Saturday, September 26, 2009

Best Laid Plans, etc.


The economy has derailed a lot of plans. We chatted about several examples just last night at the monthly gallery reception. It is always good to have a plan. And an alternate plan. And an escape route or evacuation strategy. Never burn those bridges behind you because you don't know when you might want to cross back over them in hasty retreat.

My plan had been to furnish my rental unit so it could be a vacation rental instead of a long term one. Art sales have been down and stuff at the fall garage sales up so that is not quite accomplished. To generate some income I figured I might rent it furnished over the winter to seasonal employees of the neighboring resort. Then it looked like my sister and her husband might rent it.

Then last week I was stopped at the grocery store by a long term sometimes friend asking if I was looking to rent it out long term. Told her frankly I was rather soured on that but would think about it. I thought. E-mailed her the particulars on rent, etc. Making it sound quite unfavorable. She is coming to look at it at 11:00 today. I am still very much on the rail as it were.

Meanwhile I am now committed to the Been There/Done That Garage Art Sale next weekend if not committed to renting the apartment out. Several artistic friends are joining in. The goal is to swap or sell art and art supplies and art furniture we no longer use or once thought we would use but don't use after all, etc. I have given up on developing plans to use some of the stuff I have gotten and stored to use. I need storage space, and wall space and cash flow.

I think I am at that place where I am just going to float with the universe and see what it throws at me. Let fate come up with the plan for a change. It is that busy time of the year here. And not just with the before-winter-settles-in list but fall activities too. I have another must do reception tonight to promote the arts to national magazine writers.

So much for settling in with a couple good DVD's that arrived from Netflix for the weekend.

And while I am rambling about waylaid plans what about Sidetracked Charley? I developed this particular blog for no particular purpose and it seems to be gathering followers. So we are all jumping the tracks together it would seem.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Really Important List


Yesterday I was working away at a couple of the items on my Before-the-snow-flies list. Admittedly last night we did get a trace of snow but realistically we have to the end of October to get these things done. And without thinking I have already gotten a few done like neatening the woodshed for the new cords to be delivered in October, stocking up on canned and dry goods, and replacement of the flaps on the through the wall fur kid door. But the list is always longer than the days to accomplish it.

But it was a blog I follow, KathyintheOzarks, that reminded me obliquely of the truly important list: Snowed in. As an artist what to do when snowed in is hardly a problem. There are always more paintings to paint. But as a Gemini I like variety. And there are those things I put off this summer because the weather was too nice - the indoors tasks like painting walls, and organizing the sewing room, and finishing the resurfacing of the walls in my bedroom. And the I would certainly like to do list of beginning the pantry downstairs and maybe even the shower add to the half bath.

If one gets snowed in (never a problem until the last couple of years) it is wise to have projects that prevent you from getting cabin fever. And that means, like stocking up the pantry, laying in a few rudimentry hardware store items like new paint brushes and paint tray liners, and craftroom essentials like thread and buttons. And it requires re-organizing of essentials to where they are handy to get to - not in the near storage shed that got blocked by snow drifts two years ago. And locating the snowshoes in the entry hall so they can be accessed to get to the far storage shed.

So on this first day of autumn I will be on outside tasks after the sun melts the snow that fell last night, and inside tasks once the clouds move in this afternoon, and sitting in my warm studio working on my various lists with a warm cup of tea when my energy wanes.

How goes your fall and winter planning?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Face to Face with Facebook


I was a reluctant participant in Facebook. I actually opened my profile there more than a year before I did anything with it. It was the final gasp of Y!360 that more or less pushed me into looking for alternate social networks.

It's a jungle out there. And Profiles, the Y!360 replacement, was not keeping its promise to be better. Blogger was being better; in fact best for blogging. But it just didn't give that sense of close connection 360 had with quick comments. Tried Twitter. I don't like to reduce my life to 140 characters. And frankly the people that began following me (even months after I stopped tweeting) scare me.

One of my first forays into Facebook resulted in a major malware infection. (Near as my computer nerd can figure it came through the download of Javascript used to upload images.) Facebook does not vet all its cute little applications so for months I followed the 5 second rule. Check in for action, check out, touch nothing.

Now I am on Facebook more and more because of friends. And I have one application (Scrabble) I have found safe. And an alternate way to upload photos which does not require downloading malware. Actually I was beginning to quite enjoy myself until all the glitches began to show up.

I had developed quite a tolerance for glitches on Y!360. But maybe the been there and done that has lowered my patience. On days, like today, when Facebook seems to be going insane I find it better to just log out of the social network before I throw my computer screen across the room. I am already tiptoeing through the minefield of applications to begin with, and searching for meaningful communication amid Farmtowns and Mafia wars. I spend an inordinate amount of screen time "ignoring" all the endless requests to join people in one cause or another. Quite frankly I do not give a damn about most.

But I do like my friends there. And I enjoy the two photo groups and Book Nerds that I belong to. I am becoming rapidly addicted to Scrabble and would play more if I got the notifications that it was my turn. Some opine that it is all the applications that are slowing down Facebook and creating all the glitches in notifications and postings.

Maybe it is time for two Facebooks: Facebook I and Facebook II. The could interface just briefly - a bridge that allowed passage of people and not applications. Facebook I could be the one we have all come to know (some hate and some love), and Facebook II could be for the serious communicators. Sort of a Facebook for Nerds. It would have the ability to link to serious blogs, the great photo groups, and the groups for serious discussion, plus a selection of board and card games like Scrabble and Hearts. Wouldn't Mah Jong be nice?

Hey, it is a suggestion. But keep in mind that social networking only works if you can network. Once that ability is hindered in any way the social circle goes elsewhere. Many a coffee shop and singles club knows that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Typhoid Mary

I was practicing the theory of washing hands to avoid illness. Frankly I was feeling very obsessive compulsive with my pocket full of anti-bacteria wipes. And a bit high. The major ingredient is after all alcohol in those things. I thrashed them and decided to use soap in the lavatories. I must admit this cramps my style just a bit. Not everywhere you are in contact with people has public restrooms.

I changed to moist towelettes for diaper changing. They don't come in tidy and convenient packages so I had zip lock bags in my pockets. Now I have a cold and very red and raw hands. And I have made all my friends feel like Typhoid Mary.

Seems I am not alone. I was listening to NPR this morning about the flu and religious practices. Everything from Holy water to shalom has been condemned. Never mind sitting (or kneeling) close to your fellow worshipers in a pew or on a prayer rug.

I am reminded of the time I gave up all food from the sea because of the mercury level. Then all vegetables that were not organically raise. To make things even more difficult I gave up beef, lamb and pig because of the drugs fed to them to prevent them being sick. And chickens! Let us not even talk about chickens. The are walking, chucking vectors for disease.

Anyway I was at this embassy party in Washington, DC and there were tables heaped with the most beautiful food you can imagine. Rather like the midnight buffet on a cruise ship. The huge tower of shrimp held my attention. One of my political friends came up behind me, "You aren't eating anything." I launched into my prepared speech about the chemicals and preservatives that were laced through food these days.

"You know," he said, "there will come a time when you will not be able to buy a single item of food that does not have those things in it. And you organic food nuts will die because you have not built up a resistance to them."

I saw his point and heaped a plate with shrimp and raw tuna sushi. I think this current phobia about viral infection is like that. Avoiding all human contact is not healthy for the soul.

Anyone have a remedy for raw red hands that does not include a petrochemical laced product?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I have placed last order with Amazon.com

Everyone raves about Amazon.com but I have had nothing but grief from that site. Even my good experiences seem to be peppered with headache. I always have to reset my password even though my computer remembers it. And they always split my orders even when I click that little box that tells them not to so I can save on shipping charges.

Last time when I ordered a DVD that they had to back order they kept billing my account even though they said they wouldn't until they shipped. We argued on that over the telephone three times. Then when I got the DVD it was flawed and would not play. I will never go through the return process gauntlet again! Or the calls to get them to take the charge off my account after I returned it.

But all I figured I just wanted four books. Total cost of books $33 and change. I will be paying $54 because of the multiples of shipping charges at $3.99 a time. I went looking for the Contact Us option on their website. They hide that. My sister finally found it for me. She is a whiz at the web searching. I e-mailed them my complaint listing the primary order number (because each time they ship they split the order and ergo assigned another number - I am so confused I am not sure what I ordered) and listed my complaint. They gave me a standardized reply saying I should have checked that box. I did! And that one of my books came from another vendor. I may go to him next time because he is only charging me 1.98.

BUT I am not going back to Amazon.com. EVER.

Been there, done that, and been abused once to often.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Turning Point


A year ago this summer when the contractor from hell showed he was not going to go away I fell back on old beliefs and created a voodoo doll of him. Every time I would get another missive from his lawyer I would stick in another pin. And finally I took him out of my studio which was the source of our dispute and nailed him literally to an old railroad tie which was once the corner post to the old fence on my property.

I told him (through the doll) I would release him from his bondage when he released me. And all winter he suffered through the snows quietly. Spring I heard from his lawyer again and the voodoo doll got more nails. This summer I heard he was ill. But not so ill it seems that he was willing to drop the law suit. He and his lawyer are going ahead with their suit to foreclose on my house for the disputed debt (a fraction of what my house and property are worth but far more than I feel justified in paying him or can afford).

My attention in this last week has been drawn again and again to the doll on the post. It was in intrusion just as whom it represented was. And yesterday I clearly decided I wanted it/him gone. Out of my life. Off my property figuratively or literally. Gone.

So I cleared out my fire pit. Threw in paper and wood. Scraps of lumber from the construction project. Laid the doll upon it and soaked it all with lamp oil. I gathered up folded origami flowers done on a summer solstice and other paper charms, and dried flower blossoms for a new beginning. And then I lit the pyre. At one time there was a dark smoke that rose as if evil was leaving. I sprinkled the dried flowers upon the flame and the smell became sweet.

I tended the fire till there was but ash left. This morning I will gather the ash and take it to the dumpster.

Away. I want it all away from here. I want him and his law suit forever out of my life.

Note: Voodoo dolls and charms are now being used by mental health professionals to help their clients feel less powerless and take charge of their lives. I wonder if they see just the symbolism or appreciate the true magic involved.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Time for the Cows to Go Home


Every spring the cattle arrive. Brought in large cattle trailers behind semi-tractors they get dropped off at lower gates of properties owned by ranchers and National Forest leases. They roam up the mountain grazing as they go until they reach the high meadows to spend the summer. One of the first signs of fall are the same cattle moving down the mountain to their pick up points.

Yesterday as my sister, her husband and I drove the national forest roads along the mountain ridge cows, this year's calves, and fattening steers like the one above were on the road or beside it working their way down.



Early frosts had touched the forest flower and turned once green leaves to orange and gold; their color replacing the wildflowers of just a couple weeks ago.

And in the trees vines were suddenly visible with their fall dress of red and orange.

We wound our way to the top of the mountain to meadows where just recently cattle and elk had grazed to find them empty and the tall grass turned to gold.


Rain was moving toward us in mountain valleys below shrouding the hills in mist. It was a beautiful early fall day, but sad because it was clear summer was again gone from these peaks. And in not too long there will be snow.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Law of Paper


At one time I worked in contracts for a major construction firm - at the time one of the five biggest in the nation. Every contractor we hired had to sign a contract that exceeded 100 pages at a minimum. General Conditions (that section which generally says it is our football and our field and we get it our way) ran 64 pages all by itself.

The most important think I learned dealing with contracts was that the last piece of paper was the right piece of paper. So every dispute with a contractor required a letter beginning with the per-our-conversation-of epistle. Whatever a contractor claimed we had to counter with our version and within a few days. Our hope was that they would not counter what we claimed. That made us right, because to not refute our last letter made that letter law.

I try to follow that bit of wisdom in my personal life. But when you are dealing with issues you are personally involved in it can become a bit more difficult. Still I write letters. All the time I write letters.

Yesterday I got to look through two years of documents I had saved on the contractor-from-hell issue. I wrote letters. He didn't. I wanted someone to declare me winner right that moment. Doesn't happen. As I sat in the legal aid office conference room and sorted through my almost three inches of paper I got to relive the emotional involvement behind those pieces of paper. I was stating in each my personal truth and he never countered it. He just went for a lawyer who typed up his lies in a lawsuit and fired it back at me and my legal aid attorney. We fired our truth back.

Tentatively the trial is set for January 20, 2010. He is asking for $21,623 approximately plus legal fees estimated at $16,000. We were originally arguing over $9000. At the time, had he given me the documentation I requested, I would have given him $4000 to just go away. I figured I had already overpaid him $17,000 give or take a thousand or two. I was shocked when the lien on my property was over double what I had been billed for. That shock was on top of the fact the studio had already cost me twice his initial per square foot estimate - a third over his modified estimate for an unfinished addition.

I think he violated mechanics lien law in placing the lien. But now he wants to foreclose on my house and sell it out from under me for a tiny fraction of its worth. Meanwhile the lawyers have just begun generating more paper. So since I had my side organized and copied for my attorney I put it into a fold out folder with 12 slots (debated getting the 26 slot version at Wal-Mart) so from here on out I can keep it organized.

My mistake was considering that he would see the error of his ways. But since he was crazy enough to think himself right in the first place it was stupid of me to think he or his attorney (paid to take his side) would have an ah ha moment and drop it.

My attorney asked if he had a drinking problem. The contractor or the lawyer, I asked.