When Moby woke me at 5:00 to go outside, I thought maybe the weather had cooled off enough that I could spend an hour or so in the T A R A N T U L A guarded studio. Unfortunately, it was still 85 degrees outside and over 95 (the limit of the thermometer) inside. Even Biscuit, who usually minds the heat less than Moby, wanted in after about ten minutes.
However, I did stay out there long enough to take care of a small project, but that was all I could handle. Then it was back in the house.
All I brought back with me was a little packet of determination.
I've been in a crafting slump for a couple of weeks, and with less than three weeks until the first show, I really need to get my ass in gear, especially when it comes to these small "angel feather" pendants. So I actually made one this morning!
Now if I could only get out of my reading slump.
It's a little before 7:00 p.m. The sun has gone down, but it's not dark outside. This afternoon's high temperature was 107, so I wanted to wait until it cooled down a little bit before I let the dogs out. It's all the way down to 101.
I went outside with them and to take some items over to the studio. I had been there for a few minutes this afternoon and it nearly did me in. But this time I only needed to put a dish in the fridge and drop a book on the desk.
The T A R A N T U L A in the corner by the steps blocked my path.
Oh, it wasn't exactly in my path, but there was no way I was going up those steps. I hollered at the dogs -- scaring Moby -- and got them back in the house, too.
Two T A R A N T U L A s in two weeks is two too many.
And this one was huge. I mean really huge.
I will be sleeping with the lights on again tonight.
For the price of postage only.
I'm not sure where this came from, but possibly it's one of those "I forgot to return the card that said don't send me this" book club editions. At any rate, it's brand new even though it's been sitting on a shelf in the workshop for almost 13 years.
Neither of us is much for soups or stews, so even though there are some great recipes, they're not going to be made here. Someone else might as well get some use out of it.
I'm determined to clear out stuff I'm not using. If no one claims this by Thursday, it will be donated to the Apache Junction Public Library.
The little Washington State Ferry ornament was a gift from my husband's brother and his (Tasmanian) wife years ago. Not forgotten, because I knew exactly where it was. I just didn't remember that the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special was sitting right beside it on the shelf in the workshop. I brought both of them in the house. The ferry now sits beside my desk computer screen.
There's a method to my madness.
When I was at Arizona State 1998-2000, as both a student employee and honors college student I had virtually unlimited access to photocopying and academic database printing. I took advantage of it. Then after graduation, I had a weird little job for almost two years that gave me free photocopying as long as I supplied the paper. I took advantage of that, too. Obscure, long out of print books were my favorites. I copied a lot of them.
Before I moved in 2005, I went through a 20+ year collection of craft magazines and tore out the articles I wanted then threw the rest in the recycling bin. Instead of five banker's boxes full of magazines, I whittled it down to four very fat 3-ring binders.
Since at least 2008, I've had a scanner that will do PDFs, but it never occurred to me to scan all these documents and eliminate the paper. I've always had plenty of storage space so there was no urgency.
In the past two days, I've converted over 1200 pages (600 sheets of paper) to PDF files. As soon as I review the PDFs, all that paper will go into recycling.
There is a method to my madness.
I bought this book at The Whale's Tale gift shop in Cape May, New Jersey. Over the course of my various visits to this charming resort and its wonderful beaches, I had picked up a few bits and pieces of genuine sea glass and thought surely I can make something out of it . . . .
Most of the projects in this book are fairly simple, but some are more complex and therefore provide a worthwhile challenge for the not-so-much-a beginner.
Author Lambert provides substantial background information as well, such as a sidebar on ceramic shards that also wash up on beaches. I found one of those on the beach at Cape May, a small piece of what might have been a child's cup decorated with a picture of a whimsical kitten.
She also gives excellent directions for making the projects, including detailed instructions for drilling holes in sea glass using a drill press, regular drill, or Dremel tool. Holes are essential for turning glass pieces into earrings and other jewelry or sun catchers or any of several other creations. In fact, when I took this book off the shelf this morning that was the first thing I looked for: how to drill holes!
Of course, it's not always necessary to drill holes. Some pieces are shaped just right that they can be made into something without drilling. This is a pendant I made with just a piece of Cape May sea glass and sterling silver wire. It sold right away!
I've only found a few very tiny pieces of glass at the beaches on Whidbey Island, Washington, but one thing I did find was one of my coolest discoveries ever.
During a visit in 2009, I had gone with my daughter-in-law and grandson to the beach at Langley, WA in search of rocks or shells or glass or whatever. We found none of the first three, but I did find a whatever. Lying on top of the seaweed-covered rocks at the tide line was a small round grey thing with blue circles on it.
I could accurately describe it as the size of a marble because after we left the beach, we stopped at the grocery store and there was an ordinary glass marble in the parking lot.
Although I don't exactly collect marbles, I do pick them up when I find them, and have acquired maybe two dozen over the years. So of course I picked up this yellow one and dropped it in my pocket.
After we got back to my son's house, we did some quick research and determined that the grey thing with blue circles was in fact an antique clay marble! They're not particularly rare or valuable, but I did think it was kind of cool to find one on the beach, followed by finding a modern one!
But now it's nine years later, and I still don't believe in omens.
First of all, a huge THANK YOU to all of you for the support and just for "listening."
Second of all, I was finally able to spend about 45 minutes in the studio doing some work this morning, but only because I was over there by 6:30 a.m. It's still getting too hot too early to stay out for any significant production.
Third of all . . . . . . .
Yesterday's art group meeting was more disappointing than I had expected, and when I got home, BF was not in a listening mood. He asked how things went and I told him, but he fell back on the same response -- I should start my own group.
He forgets that essentially I started this one.
A small group of neighbors who were artists got the idea in 2007 and recruited a few other people who participated at a large local art show. I was one of the recruits. There were maybe eight of us at the first meeting. By the third or fourth meeting we learned that the annual studio tour was being dropped by its sponsoring organization. (They were not an artists' group but used the event as a fund-raiser for their other activities.) I had so very much wanted to participate in the tour that I was devastated, so I bulldozed the group that was so new it didn't even have a name yet to pick it up. It was a huge project, ultimately run by three of us because no one else wanted to be involved. But without that first 2007 studio tour, we wouldn't have gained any membership nor the $1000 or so seed money that funded the group's beginning.
I ran the first two studio tours. When the person who took it over from me screwed it up royally, I took it back and built it back up. Then it got taken away from me again, and it's struggled ever since.
At yesterday's meeting, the new "Events Chair" announced that there were 77 artists signed up for the fall tour, and they'd be displaying at 23 studios. This is the 12th annual tour, and it hasn't grown. I don't have the paperwork here -- it's out in the studio -- but I'm pretty sure we had 25 studios that first year!
Why more artists than studios? Because the thing now is to have as many "guest" artists at a studio as possible. Each one becomes a mini-show, and some of the studio hosts who have a lot of room on their properties would like to have more and more and more guests. I've argued over the years that it should be fewer guest artists and more emphasis on the host working in their own studio environment. (Isn't that the whole point of a "studio" tour?) Anyone can come to an ordinary art show, where everyone has a 10 x 10 space and sets up all the shit they want to sell. But a studio tour should be . . . . different. . . . . special.
The worst of it was that the Event Chair actually turned down a potential host. When he asked why he wasn't selected as a host, she said, "We already had enough."
In other words, we don't want to grow. Hello?????
She went on to kind of explain that her philosophy is that visitors should be able to visit all the studios in the two days of the event, and if there are too many studios, visitors won't get to them all.
Yet other similar events in other locations have way more studios and sometimes run for two or three or four consecutive weekends!
We have a metropolitan area of several million people. Population increases in the winter as people head south to escape the cold. Our fall tour is always the first week-end in November, as the holiday season is just getting into full swing. There are no other similar studio tours in the area. We have spectacular scenery and some truly great artists.
Why don't they want to grow????
I asked myself that fifty times on the drive home last night, and a thousand more over the course of the evening.
Most of our members -- it's up just over 100 now -- are retired or semi-retired hobbyists. Though some of them make pretty darn good money off their art, they don't do it for a living. Almost all of them have comfortable other incomes. Almost all of them also have spouses or other family members who help out, either financially or whatever. There are only a very few who do this full-time and/or count on the income to pay the bills. I'm one of those.
There's not, therefore, much of a sense of professional community. Each one is on her/his own, and the group is just there to arrange shows . . . and provide some socialization.
I told BF over pizza last night that the whole concept of "professional development" is outside their vision.
Several years ago, when I chaired the studio tour and was considered an unofficial board member, the president wanted a better description for our members than "professional artists." I suggested "working artists" to indicate that we weren't just playing around with stuff but were actually putting in time and effort and so on. She got upset and said no, that was all wrong, because it made it sound like we weren't really creative.
She, of course, was a wealthy retiree who painted because she enjoyed it and didn't need the money.
The meeting was longer yesterday than usual, and I didn't get to make my brief presentation until fifteen minutes before the end. Like a bunch of kindergartners, the 50+ people in the room were already antsy, couldn't stop talking, were getting up and moving about the room.
I began by stating that one of the problems I've seen with advertising the tour is that we have no way to let prospective customers know ahead of time what kind of art each artist does. Our map only allows for a few words to describe the artist's medium -- watercolor, ceramics, woodturning, etc. -- but not anything more. Although in past years a few thumbnail photos have been added, it's kind of unfair that only six or eight artists get promoted out of 70 or more. The one year we had photos from all the participating artists, there was no room to label them, so what good did it do?
The new member who is now designing the map for us -- and he seems to be doing a good job, but more on that in a minute -- has added thumbnail photos for each studio, but only for the host. There's still no visual promo for the guest artists who are roughly 70% of the participation.
I explained that I had found the Whidbey Island Working Artists Tour program and thought it would be a great model for us to follow. Each artist would get the chance to exhibit a few photos, give a brief description of their work and inspiration, or whatever, and the whole thing would be available for free on the group website. I had taken the laptop with me, and I had the Whidbey Island brochure downloaded. As soon as I was done with that brief explanation, I invited anyone who was interested to come over and see what it looked like.
We had over 50 members in attendance yesterday. A grand total of four of them came to see what I had. Those four all agreed that the Whidbey brochure was fantastic, and that even if we couldn't do something like that ahead of the fall tour, which is only seven weeks away, we could surely have it ready for the spring tour.
Those four interested members did NOT include the president, the vice-president who does all the publicity, or the Event Chair.
Around 9:00 last night, I sent an email to the president and VP and thanked them for allowing me to present the idea, but that since only four people showed any interest in it, I'd just shelve it.
The guy doing the map -- I said I'd get back to him. From what I could see of his proofs, the thing looks good. The basic impression is similar to what we've had the past couple of years. He changed the fonts, which I think makes it look less professional, but I didn't say anything. I corrected three quick typos that were on the front page; he said he just copied from last year's, but I know those errors weren't there. He had designed some other promotional paperwork, but I didn't get a chance to look at it. It did look better than what we had in the past.
So there is some indication that maybe the group is willing to get more professional in its presentations.
BUT -- as I said, membership is up over 100 now, but in order to do that, we had to reach out beyond the natural geographic area. We are at the very east edge of the Phoenix metro area; our local population is listed as roughly 40,000, but I don't know if that includes just the actual city of Apache Junction, AZ, or the surrounding unincorporated areas as well. I'm in the latter. At any rate, even out of 40,000 people we couldn't get 100 members. Now we have people from Scottsdale and Mesa joining. The studio tour, however, is limited to a specific area of Apache Junction and neighboring unincorporated Gold Canyon. A few studios are scattered at the northern edge of this area, but most are within two clusters; driving distance is no more than a few miles between any of them.
Whidbey Island has a population of roughly 80,000, and is part of the metro Seattle area. Their summer studio tour had 51 studios. The northernmost was on the southern edge of the city of Oak Harbor; the southernmost was at the far tip of the island approximately 50 driving miles away.
For our tour, the visitor has to visit each studio to "see" what kind of art is displayed; for the Whidbey tour, the visitor can make an informed decision as to what studios to stop at.
For our tour, the artist has to trust to luck to get any individual promotion; for the Whidbey tour, every artist gets individual promotion.
Our VP in charge of publicity announced at yesterday's meeting that she sends out promo material to a variety of different publications. Some are weekly, some are monthly, and all have different requirements and lead times. She sends as many photos as she thinks they want, but she has no control over which, if any, photos are chosen. We don't know if she always sends one of her own, thus improving her chances, or plays favorites with the other members. Maybe not. We don't know where she sends stuff.
She also said that she doesn't vary the text of her material, other than changing dates. So no matter where she sends a Call to Artists, the narrative is the same. No matter where she sends information about an upcoming event, the narrative is the same. Over and over and over, year after year.
I have offered to write these and change them up a bit so they aren't the same dry nonsense over and over but no one ever takes me up on the offer.
The week before each of our events, I send out an email invitation to people who have signed up for notifications. The email list is now about 500 names, and I have to be careful how many I send at a time or Yahoo shuts me down for spamming. Each event gets its own invitation, punched up so it's not the same script over and over. Maybe no one else thinks that's important, but I do.
Professionalism in promotion is one thing. Professionalism in behavior is another. And that came up at yesterday's meeting, too.
We do two shows a year at a local restaurant, the Olive Mill in Queen Creek. It's a horrible place to set up, but sales are usually pretty good, so I keep going.
It's horrible to set up because the venue is a picnic area with a single-lane looping driveway. You have to drive in at one end, get to your spot and unload everything, then park a quarter mile away and walk back. There's very little room to pull off the driveway, so the rule is unload as fast as you can and get out of the way of the people behind you so they can get in. At some points it's possible to pass a parked vehicle, but it's not easy.
Set-up is from 7:00 a.m., with the show officially starting at 9:00. With a helper, it's not difficult to do. For a person working alone, it's kinda tough but doable. What makes it worse is people who block the driveway so you can't even get past them to your space to unload. That is a common -- and very rude -- occurrence.
An announcement was made at the meeting yesterday that the owners of the Olive Mill were furious with our group after last spring's show there because some of our members were rude enough to show up at 6:00 a.m. and got onto the property early. They had to open a barrier to do so, which amounted to trespassing.
We were warned not to do it again.
Hello? These are adults and they have to be reminded to follow directions?
But this is the group I belong to and it's the only game in town.
There are other events in the area, just not other groups.
There is a big art show in January, and in fact that is the show at which I was recruited to join our group. This show is well established and usually draws a very big crowd. I've done it maybe half a dozen times, with varying success. A couple of years I did very, very well. A couple of years not so well. And that's normal. But the fee for the show has gone from $40 to over $100 in the past six years, with now a $25 non-refundable fee just to apply! The set-up arrangements are even worse than at the Olive Mill, especially for someone working without a helper. And success, from my experience, depends very much on where one's booth is placed, due to several factors. I decided not to even apply last year, and I probably won't this year.
The local Superstition Mountain Museum and Historical Society also sponsors several events, but I've had mixed results there. The art shows are combined with a lot of entertainment, and people tend to come for the entertainment, not to shop. This year, they are going to a slightly different format in which a single artist will be featured and promoted. I secured one of those spots in early February. I just need to get some photos sent over so they can do the publicity.
The bottom line on the various shows is that there are sufficient outlets, if one can get accepted into them. There are other, smaller events, and a person who was really dedicated could attend those as well, again depending on acceptance. I've been fortunate enough to get accepted into most shows I've applied to, but I've had a few rejections, too. Nothing is guaranteed.
Nothing would be guaranteed if I moved either.
Okay, moving right along.
Fourth of all, shows alone don't give me sufficient marketing space. Using a 10 x 10 space or tent, I can set up four tables. My jewelry alone takes up at least three, and I can easily fill all four. That leaves little room for any of the rest of the stuff. This is just one reason why I love the studio tours so much -- I have all the room I need, even if I don't get to promote it!
I only started playing with the wood in about 2003, when I wanted my husband to make more small items and he wanted to work on larger ones. So he taught me how to use the lathe and I could make whatever I wanted. Unfortunately, since his death I haven't had much time -- or space -- to do very much more of it. As I wrote in a comment on one of my other whiny posts, it would be nice if I could cut all the rough wood on the band saw this winter and not have to transport the equipment. The problem is that even the workshop isn't set up for it. Could I make it work? Yeah, with some help.
The rocks are one thing. The wood is another. Then there's the fabric.
When we moved here in 2006, I had three big storage tubs full of fabric. I now have 13 big storage tubs full of fabric, and most of it has been given to me. Best of all, most of it has been used to produce income. Unfortunately, it's not cost effective to do any sewing in the studio in the summer.
When I went over there at 6:30 this morning, it was still over 80 degrees inside. By the time I left at 7:20, the temperature was already 90.
I could rearrange some things in the house to make room for the sewing machine, thus enabling me to do some work without turning on the a/c in the studio. It's a far from ideal situation, though I've done it on a temporary basis when BF has been gone for an extended time, either visiting distant family or long week-end out-of-town softball tournaments.
Normally, I use the cooler weather from October to May building up inventory and taking care of "projects" in general, as well as doing my shows. Last year (2017-18 season) was unusual because I had so many problems with my back. And those problems arose because the shows themselves require more physical labor than I can comfortably handle. Even spreading out the loading of the car over several days before a show doesn't help when everything has to be unloaded, set up, torn down, and reloaded all within the space of seven or eight hours. I'm too short, and the reaching into the vehicle is too much of a stretch.
And I have no help. BF's umpiring is almost always on the week-ends, same as my shows. He does help me load things up beforehand and sometimes helps unload after a show, but it's the massive amount of physical labor in that short time frame that does me in.
Ultimately, if I were to move, the least of my worries is packing the inventory. The cost
of packing and moving is one thing, but that's more impacted by the furniture than anything. With a few exceptions, I'm not attached to much of furniture; it can be replaced. I'm more concerned right now with using that inventory to generate income this season. In turn, that's why the whole attitude of the artists' group was so discouraging to me last night.
I have the means to generate inventory; I need the means to generate sales. Does that make sense?
Fifth of all -- moving to Whidbey Island.
There is no guarantee the inventory I produce would sell on Whidbey Island. It's possible that none of my stuff is good enough. Maybe people would think my handmade origami boxes are tacky and cheap, even though I think the mass-produced boxes from China are crap. I suck when it comes to display design, and I'm always too poor to be able to buy the nifty display items.
That being said, however, if I'm going to move, it's going to be to Whidbey Island. I have at least some familiarity with the location, for one thing; and for another, that's where my son and daughter in law and grandson live. That might mean a little more help for setting up at shows. Maybe. Maybe. No guarantee.
Whidbey is a week-end destination for Seattle-ites.
There is a thriving arts community -- as I've said before -- and there is a more of a double-season there than here. While we have our cool-weather season October through March and into April, Whidbey has a summer season plus a holiday season for arts and crafts.
The weather is an issue, and I won't deny that. It's not as bad as Chicago or Minnesota, but it does get cold in the winter and it rains a lot.
I love my Arizona sunshine. I love being in the shadow of Superstition Mountain.
I love my ironwood tree.
I love being able to drive out into the desert and collect really neat rocks and then turn them into jewelry.
Okay, let's see how that really works.
I do love the Arizona winter weather, and I love the sunshine. But it also keeps me from being productive in the summer. I do not go out for any extended period when it's 110 outside, and that's pretty much most of the daylight hours from mid-May to mid-September. Right now, at 9:00 a.m., it's 90 degrees outside, with a predicted high of 103. It's the middle of September. The weather on Whidbey Island isn't the frozen north. No sub-zero temperatures for weeks on end. No great drifts of snow.
I love my mountain. I can't replace that. I've seen the scenery on Whidbey Island; it doesn't compare.
I love my ironwood tree. I can't replace that, either. Would it be possible to grow one on Whidbey Island? I don't know. I'm already committed to taking some cactus cuttings, so maybe some ironwood seeds, too?
I love my rocks, and I have a lot of them already. Truth is, I had already planned that if I did move, I would make at least one more trip out to my favorite rock hunting spot and collect as much as I can before moving. And there are neat rocks in Washington, too.
I am more a mountain and desert person than a beach person, so the kind of murky waters of Puget Sound don't offer much compensation. I do like trees, however, and I've noticed that when perusing real estate listings, I'm less inclined to look at properties that don't have significant trees. Some quick research suggests the Pacific madrone may be a landscaping equivalent to my ironwood. We'll see.
There are currently several properties listed for sale that would meet my current requirements. Whether they are within my budget depends on how much I can get out of what I own here.
Sixth of all, selling this place will probably be the most difficult part of the whole operation.
The main house (1987 manufactured home) needs some exterior repairs due to ordinary weathering damage after 30 years in the sun and some previously untended roof issues. I replaced the roof four or five years ago and fixed those problems, but not the other damage. The roof repair at least halted further damage. Interior is okay except for the carpet. My choice would be to rip it all out and put down laminate, but that would have to be done after all the furniture -- especially all these freakin' bookcases! -- has been removed. The rest of the interior is minor touch-up things, almost all of which were left here by the previous owner and I've just never had the motivation to finish them.
The little house/studio (1987 14 x 50 mobile home) has similar exterior issues due to weather exposure. Roof is new last year. I pulled out all the old carpet in 2007 and put down laminate, but the vinyl in the kitchen could use replacement. If I were going to do it, I'd put down more laminate. It's incredibly easy to do. The back door shows signs of dry rot and would probably be a candidate for replacement, but that's not essential. Some of the paneling in the living room should be replaced due to water stains from when the roof leaked.
Workshop is fine as is, except that one or maybe two of the fluorescent light fixtures might need to be replaced, or maybe just the bulbs. Other than that, the shop is fine.
But I have no idea what the selling price would be, or how easy it would be sell, or what the advantages are between as-is or make the repairs first.
Sixth of all -- actual moving.
I own a small enclosed utility trailer, I think it's 6 x 8 or maybe a little bigger. It's not nearly big enough. Not even close.
If I were to be planning right now, I'd expect to need at least two of the largest U-Haul trucks, with one also towing a vehicle and the other towing the utility trailer. I' pretty sure that would give enough space for the household goods and arts/crafts inventory and equipment.
I could be wrong.
That would require two drivers.
Which brings up the question you've probably been asking since this whole thing began. What role is the ol' BF playing in this?
And I have no answer.
I have said nothing at all to him about this. Whether he has guessed anything, I have no idea.
He makes a fair amount of income from his umpiring, most of which is girls' softball. Could he do the same thing in the Seattle area? I don't know. I did tell him about the horrible umpiring I saw at my grandson's baseball games. BF could make a small fortune just training other umpires!
Whether he would want to or not is the question.
He has family and friends in the San Francisco area, and it's about 200 miles further from Seattle than it is from here. Whether that would be a factor I don't know.
He has been complaining about the heat far more this summer than in the past, but he also complains about the cold. (He is turning into my mother!)
He has some friends here, but not close ones like he's had in the past. He makes new friends very easily.
If he were to decide to come with me, he would no doubt help with the packing and so on, and probably drive one truck. He currently has three cars of his own, so I'm not sure exactly how that would work out, but that's a relatively minor detail. He has talked about selling one or more of them anyway. (You don't want to know about him and his cars.)
And if he doesn't want to come, well, that's his choice.
Seventh of all --
I'm already committed to shows for this season and I'm not in any position to move now anyway, so nothing much would happen until spring. I've already started some of the decluttering and pitching and consolidating that would be necessary if I end up moving, and I will continue to do that regardless.
The first show of the season, at the Olive Mill, is three weeks from Sunday. Obviously I hope to sell enough to decrease inventory and increase back account, but I'm also mentally setting aside some of the (I hope!) profits to put toward decluttering and moving expenses.
Eighth of all --
It still might not happen.
I hadn't realized how much I wanted to move until it seemed like it wasn't going to happen, wasn't able to happen at all. I'm still going to be thinking about it and having second and third and fourth thoughts, but yesterday's meeting really brought home (pun intended) how frustrated I've been with the group.
And even as I wrote that, I just got an email from the VP who does all the publicity, urging me to continue to promote the expanded brochure idea.
Personally, I think this is a great idea, I just don't have the time to devote to it. If we could design a way to streamline the process to become manageable it would help. Please continue to promote it & think about how the process would/could work.
Is it enough? I don't think so. Too little, too late.
I need to jump in the shower. I need to order more meds for the dog. I need to plan something for supper. I need to do too damn many things.
Again, for those of you who have waded through all this muck with me, thank you a thousand times over.
Art group.meeting was a bust.
BF didn't have a sympathetic ear.
I have no one else to talk to, and I can't move by myself.
Oh well, it was a fun idea.
First of all, read this:
Second of all, THANK YOU, Obsidian Blue, for posting it on Twitter.
Now, sit back and read some shit. You can either read the shit I'm going to post here or some other shit -- or read something good and fun and entertaining and enlightening!
The tl/dr version is Linda Bloodworth Thomason is right; not all harassment is sexual.
I'm not sure where to start this, since I'm not sure where the beginning is. No matter where I start, it seems there are explanations missing. I guess we'll just have to deal with that as we go along.
My husband was not one for socializing, and there were numerous aspects of our married life that precluded much socializing anyway. I consoled myself with a variety of rationalizations, first when we were living in Indiana and then after we moved to Arizona. I claimed I didn't miss it, that I had other outlets.
There were moments of rebellion, even though I didn't recognize them as that. I joined various writers' groups and established friendships through them, though the friendships were somewhat superficial. Over the years, as he and I became involved in arts and crafts, there were some slight cracks in the prison walls. (Is that too harsh? Maybe, maybe not.) And when I returned to college, I had more contacts with other human beings, though again the relationships were not deep. And there was never any real social activity involved. No house parties or groups going to a ballgame or anything like that. Just chats on campus, an occasional pizza dinner after classes.
After he died, I was incredibly alone. I was accustomed to being by myself because my husband worked nights, so it wasn't an issue of just being alone in the house. By then I was working, too, so I saw other people for a few hours a day. But I was very, very aware of just how alone I was and how awkward I felt.
BF was an old friend whom I had known since my high school days, and our reconnection at that time seemed fortuitous. Perhaps more than anything, I reveled in his outgoingness, his enjoyment of being around other people, his preference for engaging in conversation rather than silence. Though I often felt like a fish out of water, because I had rarely if ever indulged in this kind of socializing, I found that I liked it.
We moved -- for a variety of reasons mostly irrelevant -- and quickly established a group of friends in our new location. Some of them he had known for several years, but most were new to both of us. I was shy at first; I simply didn't know how to act. Almost every morning we congregated for a couple of hours around the sidewalk tables at a local coffee shop, and for weeks or even months I rarely said a word. I had difficulty even remembering all their names, because that wasn't a skill I had ever had to develop.
I couldn't say I liked all of these people, but I really liked some of them and got along reasonably well with almost all of them. There were eventually about 40 of us altogether, mostly couples but quite a few single women, all widows. The lone widower made it clear he was desperate to find another wife, which he did quite quickly. All were financially comfortable. They hosted dinner parties, went on cruises together. They traveled a lot, had nice cars, nice homes. I felt like the poor relation, but I also felt accepted in spite of that.
I knew I was different from them, and I knew there were still barriers. But I dared to feel as if a part of me that had been neglected for almost 40 years was suddenly being allowed into the sunshine.
My finances weren't such that I could join in all their activities -- the cruises, the theatre parties -- but I loved the house parties and other affordable things. Best of all, I discovered that almost all the women in the group, and even some of the men, loved arts and crafts. In some cases, the preference was for fine art, but it seemed almost all of us engaged in some form of creative endeavor.
How the whole business with knitting came up, I don't remember. Someone found a source for inexpensive yarn or something and the next thing you knew, half a dozen of us were sitting at the coffee shop knitting while we chatted.
A woman who was not part of the group somehow introduced herself by asking me to teach her how to knit. Why she asked me and not one of the others, I don't know But she did.
Her name was Leigh, and she was not someone I would ever have sought out to make her acquaintance. She was overdressed in clothes inappropriate for her age and her shape. She wore too much very obviously cheap jewelry. Her high heels made no sense when the rest of us were in flip flops most of the time, or sneakers when it was really, really cold. But who was I to judge? So I offered to teach her to knit and told her to bring some knitting needles and yarn the next time she came to the coffee shop.
She showed up a few days later with a tangled wad of yarn and some long cooking skewers.
"I don't have any knitting needles, but these will work, won't they?" she said.
Um, no. And the yarn she had brought, which she said she had bought for twenty-five cents at Goodwill, was a hopeless knot. She chatted while I untangled her yarn and rolled it up into a neat little ball with the end sticking out so it could be pulled from the inside, the way my grandmother had taught me.
"Buy some knitting needles," I told her, "and next time you're here I'll show you how to knit."
The rest of us thought she was a little weird, like, I mean, who would bring kebab skewers to knit with, but we were pretty accepting. And hey, she didn't know, right?
But the next time she arrived, she had more tangled yarn from Goodwill, but no needles.
"I didn't have time to go to Walmart," she explained. "And Goodwill doesn't have any."
I suspected then that Goodwill was where she did most of her shopping. Not because her clothes were shabby or anything, but because she never wore the same thing twice. As time went on, others in the group noticed this, but we never actually said anything.
So I agreed to lend her some of my needles, but only until she bought some of her own. I was very emphatic about it.
"These were my grandmother's knitting needles," I told her. "They mean a lot to me, and I do not want them lost or bent. You can buy your own for a couple dollars, and I do want these back undamaged."
I then proceeded to begin teaching her to knit.
She was dumb as post.
She was also loud, rude, and obnoxious. She butted into conversations without so much as an "excuse me." She was annoying as hell.
Whenever anything went wrong with the knitting, she wanted someone else to fix it. There was no attempt to learn what she had done wrong so she could avoid it in the future. She wanted help, meaning, she wanted someone else to fix her mess.
The next day, she arrived at the coffee shop with yet more tangled yarn, but no needles.
"I'm so sorry, Linda, about your grandmother's needles, but my cat wanted to play with them."
She laughed and looked around the group as though she were a child who had just done something bad but expected forgiveness (because she was so cute?). No one offered it (because she wasn't).
"I suggest you find them," I ordered her. "I told you not to lose them."
She pouted, exactly like a child.
"Well, I don't know if I can."
I said, exactly as if to a child, "You'd better."
I was heartbroken. I had tried to be nice to someone, be generous, be helpful, and it had cost me. My grandmother's knitting needles were always kept in a little taffeta keeper with the sizes printed on a ribbon and I love it. I was livid that Leigh had been so cavalier about my possessions.
Fortunately, she did find the missing needles and brought them back, and I got the strange feeling that they'd never really been lost at all. I believed then and believe to this day that she intended to keep them all along. I think she expected me to just give them to her. It wasn't going to happen.
Over the next several months, Leigh's knitting skills improved somewhat, but she continued with the routine of constantly needing help, which I began to think of as needing attention. Constant attention.
Leigh's husband Walter had also joined the group. Like her, he was rather loud and obnoxious. He was also obsessed with money. He made sure everyone knew just how much he had paid for everything, made sure everyone knew he only bought the best.
When neither Leigh nor Walter was around, conversation occasionally switched to gossip about them. Questions were raised as to how smart Walter was, as some of the business deals he described didn't make much sense. He bought a car that he bragged was worth twice what he paid for it, that it had incredibly low mileage, that . . . well, you get the picture. But it was in the shop more often than it was out, and absolutely no one else was allowed to ride in it. Speculation was that it had a lot more miles on it than Walter let on. And that maybe it was representative of a habit of not telling quite all the truth.
The big speculation was that they were living way beyond their means. Though both of them bragged about how much money they had, there were signs that the money wasn't really there. But it wasn't something the rest of us talked openly about. Just a comment here or there.
Another person joined our group sometime after Leigh and Walter, a younger woman named Kate. Most of us were in our 50s to 70s, but Kate was only in her mid 40s. She had a daughter in middle school, and her husband was about ten years younger. Kate wasn't shy about her own financial problems; she often brought her own coffee to the shop because she couldn't afford to buy theirs, or she borrowed a few bucks from one of us. She always paid it back, unless of course she was told to just let it go.
The coffee shop often displayed local artists' work, and every now and then the works would sell. One member of the group fell in love with a particular painting of some desert wildflowers and arranged to purchase it. The price was modest, maybe $200.
Leigh and Walter immediately got into "negotiations," as they called it, to purchase one of the more expensive paintings, but most of us quickly realized that this was a sham, a pretense to make them look like great patrons of the arts with money they didn't really have. But we had by this time gotten used to their tactics.
What we didn't know was that Kate's husband was an amateur photographer. One morning Kate brought some 8 x 10 prints he had had made and we were all kind of astounded. They were beautiful! We encouraged her to have him make a few larger prints and frame them, and maybe talk the coffee shop owner into displaying some.
We also knew this was kind of an extra expense for Kate and her husband. When she showed up a week or so later with half a dozen framed and matted prints, we just accepted her explanation that he had got a little bonus at work and decided to put it toward his "art." The prices she put on them were enough to cover the cost of the framing and a little bit of profit. Even so, she said she didn't really expect to sell any of them.
Leigh and Walter were slowly wearing out their welcome in the group. There had been several incidents that raised more than a few eyebrows.
Another member of the group, Emily, had held a couple of Holiday Boutiques at her home. The first year three or four of us participated. I did moderately well, but since there was no fee involved other than chipping in to cover an ad in the local paper, I was pleased. The second year there were seven or eight of us, and with a little more word of mouth, the turn-out was better. I came home with a much lighter inventory and a much fatter wallet.
The third year, Leigh invited herself to participate.
You're thinking she had brought her knitting up to a skill level where she could put out her wares for sale. No, that's not what happened. Her knitting remained embarrassingly bad, both because her skill hadn't improved and because she continued to buy old crappy tangled yarn at Goodwill.
Leigh wanted to sell cosmetics.
"They aren't handmade crafts," Emily insisted when telling Leigh that she couldn't participate.
Most people would have taken that as a firm "No" but not Leigh. Instead she said she had an extensive client list in the area and she would invite all of them to the "party" and boost attendance. "They're all women with money to spend," she said by way of enticement.
This sort of thing went on quietly for a week or more, until politeness pushed Emily into allowing Leigh to have a small table to set up her cosmetics. (I won't mention the brand, but it's a well-known one.) The Boutique was scheduled for 10:00 to 3:00, and we arrived at Emily's house around 8:30 to set up.
Leigh was already there. She'd been there since 7:00 a.m. She had got Emily and her husband out of bed.
Instead of a "small table," Leigh had taken over the entire family room, spreading out her wares so that there was little space for anyone else. Emily was at her wit's end trying to contain the spread of lipsticks and blushers, hand lotions and foot creams. Her husband had fled in desperation. Eventually, we were able to reduce Leigh's footprint to about one fourth of her original territory, but she still occupied a dominant portion of the room that was supposed to have been for the rest of us.
There were a lot of bad feelings. They were soon to get worse.
Emily's husband had originally volunteered to be the greeter, standing by the door to usher guests in and guide them to the display areas. His absence meant that the rest of us had to rotate turns. This wouldn't have been so bad if Leigh hadn't decided it was her personal obligation to greet every guest and direct them to her merchandise.
She was loud. She intruded on everyone else's attempts to chat with customers. She shoved perfume samples in people's faces. She was everything horrible you can imagine. During the course of the day, each and every one of us had to restrain her more than once.
"I'm talking to this customer, Leigh. We don't need any facial cleanser right now," I had to tell her on one occasion. I was horribly embarrassed.
At the end of the event, Leigh had not sold a single item, but she wanted to buy something from each of us. Oh, but she didn't have any cash with her. Could she pay us back the following Monday?
I knew she wanted a particularly expensive pendant from me, and I was very reluctant to let it go to her for any price let alone on a promise to pay in a few days. I just didn't want to. So I made sure I packed it away first so that when she came around to get it, I could tell her it was already in its box. "I'll bring in Monday and you can pay for it then."
Of course, I brought it Monday but she didn't mention it. I knew then that she only wanted to get something for free.
Two of the other women who had taken part in Emily's Boutique ended up having to beg Leigh for the money she owed them. There was always an excuse for not having the cash. Always.
Again, we didn't talk very openly about Leigh's behavior. We were all being polite. Even though we often groaned aloud when we saw them walking up to the coffee shop, we smiled and were nice.
Emily's Boutique was at Thanksgiving time, and all of us were busy with holiday activities for several weeks afterward. I even had a couple of other art shows. Leigh became more and more annoying because she began conducting cosmetic business within our social group. Whether it was taking up the tables with her packages or demanding people try her samples or begging total strangers to join us so she could use them as "models," she seemed to be destroying the social nature of our group. No amount of polite hinting seemed to penetrate her thick skull.
One thing our group pretty much avoided was politics. Our routine was to meet for coffee at the coffee shop from roughly 9:00 a.m. to noon, with various members coming and going during that time. We talked about the weather, about road construction, about sports, about family, but almost never about politics. The only ones who did were the rightwingers, and they were the distinct minority. We were well into the Obama presidency, and the handful of racists among us were very uncomfortable and wanted to make sure the rest of us knew it. Leigh and Walter were among that handful.
One day Walter brought a handgun with him, a classic western style revolver. He didn't exactly point it at anyone, but he waved it around so carelessly that I simply got up and left without saying a word.
I was told the next day that Walter had taken note of my departure and demanded that everyone else tell him why I had left. I had said nothing to anyone. Not one word. I simply picked up my coffee and my purse and walked away. The very fact that he noticed and wanted to know why was enough to let me know the gun had been brought for my benefit.
He wanted to frighten me.
I still said nothing to the others. Not one word. I was not going to give anyone else the ammunition -- pun most definitely intended -- to tell him why.
Shortly into the new year, several members of the group were going on a cruise, including Leigh and Walter. Leigh was particularly excited, since she had never been on a cruise before. While they were gone, those of us who stayed behind indulged in some brazen pettiness wondering how Leigh would get along in her spike heels on board the ship.
Well, when they all returned we learned that she had had some difficulty with the heels, but that her worst problem was arriving with seven suitcases and not having space in their tiny cabin for all her luggage! She had had to beg another member of the group to take on some of her bags!
Needless to say, this alone did not endear her.
Comments were made about how cheap she and Walter were when they left the ship to venture into "foreign" ports, and about the racist comments they made when encountering locals who didn't speak perfect English.
Through all this I just rolled my eyes. None of it surprised me.
What did surprise me, however, was Leigh asking me to appraise -- that was the word she used -- a ring she had bought on the ship. I told her I had no knowledge of appraisals and that she really ought to take it to a jeweler. She insisted on showing it to me, and although I was pretty sure she had overpaid for it - it was supposed to be pearls and sapphires but I couldn't even vouch for the veracity of that claim -- I told her nothing. I couldn't.
I suspected she was just trying to show off, letting me know that she had more money than I did and could afford to buy something outrageously overpriced, but I didn't know for sure. I felt used and a little bit intimidated, but I valued my friendships with the others and wasn't going to jeopardize that.
But for some reason or other, that seemed to spook both her and Walter. Their attitude toward me became more and more antagonistic. Some of the others in the group even mentioned it to me: Why did Leigh and Walter seem to have it in for me?
I couldn't answer, because I just plain didn't know.
Then came the explosion.
Remember Kate's husband's photos that had been hung in the coffee shop? Well, Leigh decided she wanted to buy one of them. Comments were made that it didn't seem the sort of thing that would fit in their home and so on, but Leigh insisted she liked it and wanted it. It was the most expensive of the lot.
We knew that the haggling over the other painting months before had all been for show, so we expected the same was true of the photo. Leigh entered into negotiations with Kate, who simply said it would be up to her husband since he knew how much the framing and so on had cost.
A few days later, on a Monday morning, Kate arrived at the coffee shop and quoted a price not much lower than what was on the work. She explained that he had kept the prices just barely above what the actual expense of printing and framing was. He could sell them a print without the frame for less. But of course, they wouldn't haggle any further for fear of looking cheap. So the price was agreed on. Walter took out his checkbook and wrote a check, right there in front of all of us. Kate put it in the back pocket of her jeans, then she and Walter and Leigh went into the coffee shop together to take the photo off the display wall.
It so happened that I went into the shop at the same time, either to get a refill or something, and I was standing right by Walter when he instructed Kate not to cash the check right away.
"Don't cash it before Friday," he told her. "There's no money in the account right now. I can't get any money in it until Friday."
She then told him that it wouldn't be a problem. She didn't have a bank account due to a previous bankruptcy, so she would just give the check to her husband since he handled all the finances.
There was no reason for me to say anything to anyone. It was none of my business. And I virtually forgot about it.
Leigh and Walter were unusually silent that morning. Walter had a habit of stealing the coffee shop's newspapers so he could do all the crosswords and sudokus and other puzzles, and he was deep in concentration on those. Leigh was on her phone doing cosmetic business. They didn't even say hello as members of the group arrived and took seats around the tables.
Then Kate showed up. And Walter started screaming at her.
"I told you not to cash that check until today! I wrote today's date on it! It hit my bank yesterday and bounced and I got charged for the overdraft! You owe me another fifty dollars!"
Kate was horrified. She didn't know what he was talking about. But I did. I tried to calm the situation, but the only way to do that was to point out that Walter was wrong.
I had been in a similar situation not long before, when a woman had written a check to me at an art show and it bounced. She had apologized and immediately made it good, but in the process I had done some research on the banking laws in Arizona.
I told Walter, "It doesn't matter what date you write on a check. As soon as you give it to the person, it's essentially live. You can post date it a day, a week, a month, and it doesn't matter. You're responsible for making good on it no matter what date you put on it or what request you make that it not be cashed. You can't make her pay for your overdraft. It's your legal responsibility to have the funds there at the time the check is written."
Walter exploded -- at me. He called me names. He accused me of practicing law without a license. He threatened to have me arrested.
No one came to my defense. No one.
Over the next several days, a flurry of emails and voice mails and text messages flew around the group. Apparently drunk, Leigh called people in the middle of the night. She sent emails to total strangers -- because she got the addresses wrong -- lamenting how horrible I was, how mean, how vicious. She called me a liar.
I had done nothing wrong. (And yes, I still have the emails.)
The one person who dared to speak to me afterward was Emily, the hostess of the Holiday Boutique that Leigh had more or less crashed with her cosmetics. Emily begged me to apologize to Leigh.
"Why should I apologize? And what for? For helping Kate avoid being bullied into paying Walter $50 for his own mistake?"
Emily was adamant. "Everyone knows they're phonies, that they don't have the money they say they do. They hate you because you're smart and honest and they're afraid you'll show them up for what they really are."
"And I just did. But they can't just take advantage of someone like Kate like that!"
It went on like that for maybe half an hour. Emily insisted it was my responsibility to make Leigh and Walter look good, make myself look bad, "because you're the strong one and you can take it."
I burst into tears and left. That was in 2012. I've been ostracized by most of them ever since. Leigh and Walter weren't. In fact, they continue to frequent another coffee shop where BF sees them occasionally. They say hello to him. They also continue to steal the newspaper, unless they're caught by the owner. Leigh still wears clothes from Goodwill, and still risks a broken neck on her high heels. They forced her to into hip replacement several years ago, and the surgeon told her no more heels, but she thinks she knows more. BF says she walks like she ought to be in a wheelchair.
Few of my erstwhile friends even acknowledge me if we encounter each other in a store. I might as well be dead to them.
Emily continues to have her Holiday Boutiques. I'm not invited, of course. Sometimes she says hello to me, sometimes not. In six years, I doubt she's said a dozen words to me.
Rumor had it at one time that Walter made a bunch of money in the Dakota oil boom and then somehow lost it all. I don't know for sure. I'm still everyone's poor relation who misbehaved.
Yesterday, while sorting through old old old computer files, I came across a series of emails from 1994 and 1995 that covered a similar experience I'd almost forgotten about, where someone went after me personally for something I had not done, but none of my friends stood up for me. I read the email from one of them who wrote, "You're the strong one, Linda, and you can take it. We have to stand with [the person who verbally attacked me] even though she's wrong and we all know it, because none of us are strong enough."
For years after the incident with Leigh and Walter, I tried to figure out who it was Leigh reminded me of. BF always thought she was smarter than she acted and only played the part of the dumb blonde because it got her attention. But I never was willing to give her credit for any smarts at all. Meanness, yes, but not the malice of the smart person; the viciousness of the truly stupid was more her speed.
She even had a fluffy little white dog that always seemed to need a trip to the groomer, and it was the dog who finally gave me the clue.
Leigh was a grown-up, spiteful version of Lola Pratt, from Booth Tarkington's Seventeen.
I was just sitting here watching TV and glanced across to the dining room. Saw something dark in the corner by the ceiling. Couldn't tell exactly what it was, so I called BF from his room.
"What is it?" he asked.
"I don't know, but it looks like it might be a scorpion."
He came out and looked at it.
"Looks like a scorpion because it is a scorpion."
Out came the shop vac and sucked it up.
Maybe this is just the season for weirdness. Or maybe it's that phenomenon of once you see a thing, you see it everywhere and then you wonder why the hell you never saw it before.
Last night after the encounter with the T A R A N T U L A by the back steps, I stayed up for a while and finished a few small tidying chores. When I did finally go to bed, I did indeed leave the light on, knowing full well that it was more likely to attract creeping and/or flying creatures that deter them, but at least if I woke up from a nasty snakes and spiders dream, I'd know right away where I was and not be disoriented. As it turned out, I had no creepy dreams but did wake up around 2:00 long enough to ascertain there were no monsters lurking and to turn out the light.
I slept until shortly after 5:00. Moby wanted outside, and BF was making all kinds of noise in preparation for another day of umpiring girls' softball games. He will be going to watch football games with his friends afterward, so I have the house to myself until about 10:00. Yay!
I've already crossed a couple of small tasks off The List for today, but there is much, much more.
I've also already had another issue come up related to the do I move or stay decision.
In cleaning up some of the loose paper this morning, I came across some material related to last year's Studio Tour and it got me to thinking. As impatient as I am to discuss this whole thing openly, I really do want to wait until Wednesday's meeting, just to see how things are going with the group. And the paperwork I found this morning reminded me of some other things. . . .
About a year ago, one of my (few) friends in the artists' group decided to move. Like me, she had no family here and had issues that made her want to be closer to family. She loved Arizona and wasn't crazy about going back to a part of the country where there was occasional snow and ice, but there were too many other considerations.
Among them was her own physical health. She had had both a hip and knee replacement due to an accident and was strongly encouraged to walk as therapy. Her husband also had health issues for which his doctors recommended walking more. And in this part of Arizona, outdoor walking is simply not feasible for several months out of the year.
As she told me, the choice was between moving to a location where walking/hiking was reasonable most of the time or buying a gym membership. Here, those memberships aren't always cheap, and her husband is a loner who doesn't like socializing much anyway. He flat out nixed the "fitness center" idea, and since she didn't want to have to get up at 4:00 in the morning to walk when it's only 95 outside, and since she both needed some family assistance and also wanted to be closer to several new grandchildren, she made the decision to move.
Even as an artist whose paintings and drawings of western and desert landscapes are absolutely phenomenal, she knew that gorgeous scenery just isn't enough to live on.
Her financial situation was very different from mine, and she was able to make several trips to her destination for the purpose of locating a place to buy and negotiating the deal. I don't have that luxury, at least not yet.
But thinking about her decision highlighted something else about mine that I hadn't thought of.
I, too, tend to sit too much during the summer, which creates (esp. at my age) a need for real physical recovery before the show season's requirements of loading, unloading, hauling, setting up, tearing down, etc. Part of it, I'm sure, is just global climate change that makes the triple digit weather hang on a bit longer every September and arrive earlier every May. But I simply need to move more, and it's almost as dangerous to get out and walk around the neighborhood as it is to sit and do nothing. There's the heat to contend with even before full sunrise, plus the snakes (they're not easy to see in the dark/dusk). I'm not worried about the coyotes, but we do have javelina and they can be really nasty. And to go walking alone in a sparsely populated area is also not safe.
More and more and more, the scale is being tipped in the "move" direction.
After the incident with the snakes, BF has been insistent about checking with a flashlight before taking the dogs out after dark.
Moby wanted another trip outside, even though he had been out earlier. I got my flashlight and made sure there were no snakes. Moby did his thing and then we headed back to the house.
He's a bit slow coming up the steps, and I wanted to hurry him up a little bit. Usually I open the door first and coax him from the doorway, but the flashlight draws bugs and we are having a moth invasion right now. So instead I opened the door and went back down the (four) steps to nudge him from behind.
That's when I saw the tarantula. Right by the steps.
I didn't scream, but I did get Moby in the house right away.
BF says the tarantula will go back in its hole (wherever that is) and I know they aren't exactly dangerous. (My son had two of them as pets; I never once visited while he had them.) But they are T A R A N T U L A S.
I went out to the mailbox and saw these today.
The golden barrel cactus does bloom throughout the summer in into fall, but it's rare for the cinnamon dot prickly pear to put out flowers after the big spring bloom. So this was a pleasant surprise, well worth coming in to get the camera.
I've spent most of the morning on various cleaning and decluttering projects and have made a little bit of progress. Deliberations regarding a possible move continue, but the cleaning will help regardless. I have too much shit here. My "every day throw five away" isn't working as well has I had hoped; I do manage to get rid of one or two items each day, which is a sad, slow process.
As I mentioned in a comment on one of the other posts, I'm trying to clear out the accumulated 3" floppy disks, and that has been much more of a chore than anticipated. A lot of the files are duplicated, sometimes with new names and sometimes not. I'm not -- I repeat, NOT -- sorting these ancient files. They're all going into a bucket file for sorting and disposal when I have more time.
Time, as in the old adage of time being money, is starting to figure more prominently in the calculations over whether to stay or to move. I was able to spend some time outside this morning -- I was in the workshop shortly before 6:00 a.m. -- to take care of the rock tumblers and a little bit of cleaning, but before 7:30, the temperature was climbing into the discomfort zone, already pushing 100 inside the studio. So I finished what work I could, then came into the house to . . . clean.
Having the studio and workshop close at hand is great, but not so great if the weather makes them unusable.
At this point, however, the real input is going to come from the art group's meeting on Wednesday. I'm impatient, but there's nothing I can do about it.
Disclosure: This is one of the thousands of Kindle freebies in my collection. I don't know the author, have never had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.
Okay, so I read this for Halloween Book Bingo because it was short and I wanted to have at least one square blocked on my card!
This is obviously part of a series and because I haven't read any of the other entries in the series, I wasn't exactly sure what was going on. Jade is a witch, but sort of in training and at the bottom of the witchery totem pole as a result. Sometimes she has to clean sewers of discarded spells and spell materials.
Her mentor is Paris, who appears to be an older male witch, but I'm not really sure. I guess all the explanatory information is in the other parts of the series.
Jade is invited to attend a celebration "carnival" hosted by the local band of werewolves. I'm not sure why she was selected for this honor, but apparently there used to be bad blood (sic) between the witch community and the various shifters in this locale. They send her special clothes and everything.
She has a good time, the werewolves like her, and that's about it. There's no real story, no plot, no tension, no nothing.
There's little description of Jade or Paris, or their relationship, or any background. The writing was more or less competent, other than the usual all-too-common errors like "stationary" that should have been "stationery" and "chaise lounge," among others. It's not great writing, it's not much of a story, but it fits for the Bingo and I got it done!
My artists' group meets next Wednesday, and I've been tasked with making some kind of presentation on how to do a PDF "catalogue" for our upcoming Artists' Studio Tour.
I am not a graphic artist. My Photoshop Elements software is about five generations old, and I don't use it very much. Each time I use it, I have to learn everything all over again.
The pages in the Whidbey Island Working Artists' brochure are gorgeous. They are obviously done by a professional. The photographs used are obviously done by a professional. This is very intimidating for an absolute amateur. Like me.
This is cool stuff. I'm incredibly impressed. And I can't compete.
But I can at least say it can be done!
If I can do it, it can't be too difficult, can it?
Obviously, this doesn't have all the bells and whistles, the driving directions to the studio and so on, but I was so damn proud of myself for just getting this much of it figured out that I'm quitting for the evening.
I'm not sure how much I'm going to be able to participate in Halloween Bingo this year. A whole lot of things are going on, and that situation might get more intense over the next two months. I will still try to read and block out my squares, but . . . .
Feel free to skip the rest of this post. And please don't feel obligated to respond. As stated in the title, this is just personal rambling. However, I do value your input, because I know all of you are uninvolved in the situation and have no biases. It's amazing how valuable unbiased opinions are!
So, taking a deep breath and putting it all into words. . . . .
I first considered the idea of moving about two years ago, but the arguments in favor of staying far outweighed the advantages to leaving. Part of that is just plain inertia: It's easier to stay put than to pack up and move. That's not going to change.
If I were to move, I'd have a shit ton of stuff to transfer. Not just household goods, which is normal. In my case, however, there are tools and equipment, plus the inventory of rocks and wood which are not easily packed, are very heavy, and are in some cases (mostly the wood) dirty. Again, this plays into the inertia equation - it's much easier to stay. So this point is not arguable. It is what it is.
If I were to move, I would almost certainly have to put up with cold weather in winter. I don't do cold weather at all. It's been over 30 years since I drove in snow. And I HATE snow. I love sunshine, which I have in abundance here in Arizona. I love wearing sandals virtually year round. I don't own any cold weather clothes. I don't like rain and gloom. We get very little rain here, and when we do it's almost all in the form of sudden storms. I like getting the rain because it brings out the flowers and helps the plants thrive. I don't like days and days and days of gloom. The cold and the gloom of Indiana were one reason we left and came here 33 years ago.
And yes, the location I'd move to has cold winters and some snow, lots of rain and gloom, very moderate summers without the high temperatures I'm used to.
So those two issues -- the cost of moving the amount of stuff I have, and the change in weather -- are not negotiable. They are fixed. The advantage is to stay, and it's a huge advantage to overcome.
Next issue: I have no family here or anywhere close. I'm essentially estranged from my brother and sister who are both in the Chicago area, over 2000 miles away. The reasons for the estrangement are many, and both of them have their own complex lives anyway. My daughter and her family are in New Jersey, almost 3000 miles away. My son and his family are in the Seattle area, which is roughly 1500 miles away. There's no one, not even cousins, nieces, or in-laws any closer.
I will turn 70 next month, so this is a huge consideration.
The Midwest holds absolutely no attraction for me at all. The brutal weather is the killer. I can't even imagine dealing with sub-zero (F) temperatures and snow up to my eyebrows. And with no, shall we say, "welcoming" family there, it would make no sense anyway.
The East Coast likewise doesn't entice me in the least. The weather isn't much better -- hurricanes vs tornadoes is pretty much a draw -- and there's nothing much in terms of other amenities that I like, with one exception: Cape May, New Jersey. I love the artsy-fartsy atmosphere of the old resort area. But on the other hand, Cape May is terribly expensive and very seasonal and very subject to the aforementioned bad weather. Cape May is not a viable option.
That leaves the Pacific Northwest, where my son lives. Whidbey Island in particular.
The past few weeks since returning from my visit there, I've been browsing through the real estate listings, sort of out of idle curiosity but sort of with the idea in the back of my head that this might be the future. I have no idea what my Arizona property is worth or how the market is doing these days, and that's part of the equation.
I just replaced the water heater and water softener. The washer is going to be due for replacement soon, too, but I think it will last a little while yet. The patio awnings suffered some slight damage in the recent storms, but I think they, too, are okay for a while. The roof and air conditioning are good. There is some weathering damage to the exterior, and I have no idea what the cost of that repair would be.
The interior is fine except that the carpeting shows the effects of numerous dogs and twelve years of occupancy. There are some minor areas where a coat of paint would help, but they are small. There are no holes in the walls or anything like that. BF is pickier about this sort of thing than I am, but it's not his house.
The little house -- my studio -- is in about the same shape. The roof is new and the appliances work, though the a/c system is original 1987 mobile home vintage. It still works, however! Some of the exterior needs repair just from weather wear and tear, and there is some damage on the interior that was there when I bought the place. The little house was considered "derelict" when I bought it, and I made all the necessary repairs to bring it back to livable condition. Zoning prevents using it as a rental; it's zoned for "indigent family member," commonly a mother-in-law or whatever. It works terrific as my studio for sewing and rock processing.
The third building on the property is the workshop, which is roughly 50' by 20' with a covered patio of about the same size. This is where the larger tools (lathe, table saw, band saw) are kept. The hand tools and auto tools and so on are stored there, too. There are built-in shelves as well as two large work benches and other shelves that I brought in. The workshop has water and electricity and was originally intended to have a half-bath (toilet & sink) installed, but that was never completed.
I list these structures not to get some estimate of value but to explain why the idea of moving from here into a 3-bedroom, 2-bath "neighborhood" house isn't practical, at least not for me. There are houses like that available at a reasonable price, but . . . . . .
We're back to the inertia issue. Moving all the contents of house, studio, and workshop is a major consideration, because . . . . . . . .
The contents of house, studio, and workshop are how I supplement my meager social security income. I could not live on SS alone here or Whidbey Island.
And here's where other issues come into play.
Whidbey Island has a thriving arts & crafts community, and there is a conscious effort to maintain that.
The northern part of the island -- from the circled "20" on the map down to about the label "Oak Harbor" -- is dominated by the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island base. Oak Harbor is very much a military town, and all the usual amenities are there: the Walmart, the McDonald's, and so on. South of Oak Harbor, however, none of the chain retailers exist. None of the fast food franchises, none of the big box stores, not even the chain supermarkets.
THERE IS ALSO THIS THRIVING ARTS & CRAFTS COMMUNITY
Mom and Pop restaurants and shops. Antique shops. Galleries and studios.
This is Coupeville, captured in 1997 or so for the film Practical Magic. The building on the left with the oval "Open" sign is the Jan McGregor Studio, where I bought a package of silk fabric samples on a visit in 2013.
In the center, with the couple descending the steps, is a very expensive but very popular ice cream shop.
And there's Sandra Bullock across the street, heading toward her organics and incense and magic shop. That's Coupeville.
The rest of the towns are just like Coupeville - Langley and Clinton and Freeland and Greenbank. There are art shows all summer. There are farmer's markets all summer.
I don't have anything like that here. The art shows I'm able to do require more and more and more physical labor, and there are no other outlets. No galleries or gift shops, no farmer's markets. And there's no community support.
There are, therefore, economic reasons to move, but then there is something else to take into consideration, a real unknowable factor.
The lack of a true arts community here in this part of Arizona has, I think, contributed to my lack of enthusiasm about it. That in turn has contributed to my lack of production and even my reluctance to participate in some events. Would it be any different if I moved? Would I suddenly get my mojo back just being in a supportive environment? And at my age, would I be able to establish myself in a new market?
My local artists' group -- such as it is -- has been on its annual hiatus since May. Our first meeting of the 2018-19 season is a week from tomorrow. Our first show is 7 October, less than five weeks away. Maybe I'll get a better sense of how things are going here after the meeting, after the first show.
Our big event, the annual Studio Tour, is the first week-end in November. I've been very active in promoting that event since I resurrected it in 2007 after the other sponsoring organization abruptly dropped it. I love the Studio Tour and I love (almost) always being Studio #1. I love setting up my displays in the front garden under the big mesquite tree with the view of Superstition Mountain. I would miss that terribly.
But then I found this --
It made me cry.
I could, I suppose, sit here like a kid with the Sears Christmas Catalogue "Wishbook" and think of all the things I want and want to do. I could lament a lot of lost opportunities.
Or I could . . . . you know . . . . do something.
I went looking online for some photos of the library in Indiana where I used to work, and I kind of stumbled on something almost magical.
Andrew Carnegie endowed 164 public libraries in Indiana, more than in any other state. Most are still standing, and most are still used as public libraries.
The Carnegie Public Library in Angola, Indiana, was built in 1915. A handsome fountain was donated to grace the park in which the library sat.
I don't know the date of this photo but this is basically what the library looked like when I worked there in 1985. The downstairs was the Children's Library, which was reached either from the outside via stairs at the back of the building or an interior stairway . . . also at the back of the building!
I remember this painting, but I can't remember where it hung when I was there.
The expansion was done in 1988, three years after we moved. They basically enclosed the entire original building.
And the original interior, where I spent many, many, many hours long before I worked there!