street1It’s next to impossible to explain the experience of participating in one of the most famous parades on the planet, especially when it is the culmination of a bucket list experience crossed with a childhood fantasy.

Before leaving for New York, I watched the Wizard of Oz and Miracle on 34th Street like a prize fighter preparing for a championship match, but nothing could compare with the moment I found myself standing on the corner of 81st and Central Park West watching Cirque Du Soleil performers practice their routine on a gorgeous pirate ship while beautiful girls dressed in dark purple coats swirled on motorized umbrellas in the street to pass the time, and grown men with scruffy beards dressed as fairies waited with people dressed as Vikings, firemen, Keystone Cops and clowns for the parade to start.

waiting

The morning began early outside the New Yorker Hotel.  We got up at 3:45 and drove into the city from my friend, Kim Hendrickson’s house in Pearl River.  It was an easy forty five minute drive, and we were in line by 5:30 Thursday morning.  Long lines of balloon handlers and character volunteers waited on either side of the hotel to be admitted to the costume staging area on the fourth floor of the hotel. This year they divided the balloon handlers into groups according to which street your balloon was on, and when it would enter the parade line. Since we were the fifteenth balloon we waited until almost seven o’clock to get into our overalls and head for the buses that would take us to the Natural History Museum, where the giant balloons are located.

buses

Part of the fun of the parade are all the behind the scenes moments we get to experience as part of this remarkable adventure.  Adults dressed as seahorses or bacon and eggs mingle with people dressed as cue balls, members of a marching band, clowns, elves and characters from books, like the ones from “The Wind in the Willows”  burst from the side doors of the hotel into the early morning light, while someone yells “All the boxes, this way” from the crosswalk where girls dressed as wrapped presents wait to be ferried to the parade line.

seahorse

street

the gang

michaelandfairy

Once we arrived at the flight line, an entirely different scene unfolds.  The last time we did the parade, very few floats were lined up on Central Park West, but instead, were waiting on side streets to feed into the parade at designated intervals.  The crowd of spectators started at 81st and Central Park West, and acts would feed onto the street in a staggered formation; a band would start down the street, then a float would  come in behind them, and a giant balloon behind the float, like an assembly line.  This year, the floats commanded Central Park West from 81st to uptown,  all the bands lined one side of the sidewalk in the order they would feed into the parade at the starting line, and all the character acts (like the clowns) lined the opposite side of the street, so standing on the corner of 81st and Central Park West, I could see the visual chaos of the event in all its glorious color and motion, and because I was part of the parade, I had the freedom to wander among the floats and balloons while barricades restrained the crowds of people who gathered to witness the spectacle for themselves.

cirque kimandmewizThe balloons are kept under nets until an hour before the parade starts.  We all crawled under the nets to find a “dog bone” which is wrapped with rope and attaches to the balloon to make it possible to maneuver and control it.  I made a mad dash for the front of the balloon, only to find all the dog bones had been claimed.  The parade consistently overbooks volunteers to ensure there are enough handlers and character acts, since people drop out for all sorts of reasons.  The weather was so questionable up until the very last minute that one newspaper reported that the giant balloons had been grounded.  We received an email from parade officials a few hours later ensuring us that the decision to ground or not would come the morning of the parade, and implored us to all show up, so there were plenty of additional balloon handlers to help manage the basket the wizard was in thanks to occasional wind gusts.  Kim and I wound up in the front row of the balloon, and traded the dog bone back and forth along the parade route, which allowed me to actually LOOK at the parade this time.

There is absolutely nothing like stepping out onto the street the first time, and seeing crowds of people, sometimes twenty deep, on either side of the street, and then, looking up and seeing people in office buildings, apartments and hotels, gathered at the window, or on the balcony or roof, watching the parade, while hundreds of police officers and what seems like an equal number of people wearing press badges stick giant cameras in your face, while people yell “Happy Thanksgiving” enthusiastically from the sidelines.  Up ahead I could see the high school band that Macy’s outfitted with munchkin costumes playing their hearts out along the parade route, and in front of them, a float carrying the Goo Goo Dolls.  Because our balloon was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the release of The Wizard of Oz, we were accompanied by a woman dressed as Dorothy (she looked more like Little Red Riding Hood for most of the parade, since she was wearing a red cape to keep warm) and four characters with giant balloon heads who were led down the street by young women dressed as characters from the Emerald City.  The Cowardly Lion’s head slowly started to deflate, and the Witch got so far behind us that she was loaded onto a golf cart and whisked away.  The Tin Man gave up the ghost at one point and had to be driven to the “Parade Quiet Zone” where each balloon or float waits until they are called before the cameras for their 30 seconds of glory.  The Cowardly Lion’s balloon head was filled with helium again just before it was our turn to be on camera, and out of nowhere, someone got Dorothy’s cape and gave her a dog who looked like Toto.  We passed the cameras on cue, only to discover that Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthry were sitting with their backs to us so the cameras could show us passing behind them.

withthewizardWhat most people don’t know is that the parade ends the minute we pass the cameras.  Macy’s officials and police officers wait at the end of the street to direct us to our respective finish lines, so bands go down one street, floats go down several others, and all the giant balloons all march to a giant red net laid out on the road where we help deflate them and put them in a storage bin.theend

The trouble is, the helium release vents on the Wizard of Oz balloon are on TOP of the balloon, instead of being strategically placed on the underside of the balloon the way Spiderman and Pokeman are.

deflatingspidermanThe balloon handlers for How to Train Your Dragon, Spiderman, Pokemon AND the Macy’s Star, all had their balloons deflated before we figured out we needed to roll our balloon down to reach the vents.  Once the balloons are completely deflated, they are rolled up, and placed in a large laundry style cart.  The floats are dismantled and loaded onto flatbed trucks, and back at the hotel, costumes like the ones worn by the Tin Man and the Wicked Witch have been loaded into large carts, sealed, labeled and stacked into moving vans.

withmichaelI can’t imagine ever getting tired of being part of the parade.  It’s such an amazing experience that I hope I will still be doing it when I am 90.  And I suspect I will feel like a six year old every time I do….

ozWe are headed to New York next week to be balloon handlers for the Wizard of Oz balloon, and I couldn’t be more excited, which is funny considering that when I was a kid, and the Wizard of Oz played just once a year on one of the three channels available at the time, I would watch all the way up until the Tin Man finished his song and dance in the apple orchard before packing up my pillow and heading off to bed.  I hated the scene where the witch appears in a puff of red smoke on top of the cabin, so year after year, whether all the kids in the neighborhood were at my house, or I was at theirs, the Tin Man would toot his hat, and I would immediately vanish into whatever room I could find to escape what came next.

I am not sure how old I was when I managed to make it all the way through the movie, but now I have a shelf lined with vintage Wizard of Oz books, I can recite the dialogue and the songs verbatim, and a few years ago, when I first moved to North Carolina, I went to the Autumn at Oz festival in Banner Elk as the very first event I ever attended in the state.  deniseatozI felt like a four year old kid when I got my ticket to this year’s parade in the mail; I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time, and I am pretty sure I won’t sleep the whole night before the parade.  I also plan to push my luck by ice skating at Rockefeller Center, and visit Santa at Macy’s to fulfill a lifelong dream.  I’m only slightly embarrassed that I am 54 years old and still want to sit on Santa’s lap, but since Miracle on 34th Street is my all time favorite movie, I am going to suck it up and go for it.

On the subject of Serendipity, there are two stories I want to tell.  The first, is that when we were on the road a few weeks back, we stopped at a Walmart in Palmyra, Pennsylvania to get some food and supplies before checking into our hotel for the night.  We put everything in the back of the truck, and I made a loop with the shopping cart and the trash before climbing into the cab.  We arrived at our hotel eight miles later, but when I went to check in, I discovered that my wallet was missing.  I’d put it on the bumper of the truck, and had completely forgotten about it after dumping the cart and the trash.  We’d been on back roads, in a construction area, and on the interstate going 75 miles an hour.  I knew the chances of finding it were miniscule, but we called the Walmart to ask if the wallet had been turned in, then immediately retraced our steps. By the time we’d made it back to the interstate, I was on the phone cancelling all my credit and debit cards.  I spent a sleepless night worrying about identity theft, since there were business cards with my name and phone number on them,  ID cards, and other bits and pieces of information about my life.

The next morning my cell phone rang.  It was the general manager at the Pilot station across the street from the hotel telling me she had my wallet. We hadn’t stopped at the Pilot station, just stopped in front of it, and how on earth the wallet chose that moment to fall off the bumper is beyond me.  I immediately got dressed and ran across the street to collect it.  The only thing missing was $11.00 in cash, and considering that I would have given a substantially larger reward to get it back, I felt I came out even in the end…..

20131118_131824The next story involves Michael’s new RV business, which has exploded this fall.  We have been working out of a Geo Tracker, or a Ford F150 4×4, which was like working out of a giant Rubics Cube.  You had to move the bucket of caulk to get to the toolbox, and put the moving blankets and the plastic tarp on the front seat to get to the gas sniffer.  He started looking for a Dodge Sprinter, but they are too expensive for us to afford right now.  Last week we were on our way to an RV job, when a Sprinter passed us with an For Sale sign on the side. It was the right length and the right height, but we were going the opposite direction and couldn’t chase it down.  When we finished the RV job, we headed to our next appointment, but instead of taking the freeway, Michael decided to take surface streets, and there the Sprinter was, parked right beside the road.  We stopped to look it over just as the man who owned it showed up.  We took it for a test drive, and when we got back, asked him how much he wanted for it.  Even though the price was reasonable, it was still way beyond our means. I found myself saying, silently “Okay God, now what? How are you gonna pull this one off?”  The man then volunteered that what he really wanted was a Ford F150 4×4 truck.  We traded vehicles this past Monday, and its already proven to be worth the exchange.

Finally, I want to talk about the Happiness Project.  Gretchen Rubin wrote a book on the year long project she undertook to see if it was possible to train herself to be happier.  A person’s ability to be happy is largely dictated by genetics, but Rubin decided to see if happiness can be achieved through practice until it become a habit, so I have decided to embark on a similar project.  After all, life is short, and I want to spend as much of the rest of it as I can being happy. So expect to hear some about this in the future, because I will need your input on what makes YOU happy.

So…what DOES make you happy?  I would love to know…..

coopers_hawk_F5R7942-02 I had an experience this weekend that was so incredibly powerful, I just had to share.

I was driving home on Saturday morning after picking up some things from thrift stores and estates that I needed, but didn’t want to spend a fortune on.  Stuff like tablecloths and dishes, for a party I am having this coming weekend, and a freezer, because I have wanted one for ages, when I saw something beside the road that caught my eye.

I must confess right now, I have a weakness for road kill.  I got it from my friend, Susanna.  We nearly trampled each other to death once trying to get to a male cardinal in a parking lot before the other one did.  She is smaller than I am, and quicker, so she claimed that particular prize.  I took some feathers from it, and photographed it at every possible angle to have a record of how  the body was structured.  I have learned a lot from things I have picked up from beside the road, from how a feather pattern unfolds, to what a coyote’s fur actually looks like from five inches away.

That morning, I saw a bird, and hoped that it might be a wild turkey, since I am working on smudge feathers for an art show in October.  But the bird looked too small at 65 miles an hour to be a wild turkey, so this rush of thoughts raced through my head…stop, not, don’t stop….then…STOP!!!!!  Instead of turning around and driving back down the freeway, hoping I would find the bird again on my way past and be able to park closer to it, I slammed on my brakes, pulled off the highway shoulder as far as possible, and started the quarter mile trek up the road past an endless stream of cars and trucks.

As I walked up on this bird, I saw that is was, in fact, a small hawk.   It’s wildly illegal to own feathers from birds of prey even if they are road kill, but this little beauty was so pretty, I actually considered it for a moment when something incredible happened…

It blinked.

And then I saw its chest rise and fall.  It blinked again, and my heart fell.  It was creepy, and wonderful, and terribly sad, all at the same time.  I couldn’t imagine walking away from that bird, leaving it there to die on the side of the road, but I had nothing to pick it up with except my bare hands.  And anyway, I had a dog in the car.  What it I picked it up and it bit me?  What if I picked it up and it was covered with blood?  What if I got it back to the truck and it was only stunned?  I could just see myself from the perspective of other drivers, this green truck with a white camper top, weaving uncontrollably up the highway while inside the cab, a pissed off hawk and a hunting dog are going at it  in the front seat while I frantically try to get to the side of the road to open the door and let the damned thing out.  I thought about what it was going to cost me if I took it to a vet and they could save it, then I tried to remember where the closest vet clinic was and how to get there.  I took a deep breath, and wrapped my hands tightly around the wings.  When I picked the bird up, the head didn’t loll to the side, the way they do when a bird’s neck is broken, but it hasn’t died yet.  It blinked again, so I began the long walk back to the truck, holding the bird as far out in front of me as I possibly could, talking to it the entire way in an effort to convince it not to die on me.  A trucker passed going the opposite direction, and I glanced up long enough to see that he was craning his neck trying to see what I was carrying up the highway with my arms straight out in front of me.

I had a box of dishes I’d bought with newspaper in it in the front seat, and a Pharaoh Hound in the backseat, so I nestled the bird in the newspaper and hoped to God it didn’t suddenly spring to its feet.  Or die on  me.  I pulled off the exit I was parked next to, and got back on the freeway headed for the vet clinic I take my dogs to.   The hawk didn’t move, but I could tell it was still breathing, and when I got to the vet clinic a few minutes later, I took it into the reception area in the box of dishes it was in and set it on the counter.  A lady waiting with her dog said she’d seen me beside the road, and wondered what I was doing, and the two women behind the counter immediately offered to euthanize it.  But when they got it into the back room, it stood up in the box, which presented a whole new set of problems.

The government has strict rules about handling wildlife of any kind, and since no one at the clinic was a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, they called another clinic and asked if their wildlife rehabilitator was in. Fortunately, she was, but then I was told, I had to be the one to take the bird to her since the only thing these women were allowed to do was tape the box up with the hawk in it.  The box had handles so I wasn’t afraid it couldn’t breathe.  I was afraid it was still going to die on me, but I picked up the box, dishes and all and carried it back out to the truck.

The receptionist at the second clinic took the bird and the box in the back, and asked me to fill out some paperwork asking where I got it.  I waited for the vet to examine it, but the prognosis was not good.  I was told that it had suffered some head trauma, and damage to one eye, and also, that it started hemorrhaging.  I left the clinic certain the hawk had died, or was going to, and spent the rest of the day thinking about that moment when it blinked.  I can’t quite explain the feeling I had when I first picked it up, or how fragile it looked laying in the box of newspaper on top of a set of dishes, or the sudden sense I had that something truly powerful and life changing had happened.  I was flooded with the feeling that I had just invested in the best possible karma I have ever experienced in my life  up to this point, and even though it may be overstating the case, it felt absolutely incredible to know that I held a wild hawk in my hands, that I didn’t let it die alone beside the road, that, for one brief moment, I connected with something much greater than myself.

And then I called the vet clinic this morning to find out what happened with it.  I was expecting to be told that the hawk had died, or been euthanized, but instead, I was informed that after the vet examined it, they were able to release it Sunday morning, and it flew away without incident.   It was an incredible way to start my Monday, and definitely an experience worth sharing.

bigI didn’t start life as a Gourd Goddess.   To be honest, I didn’t even start life as Denise Meyers.  I was born Denise Condit, a fact I did not discover until I was 39 years old, and which is another story entirely. The point is,  I have been reaching for the stars since I could remember, always dreaming of a life much bigger than the one I grew up with, always wanting to stuff  everything I possibly could into a day, always keenly aware that I would not live forever, and if I didn’t grab every opportunity that came my way – even ones I had to invent myself – I might never get the chance to do it again.

When I was fifteen, our psychology class in high school was reading ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST,  which was being filmed, at the time, at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem where I lived.  I called the production office one day and asked if anyone from the production would speak to our class. Joel Douglas, the production manager (and Michael Douglas’ younger brother), agreed, and showed up two days later to discuss the film at length.  When he left that day, he invited me to come to the set anytime I wanted.  I went as often as my mother would allow, and was there the day they filmed Will Sampson pulling the sink out of the floor and tossing it through the window just before he escapes from the hospital. Icuckoosnest photographed the basketball scene through the fence one afternoon, ate lunch in the commissary in the general vicinity of Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas, had Scatman Crothers ask me if I smoked and if I did, could I light his cigarette for him, and was the reason Joel Douglas remembered to order sea sickness pills for the cast when they headed to Newport for the fishing sequence.  I got my first kiss in that insane asylum as well when Joel Douglas pounced on me in the production office one afternoon, something I did not expect, but which makes for a great story.  My first kiss was in an insane asylum on the set of an Oscar winning movie!

Years later, when I was in college and decided I wanted to work in the film business as a career, I wrote a letter to Michael Douglas, asking for a job.  His business manager wrote back, largely because Mt Saint Helens had just erupted, and stories of the ash covering the Pacific Northwest were all over the news, so I sent her a jar of that ash and a friendship was born.  She agreed to get me work if I moved to Los Angeles, and a few weeks later, with my Volkswagon bug packed to the gills, I headed south by myself for a job at the Willliam Morris Agency.   One day while I was waiting to use a pay phone at the gas station across the street from Warner Brothers Studios, I struck up a conversation with a man from Oregon who not only had just moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of a career in film, turns out he was from Salem, was a popular disc jockey at a radio station where I had interviewed – with him – for a job.  We became roommates a few weeks later,  are still great friends to this day.

meandrayTaking no for an answer has never been my strong suit.  I wanted to live at the beach, and found an apartment right on the water in Malibu that was part of a small complex owned by a bachelor who had more money than he knew what to do with.  We paid $850 a month for four years, and hung out with people like Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street), Sherilyn Wolter (Celia Quartermaine, on General Hospital), David Simkins (who wrote Adventures in Babysitting) and Ray Abruzzo, who would later go on to star as Little Carmine in The Sopranos.  I wanted to write screenplays, so I did, and after awhile, I wanted to get as far away from the film business as I could, because quite frankly,  as much as I love movies, I didn’t love writing, or the process of pouring my heart and soul into something that I found so intensely frustrating, and so incredibly unrewarding. Besides, everyone in Los Angeles is a screenwriter and I wasn’t good enough, at the time, to make much of an impact.

I went to work at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore for some perspective, and that’s where I saw gourd art for the first time.  When the woman who was making, and selling them, offered a class one fall, I asked my boyfriend at the time to sign me up as my birthday present.  I fell in love with gourds that weekend,  back when no one knew what a gourd was.  I had no idea Robert Rivera even existed at the time, and which I still think has benefited me greatly in terms of developing my own artistic style, because I had to teach myself everything I know now about gourds.  I had to learn to work with a surface that was curved in two directions, had to learn about tools and equipment, about photography, about applying to art shows, and then art galleries, how to write a contract, and what to say in a cover letter to a magazine editor.

oldgourdI was so naive about the art world that it never occurred to me there were rules, so I barged in where other artists “feared to tread”.  I saw a news brief in the back of Art of the West Magazine about an art show in wine country that featured some of the top Western and wildlife artists I’d been reading about, and so I decided to apply.  The gallery owner called me back and said she didn’t accept gourds because “they are a craft”, so I shot back that she obviously hadn’t seen mine, and I would appreciate it if she would at least take a look at my work before passing judgement.  I got into the show, and into the gallery and did extremely well at both.  I had my first, and only, sell out, a year later, at the San Dimas Art Festival, which is a funny story in itself, because after challenging anyone and everyone who said gourds weren’t a legitimate art form, I started getting into some of the best art shows in the country.  The day I delivered my work to the San Dimas art committee, I spent the entire rest of the day crying, I felt so out of my league.  The artists in the show were famous, at least among the Western art crowd, and I was embarrassed to have my pieces shown alongside theirs.  And by the end of the show, the only thing I had left to take home was a nice, big, fat check, and a tremendous amount of respect from my fellow artists.

piggycanvas1aA few years ago, I decided to test myself artistically to see what I was capable of.  I could design, woodburn, carve and paint a gourd with my eyes tied behind my back, but I felt horribly uncomfortable around canvas.  I liked the “cheat” of woodburning, and how fast acrylics dry, I was used to the curved surfaces of a gourd, and how to make allowances for imperfections in the gourds.  Painting on a flat surface felt foreign to me, but I wanted to see if I could paint things other than cougars and coyotes.  I am embarrassed to say that the first few weeks of this new experiment were horrible.  I hated oils, and canvas, and not working on something I could rest in my lap.  I missed my woodburning tool, and my Dremel, and thought most of what I was working on was dreadful.  I decided to take gourds in all different shapes, cut them into pieces, and reassemble them into works that were five and six feet tall, with contemporary themes.  I covered some with hundreds of flat backed beads, and painted others with copper and brass from powdered metals I found online.  I painted nursery rhymes, and Japanese geisha’s, and even found some bare wood frames that would allow me to expand the artwork beyond the edge of the canvas onto the frame itself.  I bought a hollow core door and woodburned a tiger on it that is two thirds the size of an actual tiger.  I was commissioned to create a piece for the executive producer of The Lord of the Rings with Frodo, Sam, and Golum, and painted a leopard in oil, on a three foot by five foot canvas, and just for the fun of it, reproduced an Ed Hardy painting from a Sailor Jerry’s campaign just to see if I could.

LOTRtroutcontemporary1sailorjerrysIMG_0600bluejayevan_elvishighres#B1A6heytigerlargegeishapaintingpin up girl wine boxdodcoffinleopardhandbagflowerbox

And when I could see that the economy was turning on its ear, I decided to create “functional” artwork, that would allow a collector to justify the purchase, because the art had more than one function.  I turned to handbags like my life depended on it, then decorative boxes, then functional boxes,  day of the dead coffin boxes, boxes designed to look like vintage ads, or wine boxes with pin up girls on them, and recently began working my way back to gourd art again.  I am currently in the process of designing the largest and most elaborate gourd I have ever attempted, with every sort of creature I can think of to put on it, from hummingbirds to blue whales.  I expect this new piece to take at least four months to create, and when I am finished with it, I expect to sell it for more money than I have ever sold a single piece of artwork for, which is a pretty high bar considering that I’ve sold work for $22,500 in the past….

But that’s okay.

Because taking no for an answer just isn’t part of my internal make-up.  I may not have been born a Gourd Goddess.   But I will never stop reaching for the stars…..

wolf handbagI’ve made no secret of the fact that the last few years have been pretty rough.  I’ve had my ups and downs just like anyone else, but I’ve discovered they were minor setbacks at best compared to some of the challenges I’ve faced since 2009.  As a result,  I’ve learned how much more resilient I am than would have ever imagined.  I am braver, wiser, and more resourceful than I thought possible,  and after putting aside my art career to focus on saving my house and protecting my health, I’ve emerged from the past few years with an inspired and reinvigorated approach to art and writing that has resulted in a return to the gourd art I am best known for, a renewed passion for handbags and decorative box design, and the unwavering belief that my best years are ahead of me.

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I have four back to back art shows starting at the end of September and continuing through the end of October, a feat I have never attempted before.  I was accepted into the Armonk Outdoor Art Show in Armonk, New York (September 28 and 29) which I have been applying to for years without avail, plus I will also be exhibiting at An Occasion for the Arts in Williamsburg, Virginia (October 5 and 6), and the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain, North Carolina (October 17, 18, 19 and 20).  I was told that several artists have applied to the Lake Eden Arts Festival since its inception and have never been accepted, while I got in on  my first try, which I have to admit, feels really nice.

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I was also invited to exhibit at the Smithsonian Craft2Wear Show in Washington, DC (October 25, 26 and 27), and was asked to bring my new wine boxes since the Gallo wine family will be in attendance, plus I am hard at work creating a line of decorative boxes and one of a kind humidors for men that will debut at this event as well.

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Five years ago, I was the top selling gourd artist in the country, with the sales of several $10,000 and $15,000 gourds to my credit. I am still  the only gourd artist to sell a single piece of gourd art for $22,500, but I gave up gourd art entirely the past few years when I went from my best year ever to my worst year ever, between 2008 and 2009.  I honestly thought that gourd art was over for me, since I had a basement full of gourds no one wanted, but not long ago I picked up a gourd and decided to start experimenting again, and the reaction to my first new piece in years was overwhelming,  11,000 people saw the dragonfly gourd I posted on facebook, and I sold that new piece, along with another, significantly more expensive work, at the Tryon Arts Center as part of their outstanding 2013 sculpture exhibit within just a few weeks of one another.  I am working on several new pieces for the Williamsburg show and hope to start getting into galleries and larger art shows with them again as well.

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Just a few days ago, I received my copy of the Page a Day Handbag calendar for 2014.  The publisher contacted me via email last summer and asked me to send photos of recent work, four of which made it into the calendar.  In fact, my handbags are the only ones in the entire calendar on a color background, and I am one of three handbag designers with more than one image on exhibit.  Most of the bags are from private collections and museums, and a large majority are vintage.  I was asked to submit photos for the 2015 calendar as well.

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My screenplay, LUCKY 13, about the Women’s Air Service Pilots,  was turned down by all five screenplay competitions I entered, however. the best of those competitions, the Nicholls Fellowship (offered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), did say the script was among the top twenty percent of the over 7300 screenplay submissions they received.  So I did something that is generally frowned on in Hollywood; I sent copies of the script to Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, and included one of my best gourds in the submission to Steven Spielberg, who I understand is quite a fan of gourd art and artists.  It may never go anywhere, but you never know unless you try.

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Finally, I got tickets to The Daily Show in September, and am currently waiting for my confirmation to be a balloon handler again at this years Macy’s Parade.  I missed last years parade because of my broken ankle, but I promised my sponsor that if he could get me in again, I would come to the parade, even if I was on a stretcher!  And last, but by no means least, the 1969 Dodge Travco I have been working on for over 18 months is finally done and is currently on the auction block.  I taught myself about upholstery, laying carpet, and refinishing woodwork among a great many other things.  Check out the link on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJNvYfHnBmU&feature=youtu.be/

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rowan in costumeI have been fortunate to know some truly remarkable women in my lifetime.  Everyone one of them have brought something inspirational to my life, whether it’s laughter, sage advice,  hard truths, or the immeasurable comfort of knowing just what kinds of champions I have in my corner.

But even among the outstanding group of women who have  made my life better just for knowing them, there is one young woman who is truly exceptional, as much for what she has accomplished in her young life as for the fact that I am privileged to call her my friend.

rowanI first met Rowan Borchers when she was 12 years old.  She is the daughter of a friend of mine, and I liked her instantly.  She was smart, funny, and engaging, not like other kids I’d met who were her age.   We would go to dinner and the movies whenever possible and talk about all kinds of things, from the books she loved, to travel, to relationships.  When she told me at 18 that she was pregnant, I was shocked.  It wasn’t what I wanted for her at that age; I wanted her to explore the world, find out who she was, have the kinds of passionate, heartbreaking  love affairs that poets write sonnets about, to create a start-up that sold, later, for millions and landed her on the cover of FORTUNE Magazine, to cross the Arabian desert on camel and write a best selling novel about her experiences that later goes on to star Jennifer Lawrence in an Academy Award winning performance.

scottincapI also know better than to underestimate Rowan, because  instead of quitting college, she committed to a full class load, and is about graduate with a 3.4 grade point average with a degree in English Literature. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must have been to juggle classes and all that goes with preparing for a four year degree, let alone be a newlywed and mother to a new baby,  but at just twenty years old, Rowan has worked hard to create the kind of family she always dreamed of having, despite less than perfect circumstances.

rowanandkevin

Shortly after she discovered she was pregnant, she married Kevin Borchers, a chef who graduated from the Culinary Institute and who currently works in Phoenix at Cafe 247.   They had been engaged to be married long before Rowan got pregnant, but kept the engagement to themselves at first because they felt their parents would argue that they were “too young” to get married.  In fact, Rowan admits, complete strangers have a hard time keeping their comments to themselves when they see Rowan’s young family out on a date, but Rowan says that she is okay with that.  “They don’t know me and they don’t know anything about me”, she says, with characteristic maturity, “so they don’t know that I am about to graduate from college and move to Ecuador where Kevin and I already have tons of job offers waiting for us”.

scottinglassesI’m not crazy about the idea that this girl I love so much is going to be so far away from me, but I also know that Rowan is unlike anyone else I have ever met in my life.  At just twenty years old she already possesses so many of the characteristics I wish I had at 53.  As a child of divorce she decided that she wanted to create a safe, loving environment for her son, and she knew she loved her baby’s father enough to want to make a marriage work,  so instead of living together, or raising the baby on her own, she decided to give herself the family she always wanted.  Even though I have never met Kevin or their son Scott, I can see from the pictures of them that they are all crazy about each other.

rowansfamilyAnd no wonder. As the glue that holds this family together, I know Rowan brings the light of her blinding smile and the warmth of her enormous heart to everything she does, and I have no doubt that when she gets to Ecuador where her mother and stepfather are relocating, she will take the country by storm.  As a graduate of the culinary institute, Kevin has restaurants lining up to hire him, and Rowan plans to use her English degree to teach at the local university, plus she hopes to open a yoga and belly dance studio in the next few years.

I never had children of my own. I was never brave enough to think that I was emotionally equipped to make the changes I needed to make to break the legacy of dysfunction I grew up in.  Despite all that Rowan has accomplished, I think her commitment to her marriage and her child are the things that make me admire her the most.  I had a hard enough time getting through college, let alone adding roles as wife and mother to the mix at the same time.  This 20 year old woman, who I love as much as if she were my own child, has shown this grey haired old lady that there are women in the world who can make the changes they want to make in their lives, and they can do it with a flat stomach in a belly dancing costume with a 3.4 grade point average.

rowanscottI’ve wracked my brains for a way to say what I wanted to say to Rowan about her future, but the words don’t come easily because she’s already so much more grown up than I feel I may ever be.  So I found this Rascal Flatts song to share, because the song says everything and more about what I hope for Rowan and her future.

Rowan, this is my wish for you……I also hope you know how much I love you…..

I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you wanna go,
And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window,
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile.
But more than anything, more than anything
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.
I hope you never look back, but you never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you live,
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get,
Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake,
And always give more than you take.
But more than anything, yeah, more than anything
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish. Yeah, yeah.
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish (my wish, for you).
This is my wish (my wish, for you)
I hope you know somebody loves you (my wish, for you).
May all your dreams stay big (my wish, for you)
rowaninpool
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Denise & RedI guess you could say I was born lucky.  I haven’t always allowed myself to feel that way, because what I wanted, and what I was willing to do to get what I wanted, has rarely ever resulted in getting what I thought I couldn’t live without.   I had a whole different plan for my life, and its taken close to thirty years to make peace with the fact that things just didn’t work out the way I had  hoped.   Sometimes things turned out better than I could have ever imagined.  Sometimes they just turned out the way they turned out.

I had a series epiphanies at the end of last year that completely changed the way I look at life, and what constitutes luck, success, contentment, and happiness.  It started with a journal I found in my studio on December 31, 2012, that I wrote in 2009.  I’ve kept a journal on and off for the past 13 years, and what struck me about this particular piece of writing, is that it said the exact same things that the journals before and after had said.  I’ve been examining (or more precisely, lamenting) the same topics, in the same way, and expecting different results, for thirteen years.  It’s the textbook definition of insanity, and while I will be the first to admit that I am not the most balanced person in the room on occasion, I’m fairly certain that I am not crazy.  At least, that’s what the voices in my head keep telling me!

In the past six months I’ve broken my ankle, lost my job,  got turned down for unemployment, got a winter cold and an early outbreak of poison ivy, spent more money on the only art show I’ve gotten into in the past two years than I made, and this past week,  an emergency appendectomy, all with no insurance, and no source of  income. It sounds tragic,  I know, and I have had more than one person express concern over my “bad luck”, even to the point of asking me why I am creating (or contributing to) the series of misfortunes in my life.

But I am not a victim, and I don’t see any of this as bad luck or bad karma.  I am 53 years old, and the last time I was in the hospital as a patient was when I was born. When I broke my ankle, and then, when my appendix developed gangrene and was about to burst, I had a fleet of nurses and doctors ask my health history repeatedly, as though no one before thought to ask if I’d ever been in the hospital before.  I am extremely healthy and always have been, which surprised everyone  I came in contact with.

I got incredibly lucky with the doctors who operated on me (both are the best in their fields),  I had amazing nurses, kind friends who helped take care of me, cheer me up, or check in on me.  I “lost” a job I hated anyway, and found my way back to what I truly loved in the process. I found my voice as a writer,  re-discovered my passion for art, dedicated myself to finding enjoyment in what my life is (instead of what it is not) learned to stop complaining about money (I have never starved, and I have always found the money I needed to pay my bills anyway, so what was the point of wringing my hands over what I wanted, when I had what I needed?), and decided to let life be whatever it is.  Because I think the past few months have been an exercise in getting rid of, or letting go of some crap I have chosen to hold on to, stuff that didn’t serve me well anymore (if it ever really did to begin with), in order to pave the way for new beginnings and new adventures.

The past few months made me realize that I have always had a pretty awesome life, and just because I made some choices that were different than the choices other people I consider “successful” have made, doesn’t mean those choices were wrong, or that I was wrong for making them in the first place.   Maybe I will I get where I want to be someday, and maybe I won’t, but it doesn’t really matter anymore, because  I am the luckiest person in the world.  And the nice thing is, I know it….

elephantsWith the American Crafts Council show behind me and a world of opportunities ahead, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the process of creating, whether its handbags, art, writing, or promoting a worthy cause.   Art is a difficult business, which is not something I think anyone who attends an art show ever thinks about.  And why would they?  As you walk through the aisles of an art show, indoor or out, it can seem as if the artists have always been there, creating beautiful things for you to admire, and when you leave, and the convention center, or the street that just days before was filled with white tents and throngs of people is now home to parked cars and delivery trucks, it’s hard to imagine what went into making that event happen.

work1I start months in advance to prepare for an art show, primarily because I am the slowest painter on the planet, and if I don’t have a dozen or more handbags woodburned and in the “painting pipeline” I would show up at most events with works in progress and an interpretive dance entitled, “What I Would have Brought to this Show If Could Paint Faster”.  I am in the studio 12 hours a day, seven days a week, in the months before an art show, with piles of work I am in the process of finishing, in the process of starting, and would really love to do if time allows.  As the time draws near for the show, the categories become what I have actually finished, what needs to be finished, and there is no WAY I am EVER going to finish this.  The studio is filled with handbags that are drying, with storage bins full of fabric that need to be cut and assembled for the linings, jars of paint and brushes that somehow seem to migrate across the enormous table I use to work on, despite my best efforts to contain them, until I can’t find anything I need because now the table is also stacked with bubble wrap and Elmer’s glue, and empty glasses of wine.

work2Two weeks before the show, I fill a cardboard box with bags that are dry and need to be assembled, bags that are assembled but need to be lined, bags that are lined but need a handbeaded handle, and drag the whole thing upstairs. The kitchen table is filled with hardware parts and beads, and a card table is set up beside the ironing board for the linings and handmade clutches.  There are purses drying in the bathroom because its cold in North Carolina even with a wood furnace blasting 24 hours a day, and because I use a polyurethane varnish to protect the bags against water damage, they dry slowly.  Because the show is less than ten days away, I don’t have the time to spend letting them dry naturally, and anyway the polyurethane stinks up the house so the faster it dries the better.  It’s time to pack for the show too, which means all my panels have to have a coat of paint, I need to rent a trailer, and a hotel room, and take pictures of what is finished and update my website and send out an email blast to my collectors to encourage them to come to the show, and make arrangements for the dogs, plus I also need to pack my show clothes, and all my equipment, and then, its time to leave.

booth1aMove in is the day before the show, which means checking in, finding your assigned space, unloading the truck and trailer, hauling everything to your booth space, assembling everything and (in my case anyway)  repainting half the panels we brought with us because somehow, despite my best efforts, they are scuffed all to hell and look like I found them in landfill.   Faster than you can say, “its showtime” the hall begins to fill, and you keep your fingers crossed that you will at least make your expenses, which can run in the thousands of dollars once you factor in everything from booth fees to supplies. You get to know your neighbors better than members of your own family when a show is bad, or slow, and in the lull you  trade horror stories with one another about rude customers and greedy show promoters.  My favorite this time was the man who sailed into my booth with his camera out and pointed at a handbag.  I asked him, politely, not to photograph the work, and he looked straight at me and said “you can’t stop me from taking a picture of anything I want”.  I raised my hand in front of the camera as he started to take the picture anyway, and said, “actually, I can”.  He stepped back and told me if I touched him, he was going to deck me.

work3It’s a hell of a way to make a living, and while I realize the economy is still bad and there is so much uncertainty right now, its an incredibly poor business model even under the best of circumstances.  There is little or no job security either.  I used to do an art show I loved more than words can say, as much for the people who put the show on as for the fact that they have insisted on keeping the event small, so everyone can make money. A majority of the shows revenues are reinvested in the community as well, and the show promoters  encourage high school art students to pursue careers in art with scholarships to support their artistic endeavors.

bluebirdebTwo years ago a fellow artist accused me of “violently attacking” her at the show, which, as anyone who knows me well knows couldn’t be further from the truth. I was put on “probation” for a year, then never invited back to the show, which I am the first to admit still hurts to this day.   You can get accepted to a major show one year and start to develop an impressive and devoted client list, and not get in the next year for reasons that are never explained and watch those connections slip through your fingers, or watch your booth and everything in it blow away at an outdoor art show when the winds kick up and in spite of the fact that there are four hundred pounds of weights attached to it, or fight a chargeback that winds up costing you more than the art you sold in the first place,  because someone forgot they bought something from you, and when you provide proof of the sale you don’t get the chargeback fees returned to your account.

dodwedding1I love art.  I really do.  But its incredibly hard work, and its both heartbreaking and terrifying when you get into a show and you don’t sell anything, or you don’t get into a show and have no way of selling the inventory you slaved over for months and invested your heart and soul in.  I get that there are no guarantees in life, and that just because I am exceptional at what I do, doesn’t mean I am entitled to make a living at it.

scrabbleassAnd the worst of it is, I can’t stop.  I want to make beautiful things, and write screenplays about people and  stories that inspire me, like the Women’s Air Service Pilots script I just finished, or short stories about where I live and the cast of characters who inhabit this place, or blogs, like this one, about what motivates me, inspires me, frustrates me and makes me glad I possess both the talent and the drive to create even though I often wonder what the point is of having these skills if having them causes the kind of self doubt and fear  I wrestle with sometimes.

Even so, creating gives me a platform to celebrate causes that matter very much to me, like the drive to raise money for a Rose Parade float commemorating the Women’s Air Service Pilots this New Years Day.  The Women’s Air Service Pilots were a remarkable group of women who flew military aircraft in World War Two, and who are the subject of a screenplay I finished this past January entitled LUCKY 13, about 13 women pilots who completed bomber training at the Lockbourne Army Airbase in 1943. By 1945, the entire WASP program was unceremoniously disbanded despite their enormous success, to make way for male civilian pilots hoping to avoid being drafted into combat duty overseas.  It’s an incredible story and the dream of my lifetime to see it made into a movie.  In the meantime, I am pleased to be part of a fundraising effort to make the float a reality, so please visit http://www.fifinella.com/rosedonate.htm for more information on how to contribute to this hugely worthy cause.

I haven’t been writing much lately because I’ve been working on new handbags, new decorative boxes, new websites, two new businesses, a children’s book, short stories and a screenplay. I am also recovering from a severely broken ankle, so I tend to go at half speed, and can tire easily from something as taxing as taking a shower.  But as my friend, Laura, put it so eloquently a few weeks ago, “who knew a broken ankle would give you wings?”  She’s right too.  It gave me wings, and more creative inspiration than I have had in years.

I just put a shipment of handbags in the mail to Spirits in the Wind Gallery in Golden, Colorado in time for Christmas, plus its time for my annual half off sale, so after wrestling all day with revising my website I am pleased to say that most of the sale bags have been posted along with images of the new pieces that are on their way to Colorado. I am including free copies of my new 2013 calendar while supplies last. The cover photograph of the calendar features a bag owned by none other than Aretha Franklin, and includes a cross section of some of my favorite handbags and decorative boxes.

Over the next few weeks I will be preparing for the American Crafts Council show in Baltimore, February 22, 23 and 24.  We will be in booth number 3203.  I am excited for the opportunity to exhibit at this event, since its still considered one of the top fine craft shows in the country.  Michael and I have also launched a new RV repair business since he is now a certified RV technician. He does all the work, I just do the website design but I think I am pretty good at it!  Check out the site and his services at rvtrailerandmotorhomerepair.com.

I also redesigned our babyboomeradventure.com website and plan to promote our Adventure Rafting experience pretty heavily next year.   Adventure travel is growing in popularity among baby boomers of all ages and we think it would be great to have a four day intensive to learn basic whitewater rafting skills.   The French Broad River in Asheville is the third oldest river in the world, plus Asheville was recently named one of the top five places to live in the US thanks to everything from our microbeer culture, and our harvest to table dining experiences.  PLUS we have the Biltmore, so really, how can we go wrong????

I’ve also started work on a screenplay I wrote many years ago, before the story had an ending.  It’s too soon to talk about what that entails, except to say that I am genuinely surprised to re-discover my passion for screenwriting.   I worked in the film business for 12 years before I finally threw in the towel, but the story I am working on is incredible and deserves to be told. I just hope more than anything that I get to be the one to finally see it made into a movie.

Its been a long year, difficult, and remarkable, in equal measure.  In injuring myself so severely, I’ve been forced to slow down and rediscover what matters most to me, and that’s why I think Laura is right.  My broken ankle DID give me wings, and I can’t wait to see where they take me in 2013!

Three weeks ago, I fell in my backyard and broke every bone in my ankle. I was gathering fallen branches to use for kindling this winter, and I had just finished bringing an armload up to the wood pile, when I decided to take a short cut across the yard to collect the rest.  Like most people in North Carolina, my lawn unfolds in stages; it slopes sharply from the street to my house, levels out for awhile, then slopes again to the rest of the yard.  Both slopes are steeper than they look, something I found out the hard way last spring when I was walking across the backyard carrying a steaming bowl of hot beef stew  to eat while I was watching the dogs play. I slipped on the wet grass and went down on my butt, the bowl went flying and I wound up having to take a shower to get the carrots and parsley out of my hair.

That morning, I decided to save myself some time to get the last armload of kindling, but the minute I took my first step, I knew I was in trouble.  My foot got stuck in one of the furrows created in that part of the yard by the landscapers (who mow back and forth instead of up and down because it IS so steep), and because I was wearing shoes for once, instead of falling on my ass, when I lost my balance I fell smack on top of my own foot.  I could hear the bones snap as I hit the ground, and immediately started screaming, not because it hurt, but because, in that moment, all I could think about was a conversation I’d had with a total stranger at Walmart the year before.  She was in a wheelchair, with a boot on her foot, and when I asked what happened, she told me she’d have been $60,000 out of pocket for breaking her ankle if it hadn’t been for her insurance.

I don’t have insurance because I can’t afford it, and all I could think of as I looked at my foot dangling uselessly from my leg, was how one simple mistake was going to cost me everything I had worked so hard for over the past two years.    I eventually realized that I was going to have to get to a hospital anyway, insurance or not, so I crawled across the yard on my butt and pounded on my basement apartment door so my friend Denise could take me to the emergency room.  It turns out that the damage to my ankle was so severe, I had to have surgery that night to repair it and after two days in the hospital, I returned home to discover that there are worse things than no insurance and a broken ankle.

Boredom.  That’s the real tragedy here.  Because I can’t do anything.  I can’t walk, I can’t drive, I can’t take a shower without supervision.  When I let the dogs out to pee and they chase down a neighbor who is innocently collecting the Sunday newspaper from his front porch step, I can’t intervene.  I can’t even apologize to him, because I can’t leave the house. I can’t do laundry, or make the bed, or empty the litterbox. Everything I do takes an eternity, and even though I am not doing much, its completely exhausting.  It’s also depressing, because everyone around me seems to have a life, while I have a bed, a computer, and an entire day to fill.  So when my friend, Bonnie Gibson (who is recovering from hip replacement surgery) challenged me to write a blog about being laid up, I jumped at the chance.

1. Read.  Forget the Great  American novel you’ve been wanting to read.  This is no time to be intellectual; its time to indulge your guilty pleasures with a stack of People Magazines or some back issues of Vanity Fair.  Find out if Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are really back together or if its all part of some elaborate publicity stunt, if the brain damage Mitt Romney suffered after a car accident in Paris when he was there on a mission as a youth has anything to do with his inability to comprehend why airplane windows don’t open, or what the  endless fascination with Lindsay Lohan  is all about.  I’m no great fan of people who are famous for being famous, but at least Kim Kardashian has a sex tape to her name.  Wasn’t THE PARENT TRAP that last movie Lindsay Lohan was in?  I mean really people, is there no one else on the planet we can obsess over?

2. Write. Emails, letters, journals, your life story. Surely you have something to say to someone you’ve been meaning to get in touch with for awhile.  Something you want to get off your chest.  A list of things you plan to do when you are mobile again.   Some insight into why you are laid up in the first place.  My friend, Sylvia, wrote me an email not long ago and asked me to think about why I broke my ankle in the first place since she  believes I broke it for a reason.  I think Sylvia has too much free time on her hands.  And two perfectly good ankles, so who is she to judge?   Who in the hell thinks to themselves, even on a subliminal level,  ” I’m gonna fall down in the backyard and break my ankle, because gosh, won’t THAT be fun?” So the hell with Sylvia.  What was I talking about again?

3. Start a new blog.  I think I have about seven or eight blogs right now.  I write them in my head all the time. Which is why this category is different from the one labelled “write”.  This activity involves thinking about writing.  Not actually writing.  You’d be surprised by how much time thinking about something you never actually do fills a lot of time.  I think about cleaning the bathroom a lot.   So use the bathroom at your house before you come to visit.  You will thank me later.

4. Subscribe to Hulu plus and netflix.  For about $15.00 a month you can watch all those foreign language films you always wanted to watch when you were 20 and you thought being sophisticated meant wearing a beret and smoking clove cigarettes.  Hulu Plus has the Criterion Collection, which means you can alternate viewings of  French classics like The Rules of the Game and  Jules and Jim with America’s Next Top Model (college edition) and Dancing with the Stars. And because Hulu has a popular clips function, you don’t need to wade your way through dozens of commercials and Bruno Tonioli’s impersonation of Chef Boyardee as a gay vaudeville performer, you can actually cut right to the dances themselves.

5. Word puzzles.  I don’t even know what sudoku is.  I just make up my own games from the puzzles in the books. And categories to fit.

6. Knit, or crochet.  I crocheted a scarf to wear to New York last year for the Macy’s Parade.  I wore it to watch the balloons being blown up at the Natural History Museum the night before the parade.  I was a balloon handler on the Spiderman balloon last year.  I was going to be a balloon handler again this year.  But then I decided to cut across the lawn and broke my ankle so I can’t be a balloon handler this year.  Which really sucks.  So does this category. Because who needs some stupid scarf wrapped around their neck when they are laying in bed watching the parade on TV instead of being in it?

7. Hunt craigslist.com, searchtempest.com and ebay.com for things you would never buy and can’t afford.  You can find weird craigslist postings in the best of craigslist link, Birkin bags on ebay worth more than your entire household income combined, or every vintage Airstream trailer available for purchase anywhere in the entire country.  You can hunt for things you already own to find out what they are worth, things you have always wanted  to buy if money were no object, or stuff you want to buy but don’t really need.  Franciscan Starburst dishes are my new passion.  I have a complete 12 place setting I will never use, because using  it would diminish their value.  Every day I look for off the beaten path pieces to add to my collection even though I haven’t worked since I broke my ankle, and have no idea how I will pay my bills or keep from losing my house.  I want to know where these pieces are, how much they are selling for, and who I know that lives in the city where they were being advertised in case I manage to justify buying them. You’d be surprised at how much time this actually fills.  I always am.

8. Facebook.  My friend, Daniel, told me he went on facebook to find people he went to school with for the sole purpose of finding out who got fat and who was on their fourth marriage to feel better about himself and where he is at in his life.   So I started looking up old boyfriends, old girlfriends, people I worked with, people I met in passing, people I’ve sold artwork to over the years.  Turns out, most of the people from my past are wildly successful captains of industry, with hugely successful marriages, and incredibly successful art careers who travel the world by private jet, yachts, or in the back of a limousine. I hate Daniel and his stupid ideas.  So I unfriended him.

9.  Coloring books and crayons.  Lets face it, just because you are an adult doesn’t mean the kid in you is gone.  I used to love to color when I was sick, and I still do.  My friend Sara Nichols gave me a Care Bears coloring book with a brand new box of crayola crayons when I broke my ankle.  I asked her to take a picture of me with my coloring book, wearing the tiara she also gave me, because even though I am 53, if I am going to be laid up in bed then damn it, I’m gonna milk it for all its worth.

10. Enter contests.  All kinds of contests.  So far I have entered two writing contests, a handful of travel contests, the Publishers Clearing House contest, and some contests for things I didn’t even read the rules for and know nothing about, because what the hell?  I could win, something, right?  People who make their living winning contests say the secret to winning all those contests is to make it your job to enter contests.  I never had time to enter contests before because I was too busy having a life, so if I can win a years supply of tampons (which would just be my luck since I hit menopause two years ago and the last thing I need now is a years supply of feminine hygiene products) or an all expense paid trip to Pacoima (look it up) then why the hell not?

Maybe being laid up in bed with a broken ankle isn’t so bad after all.  Because by the time this is all said and done, I could wind up with a New York Times best selling novel about a wildly talented handbag designer laid up in bed from a broken ankle she suffered sneaking into the giant balloon warehouse after cracking the code to a sudoku puzzle with clues leading to a seedy hotel room in the Tenderloin district where Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian were making a sex tape with Mitt Romney.