny iPhone I was using to take the picture.

"The name of the place is sort of ironic this weekend, isn't it?" I asked Russell and we looked back at the sign.

Wednesday, November 3

A New Gallery, an Old Friend

Some years ago I met a woman who was in charge of organizing an art show at a suburban art and nature center. We didn't know each other before, but somehow over the course of participating in the show over a period of a few years we became friendly. That's how it often is in this business. We are connected through art and commerce. We "get" each other.

So, anyway, the little show was a delight to do and many established artists adopted it. Then, one year, a whole new crew was in charge and she was elsewhere. I spoke to her after that and expressed what so many artists had said. That she had made the show what it was and her loss would end the show. And it did.

She went on to bigger and better things. An accomplished collage artist herself, she went on to manage another gallery, a gift shop, she moved on. She visited many of the art shows I do and we always were happy to see each other and she almost always bought something from me.

This Summer she wrote and said she had opened her own gallery and would I be part of it? I was thrilled to be asked. Then all that other stuff happened, so I was late to the party, but I got things made and Russell and I went there to drop them off.

What a delight. She had opened up the rooms in what had been a fairly typical suburban box house. There were "shutters" made of glass with painted panels, a door with a mural, a crayon box of colors highlighting the exterior. Shiny, buttery wooden floors, sunlight through unadorned windows, clean, bright spaces for hung work. I was proud to be part of it.

Not all these venues are run very professionally. Art and commerce can mix but it is often a struggle. Not this time. We have spread sheets and updates and accountability. Yowza! :)

She sent an update a few days ago with news and a list of who would be getting checks this week and I was one of the lucky ones. That was nice to see and it made me think again about putting more of my things in shops and galleries.

Problem is, I don't know exactly how to do it. I am reluctant to approach the owners of these places. Like I'm suddenly shy or something? The funny part is that they have already approached me, usually during my busiest time...at art shows...with a card and a number to call and compliments about my work. I know. So what is the problem? Beats me. Russell says he'll be my "agent" and reconnect with these folk, but he gets busy, too.

And I think how nice it would be to get not just one check this month, but 10. That adds up! Yes, I know this is only a revelation to me. I'm going to work on it. Really.

For now I am going to enjoy my one gallery, take pleasure in my one check.

Because it comes from someone who never stopped believing in her art and the art of her colleagues. Someone who has supported my small efforts with praise and purchase.

And the name of the place is just so perfect for my life right now:


Go. Look. Schmooze. Buy. Say Hi to Paulette. Tell her Pat sent you.

Monday, November 1

Luck is in the heart of the beholden.

Now, where were we?

It was August and I was doing the Elmwood show, hoping to make enough money so that our annual trip across the country would be a good one. It was and it was.

Well, for a bit, anyway.

This is gonna be a long one, get refreshments.

Our rental in Oregon was a contemporary flat with an open floor plan, floods of sunlight and a good kitchen (always important to me) and a big cozy bed. We reunited with the kids, planned a birthday party for our 3 year old grandson. I made big pots of spaghetti and huge salads for everyone and we sat around the table and laughed and ate and drank. We would take residence at the beach house the next week and we were all really excited.

But when the birthday party came, a couple of days later, I was barely able to get the food done before I had to excuse myself and take to that big cozy bed. I listened to the party happening from behind the closed door and wondered what was wrong. Truth be told, I hadn't felt well for a while, but I didn't want to spoil our vacation. It could wait. Not.

The next sentence is not for the queasy:

The next day, trying valiantly to soldier on, my body rebelled and, trying to keep the flat's furniture unsoiled, I aspirated vomit into both lungs.

Within an hour or so, my ability to breathe was so compromised that Russell rushed me to the emergency room. I could only manage teeny bits of air and I could not talk at all. An odd calm came over me. I focused on the road, on seeing the lights of the hospital come into view, on the wheelchair that magically appeared, on the immediate admittance to a treatment room, on the bustle of the uniforms around me, on the different masks that were pressed to my face to force air and blessed oxygen into my lungs.

After that, no matter what happened, I would accept it with equanimity and calm. The gift of breath had changed me in some immeasurable way that I have been looking to describe ever since.

This, of course, is not the story. Except to tell you that the staff told Russell he had gotten me there just in time. Another 20 minutes, and there would have been a much different outcome. They might not have been able to save me.

So, I was lucky. Very lucky.

Of course, the doctors now needed to find out what had caused me to be so sick. There were tests, a CAT scan, a tube in my nose, in my bladder, in my arms. I hummed complacently. Waiting.

The kind-eyed doctor told me there was a blockage. It might be Krohns, it might be scar tissue, it might be...."cancer?" I asked.

Most likely, he answered, but survivable. Survivable, he repeated.

OK, I said calmly.

It was cancer, of course. But he leaned over me in recovery and told me that he had removed it all and that from what he could see while playing around in there, there was no more. It would depend on the lymph nodes.

Lucky once again.

And then so many staff asked us over the next few days how we had managed to get that surgeon and it turns out he is their best, people wait months to get him. He is never in the ER, but that night he was. He took an interest in my case for some reason and signed on to do the surgery.

Lucky.

Because of where the blockage was and how he was able to remove it, I was spared needing a colostomy bag.

So lucky.

There was no pain after surgery, I had an epidural for a few days. By the time they took it out, it was over. They stood by with Vicodin, but I never needed it.

I will skim past the next six days except to report that because I had no appetite for a while (I was hungry but the meds made food taste like metal shavings or something)and they were insisting I ingest something, I opted for a container of chocolate milk that was so sweet and soothing and lush I have craved it ever since. The obsession has been calming down a bit, but I still keep a half gallon of low fat chocolate in the fridge. It comforts me.

And during those days I was kept company by my Russell, of course. He even slept in a chair by my bed during the worst of it. But I was also blessed by seeing the children several times. They smiled at me and joked and I could see the worry behind the smiles and I felt loved. Some friends we usually see once a year but who live in our hearts daily, came by, sat and chatted. The phone rang and rang. My family, Russell's family, friends. Phone lines carrying concern and love, warming me. Russell's family sent a generous gift to make sure we stopped often enough at the right kinds of hotel on the journey home.

My son hopped a plane literally hours after hearing the news and he stayed with me a few days, asking all the right questions of the doctors and using the correct terminology so that even if he got the answer right in front of me I had no clue what had been said. At first I had not wanted him to come. I would be OK. I didn't want to bother him. But having him there, my sonshine, brought me such joy.

In contrast, the sweet older lady next to me couldn't rouse anyone to just bring her some clothes to go home in. I still think about her.

And it reminds me how lucky I am.

So, as it turns out, there were lymph nodes affected and I would want chemo, the surgeon said. I was "too young" to skip it. I glowed under the mantle of "too young" for a bit. And tried not to worry. He asked again where I lived. A lot of folks in the Pacific Northwest respond to the info that you are from New York as if you had said "the 4th ring of Saturn". Not this doctor. He smiled and said "Buffalo! Roswell!" and I smiled back. Yes, Roswell.

http://www.nccn.org/members/profiles/roswell.asp

Lucky.

Then it was time to go home. And home was 3000 miles away. I was 6 days post-op with a stapled together zipper up my belly that spanned from above the belly button to lower than a bikini bottom would start. (Like I would even know where that was. Pfft.) At this point I had only walked with a PT guy holding onto a woven belt that he had strapped across my chest. He followed behind me as if he was walking a chubby llama in hospital garb that might bolt at any minute. But we navigated the nurse's station and the next day I walked up 4 stairs and he was glowing with accomplishment. "where do you live again?" he asked. And he paled at the response.

But home we went. To test my ability to be safe outside the warm cocoon of Good Samaritan Hospital, we only traveled to Portland that first day. Our dear buddy, Linda, offered her guest room and veggie lasagna and off we went.

But first, we stopped at WalMart. I had to. I needed sweat pants with a loose waist to pull up over my zipper. And slip-on shoes. Picture this. Jammie pants with a torn bottom and stains from the ordeal, an oversized Sabres Jersey, slipper socks from the hospital because my feet were too swollen for shoes, multi colored wrist bands I had forgotten I was wearing, a borrowed cane that was spray painted gold and had skateboard logos on it that looked slightly sinister, hair that hadn't been washed in over a week.

And nobody in WalMart looked at me twice.

Once I was outfitted, we continued on, slowly, minding the bumps in the road, the seat belt fastened over a pillow resting on my zipper. Quincy was safely penned behind a travel gate, taking up the entire 3rd row of seats. Whenever Russell expressed sadness at the dog's exile, I reminded him that the dog had considerably more room than I.

Linda's Portland condo was warm and welcoming and cozy. The lasagna was stellar. I made it up an entire flight of stairs without a problem and settled into her lush guest bed and welcomed sleep without beeps or 4am wake-ups for blood pressure checks. We had a lazy breakfast and take-off and I was relaxed, knowing we could do it.

How lucky to have such a friend.

So, off we went, Cross country in a few more days than normal. Seat belt fastened over the pillow. We tried to stop early every night because I found that too many hours in the car made me tired and uncomfortable.
Russell was my dresser and aide, running for anything I needed, tending to my zipper, helping me get around. I do wish, though, that I had video of him valiantly to get the surgical stockings on my swollen legs. Priceless. Luckily that swelling thing didn't last long. After a couple of days, food started to taste good again and we made a Herculean effort to find restaurants along the interstate that served healthy food. That was a futile exercise, but we did find out that Denny's has two for one specials on Thursday for us geezers.

I looked at him over our Senior grilled cheese and tomato soup and wondered at how I got so lucky.

No, not lucky. Blessed. Mightily blessed.

Almost home, but first a stop in Ann Arbor to stay a couple of days with my boy and his fiance. I was feeling almost normal by then and so we went out for lunch with Leisha followed by grocery shopping and then I made dinner for us all. Cooking makes me feel like all is right with the world, and while we sat and ate and talked and laughed at the dogs trying every trick they knew to get us to drop something, it felt that way. Like nothing was wrong. I watched the love flow between them and it filled me with joy. They had waited a dozen years to come back together and here they were, in their cozy MIchigan home, planning an August wedding.

Grace surrounded us all that night.

But reality waited. Home. Doctors. Scans. Tests. Odds. Answers. Questions. Fear. Optimism. Resignation. Defiance. Hope. I wanted to never get there. I wanted to get there now. I wanted to know. I never wanted to know.

First stop was my Mom's house. She needed to see me, touch me, know I was well. My brother and his wife came and he hugged me tight and kissed and kissed me. We were all happy to be in each other's company.

I called Roswell the next morning and they made me an appointment. A month away. I was floored. But they had volumes of info, DVD's, reports, probably my permanent record from Junior High. They knew what they were doing.

I tried to use the 4 weeks to refresh and relax. I found it hard to plan for my upcoming shows because everything after October 24th was a huge, black, throbbing question mark that I couldn't see past. I had an appointment with my regular Dr and he unstapled my zipper, thank you very much, and pronounced me healthy and strong. He was advising me on diet and when he heard that we already ate that way (vegetarian except for fish, in love with broccoli and spinach, etc) he remarked that was "probably why the tumor didn't
take off".

I replayed that phrase in my head a lot. A lot. It didn't take off. :)

Finally the first appointment came and it was OK, actually. Not too much poking and prodding, mostly conversation. A kindly, soft-spoken Oncologist and his equally charming partner. There would be chemo because without it this cancer recurs in 70% after 5 years. WIth it, Less than 30. Considering our diet, less than that. OK then. I pondered whether I would get a short wig or go glam.

Then he said that this chemo has few side effects. No hair loss. Probably no nausea but they would give me a prescription to have on hand just in case. The worst would be sensitivity to the cold.

Seriously.

Now I'm wondering when this amazing run of luck would run out and he said I would go up for a scan, dye would be injected. Cancer cells would glow. If they found anything in the organs (God forbid, he whispered) they would adjust the treatment. Aha, I thought. This is it. The moment I overdraw the Karma bank.

So, I was dyed and scanned and handed my chemo schedule and sent on my way. As if I had been there for a mani/pedi.

And, finally, we are at today. If you are still with me, that is.

First was a short visit to my clinic for a look over before chemo.

I handed over my schedule and the nurse asked if anyone had gone over my scan report with me. No. So, that's why you're here, she said and I felt my gut clench and my foot started tapping.

After waiting in silence except for the thrumming in my ears, Karen came in. A sweet, caring PA who explained to me that if they did a scan on HER right now they would find odd little lumps and bumps and scars and oddities that would be of no concern at all. And then she said that my scan was like that. Nothing untoward. A scar on my kidney probably really old. Nothing.

I felt the huge balloon that had been crowding my gut deflate and life became real again.

They say some people, when faced with a serious illness, cry "why me?" I never felt that. Why NOT me?

But this. This run of blessings has me asking why I was gifted with so much luck. I look around at some of the other people in this Hospital and ...well, you know.

The journey is not over. Anything can happen. I know that. But right now, this chilly Autumn night is filled with hope and grace and gratitude.

And that is where I have been.

This is not going to be a cancer blog. We shall return to our regularly scheduled meanderings. Illness will be in the footnotes, not the topic.

I am getting ready for 2 Christmas shows in the next 3 weeks and then we are having Thanksgiving with the family of my future daughter-in-law so that we can all get to know each other. And then another show.

The next few entries will be about that and about my visit to Hollanders in Ann Arbor. Mecca for book artists. Gorgeous papers, tools, books about books. I may have made a fool of myself there but I was prepared to reveal my zipper if anyone questioned my sanity.

Funny thing about u-turns. While you're reversing direction, you might notice some things that you missed while driving headlong straight away. Things you knew were there, but they blur in the periphery of what you thought was important.

I have been turned around, made to look and to say thank you. For all of it. For all of them.

Friday, October 1

u-turns

I will be back as soon as I can write about what has been happening in a funny, interesting way. It will be worth the wait!

Thursday, August 26

flying solo

My last Summer show of the year, one of my very favorites, is this weekend. It's a pretty important one because the quality of our upcoming vacation depends on how well it goes. We will either be spending nights at the local Best Western or in the back of the van! Such is the life of someone who earns her living without any guarantees.

This show, The Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts, happens just blocks from my front door and it celebrates the neighborhood I love. It started about 10 years ago, very informally. I got a call at work from an artist friend who asked if I wanted to do a new show. One day. In the neighborhood. Oh, sure. There is a conventional wisdom that you never do a new show in its first year, but since it was local and being organized by people I knew and liked, I went for it. Besides, I was pretty new at the game myself back then. From the first year, this was a show to love and I have been lucky enough to be able to do it every year since.

But this year there is a glitch. Russell, my partner in love and life and art will not be here. He works with Veterans for Peace and their convention is this same weekend in Maine. There was no thought of asking him to stay here, the cause is too dear to his heart, too important. So, it will be me running the show, alone, for the first time.

Lots of people do shows alone. Men, women, older, younger, schlepping and toting and building and selling, smiles on their faces, no pity asked. I am not one of those people. I like that Russell takes charge of the heavy lifting. That he figures out how to secure stuff using basic physics. I love that he takes care of me, telling me to sit and relax while he totes heavy equipment to the van or puts the sides up on the tent. I am loved and spoiled and I am thankful for that every day.

Now, I am not old and helpless. Well, I'm not helpless. But years of paper making and book binding have left me with hands that no longer have simple strengths. I now understand how to set up the Craft Hut, but I have trouble doing simple tasks, like securing the metal poles inside each other. I am also not a strong person. Some of the heavy lifting is just beyond my physical ability. I could do the show alone, but how could I set it up?

Enter another blessing of my life.

I love my neighbors so much that I have actually rerun the events that led us to be living next to them in my head and determined it was preordained. :) Marie and Jolene grew up together, moved to NY together, saw each other through triumphs and tragedies and bad marriages and love affairs good and bad, remaining best friends despite it all. There is a lot of story there, but not mine to tell. They are amazing women. Beautiful, funny, smart as hell, brave and real.

These are the kind of neighbors you trust with keys to your house and car, as well as with your truths. They are there for you. To watch the dog or call a plumber or hold your hand or offer a cold beer on a hot night. So, it was that Jolene said "I'll help!"

Are you sure? I asked. Hell, yeah. she answered. I'm strong.

That's what Russell said about her: she's strong. I always knew that, but I wasn't thinking physically. :)

And so it is that Saturday morning I will be the one to remember just how that rod secures the shelves and how the weights get strapped on. Jolene and I in the dewy early morning, muttering and cursing, I'm sure. Laughing, too. I bet. The Craft Hut is taking a break. The forecast is for perfect weather, so the little popup will be the shelter of choice, saving us a lot of construction time.

A few minutes ago, I was chatting with Jolene and her son, Joseph as they waited for their transportation to go out on a boat ride. We laughed and sang Janis Joplin and she offered to help me starting tomorrow if I needed anything. I came back in and the phone was ringing. Russell checking in with love words, stories of the beautiful people he is meeting, his voice happy and true.

It is a beautiful morning, cool and sunny, the grass and flowers shining from last night's rain. There is a sense of our little world being in sync today, all of us engaged in lovely things separately but connected to each other by love and circumstance and my heart is so full.

My blog post says "flying solo". But that's not true. That's not true at all.

Tuesday, August 24

Arts in the Gardens-Sonneberg Gardens, Canandaigua NY

Well, kids, I knew we were in for a treat when the lovely registration crew handed me my packet as we rolled in.



I joked that it looked like Chelsea Clinton's wedding invitation. Neatly arranged inside were 2 ID badges on lanyards, a festive, hand-done sign for my booth, instructions tied at the top with ribbon. Hello.

The weather was glum but promising. We knew that the next day would be rain, so we cheerfully applauded the cloudiness as some sort of gift. We were permitted to pull right up to our spot (which had several generous feet of space between the other booths..thank you!) as long as we were parked by 9:30. Parking was reserved in a lot a short distance away with each space marked with a booth number. So far I was so content I didn't care if we sold anything!

The setting for this show is beautiful.



See that mansion on the hill? That's where they had the buffet I wrote about in my last post.

Between the artist tents and that mansion, there was a beer garden, wine tasting and 2 food areas. With tables. Under tents.

Who would not want to come to this thing?

So,anyway, sales were good. Buffet was good. Fellow artists were great. The weather forecast for day 2 was dire but I was content.

We had reservations at a funky little motel in town that had lots of good reviews on line.(of course, as someone pointed out later, how many were written by the owners?) The Miami Motel,a family operation, retro and colorful and under renovation. OK.

And ya know, it WAS cute



reminded me of the places we stayed a few years ago when we drove Rte 66.

The very nice proprietor said to pull around back and he'd meet us there with the key. Room 27.

That's when reality hit




But the proprietor looked proud as he inserted the key into the lock of room 27, and with good reason. The inside was charming. The 2 double beds were in separate rooms. The alcove held a microwave and fridge and sink. Bathe was off that. It was like a suite.







This was turning into a stellar weekend. And then the rain came. When the first light peeked through the curtains, I looked out and groaned. This was not going to be good, I thought. And it wasn't



I thought there wouldn't be any chance that it would clear up. Surprisingly, it did! But this is a show with a gate and hours and by the time the rain stopped and the skies brightened, it was past time when most people would decide to come out. So attendance was very small, which affected sales, of course.

It did give us time to catch up with friends. :)

At the end, they allowed us to pull onto the grounds again which may not have been real smart although it was appreciated. The ground was so wet and some folks just don't have mud driving skills.



It hurt to see the damage done. Not fair. They worked so hard for us.

So, anyway, we did take few moments as we left to admire the grounds




and we even fed the coy



Thanks, Sonnenberg. It was an honor to be part of your show. I think by next year, you'll probably have figured out how to control the weather. :)

Saturday, August 21

Buffet-iquette

I am in Canandaigua at a gorgeous park/mansion/gardens doing a fine art show. I'll tell more about that tomorrow, but tonight I am still pondering the artists reception.

Everyone kept saying to go to the reception because they "put out quite a spread!"

Where do these terms come from, anyway? Spread? But I digress.

There are exactly 100 artists at this show. Most come with a partner, domestic or otherwise. That's 200. (There is nothing that brings artists together like free food. Except free booze and they had that, too) A few brought their kids and determined that they, also, were entitled to partake of the "spread". So now maybe 220. All the volunteers and staff, of course, were invited to the "spread", so maybe now we are at 275?

When we got to the mansion, most of the people were already sitting on the steps and at tables, eating their share of the spread. Their plates runneth over. It was a buffet. The line just to get a plate was probably 70 people long. And it was tortuous, I tell you. How can a line like this NOT move? After what seemed like hours of shuffling slowly and moving maybe 5 feet, I decided to try to figure it out. And I did.

You know how a highway can bog down just because there is something interesting on the side of the road and people slow to maybe 50 to check it out and that slow ebb and flow of speed ties up traffic for miles? Or when you have to merge lanes and some yahoos insist on driving right up to the merge, making you stop to let them in? As soon as you get in that single lane, off you go and all is well.

It's the yahoos, people. And there were yahoos in the buffet line.

When I see 50 people waiting behind me, I zip through that line, snagging bits of this and that with little thought, just to get out of the way with some food on my plate. Not these folks. No. Grape tomatoes had to be examined. Baby carrots were chosen and discarded. Bits of pineapple were moved about and pondered. And then you get to the part where there were people waiting on you which presents a new set of problems. "what is this?" It's a SANDWICH you nut job. You can even see what's in it because it is cut in sections. Unless you have never before seen turkey, spinach, tomatoes or cheese, grab it and go!

Oh, and the sushi! "Give me that one. No, no, that one. Next to that one. Yes" Here's a clue for ya. Sushi is made in long rolls. All those pieces you're subjecting to the CATscan in your head are the same. Move along!

Oh, and the cheese table, The beautiful cheese table with little cards inscribed with exactly what that cheese is, but is that good enough? Noooo. "Is this hot cheese?" Does the word "jalapeno" ring a bell there, buddy? No, you cannot sample it. This is a buffet. Everything is a sample!

So, I figured it out. Like everything else in life, the yahoos ruin it for everyone. But even they could not ruin this beautiful late Summer night on a rambling veranda in the company of artist friends speaking their own language and stocking up on free food and wine.

Life is good. Slow, but good.

Monday, August 16

chautauqua crafts alliance show

This is the one I pin my season on. It is the envelope I open with shaky fingers. Because a "no" means my best show is off the schedule and I need to find 2 to fill the gap. I also love the thing. Stellar committee, beautiful grounds, cello music in the air. It's not just the sales.

So, this year I was wait-listed much to my disappointment, but then I was called in for August, much to my hooray. Since I had virtually no shows for a full month prior, this was a much needed infusion of funds. I hoped for the best.

As it turned out, it was not the best, but it was pretty darn good. I got the last of my nagging obligations taken care of and put away a little bit for our upcoming road trip. The next 2 shows need to be good or we will be traveling with an air mattress in the back of the van!

The committee that runs this show is the best I've ever seen. They are everywhere, wearing bright red cobbler aprons, from load in to load out, helping, checking, chatting, offering. Trust me, you don't get that very often.

We were neighbors with a slightly older couple that loves Fox news but we got along anyway. We had a couple of political debates, but they were good ones. Passionate but respectful. When we left, I hugged the husband and he told me I was the nicest Liberal he ever met. Heh

Across from us, a guy who used to be one of my brother's best friends. They drifted apart, but we had fun reminiscing and we traded some of my widgets for a great wooden train set. As we were packing up, he came over with yet another car...a passenger car with little people in it...and said he thought the train needed it. He had already thrown in an extra. Our little Kylin is going to love it. His 3rd birthday happens while we are visiting next month.

Spending the weekend on the grounds means you are experiencing the music and dance from the ampitheater every time you take a short stroll for the "facilities". People are playing cellos on the lawn behind you. A big difference from the street fairs we usually do, with their porta potties and kettle corn. Not that I don't enjoy those, too. Well, except for the porta potty thing, but the grace of this show cannot be overstated.

I met a sweet lady from Virginia who came in to buy a card she had seen earlier and it was gone. We got to talking and it was one of those odd but lovely things that happens when you just connect with someone. I know she felt it too because she gave me a long, hard hug when she left. I promised to send her the card as a gift.

We spent Friday night in a cheapy "lodge" that exists mostly for fishermen. During the season, accommodations are very pricey, so we deal with lumpy beds and a kitchenette with mismatched plates and cups and glasses. A coffee pot with no filters. Bath towels the size of credit cards. Saturday night we went home for the night so I could restock. The show doesn't start until noon on Sunday, so there was time for the hour commute. It felt good to have more things on the shelves.

And now on to the last 2 shows of Summer.

Already.

Tuesday, August 10

Drudging along

OK, that may not be a word, but when when you are deep in drudgery you need a verb to describe it,

This is my least favorite part of trying to earn a living as an artisan. I don't have paintings that sell for prices with several "0"s. My widgets sell for 20, 30, 40 bucks on average so I have to sell a lot of them to make money, Which means I have to make a lot of them. By Thursday. And that spells drudgery.

I play games on myself. Buying a new paper that makes me want to see how it will look as a book. I took Saturday as an "art" day and made collage and mirrors. I wish I could make a living with just those. I truly enjoy that. But I am nothing if not realistic.

So, I spend hours just making book covers, cutting frames, covering little pieces of book board for magnets. This will be relieved somewhat when I start actually embellishing and turning the "bones" into pretty stuff.

But I have one more day of drudging. I stand at the foot of the stairs to the attic and sigh. I picture show day, under the canopy, everything all lovely and sitting seductively on shelves for the fine folks of Chautauqua. I imagine selling them, making money for our upcoming vacation. I channel the feeling I will have as I pack the finished pieces snugly into their boxes for the trip.

I turn around and make another cup of coffee. I mean, how can I possible create anything without a second cup and the first half hour of "Today"? What was I thinking?

Tuesday, August 3

Downtown Syracuse-the friends

So, I had sort of given up on this show but then an artist friend said I should apply and stay with her and her husband and we would have fun and I couldn't resist.

A word or 2 about my friend, Elizabeth. She is an amazing artist who somehow prints her beautiful drawings using copper plates and acid and all sorts of stuff she showed me and I still can't wrap my head around. Plus it all has to be done backwards. The mind reels. This is hers:



One of my favorites. Elizabeth's art is populated by fairies, mice and elephants at work, winsome children, moons and stars brought to life. You are drawn into her world and you want to stay there. She also write poems and fairy tales. Delightfully. I "knew" her before I knew her because I was always drawn to her art and sometimes could actually buy it. We became familiar to her and then, once we started doing the same shows, a friendship developed, slow and sure.

Another couple was also invited. Lynne and Rich. They do beautiful botanical prints. Not sure of the process, but her drawings are wonderful. And, as Elizabeth said, she is a real businesswoman. Something a lot of us aspire to and have trouble attaining.



After the first day of the show, we set the GPS for the 4 mile trip and found ourselves in a neighborhood not unlike ours, just several degrees nicer. Big old houses lovingly restored. James had purchased his craftsman style house a while back and didn't live in it for the first year while it was rehabbed. It is a beauty. They gave us their room with a comfy bed nestled into a bay window, gentle old furniture and little spots of collections here and there. Books, buttons, pieces of vintage jewelry. It was heaven. If I didn't have a show to do, I would have been happy to curl up there for the weekend with a stack of books, my iPod and a pot of coffee.

It was inspiring to be reassured that renovations do get done and graceful living ensues.

But that wasn't the best part. The best part was sitting around the picnic table, bare toes in the grass, eating pizza and drinking wine. Talking. Talking about art shows and promoters and sales and being an artist and how to release the inner talents we all have. Lynne convinced me I could draw if I "showed up" and I knew what she meant although I'm not so sure...

We discussed politics and renovating old houses. We talked about our kids. Was the economy going to stay stable enough for us to make a living as artists? Is Zapplication making our lives better or worse? Elizabeth told of doing the tango until 4am at her neighbors house on New Years Eve. We laughed and talked until we were too exhausted to stay awake.

In the morning, James made us breakfast and we all gathered around the kitchen island, the early morning perfume of dew and grass mingling with coffee and OJ and griddle cakes. And then we were off to be art carnies another day.

That night, dinner was not with friends, but with my son and his fiance. The "behold the ring" tour as I call it. We had a celebration dinner with a retelling of the proposal and talk of early wedding plans and much teasing of Leisha when she admitted to buying a binder to keep track of things. It is hard for me to explain the beauty of this.

Back at Elizabeth's, the barbecue was over, but even more friends had gathered around the table. As they debated politics and things that seemed too tiring to me after a long day, Lynne and I sat a few feet away in adirondack chairs and talked the business of art among other things. I envy how sure she is. Something to aspire to. And then she and her husband took out guitars and serenaded us. Some of the songs she wrote, some were Dickinson poems sent to her music and then there was Leonard Cohen which led me to think that there was nothing more that could be thrown at me to make these few days more perfect.

One more night nestled into the bay window, one more morning around the island with friends. Elizabeth showed us her studio and I was even more enamored with her work when I saw how hard it was, how painstaking.

I meet a lot of people doing this art show thing. There is a contingent of hardened vets who grumble about the business and how hard it is and they shoot off negativity like sparks from a dragging muffler. And yes, it is hard. I started this blog because I overheard a passing festival goer talk about how lucky we were not to have to work for a living.

But there is this. An environment built on creativity and hope, work made principally from what one can imagine, income earned by engaging others to enjoy your vision and want to have it.

The others who populate this world with you can be the most valuable benefit earned. The economy will rise and fall, our profits with it. To share friendship and experience and encouragement for a life most people outside of it cannot imagine is a gift.

So, loving thanks to Elizabeth and James, for a weekend that not only rested me, but gave inspiration and hope.

Life is good.

Monday, August 2

Downtown Syracuse-the show

The first time we did this show I was blown away by how much stuff I sold. We basically ran out of stuff by the 3rd day, so we dismantled the display and set up a table in the front with the last of our widgets. I was giggly with success.

Of course, back then my expectations were lower and my stuff was cheaper. I was experimenting with things like papier mache jewelry. We liked the show and the city and the people, so I put it on my "shows to do again" list.

You know there is a danger is leaping to happy conclusions without a control group or something.

I continued to apply to the show and I continued to be accepted. They offered us artist rates at a nice local hotel. They gave us a picnic on Friday night. Many of my fellow art carnies were present allowing for much coming together of like minded folk.

But then the show took a downturn. The committee kept changing the date. Never a good thing for an established show. Then they decided to combine several festivals on the same weekend. I don't understand that sort of thinking. Wouldn't you rather give your community several weekends to look forward to in the Summer? Why lump everything together? The artists started mumbling under their breath. It was no longer a given that this was a show to apply to next year. Then came a Sunday a couple of years ago that was so poorly attended, I took a picture of the almost empty street in the middle of the afternoon.



So, I took a break. The show went from the "apply again" column to the "dying show" column. I went other places with my tent in July.

But, like most things, your resolve can be changed with an offer attractive enough. This one came from a friend. Stay with us, we'll do the show together, we live right near the festival, it will be fun. I love this woman (more on her and the invitation next post) and so I jumped back in.

And ya know, it was pretty OK. In fact, had I been more optimistic I would have brought more widgets and things would have been even better, All the good things were still there. Nice layout, good people, friends visited, weather was good 99% of the time with the rain holding off until pack up.

I sold several collage pieces which made me really happy. It takes more courage to sell "art" that has no function other than to be there for you to look at. It means a lot to create a piece of pretty out of your own imagination and put it out there for folks to look at, to judge. When someone says "I'll take that" it puffs you up. I had one man say to me "I can't leave without that". Yay.

So. I move the show into the "OK, you get another chance" column.

And on we go.

Saturday, July 24

the mom speaks

When you have a child, the wishing starts immediately. For my son, I wished that he would be smart, brave and curious. Mostly because, although I was smart and curious, my timidity kept me stuck to home like a pin in a map. My wish came true.

The rest of it, well, he would have to navigate on his own. There are way too many circumstances to ponder, results to wish for, situations to conjure. His brain and heart and will would have to fill in.

As he made his way, I alternated between joy and fear and worry and relief. Like any parent. I celebrated his victories and listened late into the night when he was broken.

Of course, underlying it all was the main wish. The one we absolutely cannot control, the elusive prize.

And now, he has it. A promise from the woman he loves to love him always.

My work is done here. :)



Sunday, July 18

I write like...

This morning I read about a new web site called "I write Like" that lets you copy and paste a snippet of your own writing and find out to which famous author your writing compares. (see me being careful with syntax there). Pressure.

Well, that was just too tempting. So I copied a bit from a recent blog post, pasted it in and got:

David Foster Wallace.

Whoa!

After I stopped preening, I tried again, another post, another paste:

James Joyce

And I said yes I said yes I am yes

Now, I think I can turn a phrase, but Joyce?

So, I experimented. I pasted in a snippet of Joyce, from Ulysses, analyzed it and got:

Stephenie Meyer

I had to look her up. She writes the Twilight series. Vampires for the tween set.

A quote from the writings of James Joyce:


"And if he had judged her harshly? If her life were a simple rosary of hours, her life simple and strange as a bird's life, gay in the morning, restless all day, tired at sundown? Her heart simple and willful as a bird's heart?

A quote from the writing of Stephenie Meyer:

"Fall down again, Bella?'
No, Emmett, I punched a werewolf in the face."


I'm thinking that web site might need a little tweaking.

Friday, July 16

All booked up

Russell and I often talk about how our Summers are not what they used to be. Before we started doing art shows, we went to the beach, we went camping. Sometimes we would take a short vacation. To the Coast of Maine, or a weekend in the Finger Lakes. I loved the laziness of Summer. There is actual Summer furniture that encourages a person to lay back, curl up, nap. Imagine that.

But now Summer is my "season". It is one of two. There is "Summer" and there is "Holiday". The Summer runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day and The Holiday runs from Columbus Day to mid-December. During these periods, we will do probably 12-15 shows that run 2 to 3 days each. And in between I have to make the stuff that we hope to sell.

Needless to say, no Coast of Maine. If we spend a weekend in the Finger Lakes it is because we are doing a show there. Beach? No. Although my reluctance to be seen in public in a bathing suit may be more of a problem than missing studio time. :)

This year, life gave me some Summer. I didn't get a couple of shows I expected to do, leaving me with more stock than usual as well as a July filled with real weekends. We had a Family Reunion over the 4th and 2 of our kids came home to visit and hang out. I was actually able to do that. Play.

I wander up to the studio every day and do prep work and stockpile components. But then the day beckons. Warm, sunny days that I had forgotten about. We have our meals on the veranda, watch the city walk by, enjoy the breeze.

And I am reading books. Lots of books. Crates of books. Beach books. Cook books. Short story collections. When I was a kid, that's what Summer meant. Long lazy days under the big willow in our back yard, a book on my lap and a few cookies in my pocket. Bliss.

Then, as a teenager and young adult, it was long, hot beach days, sand in the spine of the books I devoured while burning to a crisp.

Last month I found an old Morris chair at a yard sale and I settle into its cushions on the veranda and read.

I have read all the Nantucket novels by Elin Hildebrand. Perfect. Light but compelling. Like cotton candy. One a day. Gobble, gobble.

Revisited a couple of Richard Russo's.

Short stories by Maile Meloy.

A new Allegra Goodman.

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.

Almost every day there is an email from my library that a book I requested is in.



I've been scavenging for good books. While waiting in line at the grocery store I saw that the new "O" magazine had a feature of favorite Summer books, so I grabbed it and copied the titles into my iPhone while I waited. NPR was doing a similar feature one morning while I was doing dishes, so I wrote them on the kitchen chalkboard. I browse Amazon, reading reviews and summaries, requesting the ones that interest me, sending the library folks off to do my bidding via the internet. I can't wait for "The Pearticular Sadness of Lemon Cake". I heard about that one in the car, early one morning, en route to a show. I wrote it down on a scrap of paper and tucked it in my wallet.

For a long while now, I have missed reading. It's not just being busy. The laptop consumes a lot of time, time that I would have spent in pages, I spend on screens. Oh, I read, but not like this, not like this summer of pages.

I was worried about the empty July calendar. And I won't deny that the loss of income from those events stings. But it has been a few weeks of family and festivals, theater, puttering in the garden, waking up in the early dawn with nothing to do but sip coffee on the porch and read books.

I'm not wishing to lose a couple of good shows again next year, but I will plan better because I have learned that Summer is not just work and more work. I remember now. I remember the perfumed early mornings, the late sunsets, the long lazy hours in between. Tomorrow we are going to the beach.

And I will be reading books.

Monday, July 12

Son-day

I think that Russ and I both try to accept the reality of our kids making lives away from us. We make a yearly pilgrimage to the West coast and sometimes they come to us. But, in reality, we probably spend a total of 3 weeks or so in the company of our children every year.

We talk about moving, we talk about being bi-coastal, we vow to visit more often, we talk and talk about it. We miss our kids and emails and facebook and phone calls just don't do it.

This week we were blessed with kids. Russ' youngest, Max, is here for 2 weeks and Billy is in Rochester with his sweetheart, Leisha, as they get ready to begin their new lives in Ann Arbor, so we are able to hang out every few days.

Sunday was rich with family. We went to Taste of Buffalo with Billy and Leisha (Max went early so he wouldn't miss World Cup) and then we all went to Shakespeare in the Park.

I sat there with my sweetheart next to me, my son and Leisha behind me, Max one spot over, a friend of Max on a blanket at our feet and we shared cheese and bread dip and macaroons and Coronas. We joked and chatted, teased each other, laughed.

It is how life should be but isn't, it's how our family could be but won't. No matter what changes we make, our kids will still be in 3 different states, 4 different cities. I want to have a compound, like the Kennedys. A bunch of houses on a big piece of land where everyone could live together but apart, touch football on Fall afternoons, huge Christmas dinners with generations around the table, always there for each other in joy or pain, minutes away from a hug, grandchildren popping in with wildflowers. It brings tears to me to think of it.

Instead I will take comfort in how all the kids turned out great, their lives moving as they should. My Billy will be closer to home now than he has been in many years. That is one check in the plus column. I vow, as I always do, to visit the Oregon/Washington kids more often. We have a new grandchild to hold, but it will be September before we get there.

I watched the groups of people at Shakespeare last night as they walked toward the hill with chairs and picnic baskets. Many families. I listened to banter, complaints, laughter. Children on blankets, leaning against their parents' knees as they watched the show. Young Mother soothing a fussy baby, hoping to be able to stay until the end. 2 young girls defiantly spreading their blanket 3 spots away from the folks so they could feel grown up, crawling over to get food every 5 minutes. :)

Do they really get how blessed they are?

We'll focus on the sons this week, enjoy them, cherish the time spent together. Then we will look forward to September and our visit West. and that's how it will be, I guess, for always. Coming together, taking leave. Holding close, letting go.

Well, until we get that compound thing built.

Thursday, July 8

The Mayor of Strawberry Fields and me

The day after the reunion, we ventured into the city. Russell and Max headed for MoMA, Walter (Russ' brother) and I took Quincy to Central Park.

It was a long, hot walk to the park, especially trying to constrain Q who was overwhelmed by the numbers of people and new smells. We settled on a bench to cool down and rest my trick knee that cooperates with me as long as I respect its limitations. I told Walter I'd like to visit Strawberry Fields. I usually do whenever I'm in Central Park. John Lennon holds a special place in my psyche, growing up with his music as I did. But it wasn't just the usual pilgrimage. I wanted to try to catch the Mayor of Strawberry Fields.

Last year we went to the premier of a documentary that had been done by local film makers. It was all about this homeless man who had carved a career of sorts, entertaining the visitors to the Lennon memorial. His story was compelling to me and I wanted to see him for myself. I knew the odds were long that he would be there, but off we went. Many blocks up, traversing across the park to Central Park West, keeping the towers of The Dakota in view as a sort of North Star navigation tool. As we rounded the curving walk to the mosaic, I heard chatter and, sure enough, there he was, giving his lecture, spreading his flower petals, working the crowd.

Walter was bemused by my fangirliness, I think, but he humored me while I took pictures and video. At one point, Gary offered a rosebud to a young girl who refused it. Probably a little afraid of the grubby man, even in a crowd. So he gave it to me.



We spent a peaceful half hour there, watching the show, resting Quincy who made a lot of friends as he pretended to be a good dog. Walter and I talked about finding your way in this world, carving out your little niche and finding joy there. Gary is most likely still a homeless man, but he seems clean and fed and healthy and happy in this little corner of the city. I watched the people watching him. Some were smiling, some were dismissive. A few registered scorn.

I saw freedom. Happiness. I heard Lennon "imagine all the people living for today" and I think he would approve of Gary. Living for today with his roses and broken petals, making beauty, connecting with strangers, collecting the dollars and quarters that would keep him going a little longer.




I'm not romanticizing homelessness, but I do respect Gary's clear-headed decision to live the way he chooses.

We wished him well as we left. He was still perfecting his design. He took a picture with me, a big hug around my shoulders, both of us flashing peace signs.



Russell picked us up across from the Dakota. Max said "We saw Christina's World!" I said "I saw the Mayor!"

It was a good day.

Wednesday, July 7

come together

Months ago the missives started. There would be a celebration, a reunion, a coming together of the clan in honor of Dottie's 90th birthday. It would be on the 4th of July weekend, even though her real birthday was in the Fall. A bunch of rooms at the Hampton Inn were reserved, the caterer was hired, a family tree was designed, photos were collected, tasks were assigned. It was hard to imagine the Long Island heat and humidity when this all began, almost impossible to picture dozens of people in Summer clothes under a shelter in the park. But then, here it was and we were off to the reunion.

A word about "Dottie". She is Russell's Mom and I am crazy about her. She accepts everyone, flaws and all, but there is nothing sugary about her. She is just real. I guess raising 9 (nine!) kids sort of makes you reassess priorities and save the negativity for stuff that really matters. She is almost blind and almost deaf but her mind and wit are intact and firing. She never complains about what she is lacking. She smiles and carries on, waving off concern, laughing at her deficits, poking fun at herself. There is always a little smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.

They passed around a guest book at the party and in it I wrote that the best thing Russell ever gave me was the opportunity to share his Mom. And I mean it.



We left our hotel early on the day of the party because we had a task. Pick up balloons. Lucked out on that one, I thought. Has to be the easiest assignment of the day. The balloons were helium. There were 25 of them. They did not behave.







We spent about an hour tying the balloons to weights and setting them on tables before people started to arrive. And then the caterers. Relatives bearing goodies and old photos. There was coffee and bagels in the morning that magically morphed into lunch from the grill and then made way for more deserts than I have ever seen in one place.

And through it all, Dottie smiled and the family laughed and hugged and everyone said how wonderful it was really almost perfect and wasn't the weather great?


















Rumor has it that plans for her 95th are underway.