Monday, December 31, 2012

The Countdown Begins

I'm brimming with ideas and opinions and hopes and resolutions.

I want to make changes. I want to run my forearm over my world and erase it clean.

I want to start over. Jettison. Simplify. Re-evaluate. Set fires. Plant seeds. Stay home. Fly away....

Am I the only one who feels like this on the last day of December? Hopeful, afraid, excited? On the brink of 'differentness?' As though by just living through the next few hours I will cross a line and somehow be reinvented. 

One can always hope.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Christmas Conundrum

This reminds me: Holiday baking! Gah....
In an email to friends recently I wrote that the older I get the harder it is for me to like this time of year....

It's not the snow; I like a change of seasons, thank you. It's the holiday commercialism. It's ads on television telling me to buy a car for everyone on my list. It's me second-guessing myself.

It's Time getting away from me and all of a sudden Christmas is here and I've got all of five minutes to get everything done. It's my kids having a million places they've got to be for the holiday and so I take Tumbledown off their list so that they're not run so ragged.

It's knowing my grandbugs will be spending almost an entire week opening gifts day after day from people who just want to see them smile. It's me wondering what that does to a kid after all....

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holy Snow!

The view from my bedroom window.
I woke yesterday morning to a tinkly, sparkly, wonderland just as I described it in my previous post! Snow stood inches deep on every horizontal surface. The trees were so flocked their branches bowed; and the rowan, with its sprigs of berries, looked like elves had bedecked it overnight in fat, white, Christmas decorations. Bird tracks dotted the surface of the snow and flakes still fell like sequins from the overcast winter sky.... Washington Street looked like a wedding cake!

Of course, I spent the day shoveling (and shoveling and shoveling), but there was hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts and candlelight and Christmas movies in between. And seriously? There's nothing better than being snowed in at Tumbledown.

Overnight the storm passed and now today is all sunshine and dripping icicles. There are still plenty of branches full of snow. On the outside, my muscles ache and smell of analgesics; but inside, my heart is full of the holiday spirit.

And my world? It still looks like a wedding cake. :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Snowy Promise

James thinks the weather forecasters are making much ado about nothing today and suspects we'll be lucky to see a single flake. But me? I'm planning for snow. To heck with the boots and the shovels and the sidewalk salt -- I'm preparing the cocoa and queuing the carols and lighting the candles. 

Because that first snow is MAGIC.

Remember those preschool years? Back then I'd wake to a different kind of light in my room and discover out the bedroom window an icy fairyland, its still-falling snowflakes glittering like sequins in the weak morning light. Looking back, I swear there was even a tinkly, icicle-chime soundtrack!

I'd impatiently wolf my breakfast of Maypo so Mom could pack me into my snowsuit and send me out into it. And once outside I marveled at the world's insulated silence. I tasted the snow and looked for animal tracks and tried to blaze a waist-deep trail. Soon the pristine yard was a mess of half-made snowmen and blurry angels, child-sized holes dug into snowbanks, crazy senseless routes right out of 'Family Circus.' Then, suddenly exhausted, I'd fling myself into a drift and stare up at the sky, dark in contrast to the fat white flakes that fell from it onto my tongue. My cheeks were on fire. There was snow melting in my boots, and my wrists were icy and blue where my mittens didn't quite reach my jacket cuffs. But go inside? No, not yet! Not even for hot tomato soup and soda crackers.

I have a feeling I napped well on those days; my mother must've loved it. But it's there that my memories of First Snowfalls seem to end. I'm sure there were other magical days like that. But maybe I was in school when they happened, or on my way to work or something. Years later, I remember suddenly realizing that those unbearable days of dropping everything and rushing out into that wonderland were over....

When my own Girlz were small, that magic began again for me. Only this time I hung onto it. And when they started their school years I did not forget the importance of that First Snowfall. If it happened on a school day, I kept them home. We went outside together to build forts and make snowmen, and when we returned inside once more, there was cocoa to sip. Sometimes there'd be popcorn. Or cookie dough to roll and shape and decorate. And always a wintry-themed picture book.

I've never regretted it. And the First Snowfall isn't the only holiday we created and kept, either. They're only little once. And the memories made (for myself as much as for them) are priceless and linger still.

How about YOU? What memories does that First Snowfall conjure? I'll bet they're pure magic too. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

5 Magical Things

Another magickal thing? Frostbirds on my window!
Five magical things about my day today:

1.) Phone calls and videos from the grandbugs. (I hope when old hearts repeatedly melt like this and recover, they grow stronger as a result....)

2.) Quaker's new Banana Bread Instant Oatmeal. Lovelovelove it. It's like having dessert for breakfast.

3.) Glancing up as I write this and noticing rainbows floating gently around the room. The solar crystal in my front window must be working again -- yay!

4.) New leaves on the Crown-of-Thorns cactus I inherited from James's mother.

5.) An Etsy sale. (So grateful!)

What's magic about your day today? Please share. :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Anniversary Time (and a Reason to Read to the End)

Cyber Monday -- the anniversary of the opening of my Etsy store -- fast approacheth, so this past week has been all about taking images, writing copy, and listing some new Mayfaire products in my virtual shop in preparation for the Big Day. It befuddles me that doing this is easily the most painstakingly slow and torturesome process EVER. But I have a sneaky feeling that I make it harder than it is....

Last year at this time I was just getting to know my digital camera. I have some practice under my belt now, but not enough to streamline things. And since every window in my house is full of glassware, plants, and birdcages, I'm hardpressed to find one that lets in enough natural light for me to illuminate a product or two. I have to get close to it, for one thing. And then I have to have a horizontal surface near enough (and clear enough!) to it to pose a product. Gah!...

And heaven knows there's no shortage of props around here. Anywhere you look there's a cool book or little easel to help support a product or stage a photo. It's choosing one that's the hard part! I'm defined by my stuff and I like to share it in teeny tiny bits so that if you're ever at my house you'll have been prepared for the assault on the senses that is Tumbledown. But then because there are so many ways around here to show a product off I end up taking about a million shots, of course.... (Note to self: In future, just lay the poor thing on a piece of barn board and have done with it.)

After all the picturetaking comes the tweaking. Is the photo too dark? Is the image too blurry? Did I remember to photograph the creation from every angle? Did I remember to add the Mayfaire logo? Choose, save, upload, etc. Wash, rinse, repeat. Whew!

And if it was just about the photos, I'd be happy. But then there's the copy. I love reading sellers' copy! Creative copy makes me fall in love with a seller sometimes. It makes me want to buy their product just to have something made by such a special person!

But by the time I get to writing my own copy I'm tapped out. I can't see straight, I can't think straight. All I know is, the gajillion pics I just combed through make me sick to tears of the product I now have to gush about. Oops!

And this year it doesn't help that at this particular point in time I'm kind of an emotional slug, so it's hard to be all "!" when every cell in my body is feeling "...." I want to be gushy about my work (because no one wants to buy from an Eeyore), but the dishonesty of the 'fake it 'til you make it' rule kind of gives me hives....

This week, during all the tedious nit-pickiness of it all, I've wondered more than once whether or not what I'm doing is worth it. So much of my time has been spent on only a handful of products! (How do sellers with a million items DO this, anyway??) And in the year it's been open, my Etsy store has gotten few views and had few sales. I know I don't have to be a micro-managing perfectionist, agonizing over every product photo and every copy blurb. And I know there are more things that I can do as its proprietor to augment the numbers and statistics, as it's not just about uploading a photo and hoping for the best.

But without some tangible feedback I can't ignore the occasional feeling that perhaps my photos are holding me back, or my copy is lame, or my prices are too high or too low or too something. Or perhaps it's simply just me. (It's always a rollercoaster ride here in my head!)

And then a sale occurs and you'd think I'd won the moon or something, LOL! :)

So it goes....

Happily, I seem to have a smidgen more of a handle on this virtual store thing now than I had at the beginning. And because a virtual store interests the bejaysus out of me, I'm hoping to somehow maintain this interest and energy.

So here's to Cyber Monday and Mayfaire's 1-year anniversary. And here's to some new product listings all ready and waiting for you to check them out! And in the event that you like something you see there, please know that a 20% discount off your purchase (from now through the end of November, or until I remember to deactivate it) awaits you for being my beloved reader. Just use the coupon code CYBER2012 during the checkout process.

Thank you. And happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holiday Musings

It's Thanksgiving Eve. 

The holiday is just moments away, and I haven't cleaned house or made pies or thawed a turkey. I won't be doing the cooking. In all my years I've only hosted the day's get-together once that I can remember. And it was epic. There was premature labor involved.

Instead, this year I'll be traveling north to my parents' house as usual, where my family and I will pass the potatoes and the green bean hotdish and get our fart jokes in a row. (I have brothers. It's what we do.)

Last year's drive to Mom and Dad's was full of memories. I can recall the rows of corn still standing out in the fields and the deer navigating between them, the November world smelling of sleep and snow, and my head full of the recollections of childhood.

Thanksgiving begins the Nostalgia Season for me. I consider the years that have passed and the years I have left. This year will be no different.  

I'll look around the table at my brothers and their loved ones. I'll think of my Girlz busy with celebrations of their own, and the children that they're making fond memories for. I'll see my aged parents together and happy. And my heart will hurt with gratefulness for all that I have and all that surrounds me. Still surrounds me. And I'll say a silent prayer for more years together. Please.

Then just before my heart shatters completely, someone at the table will make the first fart reference and we'll be off in shrieks of laughter so loud that my nephew will cover his ears. 

Fart jokes to the rescue. I'm thankful for them, too. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Already Counting the Days Until Next Hallowe'en

Hallowe'en here at Tumbledown is sometimes all about the pumpkins.

If you don't know this yet about me, Hallowe'en is my fave holiday of the year. It's gotten more so as I've aged, and each time it nears I'm reminded of every Ray Bradbury story I've ever read and my head spins with his images.

To me it's all about the atmosphere.

Now it's usually more about the 'creepy' than the 'cute.'
In past years my holiday decor consisted of pumpkins, gourds, jack-o-lanterns, scarf-draped lamps and tarot cards, flickering candles and mulled cider and Ouija boards. But since James moved in with me all that has changed.

James is an old-school, 'slasher film' kinda Hallowe'en guy. And a Young Frankenstein kinda Hallowe'en guy. There's humor in his holiday, and a healthy pinch of gore. He's not above the pop-up-and-scare-you stuff (at which I draw the line). And a trip to a seasonal Hallowe'en outlet with him is 'interesting.'

Left on our own, I will go directly to the atmospheric stuff (The candelabra! The fringed black tablerunners!), but James wants the crawling zombie animatronic. He wants the clacking and sparking lab device, the knife switches, the bubbling beakers with their contents of fake bloody body parts. He wants the quaking tombstones and the screaming wraiths....

So I've taken to divvying up the house: I get the inside, he gets the outside. And then I tweak all that he does because I'm a Hallowe'en control freak.

Mr. Bones relaxes by the fire.
This year, one of our first holiday purchases was a full-size skeleton. I've always wanted one, and I've held out over the years until I could find something that looked 'just right.' (There are a lot of skellies out there, but the bulk of them just look cheesy....)

Before we even got him home I'd already named him Mr. Bones. Not original, I know, but when I first saw him in the store I couldn't help but say, "Ahhhh, we meet again, Meestah Bohnz!" (Admit it; not even you can say his name without sounding like a Bond villain.) And not surprisingly, the name stuck. What can I say?....

This looks equally nice as a mantel scarf!
In the same picture (above) you can kind of see the lamp on my fireplace mantel. You may or may not be able to see that it's a real working electric meter, but that's not the part I want to show you. This year I spookified my mantel lamp with a fringy black valance from a curtain set that I'd bought at a Hallowe'en store once upon a time. (I wasn't sure then what I was going to do with it or if I'd ever use it, but it's better to be safe than sorry, right?). I ran a shoelace through the spaces in the top of the valance where a curtain rod would go, and then I tied the ends of the shoelace together before draping the whole thing over the lampshade. When it was in place, I finger-pleated the curtain. Voila! :)
I love the result, don't you?

While I was playing around indoors, James was busy in the front garden, stomping my sedum and artemesia into fragrant dust while negotiating the logistics of the fog machine. And then there were tombstones to hook up to it, obelisks to arrange, and battery-operated Angels of Death to suspend from my garden hooks -- all before the trick-or-treaters were due to arrive.

This season we discovered a creation at the Goodwill that we refer to now as 'Cocoon Man.' It's a vaguely body-shaped lump wrapped in fake spiderweb. The thing I love about it is that even though it's battery-operated to do stuff, it's still pretty low key for an animatronic. No deafening sound effects. No stupid cackling voice shrieking things like, "Get me out of here!" (I could never figure out why it's not enough for Hallowe'en decorations to just look cool....)

The photo doesn't do him justice, but you get the idea.
At first we were going to simply suspend Cocoon Man by his feet from a tree branch. But I couldn't help thinking how much better he'd look hanging vertical inside the lighted archway that I normally keep inside my house by the front door. (Yes, it's a Hallowe'en prop, too, but I didn't have the heart to pack it away; it's just too cool. And leaving it outside year 'round was out of the question, and not because I care at all what the neighbor's think. I just didn't want it to fall prey to the Minne-snow-tah elements.)

After combining Cocoon Man with the archway, I again couldn't help thinking how much better he'd look with some more of my tweaking. I entwined the arch with a swag of black plastic maple leaves, then wrapped Cocoon Man in more spiderweb before sprinkling him with a few plastic spiders. Then I affixed a large furry spider (it has a funny face, so I'm guessing it was originally meant as a table decoration) to his throat to make it look as though Big Mama spider had chosen him as dinner for her spiderlings. Mwa-ha-haaaaa. I had no idea that the whole effect would look so awesome come nighttime....

Cheap top hat + valance + eyeliner = costume
Since I was knee-deep in the doldrums at the time, I had little interest in doing more for the holiday than we already had. However, five minutes before our first trick-or-treater was due, I found the interest and energy to cook up a quick costume. One floppy top hat (again from the Goodwill; this one had the word 'Bridegroom' across the front of it, but I blacked the letters out with marker), one additional black lace curtain valance, some liquid eyeliner and I was good to go.

Three dozen trick-or-treaters and a handful of Addams Family TV-series reruns later and Cocoon Man and the rest of his graveyard friends were back inside, awaiting their return to the basement again until next year.

Sadly, our trick-or-treater count was down from seasons past. James thinks that our usual Goth teens have grown up and moved on, and he hopes that we're somehow inspiring Hallowe'en-lovin' little ones to return in future. At least a couple ventured forth with their parents this year and whispered shyly to James that they 'love our house,' so it was nice to know that all James's work was noticed....

And I say 'James's work' because he really did do the bulk of it. I felt bad that because of my mood this year I was unable to do much of the stuff I usually do for Hallowe'en. No pinky-grey Jell-O molded to look like a human brain. No paper lunchbags inkstamped with witchy images and filled full for the trick-or-treaters. No Body Bag Tacos or cauldron brimming with green margaritas. No haunted house sounds moaning from the stereo speakers.... I'm blaming it all on a bout of Post-Fest doldrums followed by a month that was all about obligation when it should've been about recovery...

But I have high hopes for next year.


Lest you think I've forgotten, today's additions to the Thankfulness List are:

1.) A birthday that's in the month of October.
2.) Leftover Hallowe'en candy.
3.) Ray Bradbury and how he gets into my head more than ever each autumn.
4.) Actress Carolyn Jones' oh-so-curvy Morticia Addams.
5.) A guy in my life who doesn't mind putting away the Hallowe'en flotsam. (Thank you, James!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

It's 1 a.m. on Election Day and I'm almost too excited to sleep....

Moments ago I stood outside under the overcast sky. I sensed the ghosts of suffragettes. And I prayed for the best possible outcome for the American people.

The entire neighborhood was asleep so I spoke my words aloud, and the wind freshened before my prayer was even ended. The air chilled. I felt the occasionally droplet on my skin. And now as I type I can hear gusts blowing rain against the windows. Whatever. If it snows tomorrow, I'll still be standing in line at the little brick elementary school down the street, waiting my turn....

So today it's no surprise that I'm especially thankful for the brave women throughout history who fought so hard and risked so much so that I may vote.

Ladies, you are in my thoughts today.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Whoops! Woe! Work! Whew!

The weekend had a lot of blah in it, and it's all my own fault....

I was in the process yesterday of finishing an art piece that I've worked on periodically since before Fest was even over for the season, and -- wouldn't you know it! -- as my mind wandered and my hand worked, I watched my own self make an error that I couldn't correct.

No electric eraser was gonna come to my rescue as this was a big old ink error. I cursed creatively. I beat myself up. I appealed to the art gods. I weighed my options. I couldn't figure out how to incorporate my mistake. And I couldn't bear to take an X-Acto knife to it and mortise in a solution. So I shut the door on it all and walked away.

But inside I knew what I had to do; I just didn't want to do it. And there was no time to think creatively, as the piece would be my gift to my grandson, whose first birthday party was scheduled for today. 
Within minutes of realizing my error, I phoned my daughter and explained the situation, and she completely understood if I was unable to finish the gift on time.... But I was less understanding. I couldn't cut myself the slack! Maybe I could have somehow if what had happened to it was an accident. But this was an error of 'seeing.' I'd literally drawn something incorrectly and then inked in my mistake, and I couldn't forgive myself. I knew better.
I would have to start all over again.
So all night long I worked -- retracing what I could salvage and redrawing what I couldn't, then blocking out my color choices, inking in my pencil work, and rendering the color. And drinking coffee, too. And watching hoaky late-night television.... 
I couldn't leave anything until morning. PartyTime was noon, and I was afraid that if I went to bed at all I'd oversleep. The piece was eventually framed at 5:00 a.m. and I debated even bothering going to bed at that hour. But then I realized that it was Daylight Saving Time -- sleep was mine after all! Yes, it was just an hour, but it was a dipped-in-GOLD hour. 
Now the party's over. The gift's been given and received. And seeing the finished piece satisfies me. That being said, today I'm thankful for:
  • The big clunky x-ray viewer that I use for a lightbox. (Beats heck out of the pane of window glass and the desk-lamp-on-the-floor-at-my-feet that I used to use.)
  • Autumn Daylight Saving Time!
  • Waking up not feeling hungover-ish from sleep deprivation.
  • A corner slice of birthday cake. (Three times the frosting!)
  • A grandson so handsome that I could just kiss his face off.
See? Most beautiful boy EVER.

Friday, November 2, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Thankfulness

This looks Christmassy to me....
Just last week I was standing at the counter in a local McDonalds and noticed that Christmas-inspired McFlurries were now being offered and advertised, and I had a mini fit.

I get that the Christmas buck is the biggest, but please can't we take the year one holiday at a time? I thought to myself, "Hey! There's a Hallowe'en to enjoy first, and don't forget Thanksgiving."

Poor Thanksgiving....

Because of that moment at McDonalds I've since decided that Thanksgiving needs its due. And to honor it proper I've made the commitment to create a daily list of things I'm thankful for. Every day from now through the month of November.

(And before you begin thinking that this might suck for you as a Not-So-Daily Maily reader, please know that I've got so much on my plate right now that posting here every day will be difficult, so I will be keeping the bulk of my list to myself. However, I urge you to make one with me, and I would love it if you shared your daily entries!)

So here it is -- November Oneth. And today I'm feeling thankful for:
  • Leftover Hallowe'en candy.
  • Hot water and a deep bathtub.
  • Squash soup for supper.
  • A mood that can almost see a pinpoint of light at the end of its dark tunnel.
  • YOU.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Hallowe'en

Time's playing tricks again; suddenly it's one of my favorite days of the year. And now that it's here I don't want to miss a single moment of it....

These early morning hours are brittle. Overhead, the Woman in the Moon is full and fabulous, and the stars pinned to her velvet cloak are brilliant. Standing in her light, I can hear leaf rustlings and smell woodsmoke. And I can taste winter on the wind....

Tomorrow there will be tombstones to set up and trick-or-treat bags to fill, a pumpkin to carve and a front door to flock in spiderweb. But for now, some sleep is in order.

So may I be the first to wish you a very special Hallowe'en, my friend, and share my hopes for a new year that is full of promise and prosperity.

Let the magick begin!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Inching Forward

It's a late October day of clouds.

The neighborhood's been fairly silent this afternoon. No deafening leaf blowers and lawn mowers, no droning street sweepers and wood chippers. Just birdsong. And the static crackle of leaves dancing down the street.

My house is dark and still, as though not even I am here. I have no substance today.

My invisibility has been coming on steadily by degrees since before Fest was even over. At that time I'd been reduced to just a hologram, powered by a rechargeable battery that was in the process of irrevocably losing its memory. Every smile started out bright and began fading at once, and it hurt significantly just to pull enough juice from somewhere to generate another.

And today there are few smiles. My post-Fest agenda has burned me out completely. It's been a difficult month....

But I think it's a good sign that for the last five minutes I've been writing.

I may feel depleted. I may feel as though my well's gone dry. But it amuses me to notice that as soon as I'm able to function at all it's not a sketch pad and a pencil that I turn to. It's not even my books or my pets or my music. It's words.

And who do I write to? You.

I have missed you.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Snowflakes and Smiles

(Would you believe we're supposed to be napping?)
There are snowflakes in my village today! Only a few, but still.

And I have yet to pay attention proper to my favorite season of the year, so if they know what's good for them, they'd better make their visit brief. Just sayin'.

Because there are still loose Fest-related ends to gather and tie, belated birthdays to celebrate, Halloween flotsam to gleefully wade through, and so much battening down of hatches to do before the snow comes.

And dang if this girl's battery isn't down for the count....

But it's not so depleted that I can't enjoy a Bug Day. And yesterday was IT. I got to pick my eldest Bug up from preschool and hold her mittened hand all the way back to my house, stopping repeatedly to check out fairy-sized holes in oak trees and add acorn caps to our pockets. Every step of our walk was a cold and blustery adventure, its soundtrack one of wind in the trees and the crunch of leaf piles underfoot and the enthusiastic, run-on sentence delightfulness that is the Grandbug's communication style, itself animated dramatically and told in notes that only dogs can hear.

Before our coats were even off at our destination she was cleaning pet dishes and dispensing foodstuffs (she takes her jobs at my house uber-seriously), and then we were on the floor together, re-enacting at her suggestion her favorite moments of this year's Festival. A stuffed chicken became the Piccolo Pony. A toy firetruck was the ladder for our dolls to mount it. (One doll was afraid she'd fall, but another said in a cute cartoon voice, "I will hold onto you. You'll see -- it's FUN.") Then a plastic bowl became the Butterfly Ride. As Avery gently twirled the bowl in the air she said to me, "Gramma, remember when you took me on the Butterfly Ride? That ride was awesome." (Said with her characteristic lisp -- 'awe-thumb.' The ride is a no-frills device made to rotate as a result of two adults in the center pushing it manually. This girl has already been on theme park stuff that would give me nightmares, but she remembers the Butterfly Ride. And it was awesome....)

Later on, Grampa James surprised her by arriving home early (I'm not the only one who thinks a Bug Day is worth dropping everything for) and he suggested we all bundle up and walk to nearby Hardees for lunch. Avery explained to him that her walk with me from preschool earlier was all fun and stuff but "my armth and legth and feet and handth got really really tired!", so he dug the stroller out from the garage and tucked her into it for the trip. Hamburgers got cold what with all the excited talking, but milk was consumed so I called it a satisfactory lunch. And on the way home we took a more scenic route and I asked her what her favorite part of the day was so far and she said, "All of it."

Once back again at Tumbledown, Avery informed us that she was tired and demanded that all three of us cram into my bed for a nap. But a book must be read first, of course. Bless her, she picked Where's Waldo and searched each page with serious intent, which allowed me and Grampa to, ahem, 'rest our eyes' in turn. (Because there's a brand of tired that only Bugs can manufacture, and it'll

No napping occurred. No surprises there. But there's just something about spending a chilly Autumn afternoon curled up on a candlewick bedspread with a book and a Bug.

I may have felt even more tired afterward, but my heart was charged to the absolute max. :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The End of a Season

A yawn.

A contented sigh.

I can almost feel Mayfaire curl up like a cat in the sun and close its eyes.

It was a good season! And hugs to all who made it so. :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Almost Over

I think it's supposed to be all about THIS....
The last weekend of Fest approacheth. With much work to do, art to print, product to package, the works.

And it comes with no less than three whole days to give this moneymaking thang a final shot. But instead of knocking myself out preparing for it, what am I doing? Spending today walking outside in the glorious September sunshine.

This is a clue. A clue as to Why I Suck At Business.

If I was serious at all about Fest and this final 3-day weekend, I'd be pulling some long, exhausting, all-nighters preparing to sell art to every person walking through the Front Gate this coming weekend. Right?

But instead I'm out for a leisurely stroll.


Fest is supposed to be about making money. That's kind of the point. Selling my work is what I do now, and my goal is to make a living at it. (Notice I didn't say my goal is to get rich at it; it hasn't happened yet and it never will. But what it does for me in other ways makes me rich enough.)

I've been going along for the last six weeks convinced that this year has been over-the-top for me, saleswise. It has to be! I'm on my feet from morning cannon to evening cannon, talking my face off and wearing out my smile muscles. I've been laughing heartily, hugging gently, listening intently, caring greatly, and trying not to think about money changing hands. Surely all that activity has made my cash drawer as full as it's made my heart!

But the numbers don't lie. In reality, I'm remembering a shop full of people, but not necessarily people buying art.

For every poopyhead who walks into Mayfaire and says, "My dog could draw better than that," or "Oops, I thought this was the shop of the GOOD pen-and-ink artist," there've been boatloads of folks (like yourself, maybe) who've come in just for a hug, or to tell me you miss the days when I was your receptionist, or to show me pictures of your new grandchild because you know I understand what it's like to be a grandparent, or to say things like, "My mom went to grade school with you and she wasn't able to come with me today but she wanted me to look you up and tell you that she always knew you'd grow up to be a famous artist!" (Working at the Renaissance Festival equals famous! I love it.)

My minion, Sir Douglas, tells me every weekend after totaling receipts that I'd make more bucks if I'd do things differently. I give my work away, for one thing. It's gotten so that my friends will sneak in when my back is turned and buy art from him when I'm not looking so they can do so and pay full price. Because they know how I roll.

And I admit that I often catch myself forgetting to close a sale. Or I talk a customer out of a sale (can you believe it??) because I don't want them to buy if they're not 100% happy with the purchase. Or I send them to another artist whose work I know is more in the style of what they're looking for so that they can compare and make a more informed choice. Or I pull them away from looking at art so that I can otherwise engage them in conversation. (I'm such a bad businessperson! But you can't help it if you're so interesting.)

Others remind me that I'd be rollin' in the bucks if I'd just take my business seriously. (I do take it seriously. It's just that more important stuff gets in the way....)

And still others insist I'd be a rockstar if I'd just license my designs or display my work at Cons or sell tattoo flash or fill-in-the-blank. And I listen, I really do. But the suggestions never go anywhere. None of it makes sense to me. I wouldn't know where to start, for one thing. And to me, the seven weekends of Fest are about as Big Business as I can imagine. I get more attention there than I can stand. And I even sell some art, too.

So it's my own fault that I'm not as successful as maybe I could be. I have a great imagination, but it can't begin to fathom my work in Hot Topic stores or in the pages of Faerie Magazine or as the foundation of a Mary Engelbreit-like empire. It's impossible for me to even wrap my head around the concepts. (And really? It's all a little frightening to me. It smacks of 'rich and famous' which, in my brain, is one of the Seven Levels of Hell.)

Bottom line? Maybe I'm just an artist who fears success. Or maybe I feel like I'm already rich enough. And maybe this post -- about how I'm determined to be in business for myself and yet I SO suck at business -- is one of the most hard-to-admit ones I've yet to write.

But that delayne up there in those paragraphs? I kind of like her.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ten Things About My Week

This week has been all about:

1. As much sleep-getting as possible.

2. Cupfuls of Mister Bubble in the bath.... (Remember that commercial? "Madam, how do you dooooo?")

3. More ideas than my little world can hold.

4. My whole self's frantic absorption of All Things Autumn before the curtain closes and reopens on All Things Winter.

5. Stolen moments for reading. (Earlier this week it was a fabulous handwritten manuscript by an artist friend. Now it's a little 19-cent paperback copy of Hurray for Me by author S.J. Wilson.)

6. 'Grandpa Ott' morning glories blooming amidst the dried Milkweed stalks, bee-bedecked Sedum, and gone-to-seed Artemesia in my messy front garden.

7. Pink Lady apples for breakfast and lunch, followed by popcorn for supper.

8. Angsty, ranting, hair-pullery in response to computer giraffecrap. Hate computers. Hate them. Maybe even hate Technology. 

9. The sense that my thoughts are swirling into little Dust Devils. They're picking up speed now and beginning to disorganize what little sense I've managed to make of the many clutter-filled rooms in my head. Things are getting messy again....

10. The happy/sad readiness for Fest to be over now.....

Monday, September 17, 2012

Forced Laryngitis

My computer's down for the count, and without a keyboard I am lost.

Make that capital 'L' Lost.

Heck, make that capital everything LOST.

Since its demise last week I've hunted down my fun-to-write-with pen (you've got one too, I know) and have been furiously writing notes, making lists, penning ideas, and composing journal entries. My hands just need to make words! And my head just needs to get them out.

But it's still not enough. I feel voiceless....

I think what's missing is the You factor. I forget how important it is for me to 'talk' to you like this. (You're so special to me; big thankyous for being out there.)

Hopefully soon I can write to you without having to do so from my phone. I can type as fast as I think, just not with my thumbs so much. And we both know how dang wordy I can be. Just these few paragraphs have taken me the greater part of my coffee break, and that's just frustrating. Plus, these thumbs weren't made for texting.

Anyway, when I do write again, I'll be sure to include many X's and O's.

Because you're in my thoughts and I've missed you. :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From Me

Dear Mother Nature,

You totally nailed it today!

The biggest of thankyous.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Fair Day Off

Even though preparations for the upcoming Labor Day weekend at Fest are keeping me busy (and will now require some all-nighters), I couldn't help but give a day away this week to the great Minnesota get-together: the Minnesota State Fair.

The State Fair runs every August for (I think) twelve days, ending on Labor Day. And because my weekends are devoted to the Renaissance Festival at the same time, I have to fit it in where I can.

I like it more every year I'm there. 

James, as it turns out, has never really been a fan, but I like to think that going there with me is changing his attitude. We can now spend an entire day there together from dawn until dark, and he'll patiently look at every quilt and 4-H project I choose to ponder. However, the one thing I think he could happily live without is the Annual Touring of the Animal Barns....

It doesn't matter that I've never really lived on a farm or even spent a moment slopping pigs or milking goats. In my head I see myself as a Farmgirl. So spending long and happy moments touring the noisy animal barns is one of my State Fair pleasures. And because James would be meeting me there after half a day of work, I decided this year to get to the Fair way before he did so I could see the barns at my leisure without having to park him on a bench to read the paper.

It was a great idea.

However, I slept through my morning alarm, then missed my first bus to the State Fair shuttle point, and then was annoyed and dismayed to discover that what was supposed to be a shuttle point wasn't.... Hours that could've been spent seeing farm animals were rapidly slipping away.

And I was sitting on a bus bench feeling dang sorry for myself when I observed a couple getting out of their car across the way. Both were in straw cowboy hats and sensible shoes -- definitely Fair folk. They approached a bus driver, asked a question, seemed surprised by the answer, and began returning to their car. A lightbulb went off in my head and I quickly caught up with them. And -- bless their hearts! -- they were willing to give me a ride to the real shuttle point. And soon we were all en route to the Fair.

Ruth and Sam Stuart are from Carlton, Minnesota. They are definitely kindred spirits. As we rode together they told me stories about everything from beekeeping to hand-woven rugs to their travels around the country. I was fascinated. As we got closer to the Fair, I suddenly realized that the crazy mishaps of my morning were far away in my memory, and because of these delightful Minnesotans I had a smile on my face once more. (Thank you, Ruth and Sam for saving the day!)

As it turned out, James had arrived at the Fair just moments before me. We began our day in the International Bazaar by checking out the merchandise in the Irish on Grand booth and sampling some new (to us) State Fair foods. First on the list were the lamb 'fries' at the Holy Land Deli (tasty), and then the beef tongue caramelos at Sonora Grill (not so much....). And over the course of the day we sampled smoked pig ankles, SPAM curds, and bacon ice cream, as well as a host of other State Fair faves like Pronto Pups and cheese curds.

I'm the world's best customer, I swear. As James and I strolled through the Grandstand I couldn't help but yearn for the Singer sewing machines and the Hammond organs, the hanging hammocks and the Sham-Wow, the mop that picks up pet hair and the slicey-dicey kitchen device that does everything from creating serving boats out of watermelons to turning radishes into roses. I listened to all the sales pitches with eyes filled with wonder until James gently led me (and his wallet) a safe distance away.

I stood in line for a free tube of pickle-flavored lip balm. I wore a paper mosquito hat so tall that it kept bumping into things. I dodged strollers, trod through manure, watched strands of fluffy cotton candy float away on the breeze, smelled barbecue and heard calliope tunes. I saw beauty queens carved in butter, ate chocolate-covered bacon, drank cold Culligan water, listened to banjo pickers. I shook hands with the Vita-Mix lady who sold me my appliance over 15 years ago and told her that I still use it every day. I collected literature on how to raise rabbits and how to compost kitchen scraps in a bin under the sink. I ate more ice cream in one day than I have all year! I thought my feet were going to fall off....

I ate my first ear of sweet corn of the summer. I took pictures of art made entirely of seeds. I saw the state's largest pumpkin, weighing over a thousand pounds! I studied the workings of a steam-powered pencil sharpener. I delightfully toured (and by 'toured' I mean entered and barely turned around in) some of the smallest little camping trailers ever, and I imagined myself going to Renaissance Festivals and living in one of them.

And then at the end of the day I finally got to the Poultry Barn.

I like all the barns, but the Poultry Barn is one of my faves. (No surprise: the Horse Barn is another, but by the time James and I get to the Fair, most of the stalls seem empty....) James found a bench for resting his feet and closing his eyes, and I made a bee-line for the chickens.

I love the big and fluffy ladies that I'm sure would take my head off if there wasn't a cage between us, but my favorites are the little ones that look like they just stepped out of a painting of an old English cottage. I'm a big fan of Runner Ducks. And even though I'm sure they're nasty as all get-out, I can't help but love what I like to call the Mother Goose geese....

All the while I was in the Poultry Barn, I kept encountering an elderly man in a suit and a straw cowboy hat. A young woman was pushing him in a wheelchair. They stopped at every cage and he whispered to each bird. It made me think about farms and the farmers who love them. It reminded me of the story Sam Stuart shared with me of his 80-year-old friend who was offered millions for the acreage surrounding his homestead but stubbornly wouldn't sell. It made me think of the farms that are disappearing.... And my inner Farmgirl, stuck here in the 'burbs with a deep yearning for wide open spaces, kind of wept for him.

It was dark and the Midway was just gearing up by the time James and I called it quits. My old legs were screaming and it was a blessed pleasure to climb into the car for the ride home. And on the way I thought about beekeeping and cornfields, and the logistics of bringing a thousand-pound pumpkin to the Fair, and how many hours it must take to recreate the Last Supper out of millet and mustard seeds. And I thought about kids and their cows, and old men remembering chickens, and old women submitting shining Mason jars full of pickles and rainbow-hued jellies so pretty they look like stained glass. And I wondered if there are any little kids nowadays who even get to see a farm let alone live on one or have grandparents who still live on one. And I thought about the Stuarts and how lucky I was to meet them and hear their stories.

It was a day full of happy and sad and wonder and awesome.

It was just a normal day at the Fair.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Magick Comes to Mayfaire

As pretty on the inside as she is on the outside.

Twig Oaklyn Flewinia Thistlebottom (aka 'Twig the Fairy') graces Mayfaire with her beautiful and melodious (and very glittery!) presence.

Enchantment was enjoyed by all. :)

What Would I Do Without YOU?

You have my heart.
I can't thank you enough.

You came all the way to Mayfaire just to say hi. You don't even like Renaissance Festivals and you came all the way to Mayfaire to say hi.

To me. Thank you.

You brought me coffee, introduced me to your friends, asked about my grandbugs, shared your art with me, even made me a gift, for heaven's sake.

You gave me the warmest and gentlest of hugs.... Twice. :)

You laughed at my joke (and we all know I'm not funny), and your laughter at just the right time made my day. You made me like you even more than I already do. You made me SO glad we're friends!

You looked at my work, you studied each piece. "Which are you proudest of," you said. "Which one still fills you with wonder when you look at it?" And I couldn't decide. I considered each one, and I didn't know how to talk to you about them because you're an artist, too. But I tried and you listened. I wasn't trying to sell you one, I hope you know that. And you didn't have to pay me twice what I'd listed it at. And you didn't have to say, "I know you think this is worth $25, but to me it's priceless." You made me cry happy tears. I am so glad our paths crossed!

Thank you....

You trusted me with your crisis. It was a harsh year for you, wasn't it? And all I could do was listen and hope my heart wasn't breaking too loudly. But you gave me a smile before you left, and I hope it was as healing for you as it was for me because I'd give it back to you if I could.

You shared your milestone with me; what an accomplishment! And we were proud for you together, weren't we?, because you're amazing. :)

You sang that song, you know the one. The sweet and melancholy one that makes me see cloaked and kilted shadows and feel oh so far away. And that toe-tapping one that I'll find myself singing for the rest of the week. And that old standard that you tweaked and twisted and breathed jazzy new life into until I hardly recognized it, and when I did it filled my whole day with delight.

You were patient with me. You urged me out of my comfort zone and then let me hurry back to it again. You put me in a hat, for heaven's sake. With a snood. And a feather. You chose that pinpoint of color that kept me looking in the mirror all day wondering just who that sassy lady was.

And at the end of the day when that sassy lady was gone and there was just me in my old black tee and cammo pants, just me covering art and closing up shop and singing aloud to myself in the gathering twilight, you peeked in the door and said, "You have a nice singing voice. I've walked past your shop twice now just to hear you." And for a long moment I wondered who the heck you could be talking about. And then you were surprised when I leapt through the doorway and hugged the breath out of you.


Do you know how special you are? You are MAGICK.

And I'm so grateful for you.