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Thursday, November 14


I'm not sure where the time goes. There was a time when I felt compelled to blog almost every day and if I didn't it nagged at me. I do blog in my head a lot!

I had a sweet moment with some art show friends at my last show and I blogged in my head about it which made me think I needed to get back to this. Because it helps me remember, even if nobody is reading me anymore.

So, before I forget, I am going to blog about some special moments from the past show season. To share them and to remember them.

I'll blog about those art show friends later. First I want to tell you about the heart lady I met at Colorscape Chenango. Since this is a blog about being an art gypsy, I'll start by telling you about Colorscape.

A friend has been talking about this show for a while and we decided to give it a go. She said no show treats you better. Intriguing. It is the weekend after Labor Day and our vacation reservations fell later in the month than usual, so we applied and got it. So glad we did. The little town of Norwich, New York was welcoming and apparently filled with art and music lovers because they came out in droves. We didn't make a ton of money, but the experience was so positive it didn't matter. This is why we will never be rich. We met so many wonderful people and my new work sold well.

Which brings me to the "Heart Lady".

This season we experimented with making prints of the collage and selling them just with a backing board, in a clearbag. It was a hit. At Colorscape, one lady spent a lot of time browsing them and I saw her sometimes tracing the outline with her finger. She was older, quiet, sweet smile. I had started to putter behind the tent when she came up with 8 prints. Eight! Well, OK then.

She asked me to hold them for her because she needed to go home and get her money. No problem. Except she didn't come back. With about an hour left in the show and a couple of the prints sold out, I started to put them back in the bin. I had lost one sale already and each print was a few gallons of gas for our cross country drive!

I had barely put the last one back when she showed up. I apologized for returning them and explained that I thought she had decided against them. Oh no she assured me, it just took her a while to get home and back. We went through the bins and retrieved the ones she wanted...and even added one..and she started to tell me  what she was looking for in them.

Some years before she had endured a tough time. Sounded like it was illness related. And she began to wonder what it was all about and she prayed on it and talked to friends about it and somehow, during that time, she asked God or the Universe or the angels to send her a sign and she looked down and there, on the grass, the first few flakes of snow had formed a heart. Not content to accept that, she continued to look for more signs and she began to see more hearts. She said she saw them everywhere once she really started to look. In piles of leaves, in the suds when washing dishes, clouds. She started to collect things with hearts in them. One night, when despair began to take her again, she said to her husband that it was folly, this quest for signs, and she walked out onto her porch. It was evening and a light snow was falling, big floating flakes and some of them fell softly onto the sleeve of her coat. She started to walk back in, brushing the snow from her coat when she looked down a saw it. One snowflake, a perfect heart. Now we all know snowflakes are not heart shaped and so does she. The analytical side of her understood that it was formed by the pattern of its melting.

Doesn't make it any less of a sign, she thought, and called her husband out to see it before it melted totally. Once you start looking, she told me, you see them everywhere.  Signs or hearts, I asked her. Same thing she said with a smile. Then she showed me how some of the shapes of my torn papers or the way some elements came together formed heart shapes. That's what she was tracing. The outlines of  hearts. Her signs.

I thought about her a lot after she left. Wondered about signs and portents and what brings comfort. We were both moved by her. She said once you start looking for hearts you see them everywhere, so I started to look. I looked in the grass, the sky, the trees. I walked the show and looked in other booths. Nothing. My signs may turn out to be a different thing and maybe I won't see them until I need them. But I am glad she sees them. And I'm glad I was able to put a few more in her life.

Friday, October 4

Oregon sidewalk Friday morning


Her eyes, clear and young
and sadly hopeful:
I will write you a poem
to keep me warm.
"compassion" I asked
for there had been so little
that morning
and I could still taste
the tears on my tongue.
She repeated, compassion,
and bent to her tiny typewriter
on the sidewalk
before her.
I only have two words she said
when I came back.
I should have asked her what they were but
I pressed folded bills into her hand
and told her I would be back
but now I want the two words
because maybe
just maybe
that's all it takes
all it needs
to pierce your heart.

Sunday, September 1

X-ray visions

So, the thing with cancer is that even when you're done with it, you may not be done with it. It is a sneaky, foxy disease. Like the cell that snuck back in last year just when I thought all was well. Zap! Gotcha.

OK, so we took care of that and all looks quite promising, but because of the sneaky aspect, one must remain vigilant for the next 5 years. That, for some reason is the magic number. 5 years. You get to that point and they send you off with a "y'all take care now, hear?"

But until then, you must be scanned. My sneaky cell popped up 2 years after my surgery and a year after I ended treatment. I was almost relaxed. Zap. But because of the scans, they were able to snag it in its infancy.

So, OK, here we go again. The quarterly march  to the tube. It's not awful except for the anticipation. The uneasiness starts about 2 weeks before the appointment. All scenarios played out in color and full stereo. Everything from "all is well" to "this is bad" to "get your affairs in order". Honestly, by the time the appointment comes I have worked myself into a state of total acceptance for the worst.

This time all was well again. I knew it, I thought. Deep down.  heh

But the interesting thing is the waiting room. Everyone is there for one reason. To have their innards viewed by a dispassionate computer. In a Cancer facility. Some are like me: survivors hoping to stay that way. But I found myself wondering about them this time. Doing my own scanning..of the couples that wait. Nobody comes alone. I could pick out the patient from the two. The patient was quieter, the smiles softer. The partner tended to fuss about. Bringing magazines, trying to be a distraction. I wish I could tell them to just let us be. We are preparing our heads. It will be OK.

Most of the patients are older, but I did see a family come out of the room. The colorful IV bandaid was on the arm of a sweet little blond girl of 5 or so. Her parents were promising ice cream and her brother skipped ahead in anticipation. It broke my heart. Let her be a survivor counting down, I prayed.

I wondered what lurked inside the waiting patients. were there cancers to be detected, cures to be pronounced?  I heard the woman in the cubicle next to me say she lived 6 hours away and I wondered why she came here. Was her case complex enough that a cancer hospital was needed? It was simple for me, I live around the corner from the place there was never a question. But it put me in mind of  people who drive 6 hours for a CT and what that means.

I have had many of these tests now. I know the drill. I know I will scoot my jeans down to my knees and put my hands behind my head. That the table will slide smoothly in and out of the tube while whatever is whirring around in there sends images of inside me to somewhere behind me. I know there will be a dye injection and that it will warm me for a minute while the tube slides in again and then it is over. Just a couple of minutes.

And while I dress and the nurse removes the needle from my mediport, my pictures are already being read by my doctor and in about 20 minutes he will poke his head in the examining room and pronounce me well. Or not.

When I left this time, Russ had gone ahead to replace a magazine he had forgotten to replace in the CT room. When I saw him coming toward me in the hall I raised my hands in a victory salute and then I noticed a man and small child on a bench, waiting, quietly. When he saw my silent salute he turned away, put his head down. They had been in my Doctor's waiting room before me with their wife/mother. A thin, blond waif of a woman in a pink tank. She looked pale to me. As we waited for the elevator, she came out and joined her husband. He took her hand. They did not look at each other, they did not smile, they looked straight ahead, waiting. I told Russ I wanted to take the next car. She has been in my mind.

I guess we are all carrying some small, soft beast inside of us.  Something nobody sees, sometimes not even ourselves. I choose to name mine "Hope".

4 years to go.

Wednesday, August 28

catching up

I wanted to blog, I did. But I needed a new password and every protocol the system put me through just looped me back to the beginning so I decided to choose sanity. Today it worked.

So, we had Chautauqua redux in August and it was lovely. We stayed on the grounds in one of the funky old rooming houses. It was a room with no view except rooftops and there was a sink in the room, a much loved quilt on the bed, a lazy ceiling fan and a "closet" that was like the cubby in a pre-K class. Loved it. Even the shared bathroom was no problem and I got to spend a little time Sunday morning on one of Chautauqua's famed porches before we crossed the park to our booth. Sales were good and the weather was perfect and I always love being there.

Next up was Sonnenberg and by then I had Russell's chest cold. I wanted so much to enjoy the show, but I was pretty miserable. Hacking, whining, bitching. It lasted through to Elmwood and I am just now starting to want to live. Sales were pretty good but it took a lot for me to walk up the slope to the artist party. But I did it. One does not pass up free food at these shindigs.

Elmwood turned out to be my best show of the year. It was awesome. Sold lots and discovered the profitability of prints. It was a last minute decision. So many of my customers were asking how to frame my repro cards (which is hard because of the size) I decided to size some to 8X10 and print them on heavy, coldpress paper. I packaged them with a backing board and a printed description tucked into the clearbag. I only charged $10 because I was experimenting and they were not limited prints and we didn't use the super duper printer, just a good inkjet. I sold about 25 of them. I was happy.

On the personal side, I saw many friends. Some I see all the time, some I haven't seen in years, some   I see once a year at this show. It is the sweet part of doing a neighborhood festival.

A lady stopped by and gave Russell a dollar. She said she didn't have enough money to buy art from everyone, but she wanted to show her appreciation for how much she enjoyed experiencing it. I guess she gave dollars to almost everyone. Where else could this happen?

And then there was one. It always seems to take so long for the season to start and then it scoots by at warp speed. I haven't taken my bike out in weeks. First it was rainy, then it was many shows in a row and then this cold. Makes me sad. I wonder when I will have enough "air" to take it out again. Maybe this weekend, just for a bit. I do live on a bike path after all. No excuses.

So, up to the attic to get ready for a show I've never done in a town I've never visited. Cool!

Monday, July 29

dreaming of WIlliam Holden, Ithaca and cellos

Russell has been sick. A viral upper respiratory infection according to the Dr. Nothing can be done for it, apparently, but wait it out. Meanwhile neither of us is getting too much sleep due to the incessant coughing and whining.

At some point during this illness, he has become attached to old movies. The black and white kind where the faces are all gauzy and the Americans speak with oddly foreign accents that sound like a combination of England and Connecticut. Nobody curses, sex is apparently accomplished fully clothed and without touching, all events are accompanied by violins and cellos.

Speaking of celllos, Chautauqua was its usual wonderful weekend, even though my sales were not as astonishing as past years. They were still good. We brought out the new Martha Stewart sheer voile panels in pale gray and hung them across the back and sides of the tent. What a difference. Everyone noticed. I loved it. I'll post pictures after next week's show. It made the booth look sort of ethereal, like Russell's old movies. There was even the aforementioned cello music, courtesy of the child prodigy entertaining the park visitors behind us.

Last Friday, we did a show in Ithaca, spur of the moment, and I'm so glad we did. It was a 3 hour commute each way for a 6 hour show which sounds crazy but I made money. Crazy is as crazy does. An artisan market held in the structure for the Farmer's Market. Brilliant. Fun. Academics in attendance. Perfect.

Russell spent most of the afternoon napping in the truck. He was content. Takes a lot to get us down, I think.

I sold mostly collage at this show which tickled me. Made me feel like an artist. And I have 10 days to replenish stock.

Russell is upstairs sleeping but I can hear the faint sound of proper voices speaking perfect English against the cello accompaniment. He is falling asleep to an old movie again. I  think I'll wait a bit and see if I can change it when I get up there. Last night I dreamed that William Holden was in the doorway, smoking a cigarette. I told him we didn't smoke in our house and he raised one perfectly manicured eyebrow and smiled. Creeped me out. Took a while to fall asleep again. Between the spooky apparition and the muffled coughing, it was hard to relax.

 I clicked the channels and found Mike and Frank on American Pickers. They always relax me for some reason. They were  climbing around on rafters, pulling down old gas station signs. Probably from William Holden's time. I looked at the doorway. Empty. Success.

Thursday, July 4

so far, so meh

OK. 3 down. I hate to keep whining here. But June is the month that puts me in the black and starts to actually put income in the bank. I am still sweating fees. Not a good sign.

I have written about Roycroft before and you can read what I would have written by checking the archives for June each year. The Cliff note: They moved the show from the Roycroft campus to a parking lot and basically ruined a  lovely show. That about covers it.

The interesting new wrinkle is that one of the participants of the art show that runs the same weekend came to take an informal survey. It seems that they are feeling the move also.  The shows used to be across the street from each other and offered a beautiful combo of art and craft with only a street light to slow the trek between them. Now there is some talk of them moving to be closer to us. Interesting.

And while I'm being a brat, let me also complain about the set up with booths literally touching side to side AND back to back so that set up is a nightmare and there is no air at all. It was sweltering. Just 6 inches behind would have allowed us all to raise the back wall for desperately needed air. Also, no help present at set up that I could see. No volunteers to offer breaks during the day. No coffee in the morning to get the jets fired up (unless you wanted to buy it0. Just little things that wouldn't matter if the show was still the joy it used to be.

Funny thing is that about half of the artisans said they hated the new location and 4 years was enough time to see if it would work. Many said they would not apply next year unless it moved back. The other half love the new spot with it's big parking lot for customers and say their sales have never been better.

Makes no sense to me. But, no time to ponder. My beautiful Emma is visiting. We are picking up our new little trailer today. There is a big show next weekend and I need to get ready yet again. And of course, there is a picnic this afternoon.

I will not whine about the rain.

Sunday, June 16

bitchin', rollin', laughin'

OK, first the bitchin' :  I've done a certain Christmas Gift show for many years. Last year I was wait-listed which was not a total shock because they are known to "rest" an artist every few years and I was due. They did call me in off the list, but I was short of product due to my surgery down time and then I was  happily in Michigan with my brand new Emma. I had to turn it down. This year I am healthy and, as far as I know, no grandchildren are expected in November. So I applied again.

Now, I have been spoiled this year because I was accepted to I was getting a little too relaxed about this stuff. I won't say "cocky" because, trust me, not in my drawer of possible attitudes. So, when my friends started posting that they got this show, I checked my mail. Nothing. Nada. I  checked the next day. Nope. Huh?

Now, I am not bemoaning the fact that I may have been rejected. But nothing? Irritates me. We have seasons to plan, people. Don't play with us. The deadlines for other possible shows are whooshing by while you play with us. The Summer show at this facility was awful and now this for the Winter show? I may be done with the whole lot of ya.

OK, so much for the rant.

I got out on my bike yesterday after struggling to get the rack on my car. Russell is away, attending the college graduation of his youngest. (yay Max!) and I have become way too dependent on him over the years, so I dug the contraption out and proceeded to put in on upside down until I remembered that You Tube can teach you anything and there it was. Done! But my struggles were just beginning.

My new bike, with a step through frame, does not want to sit politely on the bars of the rack. The rack is  designed for the top tube to rest on. Ain't got one of those.
(I figured if I was going to end a sentence incorrectly, might as well start the next one with ain't). I got it on there, but I have bruised forearms and a sore back. Still,  I had a lovely day by the water on my bike.

The trail at our local park winds through trees, along the Erie Basin and Niagara River, into the Canalside Boardwalk. That's Canada over there...

When I got to Canalside, I grabbed one of the ubiquitous Adirondack chairs, sat under a tree, ate lunch and finished a library book that is due Monday. 

I could have stayed all day, but I had to work that night for "Book of Mormon". Since I had a ticket for the show, I only had to work until curtain and then I could sit with the "civilians" and be entertained. And oh, I was!

Oh! And that bike rack problem? The same friend who turned me on to the step-through frame, also told me about an adapter bar you can get so the bike can rest happily on the rack just like a "real" bike!

Such a simple solution for such a vexing problem! Dashed off to the bike store before work to grab one. 

The lesson for today? I guess it is that you may start the day bitchin', but you have the power to end it laughing. Well, usually.

Depends on what the mail brings tomorrow.  ;)

Tuesday, June 4

Show #1 "in the can"

I understand that in the film industry, when a project is completed, it is said to be "in the can". Well, my first show is completed and I can say with conviction that it is "in the can". Not going to explain exactly what can that might be.

Yes, day 3 was not much better than the others. Major disappointment.

There was the traditional artist breakfast meeting Sunday morning and the topic of few customers, few sales was, naturally, addressed.  With no resolution that I could see. It certainly isn't the quality of work:

So, I will have a while to ponder the options for next year. I have a real soft spot for this show. It would be hard to pass on it. But I may have to.

Onward and upward to Allentown in a few days. Sending good vibes out into the stratosphere.

Sunday, June 2

slow start

Oh man. I don't expect a windfall from this show. ( 100 American Craftsmen at the Kenan Center in Lockport.)  It has been in the middle of the pack for me. But it is traditionally the show that starts to even the scales. Maybe I can sock a few bucks away. At this rate, I'll be lucky to sock a few socks away.

I'm not sure what the reason for the insanely low attendance was. We all have theories and we had plenty of time to spout them as we wandered amongst each other's booths and commiserated.

It was very hot. High 80's which is like death for this show. First, most of us here in the Canadian border towns don't take kindly to anything over 70-75. It starts to hit 80, we get ornery. Then, the arena where the show is held has no A/C.  The place is cavernous. It would be like dropping an ice cube in your swimming pool to cool it down.

Overheard in the Lady's Room: "they charge us 8 bucks to get in here and there isn't even A/C?"

Maybe $8 is too much. I think it used to be $6. I think it should be $5. The rationale is that this is a "high end" show, so people come here to spend big bucks and 8 bucks is chump change. I don't agree. It would be smarter to charge us all an extra 50 bucks for the booth, scale down the artist party and the artist breakfast and let the folks in for nothing or a tiny fee like 2 bucks. What drives sales is attendance. Especially at a show like this. Outdoor festivals are different. You can get hundreds of thousands of people but maybe most of them are there for sun and beer. That will be my rant for next weekend.

So, anyway, the dearth of business led to an abundance of schmoozing and I got to know some artists better. Like the leather guy next to me that set up his first ever booth at Woodstock. He has a picture of himself there with his long curly hair, selling belts from a crate. He makes beautiful bags now, that sell for hundreds of dollars. And I heard him laughing with customers all day. At least he has fun. He says he's almost 70 now and he has perspective.

I got to know the son of one of my favorite artisans and to see his amazing pencil sketches. He will be one of us soon.

A few had trouble with their Square card readers or didn't know how to program to app for sales tax or edit  products and I became the go-to tech wizard. My son would be rolling and laughing at that.

Russell and I had time to discuss re-doing the new layout for the booth. It has issues. Actually, we had time to re-do it right there, but I nixed the idea.

Even the volunteers who man the admissions table seemed depressed so I promised everyone I talked to that today would be so busy and happy that our biggest problem would be where to spend all the glorious extra cash in our pockets.  I will be chatting with my shoppers and sending out good vibes I chose this life, good and bad. I knew there was no guaranteed pay check.

The only guarantee is that you will be doing work you love and that your office will be a festival of some sort and you will be, almost always, treated with respect by the people you deal with.

Beats the old government job hands down.

It is gray and damp today, bring on the people!

Friday, May 31


Wasn't I just whining about the applications? Seems like it. And yet, here I am, the morning of our first show of the Summer season.

I already reconnected with some friends during set up last night and today will be filled with catching up, hugs, news from the Winter. I love this community of artists. People care about each other, celebrate the successes of their colleagues, share their inside info and step ladders. I have never worked in that kind of environment. I think it is what keeps me loving this gig.

So, tonight I get to try out our new display and layout. (Thanks to display racks and bins from a closing Blockbuster) It's the first time in 15 years I've traveled to a show without my trusty floor racks.

I have a new widget: Travel Journals. I designed some fill-in pages, attached square envelopes to the inside of each cover, bound in a pocket in the middle and added some photo/scrapbook pages in the
back with spaced binding. We'll see how they go. It will be my most expensive book because of all the components.

So, I have a few hours before we head out to the venue.

Guess I can make a few more goodies this morning :)

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 27


Mom has been gone 2 years now. Seems impossible, but it's true. And I guess Memorial Day makes you think of people you've lost, so I've been remembering My folks and Russ' Mom who I loved dearly.

There was no big inheritance when Mom passed. Her little house wasn't worth a lot of money. It's sale didn't buy me a Mercedes. It paid some bills, made gifts to kids, socked a little away. Done. She died believing we would be set for life from her bequests. We let her believe it.

But I inherited other things that turn out to be priceless. A metal ice cream scoop with a knobby handle that outperforms all of my WIlliams/Sonoma fancy-dancy scoops. A huge wooden butcher block that she made pasta on every Sunday morning and then, as she got older,  just on special occasions.  It serves as the surface of my stainless work table. A recipe book with notations on the inside covers. A green vase I bought for her at an antique shop when I was newly married and thinking myself sophisticated. The white plastic beaded earrings, impossible to describe, that she wore on all special days. So much a part of her, that I clipped one to my bag when my son got married. I felt she was there.

A pair of knitted slipper socks with outrageous felt flowers that I hide in the bottom drawer but pull out on stormy Winter nights. Some paintings that were on her walls so long they left light rectangles on the wall when we took them down. (Mom was a smoker).

Every day I touch things that were a part of her, a part of our lives growing up. I sense her smile when I pull on the ugly socks. She always believed being cold gave you a cold. "Put on a hat!"

Today I listened to the last voice mail she left. I do that every so often. Hear her voice. But she is closest to me when I scoop out some ice cream or run a sponge over the worn wooden block on my work table.

Sunday, May 19

best made plans..

I would have tons of stuff ready for the season by now if life had cooperated. Have I made that argument before? Probably.

Most of February was spent at my son's house in Michigan, tending to his beautiful daughter while Leisha transitioned to being a working Mom.

Then, in March, there was the grand studio redesign I wrote about at the time.

Oh! And I was organizing a show to benefit the WNY Peace Center which took up way more time than I anticipated. That was in May.

The best distraction was a surprise offer from friends that were driving to Michigan for the weekend. Come with us, they said and so I did and I got to hold the charming Emma in my arms yet again. That was last week. I brought her cold home with me and Russell and I have been down for the count. Small price to pay, I think.

So, as usual, I am behind. But excited. Once again, I was accepted to all the shows on my list. There is much to be said for competing in an uncrowded field :) Many of my more talented friends were not so lucky and I don't know what to tell them.

But, on I go. Slow and steady, eye on the prize, insert your own cliche here...


Rollin, Rollin....

I love to ride a bike. I'm lousy at it. I have no strength in my legs so a 5 degree incline fatigues me. I am clumsy. The pedals are never in the right place for me to push off so there is often an awkward rolling and stepping dance that happens while I try to get the right pedal at 2 o'clock. Meanwhile, 5 year olds on trikes are passing me and joggers are waiting patiently for me because they can tell that should they step in front of me when i find my right pedal, there is little chance I will be in control of the bike when I roll into them. It takes me a while. And then there is the mounting issue. I can only get on the bike from my right side which means I have to fling my right leg over the saddle while my left leg bears my weight. My left leg with the bad knee. Not happening. By now I am sure any sane person reading this is wondering why I try. Because I like it. I love rolling along, feeling the breeze. I feel younger. I see things along the routes that please me. I want to be healthy. I was going to give up, but a friend turned me on to "step through" bikes which are basically "girls" bikes with an even lower cross bar than usual. I tried it. I liked it. I bought it. I still need to figure out that right pedal thing and those hills will get flatter as I get stronger. My son insisted I buy a helmet, so I did. He gave me a grandchild. It is the least I could do. I took my Granny bike to my neighborhood park which just happens to have a bike path that runs along the Niagara River and Lake Erie and meanders through the parking lots of some pricey lakefront condos before it empties out onto a marina and the Canalside boardwalk. Every so often I stopped to take photos of a sea gull or the winding path before me or Canada Geese chillin' on a gentle wave. I came home hot, tired, happy and proud. Look out, world. She has wheels.

Monday, April 15

the case of the mysterious night visitor

I am defecting to the "other side" and helping to put on a show. I am the jury and the record keeper and the "let's focus" person. It is in 3 weeks and my mind tumbles about  at night, making lists in my head and checking off boxes and worrying if anyone at all will come.

So it was that Sunday morning I was wide awake, pondering. 5:30 am. Wondering if I should get up, start the day, or do what most of the rest of the city was doing...pull the covers up and snuggle back in. And that's when I saw it. A soft, yellow pulsing light outside our window.  I waited a bit but it continued and I worried about ambulances in front of friend's homes and I went to look. There, under my window, was a black SUV, facing the wrong way on our one way street.  Flashers on. Odd, I thought.

Then it pulled into a driveway and backed onto the street going the right way. And stopped right under my window. The driver was staring at our house and then looked up and stared right at me. Or so it felt. I started to feel uneasy. He pulled away, to the corner, and turned onto the main street. Our house is on a corner, so he had been at the back side of the house, now he was driving past the front of the house. Except he didn't drive past. He stopped. In the bike lane. Facing the wrong way. And stared at my house again.

I was going from window to window, trying to track what he was doing. Why was some guy casing our house at 5:30 am? I heard him exchange sharp words with someone and the passenger door opened and another guy darted out and ran toward the house. My heart was starting to beat a little faster. I couldn't see what the guy was doing. A few seconds later he ran to the car, jumped in and the car sped away.

What the heck?

Oh well. Probably nothing. I went to get a glass of orange juice, plopped in an ice cube, turned out the light and stood there. I couldn't go upstairs without figuring out what those guys had done at the front of our house. I slipped on some shoes and a jacket and quietly slipped out, walking cautiously to the front of the house. It was eerily quiet, just a soft, early Spring breeze. And then I saw it. On our front step where nobody goes. something reflecting the light and moving softly in the breeze. I stopped. tried to squint and see what it was without going too close. I mean, you never know.

I took a few more steps and saw that the object was a cylinder of some sort. I looked up and down the street. Empty and silent. I walked closer, bent down, picked up...

the New York Times.

Tuesday, March 19

this is what I was thinking...

So, I lamented my studio mess and confessed to letting years go by with furniture that not only didn't work, it leered at me from the corners and dared me to try to make it work. As my business grew and I added items to my list of goodies, more nooks and crannies needed to be found. Then I added collage which really threw things into the maelstrom. Collage requires bits and pieces of odds and ends to be within grabbing distance. They need to be handy so that as you are looking for just the right bit to finish off a piece it leaps up from the pile and calls to you.  The only thing my supplies were calling was "help" So, after watching years of renovation shows, I realized that what needed to be done was a demolition. I would have to strip the hulk of its stashes of stuff, dismantle it, take all the supplies from their corners and cubbies and toss them into a free for all so they could be seen and stored anew. I gathered bins and boxes and buckets and proceeded to search and destroy. Russ came upstairs, gasped and wondered when I had lost my mind. I told him not to worry, just get the hutch off the top of the hulk. I had a vision.

I surveyed the chaos with grim determination and a sense of certainty. I could see it. Russ came up with a sledge hammer and crowbar (the hulk would not die, it had to be pounded into submission) He had trouble seeing what I saw. I think he was contemplating setting a match to it but we do live there after all.. I had to work that night. Just a few hours, but it was a welcome break from the dust and oppression of what I had created. The sound track from Les Mis was playing in my head... I showed the picture of the demo to a co worker and he paled and gasped. Oh, ye of little faith. While I was at work, Russ scooted off to the home improvement mega store and when I came home he proudly showed me the new counter he built that skimmed over the desk portion of the hulk, a file cabinet and my mat board shelves. A whole wall of counter. With the hulk gone and the desk flush against the wall it was like doubling the room size. I was psyched. The next two days, I organized, labeled, cleaned, swept, tossed, re-imagined. The demo was a good idea. From total chaos comes comes inspiration. Or was it desperation? Anyway, here it is:


  The rugs are for my dogs to sleep on. They like to keep me company. Oliver's little bed is tucked in the back right hand corner. Jutting out on the right is my mat cutter. If you could see to the far left, there is metro shelving with cut mats and mat boards, organized by size.

That doll on the right side counter? That's Wanda the Walking Doll. My grandparents gave it to me when I was just a few years old and I was never allowed to play with it because it was "special". Mom would bring it out every so often and wind her up and let her skate along the floor and then back in the box she went.  She hangs out with me now as a reminder that you take beauty when it is offered.  Some things are not meant to be saved until later. She winks at me now and then, I swear.

Friday, March 15

what was I thinking??

As it is every Spring, my studio needs to be transformed from the end of season chaos to the fresh beginning serenity I crave. This usually involves a couple of days of heavy cleaning, reorganization and tossing of paste hardened brushes and glued-together scissors. It is a chore I dread every year and I whine about it every year but I am happy and smug when it is done.

So what did I do this year? Is that not enough? Nooo. I have been working around a behemoth computer station that belonged to my son when the attic was his. Removing it seemed to be like trying to get that boat you built in the basement out of the house.. Then, while I was whining and puttering, I looked closer and realized (after 10 years) that the top part could actually be removed. I called Russell up to confirm what I was seeing. Yep, piece of cake, he concurred.

This is so embarrassing to admit. I have grumbled about that hulking thing for 10 years! I made efforts to utilized the shelves and cubbies in it, but it was meant for technology, not scraps of paper and book boards. The worst part is that its height meant it could only go so far against the slanted attic walls, robbing me of precious feet of space.

With the "hutch" part gone, the desk could be moved flush to the wall, I would have more space, I could use the flat surface to organize supplies. Simple? Well, so it would seem. But first I have to empty that out, stash the stuff, make room by moving boxes of paper off of other shelves and on and on...  aaarrgh! As of today, you can't really even get in the room.

I may take a picture. Don't judge me.

Today I must finish this. The season is fast approaching. The Small Press Book Fair is in a couple of weeks. I can do it.


Sunday, February 3

2:50 am

 That's what time it is now as I ride the rails through snow covered flashes of roads and lights that seem untethered to anything real in the dark. I imagine people turning over in their sleep as the rain whistle hums through their windows. I love the train. I love the comforting sway, the  passengers curled up against the windows or sprawled over 2 seats, sleeping, the intimate sound of their snoring  part of the sound of the train itself.

I am on my way to Emma. Emma. How absurd that I have a granddaughter, that I am off to spend a few weeks tending her while Leisha transitions back to working. It is hard to articulate how it feels to have this child of my child in my life. It is unseemly that I am a Grandmother. I feel too young for the title even though many of my friends achieved this milestone at a much younger age. I feel a love for this peanut of a person that is hard to describe. I often just scroll through her pictures and get lost in them. Staring at her like some sort of obsessed fan or something .

Yesterday I had my first CAT scan since the surgery. It was a long day. 2 hours in radiology, most of it waiting for the drink they give you to coat my innards. Then getting the IV and finally the scan itself which takes 5 minutes. Reminds me of what Mom used to say after every holiday dinner. "All that work and it's over in 5 minutes"

Then the biggest wait of all, learning the results from the Dr. I love my new Dr. He is kind and funny and real and very skilled. He knocked on the door and, as he opened it , I felt my heart beat faster. Once you've had a bad scan, you never are comfortable again, I believe. The door opened wide and there he was, big grin and 2 thumbs up. All normal he said and I told him that was a great way to enter a room.

Now I could focus on Emma. Russ wanted to drive me, but the lakes did their magic, dumping unexpected mounds of snow, filing the air with swirling white. The whole trip is from one a Great Lake to another and the thought of squinting through white powder for 8 hrs was not appealing to either of us, although Russ  is always game to give it a go.

So, all I need to do now is make the bus to east Lansing ontime. But, you know it doesn't mean a whole lot to me. All will be well. I have 2 thumbs up to prove it.

Thursday, January 17

seeing stars

OK, I've been a bit grumpy. It's the application blues. I have it every year. Plus, my studio is a disaster and I can't work up the motivation to go into the cold attic and clean up. Russ is away for a few days, and I am missing him. So, when I buckled up Quincy to take him for a walk, I was just hoping he would pee quick so I could get back in my big chair and continue to grumble and procrastinate.

I was not my best self this morning.

There was a soft snow in the air, barely there, tiny dots of white against a gray sky. Perfect back drop for my mood.

And then a flake landed on Quincy's shiny black coat. I don't know why I noticed such a thing, but I did. It was a perfect star. 6 or 8 points, it was too tiny to tell for sure. The center was lace. I could see the flake perfectly against the black and it stopped me cold. (no pun intended. maybe) I mean, you see those blown up photos of snowflakes all the time, but how often does one present itself to you in all it's miraculous perfection, just big enough for the naked eye to admire? Not one this tiny for sure. Life is truly magical, I thought. Just look at that. My cliche alert did not go off. It was just too perfect.

I reached into my pocket hoping to find my iPhone so I could take a picture. Of course not. I pondered whether I would be able to run in for my camera. I looked  back at the flake and it was evaporating. First the points, then the outside of the circle, then the lace. It melted in slow motion, leaving a soft white haze before it went away totally.

Well, so much for miracles, I grumbled to my whiny self, and I coaxed Q to hurry, promising cheese when we got back inside. A flake drifted by, landed on my lashes and I brushed it off. Then I looked down and saw that my coat had little flakes all over it. Star flakes. Perfect. Tiny. Lacy.

Look at me, all covered in stars, I thought. It was a gift I realized.  A bubble rose in my chest, pushing the grump out, letting the star gazer back in.

I can do this.

Monday, January 14

ready, set...

Well, the first app has been mailed. Here we go again. Fill in the blanks, gather the pictures of your creations, try to explain your creative process in a way that impresses whoever is going to read it, write the checks (app fee and booth fee), hope they clear, check off that box on your list, file the paperwork. Wait.

There will be one of those every week or 2 now for a while. I will procrastinate and grumble until I have mere hours to get it to the post office. As I mail the last of them, the first of them will be letting me know if I got the show or not.

I have to readjust my attitude, I think. This is business, not personal. If they don't choose me, so be it.


Some years ago, after doing a run of awful shows, I decided to try for one show every year that seemed "out of my league". Since I wasn't expecting good news, it was exciting when I got it. And I got it more often than not. Last year I tried for one in Michigan near my son and his family and was "not invited" but it was a last minute rush job. This year I will submit better work and try again. It's a long shot, but I made a vow.

My life, for many years, ran on a September to June schedule. Grade school, high school, college, teaching. I still feel a sense of anticipation in September. Now it's a May-December schedule with a preamble. It is the rhythm of my life. The anticipation comes with the first warm afternoon.

So, off and running. OK, walking, but getting there.

Thursday, January 3

dewey would flip a decimal

I actually love the way libraries work now. When I hear about a book that sounds interesting, I log into my account, request the book and my branch emails me when they have retrieved it for me. If I don't want to wait a couple of days for that, I can see which libraries have the desired book on their shelves and I can do the work myself.

Today I went to pick up 2 books that I had requested. I scanned my card at the self service kiosk, put the 2 books on the desk, the computer scrolled out the titles, I pushed the button for email receipt and I was on my way.

Before I go any further, let me say that I love most technology. I own almost everything Apple has come up with in the last 20 years. Their products intrigue me. But for some reason, today I got nostalgic.

I had a flash of memory. The little envelope on the back cover, the card with all the stamped dates on it, the friendly (usually) librarian adding a new date on the card and sliding it into the envelope, handing the book to you. When I was a kid, I liked to think about the people all these dates represented and wonder what books they had taken out. Some of the dates went way back. Like 5 years! and it seemed like ancient history to me.

Now there is no connection to the patrons that came before you. The book is clean, free of history. Every once in a while something falls out from between the pages. A receipt from the drugstore. If you're lucky there is a note written on the back. Or a ticket stub. Once I was gifted with a postcard from Denmark. They were having a great time, the place was amazing but they missed home.

I love my library, but it has become a cold place. There used to be people behind the desk that knew me, that would ask how I was. Now it is sort of like going to the drive through car wash.  In and out in record time, little or no human contact.

But at least there are still books. Standing there waiting for you. Some of them with yellowed pages, some still smelling of printer's ink. All of them holding something you didn't know before. I wonder how long libraries will exist now. How long before we only read books on a glowing screen and the simple pleasure of holding a book and turning the pages goes the way of the little stamped cards?

This may explain why I love making books. I watch people pick them up, cradle the spine, fan the pages, run a hand over the cover, smile. It is almost sensual.

It's the least I can do :)