Monthly Archives: October 2007

THE RIGHT EYES WATCHING

There’s a terrific line from an old TV series called ABsolutelyFABulous (affectionately known as “AbFab” ) that I absolutely adore.

It’s not a series normally known for insightful and inspirational words. AbFab is the modern adventures of two hysterically funny, well-to-do, aging-hippy women who are not going gently into middle-age. They’ve managed to remain ignorant, self-absorbed and silly even as the ’70’s and ’80’s have passed them by.

But in this particular episode, the main character Edina scolds her extremely shy and self-conscious daughter Saffron for being so fearful of taking risks. Never mind that in this episode, Edine is wickedly manipulating Saffie into doing something for ulterior motives. The statement is still so powerful, so true, it still makes me gasp.

She tells Saffie, “You have made yourself a prisoner of other people’s eyes.”

OW!!!

Some of us–many of us!–are so worried about what other people will think of us, it paralyzes us.

It keeps us from taking risks, or from trying new things. We shut down and shut ourselves off from new situations, new opportunities, new venues.

We’re so afraid we’ll look ridiculous or stupid, we literally imprison ourselves, as Edwina said.

My second favorite expression is, “You won’t worry so much about what other people think of you, if you knew how little they think about you at all!” As one of my martial arts instructors said recently, “No one’s looking at you messin’ up. They’re too busy freakin’ about how they’re messin’ up!” Which is also probably true.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about other eyes watching us.

The right kind of eyes.

One kind is the eyes of a good teacher.

My climbing inspiration, Lin, an older woman who is remarkably fit and incredibly enthusiastic about climbing, watches us newbies go up a wall. “Beautiful climb!” she calls up from below. “You are amazing!”

You can actually feel your heart glow when she says that.

There are the “right eyes” of the constructively critical teacher. I think my current martial arts instructor falls into that category. You can relax your guard, knowing the faults they point out are nothing they haven’t seen before. Their feedback will set you on a better course.

Another set of “right eyes” are the ones I spoke of yesterday, in THE BUDDY SYSTEM, the eyes that can give you a fresh viewpoint.

The “right eyes” I’m thinking of today are the eyes of people following in your footsteps.

These are the people who desperately want you to be successful–so they can be successful.

Like wanting you to be a successful artist. I know there are people who want me to make it because I feel that way about other artists myself.

Recently, someone commented on how much more I could be doing to get more fit.

At first, I took it as criticism–implying I wasn’t really trying now. I felt indignant–“I’m doing what I can!” “You don’t understand how hard it is right now!” “You don’t know how much everything hurts!! My foot, my other foot, my hamstrings, my sciatica, my neck bumps, my shoulders, my back…shall I go on??”

But then I realized these are often people much younger than I am. They are often people who are incredibly fit themselves.

Now, maybe they want to believe that getting older, and getting injured, couldn’t possibly happen to them.

But I’d like to think they simply might also want to believe that if I can find a way to stay active in spite of my setbacks and injuries, then someday they can persevere, too.

In other words, I can be a good example of hope.

I’m thinking that myself with the older people who join us climbing. There are people in their sixties, seventies, even their eighties, who are still climbing. And not just climbing, but climbing with strength and skill.

They amaze me. They inspire me.

Not just because they lay that myth to rest, that as we age we get weaker and less able, and therefore are helpless. They prove just how able they are every time they get up that really difficult wall that much younger, stronger climbers still struggle with.

It’s also because they show how much we can accomplish if we persevere.

They have aches and pains and injuries and setbacks, too. But they find a way to keep going.

Their lives–and mine–are so much richer for it.

I want to remember those eyes on me, the next time I work out.

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Filed under action steps, art, climbing, life, martial arts, mental attitude

THE BUDDY SYSTEM

Here’s a little trick the next time you find yourself backsliding about any of your “new steps forward.”

Call a friend.

Call someone whose judgment you trust, and ask for help.

I’ve been working on focus. Taking care of myself, not always putting other people first. Preserving my time–studio time, me time, family time. Fun time. (I love fun time!) Not getting pulled off course or away from stuff I need to take care of.

This week I backslid. Big time.

In spite of all my good intentions, I found myself pulled off-course this weekend. I found myself doubly-volunteered, committed to a climbing day out of town, accommodating a last-minute visit from friends, getting a last-minute estimate from a contractor on a frightening foundation issue (aren’t all foundation issues frightening by definition?), determined to go to a memorial service and trying to celebrate my son’s birthday.One commitment overflowed into another another. Times got changed and rearranged, or relayed to me incorrectly. The fragile schedule came tumbling down like a tower of toothpicks. I found myself honoring one commitment after another that didn’t really need me, to the detriment of people who did. I missed out on a day of climbing with friends and my daughter. And by Sunday I was still running behind and dropping balls–with more commitments to go.

Sometimes we just lose track of what the right thing to do is. We get caught up in all the details, the ramifications, the consequences. I even get caught up in the spirit of the moment. I’m one of those people that almost always responds to a good plea for help. “Sure, I can help!” (One of my favorite t-shirts reads, “STOP ME BEFORE I VOLUNTEER AGAIN!!”)

It happens to all of us, especially if we are people who like to be “useful.” (That little phrase about Thomas the Tank Engine, the one where Mr. Conductor always praised him by calling him a “really useful engine”, always got to me.)

That’s when we need another set of eyes to see more clearly.

I called my husband. “Just skip the memorial service,” he advised. “No one will care.” Good advice. Hmmmmm….he’s not exactly a disinterested party, though. He tends to tell me to skip everything.

Who would know the right thing to do?

Finally, I called a friend who always knows the right thing to do. (Or at least she fakes that really, really well.)

When she answered, I said, “I have a moral dilemma I need help with.”

She said, “And you called me??!!

We both laughed. Good! I needed a laugh.

I laid out what was going on. And in five minutes, it was clear where my real priorities lay.

No matter how surly and grumpy my kid is, no matter how much he says he “doesn’t care” what we do for his birthday, he will always remember if we end up doing “not much”.

On the other hand, I am neither expected nor needed at the memorial service. It would be a nice gesture. But my family has to come first.

The fundraisers and volunteer ops? I can’t help it that the same six people always show up–that’s not my problem. I’ve done my bit. I need to find other ways to help the organization that don’t necessarily mean so much time away from home.

My buddy kept me from sinking. My head’s above water again!

Think about your friends, and think about which ones are really good at what kind of decisions.

The next time you find yourself backsliding, give one a buzz.

Oh, and be sure to do that for someone else if they need it, too. It’s always easier to sort through someone else’s stuff, isn’t it?

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Filed under action steps, art, life, time management

THIS IS (sort of) A TEST

My husband is trying out a new kind of blog for him–one for ordinary people like us who aren’t necessarily techno-geek-internet wizards!

If you have a few moments today, would you take a look at his most recent posts and give him feedback? Internet Common Sense: Jon Udell’s advice for everybody

Oh, and please tell him that my title choice–“What Your Mother Never Told You About the Internet”–would make a much cooler blog title!

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Filed under announcement, writing

CLIMB AWAY!

In wall climbing at the local Y, there’s a little safety ritual piece we recite just before we climb: The Climbing Contract

The climber says to the belayer, “On belay?”

The belayer takes this moment to check the climber’s knots and lashings. She checks her own fittings: Is the rope threaded through gris-gris or the ATC correctly? Is the carbiner attached to the right loops? Is it closed? Am I tied in properly?

If everything is ready, the belayer replies, “Belay is on!”

The climber announces his intentions: “Climbing!”

The belayer answers, “Climb away!” (The proper address is “Climb on!” but we are so enthusiastic, it sometimes gets modified to “climb away!”)

And the ascent begins.

When the climber reaches the top of the wall, we have a little ritual, too. Not as formal, not as much a “set piece”. But the climber announces he’s ready to come down. The belayer tells him to sit back. She takes up the weight, and gets ready to let him down safely again.

Fast or slow, gently or rappelling, however the climber wants to come down.

It occurs to me this morning what a lovely metaphor this is for any venture we take on in life.

To ensure our success, we take the proper steps.

“Belay?” We check our equipment. Have we done our homework? Do we have everything we need to start? Is everything in place and ready to go?

Do we have the support we need? Does “our team” know what we want to do, and are they there for us?

“Belay is on!”

And then we announce our intentions. “Climbing!”

The focus is on the climber.

This is what I want. This is important to me. This is what I want my life to be like. This is what I want to do, this is where I want to go. These are the people I want to share it with.

This is who I want to be.

But it’s those last words that thrill me. When the universe says, “Yes! You can do this! You can be this! You go, grrl!”

Put one foot in front of the other. Take that first step. Feel the fear, but do it anyway.

“Climb away!”

As for the rest of the metaphor–the part when the actual ascent is over–well, that’s lovely, too.

Because coming down is just as fun.

It’s thrilling to fly down, bouncing lightly off the rock face, knowing you will land safely on your own two feet.

Because someone is there, holding the rope, keeping you safe. Keeping you safe so you can fly.

And knowing you can turn around and go right back up again, as many times as you want, because there’s always someone who wants to see you get to the top–now, that’s exciting, too!

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Filed under action steps, art, business, climbing, courage, life, mental attitude

FORGOT

When my daughter was teeny-tiny, she loved to show us all the letters of the alphabet she knew (courtesy of Sesame Street). She was so little, she wasn’t even speaking in complete sentences yet.

One day, my husband pointed to the letter “Q” and she said, “O!” He said, “No, that’s a ‘Q’–see the little tail?”

She slapped her forehead and exclaimed, “Forgot!”

Last evening I came home grumpy and depressed after a less-than-stellar workout in Tae Kwon Do last night. Once again, I’d flooded with the impulse to simply leave. Once again, I was embarrassed I’d even felt like that.

Last night I dreamed was I back in a school room, teaching a class, only to have them mutiny halfway through. The students started yelling at me, “You can’t teach worth beans!!” (Or words to that effect.) Other teachers joined in. It was excruciating. I remember thinking in the dream, “They’re right–who am I to tell them anything?!”

In the wee hours, I woke up in distress over various little matters that seemed urgent at 4 a.m. I actually made a list of them. (And as I look over the list, well, maybe some of them are a little urgent. Like asking that guy who’s going to cut down some of our trees if he’s actually ever done that before.)

At any rate, this morningI was exhausted and crabby and thinking of all the things I’m doing wrong. I thought of all the things I’ve tried to fix all those wrong things. None of them are working.

Where is my magic fix??!!

And suddenly, like little Robin, I wanted to slap my forehead and exclaim, “Forgot!”

There is no magic fix!!

I can remember the day I made a decision to become an artist. I can remember how powerful I felt after that. I can remember the successes I had once I realized I only had to decide to do it.

I forgot the parts that were still hard.

I forgot that there were still setbacks, disappointments, outright failures, even back in my “full steam ahead” days.

That day of declaration wasn’t my magic fix. It was the first decision of many, many smaller decisions. Weekly, daily, sometimes minute-by-minute decisions. The decision to simply refuse to give up, to refuse to give in.

What kept me going was my decision to keep going.

So here I am this morning, remembering that.

There is no magic fix. No treatment, no therapy, no pills. (Well, I am lovin’ ibuprofen lately….) No magic press release, no magic show or exhibition.

Just little steps every day. Cherishing the ones that move me forward. Letting go of the ones that don’t work out.

Practicing my forms. Making my artwork. Working through the physical roadblocks. Writing my way through the mental roadblocks.

There is only the decision that this is important to me: Continuing to study the martial arts. This is what I want to do: Make and sell my art. This is how I want to live my life: Stay active, make art, be with people I love and respect. Breathe. Breathe!!

There are strategies and coping skills that help me persevere–this blog, going to class, taking commissions and making commitments for my artwork. Going to the doctor when the discomfort interferes too much, wearing the damn air cast, taking the occasional aspirin-or-aspirin-substitute. Learning to belay until I can actually climb again. Remembering my horse is still out there somewhere.

But what will ultimately keep me on my path is remembering:

I have to choose this.

I have to choose this, over and over. Every single day. Sometimes many times a day.

The power is in the choosing. And it’s never-ending.

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Filed under art, business, inspiration, martial arts, mental attitude, perseverence

MIRROR, MIRROR

A few days ago I received a long, tortured e-mail from a dear friend. She is in turmoil–emotionally, spiritually, artistically.

She wrote on and on, detailing all her failings and faults, bemoaning the fact that she was such a terrible friend, a failed professional, a dilettante in her art because she sets it aside the second someone else needs her.

The whole time I was reading this, I alternated between wanting to hug her and wanting to shake her.

Because the whole time I was reading this, I was thinking, “This is ME!!”

I could have written this letter.

This, I realized, is what I sound like to the people who know me and care about me.

This friend is smart, articulate, an excellent writer and a talented artist.

She has helped me with advice and suggestions, recommendations and opportunities, feedback and tough love.

She’s done the best listening to me regarding my art I’ve ever had. Her sense of where I’m floundering is dead-on, though sometimes painful in its honesty and perception.

And she’s apologizing for not “being there for me” as a good friend should?? Ohmigod.

When someone else drops a professional ball, she’s right there trying to pick it up and set it back in place again. There are agencies and causes she feels passionately about, and she’s given them huge amounts of personal time and energy to keep them going.

She does all this, but at the expense of her own art, and her own personal life, and her own professional goals.

Time to shake things up.

“Cut it out!” I told her. “Time to make time for Y*O*U!”

It’s time to read her the riot act. It’s time for her to make hard choices, about the things she has to take care of vs. the things she “should” take care of.

It’s time for her to stop apologizing for how “awful” she is, and celebrate how fabulous she is. And to accept how wonderfully, imperfectly, incredibly human she is.

Just like me. Just like you.

Which really made me laugh, because a mentor/friend had given me exactly the same pep talk (aka kick in the pants) a few months ago…..

Sometimes, the best way to see how you get in your own way, is to watch someone you love and respect do exactly the same thing.

Sometimes, the best way to hear the advice being given to you, is to give it to someone else.

Sometimes, the best way to learn, is to teach. And the best way to teach, is to learn.

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Filed under art, business, change, choices, inspiration, mental attitude

BEAUTIFUL DAY, BEAUTIFUL GIFTS

It’s an achingly beautiful autumn day. The fall colors are at their peak, and the sunshine is brilliant and clean.

Last night was our little community’s world famous Pumpkin Festival. My husband Jon made a delightful little movie about it in 2005 that still captures the essence of this incredible event, which you can view here.

Last night, I volunteered to man an off-site parking lot for the event. I was kinda dreading it–who wants to spend Pumpkin Festival in a parking lot two miles away–but I actually had fun.

As cars pulled in, I guided them into multiple lanes to keep the lines moving, took money (most of which goes back into the fund to put on next year’s festival, and gave them directions on where to park, where to catch the shuttle bus, and (of prime importance)where the PortaPotties were.

Most people arrived excited and happy: “This is our first year at the Pumpkin Festival!”

But sometimes they arrived anxious (“The signs were awful!”) or distraught (“What do you mean the lot is full?!”) or out of sorts (weeping children, scolding parents.) Sometimes even downright grumpy (“$5 to park?! Outrageous! Can’t I park downtown for free?? And I suppose we have to pay for the shuttle bus, too!!”)

I could plainly see my mission here.

I had 20 to 30 seconds to get them to a different place, physically and emotionally.

To the formerly-lost people, I’d reassure them, “Oh, thank you for telling us about the signs–we’ll let them know for next year!” (Though I have no idea who “they” are…) “I’m so glad you made it–you’re going to be okay now.” To the grumpy people, I chirped, “Oh, this is so much more convenient than parking downtown tonight–let us keep your car here while you relax and take the shuttle bus. And not to worry, the bus is free–this is the last fee you’ll pay tonight! Hey, are you kids excited about the Pumpkin Festival or what?!” To crying children, I’d exclaim, “Ohmigosh, what a great costume! You look so beautiful/scary/er, enigmatic!! Are you ready to see all those pumpkins?” They’d smile through their tears and nod.

If the lot was full, we had to send them to the next one. I was amazed how many people took this with such good grace. But the ones who were totally frantic, we’d point to the six cards ahead of them and say, “They’re headed up to the next lot, too–just follow them!” And we’d add, “If you get lost, just come back–we’ll have openings by then. Don’t worry, we’ll get you to the Pumpkin Festival!”

In the greater scheme of things, this is small potatoes. But I also felt like this was their first encounter with our city, and our Pumpkin Festival. It felt good to help them get to a place where they could relax, and enjoy it.

Twenty seconds to turn someone’s heart around….

I thought of all the snarfy columns I’ve written about booth design and salesmanship in the last few months. I want to apologize if it sounded like I was disrespectful.

Because the beautiful thing about all these clueless craftspeople is, THEY WANT TO MAKE COOL STUFF AND SELL IT!

So they start out making odd stuff and displaying it badly, and not doing a very good job of selling it. So what? They’re out there doing it. They’re out there doing the best they can.

As Oprah says, “When we know better, we’ll do better.” And so when they are ready, and open, to doing a better job, they’ll find a huge craft community full of people who will happily help them get better at it. Hopefully, people like me, Bruce Baker and all the folks who helped me get better along the way. (Thank you, Bonnie, Mark, Jeff, Alyssa, Alisha, Terri, Christine, Mary, Mark, and I could go on and on but you get the picture.)

On another note, I was getting ready to post that though my lumps are still problematic, and though I’m almost definitely facing several more consults, tests, and some surgeries, I also seem to be cancer-free.

And coincidentally, this week I saw a friend who in a six week period, found out they had an aggressive form of cancer, underwent an equally aggressive treatment–brutal, in fact–and just received a clean bill of health a few days ago. A miracle, in fact. A gift.

All without a word to anyone.

I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed at my own very public panic in the face of this “muscling through” the fear and anxiety on my friend’s part.

But then I thought–I was brave, too. I handled it differently. But then, he and I are different in how we handle things.

Bottom line–I’m so very, very grateful and relieved he is okay. We are both here, on the other side, he after fighting a huge battle (and winning); me knowing I skipped this particular battle this time.

It is two miracles. Two gifts, in fact.

I discovered this weekend I have received yet another gift. I realize that, after almost a year of doubt and frustration with my martial arts, I really am where I’m supposed to be for the next few years. I’ve truly found my next teacher in the martial arts–one who has the patience, the depth of understanding and the skills I need to get to my next level.

So as we rouse our grumpy family this beautiful morning to go to breakfast and visit a particularly beautiful stretch of road my husband discovered yesterday while hiking up Mt. Monadnock, I think of my blessings.

I realize that every day, every precious morning is a blessing, full of gifts to be given, and gifts to receive.

Even while working as the proverbial parking lot attendant, in 20 seconds I could give the gift of enthusiasm and good cheer.

When you follow your passion in life, there are people along the way who will be there to help and advise you, who will celebrate your successes and who will get you through the hard parts.

Even as I was caught up in my own scary health battles this month, not only did I come out the other side okay, I have been given the gift of a good friend, a brave friend, who’s going to be around for many more years to come.

I know again the gift of, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

It’s not even Christmas yet, and the gifts are just incredible.

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Filed under art, courage, inspiration, life, martial arts

I DIVORCE THEE Part Deux

Continuing the saga of the impromptu floor refinishing project from my previous post, “I DIVORCE THEE, I DIVORCE THEE”….

We are finished with the second coat of polyurethane. I got home from Tae Kwon Do after 9 p.m. last night to find Jon on his hands and knees, sanding diligently and alone. The kids had declared mutiny (actually, they both declared “homework!”) and retired.

I changed out of my uniform and helped him finish the sanding, the buffing and the last coat.

Today we crept downstairs as eager as Christmas Day. What would it look like?

Alas. Alack. The floors don’t look that good. In fact, they look pretty bad.

I read the can again and called the company. They brightly suggested we could wait for the requisite three days to dry, and either a) do another coat and wait 2-3 weeks to replace the furniture. Or b) wait another month for these coats to completely cure, remove the furniture again, and add a different treatment, and allow that coat 3 days to dry..

NO, and NO. Not. An. Option.

I returned the extra gallon of finish and the other stuff we didn’t use to Home Depot. “Someone refinished their floors!” exclaimed the sales clerk cheerfully.

“Yes, and we’re not that happy with the results,” I said glumly.

“Oh, yes, it’s hard to get a good finish with polyurethane!” she chirped. “I always say, there’s nothing like a tung oil finish! You may have to reapply it more often, but it comes out looking nicer!” (I refrained from asking her, “Why are you telling us this AFTER we’ve spent the last four days in house project hell?”)

“You don’t understand, “I replied. “NONE of you understand. We are never doing this again.”

We are NEVER doing this again.

Our new plan is, sell the house before the floors “have to” be refinished again.

Tonight we’ll do a light sanding and wipe up with the tack clothes. It actually looked pretty nice last night when we did that–a soft, matte gleam.

And it will be good enough.

The final blessing on the project: I went to the state liquor store and bought a ton of booze. A whole lotta booze–Jon’s favorites, my favorites.

And when I got to the cash register, the clerk there said, “Hey, you spent more than $120–you get a free $20 gift card for your next purchase!”

Now, there’s a clerk I can love.

Hey, come by our place tonight! Buff a little, drink a lot, and help us celebrate yet another Udell survival of a home do-it-yourself project.

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Filed under funny, humor, refinish floors

I DIVORCE THEE, I DIVORCE THEE

Does this happen in other families?

My husband and I have been arguing the last few days, ostensibly about our house but the subtext was our relationship. I claimed he wasn’t listening to me and that we weren’t talking effectively. As an example, I brought up some issues about the house.

Our house needs some major repairs, and we just don’t have the money to pay someone else to do them. We don’t have the inclination to do them ourselves, either. Oh, we tried a few do-it-yourself projects at our first home, with mixed success. Basically, we came to the conclusion that a) we aren’t very good at DIY, and b) we hate it. Our family motto? “Better dead than renovating.”

We essentially wait til someone who knows anything about houses happens to come for a social event, and makes some comment like, “Did you know you have carpenter ants?” and then he refuses to laugh when we say, “No, but our spiders have a plumber’s union”, and points out we could have the house fall down on top of us if we don’t do something NOW, and then maybe we finally admit that maybe it’s time to call a professional. A highly trained professional. (Note: Not us.)

But anyway, there are some things going on with our house, there are decisions to be made, and they were big scary house repair decisions, and we weren’t talking, and we were in a bind, and I wanted to talk about why we couldn’t talk about the house.

In an effort to make amends, my husband immediately offered to talk about the house.

“No!” I exclaimed. “That was an example I gave about what was wrong with how we talk about stuff. Now I want to talk about US.”

He still wanted to talk about the foundation and the floors. “That was a metaphor!” I yelled. “You can’t skip ahead and talk about the metaphor!”

That has to be one of the oddest sentences ever uttered in the history of mankind.

I then left to go out of state to a bead and gem show. I took both my kids with me, figuring it would give us a day out of the house.

Had I any prescience at all, I never would have left the house that fateful day.

I had a great time. I swear, every bead I’ve been looking for, for the past year, was at that show. I wanted to spend my annual income there. My daughter literally held my coat tails as I oooohed and ahhhed over all the vendors’ tables.

I came home broke and happy.

Oh, if only I’d known how short-lived my happiness was fated to be…..

When we came back, it was to CHAOS.

In a fit of inspiration, my husband had decided to refinish the floors.

He’d pushed all the furniture aside in two rooms. He’d rented a sander. (Can I sue Home Depot for not having a waiting period and a reference check on people inquiring about sander rentals, like they do handgun purchases?)

And he was in the middle of sanding our living room and dining room. There he was, piles of furniture everywhere, DUST everywhere, wearing a face mask and headphones, bopping away to his favorite music, and OPERATING A DRUM SANDER.

Without telling me.

BAM!!!

Here we are–smack dab in the middle of a renovation project! With NO NOTICE!!

I have orders to fill, a photo shoot tomorrow, an open studio in two weeks. I’m supposed to be cleaning my studio, not emptying my house.

After a lot of yelling and finger-pointing (Jon: “You said we needed to work on the house!” Me: “I SAID it was an effin’ METAPHOR!” Robin: “Daddy, I have a paper to write this weekend–you don’t expect ME to help, do you?!” Doug: “Do I have to help? I’m tired!!”) we decided to go for it and get it done as fast as possible. Maybe we could finish it up by Sunday night and get back to normal quickly.

Alas, the horror continued to unfold.

You don’t sand, strip and polyurethane floors quickly.

They may make it look fast and easy and simple in all those damn DIY home improvement shows. But it’s not.

It takes days. Days and days and days.

Even the “fast drying!” polyurethanes don’t mean it when it comes to floors. And “time saving!” formulas means it only takes 48 hours instead of 72 hours (two coats to dry versus three coats to dry.)

And that doesn’t include the 72 hours bare minimum it takes to dry enough after the LAST coat until you can put the damn furniture back in.

To find out what we had let ourselves in for, I called a friend who is a contractor. “Well…..,” he hemmed and hawed. “Usually when I redo floors for people, I tell them to go away for a week.”

A week?

A…WEEK??!!

Our plans to do one-half of each room at a time so we wouldn’t have to completely move the furniture out of each room, fell apart. That would double or even triple the project time. We needed to get those rooms CLEAR so we could do both rooms at the same time, and get it over with.

Things started to railroad. There’s no room to move furniture anywhere else. Maybe the back hallway our son was using for a clay studio? Right! So we took two hours to dismantle his wheel set-up, his shelves and his bags of clay, and moved them to the basement.

Now our back hallway leading to the hot tub is full of sofas.

My daughter remembers she bought a ton of chicken to make Chicken Tikka Masala. It needs to be cooked immediately, because we take the can of polyurethane’s directions seriously when it says, “Do not use around open flame.” She starts sauteeing chicken with a vengeance–great pans of chicken. It’s going to be hard to get to the kitchen for the next few days…. It makes us feel a little desperate. We huddle in the kitchen and eat hot chunks almost as quickly as she can fry it. I mean, saute it.

Around this point, a friend who is a divorce lawyer came by to see how it was going. (He’d heard the worst when he called earlier.) We have a running joke about Ted. Whenever Jon and I have a whopper of a fight, I scream, “I’m calling Ted!” and Jon will yell, “No, I’M calling Ted!”

Now that I think about that, it’s not really a “joke”, is it? Oh well.

I met Ted at the door begging him to represent ME, but he says he refuses to represent friends. I tell him he’s a jerk and I hate him. NOW will he represent me? He laughs and helps us move a sideboard. “Don’t you think a husband starting to refinish floors with NO WARNING and while the wife is not even in the same state is grounds for divorce??” I demand. He is very, very careful about what he says during the entire visit. Except he laughs when we say we think the entire process will take two days. This doesn’t look good.

Also, our downstairs bathroom and TV room are marooned. No access until the finish dries! At the last minute we remembered our gecko in the den (“Ohmigod! Greg!!”) and moved him to Doug’s bedroom. Also our toothbrushes….

We remember that Robin has a VCR in her bedroom. Did we also get her a DVD player? Please, please, please God…. “No, but I have a DVD player in my laptop!” she says cheerfully. Well, maybe we can gather in her tiny bedroom and watch movies together. “Sure!”she says excitedly. “Only I have to clean my room first.” This is looking worse and worse.

The reality of what we’re doing starts to sink in.

We have created one of those “severed brain” scenarios with our house. The living room and dining room are right in the middle of our railroad layout. We COULD have crossed over to the other end of the house by walking through the upstairs. Except that the back hallway we could come down through is now full of sofas, remember?

For the next two to three days, we will need to come downstairs from our bedrooms and EXIT THE HOUSE and go around to the back to get to the kitchen.

What about the cats?? How do you keep cats out of there??

We shut the cats in the back of the upstairs, where they had originally been shut in when we foster cared them. (We quit foster-caring cats for the humane society, because we kept keeping them….) They’re a little frantic (“Hey!!! We LIVE here now!!”) but they’ll get used to it. Whoops, forgot to move their food dishes….

I realize I haven’t even read the Sunday paper yet. And also realize I now have to go outside, around the house, and back to the other side to get it.

And that there is now no place to sit and read it.

I know when this is all done, with any luck, at least we will have two rooms with lovely floors. I know this will also give us a chance (e.g., “force us”) to clear out a bit of the clutter.

With any luck, we will also look back on this little episode and laugh and laugh and laugh. “Remember that time we left town for a few hours, and Daddy started to refinish the floors? Remember how MAD we were?! Remember how we had to go outside every time we wanted to get something to eat?? That was somethin’, wasn’t it?”

But for today, I’ve told my husband that I’ve already recited the first two lines of the Islam divorce ritual. “I divorce thee, I divorce thee….” One wrong step, and I say the third one–and run for Ted, the divorce lawyer friend.

So how are we doing?

Well, we just applied the first coat of finish. It looks….well, better than the old floors. Not quite “stunningly beautiful” yet.

But I went out and bought pop and Kit Kat bars for the kids, and a bottle of red wine for Jon and I. Ruth and Ted took pity on us and invited us for a late dinner. At least we won’t have to eat in our bedrooms tonight, while perched on Robin’s bed watching “Rent” on her little laptop…..

And I’m almost…ALMOST…at the point where I’m thinking this might be funny.

Someday.

I’ve actually had a glass of wine, and I’m feeling a little mellow about the whole thing.

As you value your life, do not call me tomorrow after the reality of what we’ve gotten ourselves into, hits me.

P.S. Did I mention that today all four of our phones’ batteries went dead, too?

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Filed under funny, humor, life, refinish floors

THIS IS NOT THE CATTLE SHOW

I took today off and drove down to a bead and gem show at the Eastern Estates Exposition in Springfield MA.  These are HUGE grounds filled with all kinds of outbuildings where many events are scheduled simultaneously.

As I walked up the the building, I could see people approach the entrance, stop and walk away.  Was I in the wrong place?  Why couldn’t they get in?

When I got closer I saw what the problem was.

There was a sign to the side that said “Bead and Gem Show.”

On the door was a large hand lettered sign that said, “THIS IS NOT THE CATTLE SHOW!”

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BEST BOOTH AWARD

Just for fun, I googled “best booth award” and clicked “image”. I found this collection of award-winning booths. Best Booth Award Winners

Not what I expected, but interesting and informative!

Better yet, google Craft Show Booth and you see more useful examples.

In fact, browse through these images. See which booths attract you and which ones leave you thinking, “hmmmmm……no.”

A lot of these awards are for trade show booths–way, way out of most budgets and not conducive to selling crafts. BUT some of the design principles should be the same, no matter what we’re selling!

Let me know if you find some great booths. We’ll all go take a look at ‘em!

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SAMPLE PRESS RELEASE (FOR REAL, TOO!)

This is the actual press release I just sent out to area newspapers, magazines and professional organizations. I took out the url for my photos so people don’t sneak in and put mustaches on my horse sculptures.

I just thought of putting “tags” in the lead, as a way of letting various publications know why I targeted them. For example, I sent one to the New Hampshire edition of The Boston Globe, so their tag would be “New Hampshire”. For our local newspaper, “Keene”. For my professional groups, “artist”. Clever, huh? Hope it works….!

PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate Release October 10, 2007

Tags: Luann Udell, artist, Keene, New Hampshire, New England

NEW ARTIST’S COLUMN AT MAGAZINE

Keene, NH artist Luann Udell recently signed on for a new column at a
The Crafts Report, nationally-distributed magazine on the business of
craft.

Luann, an award-winning fiber and jewelry artist, previously wrote a
regular column “The Artist’s Journal” for the back page of
CraftsBusiness magazine. CraftsBusiness ceased publication in 2007.
Luann will continue sharing her wry and humorous observations on her
life as an artist at The Crafts Report. “I was originally offered
this at TCR several years ago, but wasn’t in a position to accept it.
I’m delighted to have another opportunity to write for them–it’s a
highly-respected, long-running publication in our industry.”

Luann’s artwork–jewelry, sculpture and fiber works inspired by
ancient and tribal art– is sold at stores and galleries throughout
the U.S. and Canada. She has exhibited her work in juried exhibits
across the country, and is a juried member of the League of New
Hampshire Craftsmen in Concord, NH. Her work has been featured in
AmericanStyle magazine, Ornament (a magazine featuring high-end
wearables and jewelry), Niche magazine, The Crafts Report, The Boston
Globe, and many other books, magazines and newspapers.

She is also a published author (RUBBER STAMP CARVING, Lark Books 2003)
and wrote an article for FiberArts magazine earlier this year.

You can visit Luann’s website at www.LuannUdell.com or call
603-352-2270 for more information.

The Crafts Report, with a circulation of 20,000, is in its 33rd year
of publishing about the business of American handcraft. It’s
available at bookstores such as Borders, Barnes & Noble, and other
stores nationwide. TCR features articles on selling, marketing and
display for artists and retail stores. You can learn more about The
Crafts Report at www.craftsreport.com or call them at (800) 331-0038 .

Submitted by:


Luann Udell
271 Roxbury ST
Keene NH 03431
603-352-2270 (studio)
603-352-8633 (home)
luannudell@gmail.com
www.luannudell.com

If you would like to download images for this article, you may visit
(my photo image repository url) for low-res web-ready AND
high-res print-quality photos, or contact Luann for other versions.

Thank you!

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MY NEW COLUMN FOR THE CRAFTS REPORT

I’m so excited to announce that starting in the January 2008, I’ll be writing a regular column for The Crafts Report!

They actually offered me a column several years ago, while I was writing “An Artist’s Journal” for the back page of CraftsBusiness magazine, so I couldn’t take it.

I pitched it to them again a few months ago–and I’m on board!

I’m not sure if they’ll use the same “An Artist’s Journal” title or not, but the content is the same–musings on my life as an artist, with all the humorous ups and downs that entails. The tone and style is similar to my “non-business” blog posts, though not duplicated. Magazines don’t like it when you, dear readers, get to read it free, first.

Meghan Reinke, the new editor, is very pleasant to work with, and I’m looking forward to writing regularly again.

Hey! Why don’t I publish this as a press release? You’ll get to see what my “simple” ones look like….

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STUFF FOR SALE

For the people who e-mailed and posted that they’d like to be able to buy my work on-line, I’m trying something different this year. I’ve never sold on-line so bear with me! (Suggestions and feedback always appreciated. (Nicely worded feedback.)

For right now, just to get started, I’m posting an image of my new Mojave Series Horse Necklaces and taking orders for these.

The photo shows this necklace with my new faux soapstone finish, and my traditional faux ivory finish. You can choose either finish.

Each necklace is one-of-a-kind–no two are exactly alike!

I use an eclectic assortment of semi-precious stones (turquoise, red coral, freshwater pearls, sometimes a bit of lapis lazuli or sodalite, amazonite and fluorite), along with antique trade beads–striped pony beads, tiny transparent glass Venetian beads (these are the small emerald green beads in the photo–they also come in a beautiful red!); small red or turquoise “white hearts” (these are transparent glass with white centers, giving them a more translucent look); red or turquoise padre beads; and whatever else that surfaces on my work table.

Trade beads are glass beads made in Europe for the last 200-300 years. They were traded around the world–Africa, Asia, and more recently, the American West in the 1800’s up to the early 1900’s. They are beautiful and treasured, collected by many people. I love the look of them, worn smooth by the touch of the many hands they’ve passed through in their travels.

I string the beads asymmetrically. It looks like someone gathered up the remains of a broken necklace from an archeological dig, and restrung them, filling in with other beads as they were found.
I finish with sterling silver accent beads and “pot metal” silver or copper spacer beads handmade in Ethiopia.

Each horse is signed by me. Each necklace has my own custom made jewelry tag with my signature on it. No two are exactly alike.

The necklaces are 16″-18″ long, with a small length of chain and a trigger clasp, so they are slightly adjustable in length. The horse pendant is about 1.5″ wide.

The price for this Mojave Series Horse Necklace is $185 plus $5 for USPS Priority Mail shipping.

If you would like a coordinating pair of earrings (with the same semi-precious stones, pearls, beads used in your necklace with sterling silver ear wires), these are normally $36-$42. If you order these together as a set, the total will be $195 and I’ll give you free shipping! You save $16-$22.) Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.

I’m also posting an image of my new Vintage Button Earrings which coordinate very nicely with almost all my jewelry! Something about the antique and vintage beads I use, they all go well with these vintage plastic button earrings. These are $52 plus $2 for USPS first class shipping (unless you’d like Priority Mail, $5.) If you order these earrings WITH the Mojave Series Horse Necklace, they are only $40, and again, free shipping! (You save $14-$17.)

If you would like to order these items, you can either

a) send me a check for the amount (which I will not process until I ship your completed order;

b) call me (603-352-2270) or e-mail me at luannudell at gmail.com (replace “at” with @ and take away spaces) and we’ll make credit card arrangements (your card will not be charged until your order is ready to ship) or

c) you can go to PayPal and send me money. In which case, I’ll feel so guilty about having your money in hand, I will immediately start work on your jewelry!

Right now, I have time to get these made in time for the holidays. It’s going to get a lot crazier around here in the weeks ahead, though–so order early and often!

Oh, and if you would love to get one of these as a gift, pass the hint on to your designated gift provider, have them contact me, and I’ll do the rest. I’m really good at keeping secrets!

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GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD Addendum

I’ve gone back and put in a photo of my booth from last year’s League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair in the appropriate essays on booth design.

booth photo

No pointing fingers. I’ve already fixed the lights. And I’m already making changes for my smaller retail fairs this winter.

P.S. This is my booth shot for applying to juried shows. That’s why there is no signage that shows my name. Normally you’d see my name plastered all over this booth!

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Filed under art, booth design, booth display, booth floor, booth signs, booth walls, business, craft, craft shows, Good booths gone bad, selling

THE UPSIDE OF DOWN #4 Goals Will Get You Through

Fourth in a series about making the best of things.

When the doctor said, “No, no and no” to riding, martial arts and wall climbing, I could almost hear my heart hit bottom–kerplunk!

I recovered quickly. “Well….what can I do?” And some activities, like wall climbing, lent themselves to cool solutions. (see Learning to Belay )

But a larger issue was at stake. One that was a little harder to cope with.

I’ve been “drifting” in Tae Kwon Do class, waiting for the powers-that-be to figure out where to place me among my fellow students. I’ve got the training, but the years have taken their toll. And the curriculum has changed drastically since I first left TKD a dozen years ago. Am I starting totally over as a white belt? Or as a yellow belt? Or even a green belt??

I thought I could just hang out indefinitely until the decision was reached. I thought I could wait patiently, that I could simply show up and work hard, waiting for my body to heal, waiting to get my weight back down, waiting to regain some strength and flexibility.

Then I had to take two months off to recuperate from surgery. I was just starting to get back into the swing of things when this “month of aircast” was laid at my feet.

Going back to doing “not much of anything” in Tae Kwon Do felt like a huge step backwards. Like TWO huge steps backwards. And suddenly realizing, it might be like this for the rest of my life–one step forward, two steps back.

It didn’t help that a class the week before I got “the word” was one of the most strenuous and difficult I’d had all year. I actually left early, feeling humiliated and overwhelmed. “What the hell am I doing here, anyway?” I fretted. “I can’t do this!! Who do I think I’m kidding?? This ain’t gonna happen!”

Once I got home and cooled off, I felt pretty stupid for walking out. After all, I doubt anybody else had sailed through that session, either.

The telling point was how I felt when the doctor said, “No Tae Kwon Do”. Instead of relief (“Hooray! I’m off the hook!”) I felt that sinking feeling instead.

I don’t want to quit.

But I don’t want to wait anymore. Maybe it’s true that, at my age, it’s just going to be one damn thing after the other. So what? Does that mean I shouldn’t try?

I contacted my instructor, asking for some sort of decision.

And he gave me support, and a plan, and a goal.

It will be slow going, and I will have to make many modifications. But I’m not standing still any longer.

I am moving forward, with a definite destination in mind. And that has made all the difference.

So I’ve learned this:

Goals will get you through periods of inaction more than action will get you through periods of no goals.

How does this relate to my art?

The decision to take a year off from wholesale shows in 2008 is forcing me to think hard about where my energies should go, where my next steps should take me. It hasn’t hit me quite yet, as I finish off orders from the last show.

But come next year, when money is tight, I know I’ll be working hard to figure it out.

Instead of drifting and seeing what hits my plate next, I’ll be forced to come up with a new plan, a new goal. A new road map.

I need to think about what I really, really want to happen with my art. It’s time to look at old dreams, dust off some goals I’d set aside, and see if they still fit.

If they do, time to get busy. If not, time for some wonderful new ones.

Time to dream big!

It’s that old saying, more true than ever–you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you want to be. A map is no good without a starting point, an end point, and some idea of how to get from one to the other.

So much good stuff…..

Gosh, don’t you wish you spend a month in a cast, too?

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THE UPSIDE OF DOWN #3 Learning to Belay

Being hobbled this month forced me to learn something really important.

I’m learning how to belay.

I’ve written before about wall climbing here
CLIMBING THE WALLS
here MORE THAN ONE WAY (TO CLIMB A WALL)
and here: LOST MUSCLES

It’s obvious that going up that wall is an active, exciting metaphor for change and empowerment. It’s also a lot of fun!

The person who makes this all possible and safe is the person who belays you. The person who stays on the ground, taking up the slack (literally!) as you climb, catching you if you fall, and gently reeling you down as you descend.

The first day I climbed, the instructor had told me that, if my husband and I both learned to belay each other (man the supporting ropes), and get certified, we could come in whenever we wanted to and climb (instead of needing to have an instructor present.)

The thing is, nobody ever takes the time to learn to belay.

Oh, some people do, of course. But most people just want to get in there and get up the wall. The belayer stays on the ground watching everyone else go up. Who wants that?! Far fewer people are willing to “put off the fun” to learn it.

When the doctor said, “No climbing for a month”, I realized this was a unique opportunity.

Maybe I can’t climb right now. But I can start learning how to belay.

And I am.

The subtleties of belaying are very different than actually climbing. First, you have to pay attention to what the climber is doing–how fast they’re going up, when they’re ready to come down, how fast they want to come down. I have to practice a special way of taking up the slack quickly and smoothly. Like driving, I have to practice it until it feels like second nature, so I don’t even have to think about it.

But the rewards are there. Less obvious, more subtle. But there.

For one thing, I’m learning even more about climbing. I can feel my brain stretch a bit as I learn yet another skill.

For another, I’m becoming more independent. When I master this, our family will be halfway there to being able to climb anytime, anywhere.

Here’s something I didn’t realize til now. When you climb, you are essentially talking and getting to know only the person who belays you. When you belay, you talk and get to know anyone else who climbs off you. Since there are always more climbers than belayers (because everyone else feels the same way about belaying) I’m interacting with more people directly and I’m getting to know them better.

And of course, even when you can’t climb, if you can stand and if you can pull a rope through, you can still be involved. You can still show up, and be a part of something.

I think this is why so many artists and craftspeople move on to teaching and mentoring when they retire from the show circuit, and other more strenuous aspects of the art biz. And why sometimes artists actually start their own shows (like the Paradise City Arts Festival for example. And why artists write books and articles on making a living in craft or art. And why someone like me blogs or serves on a fair committee.

Because, yes, the most fun I can have is actually making stuff. But sharing what a life spent making stuff looks like, and helping other people make stuff and sell it, broadens my world–and my life–too.

Last, I’ve learned something big about myself.

The responsibility is huge. My job is to keep that climber safe. I almost couldn’t imagine what would happen if someone fell while I was belaying. My instructor, Lin, said, “Oh the first time your climber falls, you’ll never forget that!” It’s happened already. A young highly experienced climber, taking on a very easy wall for my benefit, hit a loose hold and slipped. It frightens you when that happens, no matter how safe you “know” you are in the ropes.

And I held him.

It was scary, yeah. But when I realized I had held him up and kept him from harm…. Well that was a pretty powerful feeling, too.

As Lin assured me, as long as you do your job and keep the ropes in the right position, the climber isn’t going anywhere. He may fall a few feet, but he’s not going to fall far.

And she was right.

It makes me think today about all the support, all the ropes, all the people we put in our own lives, to hold us up if we fall.

To make sure, if we do slip, we don’t fall far.

And I think I’ve started something. Because the other day, someone who’s been climbing for months and months, decided maybe he would start learning how to belay, too.

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THE UPSIDE OF DOWN #2: I Get to Say “No”

It’s so much easier to say “no” with a cast on your leg.

When it comes to protecting your time and creative energy, we all know we’re supposed to say no. We know why it’s important. We know we should.

But if you’re a “yes” person to begin with, if you are a spouse, a parent, a child, a friend, or a pet-owner, if you have another job in addition to your one as “artist”, then you know all about having to put your needs second.

My cast is letting me say “no” more often.

“No, I can’t. I have a cast on my leg. Maybe in a few weeks. Sorry!”

My goal is to practice saying this over and over, gradually leaving out the second sentence, until it just rolls off my tongue.

What am I going to do with all this extra time??

Hmmmmm….maybe….make more stuff!

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THE UPSIDE OF DOWN #1 Make One Less Trip

As promised, the first of the life lessons I’m learning from having to wear an aircast for a month. (Two weeks down, two to go!)

I’m allowed to drive.

But it’s gotten so complicated, I don’t want to!

Bear with me here. This gets tedious.

Since my right foot is in an aircast, I’m either running around barefoot all day or wearing one shoe. Since it’s been hot, that’s usually a sandal. And I’m in my shorts. Or in the mornings, when it’s chilly, wearing one sock (because the aircast comes with its own “special” knee high sock.)

If I drive, I have to take the aircast off. That means a) looking for a matching right shoe (which can take hours, because I’m always kicking my shoes on and off all over the house, upstairs, downstairs, in my studio, etc.) and/or b) taking off the knee sock I’m wearing with the aircast and looking for a matching pair of socks. But since I’ve been wearing one sock all day on my left foot, I can’t remember what I did with the other sock. My dresser drawer is now full of single socks….

If I’m going somewhere for any length of time, I have to take the aircast with me and change into it when I get there. Which means switching the normal sock I’ve been wearing on my right foot, for the funny “special” knee sock for the aircast.

The other day, I looked down at the passenger seat in my car. I had two different (single) socks and 3 (single) shoes, some lefts, some rights. (So that’s where they all went….!!)

You can see that the logistics of using my car has become challenging in odd ways.

Which means (ta da! Here’s my point!) it’s just easier not to make so many car trips.

So I’ve cut down on the number of times I jump in my car during the day. I’ve always tried to bunch up my errands, etc. But now I’m doing my best to avoid using my car, because it just takes too much emotional energy.

Consequently I’m getting more efficient with my time.

It reminds me of the the two smaller retail shows I’m doing this season–what will I gain from that?

Doing shows has become a big production for me. I’ve “expanded” to fill the space they given me–two days’ of set-up ends up meaning it takes me two days to set up. I overpack, taking “everything I might need” because it’s just one more thing I can toss into the packing crate.

Well, that’s about to change!

Doing shows that only allow for a few hours’ set-up will be a major shake-down–and that’s a good thing. I need to relearn the difference between what is “nice to have” and what is “essential to have.”

I can only take what I can pack into my car, or strap on top. Robin’s getting nervous–I keep asking her if she likes the wind in her face.

It’s forcing me to split apart my product lines, focusing more on the jewelry and sculpture, and only offering very small wall hangings. (At these shows, the chances that someone will come prepared to drop a couple thousand dollars on a wall hanging are slim.) That, in turn, should force me to find new venues for the fiber work.

At one show, I’m going to focus on lots of items in the under-$100 category. I don’t want to water down my designs–but my finest pieces are headed out next week to the galleries I know can carry the higher-priced stuff.

Cull, focus, simplify. A few good things I’ve learned from having to curtail my life this month.

P.S.  I’ve been walking a lot more, too!  A LOT more….

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GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #17: Party Time!

One of the most difficult concepts to absorb about booths is where we (the seller) should be and what we should be doing.

Again, building on Bruce Baker’s advice, I’ve come up with a great metaphor that may help you think about this more effectively.

We know we shouldn’t “hide” in the booth. For one thing, it feels weird, and for another, it is weird. Bruce suggests getting right out in the aisle. But why is it okay to stand in the aisle, and not sit in the aisle? (I mean, sit in a chair on the aisle, not sit in the middle of the aisle…. Oh, you know what I mean!)

We know we should “look busy”–but busy doing what? Bruce suggests “appropriate store behavior”–dusting, tagging–but why is that okay and talking on your cell phone not okay?

I think about this a lot, and I think I have a metaphor that will help you get a handle on this. Please don’t take it too literally. It’s just meant to give you a framework for how this works.

Pretend you have been invited to a party to someone’s house you don’t know very well. They are said to be a consummate hostess. You’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening.

You show up promptly at 8:00 p.m. You’re not sure it’s the right house–the number is correct, but no porch lights are on, no other cars are around. There is no indications the owner is expecting you. Maybe you’re too early??

You ring the doorbell.

No one answers. Hmmmmmm….. Are you sure you have the right house? Yep. You ring again. Still no answer.

Then you notice a little sign on the door that says, “I’m upstairs, just come in!” So you go in the house, but you feel a little awkward.

The hostess is nowhere to be found. Now that makes you both nervous and intrigued. You get to look around the house for a bit–it’s fun to snoop a little!–but it also feels weird to be in someone’s house with them not there.

You find their book collection, note some good titles, pick up one to read, when suddenly, out of nowhere, the hostess pops out! You gasp, either in fright, or in embarrassment to have been caught going through her books….

So there’s why you should not hide in your booth.

Now let’s rewind the tape and go back to the door. This time when you ring, the door is opened. But the hostess mutters, “Oh, it’s you” and walks away. You are a little dismayed (“Hmmm, is there something in my teeth??”) but you follow her in. She seems disgruntled about something and ignores you. You’re not sure what to do, so you start making small talk about her home. You notice a photo on the fridge, and, thinking it might be a picture of her kids, ask her a question about them. She rolls her eyes, heaves a sigh, and says, “What a stupid question! Do I look old enough to kids?? Those are my NIECES!!”

See? There was the stupid question we talked about last week. How do you feel now? Not good? I didn’t think so.

YOU are trying to be nice and make conversation, and SHE is determined you are being a jerk. Not appropriate party/booth behavior, either.

Let’s rewind once more. You’re back at the door and see the same note. You let yourself in. This time the hostess is not disgruntled. But she’s busy. She’s on the phone with someone. She nods at you as you come in, but she stays on the phone–for another fifteen minutes.

Don’t you feel special?

Was that an appropriate way for your hostess to behave? Nah. Don’t do it in your booth, either.

Rewind again. Door, note, come in. She greets you, and she’s still busy. She’s in a little side room, sewing curtains. And doesn’t stop–she’s just got so many curtains to sew. Make yourself at home! There’s beer in the fridge, she says.

Does this kind of “busy” seem appropriate for a hostess? Probably not. More on “appropriate” busy later.

Rewind one last time. Door, note, come in, some other guests are there, she’s not busy. In fact, you are the object of her affection. She can’t leave you alone! Wherever you go, whatever you look at, whatever you pick up, she chats away. “Oh, I see you like carrots! Have you always liked carrots? Those are good carrots, aren’t they? I picked them myself! I made the dip, too! It’s a great recipe–in fact, I made the recipe! In fact, I grew the dill in the recipe, too! Isn’t it great dill? Why don’t you try this cheese spread? Guess what–I made that, too!”

How do you like that cheese dip? Does the whole situation feel a little, well, labored? Do you feel a little hounded? Do you wish she would just go away and leave you alone?

So how do you think your booth visitors feel when you “share” everything about your art before they even ask?

We have most of the inappropriate party/booth behaviors. Now…how would you like this party scene to go? What could the hostess do better to make you feel “just right”?

Rewind one last time (I promise!)

You arrive at the house. The lights are on, there is a welcome mat at the door, a pot of flowers on the steps, and a little sign that says, “Welcome, guests! Come right in!” But before you even have to grab the door handle, there’s the hostess meeting you at the door.

“Hey, you must be Donna’s friend! I’m so glad you could come! I’m Jill, and this is my home. Welcome!”

She brings you inside and says, “I have a few things I have to finish in the kitchen. Just relax and make yourself at home here in the living room. Would you like white wine or red? Red? Coming right up!”

She hands you a glass of red wine and settles you in. “Back in a few minutes! If you need anything, I’m right here in the kitchen–just holler!” she says cheerfully.

Sipping your wine, you look around you and take in the surroundings. Such beautiful things! So much to look at! You roam around the living room, looking at her eclectic art collection, the lovely paintings on the wall, the comfy furniture, the handmade rugs on the floor. The rugs especially are outstanding. Wow, did she make them?

Soon, you wander into the kitchen where she’s busily….

….cutting up carrot sticks, making dip, pulling out more wineglasses. Doing all those little tasks that you do to get ready for a party. Oh, it smells good in the kitchen!

“What’s that lovely smell? Is it sauteed garlic?” you ask.

“Oh, you’re right! That’s the secret ingredient in my my special handmade carrot dip–sauteed garlic, with a little curry powder thrown in. Isn’t it wonderful? Here, have a taste!” She hands you a carrot with a dollop of dip, you taste–and you are suddenly in love with this carrot dip. You must have more!

“Did you make all those wonderful things in your living room, too?” you ask, wanting to get to know this amazing and talented person better.

“Why, yes, I made some of the things. What caught your eye?” she says. You ask about the paintings and the rugs. She explains that the paintings are by a friend, but yes, she did indeed weave all the rugs on the floor.

She tells you the wonderful story of her aunt who was also a weaver, and how when she was a little girl, she used to go to her aunt’s house and help her set up her loom, and how much she loved the yarns, and how sometimes she got to help dye the yarns….

She takes you back into the living room and shows you one of the rugs, the one that caught your eye first. She shows you the beautiful finishing details, points out the interesting interplay of colors, and tells you about the quality of the wool yarns she selected specially for this rug. She tells you that a rug of this quality is heirloom quality–with the right care, it will last for generations. “This rug will be around for our children’s children’s children to enjoy,” she says.

And before you know it, you are wishing you could have one of those handwoven rugs for your home, too. You know if you had one, you could capture a little bit of the warmth, and exuberance, and passion and artistry of this woman in your own life.

You beg her to make a rug for you, too. Better yet, will she sell this one? Because you know it is the perfect rug for YOU.

Whew! Sorry, I got carried away there.

But I hope this little exercise has helped you understand better the booth behaviors that are appropriate for you.

Be the party. Not the pooper.

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